Reels for Artists 101
I've created more than 400 videos since my early days on Instagram, and I feel like I've learned a thing or two over time and I want to share them with you.
Not only that but my reels got me more followers I thought it would be humanly possible :) in the space of a month than anything else I've ever done on Instagram.
You see, on my early days on Instagram I understood pretty quickly that showing my process was going to be beneficial for 3 reasons:
1. Artists can see what you are doing and take inspiration.
2. Buyers love seeing how a painting comes to life.
3. Video process are a conversation starter (which is what you want!)
I wasn't too keen on the idea of reels when they first appeared but, as I was already creating videos to show my process, I started creating (and watching!!) them with very little effort.
It's undeniable, reels have quickly become a popular feature for artists to showcase their talents and connect with their audience, and as an artist, it's important to make sure your Reels stand out and grab the attention of potential fans and clients.
And if you want to know, here you can find all the info on how I record my video. And, most importantly, here why you should record your process.
In this blog post you can find 4 tips to help you create Instagram Reels that are both engaging and effective.
1. Keep it short
When it comes to Reels, shorter is often better. Think about the attention span of a fly. Half that.
Attention spans are short, and you want to catch people's attention in less than a second to make sure that your audience stays engaged.
Keep your reels from 3 to 14 seconds.
And you are like "but I spent a gigazillion of hours on that painting!", I know, I know. I too feel the pain.
When I create a time lapse video of a 20 hours painting shrieked down to 20 seconds, my heart hurts, but you don't have to show the whole process. 3 seconds here, 4 seconds there, 2 seconds on the last details. You have to learn to be selective.
If you really want to show your full process, think about Insta reels as a recap, and then send viewers to YouTube for the longer format.
In your reels, skip introductions but add subtitles, viewers tend to scroll quickly through reels, so you don't waste your time on introductions. If I was to start my reel with "Hi, my name is Elisa and I'm an artist", you'd probably be on your 3rd reel by now. Instead, add subtitles to your videos so that viewers can quickly understand the content.
Remember: attention span of a fly!
With this said, my most successful reel so far (here below), was 19 seconds. Which is pretty long for my and Instagram standards.
So, I said to keep it short and this is longer :)
Why did this reel perform well? A lot of fast paced cuts and point number 4.
You watched my reel, wondered what that thing was (the fineliner - check the blog post here!), maybe I also made you laugh, and, most importantly, at the end you learned something new.
2. Keep it bright & Close
I need to see what you are doing! Vibrant colours are more eye-catching than dull or muted tones. A good contrast with paper to see your work and movements. Use bold hues to make your art stand out and grab attention.
And if you are using white paint on a white canvas, place your recording device (aka your phone) at an angle that makes it interesting/visible.
Additionally, natural light is always a good idea when filming.
If you paint at night or in a dark room/corner - like I do right now - you can get a light. Doesn't have to be massive and they don't cost a fortune.
Now, let's get closer! If you are working on a tiny little corner of your artwork, place your camera close to what you're doing. Show details.
This might require a bit of adjusting, trial and error based on the position of the camera and how you paint. Do a couple of tests to learn what works and what doesn't.
For example, if you need to bend over your artwork to paint, do not place the camera directly above the artwork as you'll constantly cover your progress with your head. Move it on the side, at an angle.
I always say, adjust the camera, not your painting position!
I'm a lefty, so for detail work my camera is always on my right, otherwise you'd see only my hand.
At the end, as a watched, I want to be able to see very clearly what you're doing.
3. Keep it artsy
There's a lot of dancing and trends on Instagram Reels, but as an artist, you want to make sure that your content is unique and sets you apart. You can hop on a trend, but make it artsy. And if you can't make it artsy... pass, it's not for you!
Stick to showcasing your art and the process of creating it, rather than hopping on the dancing trend just for the sake of it.
Also, as you are the artist, show it! Wear your painting gears, hold a brush, stand in front of you easel. But if you don't feel comfortable showing your face/body, don't! You are the one setting your own camera/privacy/limits.
Reels are a great way to show your personality and behind-the-scenes process as an artist. So you can show your audience how you work, what your studio looks like, and what inspires you. This helps to build a connection with your audience and makes them feel like they know you.
If you don't have a studio, show your corner. Show your space, whatever it looks like. You'll find your people even if you don't have a beautiful, bright and gigantic art studio... Because, let's be realistic, 99.999% of the artists out there don't.
If you paint in a corner of your kitchen, show that. You'll be able to inspire someone to grab their brush!!
4. Keep it educational (sometimes)
You can make people laugh, emotional, look at pretty stuff, but the accounts that get the most love are the ones that teach something to their viewers.
Us artists are generally a curious bunch, and we love seeing how something comes to life. We love to learn about a new tool, a new technique, a new colour.
I'm sure you have wondered, at some stage, "how was that made?" or, my favourite "how long did it take you to paint that?"
The moment you teach me something, even if it's very simple to you, you have my attention!
Remember, reels can be a powerful tool for us artists to connect with our audience. Remember these 4 points, so you can create engaging and effective content that will grab the attention of potential fans and clients.
At the end of the day, reels, more than traditional videos, are a lot of trial and error. Don’t spend too much time on them. And don't get too attached.
Use every reel you post as a test to see what works and what doesn't.
If something doesn't perform as you wished, let it go and always stay focused on your art. Because, while it's important to put effort into creating engaging reels, your primary focus will always be your art and creating new pieces. Use reels as a supplement to your art, to make yourself seen!
If you found this blog post useful, I have created a mini course on how to create your reels. It has a ton of info for you to explore, and you can find more details here!