a set of keys

5 Instagram Tips from Milwaukee Art Museum Curator Ariel Pate

Want to make your Instagram as cohesive as a gallery in a museum? We’ve got you covered.

Milwaukee Art Museum photography curator and Instagram aficionado Ariel Pate dishes out tips for curating your own museum-worthy feed.

Photo by Ariel Pate

 Stick to your guns

In curatorial school in Germany, Pate learned how adhere to a “rulebook” when making a portfolio, which is a skill she applies to her Instagram. Her rulebook: taking pictures of intriguing objects she finds on the street, like a key to a gun room, and avoiding selfies. You can create your own rules – just make sure you follow them consistently. “I think having a rule of thumb is always helpful,” Pate says. “Just make sure it’s something that excites you.”

Lay off the filters

Pate appreciates professional photo editing, but she finds that Instagram filters can be distracting. She instead recommends focusing on the quality and composition of the image itself and supplementing them with a witty – perhaps punny – caption.

Keep it simple

In the age of the internet, everyone knows a little about photo composition. But Pate offers some pro tips: focus your photo on just one or two subjects; the simpler, the better. And to get a great photo, especially if you’re a beginner, focus on static objects. “People move,” Pate said, laughing. “Dead trees don’t.”

Keenly observe the city around you

After moving from Chicago to Milwaukee in June of 2016, Pate found that Instagram offered a way to get to know the city. “It helps me keep my eyes open,” Pate says. “Having an Instagram account provokes me to stay aware of what I’m doing.”

Pate thinks that everything in Milwaukee, even discarded snacks, can be made interesting through the lens of a camera. She also suggests tagging the location of your photos to find out what similarly adventurous Milwaukeeans have discovered.

Think about your audience

Without her audience in mind, Pate would post more pictures of dead animals. Though you may not share Pate’s proclivities, you should still keep your audience in mind when deciding what to post. However, don’t fixate on it too much. “Follow your instincts,” Pate says. “Your audience will self-select off that.”



Since interning for the magazine in spring of 2017, Anna has contributed to both the print publication and website. She has covered topics from women in the workplace to communal gardens and also writes guides to life in Milwaukee. Outside of writing for the magazine, Anna is going back to school at UW-Milwaukee to work towards a career in genetic counseling.