Ahh, Instagram. You big lying wizard, you.
While we know with our brains that all those super-groomed outfit shots, perfect bag spills and dreamy beach scenes aren’t exactly what they seem, sometimes it’s hard to believe it in your heart. Especially when you’ve taken 54 grainy mirror selfies, your mum won’t play photographer anymore and you’ve almost injured yourself falling off a chair trying to snap your breakfast.
“The most important thing about Instagram is that things are never as they seem,” says photographer Kate Forster. “It is always reassuring to remember that people are not always where they say they are, the pictures may have been edited 10 times before posting, and that girl’s skin is probably not as flawless as you thought while you stared at your mid-month breakout though the camera lens!”
So in the interests of looking behind the lens, reminding ourselves that perfection is all just smoke and mirrors (and filters), we asked six Instagram stars to spill the beans on one of their gorgeous photos.
From bloating and bad hair days to location fakery, here’s what was really going on IRL…
“I adored this two piece velvet suit from Alice Archer, a designer I have worked with before, but it was slightly too small – and I had my period and was bloated, and was so scared of someone taking my picture from an angle.
I’d been taken to Paris by Chanel for their show which felt like a Big Deal, but I was worried they’d be really glossy and haughty. Imagine my relief when they encouraged me to undo my skirt at lunch, and order pasta? Things are rarely as they seem – whether it be a picture, or a posh designer.” @pandorasykes
“In this image I was in glamorous Cannes during the Film Festival. Standing on the rooftop of the 3.14 Hotel, loving my back drop, my friend Annie and I had carefully picked a spot to take a couple of pictures of me in my dress, with my well invested, treasured (expensive) Leica camera. Directly behind Annie, there were two couples (two guys and two girls) in a raised jacuzzi, taunting and splashing their water from over the little rail. Every time we walked to the corner and Annie was about to take the photo they kept splashing us and laughing out load, which felt like taunting. In the end they had managed to soak Annie, soak the front of my dress, soak the left side of my hair and almost soaked my camera. I almost feel a little bit silly saying this now but at the time it really felt like bullying and I was quite upset.
Anyhow, I managed to get my winning shot in the end but left the scene looking like a drowned rat. Eek! #HatersGonnaHate.” @kavitacola
“I was in Portugal for a friend’s wedding but also had a brand project that I needed to create content for. I only had one day where I could shoot the photos but it also happened to be raining and my photographer friend wanted to hurry up and go to the spa. Add to that I rarely see images of myself in a bikini, and you have a very insecure Kristabel indeed.
The thing about social media is that you’re very often presented with one kind of body, especially when it comes to women in bikinis. I took loads of photos where I wasn’t happy with my stomach; in this one it looks a little bit more toned but still showcases a more straight-up-and-down figure. Not everyone has a Kardashian waist-to-hip ratio and that’s totally fine, we need to see more of it! Even though I wasn’t initially happy with the photos, I had to tell myself that just because we’re so used to seeing one kind of body on social media, it doesn’t make other bodies wrong. We need to reprogram our brains a bit with more diverse imagery. Also we’re in our heads so much, no one else usually sees that flaws that we do.” @iamkristabel
“Beds and duvets on Instagram tend to perform very well. If you’ve seen picture upon picture of legs, in beds with the morning newspaper and first flat white of the day, then you will know what I mean! I myself have indulged in a few Instagram ‘bed’ shots, but most of them haven’t been anywhere near a bed…
Take this snap for example. I was on holiday in a beautiful hotel in The Lake District. Don’t get me wrong, the bed was beautiful – but the lighting was not. I wanted that gorgeous white, exposed ‘Instagram light’, so to achieve this, the duvet was dragged out on to the balcony. My breakfast was by now freezing, the duvet strategically placed to hide the fake tan/makeup leakage and I tried desperately to contort my legs so they looked as lean and long as possible, not to mention my boyfriend hovering above me awkwardly with the camera. ‘Lazy’ morning, huh?” @misskatef
“I currently live at home with my parents, and my desk (AKA ‘home office’) is in the loft, which is otherwise used as a dumping ground for items that need to be thrown away. It’s not a very nice or glamorous place to work, and my desk is tiny and smushed between lots of old boxes and a sofa bed.
However, for this I styled up my desk with some books and other props to make it look more glossy, made a cup of coffee even though I don’t really drink it any more, and took about 54 photos of the scene until I got something that looked slick enough. I then edited all the colours to improve the lighting and make it more Instagrammable.” @cocosteaparty
Wendy H Gilmour
“Shooting this campaign for Sassoon, the truth is that I had to walk home with my coat over my head in the drizzle to stop my hair from frizzing and then crumple myself under my kitchen worktop to get the shots without ruining the ‘do’. I had it covered in concrete and it comes in very handy as a backdrop – I just can’t sit up straight! So glam.” @thankfifi
So what have we learned? Nothing is really perfect. And sometimes, you should just eat your breakfast while it’s still hot.
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