How To Take The Perfect Instagram Photo
The advent of the smartphone has turned us all into photographers. Gone are the days when we would encounter those moments that made you wish you had a camera on hand. Instead, our phones can easily capture those candid, unexpected and artful moments we come across.
While Instagram has certainly been critiqued for cheapening the art of photography, bad images on Instagram are the fault of the user just as bad photography is the fault of the photographer. Instagram is certainly not the best app for editing your pictures, but its popularity lies in its social aspect.
By taking good images, you convey your story effectively and draw people in. Essentially, the same principles of traditional photography should be applied to mobile photography.
Good Lighting = Good Photos
Good photos are made with good lighting. Before you start taking photos, look a little closer and notice when the light is falling nicely on everyday objects. To use the phone’s built-in light sensor, tap the area on screen where you want to expose to lock the focus and exposure. When you’re taking outdoor shots for example, tap the sky to keep it exposed and to retain the definition in the clouds. If your image is a little dark, use the rise filter to brighten it up.
Focus On Composition
Pay attention to the rule of thirds and try to get your lines straight. If that isn’t possible, you can straighten your image with one of the apps featured further below.
One of the annoying things about Instagram is that it will crop your image into a square so always shoot with this in mind. When taking your photo, take it wider than normal to compensate for losing the sides. Alternatively, you can use the free app Squaready. This app adds white letter boxing to your wide/tall image that blends with Instagram’s background, as opposed to the unattractive black letter boxing that Instagram uses.
Look For Different Perspectives
We’re all used to viewing things from a normal standing height, so don’t be afraid to try out different angles. One of the easiest ways to creating a new and different perspective is by putting the camera down low close to the ground. Getting down low is especially important when your subject is a child or pet.
Lux is a contrast enhancement feature represented by a sun icon in the bottom left corner of the app. This little gem is addictive and a great asset to have, but use it carefully. It works best on images shot outdoors in natural light, so avoid using it with artificial lighting or portraits!
Use Blur Effect
The blur option can be found second from top right on the app screen (raindrop icon). Use the circle in the drop-down menu to choose the subject in your image to direct focus on, leaving the rest of the image blurred. Use this only with either circular objects or when your subject is against a plain even background. Otherwise, you will have a hard unnatural edge where an object in the foreground is both in and out of focus.
Use the top rectangular tool in the drop-down menu to create a tilt-shift effect (i.e. keeping only the centre of your image in focus with the top and bottom blurred). Use this to create depth in your image and make your subject really stand out.
The trick to making this look natural is to identify discreet lines and edges. In the example here, the grass horizon line provides a natural edge.
Some of the filters also come with frames incorporated, from paint-brushed to vintage and black and white, to give an artistic feel. Sometimes they’re not needed and you can turn this off through the frame button located at the top left of your screen.
Save Image Without Posting It
To edit, add a filter and save an image without actually posting it onto Instagram, switch your phone into “Airplane mode” in settings. When you click share, it will automatically be saved to your camera roll without posting.
Take Multiple Shots
When capturing an image, never be satisfied with the first few shots you take. Keep snapping, and change the angle or composition while doing so. Personally, I usually find that I’ll have taken between five and ten images before I’m satisfied with one.
Experiment With Filters
Always try out different things to see what looks good, but practice restraint. There is always the temptation to over-process, but remember that a filter won’t make a bad picture good. Make sure you’re happy with the image you’ve taken first before you decide to add one on, and ensure that the filter complements the image too.
Use hashtags so that your images show up in more searches. This is a great way to build up new followers and share your photos with more people. Keep your tags relevant and targeted to help attract followers who will take a genuine interest in your photos. Also, pay attention to other people’s hashtags to discover new ones you hadn’t thought of.
There are many (better) apps for editing and enhancing your photos before you post them onto Instagram. A lot of these apps now share directly to Instagram and many of them are like having a mini Photoshop on your phone. I always use multiple apps and a combination of techniques for each individual image. Here are a few choice apps that will enhance your images.
Snapseed (â‚¬4.49/$4.99 for iOS) has many great features to enhance your image before posting including tuning, straightening as well as different vintage and grunge styles. You can make a wide variety of adjustments making this a versatile tool for improving photos.
Filterstorm (â‚¬2.99/$3.99 for iOS) contains many powerful tools including layers, curves manipulation, colour correction, noise reduction and image sharpening. Another good app to download is VSCO Cam, (â‚¬0.89/$0.99 for iOS), which has an array of processing options.
Camera+, (â‚¬0.89/$0.99 for iOS) has a 30sec timer delay to allow for getting in front of the lens yourself. Furthermore, it allows you to set your exposure separately from the focus. It also has a grid to line up your shots as well as a multitude of effects including your typical “Grunge” and “HDR” styles. For light effects like lens flares and those light spots, known as bokeh lights, try LensFlare (â‚¬0.99/$0.99 for iOS) and LensLight (â‚¬0.89/$0.99 for iOS).
Phonto (Free for iOS and Android) is a great free app to add text to your images. Kerning, spacing, size, colour are all changeable within the app and you can install your own fonts too.
And the last tip: Be an opportunist! Learn to see things in a different way as you never know when something might happen.