One of my biggest points of envy on social media is those Instagram users who just seem to get the most perfect shot every single time. Surprisingly, these users are rarely the big brands. Instead they’re bloggers, writers or just regular people, known for producing amazing compositions which make everyone love their work.
This is because of how easy it is, with the right practise and a little thought, to capture those picture-perfect moments and build a following as a result. Instagram is fast becoming the most popular social media channel with younger audiences and it suits that the channel is filling fast with big brands and everyday users, all competing for the chance to get noticed. So how to get it right?
It’s actually much easier than you think and to prove it, I’ve put together this quick guide, full of tips and secrets you can use, every single day, to help you create amazing Instagram content that will beg to be liked.
So pull out your iPhone, select your best Jo Malone candle and read on to find out how to take your Instagram content to the next level (and beyond!)
1. Use your phone’s camera
When it comes to the initial shot, always opt for your phone’s own camera over the in-built one in Instagram. This allows you to take advantage of the extra features on there, ensuring a smoother, more pixel-perfect image. Shooting straight from your camera also means you’ll get to keep the original picture so if you do make any mistakes while editing (which occasionally happens) you can just start again from scratch.
Also ensure that you always take the photo in landscape and then play around with cropping after. It may seem like common sense to shoot straight within a square frame, but this will make it harder to edit as you’ll have less space to play with.
2. Use the rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is one of the most basic rules of composition when it comes to taking a photo and can be really useful when you’re thinking about how to setup a shot. This works on the basic that the eye reads images based on a grid of nine squares, made up of four intersecting lines. And because you’re clever, you’ve probably already realised that Instagram actually does this for you when you go to take a photo, by inserting a faint line guide. This article explains the theory behind the rule of thirds nicely, but the main thing to remember is to try and place your subject on, or near to, the intersection of the lines, rather than in the space between them. This is an easy-to-remember tip that will allow you to position your subject much more quickly and in a way that’s more pleasing on the eye.
Now we’d probably look at Rosie Huntington-Whiteley no matter where she was positioned, but see how this principle makes for a great image? Photo Credit
3. Play around with angles
Before you stop to snap, look through your phone’s camera lens and then move around to find a good angle. This is one of the simplest, and best, ways to get an interesting image and can often help you to find a unique angle or perspective that you may not have seen before. Crouching down to look up at your subject (the main focus of the shot), taking a bird’s eye view from above or just moving so that you’re on the same level are all good things to try to get you used to changing the angle and mixing up the style. Don’t be afraid to step forward or back as many times as you need to as well – this looks weird, but makes for the best shot.
You’ve probably already worked out that you can improve the focus of your image by tapping your phone’s screen in the area of the main subject. Once the yellow square appears, this will ensure the frame is ready to capture your subject in perfect clarity. Another secret tip is to hold your finger down on the subject, which will not only focus the camera to that area but will also lock in the focus and lighting so that it won’t change when you go to click. The words ‘AE/EF’ will appear on your screen to let you know this is working okay.
5. Nail the lighting
In the same way that Meghan Trainor is all about that bass, a great photo is all about that lighting. It’s popular opinion that there’s nothing more beautiful than natural light and if you can avoid using the flash, this will ensure your photos are much softer and more natural. To get this effect, choose a room (or setting) that has lots of windows or lets in as much light as possible and then position yourself infront of the light, so that it’s behind the camera, but still illuminates the subject in front of you.
6. Straight lines
Once you’re happy with the lighting and composition of your photo, use Instagram’s straightening tool to ensure that you have your lines accurate. This is really useful if there’s something in your photo that will look best perfectly straight, such as a horizon or wall that may have become slightly skewed when you took the initial shot. This extra effort may not be obvious to the unknowing eye but it really will make a difference to how polished the image looks overall.
7. Find your style
This will depend very much on what you are photographing and why, but it’s important to think about finding your own style that will make users instantly recognise one of your shots. Perhaps there are a couple of filters that you use regularly, or a neutral background that always helps to make your main subject ‘pop’. Finding your Instagram style is a great way to build your brand, which will eventually lead to more followers and a higher engagement (in other words, more followers, likes and comments, now who wouldn’t want that?)
8. Mix it up
It’s important to keep variety within your feed, so look at creating the odd montage or just changing the size or dimension of every fourth or fifth image, to make it stand out. This will ensure that when someone lands on your account, they see an interesting range of images which will make them want to not only follow you, but also come back for more. And although I told you the benefits of the rule of thirds in step two, every now and again, make sure you ignore it. Placing your subject right in the center of the frame is ideal for the times when you want to create a fuss and stand out. Used sparingly, it’s the best type of rule-breaking there is.
9. Experiment with other photo-editing apps
Instagram may have a sweet selection of filters and editing tools but there are a ton of other photo-editing apps worth a look too! They often have more advanced editing features which you can use to edit the photo before importing it into Instagram, in order to give your images an edge. One I like to use for brands and businesses is VSO Cam, a free app that allows you to take photos, adjust the focus and lighting and then edit and modify with its range of subtle, but effective, filters. Check it out!
10. You don’t have to be square
If you’re really clever, you may have seen that not all users create their Instagram images to be square. Some photos just look better when they’re horizonal or vertical and there are apps out there which you can use to get the image right with a clean, white background to fill the remaining space. Whitagram is one I’ve found that’s really simple to use and as it’s free, there’s really no excuse not to get downloading and experimenting!
When you’re taking a photo outside, the background will usually be defined for you. But when you’re composing your own, for example to show off a new product, you’ll need to think carefully about what the background looks like and how it sets off your main subject. Sometimes it looks great when you use a completely contrasting colour or pattern to the main object, but a completely white background can also set the focus firmly on what you’re photographing. Experimenting with textures and different styles will help you to find what works best and make for a really interesting and well-thought out shot, guaranteed to receive all the likes.
What are your best tips for creating Instagram-worthy images? Make sure you tweet me with your Instagram handle and let me know, I’d love to check them out!