Just last April, long-running American magazine The Atlantic reported on the supposed "death" of the Instagram aesthetic. We all know this well: artsy walls, staged poses, meticulously filtered photos that look like they were taken by a professional camera. Accordingly, these carefully curated photos are now slowly losing their appeal to the younger generation, mostly known today as Generation Z. "Anything that feels staged is as undesirable...as unfiltered or unflattering photos would be for older influencers," Taylor Lorenz writes in his story.
The Rise of a New #Aesthetic
Now, what exactly is the "new" Instagram aesthetic? According to Taylor's article, it's all about authenticity, and to the younger generation this means more candid shots, relaxed photos, and less filters that streamline your feed. Basically, the more natural and unflattering, the better—making them look more relatable to their followers. However, it's also important to note that this new look works exactly to thrive against the notion of an audience.
Blogger Venkatash Rao calls this the "Domestic Cozy" aesthetic. "Domestic cozy finds its best expression in privacy, among friends, rather than in public, among strangers. It prioritizes the needs of the actor rather than the expectations of the spectator," Rao explains on his website. "Domestic cozy looks inward with a relaxed affect. A preternaturally relaxed affect bordering on creepy." In essence, weird, "ugly," low-quality images are the goal. Gen-Z American influencers like Emma Chamberlain, Jazzy Anne, and Joana Ceddia are known to rep this type of ultra-relaxed, almost careless IG feed.
Don't get it wrong though, because this new "relaxed" aesthetic still isn't exactly filter-free. The only difference is that picture-perfect, smooth color-correcting filters are out; today's youth obsess over the nostalgic feel of the '90s. Think film cameras, light leaks, fade effects, polaroids, and grainy low-quality photos. Some even purposefully blur their images to achieve that "badly taken" aesthetic.
The new Instagram aesthetic is fast gaining traction particularly among young Western influencers like Courtney Trop and Reese Blutstein, who, with her candid and vintage-looking IG feed filled with side-street shots and photos of her dog, has managed to garner around 238,000 followers in the past year alone.
Now that we've nailed down the essence of the new IG feed, below are a few tips on how exactly to achieve the said aesthetic. Because while the main takeaway of a natural and relaxed feed might just be to not care and post whatever, at least a necessarry amount of minimal staging and selection can't hurt the eyes either. Just think of it as the curated version of Instagram circa 2012.
For the pose-shy and conscious, you'll especially get a kick out of this new IG look. Because as far as posing goes, the less staged, the better! Pretty much anything goes from candid shots, to unfiltered close-ups of your face, to random photos of your pets. Mirror selfies are highly encouraged to replace those all-too fierce OOTD shots made famous by the millennial generation.
Scroll through below for a few examples.
As for the background, literally anything random will do as long as it's not another brick wall, artsy mural, or museum installation. Think your bedroom door, a stranger's car, a washed out white wall, or the outside of some store. Just make it as mundane as possible!
Oh, and another quick note: Ring lights are out and natural sunlight is in! Or really, whatever lighting is available to you, which should ideally also be left untouched and unedited. Just work with what you've got!
No need for that lumpy and expensive DSLR if you're not a pro film photographer anyway. All you need for an IG rebrand is your handy-dandy phone camera! As for the grunge and grainy film cam lewk gaining traction among today's youth, try out a few of the apps below:
1. Huji Cam
Made to resemble the effects of a retro film camera, according to The Atlantic, Huji has been downloaded at least 16 million times since its claim to fame just last year.
RNI Films is the perfect app for achieving that nostalgic analog photography aesthetic. Its filters are categorized according to classic film stocks like Fuji Pro 400H, Kodak Gold 200, or Fuji Astia 100F so you'll know the exact effect you're getting.
An Android alternative to iOS' RNI Films, Nebi comes with a full library of light leaks, grains, scratches, and bokehs that you can manipulate to your liking.
For artsy, enigmatic blurry photos, Snapseed's our go-to choice! The best part about this is that it's actually an all-around photo editing app. Read more about it here!
At the end of the day, whether or not you choose to ride the new IG wave, just remember: Your feed, your say!