Tips for taking great Instagram photos on the go
With over 200 million users, Instagram is now one of the most popular social media apps, doing for photography what Twitter did for blogging – giving users a mass platform with which to easily take, edit and share micro content. Modelled on the Polaroid photos of old, Instagram photos and videos are a distinctive square shape, with the added bonus of a set of packaged ‘filters’, which can be used to easily enhance your pictures. Whether you just want to share great looking photos of your activities with your friends and family, or if you’re just aiming for more followers, there are a few basic tips that will help you take great Instagram photos wherever you are.
Photography basics and Instagram specifics
In one of our last blog posts, we discussed a few ways you can improve your outdoor photography. Two of the most relevant here include abiding the ‘golden hours’ rule and the ‘rule of thirds’ – respectively due to smartphone cameras generally being lower quality than digital cameras (though this is changing), and due to the peculiarly square nature of an Instagram snap. Continuing with our casual photography series, we want to explore the specificities of ‘Instagramming’ when you’re on the move. It’s good to be familiar with these photography basics, but there’s also a few rules specific to phone pictures, and Instagram in particular.
Use your inbuilt camera app
One secret great ‘Instagrammers’ keep is that they don’t actually use Instagram to take most of their photographs: they use the native camera app that came with the smartphone. There’s a number of distinct advantages to this, and it feeds into the other tips we will be discussing. Firstly, although Instagram is certainly a well-built and well-optimised app, it is usually slower to start up than native smartphone apps. This can be a disadvantage for taking photos on the move, as you may miss a once-in-a-lifetime shot just waiting for Instagram to load. Secondly, it allows you to edit your photos using other software before uploading it to Instagram. Although the editing technology on Instagram is easy to use, there’s thousands of better (free) third-party photo editing apps available on the app store, such as VSCO Cam, available on Android and iPhone. If you’re a Windows Phone user, most of them carry an inbuilt Nokia photo editing feature, which is being constantly improved with each update. These apps will allow you greater control over things like contrast, sharpness, colour and focus. Finally, because Instagram utilises an exclusively square frame, it can crop out a large portion of the image you’re trying to capture. This isn’t a bad thing in itself, but it can make controlling composition and following the rule of thirds more difficult. Once you’ve taken a photo on your native camera app, you can easily import it into Instagram and crop it then. This allows you to reflect on the image and gives you more options when it comes to editing.
Don’t rely too heavily on filters
Contrary to popular belief, many great Instagram users don’t actually use the filters built into the app! Filters can quickly and effectively improve an image to a massive degree, but they’re no substitute for excellent photography. If you get good at the technical aspects of taking a photo, the rest will follow. Composition is perhaps the most important aspect of Instagrams and photography as a whole, and there are a number of ways you can improve your composition. This is an excellent guide to square composition, which is highly relevant to Instagram. One important general lesson from it is that, once you’ve learned the basics of photography, you can actually begin to play with convention. This is when your photos will go from being good to being truly unique and artistic. You can also manipulate light to make your Instagrams ‘pop’. Think about light in terms of direction, shadow, and depth. The direction that light is hitting a subject from will hugely effect how it appears in a photograph. For example, light straight onto an object will flatten the image as a whole, and give the image a greater texture. Light from behind a subject will create a lot of shadow facing the image, which can be used to create silhouettes and dramatic settings. For more on lighting, check out this guide. By following a few of these tips, you can really take your Instagram photos to the next level. These general guidelines are broad enough to apply to many different photography situations, which is greatly suited to a day out where you might be moving from the countryside (where you may take photos of a landscape) to a pub or restaurant (where you might want to engage in the popular pastime of taking Instagrams of your food) or to an urban setting. The less you rely on the app’s features, the more unique your photos will be and the more your friends and family can enjoy seeing your experiences. Remember to charge and maximise your phone’s battery to enjoy our touring app and Instagram.