January 26, 2012

January 26, 2012 was a pretty monumental day for me and I didn’t even know it. On that day I posted my first photo on Instagram. I didn’t know what I was doing and I certainly didn’t know where it would take me.

My very first photo posted to Instagram.

I’ve been giving this milestone a lot of thought because I’ve been feeling increasingly disconnected from Instagram. I don’t post everyday, I’ve cut back on the hashtags I use and I’ve unfollowed most of the sites that feature toy photography. I tell myself that I’m too busy to be fussing with Instagram everyday (which is true) but I also know that my dissatisfaction runs deeper than that. Have I grown beyond what Instagram can offer? And what exactly does Instagram offer? Has the platform grown to a maturity level that makes it less free spirited, more sterile? Or maybe I simply need a good challenge?

For four years Instagram has been a gift that has kept on giving. The people I’ve connected with on Instagram have inspired me to be a better photographer; I’ve even met a few of them in person. Instagram has given me a good reason to practice my craft almost daily.  For all of this, and so much more, I’m grateful.

What a beautiful puddle! I wonder what a little blue sky would have looked like?
A recent photo posted to Instagram. Yes, I think I’ve learned a thing or two in the last four years.

I’m amazed at how far my photography has progressed by this near daily practice. I think Instagram (or any social media platform that inspires you to work continuously) can be a useful tool for the casual photographer. But what happens when you lose your desire for social interaction? It seems the only clear challenge left on Instagram is to amass thousands of followers and get more likes per image. What a hollow pursuit that is! I’ve yet to see anyone turn a high follower account into anything substantial.

While I enjoy the casual social interactions around Instagram, I’m in need of a greater challenge. I enjoy writing for this blog because it gives me an excuse to think about photography in different ways. I’m grateful for the challenges that Kristina and I’ve been doing together, they’ve kept me engaged in a way that Instagram hasn’t been able to. I admire my friends Avanaut and Captain Kaos who are working hard on new projects and pushing themselves to new heights. Even Me2 has alluded to challenging himself in new ways this year. Yet I feel stuck.

I’ve always thought that being an artist / creative requires you to be in constant motion. It feels good to be moving forward, meeting new challenges, pushing your work to new levels, experimenting, and even failing. For me the format of Instagram doesn’t encourage any of this. We’ve talked before about the limitations of likes, comments and metrics; Instagram tends to reward a certain style and type of photography that I’m not interested in pursuing. I prefer to create quieter, more introspective images.

I’ve had a fabulous four year run on Instagram and my life is richer for the experience. I certainly don’t feel like I’m done with macro toy photography. But I do think I’m waiting for something to happen that will challenge me. What that challenge will look like, I’ve no idea. For now, I will simply be patient.

~ Shelly

How long have you been on Instagram? How often do you post? How do you stay motivated? 

Chima w:teddy in the rain WM
Will the rain ever stop?


  1. Stefan K

    Hello 🙂
    I have been on Insta for about four years. I don’t post as often as before, just so that I don’t stress myself. My inspiration comes and goes in waves, it is so depending on my mood.
    Hugs 🙂

    • Stefan, four years is a long time to be on one platform in this fast past internet world. I also think inspiration comes and go, thanks for reminding me of that. And thanks for the hug! How did you know I needed one? 🙂

  2. There is a group of us that I wish lived closer to each other. Get in a slump or need to get motivated? Go shoot with Shelly. Out of ideas for now? Ask Dennis if he wants to go in a fodder hunt. Need a new, SECRET location to shoot in and around? Hit me up because those are the only places I haunt.
    If there was a viable alternative to Instagram, I’d go. The other platforms I’m on are very hit and miss as far as getting your work seen. Creating your own website is an excellent idea but nowadays, doesn’t that just lead you back to promoting yourself on those same social media sites?
    I had the best time and took some of my favorite shots when I’d go out with Chindo. Those days are over though and I rely on those same waves of inspiration myself.

    • Gee, I couldn’t agree with you more. The other platforms are even worse for both reach and sociability. I think a web site is a great idea, but you will always be driving people to it in some way from these other public platforms. Like you I wish we lived closer together. I really need to get to long island; the idea of SECRET locations is very appealing. In the mean time I have May to look forward to. I get to hang out with both you AND Dennis! Woo hoo! In theme time, I will assume my slump will pass as it always does. xo

  3. I’ve only been on IG for 2 years but I feel the same. It’s easy to get caught up in the followers and the likes but it starts to feel a little empty as you start like you’re just chasing popularity points.

    Recently, I’ve decided to do something more fun and challenging and try out some practical effects.

    I also want to add limitations and just focus on one thing. I’ve found that the more limitations I place on myself Te more I enjoy the challenge and creativity. So at the moment I just want to focus on the Series 15 CMFs.

    With a small family, I find it challenging to get out as much so I tend to post in spurts whenever I get the time. But the good thing is that here in Adelaide, we don’t have to travel too far to get a variety of locations.

    Thanks for sharing how you’re feeling and it’s comforting to know that others get in the same slumps as I do.

    • Thanks Ben for your comment. Its nice to know Im not alone. I love IG, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. I have to go back to the drawing board and see what I can work with. I think your idea about limitations is a good one. By putting up those road blocks, you really force yourself to think differently. I like your idea of on;y focusing on this latest series. It’s been awhile since Ive been attracted to a series, I think this one is a particularly good set.

      Keep up the great work Ben! Your last few images have been outstanding!! 😀

  4. Margaret

    Hang in there Shelly… like “writers block” don’t all creatives sometimes fall into these slumps? Perhaps they are just part of the process; life goes on we grow, sometimes without even realizing it. You’ve been quite active on many fronts and it’s probably just time to slow up and breathe a bit. Love your work, love how your blog posts getting me (and many others I’m sure) thinking in new and exciting ways. I’m no artist, just a shy person that like photography and sharing, I’m seeing things quite differently since meeting many members of this crazy community that YOU’VE built. Thanks for sharing your work and talents!

    • Margaret thank you for your kind words both here and on all the platforms we connect on! Your support means the world to me. I think I have been producing images for so long its time for me to do something a little different. After I posted yesterday I started printing images out. I didn’t worry about perfect edits, I want to see them and hold them. I can’t tell you how much better I felt doing something tangible. I have a tendency to stay in my head too much (hence all those esoteric blog posts) so it was good to be physical with the work for a bit. I am going to keep going with this and see where it takes me. In the mean time the sun shone this morning with a bit of blue sky. Its hard to be depressed when that happens. Thanks again for your incredibly kind comment, you are an amazing person my friend. xo

  5. Colin Burden

    I’ve been on IG for over five years and, although I know that what I have to say isn’t about writer’s block, my problem with IG is that it has changed from a creative application into a bog-standard social-media outlet. People are no longer treating it as a creative tool, but simply an extension of Facebook: gazillions of selfies in the bathroom, memes and (the last straw) advertising.

    Of course, this has always gone on, to an extent, but when celebrities are starting to using it to make announcements and companies are using accounts as further advertising, then it’s lost its way. Or is this just the price of popularity? (Hypocrite alert: when Karen and my business ‘Lady Gardenia and Colebox’ starts up again in the spring, we’re going down that dark path).

    Of course, there are other outlets like Flickr or Pinterst that can offer a similar outlet, but one just knows that any similar thing will fall into the same usage.

    I will still use IG from time to time, for my silly little comics, as I love the outlet, but the intimate feel of the original IG has long gone; it almost feels like it’s lost its innocence and with it some of my creative enthusiasm :o(

    But then as long as there are certain individuals that are still there harking back to better times; you, Sandi_Gee, castleinthepool etc who’ve been with me for a lot of the time I’ve been posting, then it’s still worth staying.

    Colebox x

    • Thanks for your comment Cole. Like you say, the intimate feeling of the IG of old, has long passed. When I look at my current followers, I see so many accounts that are filled with selfies and meme’s. It’s as if they treat IG like a weird hybrid of tumbler and Facebook, no original photography at all. But then I know we all knew it would change when FB bought IG several years back. I don’t blame a company for trying to monetize their investment, but it doesn’t inspire me to stick around. Many of the old guard that were active when we all started way back when, have moved on; where to, I can only guess. Right now I’m not going anywhere because there are no clear options; of course G+ is looking particularly good without ads or algorithms. In the mean time I will I look forward to more of “silly little comics.” 😀


  6. “I’ve yet to see anyone turn a high follower account into anything substantial.” You’d be surprised, Shelly. When my publisher was considering taking on Surviving Santiago, one of the things they looked at was my Instagram follower count. And I have far from the largest count, but for a writer, it’s impressive. (My publisher, by the way, brings out a lot of novelty/how-to books for adults, so if you ever want to do something for toy photography, just let me know!)

    I’ve been on Instagram 2 1/2 years and while I’m not posting as often as I did before because of other projects that have taken my time and creative energy, I do find it worthwhile still. However, I’m less into it as an artist and more for the social aspect and ideas for MOCs. I admire the collaborative and interactive storytelling that @thecourtous does and also want to encourage young storytellers like @legojear. In any case, I wouldn’t have met you were it not for Instagram.

    • Lyn, as you say, Im sure someone has figured out how to monetize their account. I guess that is a skill that has eluded me. I’m sure when it comes down to it, it is my problem. I refuse to pander with the mini figures I use, I’m unable to post funny photos, I stay away from the SW universe, basically I do images for me, not for popularity. I’m thrilled for you that your IG numbers where useful to your publisher. I’m sure IG is still useful, and of course there are many accounts that are doing amazing work. There is much to commend it and I will continue to share my photos and make connections with people that in time I can turn into friendships, like yours. 😀

  7. actiotos

    I started my Instagram about 3 weeks ago with a R2-B1 shot with the intention to make a page of photos of any genre of toys.
    But I wasn’t so convinced about that shot; so I decided to address me to Lego shots, my favourite toy since I was little.
    My idea was to shot Lego Minifigures at outside; the day after I began to do it, very surprised for which would be the reaction of the public.
    After sharing a few photos , I discovered that there were many photographers in Instagram of these types ; among the first that I have found , certainly there was xxjsc with its fantastic photos!
    I tooka big inspiration from her!
    Gradually I discovered other photographers, like the members of Stuck in Plastic and other ones.

    I usually post a picture a day, if I can; the problem is when it rains , and I can not take pictures .
    So a few days before I shoot several photos so then I can share them on Instagram.
    I hope to develop my work, step by step, also by travel in various locations where nature domine and not only staying in my garden.

  8. actiotos

    I started my Instagram about 3 weeks ago with a R2-B1 shot, with the intention to make a page of photos of any genre of toys.
    But I wasn’t so convinced about that shot; so I decided to address me to Lego shots, my favourite toy since I was little.
    My idea was to shot Lego Minifigures at outside; the day after I began to do it, very curious for which would be the reaction of the public.
    After sharing a few photos, I discovered that there was many photographers in Instagram of these types; among the first that I have found, certainly there was xxjsc with its fantastic shots!
    I took a big inspiration from her!
    Gradually I discovered other photographers, like the members of Stuck in Plastic and other ones.

    I usually post a picture a day, if I can; the problem is when it rains, and I can not take pictures outside.
    So a few days before I shoot several photos, so, then, I can share them on Instagram.
    I hope to develop my work, step by step, also by travel in various locations where nature domine and not only staying in my garden.

    • Welcome to the crazy, wonderful world of toy photography. As you can tell it’s kept me entertained for more than four years. I hope you will enjoy your photographic journey and exploring toys in nature as much as I have. Always remember, you’re not alone in your love of lego combined with photography. 😀

  9. Thinking back I´m guessing I originally started using IG in May 2011..- quite some time has passed, quite some things happened along the way. I´ve seen some waves come and go, seen some accounts come and go. There have always been more active times for me as well as lesser active ones.
    Around NewYear´s something changed and I can still not tell if it was IG or myself. One day I found I hadn´t checked on the usual suspects for five days…
    I think that taking a break is a normal thing. Guessing my turn is right now (with life itself and it´s twists and turns playing a fateful great role right now). I also think that nothing is really static; most everything is constantly changing, sometimes at a fast pace, sometimes very slowly. IG and the way we´re using it and connecting to each other may not be an exception.

    To bring these thoughts to an end:
    Through all ups and downs, hectic times and relaxed moments I´m very happy I took that IG ride that far! It has had me connected with great (!) people and friends, some of them I´ve met in real life (those were the best bits by far), others remained digitally inside my mobile device to the present day. I´m sad I can´t join the crew in May but am looking forward to all that´s yet to come- and all just because of this silly little iPhone app it was some five years ago.

    • Thank you Stefan for your words and your clarity. Yes, life (and IG) has its ebbs and flows. It’s impossible to escape the reality of change. I’m happy you are still with us though. I’ve noticed your absence (as well as others) but understand that is part of being active on IG. I wish I could see a clear path forward, but I have faith that something will reveal itself, it always does.

      Im sorry we won’t be seeing you in May, maybe we can start talking about a European meet-up later this year. Nothing is out of the realm of possibility! In the mean time I am grateful to IG and SiP for bring you (and so many others) into my life. I am richer for the experience. 😀

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