How to use color and mood to brand your Instagram

Let’s talk today about branding your Instagram feed with color. I’ve already shared some inspiring + powerful examples of feed “themes” using color alone. (Check them out here if you haven’t already.) And don’t forget to download the free “Instagram Color Palette Creator” at the bottom of this post.

Many of the examples I shared in that original post rely on heavily editing your images- changing the overall tones in the images so they all look cohesive. But that’s tricky for feeds that are posting a lot of food pics.

Heavy, stylized editing of food images can start to look fake (at best) or downright gross (at worst). Unless, that’s what you’re going for- if so, rock on with your bad self.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I FULLY support editing images- even food. I think it’s mucho mucho important to develop a signature editing style/ visual voice/ overall aesthetic for your images. And I actually do some heavy edits on my images from time to time. But the end goal is always to keep the food looking real(ish), yummy, and desirable.

At the time of writing this post, I’m at the very beginning of transitioning to a mostly food-heavy feed on Instagram so the process I’m sharing with you today is the one that I’m actually implementing in real time right now. I’m using my background in branding and design to inform how I develop my visual aesthetic for my food photography, and then applying that to images I post on my feed. It’s been SUPER helpful for me- and that’s why I knew I had to share it with you right away!

ALSO- if you’re NOT a foodie, these steps all still apply, so feel free to use and adapt as necessary.

You can even use this as guidance for curating feeds made up mostly of reposted images from other accounts!

Step one: Pin Board

Create a pinterest board and start pinning images that you simply swoon over and would die to create (or post) yourself. Not ones you thing are “nice” or simply cute. Ones that make you think “If this image was on my feed, I would feel seriously f’ing awesome.”

Don’t worry too much about cohesion at this point, just tap into your gut and pin. Aim for about 30-40 images.

Step two: Edit

Once you have your images, now you’re going to edit. I want you to look through these images and choose only 5-8 images (no more than that!) that really speak to you. Take these images and put them together in a moodboard. If you’re fancy like me you can use illustrator or photoshop. If you aren’t an adobe master though, use a program like Canva- it’s free, and super intuitive + easy to use. Or, you could just delete all the pins you didn’t choose and keep your 5-8 images alone in a pin board. These aren’t hard and fast rules folks. You just want to isolate these images together somehow.

step three: Analyze

Once you have your perfect images, it’s time to get your study on. Since I was using this exercise to help me refine my food photography aesthetic, I was taking more things than just color into account. Lighting, composition, mood and message are also things I’m considering. Feel free to use these assessment categories too, or make ones up that make sense for your brand.

First, I picked out the dominant colors I was seeing across all images. Then, I studied the images to see what they had in common with each other based on each of the categories.

Before I even created any new imagery, this exercise was SO helpful. Now I have a clear idea of the types of props, backgrounds and even ingredients I want to use. I know the type of lighting I’m shooting for to create that “light & moody” look I defined in this step. It’s takes so much of the guess work out of my shoots and streamlined my process.

Here’s what my initial guide looked like:

If you want to create a signature visual voice/ aesthetic for your food or wellness brand, start by creating a guide or moodboard you can refer to. It’s especially helpful for creating a branded look on Instagram and can inform your colors, lighting, mood and overall style.

Step four: create, study, refine, repeat.

Hopefully, this is where the fun begins. You’ll use this guide to help create a feed based on the colors + principles you defined. Do your images have to look exactly like the ones in your moodboard? No! This guide is meant to be aspirational and give you a direction to follow for your colors and aesthic. Over time, it will help you develop a visual brand voice that’s distinctly you.

I review this board now before every new shoot I do for myself (for clients, I do the same process, but based on THEIR visual aesthetic). I want to remind myself of the look/ colors I’m trying to achieve.

In a separate board, I started to pull in new work as I created it. Very quickly, I could see how I was being informed by the original board, but also adding my own spin. So now I add to it, and pull up this board too. Especially when I’m editing- I want to make sure that I’m getting the colors and mood to really jive.

This is what my current moodboard looks like using all new images I’ve created:

If you want to create a signature visual voice/ aesthetic for your food or wellness brand, start by creating a guide or moodboard you can refer to. It’s especially helpful for creating a branded look on Instagram and can inform your colors, lighting, mood and overall style. These are all images taken by me- Sarah Ehlinger- for Brand Spanking you, and I refer to this to make sure I’m continuing to create images in a cohesive style

I repeat and refine this process of studying the images (both the original board, and my new images) over and over as I create.

And that’s it!

I hope it was helpful for you- if it was, leave a comment below and tell me your biggest “aha” moment.

If you want even more guidance on creating brand colors, download the Instagram Palette Creator below. It goes way in depth into color theories and how to use them to create your own signature branded style on Instagram!

Free guide to create the perfect branded instagram color palette.

The easiest- and best way to brand your instagram feed is with color. But that can be tricky for food accounts. Learn a foolproof system for creating a signature, branded look for your images.
The easiest- and best way to brand your instagram feed is with color. But that can be tricky for food accounts. Learn a foolproof system for creating a signature, branded look for your images.
The easiest- and best way to brand your instagram feed is with color. But that can be tricky for food accounts. Learn a foolproof system for creating a signature, branded look for your images.