How to spot the fakes, the overly-edited and the just not quite real photos on Instagram and beyond

I’ve heard it said that as many as 6 out of every 10 people really can’t tell the difference between if a photo is real or fake. As someone who has done a lot of photo manipulating in my day, I thought perhaps I’d take the opportunity to show some examples of fake, overly edited and unrealistic photos as a means to know what to look for.

If you know any of the people in this photos, please do not send them hate messages. The point of this post is not to bully, it’s just to share more insight on just how Instagram and reality aren’t always the same.

Some examples:

THE TAJ MAHAL

When I first saw this photo, the Instagrammer was claiming that she merely used a filter to give it a pink-tint, because she liked the look. The problem is, there’s a whole lot more that’s been done to this photo than just adding a filter.

Firstly, as one of the most visited, photographed and loved landmarks on earth, the Taj Mahal is crowded. All the time. Every day. Even on a slow day it’s 100% unlikely that she ever would have been able to take this photo with only her in this shot.

Secondly, the reflection of the Taj Mahal in the pool has been disproportionately scaled to fit in the pool. While it is possible to see a reflection of the structure in the pool, the width of the building and the angle of this shot make it virtually impossible for the entire Taj Mahal to be seen in the narrow pool.

Thirdly, note how the shadow of her standing in front of the pool is on the stone she’s standing on, but stops dead at the pool. Her reflection does not continue in the water… which is not really how reflection works, either.

This is a small thing, not noticed by simply looking at this photo alone, but this girl has actually photoshopped those birds, the exact cluster of birds, into several other photos from different locales around the world – the south of France, Venice, etc.. Moral of the story – there is more fake in this photo than real.

LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTA, CANADA

This photo, or photos, is at the Fairmont Lake Louise. This is a place I’ve been to many times in my life and can attest to its beauty, so when I see this photo, not only do I see a cringey photoshop job, but I also take a little bit of offense. Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, naturally. It doesn’t need to be edited.

Putting my personal feelings aside, do you notice how she seems to have a sort of ‘ethereal’ halo around her? When people are newbies at photoshop, that’s a trick they tend to use to try and help photos blend into the background. In her case, I think she likely thought because there was so much white in the background it wouldn’t look as obvious. You can also see the halo-like lighting at the top of the chair and all the way around the edge of the window frame.

Another thing to note is that she appears to be wearing a colour changing toque. This is a small thing but the back of her toque is pink and the front of her toque is grey. This happens a lot when you import a part of an image from elsewhere into a new image. In this case, I think she imported her body in front of this window.

While I think she likely ate at this restaurant when she was there, she likely wasn’t seated by a window. This restaurant books up months in advance, and since she couldn’t get a picture in front of a window, she photoshopped herself in front of the window, added some filters and then overly-saturated the two images to try and make them blend together easily.

IT’S PARIS… OR IS IT?

Have you ever seen stars in the middle of the city? No. There’s a reason for that, it’s called light pollution. When the light from a city brightens the sky, it drowns out the visibility of the stars.

This is Paris, the city love, the city of lights, with millions of lights everywhere… hundreds, if not thousands seen in this photo alone. The Eiffel tower itself is lit in this photo. There’s also lights lit all around the tower. And yet light pollution just didn’t happen on this day? A sky full of stars just magically appeared in a not very dark sky?

To me it looks like there’s been some stitching down around hear head, and also on her left leg. Those are more subtle.

Was she actually in Paris? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ve never been to the Eiffel Tower, so I cannot vouch as to whether or not this concrete she’s sitting on is in fact there. I will say though, this concrete she’s sitting on could really be anywhere. It could be in her back yard. The fact that she’s looking away means there really isn’t a lot involved with changing this photo to be San Francisco, or Hong Kong… or anywhere, if you catch my drift. If she wasn’t in Paris, all she really needed to do was drop Paris in the background. In her case, she also heavily edited the sky to fill it with stars so that her life looks even that much more magical.

It’s an illusion. It’s all an illusion.

THE ‘CLOUD CHASER’

Take a close look at the clouds in the background of these photos. This Instagram user has photoshopped the sky in every photo she’s taken, around the world, to put in clouds that she actually liked, because the actual clouds in the sky just weren’t good enough for her. That same cluster of clouds followed her around the world.

If someone is willing to go through the process to edit the clouds in the sky, what does that say about the authenticity of their Instagram?

HOW MANY HANDS DOES SHE HAVE?

Honestly, the Kardashians are easy to use for showcasing photo editing fails because there aren’t really any photos they post without editing.

Editing of this photo was clearly done in FaceTune. If you don’t notice the flaw immediately, that’s okay. It’s subtle on first glance. But look at the hand on the right side of Khloe Kardashian, she seems to have tried to pull in her thigh to make it look thinner, and in the process, created a second hand… or at least 1.5 hands. The thing about FaceTune that people often forget is that when the APP disrupts the data to make someone thinner, it’s going to try and fix that data by re-writing the background of the photo. In this case, her hand ended up getting duplicated.

WHEN YOUR THIGH IS THINNER THAN YOUR KNEE

Either her left leg (the underneath leg) is considerably longer and thinner than her right leg (disproportionately so) or, this is a bad photoshop job. Now, this is Kourtney Kardashian, who in my opinion needs no photoshopping to start with. This photo is just all sorts of weird. It seems to give the illusion that her left thigh gets thinner as yo move farther up from her knee. For a woman who’s already very thin to start with, it’s sad that she feels she needs to be this heavily edited in order to be posted for public consumption.

Things to look for:

If you’re browsing Instagram and something seems to good to be true, it probably is. I want to disclaim that, to the people who feel a need to edit their photos there is no hate here. I just want to make people more aware of just how easy it is to fake reality. If we all know the truth behind what a photo really is, we might stop trying so hard to make our lives a series of these picture perfect images. If you’re curious about how to tell for editing, here’s couple of suggestions to look for:

  • Everything in the photo is in focus. Camera’s aren’t capable of capturing both the subject in the foreground and the objects in the background to all be in focus in one photo.
  • Copied patterns. This doesn’t just happen with the sky, this happens with human body parts. Fitness influencers are big for this – not only do they photoshop their muscles, but they’ll photoshop the muscles of anyone in the photo with them. If you’ve ever seen a group of men flexing their biceps that all seem to look shockingly similar, it’s probably because they are.
  • Blurriness or lack of texture is a telltale sign that someone’s face has been smoothed over with a FaceTune filter. Human beings have pores, texture and colouring in their skin. If you’re not seeing it in photos, that’s not because they were blessed by the genetic lottery, that’s because they edited it out.
  • Damaged/Distorted Pixels. If you’re looking at a photo and there appears to be damaged pixels within the image, this is a telltale sign of poor editing. There’s something in photoshop called the ‘Clone Stamp’ and what that does is allow you to draw over portions of an image with the pixels from elsewhere in the image. The process of clone stamping works great if you’re not looking closely at an image, but, if you’re taking a second look, the clone stamp ALWAYS damages pixels in the photograph. Once those pixels are damaged, you can’t get them back.
  • When the reflection doesn’t match the body. While people will make their waist thinner, legs longer, boobs bigger and so on and so forth, the majority of people seem to forget about their reflection. If there’s anything reflective in the photo at all – mirrors, windows, any body of water, shadows from the sun, check the reflection. Often times the reflection will be a display of their original image that they were trying to edit out.
  • A distorted background. Probably the most easy of all to spot, crooked doors, lamp posts with holes in them, clean lines of walls and paintings being off are all telltale signs the photo you’re looking at isn’t legitimate. When people try to make themselves look thinner in photos, these apps they use ‘pull in’ their body. When their body is pulled in, so is the background behind them – which makes for a whole lot of cars with protruding lesions and benches that seem to defy the laws of physics.

To anyone who doesn’t already know (I’m assuming everyone does, but just in case) any and all photos you’re viewing on Instagram from your phone can be zoomed in by pinching the screen of your phone. If you’re not on your phone, or you’re elsewhere on the web and something looks off, it probably is. You can zoom in on any photo on the internet by changing the view of your Internet Browser.

To close this off, I’d just like to say that… life is a very beautiful and fragile thing and that who you are is perfect, just the way you are. If you do edit yourself in photos for your Instagram, that’s your choice, but please, at the very least, keep the real versions for yourself. There’s nothing worse than looking back at photos of your life and realizing that they’re so heavily edited you don’t even recognize yourself. It almost… distorts your memories, if that makes any sense.

There’s no hate. I just want to remind people that Instagram and reality aren’t one and the same.

Is it legit? Being mindful of emails that try to scam bloggers.

One of the most exciting things you can receive as a blogger is emails about business opportunities/partnerships. Sadly, a lot of these emails often end up being scams. But, in receiving one, you can sometimes get so excited that you’ve been sent this email you forget to look for the small details.

It’s important to be able to tell if an email is a legitimate business opportunity for your blog, or a phishing scam. Lately I’ve both received, and heard of, a lot of different scam emails being sent to bloggers. If you have a ‘Contact Me’ page on your blog, or offer your email address on your blog, you may have even gotten some of these yourself. Here are some things to look for that can help determine whether or not the request you’ve gotten is legitimate.

  • The email should be addressed to you, not to the name of your blog, or a generic phrase such as ‘dear customer’. If you do not provide a first name on your blog, a legitimate business request will include them introducing themselves and asking for your first name
  • The email should have proper spelling and grammar. (This email I’ve included as example is a hot mess) Scams will often exchange ‘o’ for ‘0’ to bypass spam filters that services like hotmail, gmail and yahoo mail have in place.
  • The email should include a company name, at bare minimum, in the signature. If they’re smart, they’ll include it elsewhere in the email as well. If they are self employed, they will acknowledge that.
  • The email should NEVER ask you to do something in direct violation of law. IE Post a paid for advertisement to your blog whilst not disclosing that it was paid for.
  • The email should never request for personal information such as a phone number, access to your blog, pay-pal account info, and so on and so forth. If no business relationship has been established (yet) why would they need this information immediately?
  • A legitimate business opportunity for your blog will never come from someone who ‘expects’ anything from you. Initial emails should be a request and nothing more.
  • Take a close look at the email address, not just the sender name. Often times the domain can be a dead giveaway that an email isn’t legitimate. And, while it is true that some self-employed/small business owners do use services such as GMAIL for business, they will always have their name, or their company name used in the email. In the case of the email example I have attached, the name in the email address of who the email was from did not match the name on the bottom of the email.
  • Do not open poorly labeled or unlabeled attachments. And, if attachments are labeled, be careful to make sure that it’s not a scam before you open.

Last, but certainly not least, does the email make your ‘spidey sense’ flare up?

This list may sound obvious when you’re reading it, but there are a lot of people in this world who fall for email scams. People get so caught up in the excitement of them that there are a lot of Nigerian Princes with a lot of money right now. And, a lot of Lawyers in Monaco that won’t be wiring that 4.2 million they promised from your dearly departed relative that you’ve never met that they set up the will for.

I would strongly encourage that, if you feel an email could be a scam, you do not respond. Even a simple ‘No thank you’ can send them after you for months on end, request after request, annoying the crap out of you in an effort to wear you down.

If you think it could be a scam just hit delete.


Have you ever received a business request/opportunity for your blog that you felt could be a scam? What did it say? How could you tell that it just wasn’t quite right?

I LOVE ANALYTICS.

What can your analytics teach you? What should your analytics teach you? If you have a blog, or any form of social media, you have access to analytics. Do you use them?

346 people have visited my blog today from 53 countries and territories around the world. How cool is that? People from all over the world have found my blog, my words, my little corner of the internet.

3,321 people have viewed my published tweets.

1,106 people have viewed my Instagram page.

18 people found my blog through search engine results.

6 people found my blog from Facebook. And I don’t even have a Facebook account.

I don’t say this to brag, I say this because analytics fascinate me. I love tracking visitors, hits, interactions, popularity (or lack thereof depending on the post) and reach.

I use my analytics to determine what the best time of day is to post something, as well, what the best day of the week is to post something. I also use my analytics to determine what topics will garner more hits, and what topics won’t really resonate with my community. Also, on that note, I use my analytics to understand my community.

Why?

An estimated 40% of the people who read #MillennialLifeCrisis are Gen X-ers. That’s right, the largest group of people who read this blog are not even Millennials. That tells me that these things that I’ve felt alienated me for so long now are in fact, not generational, but more so just the overall human condition.

Quite often I’m asked different variations of ‘what’s your secret? How’d you get so many followers?’ What’s my secret? I don’t keep secrets. I use analytics. I’ve been using them since I worked in corporate settings and I can say without a doubt, that if you’re looking to grow an audience for your personal blog, analytics are going to play a major factor in your success, or lack thereof.

How many people viewed your blog today? What countries did they come from? What did you do as a measure to help convince them to return to your blog? How can you use your analytics to your favour?

Here, I’ll give you an example:

Let’s pretend that you live in London, England. Now, upon reading the base analytics that WordPress provides to EVERY user (regardless of if your account is free or paid), you notice that far and above anywhere else, the majority of your audience is from the United States. If you want the most people possible to see your post, I do not recommend hitting publish at 9:00 AM Greenwhich Mean Time. Why? Because for the majority of your audience, that’s the middle of the night and they’re asleep. Instead, I recommend you schedule your post to be published at 9:00 AM Eastern Standard Time. Your post will be top of feed for all of your American audience to see, and you stand a much higher chance of having farther reach.

If you’e blogging for a hobby and you don’t care how many hits/visitors your blog gets, analytics probably won’t matter to you. But, if you want to build a community, your analytics can be one of your best assets. They will tell you what you’re doing wrong, what you’re doing right and how to improve upon all of it.

I still post what I want when I want. But, I also know that if I do something like… posting this after 7:00 PM Pacific Standard Time, it’s going to get far less hits than had I gotten by butt in gear and posted this 10 hours ago.

That is how I use, or don’t use, analytics in my favour. Whether I post it at the optimal time or not, I’m still going to track visitors, hits, interaction. Why? Because I’m a nerd who loves data. Because I believe in the value of analytics. Because this blog is my pride and joy and I really appreciate knowing all that I can about it.

So what do your analytics teach you? How can you use that information to your favour?


If you liked this post and would like to read more of my blogging tips, click here. All blogging tips/tricks/advice/suggestions are all categorized under ‘Marketing’ on my blog’s main menu.

If you would like to support myself and the content created on #MillennialLifeCrisis, I have an official Patreon account with patron options starting as low as $1 per month. Click here >

I have an Official Patreon

Thanks to some encouragement from a fellow blogger, as well as support from two friends, I have gone ahead and created a Patreon account for #MillennialLifeCrisis.

If you would like to support this blog and myself, financially, you can do so by subscribing to my Patreon here. Presently there are two subscription tiers, $1 per month and $5 per month.

$1 Per Month Tier

  • Totals $12 per year
  • Provide monetary support to myself and #MillennialLifeCrisis

$5 Per Month Tier

  • Totals $60 per year
  • Provide monetary support to myself and #MillennialLifeCrisis
  • Have your blog linked under the ‘Supporters’ page on my blog

There are only two tiers for this Patreon because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself, or anyone else for that matter. If this turns into nothing, no harm and no foul. And, if this turns into something that actually benefits me, and this blog, that’ll be a huge blessing for 2020.

*Please Note that monetary subscriptions are not a requirement to follow this blog. This is an option to those who subscribe to this blog and would like to support it financially as well. All of my posts will still be public. Any of the things that may have brought you to this blog initially will still be public domain. This includes all of my blogging/marketing tips, tricks, hacks and suggestions. I believe in sharing my knowledge at no charge, to hopefully help other bloggers thrive. Patreon will (hopefully) be a vehicle for me to be able to dedicate more strategic efforts toward improving this blog and expanding the content that I share.

Thank you for your continued support of this blog. Whether you choose to support monetarily, or not, I appreciate you for coming to this blog, sharing your stories with me and leaving kind comments.

You have given this self-proclaimed introvert a corner of the internet where I can truly be myself without fear. That is a sense of pride I have that I can’t even begin to explain. Thank you to all 6,000 plus of you. It means the world to me that you care about what I have to share.


To anyone who might not know, Patreon is a membership platform that provides business tools for creators to earn income from their content.

If they so choose, supporters of Musicians, Writers/Bloggers, Artists, Magicians, etc… can subscribe to the Patreon account of the person which they support, pledging a certain amount of money to said person per month.

12:19 AM

Burning the midnight oil (quite literally) right now.

Working from home, from your computer, gets increasingly more difficult if your internet is painstakingly slow. #FirstWorldProblems

I’ve been working on some design work tonight. Here’s a tidbit… if you’ve got access to Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign, and aren’t a graphic designer, the website freepik.com can be one of your most valuable resources.

The entire premise of the website is designers helping designers/future designers… which is a movement that I wholeheartedly stand behind. If you have a creative talent and can provide that to others, for free, that’s some good stuff right there. And if you need some creative motivation, now you know of a free resource that can help you in your design journey.

Freepik.com.

Oh, if you use anything, always provide credit. Don’t be ‘that person’ that doesn’t provide credit.

Backlinking – THE INTRODUCTORY BASICS

Disclaimer: SEO, Backlinking and DA are all extremely convoluted subjects. Different people have different opinions as to what works best and what doesn’t. Because of this, different platforms will offer different advice. This is the main reason why I’ve put off writing about this topic for such a long time. There are a lot of layers to the subject matter so please, take everything said in this post with a grain of salt. If you’ve found results using different tactics, then keep using the tactics that have given you results.

Also, there will be posts coming in the future on these topics. Because there are so many layers to Backlinking, SEO and DA, it’s not something that could ever be covered in one single post. So if you like this, I’ll try to make sure it isn’t a year before I write a part two.

Okay, onto the meat and potatoes…


If you’ve ever googled ‘SEO’ before (googling SEO… now that’s funny to me) one of the most common terms you’ll come across is ‘Backlink’.

What is a backlink?

A backlink is a link created when one url links to another. Backlinks are also called “inbound links” or “incoming links.” Backlinks are important to SEO.

Why is a backlink important?

A backlink to your site is the web’s equivalent to someone saying ‘Yeah you can trust them’. It’s vouching for a website, letting search engines know that cataloging said content will be of value to the search engine. A backlink is a reference that is comparable to a citation in printed work.

It is worth noting that not all backlinks are treated the same. Some are more valuable than others. A backlink from a more trusted site is going to be seen as a more valuable than say, one from a site that has only been up and running for a month, for example.

A SIMPLE how to for bloggers:

BACKLINK TO YOUR OWN SITE

In 2017 while in the process of rebuilding the the website for the company I was working for, the hosting company I was working with to build the site informed me that you can, in fact, backlink to your own site. While these backlinks aren’t quite as valuable as those from other sites, they do still count.

When you make a new post to your blog, each individual post is given its own link. So, if you’re writing a post on February 3, 2020 and you link a post from the past (referencing a story, for example) inserting a link to a previous post that you’ve made counts as a backlink.

INTERNAL LINKING

A good internal linking structure plays a key role in the success of a blog because, with a good internal linking structure, you can help your audience and potential audience easily navigate through your website and increase the user experience. What does this mean? This means you should make sure that your menus are in order, that your links go to where you say they’re going to go, that there’s no ‘dead pages’ on your blog with zero content on them. Dead pages decrease the value of your site in search engine algorithms .

For WordPress users, it’s quite easy to create a navigable menu at the top or the bottom of your page. Ensuring that you’re choosing proper titles and linking people to the right places boost your link legitimacy in SEO.

  • Personally, I always tell people to keep menu links to a smaller amount so that your linking is more manageable. This is a personal preference so you need not listen to me when I say this, but you’re going to have a lot easier of a time managing 8 categories for your posts than you are managing 30. However many categories you choose, though, please make sure they’re all being properly linked in whatever menu structure you’re using.

WRITE GUEST POSTS

Guest blogging is an effective way for bloggers to reach new audiences and, in the process, earn backlinks. When you write a guest post for someone else’s blog or website, not only will your own content be exposed to new readers, but said readers can then use the backlink to find their way to your website.

It’s a simple way of increasing your audience, building your reputation and earning backlinks in the process.

REBLOGGING

When you reblog someone’s content, so long as they do not delete the link to your blog (the source), that counts in their favour as a backlink. Likewise, when someone reblogs your content, that counts in your favour as a backlink.

LEAVE COMMENTS

If you’ve ever noticed someone leaving a comment on your blog who shares a link to their own blog at the end of their comment this is, in itself, a backlink. You can do this when you’re leaving a comment on someone’s blog, though I’d be careful to do it in a tasteful way because it can, at times, piss some people off. This can also be done to write reviews and testimonials… of a blog, or a book, or a product of some sort. Basically, wherever you can slide your link in, there’s a means of backlinking your site and making it look more legitimate.

To conclude:

It is important to note that after reading this you SHOULD NOT start spamming your link out to every corner of the internet. Backlinking should be done in a strategic manner, associating your blog and your brand with sites that you feel will benefit your growth and legitimacy.

DO NOT SPAM PEOPLE.

DO NOT START TWEETING OUT YOUR BLOG LINK TO EVERYONE ON YOUR TWITTER OR INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS LIST.

I apologize for the caps lock there, but I just wanted to drill those two points home.

Be strategic about where you backlinking appears. If you’re going to use this means as a measure to grow your place on the world wide web, you want your url to be associated with the right places. EX: If you’re a family friendly blog talking about how to build the perfect school lunches for kids, it might not be the best idea to use an Adult Content Only website to banklink your content.

If you have questions about backlinking, share them in the comments section. If you have anything to add, please feel free to share that in the comments as well. I tried to keep this as simple as possible because, as mentioned at the head of this post, it’s a very convoluted subject with many layers to it. So, some of the layers may not yet have been touched on in this post.


Thanks to https://myhomefarm.co.uk/ (yes, this is a backlink) for giving me motivation to write this post and share some of my thoughts on the subject.

Let’s talk about ‘the algorithm’

Photo Credit: SloanReview.MIT

*Note – I’m touching on this subject because I’m finding there are still a lot of people on the web who really don’t know about this. If you’re aware of ‘the algorithm’ and the information contained in this post, please feel free to ignore.

Have you ever been searching Instagram and thought to yourself ‘Why the hell are you suggesting these photos to me, Instagram?’Likewise with Twitter, have you ever been on Twitter and wondered why some people’s Tweets are always at the top of your feed whilst others never seem to show up at all? This is ‘the algorithm’ at work.

Gone are the days of things showing up chronologically on your time line. These are the days when the algorithm picks ‘exactly what you want to see’. I say that in quotation marks because for weeks now my feed has been filled with babies and baby announcements, so clearly the algorithm isn’t functioning at proper capacity.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and even WordPress all use some form of an algorithm for showing you content. Cracking the algorithm is, in itself, a form of social media marketing.

So, how does it work? I suspect only employees on the inside know for the certain the full extent to the algorithm’s functions. That being said, there is one rule of function that seems to work.

  1. Engagement is the most important thing you can garner with your content.

In the case of all social media platforms, engagement is likes and comments. In the case of YouTube, engagement also includes people clicking the ‘Thumbs Down’ button to dislike, and it also includes watch time.

So, let’s break down how this works on each site.


TWITTER

Twitter is going to suggest to you the Tweets from people on your feed with the most comments and likes. So this is why, if you follow celebrities (in addition to your friends and family), the celebrities tweets are always going to appear near the top of your feed. This is also true for Follow Trains, comment threads or anything that garners a large amount of comments in a short period of time.

Twitter is also going to suggest to you the Tweets of the individuals who’s Tweets you’ve liked and commented on in recent past. So if you’re ever thinking that ‘I haven’t seen a tweet from this person in a long time’, it’s probably because you haven’t liked or commented on any of their Tweets.


INSTAGRAM

Even though in recent months they’ve moved away from publicly showing how many likes a photo has, likes are still a driving force to what photos are suggested to you on Instagram. This is how, if you search Instagram, you can always seem to find one of the Kardashian sisters, no matter how little attention you pay to them or care about them. With like… 100 million subscribers each on the platform, the moment they post a photo they get A TON of likes, and those likes are what push them to the top of suggested posts.

When a celebrity or influencer says “Comment below with”, that is them trying to garner more comments so that the algorithm suggest their content to more people. Trust me when I say this, they don’t give a damn about your comment. When someone you watch on YouTube says ‘Follow me on Instagram and tell me you came from YouTube’ that’s a tactic to garner more engagement and get their photos suggested to more people through the Instagram algorithm.

When a brand does a giveaway on their Instagram and the requirement of the giveaway is to ‘Tag a friend below’, this is a two-fold promotion for them. 1) You’re tagging your friend so that your friend can see their Instagram, which is promotion and 2) You’re commenting on their Instagram page, which counts as engagement. More engagement means they rank higher on the algorithm of suggested posts. Do you have a chance to win? Sure. One in… however many people tag a friend and like the post. This is why so many brands do giveaways. The promotion they’re getting just from you tagging their friends is worth the… probably 20 dollar value of whatever they’re giving away.


YOUTUBE

First, I will say that likes and dislikes count as engagement on YouTube. So, whether you hit the like button or you hit the dislike button you’re working in the favour of said person creating the YouTube video. If you really don’t like it, you’re doing much better if you just click away from the video.

Secondly, watch time plays a factor in engagement. YouTube tracks average watch time for videos. So, if a person makes a ten minute video and most people click off after 2-3 minutes, they’re not going to get recommended as a suggested video in Youtube’s algorithm. This is why so many people will say ‘Stay tuned to the end to find out —–‘ or ‘Stay tuned to the end for the giveaway’ or ‘Stay tuned to the end to hear a secret’. If you watch through to the end, that works in their favour with ad revenue, with Youtube’s algorithm and with making their channel look as though content is valuable and worthy of YouTube investing in.

When a Youtuber says ‘Comment Below with’… well with pretty much anything… that is their attempt to drive up engagement. ‘Comment below with your favourite day of the week!’ or ‘Comment below and tell me what colour your eyes are!’ That YouTuber really doesn’t give a flying fuck what colour your eyes are, they just want their video to look more legit to the YouTube algorithm. The more comments they get, the more legit they look, the more likely they are to get suggested as a ‘video to watch’.


FACEBOOK

Facebook, much like Instagram (because Facebook owns Instagram) will suggest to you the comments, status updates, photos, memories, etc… from the people who have the most likes and comments. So, you’ll notice that if you have a friend who is a bit of a Facebook whore, for lack of better terminology, their posts are always going to seem to be at the top of your feed… whereas your quiet friends who don’t have a ton of Facebook friends will always seem to appear much lower down on your feed.

If you are the quiet friend trying to get the word out about your blog, your writing or anything of the sort, the way to go about it is to ask for likes, ask for comments and to ask for people to share your content. The more engagement that you get, even if you need to ‘pimp your content out’ (for lack of better terminology), the better off you are.

If you’re using Facebook to spread word about your blog, your writing, your music or your artwork, I strongly recommend joining groups and finding a community of people who will help to share your content with Facebook. The more it’s seen, the more Facebook is going to recommend it.


WORDPRESS

WordPress, working with transparency (which I love) actually tells you just how their algorithms work. I talk a lot about them on my page, but mostly in the comments section of my posts, so I don’t know how many people are truly aware of how it works.

If you’d like the source of any of the following information –> Click Here (If you’re looking to work the WordPress algorithm in your favour, I highly recommend clicking and reading the entire page)

The algorithms are often being improved, and what content we show depends on a complex combination of factors. Here are examples of the types of information we may use to make our recommendations:

  • The title, content, tags, and categories of posts.
  • Other text from the site, such as usernames and logins; site names and the host name (support.wordpress.com).
  • Total number of likes and comments.
  • Who has liked and commented on a post.
  • Total number of followers.
  • Who has followed a site.
  • How recently a post was published.
  • How often or recently a site has posted.
  • The content of what you have liked and commented on.
  • Whether posts have links, images, or videos.
  • How often a site has been rejected from being recommended in the Reader.

Content we filter out from our algorithms:

  • Sites we think may be spam.
  • Sites that have mature content.
  • Sites with potentially objectionable content.
  • Content that is not in your language.

The moral of the story? Asking for likes, comments and engagement helps. It helps in big ways. If you can find another way of getting people talking that doesn’t require your asking them something, then you’ve struck gold. If someone is asking you to ‘Comment below what colour your eyes are’ don’t do it. If a brand says ‘Tag a friend and you’re entered to win’, unless you really, really love the brand, only give that free promotion to a brand that you really love. And, if you want to truly make an impact with the content you’re pumping out, surround yourself with an incredible online community who’ll stand behind you and your work so that you can share your world with the web and they will help and support you every step of the way.

Also, if the Kardashian’s keep getting recommended to you in spite of your not giving a flying fuck, you’re not crazy. They’re cheating the system. It’s estimated as much as 60 percent of Kim Kardashian’s online following is bots. Bots that help her stay at the top of page and relevant on just about every website. She’s got the money, so I wouldn’t have a hard time believing that she bought all those bots.

Also, there’s a rumour going around (I’ve yet to see in action) that you can now buy bots to artifically ‘growth hack’ your accounts whilst you’re least active on social media. I don’t know if this is true or not, I’ve not seen it in action. But… I did see a relatively average Youtuber shoot from 52,000 subscribers to 750,000 subscribers in about four days earlier this month. So, I don’t have a hard time believing it… especially since his engagement is still the same as it was when he had 52,000 subscribers.

Blogging Tip: Stay True to You

Blogging isn’t about picking the right topic; it’s about finding the right voice. Your voice. What matters, what people really resonate with, isn’t so much what you say, but how.

People are going to tell if you’re being inauthentic. People are going to be able to tell if you’re writing for attention. People can always tell. Believe me when I say this, if you’re blogging well, people will know the motives behind your words.

My advice? Write from the heart. Speak your truth. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Not everything has to be polished, but everything should showcase who you are and what you stand for. The world, and the blogging community does not need more mindless drones pumping out the same thing over and over. People need creativity, words that speak from our innermost desires and pictures so beautiful that they make us stop in our tracks.

When you sit down to create your next post remember the fact that there is only one you. What piece of your personality are you going to bring to your brand, your blog and your readers? What piece of your story will bring people to your blog? I’m not talking about having the perfect logo, a beautiful title, the perfect formatting or any of that, I’m talking about creating content that speaks to who you are and why someone wants to read what you write. For example: anyone can share a product review so how are you going to make your review of that product different from everyone else on the web?

While I’m here, let’s also talk about the fact that too many people believe finding success comes from a high follower count. Finding success isn’t really about finding a lot of followers. Finding success is about finding interaction, about finding people who resonate with what you’re sharing. Whether that’s five people, five hundred people or five million people, be grateful for every person who takes time out of their day to view your content.

If you saw a YouTube channel that had one million followers and averaged ten thousand views per video and you saw a YouTube channel that had one hundred followers and was averaging 90 views per video, which would you deem more successful? Stop looking at follower counts and start thinking about your message and your reach. I encourage you, when you look at your blog posts, to look at something in the most positive light. It’s easy to say ‘Nobody liked my most recent post’. It sounds lackluster and can make you feel defeated. It’s also really easy to say ‘250 people read my most recent post’. 250 people stopped, took five or more minutes out of their day to check in with you and see more of your story. That’s HUGE!

Lastly, while I have you here, I just want to remind you that not everything you post is going to be a hit. Sometimes you’ll make killer content and sometimes it’s going to flop. That’s the trials and tribulations that happen when you’re building a brand… your brand. If something doesn’t work, take note, improve upon that the next time. If you’re smart though, you won’t let those flops speak for you. Improve upon them. Focus on making your blog, your brand and your content better each and every time you hit publish.

Be You. Find your voice. Fall in love with your creativity. And then, just do it.

“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” I actually don’t know where this quote is from. But, it’s pretty relevant.

Photo Editing 101

I would like to preface this post by saying that some people prefer to leave their photos unedited. The #Unfiltered look is big on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and even WordPress, so if you don’t have any desire to edit photos, please don’t. Please ignore this post. It’s not a requirement. It’s not even an ’ement’. This is just something that I’ve done over the years, that I know a lot of people who use social media do and I wanted to share some shortcuts with you. That is all.

Okay, so I’ve heard it said many a times that a picture is worth a thousand words. To that notion I say that if my photo’s going to be worth a thousand words, I better make sure they’re important words being portrayed through my images.

For nearly a decade, there wasn’t a photo that I posted, sent or printed without edits. Many edits were small… editing out a logo here, blurring a child’s face there… just small things to ensure we were in compliance with FOIP (the Freedom of Information Protection Act) in Canada. Some edits were major… reconstructing the facial shape of someone as a means to ‘filter’ distinguishing marks, fudging the dollar amount written on giant cheques (though I regret to admit to that) and changing out the people who were holding the cheque, or even completely photoshopping someone out of one location and into another. Over time I became a master at turning a photo into pretty much anything that I wanted it to be. And that says a lot because I am very picky when it comes to photos.

Luckily, from a blogging perspective, the editing (if one chooses to do so) need not be nearly as complicated as what’s practiced in the corporate world.

Before I get to the edition notes, I will say that things are a lot easier if you take good photos to start with. Take advantage of natural lighting where possible (the sun). Make sure the lens is in focus before you take the photo. If there are people in the photo that differ vastly in heights, do something to balance that height difference. These are all small steps you can take to vastly improve the quality of photos you’re taking from the get-go.

Okay, onto photo editing:

*Note – This information is from the perspective of photos being taken on a phone, since smartphones are everywhere and you use your phones to upload to social media platforms.

The number one thing that I would recommend a blogger do to edit photos is download Adobe Lightroom to your phone. There is both a free and a premium version of this app. Please do not purchase the premium version, you will not need it. Everything you need to make a photograph beautiful, you can find in the free version. Free Adobe Lightrom will allow you to:

  • Crop Images
  • Auto adjust the lighting to your photos
  • Manually adjust the lighting to your photos
  • Edit the colour balance of your photos
  • Sharpen, blur, correct, create frames or vignettes for any effects that you might like
  • Attempt to correct the focus as much as possible (if it’s an extremely blurry photo, it’ll likely just make it less blurry…)
  • Allow you to select between ‘presets’ created with specific intention to do all of the above steps in one

Examples of before and After using Adobe Lightroom:

The number two thing that I will recommend with respect to photo editing is to stay away from Facetune. Facetune is a demon that is changing the way that we see ourselves and other people. It contributes to low-self esteem because people are creating unrealistic standards of beauty and attractiveness based on what they can make themselves look like with a few minutes spent editing in Facetune. There’s a big difference between editing out a zit and changing one’s waist from being 30 inches to being 13 inches.

Now, all that being said, photo editing is all about you and what you find to be the magic factor in photos. If you like black and white images, Lightroom gives you the option to convert all of your images to black and white. If you like bright and light photos, Lightroom gives you plenty of functions that help with turning a photo that was taken in a dull/dark room into something that really pops off the page.

I am someone who likes bright photos. I want the colours to carry, the details to shine and even the dullest of days to look like a postcard. I’m providing some examples of my photos below and as you will see, even on a dull day (first, middle and last photo) it’s still possible to make the photo look like a postcard.

These are some of my photos from various locations and times over the past year. I’m not sure if you can tell just from looking at them, but they’ve all been edited to very much carry the same tone to them. I wanted the whites to be clean, the greens to pop, the skies to be the bluest that could be while accurately depicting what a camera on my phone couldn’t catch on the day the photo was taken.

I used what is called ‘Adobe Lightroom Presets’.

I know what you’re thinking and I hear you. ‘Presets, Vee? That sounds so extra. Who would bother?’

These presets are used by people far and wide on social media. If you’ve ever looked at someone’s Instagram page and seen similar tones to all of their images, it’s a safe bet they’re using a preset for their photos.

The ‘Preset’ is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a preset collection of edits for LightRoom to apply to the photograph in one step. It’s a matter of hitting one button in LightRoom and your photo is brighter, more vivid and depicting the image you want to convey in a matter of seconds.

Extra. I know.

But, if you’re particular with photos, it is a big time saver, helps with branding, makes your photos aesthetically themed and ensures you always have a beautiful photo, even on the dullest of days.

The presets that I use I developed several years back to cover my basis when I needed to turnaround press-releases in a hurry and always seemed to get sent shitty looking photos. They’re a ‘formula’ that I keep a tight secret around and will stay in the vault to one day be passed down to my children and grandchildren. (joking)

If you would like to delve into the option of presets, you can do one of two things:

  1. You can make your own. I highly recommend this option because it allows you to draw out the aspects of photos that you most appreciate.
  2. You can purchase some.

I highly recommend, if you download Lightroom yourself, that you try option one before option two. I say this because creating your own presets will allow you to create edits that you find most important in photographs.

It’ll also give you an appreciation for the photo editing process. It’ll also make you appreciate the photos you’re taking that much more and it’ll cause you to stop and think about your photos as you’re taking them. You’ll find yourself stopping to think ‘can I get better lighting if I make my subject face the window instead of against’, and various other thoughts of what’s going to make your photos better. Then, when you’re taking better photos, there’ll be less editing to do.

After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, you might as well make those words important.

If you tried your hand at creating presets and you didn’t like it, or if you’d just like some help and believe you’d like to purchase some Lightroom presets, the place to do is on Etsy. Using your phone type ‘Mobile Lightroom Presets’ in to the search bar and you will be innundated with different presets made by different designers.

I’ve seen them range anywhere from $3.00 USD to $350 USD. And let me be abundantly clear, you do not need a $350 package of Lightroom presets. There’s a lot to choose from, so it’s a matter of you taking a look at what you find most aesthetically pleasing and what’s the price you’re ultimately willing to pay.

With 17,034 listings to go through, though, I thought I’d provide a couple of suggestions if you decide to purchase presets:

  • A good Lightroom preset package will have 3-4 Presets. Don’t buy a package that has 99 presets (and they are available on Etsy) because you don’t need 99 presets
  • Realistically, if you wanted to use a preset, your criteria should be to have one preset for outside photos, one for inside, one for without people and one for with people
  • Don’t get sucked in by the ‘gimmicky’ presets like the one titled ‘Peach’ in the screenshot above. Might it look nice if your presets always make you look like you have tanned skin? Sure. But, it’s winter and unless you live in California or Florida, people are likely going to see through the artificial tan your adding to your photos. Try to select a set of presets that will be applicable to all of your photos year round, whether you’ve got a tan or you’re in the deep of winter

To finish off this exceptionally long description of how to edit photos, I would like to add a reminder to please leave face structure and body shapes alone in your editing process. You, your friends, your family and any subjects your taking photos of are perfectly beautiful just the way they are.

Yes, we all have insecurities, but that doesn’t mean that you need to edit the length of your fingers to make it look as though you have larger hands. (If you understand this reference, we’re soulmates) Insecurities will NEVER be fixed by making it look as though they don’t exist in photos. That and there’s a big difference between bringing out the beauty of someone and completely changing their entire being. People are beautiful just the way they are.

If you like editing, if you want to get into editing or even if you don’t like editing, thanks for reading and for making it this far. Go forth and do good, grasshopper. I have the utmost faith in you.

Blogging courses – my opinion.

They’re not worth your money. They’re just not.

I’ve put off talking about this for a long time because I don’t want to offend anyone. And honestly, I’m sorry if this offends anyone who charges for these courses. But, the truth to the matter is, when it comes to running a blog, the person behind the blog is what determines whether or not a blog is successful.

Let’s be real! You can find everything you need to set up and run a blog for free on Google. Categories, subject matter, audience engagement, tags, SEO, marketing, formatting, etc, etc… can all be found on Google. You can ask blogging friends, for free, once your blog has been made. You can learn by experience, for free, as you go. You can watch videos about it on YouTube, for free. All of these resources will give you the tools and resources you might/could possibly need/want to run a blog.

They are not going to make your blog successful though.

You make your blog successful.

Think of it like parents who purchase vocal lessons for their child. The teacher can teach all about reading music about tones, pitches, breathing, all things to deal with learning to sing. That teacher is not going to turn the child into Adele though. All the vocal lessons in the world won’t turn the child into Adele. Adele is Adele for a reason. The magic behind Adele is her, and it’s a magic that can’t be taught in any vocal lesson.

The magic behind an incredible blog can’t be taught in any blogging course. If you really want to throw your money away, I’ve got two open hands. Or, save your money, do some online research and use your individuality to make your own magic in this online world.