Instagram: My first post to get over 1000 likes in less than 24 hours

Instagram: My first post to get over 1000 likes in less than 24 hours

I’m going to save the suspense and just tell you now, it’s this picture:

My first picture to ever go over 1000 likes was this picture:

If these photos tell you anything, it should be this:

  • You don’t need professional lighting (decent, yes, professional, no).
  • You don’t have to be incredibly attractive (note the buns and the slouchy pose and the wrinkled clothes that are bunched up in weird places).
  • You don’t have to post at specific times (one of these was at 6pm on a Wednesday, one at 7am on a Saturday)
  • Your space doesn’t have to “Instagram Perfect” (see: the mess on my desk and the container of bubbles on my bookshelf behind me)
  • Just because one post goes over 1000 likes does not mean all of them will (note that they’re more than a month-and-a-half apart)

Judging purely off these photos (which I don’t think anyone should) my keys to success are:

  • To have my hair in a bun/up
  • To have a warm (yellow) light with a clear shot of the face/face angle
  • To be on a computer
  • To have a shot of my full body with my feet not touching the ground
  • To have a slight mess around me
  • To look slightly disheveled
  • Use an emoji in the caption

What I get from these commonalities is that people (or at least the people that follow me) like perceived realism. The slightly disheveled programmer fits into the narrative of what they expect: a girl wearing leggings and a t-shirt with her hair thrown up in a bun looking at code. They’re looking for someone they can relate to, that’s approachable, not someone who belongs on a  pedestal.

People don’t want to think that there’s a tripod or professional lighting or some kind of complex staging behind the picture, they just want to believe that the picture is a moment caught in time that somehow made its way to a public forum. They want my celebrations to be theirs (and my stresses), and they want it to be of a good quality (lower lighting/grainier photos don’t do so well), but not so perfect that the illusion of reality is squashed.

For the record, this is one of both the easiest and hardest type of photos to take because it involves being okay with, well, “not” looking okay. I remember hating how my stomach looked in the top photo, and I hated how the shirt wrinkled in the second photo. In my mind, these photos were very clearly “Okay, I’m trying to stick to my schedule, I’ll take one” photos, but apparently they really resonated with some people. Much like how perfecting “Natural” makeup involves a significant amount of time and talent, it’s hard to take photos that seem simultaneously casual and high quality without spending a lot of time on them (trust me, I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different styles).


Unless you’re literally a model, people aren’t following you to see perfect photos. Kind of like how reality tv is supposed to portray “real” people in “real” scenarios, they want to feel like they’re seeing a sort of private truth that they can relate to. The major upside to this is that you can probably getting away with not buying designer clothes or having an “instagram perfect” space, because that’s not why people are following you anyway.