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Instagram Photography: The Ultimate Guide

Lady taking a selfie

The social media platform Instagram is, in a way, the perfect snapshot into everyday lives. Whilst Facebook or Twitter use statuses and tweets to spread information and thoughts, Instagram uses something far more powerful and transparent. A lot of information can be left out in a tweet, but a single photograph can speak a thousand words.

This is why it is so important to get your Instagram profile right. With so many followers, whether they are family or friends, browsing through your Instagram to get a more personable and rounded insight into your life, you want to make sure that their experience is enjoyable. Instagram is the ultimate portfolio of your life. If you want it to stand out, look sharp, professional and beautiful, then the only way you can achieve this is by perfecting your photography.

Better Photography Makes A Better Portfolio

It may sound simple, but dismissing the intricate details of good photography can lead to Instagram feeds looking amateur, bland and uninspired. You could have the most interesting life in the world, surrounded by beautiful scenery, with new and wonderful things happening to you every day; but if your photography skills are lacking, then there is no way your Instagram feed is going to complement it. On the contrary, a cave-dwelling hermit could have a better, more engaging Instagram feed if they happen to be a good photographer who pays close attention to the details.

If you are an avid Instagram user who is determined to give justice to memorable moments in your life, then sleek, gorgeous and eye-catching photography is the way to do it. This is especially true for anyone wanting to then turn that portfolio into something physical and real. If you want to make an Instagram photobook, for instance, then taking the time to master your photography and create a truly astonishing Instagram feed can lead to a photobook which is something to cherish and display for years to come.

So How Do I Take Technically Good Photographs?

There are many factors to consider when it comes to creating good Instagram photography. This includes themes, angles, settings, scenes, and the emotions you want to convey. But before all this, the most integral thing to get right is the technicality of a photograph. If you fail to get to grips with the basics of photography, then everything that comes after is not going to work.

But, how do you take a technically good photograph? Well, obviously, Instagram photography is achieved using a phone and not a camera. This means that the act of creating something technically efficient and eye-catching is going to be different to an ordinary, professional method. But there are several ways to get it done and make your photography professional in its own right. Let’s walk through a few of them.

  • Invest In Quality

Although this might seem like quite a basic first point, the importance of attaining a phone with a good camera is crucial if you want to perfect your Instagram photography. There have been many major leaps in camera-phone quality over the last few years, to the point where it’s hard to believe the level of quality coming out of newer phones.

Pay attention to the lens, sensors and dual-pixels when considering the specs, and take a look at a few professional review sites before you commit so you can be sure you’re starting off on the right foot.

  • Turn HDR Off

Once you have attained a quality phone, then you can start preparing the camera for professional, detailed shots. HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a feature on iPhones and Androids, created to take a few of the same photo at differing exposure levels before putting them together into one. In theory, this should give your photograph more intense detail, but for novices who are unsure on how to use it, HDR can actually have the opposite effect. Getting it wrong can lead to unnatural photographs that look out of place and abnormal.

Therefore, by turning your HDR setting off, you are putting the emphasis back on the camera itself to get the perfect picture, without having to worry about exposure.

  • Understand The Different Modes

On any phone, there will be a number of different settings and modes to utilise when taking a picture. For many professional Instagram users, portrait mode is the go-to setting for capturing close-up objects without losing depth of field. If you are taking a picture of something with that aim in mind, then by all means use this mode, but be wary of its downfalls.

Portrait mode is not ideal for low light situations, and it is also only suitable for taking still photographs. If you want to capture something moving, then shooting in live photo mode is going to be far more efficient, as it creates detailed shots with low possibility of blur and poor exposure.

  • Use Grid Lines For Balance

One of the main photographic composition principles is known as “the rule of thirds”. This means that an image should be broken down into three horizontal and vertical parts, meaning you are left with nine parts altogether.

If you go onto your settings you can turn this grid on, giving you a series of lines superimposed onto your screen which will help you position different elements into the frame, rather than having a single, static subject. This will encourage any viewer of the photograph to look beyond the main subject and explore every inch of the carefully orchestrated frame.

  • Consider The Lighting

Lighting also plays a big role in the making or breaking of a photograph. On your phone, there is a built-in flash which is supposed to help with low-light conditions, but in many cases the result of a photograph without the flash will be far greater. These days, camera phones have an increased performance when it comes to capturing low-light scenes, so turning off your flash is often the best thing you can do to attain a clearer, more professional looking photograph.

That isn’t to say flash is entirely useless. A rear flash can be used effectively in the daytime if the subject of your photograph is in shadow. If you are taking photographs in the dark, too, then placing a small piece of tissue in front of the flash can soften the subject and give the photograph a natural, authentic feel. If, however, this is not working for you, then your phone also has other, built-in methods to deal with especially dark scenes. Night mode is one of the most impressive smart-phone innovations in recent years. Doing away with the flash entirely, night mode deploys intricate technology to clean up and correct photographs that are taken in the night, making your evening photographs just as detailed and beautiful as the ones you have taken in the day.

Of course, there will be many other technicalities, but these are certainly the main ones to think about if you want to curate a good Instagram profile. Also, once you get to grips with these, then you will be able to move onto the fun part of photography, which starts with the theme of your profile.

How Do I Create A Profile Theme?

Phone being used to access Instagram

Whilst taking the time to consider your many Instagram pictures, it is also worth taking a step back to look at the bigger, overall picture. Is there any discernible theme to your IG feed?

Achieving (and maintaining) a theme means being a little more discerning about what you post. Although you may live a busy life, that doesn’t mean you should go mad and post everything and anything on your profile. If you do this, then no matter how good the photographs are, your Instagram feed will end up looking unorganised, cluttered and erratic. On the contrary, you should take the time to come up with a consistent Instagram theme.

Take photobooks, for instance. Any ordinary book will be carefully orchestrated, with a central theme from beginning, middle, to end. When you make your photo-book, you want it to have this same kind of consistency, with a clear similarity on each page that tells a clear, concise story of your life. You can do this by choosing a colour pallet which is integrated into every picture, keeping your background colours and tones consistent. Keeping the same lighting, such as the golden hour for natural light, or the same studio bulb for indoor light, can also be crucial for creating a sharp impact. Make sure to choose the best photographs, and remember that you do not have to share everything. If you include only your favourite photographs, all of which with a clear and similar identity, then your portfolio will be sure to excel.

What Sort Of Photographs Should I Be Taking?

This guide is for avid Instagram users who want their life to be as exciting to look at as it is to live. In this way, you should still be taking pictures of what you would usually take pictures of. The key difference is that you are going to do it with professionalism, technicality and a delicacy which will make those photographs shine.

So, what do you normally take pictures of? Well, we can’t tell you that. But if you’re like most other Instagram users then it is likely to be a mix of selfies, fun group photographs or interesting, scenic surroundings. There are many ways to achieve great photography inside those fields, so let’s start with the aforementioned selfie pic.

How Do I Take A Selfie Pic?

It goes without saying that selfies are the most daunting, annoying and oftentimes ego-bursting photographs to take. Especially if you are not naturally photogenic. But there are ways to take better selfies. The truth is, anyone can look good in a selfie pic. You should feel confident in your own skin and have fun with the camera, so make sure to take a few practice runs to find your best side and angle.

Position your phone around the height of your forehead, and lower your chin down a little. Make sure the lighting is not behind you but in front, and also ensure to avoid shadows which will make your features look different and unflattering. Natural lighting is fine for selfies, but if you are going for the professional look, then keep it to indoor lighting, preferably with studio bulbs to accentuate your eye colour and make your skin glisten. Also, remember that old adage of ‘cheese!’. A wide, beautiful smile will brighten up any selfie picture on your Instagram feed. Just don’t actually say ‘cheese’. Seriously, there’s no need. Just be you, be natural, and smile like you normally would in any other situation.

What About Photographs Of My Surroundings?

As mentioned before, gridlines can be a great way to frame up a picture of your surroundings. If you are walking along a particularly beautiful street, then angling the photograph to include certain key subjects can be a good method to give the street justice. If the photograph you are taking, however, does not have many subjects to fill the frame (for instance, a wildlife photograph in the middle of an open vista), then don’t think that this will give you any less of an appealing visual detail. In fact, embracing negative space can be a great way to create a stark, striking photograph. So long as you have a central, main subject, then including negative space will make it stand out and evoke a far stronger reaction from the viewer.

Leading lines can also be visually beautiful. Going back to the street example, if you line up your phone so that the road is leading the viewer vertically through the scene, then that can be perfect for drawing in and keeping their attention. If balanced well, it will also give your photograph a natural sense of depth and symmetry, as one side of the road will look parallel to the other, almost as if they are a mirror image. 

What If I Want To Take Photographs Outside Of My Comfort Zone?

Of course, although we talk about the normal sort of pictures an everyday user will be taking, there is every chance you want to explore beyond your comfort zone. If you have clicked on this link, then you are obviously interested in photography as a hobby, so playing around and having some fun is a good idea to really make use of your passion, whilst also amplifying your Instagram feed in the process.

Taking pictures that are a little more ‘out there’ is a great way to add variety and spice to your Instagram.  Ask your partner or friend to take staged, well framed photographs of you in a natural, comfortable surrounding. Find the perfect pose and take time to orchestrate something which is not limited by how far your arm can reach to snap a selfie.

You should also try to take advantage of things that are happening in the moment, even if they seem a bit mundane. A stick of candy floss at a carnival, or a cute blue moped parked in an otherwise drab parking lot. Use your new technical skills, take out your phone, and give them the photogenic treatment which no-one else would have thought they needed. This can give your feed some variety which may otherwise have been missing. Just make sure to ask the owner of the moped first. If they see you taking a picture of their bike, they might be expecting a call from an insurance company.

Instagram Photography Does Not Have To Be Difficult

When it comes down to it, creating a beautiful Instagram page with gorgeous photography can be easy, especially if you take it seriously. Whether it’s for your friends, family, a photobook, or your own sense of accomplishment, orchestrating a profile full of well-choreographed pictures is a task that anyone is capable of. All it takes is a little perseverance, as well as the time taken to research and digest new information. Make sure to take a look at other Instagram accounts and influencers who can give you inspiration. If you learn a little from as many people as possible, then you can place everything you have absorbed into your own photography and give it your own personal spin.

Social media is such an important part of all of our lives, and so it would be a shame to not make the most of it. Even for your own sake, being able to take a trip down memory lane and look through all of your favourite moments and photographs, sometimes from years ago, can be so much more enjoyable if you took the time to make those photographs as beautiful as possible. A good photograph can capture the beauty of the moment, making it come to life through carefully orchestrated angles, settings, lighting and colour. That is what we should all be striving to achieve with our Instagram photography. The best moments of our lives placed onto the page in the best way possible.


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