Instagram Design Trends You Need To Know About

With over two billion monthly users and counting, Instagram continues to be a social media hit, particularly among 18-34 year olds. The platform is so popular that 59% of users login daily. And with 70% of shoppers turning to Instagram for their next purchase, it’s clear that this channel is far more than a fun, photo-sharing app. It has the potential to attract new consumers and boost revenue, with one in three Instagram marketers planning to leverage the power of shopping tools in 2022 alone. In this article, I’m taking a look at the Instagram design trends you need to know about.

Like all platforms, Instagram moves with the times. The harsh edits and pumped up saturation of yesterday have given way to the desaturated tones of today. So let’s take a closer look at what’s hot and what’s not in the ever-changing landscape of Instagram design trends.

#1 Design Trends

Before you even think about the photography, lighting and staging for your Insta posts, it’s important to know what sort of imagery is popular on a photo sharing app like Instagram. This can be influenced by social and political movements, as well as trends across other platforms, so doing your research and sussing out popular hashtags is a great place to start.

Here’s what is big at the moment.

Body Positive Images

A recent study revealed that exposure to body-positive Instagram content resulted in greater levels of body appreciation and body satisfaction compared to exposure to thin-ideal and neutral Instagram content. And, considering 32% of teen girls said that when they feel bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse, it’s perhaps no surprise that body positivity has become an unmissable theme recently.

Many brands are now embracing unedited images, featuring models of all shapes and sizes. In recent years, even stretch marks, body hair, spots and other so-called ‘physical flaws’ have been normalised and joining in this trend could win you a whole new level of respect. Why? Because people love diversity and want to see more people who look like them. The #FilterVsreality trend is just one of the many ways social media users have regained power to highlight the difference between reality and what we see online.

Check out body positive model Ashley Graham on the front cover of Perfect magazine. This one post alone received over 609K likes in just three days.

Dove has also gone down a similar route, posting unedited images and body positive captions from influencers. I’m totally here for this.

Top Tip: If you’re targeting a Gen-Z demographic on Instagram, authenticity is your friend. A recent survey of more than 9,000 social media users aged 18-64 in seven global markets indicated that Gen Z are more likely than other age groups to agree that there is too much pressure to be perfect on social media. They are also more likely than other age groups to agree that people should show more of their ‘real’ selves and lives on social media.

As a side note to the whole body positive, unedited thing going on right now, photo dumps are also hugely popular. Many celebrities, influencers and even companies are just dumping a whole load of images showcasing both filtered and unfiltered pics so you see the good, the bad and ugly of a photoshoot.  The days of super fake, super polished shots are fading out as we speak.

No Makeup

Think you have to call in the beauty squad for your next round of Instagram images? You don’t. There have been over 20 million #nomakeup posts on Instagram as of September 2022, showing a huge demand for this sort of content. Again, it all comes back to being real and not a slave to filters, edits or being something you’re not.

Top Tip: Embrace trends. Even if you’re a makeup artist, you could post a video or a series of pictures reversing the makeup process. This puts an interesting spin on life after the glamour. You could also post before and after shots to show that you’re proud of what you look like with and without makeup and to emphasise the transition. Be brave and use trending hashtags such as #nomakeup to make your posts easy to search.

Minimalism

Minimalism is becoming increasingly popular, with the #minimalism hashtag on Instagram having more than 26 million posts. Minimal landscapes, portraits and product images with a super clean look can be seen everywhere on the platform and it makes sense considering the less-is-more approach is common in architecture and interior design too. Instead of bright and colourful images, many brands are opting for a monochrome, neutral aesthetic. Minimalism also combines well with black and white photography. Gap played around with both the minimalist and monochrome look to promote their summer shorts.

Note the crisp white background which helps draw attention to the main image. Interestingly, however, the background does not have to be white to create a strong visual effect. Look how Dolce & Gabbana set a monochrome outfit against a red background. There is nothing complicated about this shot but the use of colours contrast to create an aesthetically striking post.

I love how this high-end fashion brand has also posted different versions of this same look to garner as much attention as possible. This is something you might also want to weave into your marketing plan, as there’s no way these images are easy to scroll past or forget. If you opt to do this, think about using many different models so that people can see how your products look on other body types and skin tones. The more you can connect with your audience, the more engagement you should get in return.

#2 Photo Lighting

Now let’s think about the lighting. While authenticity is in and overediting is out, there are some lighting tricks that can help your photos stand out amid a hugely saturated market. Here are a few ideas.

Neon Lights

It might seem like we’ve travelled back in time to the nineties, but actually Neon lights are a big deal on Instagram right now. Neon has become  popular once again thanks to various video games, animations and movies and is part of a cyberpunk aesthetic. Many photographers, designers and illustrators are enriching their social media photos with neon colours to add a dystopian feel to landscapes and portraits. Neon lights are surprisingly easy to incorporate into your shots as they can be found in most urban areas. Note than #neon has over 17.5 million posts on Instagram and counting showing the demand for this vibrant use of colour. The image below shows how a neon flare can really bring an otherwise dark picture to life.

Desaturated Tones

Desaturated tones can create a chilled, calm and somewhat moody vibe that’s all the rage right now on Instagram. This photo editing effect shifts the brightness and highlights of an image right down and is perfect for fashion brands looking to create a low-key, trendy and beautifully chic look. You can easily achieve this look by editing in your phone’s camera settings, meaning you don’t need any expensive or fancy photography equipment. You can also use photo and video editing apps like Tezza or VSCO. On Tezza, try the filter ‘Cocoa’. If you don’t want to go too dark you can still play around with desaturated tones by lowering the saturation and upping the brightness. There are no set rules when it comes to colour, just go with what suits your vibe.

Warm Tones

With autumn almost upon us, warm tones are a great way to add a cosy richness to your Instagram feed. They’re perfect for interior design retailers as well as travel companies looking to highlight beautiful and heart-warming adventures. To recreate this trend, lookout for presets that have reddy-brown undertones.

Top Tip: Move with the seasons. While pastel colours and crisp backgrounds might have worked for summer, don’t be afraid to experiment with richer colours and textured settings come autumn and winter. When it comes to lighting you’ll be amazed by what you can achieve at different times of the day. Make the most of sundown on a cold but clear evening, being sure to capture those amazing orange and yellow hues as the day comes to an end.

#3 Budget-Friendly Photography and Design Tips

If you’re looking for budget-friendly lighting solutions for your Instagram photography, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some trendy tips that won’t break the bank.

  • Use window lighting for product photography. Whether you’re snapping clothes, shoes or accessories, stage your set in front of a big window that lets in plenty of natural sunlight. Make sure the light filters through at a 90-degree angle to your product so it’s not overly glary. You can also hang a sheer white sheet to soften the light if it’s too much or to create different effects.

 

  • Make sure your food is photo ready. From Michelin-star restaurants to street cafes, food photography can really draw in a crowd. But the experts don’t snap and go. Instead, they carefully select beautifully looking food and carefully arrange it on crisp white plates for maximum effect. Use soft, natural light wherever possible and try photographing from different angles until you’re happy with the frame. Use warmer, more appetising colours that are true-to-life and use depth-of-field to focus on the most delicious aspects of your photo. A mouth-watering description can also be used to bring your image to life and don’t forget branded and unbranded hashtags for searchability.

 

  • Bribe your pets. There are so many cute pet pics on Instagram and if you work with animals you probably want to get some great images of them for promo purposes. But how? Well, be sure to use treats to have them stay put or look in a certain direction. Use a faster shutter speed, continuous focus and burst mode to ensure your snaps aren’t blurry. Wait for a calm moment and don’t attempt to take pics when your pet is having a crazy moment. You can also show off their character by authentically snapping them when they’re in a funny position and why not include people to add context to the shot? Remember, authenticity is huge at the moment so don’t feel like your pet has to be a supermodel. If they’re pulling a cheesy grin while watching an episode of Friends, that’s a winner.

A lot goes into creating a beautiful Instagram feed. It starts with beautiful photos and design. Then you need incredible content, the right hashtags, captions, Reels and Stories. Get in contact for a killer Instagram strategy and management for your brand.

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About the author

Charlotte Day, known as Charli, is a content marketing strategist heading up social media and storytelling at Contentworks Agency. A content marketing thought leader, she has 1000+ articles published, guest writes for leading social media hubs and frequently speaks at events. She also maintains her own blog at www.charlisays.com and a writer’s life presence on social media. When she’s not writing and managing the agency, Charli enjoys swimming in the Mediterranean, writing poetry and reading.