Instagram vs. Reality: Revealing What Really Goes on Behind These Picture-Perfect Instagram Photos

Tue Sep 22 2020

We think it is fair to assume that at some point, you have been scrolling through Instagram with envy over some pretty perfectly styled photos. But have you ever seen the other side of these beautiful photos? The truth behind these shots is often pretty hilarious and unexpected.

This L.A. based photographer, Chris Hernandez, shows us the reality behind his perfectly styled and edited photos. The settings and props that he uses were definitely a surprise to us. Maybe we should all start posing in rain puddles and bushes. Scroll through to see the ‘behind the scenes’ of some of Instagram’s most envied posts.

Quick, Hide in the Bush

This could easily be an ad for perfume or makeup, and we think it should be! The composition is gorgeous, with the succulents surrounding and framing the model’s face. With photo editing, the colors of the succulents are a lot more vibrant… The photo just comes alive!

When we see faces surrounded by plants, we rarely picture people just sitting in bushes. This girl is literally lying on the road with her head in the cluster of succulents. We hope she didn’t get too dirty shooting these ones! But we can’t deny how effective it is, and how good it ends up looking.

Creative Use of a Coffee Table

This is definitely one of our favorites! The model literally looks like she is stuck under a sheet of ice. It reminds us of an eerie winter wonderland setting. They really nailed the Snow White hair against the blue of the ‘icy’ glass. We would never have guessed this is how they captured this photo!

The set up here is one of the most creative we’ve seen. We had not imagined the model with her face under a coffee table! Who would have guessed?? The extra crystals on the top were the perfect touch to the icy, glassy aesthetic. We hope she didn’t have to lie under there for too long.

Alice in ‘Not so Wonder’ Land

This Alice in Wonderland themed shoot is pretty perfect in the edited version. The lighting captures the bunny, the clock, and the playing cards, making sure they don’t fall into the background. The model’s skin is perfectly glowing, and we are all wishing we had that naturally. This all adds to an overall fairytale aesthetic.

But the reality isn’t as picture-perfect. The model is essentially sitting in a bush, trying not to be get covered in dirt. The cards and clock have been placed randomly in the twigs, and it is a wonder that they are not flying away. You would have no idea about any of this when just looking at that dreamy result!

More Like a Fire Hazard

We are often impressed by the lengths people will go to to get the perfect snap. This photo is definitely eye-catching, with a burning umbrella sitting over the model’s shoulder. The warm tones all work really well together, especially with the flames, creating an extremely firey photo.

Look, we get it, the flames look pretty epic as they burn through the umbrella. But is it worth the fire hazard? A deodorant can and a lighter is probably not the safest idea, especially near someone’s face. We definitely do not suggest trying this one at home! No seriously, don’t do it.

Cloud Crafternoon

Mystical photos are clearly one of Chris Hernandez’s specialties. The coloring, lighting, and pose are all working for this angelic shot. We originally just assumed there was lots of fake clouds photoshopped in before we saw the true behind-the-scenes.

We know all of these photos are very much ‘fake it till you make it’ but this one is great. This girl is essentially posing with giant cotton balls, yes like the ones we use to remove our make up. It is good to know how well it works as fake clouds! Will keep it in mind for the next photoshoot we do…

Pose With Your Instrument

We would never have guessed that posing with an instrument in front of your face could look this beautiful. The violin perfectly frames half of her face, drawing attention to her eyes. The color tones of her skin, hair, and eyes are warmed by the tone of the violin, making for a heartfelt shot.

But the reality is less glam. She is literally lying in the grass of a park, with her hair perfectly sprawled out. When we see the real set up, the violin looks super random but we hadn’t even noticed randomness in the close-up! We choose to ignore the reality for this one, it still looks cool…

Hanging in an Arcade

We are absolutely loving the arcade set up in this photoshoot. It is exactly how we picture life in Tokyo, and this makes us want to see it in real life. Yes, we know this photo was not taken in Tokyo, but it gives off these vibes! We also love that the purple coloring pops out of the photo and draws our attention straight to the adorable bear. All in all, it’s just working.

We can just imagine how funny it must have looked for kids walking into the arcade to play games and to see this happening. But we do like the photoshoots in these kinds of settings, keeps it interesting! Even the dullest spaces, once edited, become magical backdrops for these photos.

Candlelit Daylight

When we think of a modern-day Fairytale, this is what we think of. She looks like she is exploring the woods or on a journey, much like Snow White or Little Red Riding Hood. We also get Christmas vibes with her red dress contrasting the green leaves and candlelight!

The reality of this one is definitely less alluring. It reminds us of taking photos with our friends in the local park when we were 15 years old. But our photos most certainly did not come out looking this good. The editing really helped make all of the colors pop!

Bookshop Pondering

Some hip bookstores could definitely use this one for advertising, it might even bring a new crowd of readers! Posing the way she is, she looks pensive and beautiful all at the same time. It’s really working! We wonder how they even thought of this setup, especially capturing it through the glass.

Ok, without a doubt if we saw this shot being taken, we would have had a good giggle. Probably the bookshop workers too! Shooting through the glass was a nice touch though. And they even have friends standing to block out the reflections in the glass. They thought of everything…

Balloons Aren’t Just for Kids

So, this set up is a little less creative than the ones the came before it. But none the less, it is effective. For this one, it’s all about lighting and color. Chris Hernandez not only works as a photographer but he also sells pre-designed photo editing and filters… Just like he would have used for this.

The model almost doesn’t look real in the hyper-edited version. We can only imagine that it is a lot of young girls’ dreams to be dressed up like this. Just like Barbie, in her Barbie world… life is plastic, it’s fantastic! Holding balloons is one of this Barbie’s go-to accessories, obviously.

Who Needs an Actual Table?

Blood nose and shiny black bob hair, yes, definitely Pulp Fiction vibes here. She is no Uma Therman but she still looks great. We assume that was the original inspiration for the shoot. And the red drink is a great touch here, it definitely draws attention to the bloody nose!

Posing at a little chess board in what looks like someone’s grandma’s house was not what we were expecting to be behind this. She’s not even sitting at a table, she’s just squatted on the floor! It is probably a good thing that they didn’t capture the baby photos in the background.

It’s All About the Setting

The emotions are bouncing out of this photo. There’s a story being told. A girl. Sadness. Prayer. Hope. It is all captured in this one photo. The shawl alone gives a lot of meaning to the photo. We feel like she and her family are going through a difficult time and she is feeling the weight of their pain.

It is probably a good thing it is just for this one photo, hopefully not her actual story. Standing in the middle of nowhere helps add to the mystery and eeriness. We wonder what this photo was actually being used for, or just for a cool photoshoot?

Playing Cards, No Playing

Without a doubt, this is the best Queen of Hearts remake that we’ve ever seen. Can we borrow everything about this for next Halloween please and thank you. They definitely missed her evil essence and blind fury but she looks so good that we’ll turn a blind eye to it.

It makes sense to do these shots lying down, but we really never clued into this trick before seeing these behind-the-scenes. Next time we’re in the market for some new snaps, we will just throw something cool on the ground to lie on and keep still! But let’s be honest, all we’re thinking about is next Halloween now.

Face in a Box… of Limes

How could this not be another favorite of ours… her face is in a box of limes! Jack in the Box is out, face in the box of limes is in. The weird and wacky photo is perfect in every way. Her makeup, hair, eyes, pose and limes are all working for her. We are green with envy!

Ok, so it makes total sense to do it this way but the creativity is still blowing us away. Thank you for the insider scoop on how it is done! Although it looks pretty hilarious from afar, it also means that there is no need to worry about dressing up from the face down.

Chillin’ on the Floor

Although fairly random, these paper cranes make us nostalgic for our childhood. Whether it’s because we haven’t seen origami since primary school or the fact that it is hanging about her like a child’s mobile, we’re getting childhood flashbacks. And we like it.

Thank god for the helping hand, you always need a spotter, even for modeling. Chris often uses a third person to help hold the accessories on the set in place. Here, it’s the hanging paper cranes. Paper cranes have actually become a symbol of hope and healing, maybe that’s what they’re going for.

Not Real Playtime

We’re not quite sure what the story was supposed to be in this shot but we still do like the look. With perfectly painted stripes across the model’s face, there’s definitely a theme of play or circus. Especially considering the shoot location in a playground. And on top of all of this, her black hair frames and highlights the painted colors even more.

But then seeing the model pose at the playground, there is an eeriness to the setup. Maybe it is the model’s expression, or maybe it is the gloomy grey sky and the bare trees. But seeing the photographer use the light deflector makes it clear how there is so much vibrancy, and light hitting the model’s face.

Groceries or Photoshoot?

Colors are up, lighting is up, the leg is up. It’s the perfect shot. You almost don’t realize that she is posing where people are shopping. But nonetheless, it actually looks really cool. We think 7/11 should try it out for their next advertising campaign!

It’s just like the girl posing in an arcade, and here it is in a convenience or grocery store. Maybe this is even more random than the arcade. We’ve never thought to stop, drop and pose when grabbing a quick drink. Taking a step back, the setting is pretty amusing, but not in the up close!

Trying to Keep a Straight Face

This is the perfect Halloween shot, and we think they’ve nailed it. The bright blue smoke is the perfect over the top touch. We’re going to assume that the model is dressed to look like Wednesday from the Addams family which is was a great decision for this photo, just adding to the overall creepiness.

But we need to know how the model kept a straight face standing in the street, holding a pumpkin with blue smoke. Surely there was some smoke in her eyes! We do wish we got to see what they used to make the smoke so thick and blue… maybe next time Chris will do a DIY demonstration.

Making A Mess

Paper flying in the air is always a classic move. Whether it is a music video, a movie scene or this photo, it is always an effective look. There’s a certain emotional vibe it gives as someone has just gotten to a point that they need to just throw papers in the air and see them fly.

What we don’t think about is someone standing on a chair continuously throwing paper in the air. Just like we can see here. Clearly a very simple but effective prop. But again, just need to ensure there’s an assistant ready for throwing duties! We might try this one too.

Keeping a Straight Face

This is another one of our favorites. Another simple but effective photo composition. The hands that are grabbing the girl’s face are either trying to support or control her. We guess it is up for interpretation. But the lighting and framing of her face are pretty perfect. We haven’t seen a photo like this before!

You almost forget that there is someone standing behind her and grabbing her face. Pretty creepy when you think about it. It’s a good thing they’re not grabbing too hard! And the curtain perfectly hides the random body from the view of the camera. Good thing we can see the sneaky behind the scenes.

Junk Yard Exploring

Poking her head through a broken window is aesthetic, emotional and just totally works. It feels like she is misunderstood and trying to find her way. It makes us think about becoming an adult and taking on the responsibilities of the world. Sometimes we just want to be a kid again and hide from it all.

But then we realize that she is literally just standing behind the rusted old door of an abandoned car. She probably had to be super careful to not cut herself on the glass or rusted metal. Without editing the colors of the car are a lot less dreamy! But we do love this one.

Shower Curtain Makes for a Good Prop

An old Hollywood dream. This gives us an old school glamour vibe! Maybe it is the intense perm or the fitted corset dress, but we are loving the vintage glam look. The model’s facial expression is strong, giving off a real sense of independence. We love a tough female character!

Behind the scenes shows that this is just a model standing behind a shower curtain. Yes, a shower curtain. The plastic thing that we all try to avoid touching while we’re in the shower. But somehow it just works here! It is probably the translucence material that makes it a great unexpected prop!

Let Me Pour You Some Tea

Just another Alice in Wonderland shot but this one took it to the next level with a floating teapot. This is where it all began, with Alice meeting the Mad Hatter and March Hare having an exclusive tea party, that Alice joins. The floating teapot adds the perfect amount of magic and mystery to the photo!

Thank god for a helping hand and the magic of Photoshop to remove the mystery hand from the photo. We wouldn’t have even thought there was another person involved in the photo but clearly this is how it is done. Need to make sure to avoid getting the rest of the assistants’ body in the photo!

Pool Hangs

This beautiful model looks like she is floating in her local river bed surrounded by lily pads. Lily pads are often considered symbols of wellness, peace, innocence, and pleasure. This is definitely communicated in the photo that Chris captured, the lily pads perfectly framing the model’s face.

It is definitely less dreamy and authentic when we see the behind the scenes. The model is simply lying in a backyard pool with a few fake lily pads placed around her face. We were completely fooled, and would not have guessed this was taken in a pool! So well done Chris, you got us here too!

Bath Time

If we didn’t know better, we would have thought the girl in this portrait was taking a dip in the sea or nearby lake. The photo gives off a very mysterious almost mystical vibe with her hair perfectly flowing behind her in the water and her gorgeous blue eyes staring right into the camera.

When you pan out, however, you’ll realize that the setting for this photograph is far less majestic than meets the eye. In reality, the model hasn’t even left her bathroom and is merely laying in an old tub. Props to Hernandez for working with the set that he had and making it work wonders.

Chillin in The Rain

Creativity is clearly one of Hernandez’s strong suits. Who else sees a rainstorm and thinks of taking a photo fit for a summer’s beach day under the sun. Hopefully, that lightning bolt is all a product of photoshop. Otherwise, this model should probably put that umbrella away.

Regardless of the weather that day, Hernandez has taken a completely lackluster scene and turned it into something gorgeous. This photo is giving us modern-day Alice in Wonderland vibes and we are all about it. With the vibrant colors and the mashup of a 50s pin-up girl with Gen Z Instagram fashionista, we have never seen anything like it.

Life in Plastic Wrap

Wow, the photo on the left once again takes us to a make-believe world fit for a thrilling fantasy novel. The model looks entranced as she walks through the plastic wall, prompting us to imagine all kinds of crazy scenarios and backstories to accompany the image.

The behind the scenes photo on the other hand, and the reality of the situation, reveals that the model is not under some wicked spell. Instead, she is playfully fooling around as Hernandez snaps away, in an effort to capture the perfect moment. The end result is all about the photographer’s expert ability to retouch the color in the photo, completely changing how we see it.

Enchanting Daredevil

Often times, Hernandez finds inspiration from illustrations or works of art across a variety of mediums. This particular photograph is based on an illustration from an unknown artist. While the photo on the left makes us think we are in some medieval setting lost in the middle of the woods, the behind the scenes reveal tells us otherwise.

In reality, the photo appears to have been taken in a man-made garden found in someone’s front yard. We wonder if they even know the homeowners. Its pictures like these that remind us that beautiful works of art can be manufactured out of any scene as long as you have the right creative eye.

Haunted Hands

Here’s another photograph inspired by an art piece, this time by digital artist, Katie Jin. Just like the original cartoon created by Jin, the model looks like she is lost in a haunted cave, completely unaware that she is not alone. It’s a spooky scene fit for a modern horror film.

Luckily, in real life, the model is not in an abandoned cave at all. She is standing at an arched entrance to what seems to be a public establishment. The haunted hands from the photo are also made way less spooky once we get a glimpse of the very living man standing behind her.

Mystical Creatures

One of Hernandez’s favorite models, Lauren Gav is looking particularly magical as she takes on the form of a “Wild Laur in her Natural habitat,” as she put it in her Instagram post. We have to hand it to them, they really took us on a trip to a fantasy world with this one.

The color scheme alone, with the deep greens, sun-touched yellows, and red undertones make us feel like we are in a scene from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That’s not even to mention the realistic looking horns, which Hernandez made himself.

Seeing Double

If Snow White had an evil twin, we imagine it would look a little something like this. The duo even took down the magical mirror off the wall and are contemplating whether or not to take a bite of that juicy red apple. Once you see that there is only one model for this photo however, the symbolism almost becomes more clear.

To us, it looks as though the model is fighting her own conscience, deciding if the apple is worth a bite. Once again Hernandez has taken a simple photograph and transformed it into something magical and full of mystery, just asking to be inerpretated.

Ghostly Vices

Clearly Hernandez likes to dip his toes in the horror genre. This haunting photograph was inspired by digital artist Magda Proski and the result turned out to be one of the skilled photographer’s favorite pieces. He is hoping that those who see it will interpret it in many different ways.

On Instagram, Hernandez captioned the photo “Munchausen Syndrome,” which is a psychological disorder where a person pretends to be sick in order to gain attention and care from others. We were personally reminded of the 2009 animated dark fantasy, Coraline when we saw this photograph.

Hiya, Georgie

This one is for all of you classic horror movie fans. Hernandez put this shoot together right around Halloween time. He was inspired by Stephen King’s IT which was first released as a novel in 1986 and has since been recreated into a mini-series and two feature films.

The model appears to be taking on the role of Georgie, the six-year-old that disappears after an encounter with the evil clown, Pennywise. In the film, he is seen wearing the same yellow coat. The second obvious reference is the red balloon which is always seen floating by right before Pennywise makes an appearance.

I’m Late!

Hernandez had a funny story to share about this Alice in Wonderland inspired photo. Apparently his original vision included an outdoor backdrop next to a tree or a rabbit hole. In the end, however, the weather was not on his side.

“It was so windy, the clock kept turning & not staying still plus her rabbit ears kept falling off every 5 seconds. We shot for like 30 minutes and just decided to shoot at my house,” he wrote on Instagram. To improvise, they instead quickly set up this simple yet effective backdrop. The photographer’s skills were truly put to the test and it’s clear he passed with flying colors.