Influencer is kind of a blanket term, and one that I don’t particularly love, but I think it’s also the most commonly used term to describe digital content creators (bloggers, Youtubers, etc.) A few years ago, before I started using my own social platforms for something other than sharing photos of my dogs, I would scroll past bloggers and influencers, with their beautiful, slightly-too-orange-to-be-natural photos and giant LV bags and wonder how they heck they did it. And what the heck it even was.
Fast forward to now, where so much has changed, and almost all of my influencer questions have been answered by years of my own experience. So, if you’re asking questions like: “How do you get your pics to look so bright and airy?” or “How do you always have new photos to share? I don’t have enough time to get ready once, let alone every day!” and the always-a-mystery,
“How do you get invited to fun events? No one ever reaches out to me!” then you are not alone. I think in order to understand the industry, you have to truly spend time behind the scenes, and even then, it’s forever changing and morphing.
Maybe your goals don’t include becoming a virtual voice, but you’re simply curious about all details behind the life of a digital creator? Well, I can’t speak for all of us, but I can share some of the things that I’ve learned over the past 5 years.
Please know that I’m not criticizing or judging any of the things on this list – honestly, I’ve done most, if not all, of them. And I’m not even writing this so much to focus on the following “secrets” as much as I’m hoping to offer a change of perspective.
My goal is for this post to serve as a look behind the curtain for everyone who’s ever felt insecure, not good enough, or trapped under the weight of comparison while scrolling. Every industry has many layers that aren’t visible upon first or second glance, so here’s a little more about mine!
The following list comes from questions I get asked frequently, or questions that I had when I first got started. They’re only based on my personal experiences and perspective, so if you have a favorite creator, feel free to ask them their own take on any of these topics!
I never start a video without opening the box beforehand.
I know, this is a silly one, but it’s one that I always think, this is such a ruse, as I’m pre-cutting the box and closing the flaps again, before pulling out my phone to re-open those flaps as if this were the first time I’m seeing it all.
To be fair, this isn’t meant to be deceitful as much as it’s simply easier. Holding a phone in one hand that I’m trying to use to record a steady video while using the other hand to cut open packaging tape and undo things is just too hard. There you have it – secret number 1: most of my unboxings are pre-opened. I promise, they get more interesting than this.
Purchasing likes & followers is a very real thing.
Sure, she may have written something amazing or taken a photo that was basically art, but she might also buy her followers or pay a service to interact with people for hours while the rest of us are sleeping, or working another job, or just believing in the balance of life and catching up on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.
There’s plenty of ways that people gain a big following; some are organic and based on creating a true connection to a community of people, and others are built by methods like follow/unfollow, like for like, and an endless amount of giveaways. I think everyone develops their own beliefs in regards to this. It’s not wrong to build a following this way – it is a business, after all – but just know that it’s not always as simple as “she’s amazing, so a million people follow her. No one follows me, so I must suck.”
Lots of photos are shot all in one day or setting.
This is probably the one that blows the most minds when I talk about it. Again, I can’t speak for what anyone else does, but 95% of my photos/videos are shot days/weeks/months in advance. Here’s why:
- Most days, I’m lucky if I brush my teeth. The thought of doing my hair and makeup daily in order to shoot content exhausts me.
- I don’t always have a photographer. My husband shoots the majority of my photos for me, and I’m 100% sure he would leave me, or at least loathe me, if we had to go out on a little “photo shoot adventure” (as he puts it) every day.
- Most brands require approval for collaborated/sponsored posts . This means that the photo and content need to be submitted days/weeks before they’re actually shared in order to get feedback and make any requested updates.
When I do have plans to shoot content – meaning I’ve actually showered, put my face on, convinced and collected my husband, and set foot out of the house – I’m in it to win it. I typically pack a bag full of clothes with a few accessories and switch outfits multiple times. If you think I’m wasting a fresh wash and a makeup wipe without getting at least a week’s worth of images, you’re crazy.
If you don’t wash your hair for 8 days, you’re still wearing yesterday’s makeup, or you haven’t taken off the same leggings – okay, no need to pretend to be fancy; they’re sweatpants – don’t feel bad. Me neither – no matter what you see in my stories/feed today.
I don’t buy/own all the clothes in my photos.
I joke with my friends and family that once something’s been on Instagram, I won’t wear it again. That’s only partially true; I’ll wear it over and over again in the real world, but I won’t wear it when I’m shooting content or going somewhere that I know I’ll want to post the photos from.
That means I’m cycling through a lot of clothes. They come from all different sources; some are gifted in exchange for tags on Instagram. Others are borrowed from friends, or Rent The Runway. If they are purchased items, most are re-sold or donated.
After I wear something for photos, if it’s not something I have a need for, or that I’ll wear regularly, I typically list it on re-sell sites like Mercari or Poshmark (you can click the links to find me there!). I just don’t have a need for so many clothes, especially with our major lack of space right now, and often times, it provides someone else with an outfit they love at a fraction of the price.
I also find a lot of pieces at thrift stores that I typically just re-donate because the cost of each item is so low. I never post/tag items that I don’t love, but for me, it’s not reasonable to believe that I can post 300+ new photos each year and hang on to all of that clothing!
Lots of products, meals, and experiences are gifted.
In this day and age, there aren’t very many feelings worse than FOMO, amiright?? And when you scroll through social, it can often feel like the ladies behind your fav accounts are literally always doing something, yea? If you’re thinking that they must be super rich to be able to afford all the things they’re always doing, just know that there’s a chance at least some of those things were gifted.
Often times, local businesses or attractions will gift influencers a product or tickets/admission to an experience or event in exchange for photos, reviews, recommendations, and exposure. I don’t mean to say that the influencer doesn’t believe in the product or doesn’t work hard to create great content around it; if they’re good business partners and care about their followers, they do. And spending time creating content is a form a payment; it’s just a different type.
For every good photo, there’s at least 10 terrible ones you don’t see.
Have you seen it? The new photo on her feed? The one where she has the perfect mix of smiling and laughing, while doing an epic hair toss, and that sun flare that came in at just the right moment?
You know the photos I’m talking about, right? We’ve all seen them; the ones that just look effortless. The truth is, those types of images are typically the exact opposite of effortless. When you see a photo that looks easy, please know that that’s a sign of 2 things; a great photographer and an influencer who’s willing to work hard on their brand.
Last week, my husband and I went out to shoot some content; I brought 2 outfits with me. When we got home, I had 400+ images on the camera to look through, and from that, my goal was to have 4-6ish photos to post. I don’t math well, but I’m pretty sure that means I only share around .01% of my photos. The ones where I’m: making a ridiculous face, have food in my teeth, have a breakout that’s too difficult to hide, am angled the wrong way and don’t like my stomach, trying my hardest to make a cute face and end up looking like a serial killer, etc… Those photos are never seen. We all have pictures like that. You’re not ugly, you’re not not-photogenic, you’re just human. I promise, if you take 400 photos of yourself, you’ll find at least a few that you like, too.
Almost nothing is posted unedited.
The reason your favorite influencer’s gram has the perfect aesthetic is because of game-changing software and apps that take photos that are too dark, too bright, too dull, or too intense, and transforms them into the beautiful photos that we get to scroll through.
A few years ago, it used to be that only photographers and those who knew how to use that software could edit photos this way, but now apps like Lightroom, Facetune, and VSCO have made it possible for anyone to make changes to their images without much of a learning curve. Presets are also available for purchase, which gives an Instagram feed or photo gallery a cohesive feel.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally never post a photo that’s completely unedited to my feed. Never. Like it’s been years. You’d have to scroll back to mid 2018 to find one.
Editing is a huge part of the art of photography. In my opinion, the photo isn’t complete until it’s edited, so it’s completely normal for photos to be enhanced through software. But I feel like I need to point out that I don’t live in a bubble of perfect sunlight, that my skin isn’t always clear, and that I’ve edited food out of my teeth more times than I’d like to admit. What you see on the feed might not be how it looked in real life; and that’s okay. It’s just important to understand that when you’re tempted to pull up the comparison lens.
Creating digital content is a lot of work.
I’m not complaining; I love what I do. The fact that we live in a time where humans can create, share, inspire, support, collaborate, and earn a living from doing so is nuts – in a good way. But it’s not easy or effortless. It takes a consistent commitment and dedication in order to be successful. It’s still a lot of work, just in a more unconventional sense.
Creators might not be tied to a desk, but they’re often glued to their phones. Their days might not start at 7 AM, but they rarely end at 5 PM. There’s probably no HR department to answer to, but there’s usually some comments and messages highlighting a difference of opinion, to put it nicely.
Your favorite influencer has worked hard to earn the benefits and perks that might feel easy or even assumed in a 15 second Insta story.
When your creator friends say they’re tired, they mean it. Every job has aspects that make it exhausting, no matter how much you enjoy it. This is no different.
I hope this sheds some light on the “industry”, and reminds you that you’re only seeing the finished product. I love social media – it’s allowed me to build a brand, make incredible connections, build relationships, earn a living doing something I enjoy, gives me a platform to share my thoughts, words, and images that would otherwise go unnoticed, and so much more. But, it can be a breeding ground for comparison and self-doubt. My hope is that you can scroll just a little bit easier now, knowing that although each creator is unique, original, and crazy-talented, the person you see through a feed isn’t perfect.