I love Instagram, the smart phone app! It is one of the coolest social media platforms as it allows us to express who we are through the photos we take.
Through Instagram’s built-in filters and additional applications, it’s possible for an average person to look like a professional photographer. It’s great to see your images come to life!
Also, Instagram is a terrific social channel for discovering people and communicating with them. You can participate by posting photos; by following the photo streams of other users; by liking and commenting; or simply participate as a spectator. In any case, you will be treated to new and interesting photos every moment of the day, and can converse with people, unhampered by a 140 character limit.
Having spent a great deal of my life standing beside photographers as I direct photo shoots, it’s a lot of fun to actually be the shooter. I’ve not read any “how-tos” regarding Instagram, and came about the following suggestions through trial and error. So, I’m by no means an expert. But if you consider a few of the following tips, you could end up with even cooler pictures than you would otherwise.
What should you shoot?
You can shoot anything and everything. A couple of people I follow post ONLY photos of their pets. Some people shoot pictures of food. One friend shot an amazing series of African violets. It can be anything you like — family photos, pictures from your vacation, social gatherings, pets, cityscapes, found objects — really, the sky’s the limit!
When I’m out and about each day, whether it is heading to a parking lot after a meeting, shopping for groceries, or just going for a walk, I have my iPhone in my pocket. And if I see something that strikes me, I’ll stop and snap a photo.
Instagram has caused me to view the world in a completely new way, because all around us there are interesting things. I’m a firm believer that almost every average-quality photo, even of the most mundane subjects, can be processed into something pretty nice on Instagram.
Shoot images that are in focus.
Most photos will look best if they are in focus and at least somewhat well lit. When a photo is blurry or too dark, sometimes cool effects can result, but often it just looks like a dark, blurry, grainy picture.
It’s easy to throw something OUT of focus on Instagram, but you can’t really make a blurry photo sharp.
To focus on the iPhone, tap the area of the screen you want to be sharp. The camera focus box will appear, and the lens will adjust. If you are shooting with the benefit of a tripod or mount, or by resting your phone against a solid, plumb surface, like a table or wall, your shots will be in focus. If your shots are hand-held, the key is to be as still as you can. If you anchor your biceps against your body then hold your breath when you shoot, it improves the chances of a sharp picture.
A sub-category of shooting sharp, in-focus photos, is shooting straight. For example, when you shoot a lake, and the horizon line is leaning a bit, it can look odd. The same goes with buildings. So if you find you can’t shoot a straight picture, skew the angle on purpose. It can result in some great photos, and purposely tilting the shot releases you from trying to establish a parallel line.
|Because this picture was in focus, nice details in the leaves and colors could be enhanced.|
|Even a puddle, if it’s in focus, can turn into something nice.|
|This image was in focus and well lit, so looked good with no filter.|
Because Instagram has incorporated the ability to correct lighting, you can take under- or over-exposed photos and still make them work.
It’s possible to save a lot of dark photos with Instagram’s brightness adjustment, but it’s helpful if you have some highlight and shadow detail in the first place. If you shoot during the day with available light, you’ll probably be fine. At night you might find your images become grainy. I’m not crazy about the way photos look with a flash, so I usually try to shoot with available light, even at dusk. But this application is so forgiving, that even if you don’t start out with a reasonable shot, you can often adjust it to work.
|It looked like there wasn’t enough light in this photo, but the filter enhanced the sky and building details.|
|This shot was washed out with too much light, but the saturation was adjusted in Instagram.|
This is one of the options I frequently ask of any of the professional photographers I hire. Normally I’ll ask for a range from close-up to wide, horizontal and vertical, but by shooting wide, it gives you the flexibility to find a good crop in most any shape. Instagram for the most part is a square. I almost always start with a vertical picture because it’s my preference. Having room around the “live area” of the photo means flexibility in cropping, which can often save a mediocre or crummy photo.
|Basically a pretty dark and junky shot, but cleaned up okay once it was cropped and filtered.|
|I cropped out the train cars in the distance to emphasize the dynamic lines of the tracks.|
Enlargement and Cropping and filters
The final piece of advice is to look at images in a new way by experimenting by enlarging and cropping your images. If a photo is boring, see if there is part of the image that is salvageable, or if there are extraneous things in the shot that detract from the photo, get rid of them. Sometimes you know exactly which filter you want to use and other times, it’s fun to try the image with different filters to see what you will find.
This original looked hopeless, but the flag was usable. Combined with this filter, it looked vintage.
|Cropped so the focus was on the logo on this vintage fire truck instead of the building around it.|
|This tree was neat, but had unattractive junk around it. A tight crop saved it.|
Are you ready?
Having offered the preceding suggestions, I really don’t think there is a right or wrong way to shoot photos for Instagram. Some of the weirdest pictures can become wonderful. Just enjoy the surprises you discover once you’re processing your photos, then share them for others to enjoy!
Do you have a favorite filter, or favorite auxiliary application to use with Instagram? I would love to hear what they are!
You can find me on instagram at: ink361.com/terrinakamura
Let me know you found me on this blog post and I'll be sure to follow you back!