Captions by Writers

September 5, 2017

A vivid Instagram partnership that gives us all the summer feels.

Crafting a fresh Instagram caption can sometimes feel more challenging than capturing the photo itself. Earlier this summer, we tapped editorial photographer and writer Philip Edsel to work his magic for a few days. Author of the first-ever Instagram novel, Philip documented #summerfeels for us with stunning photos and captions just as colorful and emotive as the images themselves. Highlighting playful ferris wheels, moody sunsets, and empty skate parks, Philip’s work wraps up a season we always hate to leave. Here, he shares his Instagram photography tips, from what he looks for when taking photos to his best advice for caption writing.

Were these shots taken in the same general area?
These shots were all taken in Los Angeles, near Venice Beach.

Is there a particular time of day when you prefer to shoot?
Obviously morning and evening have that beautiful tone and color of light, but one of my favorite times of day to shoot is mid-day or right after. Most photographers generally avoid that type of light for its harshness, but I love the strong contrast between light and shadow.

How are you able to capture fresh perspectives of the same places other people shoot?
I’m a huge fan of modern design and architecture, which has taught me to look for focal points, minimize distraction, and follow the lines.

How soon after you take the picture do you write the caption (or does the caption come to you while taking the photo)?
The caption is truly inspired by the photograph. Once I’ve edited the image, I try to take a step back from the detail and think about what type of mood the image is conveying overall. From there, I build prose pieces around a handful of descriptors that immediately come to me when viewing the image. I try not to overthink it, which usually gives it that emotional rawness.

Do you have tips for caption writing you can share?
People just want to be engaged with story, or with emotion. I think when Instagram started, because it’s a visual medium, people were hesitant to write long captions. Most photographers I know treat them as an afterthought. But I think if you can draw someone in with a beautiful image, you can connect even further through the caption. My best tip is just to be honest. People can immediately tell if you’re manufacturing emotion, or if it comes from a real, sentimental place.

What do you love most about Instagram, and do you have any ideas for how you’d like it to evolve?
For me, Instagram has always been about connection and inspiration. I’ve met so many friends and artists that inspire me regularly through the platform. It’s a shame that the platform feels like it’s moved a little further away from that community aspect recently, so in a sense, I hope we can get back to a community that prioritizes the art (what was created) over the engagement (how many likes it got).

“The sun rose, a sweet light, and took its time to fill in the nooks left hollow by the night, vibrant and angular across concrete, as hard and soft intersected to signal the break of summer day.”

“On summer days like these, designs of graphic shapes — the golden mathematics of the sun — write the solstice on the surface of the earth.”

“We stood there watching surfers oscillate amongst the waves and bathers line the sand like rays from the sun, unconcerned but grateful for a season of slowness, of basking, of skin tinged with salt.”

“In the evening we swayed along the pier to the summer soundtrack of distant children laughing. And as the ferris wheel churned slowly overhead, I made sure to remember the wind and the wave, the seasons in cycles, and the warmth of your hand clasped gently in mine.”

“The Light shifted and shattered at the shut of day as you and I lay counting the colors multitudinous on our skin like mirrors. And for just a second I was tricked into thinking the world was perfection, a beautiful reflection, a moment of timeless, weightless, stillness.”