25 Tips to Be a Better Instagrammer

Is your feed cluttered with selfies and food photos? Shake things up with these 25 tips to make your posts the subject of Insta-envy.

Despite their casual nature, social media sites have become a public reflection of who we are. And Instagram is no exception. What used to be a source of just selfies and foodies, Instagram is now a place potential employers, boyfriends, and roommates go to get a good idea of who you are. If your feed is flooded with blurry photos of your last girls’ night, you could be giving them the wrong impression.

Social media has become the new self-marketing tool of this decade. Designers use it to promote their websites, stores use it to market their latest products, and fitness instructors use it grab more clients. Whatever your market is, it’s time to put a little more thought and love into the pictures you post.

girl in polka dot shoes sitting on a staircase

Showcasing the places you go, the people you love, and the ways you enjoy spending your time will create a truer — and more in focus — image of who you are. Follow these 25 tips and tricks to make your feed one you would like to follow.

#1 Look at Your Subject Through the Camera

Instead of picturing what you want the image you’re photographing to look like, actually take a look at it! Sometimes I get so caught up in what I think I’m trying to create that I completely ignore the beauty that’s already in front of me.

Use this tip when you’re photographing inanimate objects, too. You can experiment with moving them around and changing up the scenery to capture the perfect photo.

#2 Use Natural Light if Possible

Even when I’m shooting something inside, I try to find the closest window. Even just a little bit of natural light can create warmer tones that are flattering for photos of people. Indoor lighting can be improved with editing. I would avoid using flash if possible, especially when shooting people, because it tends to wash out skin tones.

#3 Experiment with Different Heights and Angles

Some things look better from down below or up high. Get creative by shooting down on the ground or grab a stool and get some height. I find this tip works when I photograph home décor. The book arrangement I made next to my bed looks more creative when I’m taking it from the view of the floor rather than on my feet.

It’s easy to get stuck taking photos head on, so make a point to be weird and try some new angles. You might be surprised at what you find.

#4 Use the Environment as a Natural Reflector

I use this tip from one of my favorite blogs, A Beautiful Mess. Since Instagram photos are usually taken with phones, reflectors are hardly ever used to create good lighting. So when I’m out and about, looking for the perfect Insta-spot, I try to find a light-colored wall directly across from me. Having the extra stream of light brightens the subject and casts a pretty glow across it.

#5 Take a Lot of Photos

Very rarely do I get the photo I’m going to post on my first try. There’s really no rule on how many photos you should take, but I recommend taking a ton just so you have a lot to work with. It’s always good to have options.

#6 Use Editing Apps

girl in shark shirt outfit

I have to give Instagram some credit. Their editing options have really improved since they first launched. In Instagram, I can change the contrast, brightness, saturation, and still use a filter if I want to. Recently, I think I’ve kinda outgrown the filters. When I first started posting, I thought they were a neat and easy way to add some flair to my photos. Lately, I’ve added even more flair to my images with apps like VSCO, Afterlight, and Snapseed.

#7 Play with the Brightness and Contrast

Sometimes I don’t want to do too much editing to my original photo, but I never post anything without slightly adjusting the contrast, brightness and exposure in VSCO. When I have a photo that’s just slightly too dark or too light, these three adjustments help to make the picture Insta-worthy. Usually I use VSCO settings, but the options are also available in Instagram.

#8 Don’t be Afraid of Intense Color

I recently took a photography class with a professor who wanted every photo to look super realistic and took the color out of everything. I’m the exact opposite.

Photography is art! Make it wild and colorful if that’s what you want! Personally, I think color is more appealing to the eye. Use the saturation option in Instagram editing. If you try VSCO, play with the tint, highlight tint, and shadow tint options.

#9 Sometimes Black and White Solves the Blur

When I have a photo that I love but is a little blurry, I always try it in black and white. Though it might not work every time, it usually improves it enough to make the photo okay for Instagram. There are a few B&W options in Instagram, VSCO, Snapseed, and Afterlight.

#10 Look for Shade

When you’re photographing outside, try to avoid direct sunlight. It can cause weird shadows across faces and usually makes your subject squinty. If a shady tree or overhang is available, take advantage of it.

#11 Try a Variety of Distances

daydreamer spoon closeup

Get up close to a subject or grab some distance. I always experiment with a bunch of different distances so I have a lot to work with. When I’m shooting outfit photos, I know it’s important to get close for detail shots of the jewelry I’m wearing or my shoes. But when I want to get a whole outfit in, especially when I’m dealing with the Insta-crop, I know I need to get a lot of distance.

#12 One Hour Before and After Sunrise/Sunset is the Golden Hour

When I know I want to post an outfit photo or do some sort of portrait shot, I wait till the golden hour to shoot it. The hour before and after the sunrise and sunset is perfect for outdoor lighting. Personally, I haven’t been able to wake up in time for the sunrise, but the sunset hours produce a golden light that comes across beautifully in photos. The soft light of the low sun is much more flattering than the super-bright midday sun.

#13 Don’t Judge a Location by its Environment

Some of the best photos I’ve taken were in the creepiest, almost ugliest places that just happened to have one really cool feature. My friends and I shot a few photos outside this sleazy motel because it was painted this awesome fluorescent purple color.

While I walk around, I always scout for cool photo spots. It’s important to search for the diamond in the rough.

#14 Learn the Art of Backlighting

When that sun is super bright and everything is coming washed out, try a different approach. Put your subject directly in front of the sun so their back is to it. Doing this will help to prevent the sun from taking over the photo and create a pretty light leak behind your subject.

#15 Shoot Vertically

dog sitting on a white carpet

Though I love horizontal photos, they are not Insta-friendly. The square crop usually has me picking and choosing which part of the photo I want to show. Vertical images are much easier to work with. iPhones now come with a square crop already built in to the camera, which is perfect for Instagram. But I often use my photos for my blog and other social media where square photos just don’t look as good. If you want to include the whole photo on Instagram, you can use apps like Squareready to make the picture fit.

#16 Tap Your Screen

If you’re finding that your photos are consistently coming out blurry and out of focus, you might be missing a key step in your picture-taking process. Tapping your phone screen when you open up your camera app focuses the lens onto the area of the photo that you tapped. It also helps to control the lighting, even though there’s very little wiggle room in most camera phones.

#17 Take Photos with the Right Camera

When I first started Instagramming, I was only using the app’s camera and not my phone’s. Though Instagram’s camera has improved since the app began, the camera in your iPhone or Android has a better quality. You can also shoot a bunch of pictures really quickly, which helps because no one gets it on the first try – not even the pros.

#18 Follow Inspirational Posters

My favorite thing about Instagram is seeing the world through the eyes of someone else. It’s beneficial to get another perspective that I might not have seen before. It’s also a great way to feel inspired! I’m always checking the “explore” tab on my Instagram to refresh my feed with different photos. Some of my favorite gems are @dearleila, @ladyhummingbird_ and @sahara_ray.

#19 Get Creative with the “Selfie”

Snapping a few selfies when you’re feeling cute isn’t a bad thing. But it’s time to step up your game! Instead of a quick shot of just my face, I like to have someone else take a few photos of me. Photos of people are always more interesting because you not only get to see their outfits and body expressions, but the background adds a lot of interest. If you don’t have anyone with you, download a self-timer camera app and start the photo shoot.

#20 Use the Built-in Grid Feature

half of watermelon

I usually use this feature when I trying to take a photo of items laid out on a surface because it makes it easier to line them up. Sometimes what I think I’m shooting in my head does not come across as visually appealing as I think it will. In comes the grid feature! The lines help me to literally line up my objects in a very symmetrical and pretty way.

#21 Loose Photo Clutter

Sometimes I have a tendency to cram a bunch of pieces into one photo. If you’re photographing a room or a scene, pick one thing to be the focus. Then only allow in items that compliment it rather than overpower it.

#22 Don’t Ignore a Clever Caption

In other words, avoid using song lyrics unless you’re still in high school. It’s Instagram, so your caption doesn’t have to be written in perfect grammar and MLA format. I actually think a little slang works best for captions. Just make sure everything is spelled correctly to avoid the annoying social media grammar police. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to come up with something awesome, but still challenge yourself to be creative.

#23 Practice, Practice, Practice

It took me awhile to really grasp what type of photos my followers enjoyed seeing. Even now I’m playing around with ways to make things more appealing. It just takes time and a bunch of photographing to make progress. Don’t get discouraged if you’re photos aren’t getting a ton of likes just yet. You’ll get there!

#24 Imitate Your Idols

Now, I’m not encouraging copycats, but when I see a photo that I just absolutely love, I ask myself what it is about it I like. Then I take that notion and apply it to my next photographs to see what I get. It could be the same style of photograph, but because I’m taking it, I still make sure to add in my own flair.

#25 Be Yourself

I know it’s cheesy, but Instagram is a really cool outlet to let the world know how you see things. It’s important to keep yourself in check and make sure you’re still posting things you like and not just posting to get likes. Get creative when your Instagramming and always strive to be original. Remember, people are following you because they want to see what you like. So show them.

I hope you’ve found some inspiration in these tips. Why not share some of your favorite Instagrams and ideas that you love. Happy snapping!

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About the author

Emily Blackwood

A twenty-something, recent grad and entry-level employee, I enjoy cheap ways to feel fancy. My name is Emily Blackwood and I'm always hunting for ways to be better. I like to spend my time getting lost in Pinterest, Tina Fey anything and my Rottweiler Bear's eyes.

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