Initially I picked up Tessa Barton’s InstaStyle hoping for some advice on how to take better photographs for Instagram, as well as some insight on how to grow an audience. Perhaps I was naive to believe that Barton would offer advice that could be applied to the average Instagram user. InstaStyle ultimately comes across as a bit oblivious towards the lifestyle of the average person, spouting platitudes about chasing your dreams that feel hollow when the reader realizes Barton’s success stems from resources most can never hope to achieve.
Barton’s recipe for success boils down to a few key points, most of which the average person will presumably struggle to replicate. For instance, Barton admits that she works seven days a week, notes that you will need to pay a professional photographer to take your photos, and recommends that you learn to edit your own photos (with expensive software) so you do not have to pay the photographer for that, as well. Most people will probably be unwilling or unable to do all this.
In addition, one cannot help but feel a bit inadequate when comparing one’s potential photographs to Barton’s. It probably helps her a lot that she’s young, traditionally beautiful, and blonde (as is basically every other successful Instagrammer she recommends in the book). She also manages to pull off what appears to be an expensive wardrobe and she clearly travels a lot–all of this takes money the average person does not have. And though she says that a great photograph can be found anywhere, even in a construction site, it seems obvious that her followers want to see exotic vacation locales–not a dingy street with a truck.
There’s something deeply unsettling about all this, not only in how impossible it feels to achieve Instagram success unless you are wealthy and beautiful, but in how wasteful it all seems. How many outfits must a person buy, wear, and discard? How much gas does one have to use flying across the world several times a year, just to take photographs? The negative impact of one successful influencer on the environment seems extraordinary. But the book never asks if it’s worth it. It just assumes that it is.
Tucked away in the book are a few worthwhile notes, such as how to calculate your engagement rate. There are also a few spreads with ideas on how to post diverse content while still maintaining a feeling of consistency. Some of the useful tips may not be so useful at all when you consider the cost, however. Paying for a preset filter to achieve a recognizable aesthetic? Probably not worth it for most.
InstaStyle is definitely a book for serious readers who are willing to invest serious time and money into Instagram in the hopes of gaining partnerships with companies. The average person just wanting to take a better photo, however, will be better off looking for advice elsewhere.