Better than my “Best Nine.”


A couple of weeks ago, I generated my Instagram “Best Nine” as I’ve done the last few years. If you aren’t familiar with it, you go to a web site, put in your Instagram profile name and it generates a single image containing the nine images you took over the last year with the most likes. And you post it on Instagram as a retrospective from the year.

When I looked at my best nine image for this year, I noticed that while these may have been the images that got the most likes, they weren’t my favorites.

I had another idea. What if I went through my Instagram feed and just picked my favorites?

I started to go through Instagram to pick my favorite eight images from the past year. With “Best Nine,” you don’t have to put any thought into it. The algorithm selects the ones with the most likes. But with “Fav8,” this process takes some time. I posted 120 times over the last year and many of the posts had multiple images. I used Instagram’s bookmarks filter to keep track of my favorite shots. A first pass quickly got me to about 14 images, but getting down to 8 was really hard. I cut many of the artistic shots for the ones that meant more to me personally.

A quick summary of my Fav 8:

  1. Our oldest had a fun first season playing JV Lacrosse this year.

  2. We picked strawberries. The whole crew loves strawberries.

  3. My wife tried pickle-flavored Pelican’s SnoBall. She did not like it.

  4. We joined a pool and had a blast.

  5. I went back to grad school.

  6. We discovered that the whole crew loves hiking.

  7. I finished my shirt project and had an art show at USC Upstate.

  8. My wife is crazy and I love her.

There are several ways to download your Instagram shots depending on your operating system and process. I edit all my images with Darkroom on my iPhone before I post so it was easy for me to just find the original image in Photos and transfer them over to my Mac.

I’m a designer, so naturally, I fired up Photoshop. I’m sure that there is an easier way to do this, probably with some app on iOS, but I’m much faster on my Mac. I created a 1200 px x 1200 px Photoshop file and then scaled each of my favorite images to 400 px x 400 px and arranged them in a grid.

That left one block in the lower right. I was just going to put the year there, but I decided to build a quick little “Fav8” logo. It’s SbB Epyx, a Fontstruct design I created last year.

For a little bit of whimsy, the background color of that last square is the average color of my favorite eight images. Which leads us to a quick Photoshop tip. (Feel free to skip this next section if you aren’t a Photoshop user…) Getting the average color from your images is easy:

  1. Edit > Select All

  2. Edit > Copy Merged (If you are like me, your images are all on different layers.)

  3. File > New… (It will automatically set the size to what’s on your clipboard)

  4. Edit > Paste

  5. Filter > Blur > Average (This will generate a solid color that is the average of all the color in your image. It will likely be some shade of gray.)

  6. The take that color and make it the background of your final square.

Back from the random Photoshop tip and moving on to some social (media) commentary.

Instagram lets us share our images with friends (and strangers) across the world. That’s mostly awesome, but it also means that we know what those people think about our images. And I think we start crafting images to generate that positive feedback.

Something like “Best Nine” is fun. Take a look at the images that other people liked most. But I’d rather look pull together the images I liked most and relive those memories and moments. Sorting through my images to select my favorites was fun. It reminded me of some awesome moments during 2018 — some that I honestly had forgotten about.

My favorite eight were my favorites not because other people liked them, but because I loved the moment and the story behind the image. And that’s something an algorithm can’t know.

I posted my Fav8 to Instagram. So now it’s your turn. What were your favorite shots from 2019?

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, grad student, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. He recently finished a project to design a new shirt a week for an entire year. Follow Bob on Instagram and Micro.Blog.