Understanding plandids — the under-the-radar pose that’s taking over Instagram

A blogger, Bella Hadid, and Kylie Jenner in a three-part collage using the plandids in their photos

Instagram used to be defined by its feed of stylized, perfectly posed images, but this summer a new trend has swept the platform: the “plandid.”

Plandids, or planned candids, have become so ubiquitous that it’s hard to avoid coming across one when scrolling through your feed. Everyone — from mommy bloggers, to celebs, to fashionistas to sorority girls — has jumped on the plandid bandwagon.

Top plandid poses include casually looking down while walking, laughing mid-meal, climbing up a staircase or ladder or lounging around glancing into the distance.

“The plandid is like a newer, hotter version of the selfie on Instagram. With so many Instagram influencers having personal photographers or ‘Instagram husbands’, it’s easier to post a full body photo of yourself that looks effortless,” said Taylor Loren, marketing manager at Later, a leading Instagram marketing platform. 

What makes a plandid?

A good plandid should make it seem like you had no idea a photo was about to be taken — even though you probably posed for countless takes.

Most plandids are solitary shots, since pulling off a group plandid is a challenging to coordinate and almost never looks natural, but staging a plandid photo of just yourself is no less work.

A plandid photo can’t look premeditated, but it can’t look too candid either — save those for your finsta. Plandids allow the Instagrammer to appear casual and off-the-cuff.

Ironically, all Instagrammers we spoke to reported retouching and editing their plandids the same amount, if not more, than more traditional, posed shots.

Why now?

No one disputes that plandids have come to dominate Instagram feeds, but people have different theories about why the trend came about.

Some Instagrammers feel like there has been a silent backlash against the type of pre-staged, overly curated photos that dominated the feed in earlier years. “The trend now is for your feed to look more natural,” one said.

This could be because — thanks to new platforms like Snapchat, Instagram Live and Instagram Stories — the barrier between an overly curated feed and a more “natural” documentation of someone’s life has become blurred. Authenticity plays well on social media, and the Instagrammers we spoke to reported that their plandids regularly outperformed photos that appeared more orchestrated.

“I think in the past couple years even, even with my own photos, my plandids get more interaction than my planned photos,” said Aryn Baker, an Instagrammer and travel blogger based in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Even though it’s staged, it appears to be an actual candid and it looks more relatable. It looks like real life, even though I had my husband take that photo like eight times. When people see a plandid, they are able to picture themselves doing those same things.”

Taylor Evans, a Baltimore-based lifestyle blogger, agrees. “It’s definitely becoming increasingly popular,” she said. “I think mainly because it brings another level of relatablility into the content. I’m not sure how it’s completely different than posing in front of a wall, since in some sense you’re still posing. But it translates differently to the person who is seeing it.”

Andrea, a stylist in New York, thinks plandids have become popular because there’s pressure to constantly make your feed look fresh. “People don’t want all their pics looking the same, doing the same pose,” she said. “Your friends don’t want to see 40 pics of you and other friends with your arms around each other smiling; it’s boring.”

How to take the perfect plandid

Taylor Lorenz/Taylor Lorenz

Even if they aren’t aware, most Instagram users have posted a plandid before. But if you’re looking to take yours to the next level, there are a few ways you can prepare.

First, you’ll need a friend or trusted photographer to take no fewer than 1 billion photos in a row. Burst mode on the iPhone works best because the user can shoot so many consecutive photos that one is bound to look natural. “The person should be taking 50 photos a minute,” Andrea said. “Just moving your chin an inch can make a huge difference.”

You’ll also need to figure out your go-to plandid pose. This should be a pose that looks natural but is easy to recreate on the fly. For Evans, it’s glancing down while pretending to take a step forward. She said that she’s posted this non-pose so many times to her feed that her friends now joke about it.

You’ll need a friend or trusted photographer to take no fewer than 1 billion photos in a row.

In order to really pull off a plandid, you’ll also need a certain level of comfort with your body. Though plandids are generally still flattering, they capture a person mid-motion, so it can take a minute to get used to.

“You need to be comfortable with your body to know that you’re not going to look perfect every time,” Evans said. With plandids, “you need to be comfortable with how you look in motion. You need to be comfortable in your own skin.” She suggests trying out several gestures and movements, then seeing what works best.

“The easiest thing to do is the look away from the camera and half-laugh,” Andrea said. “If we’re talking Plandid 101, that’s the starter pose. Then there’s the fake walk; that’s the next step. After that you can attempt a full-body lookaway. Those plandids are good because you can still show off your outfit or where you are, but looking away makes it look like you’re not trying.”

She said that every plandid should have some sort of narrative; that’s what makes it more interesting than a posed pic. “Plandids are more like a 3-D photo,” she said. “Each tells a story, instead of you just smiling at the dinner table, which is more 2-D.”

Lizzie Rouleau, a sales professional in San Francisco and self-proclaimed “social media abuser who looks at everything,” said she doesn’t personally post plandids, but thinks the format resonates so well because it “makes people look like they have things going on and are more active.” While someone less interesting may just stand there for photos, plandids make it seem like the subject has depth to them.

Fortuitously, plandids are also the ideal format to showcase branded merchandise. Brand accounts have long featured faux-casual content in an effort to seem more relatable, and as Instagrammers increasingly try to work sponsored content, or “sponcon,” into their feeds, plandids can provide a perfect outlet.

“A plandid is the best way to market something naturally and promote something you believe in without making it feel like you’re being sold to,” said Drew Peterson, an artist based in Brooklyn, who has done brand deals in the past. “On Instagram, you’re mixing real life more with advertising, and plandids are the most organic and natural way to blur those lines.”

“Honestly, there’s no such thing as a true candid in this day and age,” Andrea said. “You always look better when you’re fake-walking instead of real-walking. ... It doesn’t mean you’re not having fun.”