If you haven’t taken a look at Instagram in a while, you may be surprised to see how it has matured from a photographer-centric sharing platform to a keep-up-with-friends-and-family app for people of all ages and professions. The Instagram app for iPhone and Android offers the best and easiest way to build a visual history of your life.
While it is now owned by Facebook, Instagram has not suffered the plague of scams and breaches that its parent company has become known for, which is probably a result of its smaller user base, much like we see when comparing attacks against Microsoft Windows versus Mac operating systems.
Whether you are already an Instagram user or you’re ready to give it a try, there are ways to help you create a more pleasing feed and a beautiful photo album for you and for your followers. Here are five essential tips to improve your Instagram.
Quality is more important than quantity. Choose your best photos or short videos to post and don’t post more than once a day. When you’re on vacation or hosting a big event, this can be almost impossible to do, but there are several workarounds. Instagram now allows you to group up to 10 photos and videos into a single post, which will appear as a slideshow in your feed. Alternately, you can build a “story” over a day that also can include up to 10 photos and videos. Stories appear at the top of your Instagram page, separate from your feed, and disappear after 24 hours. While you can choose to save your stories in your archive, you will be better off posting to your feed, where they will become a permanent part of your account.
It’s about the pictures, not the words. You will rarely find long commentary on Instagram. Here, photos and videos tell the story. Think like a photojournalist. When you post, confine your description to a photo caption that captures why you posted that particular image. As you go through the posting process, you will be able to tag people in your photos as long as they have an Instagram account. A photo’s tags are indicated by a small icon on the post — tap to see the names of people. You can also add a location. You’ll be able to choose from a list generated by Instagram based on location data, or you can add your own.
Go easy on the filters. When Instagram was first introduced, the filters available in the app’s editor were big news. It quickly became apparent that the overuse of filters created photos that were too artificial. But filters can be useful. Choose one that you like and stick with it to add a pleasing consistency to your album. Take an extra moment to edit the filter once you’ve applied it, dialing it down so it’s not so obvious.
Beyond the square. The hallmark of Instagram has long been the square photo, but the app now allows you to post images from your photo library in a horizontal or a vertical format. To do this, look for a small icon in the lower left corner of a selected photo. Tap it to preserve the original format. Use sparingly for occasions when an out-of-the-box ratio is essential, such as a sweeping landscape or to avoid cutting a person out of the picture.
Take better photos. Making smart decisions about when, where and how you take a photo with your phone will improve the quality of your images. Remember that your feet are your best zoom — walk closer to your subject.
Try to shoot in natural light whenever possible. In full sun, you will want to guard against overexposure. After lining up your phone for a shot, tap and hold the brightest part of the image to lock in the exposure and focus. Now you can point the camera anywhere you want, and the focus and exposure settings from what you tapped on will be saved. You’ll end up with an underexposed photo that’s easy to brighten in Instagram’s editor. Cloudy days are best for photos, particularly selfies, when the light is evenly dispersed.
Improvise a tripod no matter what you’re shooting. The tiniest movement will create a slightly blurred image, and that’s almost impossible to avoid unless you stabilize your phone on something. Look for a rail or a table — anything inanimate.
For those new to Instagram, make your account private when you create it. This means other Instagram users will have to ask your permission before they can see your account. Deny access to people you don’t know because, after all, this is about sharing your experiences with family and friends.