These days we all take photos with our smartphones, but the results can sometimes feel a bit disappointing. Especially when you look on photo sharing sites like Instagram which is full of bright vibrant images, lots of which are claimed to have been taken on a smartphone.
Personally, I shoot on an iPhone 6, which you could say makes me an ‘iPhoneographer’ (it’s a real thing I promise!). But regardless of which smartphone or camera you’re using there are a few simple tips that can help you make the most of your photos and get a great Instagram feed
Life before I joined Instagram…
For me, Instagram was something I saw cool folk using from their iPhones and it seemed to have an air of ‘geek chic’ about it. At times that was a bit intimidating- especially when I was off on maternity leave; I didn’t think my life at home with endless feeds and nappy changes was cool enough compared to my friends that seemed to be out and about in London, Paris, well, anywhere other than Maidenhead really…
Nowadays you can get Instagram on iPhone, on Android, and you can even get it on Windows phones now too. So it’s everywhere, accessible to us all.
But I don’t think I’m the only one that has felt a bit intimidated by it as I often see people join and then not post anything (or just post a photo of what they’re having for tea, or duplicates of photos they’ve stuck on Facebook already) so I’ve put together a few ideas to get you thinking and hopefully to help make you a bit more confident about sharing photos. Bear in mind these are just my humble opinions, I’m very aware that its not only a social site, but a creative and photography site too so there shouldn’t really be any rules!
1. Have a workflow
Oooh, now doesn’t that make you sound like a professional photographer already!
All that this means really is that you need to think about what you shoot, edit and then post. Take your time over it instead of uploading every photo you take straight to Instagram. I like to take lots of photos, choose a favourite, edit in an App like Snapseed or PicTapGo and then upload to Instagram. The beauty of this is that you can then keep your originals on your camera roll ready to use elsewhere like on Facebook or on your blog as well as sharing them on Instagram.
If that sounds too long winded then you can go straight to Instagram and use their effects on their own. I like to think it’s worth taking a bit of time over it though!
2. Be Selective
Imagine that you’re the editor of a glossy magazine and you’re looking for a shot for the front cover or to catch people’s eye as they read an article. If you’ve taken 5 or 6 shots of the kids having fun in the park, work out which one of those shots is the ‘killer photo’. Edit it if you need to, save it and then crop it into a square before you upload it to Instagram and then move onto your next inspiration. (It can be really hard to decide, but it’s worth it!)
For me, Instagram is about bold statements, not narrative so you don’t need to upload lots of versions of the same shot. Save those similar shots for your Facebook album if you want to show people more than one photo, or make a collage photo using an app like Pic Frame or Collage.
3. Get Creative
This is the most important, but sometimes trickiest bit to master.
Getting creative doesn’t just mean ‘add a sepia tint’ to your photo, although we’re probably all guilty of trying to do that sometimes. Instead, I think you need to look at the photo, decide what it is about the photo that you like – decide what it was that caught your eye in the first place, and then look at how it could be enhanced- if its something brightly coloured then use the different filters to accentuate. I find that even the drabbest of grey skys can look great with the help of a bit of editing – I love the ‘Drama’ filter in Snapseed.
Instagram is a creative space so people won’t be judging you for enhancing you photos or making them look unrealistic, you can be as arty as you like. That’s one of the things I love about it: it can be quite liberating to have complete creative free reign!
Here are some of my ‘before and afters’. For me its all about colour and crop!
4. Add a caption. And a hashtag!
Don’t just post a photo without telling the viewer a bit about it. Tell us what’s in the shot, tag yourself at the location, tease us, talk to us. It’s all part of the fun! Look at what you’ve taken a photo of and add hashtags as labels eg ‘sunset’. That way other people will be able to find your images and you’ll broaden your Instagram circle by being able to find other people with similar creative styles and inspirations too. You can search for hashtags in the Instagram app on your phone, or you can try a site like Iconosquare to guide you on popular hashtags being used around the world.
5. It’s cool to be square
The square crop took me a while to get my head round. Years of using my ‘big’ camera for landscapes and travel photography meant that I would take photos using as wide an angle as possible. It was all about sky, clouds and architecture for me. I wasn’t used to getting so close to the action or singling one thing out to focus on. Plus, these all needed my SLR, my tripod and a very expensive lens! Not to mention a computer and expensive software to edit them.
But there’s a simple answer to working within squares…. decide what it is that’s caught your eye and then get VERY close to it. Don’t use the zoom feature on your smartphone as you’ll just be reducing the quality of the image. Use your feet, crouch down, stand on tip toe, whatever it takes to mean you get a great shot.
6. Still stuck for ideas?
Just have a go. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you have anything inspirational or photogenic to post – don’t get photographer’s block like I did to begin with. Remember that Instagram is a global community so what’s mundane and terribly British to you (rain, brollies, wellies, puddles, and then rain again) might be uber cool to someone on the other side of the equator. Just look for patterns, colours, shapes, anything that catches you eye and be creative.
If you’re still stuck for inspiration then I can recommend a book which I came across last week and that will look great on your coffee table, that is if you’re lucky enough to live in a house where its possible to have a coffee table without everything getting little finger prints all over it. (I don’t!)
It’s a great one to add to your Christmas or Birthday wish list too.
It’s called ‘A Beautiful Mess’ and is written (and photographed!) by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman. They write a great blog which you can find here and as they say in their book ”We may not be professional photographers, but we are in love with photographing everyday life, and that’s what this book is all about”. Nice work ladies!
I really hope that something here has inspired you to get snapping and get uploading, and, *crosses fingers*, not just photos of what you’re having for tea (although I admit, it IS exciting when you’re in a posh restaurant and the food arrives, you just don’t ALWAYS have to take a photo of it!)
Come and join me on Instagram
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