Why I Took a Break from Social Media and Blogging
During the last few months I've taken periodic breaks from social media and blogging for various reasons, one of which is that I had lost a bit of mojo to post regularly. If you're an avid user of social media or have a blog you can probably relate to having writers block (coming up with perfect captions and writing posts takes time you guys..) or the thought of having to take then edit every photo (which also takes time) can become overwhelming, leading to either posting images / blogs that aren't up to your usual expectations, or not posting at all.
In early February I made a decision to re-boot my site and took it offline for 3 months to work on the structure and style as I managed to break a few features, so was forced to re-start with a new template that more closely aligned to my website design objectives. Aside from a pretty flat level of motivation and lack of time to commit to regular posts due to travel, I also felt my blog and social media pages didn't accurately reflect me or my "brand". I posted a handful of images on Instagram and Facebook to share some of my travel experiences whilst in Africa, but lacked the drive to put in any more effort than the odd photo here and there.
Whilst this isn't a post dedicated to why-social-media-causes-me-anxiety because let's be honest it can cause anyone anxiety if you let it, I'm writing this post as my creative outlet slowly started to morph into "work" even thought it wasn't my day job. When I started to pile up the list of things that I wanted to do with my blog and social media presence, it began to take on a new life form and became completely overwhelming.
After settling back into life after travelling and moving back home to Australia, I made a decision to simplify my approach to social media and blogging. I figured that in order to return to enjoying it and not thinking of it as work, I had to reduce the time and effort it took to edit images and write posts. My first action was to research what other fellow bloggers were doing, and apply these techniques in a way that worked for me and my schedule. Incidentally, that week I was out for dinner with friends and the topic of blogging and posting came up in conversation which lead to a friend remarking "workflow is EVERYTHING". Hearing this solidified that I absolutely had improve my current workflow, so off I went with my newly found enthusiasm and ironically, got to work.
I took to the drawing board to focus on these points:
Improve overall workflow, reducing steps and time in the process
Create my own presets to bulk edit photos in Lightroom
Create my own VSCO filter to use for Instagram and Facebook posts
Finish updating my website and create 'templates' for each post, therefore reducing the need to create post layouts from scratch
Try not to get too hung up on having everything perfect.
There are a million and one ways to edit photos these days, and a plethora of tutorials, blogs and apps to help you through the process. When I first launched my site, I was following (and still am) a number of beautifully coordinated blogs with matching Instagram accounts and thought that "I can do that". However, after a few editing experiments I quickly realised it wasn't as simple or straightforward as I thought it would be. I figured that content creators must be spending hours and hours editing - which was something I couldn't afford to do.
Over time I tried a number of recommended apps / filters / edits (list of apps tried are listed at the bottom of this section) but still wasn't entirely happy with the outcome as I just couldn't achieve a look that I felt was my own and not "borrowed" from elsewhere. Although I had just started to post pictures on Instagram and the blog, it certainly wasn't as easy as I thought it would be and I ended up spending so much time editing, re-editing, filtering, re-filtering before even considering to post them online. I knew there had to be a few tips and tricks to shortcut the process.
After some trial and error, I realised there were 3 x editing apps that I consistently returned to:
Snapseed - for overall editing including exposure, saturation, contrast etc.
Perfect365 - for selfies and closeups
VSCO - for adding filters after using the above apps for editing
I also love A Colour Story and use this occasionally to add a camera flare or colours however given the point of this post is about improving workflow I'll focus on the two apps that have really helped me in this area, being:
I didn't really understand how powerful a tool Adobe Lightroom was until I saw a few top bloggers promoting their own presets on Instagram. I'd used Photoshop many times in the past but never really looked into using Lightroom until I realised that so many content creators use it - and for good reason!
Firstly, presets (i.e. preset filters) are an easy way to achieve a consistent look and feel with all of your photos across multiple platforms and can be applied to multiple images at once. Secondly, Lightroom allows you to bulk upload and bulk edit images (this literally saved me HOURS of time having to edit images one by one) and then bulk download in a particular size / format which I found helps to save on re-sizing large image files. I cringe to even think of how many steps I had to follow previously before discovering how easy it is to use Lightroom!
If you're interested in seeing my filters in action, check out this post.
FYI - if you're not much into creating your own presets, never fear as then there are plenty of options available online. Some of my favourites are from Do You Travel x Gypsy Lust (travel), Dreamy Presets (fashion & beauty), Creative Market (for all genres).
VSCO is a powerful app for mobile editing, and great to use when you want to edit photos taken from a camera or a smartphone. I use VSCO to edit photos for my Instagram / Facebook feeds although I will try Lightroom for mobile edits soon, just for good measure. For smartphone photos I created my own customised filter in the VSCO app that I can apply to every photo with one click which saves SO. MUCH. TIME. instead of having to edit each photo individually. I sometimes make the odd touch up here using either VSCO or Snapseed if needed, but otherwise the filter works on 80-90% of all my photos without the need for any further editing.
Photo editing apps I've tried: Snapseed, Afterlight, A Colour Story, VSCO, Facetune, Aviary, HDR Max, PhotoCollage, PicsArt, Pixlr, Lightroom CC, Just Snow, Perfect 365, YouCam Perfect, Candy Selfie Camera, Portra.
In any case it still takes time to transfer, edit, format and then post but it certainly takes much less time now that I've streamlined each step. Which leads me to my next point that....
IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT.
One thing I've really struggled with is continually tinkering with the layout of my blog as I'm constantly looking at other sites and thinking "ooh I could add something like that". When I decided to launch it, I originally wanted to use a template from Pipdig on Wordpress (gorgeous templates for anyone interested) but quickly found that I enjoyed a level of basic coding and wanted to use a platform that allowed me to incorporate this as well as drag and drop features. I finally landed on Squarespace which I absolutely love, and after a number of months of work and re-work I've finally reached a point where I'm happy with what I've created and can focus on creating content rather than then 'shell' of my site. Functionality, navigation and layout are important but no one is going to visit a website that looks pretty but doesn't have anything on it!
In addition to my website, I struggled with achieving a consistent look on my Instagram feed. It's easy to spend exorbitant amounts of time trying to achieve the perfect image with the perfect filter in the perfect feed however I can almost certainly guarantee you that no one else will notice that one tiny thing that you've spent hours trying to edit / fix / update. Sometimes, it's worth letting go if it's not 100% perfect particularly if you don't have much time to begin with.
TAKE A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA
It seems counter-intuitive, but taking periodic breaks from social media can actually do wonders for creativity. Although platforms like Instagram, Bloglovin and Pinterest are great for inspiration and to see how other bloggers or influencers brand themselves, it can quickly become overwhelming when you're still trying to figure out what style you're trying to achieve.
By focusing on my own goals, taking a break from social media and adding a dash of brainstorming (plus plenty of trial and error), I think I've finally evolved all things Tanya Zena into what I want them to be.
Well, for now at least!