Crafting the Perfect Coachella #Latergram: A Step-by-Step Guide

The 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival ended just under three days ago, but if the cellphone concert footage you’ve been mainlining or the unconscious head-bobbing you’ve been doing in public places are any indication, you’re not done with the weekend just yet. Or maybe it’s not done with you? Whoever’s in the driver’s seat now, you know you’ve still got some stuff — take “stuff” to mean a lot of things — to work out of your system. Chief among them: how do you take that batch of randomly snapped festival photos and turn them into digitally-manipulated Like-bait? That’s what I’m going to help you with today, in this step-by step guide to crafting the perfect factory-line Coachella #latergram. (NOTE: This will be the last Coachella article, I think/swear!) Now, every photo that was ever liked by 11 or more people had to start somewhere, so no matter how off-kilter or weird your subject matter — don’t fret! By the time we’re done with it you’ll think a sorority house had ghost-Insta'ed the whole thing. Here, a perfectly average Coachella starting point:

That’s Seattle’s The Head and the Heart playing to a sunburnt Saturday afternoon crowd. There is nothing unique about this photo! A stage, from a distance. Music fans. Sky. You took about a hundred of these shots over the weekend and can no longer identify the bands you were trying to capture. This is exactly what you want as your canvas.Next step: exposure. Now once upon a time this was just a button, not a slider, and your only options were “not exposed” or “crazy exposed.” Pretend like the slider doesn’t exist and just go straight to “crazy exposed.” MAXIMUM SUN. There is no point in hiding behind the clouds here, literally or figuratively.

Onto the stage that will effectively define what emotion people derive from your photo, which is choosing the right filter. Ask yourself: what did I feel during this set? “Angsty" and “depressed" are two adjectives that don’t exist at Coachella, so immediately you can rule out darkening filters like Sutro or Hefe. And B&W — forget about it. Are you at a French film festival? Come on. Some safe bets: Lo-Fi (bathe in color!), Toaster (burnt, like every non-covered part of your body), Sierra (for softening meaningful moments). Kelvin, which I’m using here, basically spray-tans your entire photo.

Now that you’ve made a choice that will visually define this moment in time for you forever until you die, give yourself a mental break with some slightly less stressful photo tampering. Consider the following options:

  1. To frame or not to frame? This one’s really a matter of personal preference (unlike other Insta-variables, which are hard science), so trust your gut here. If it was a poorly composed shot in the first place, a tidy frame can really reduce the amount of mediocre real estate. On the other hand, don’t you want your viewers to understand the sheer envelopment of the festival grounds? Think about this for no more than 10-15 minutes, then move on.
  2. Will blurring make me look arty, or stupid? It depends. Your two blurring options are rectangle and circle, both of which can only be used for similarly-shaped shots. Say you took a tight shot of the astronaut’s helmet. You’d use — that’s right, circle. My crowd shot easily lends itself to a rectangular crop, creating a barrier between the band and their fans. What am I trying to say with this? Who knows! The point is that you’re wondering...
  3. How much tilting is too much? Between 5 and 20 degrees, always tilting right. No exceptions.

Hopefully at this point you’ve begun to remember some more details from this moment you’ve chosen to curate. They’ll come in handy for the next, and most important, step: the caption.

Picking the right caption is, of course, make or break. Your image may already have nailed that perfect personality-less sweet spot, but without the right combination of poetry, emojis, and hashtags? Your efforts will have come up short. Remember these tips:

  • Can you overdo it with emojis? Sure, just like ice cream or heroin. But you should use at least one.
  • Since you're #latergramming this several days after the festival and presumably many hundreds of miles from Indio, CA, you will not be able to tag the location. It's disappointing, I know. You wanted that photo mapping SO BAD. But isn't it good enough just to know that you went? (WHO AM I KIDDING.)
  • Another note on #latergramming: without the tag, some of your hopeful friends may presume the festival is actually still going on and drive out there. Save them the gas money.
  • Self-deprecation will go a long way toward appeasing those poor acquaintances of yours who weren't able to attend the festival. They're already pissed at you, so anything you might do to suggest embarrassment, pain, or some combination thereof might be just the Post-chella olive branch you need. Tag them if you think that will help!
  • Know what song was playing when you took the shot.
  • ...Or, if you can't remember, just name another song you remember from the weekend. That photo was taken at least 150 feet from the stage -- it could have been Lorde OR Pharrell. No one at home knows the difference.
  • Have fun!

It's now four hours later, and if you've followed all these steps directly then you've arrived at the finish line: a fun, flirty, arty, beautiful, perfect, and totally NOT BASIC #latergram. Publish it and watch the Likes, even the ones you know are borne of spite, roll in. You earned it!

PS - Follow @HenningFog if you want to see 400+ more artfully distorted photos of trash cans

Images: All me, baby