You’ve followed some friends and family. You’ve taken some photos and posted some pictures. But the more you look around, the more you’re beginning to realize that while your photos are solid by normal standards, you haven’t really learned how to take good Instagram photos.
And as you look at all the uber-talented, magazine-level photographers in your feed, you realize that you need some tips of the “Instagram for beginners” variety.
How do you guarantee that every photo you take will look fantastic? How can you become the kind of phone photographer whose pictures wouldn’t be out of place in the Best Instagram Photos Hall of Fame?
We’ve put together a helpful guide that will have you taking awesome Instagram photos in no time. Keep reading to learn how you can become the next Instagram-based Wonder Photographer.
Before You Start Taking Photos
When you’re looking at the finished shot on Instagram or social media, it’s easy to forget that excellent Instagram photos begin days, if not months or years, before the moment the actual shot is taken. Here’s what you should do to get your picture-taking process in tip-top shape before you start choosing between filters.
1. Understand Your Reasons For Having an Account
In Ancient Greek times, Aristotle wrote about a concept called “telos”. We’re not going to get too philosophical about it here, but the basic idea is that all things are supposed to have a larger final purpose.
So what does philosophy have to do with taking awesome pictures?
As it turns out, “everything.” Because your larger plan for using Instagram will inform your picture-taking process.
Are you trying to launch a musical career or a business through Instagram? Are you a professional chef who just loves sharing pictures of your elaborate dishes, or are you actually trying to teach people how to replicate your five-star recipes at home?
Once you have a solid understanding of who your Instagram followers are likely to be and what they’re looking for, a lot of the stress around “What pictures should I take?” and “How should I angle this?” will disappear in short order.
2. Check Your Phone Settings
Have you ever set out to complete a task, only to find out later that you had a push-button solution laying around the whole time?
Because modern smartphones are literally so amazing and multi-faceted, it’s easy to overlook key features that you could be using to create next-level art. No, seriously. Directors have shot entire movies with iPhones, and many Instagram photographers are getting jaw-dropping footage through their phones.
You never know when your golden hour photoshoot might start later than expected. And sometimes the most stunning picture-taking opportunities will pop up out of nowhere. Taking a few minutes to browse YouTube and experiment with your phone makes it possible for you to be ready to snap a good shot at any moment.
3. Give Yourself a Few Ground Rules
When you’re watching an artsy film, camera angles and director creativity are all that anyone wants to talk about. But if you’re trying to watch a football game or a cooking show, those creative and interesting angles that left you raving after the film would probably get really old when you’re trying to see what happened on that previous touchdown.
If you’re trying to demonstrate a recipe or crafting idea for your Instagram post, you may want to decide early that if an angle makes it harder for viewers to see what you’re doing, then you won’t take pictures from that side. Or maybe, if you’ve got a fashion account going, you’ll want to avoid taking pictures that are too blurry or that distract from the outfits you’re putting together.
Sometimes the best way to ensure that you’re taking consistently high-quality photos is by taking those extra options off of the table. That way, you’ll know what “rules” you can break. And which ones you’re better off sticking to.
During the Photoshoot
Okay. At this point, you’ve figured out who your account audience is. You’ve gotten to know your phone and your camera settings. And you’ve decided that you’re not going to be that cooking Instagrammer who’s taking panoramic shots while showcasing the next step in your award-winning egg white-beating technique.
What should you be doing once the cameras are out and you’re ready to snap your shot? Here are some tips that you can use to create stunning photos every time.
1. Make Lighting Your Top Priority
If you’ve spent any time googling things like, “How do I look better on camera?” or “How can I take better photos?”, chances are that 100 percent of your sources spent some amount of time talking about the importance of lighting.
Unless you have some sort of a Spielberg-level budget for your films, there’s only so much you can do to add warmth and softness to a picture. However, the “more light is better” philosophy does have some exceptions.
If you’ve got artificial lighting or harsh lighting, you can quickly find that your selfies are showcasing every blemish and post-acne pimple. Talk about embarrassing!
So what can you do to fix these things? For starters, you can take outdoor photos during the brightest times of the day where the sun is shining directly on the subject of your photo. You can also use sideways lighting or three-point lighting systems to create an effortlessly polished look.
The more natural light you can get in your photo, the easier it is to avoid overcompensating with artificial lights, overexposure, or flash.
2. Take a Minute to Think Your Angles Over
Along with her exciting life and her many films, Elizabeth Taylor was considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, not just for her unique violet eyes. But also because she didn’t have a bad camera angle.
While most of us don’t have the luxury of being as photogenic as Elizabeth Taylor, the good news is that we all have certain angles that look the most flattering on us. But even if your Instagram account is primarily focused on landscape shots or your hobbies, it’s still important to think about the story that you’re trying to tell through your photo.
Are you trying to emphasize the new ball of yarn you just bought? Then chances are that you don’t want the yarn to appear blurry in your shot. Is the focus of your picture the footbridge that you just crossed? Then you may want to make a strong statement and center it.
Even though you never know when a photographic moment might happen, don’t hesitate to mull things over for a few seconds. You’ll be happier with your photos when you’ve taken a moment to think about what you’re trying to say with the shot.
4. Be Prepared to Take Multiple Photos
So when you’re browsing through your Instagram feed and trawling through people’s accounts, it’s easy to think that those breath-taking shots were the work of master photographers who took a single shot, did some edits, and had the post up on Instagram the next day.
However, there’s a secret to taking great photos that many would-be Instagrammers don’t know:
You can take tons and tons of shots before choosing the best ones possible.
If you book a photographer for a wedding or newborn shoot, you don’t expect it to be a five or ten-minute affair. As a matter of fact, these shoots can take several hours or even an entire day.
Unless Instagram is your full-time job, you probably don’t want to take that much time at it. But the point still stands: don’t expect your first photo or even your tenth photo to be the one that makes you say, “Yes! This one’s the one!”. Sometimes you just have to take multiple shots and go from there.
So you’ve snapped some pictures. Perfected your settings. And you’ve picked a few angles that you’ve fallen in love with. But are you really ready to share your masterpiece with the world? Here are some tips and tricks that you can use to give your Instagram photos that pro-level polish:
1. Think About Your Depth and Layering
If every picture was a straightforward, front-facing shot, Instagram would be a pretty boring place. Like an onion or a person who only speaks up when they have something interesting to say, you want your photos to have a bit of variety and interest to them. And one way to do that is to think of ways to draw the eye.
Can you bring certain parts of your image into sharper focus? Can you crop the photo so that your main focus is ultimately off-center?
Every decision you make here should have a point to it. And even if your compositions tend to follow a similar formula, there’s something to be said for the importance of making sure that your material is consistent.
However, if you see opportunities to introduce patterns, symmetry, or new ideas to your picture, your editing process is your chance to make those things happen.
2. Understand Your Point of Interest
What would the Harry Potter series be if you ditched Harry Potter and the gang? Would you even want to watch a movie that didn’t have any protagonist?
Photography has a storytelling element to it that’s surprisingly similar to what you’d expect from any other form of entertainment.
If your post and captions are detailing all the steps you took to hike up that path, you might not want to choose a picture that seems totally irrelevant. Or, if you got an amazing photo of Fido doing adorable doggy things, the last thing you want is to end up with a shot that features the ground behind him.
Sometimes playing around with the design and going a bit off-kilter can add an element of interest to your photos. But you generally don’t want your account to be known as one where the photos, the posts, and the captions are all slightly off in some way.
3. Get To Know a Good Photo Editing Software
Sometimes you can do everything right. The subject of your photo is bang on. Your captions are perfect. And you’ve got the stunning lighting and the incredible angles to prove it. But even so, you just can’t help but feel like you need to do a little more touch-up in order to take your photo from “Good” to “Wow!”.
No problem. That’s what photo editing software is for.
There are entire professions that revolve around being excellent with PhotoShop. But if all you’re trying to do is fix a few blemishes or play around with a few more filters, you can’t go wrong learning how to use photo editing software. You’ll get a stunning Instagram feed out of it and a professional skillset.
Talk about a win-win!
4. Do More of What Your Followers Like
Have you ever wondered why some accounts are able to take nice pictures and build massive follower counts, while other businesses just haven’t been able to get the same amount of traction? While you can buy Instagram followers and participate in like-for-like deals, these differences often boil down to the fact that successful accounts have perfected the art of giving people what they want.
Although you probably don’t want to be one of those people who’s obsessed with social media stats and likes, you may want to take a few minutes and study your track record from time to time. See what photos have gotten the most likes. And see what’s been working and what hasn’t.
It’s an exercise that won’t take long to do, but the informal feedback can tell you a lot about how you can maximize engagement on your account.
This is How to Take Good Instagram Photos
There’s a lot of good advice out there on how to take good Instagram photos. Avoid overexposure. Take pictures in good sunlight. Study your angles.
But the key to bringing it all together and becoming an Instagram pro simply comes down to practice and repetition. The more time you spend taking photos and getting good at editing them, the more your increased skill level should be reflected in your account.
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