How to Find Your Voice and Write Compelling Captions for Instagram

Instagram challenges us to be creative and play with our photography; show our faces, our lives and our perfectly coiffed coffee. But things around here have shifted a little, and the focus is now as much on the copy as the deliciously edited image accompanying it.

The trend for microblogging with long wordy captions is now so prevalent many don’t even have a blog, with Instagram their only way to share their story.

But what happens when you’re not a natural wordsmith? Your followers might hit that red heart in their droves but if the sound of crickets is deafening in your comments it might be time to rethink your chat.

Because guess what? Your words matter.

Anyone achieving the engagement dream on Instagram will tell you this; it doesn’t happen without a decent caption. But that’s not always easy, and most of us will remember a time before witty, punchy captions filled with the perfect amount of pathos and humour turned into a virtual party in our comments section. Remember when you could simply pop a few emojis and a #blessed into your caption and be done with it?

I’ve never been a natural photographer, I can’t create a beautiful flatlay and Photoshop? Nope. CBA. BUT, I’m a writer…..so I’m somehow pretty good at concocting a caption. Was I always? Erm, nope. I was not. In fact, I distinctly remember a time when a sarcastically creative hashtag accompanied my over-filtered photo……cringes hard. Yes, I LOVE curating my grid. Genuinely. But the caption is where my ‘average-image-edited-well’ is transformed into something people stick around for.

Images and captions by @lucylucraft

More than increasing engagement and giving your followers an insight into your life, crafting compelling captions is what brands want to see when they work with you.

Content creator Bronte Huskinson (aka Bookish Bronte) has amassed a 50k+ Instagram following by creating whimsical pictures with interesting, funny captions to boot. She believes it’s pivotal to nail your caption style:

'I don't think people realise how crucial they really are. Now, more than ever, it's so important to be a 'real person' online. Someone much more than someone who just posts nice photos.”

Image and caption by @bookishbronte

If you’re screaming at me right now, I hear ya; it’s NOT always as easy as Bronte and I imply. For many of you, captions give you the cringe, the fear, the writer’s block.

Beauty blogger The Sunday Girl struggles with this aspect a lot as her images are typically product heavy.

“As a fairly anonymous blogger my captions have to do the bulk of the work in terms of capturing any hints of personality, which isn't always easy with product shots.”

Image and caption by @thesundaygirluk

And I spoke with a friend recently, who admitted that while photography and creativity aren't an issue for her at all, she really struggles to find the words to write an engaging and authentic caption to match.

Photographer Emily Ward struggles too:

“I don't want to come across as 'preachy' and often think "why would anyone listen to anything I have to say?" or "what makes me feel I've got the authority to talk about this? I've become too overwhelmed by crafting the perfect image, the perfect caption and the perfect grid posted at the perfect time of the day!”

Image and caption by @emwardphotos

For those of you grappling with caption fatigue, here are my best tips:

PLAY

This is the answer to most creative struggles. Playing, testing what you and your audience enjoy and finding your unique spin on things is key to creating a sustainable and FUN Instagram profile. And don’t be afraid to ‘fail’ because nothing good came from fear :)

PLAN

For some, this signals the opposite of creativity but for me -- planning ahead is key. I use a grid planning app to write my captions in advance. That way, I can write a stream of consciousness and come back to edit later, ensuring it’s still relevant.

SHOW YOUR PERSONALITY

It’s all too easy to feel you have to fit in, but guess what makes your Instagram unique? Yep, you. Don’t shy away from what makes you you in all your imperfect perfection.

Bronte encourages this:

“Humans like interacting with other humans. Tell us how your day is going, tell us what's going on in the photos, ask questions (I always do this as it's a sure fire way to increase your engagement), talk about an important issue - anything that will get a little bit of 'you' across is more than likely going to get to your comments and help build the community around you."

Though a picture might tell a thousand words, a thousand words tell you far more. Words, quite literally, speak your truth in a way photography can’t. So be brave, and use them wisely.

Words from Lucy Lucraft.

Banner image from @cestmarie