Do It For The 'Gram

By Gisselle Pernett


Mariah Cortez, 20, and Alma Barrera, 20, share a common love for Instagram and have, like many other users, documented their trips throughout Los Angeles. Cortez, who has 767 followers on Instagram, frequently uploads pictures of her different trips she’s taken. Trips such as, Disneyland, 16th Avenue Tiled Steps in San Francisco, Emerald City Comic Con and The Market Theater Gum Wall in Washington.

Barrera, has 911 followers, sticks to a specific theme uploading a stream of three pictures at a time to maintain a consistent pattern throughout her profile. Barrera alternates between a series of concerts, portraits, and colors.

“It’s something to look at like a form of art or expression. That’s how I want people to see it; it’s interesting when each row is a different aesthetic,” said Barerra.

Within each row Barrera alters one thing about the pictures weather it’s color, texture or filters.

What the two have in common is not thinking about the expense that goes into uploading a single image to the free app.


The pursuit of a perfect Instagram picture in LA starts at 17950 Lassen St. It’s 4:30 p.m. and after a long day of classes, Cortez and Barrera are ready to start their trip to Urth Caffe.  The Melrose Avenue café is known on Instagram for its food, latte art, Boba tea and if you’re lucky, celebrity appearances.

The buildup to the picture starts at 4:45 pm with Barrera picking up Cortez from her apartment on Zelzah Avenue. The friends, who made the wise choice to carpool, begin with a trip to the ARCO gas station on Devonshire. At $3.26 a gallon Barrera and Cortez each contribute $7.50 for 4.6 gallons of gas.

Insta total: $15

The pursuit continues in the direction of the 118 East Freeway towards Los Angeles at exactly 5 p.m. The pair traveled 51 minutes from Northridge to West Hollywood and surprisingly weren’t stuck in the infamous LA traffic.

Travel time: 1 hour

Before arriving at the café Cortez and Barrera need to look for parking. The two pay the daily price of 10 dollars at a public parking lot on La Cienega Boulevard since you never know how long these photo endeavors can take. The parking lot is also two streets away from the actual café, extending their overall travel time.

Insta total: $25

Travel time: 10 minutes

Finally, it’s picture time. Cortez and Barrera walk into the Café and after looking at the menu for the next 10 minutes they are ready to order. Cortez starts by ordering a half-sized grilled cilantro chicken sandwich with pesto ($9.75) and a large Japanese tea latte. ($4.75) Barrera follows by ordering a turkey sandwich ($12.75) and a medium mint mocha ($4.95)

Insta total: $84.63

Travel time:  20 minutes

Now comes the important part, the picture. After waiting for 20 minutes for both the food and drinks to arrive. The staging begins, with iPhone and android in hand, the girls are ready to take a picture. Plates of sandwiches accompanied with a side of earthy greens and Urth balsamic vinaigrette, and cups of coffee are adjusted, different angles are tested, lighting is tested by switching between flash and no flash and finally, several images are captured that could be considered, Instagram-worthy.


Picture time: 20 minutes

Cortez, who prefers to upload pictures to her Instagram story, gains more than 60 views in the past hour of being at the café.

Catch up time: 1 hour and 33 minutes

The hunt ends at 8:08 pm and then part two of the breakdown begins, the upload of the picture. Barrera is the first to upload her picture and in the 45 minutes it takes to get back to Northridge she racks up 37 likes making it around 83 cents per like.

Total miles driven: 50 miles

Total time: 4 hours and 8 minutes

Grand Total: $84.63


Is it all worth it? Barrera believes traveling to these places is part of the experience. She believes that many are aware of the distance, but our generation is motivated by travel. By traveling to different restaurants, beaches, or cafes we’re able to get different experiences without going far.

“Nowadays, everyone wants to be a photographer. It’s all these ideas that realistically are obtained from Instagram,” Barrera said. “Even in pictures we’re able to add our location.”

Cortez agrees, adding on that it’s worth it if the person is able to make an experience out of it.

“If you just went by yourself took the picture and bounced, not actually making an experience out of it then it’s not worth it,” said Cortez

Cortez believes that people look at the likes and followers and in the end that’s what makes them happy, not knowing how much money is spent behind the picture.

“I think a lot of us are into achieving this ongoing trend of making these pictures something someone else talks about. Instagram is designed to keep us entertained. That’s how Instagram is so popular,” said Barrera.


Gisselle Pernett