Ohhhh Instagram. Why are you such a predicament!? 90% of the time I’d say that I love Instagram but there is definitely 10% of me that is on the fence sometimes/actually hates it because of the anxiety it can cause. I absolutely love discovering things on Instagram like wedding inspiration or a new restaurant to try (you should see my screenshots file of photos on my phone!). Instagram is also such a powerful tool for promoting yourself, discovering new things/places/companies, and keeping up with people. So, while I’m no expert, I’m going to share my Instagram tips and tricks including editing photos, creating the perfect Instagram feed, and growing your Instagram.
Taking Instagram Photos:
This is the most important point I’ll write in this post: lighting in everything! The best photos are shot in natural light without artificial light. To make photos even better, shoot your photos in natural light with natural light spilling in on both sides of the subject (whether it is a person, an object, or a scene in your home). The best time of day to take photos is, of course, golden hour! Golden hour isn’t just a saying, it’s a real thing and it takes place the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. Lighting is softest during golden hour and you avoid the shadows that you get during the middle of the day when the harsh sun is overhead. Also, if you take iPhone photos and it’s too dark they will come out looking grainy and yellowish. If you’re me, then you REALLY struggle with the whole light thing in the winter because I barley get home from work in time to take photos or shoot outfit photos before the sun sets (the struggle is real!).
Never ever zoom in on your iPhone when taking photos. It brings down the quality of photos and pixelates them a ton. Instead, get as close as you can to the subject you are shooting or go in and crop the photo when you are editing it. I always shoot photos in the full frame on my iPhone and then crop them to a square later if I want.
Also, think about things like the composition of your photos. Everyone develops their own unique style but some things to keep in mind are: how much white space do you have? How busy or simple is your photo? If you shoot a lifestyle shot, how many objects are in it? etc. I would recommend striving for a balance of objects and white space and always keep in mind the rule of thirds.
Editing Instagram Photos:
I’ve been using the same app for ages now, in part because I’m so comfortable with it and in part because I think it works great. So, what editing app do I use? I use Afterlight! However, I also use VSCO Cam. In fact, I will often put a photo through both apps when editing. I know what you’re thinking… it sounds like such a time suck and, you’re right, it is. If the extra 5 minutes of editing though makes the photo then it’s worth it, right? It is for me! Below if a before and after shot of a photo I snapped on my iPhone of cocktails and chips + guac. I used both VSCO and Afterlight to get my edit right.
I like VSCO because of the filters. They can totally make a photo for me. A tip: I recently learned that the most popular VSCO filter is A6… yup, it’s one you have to buy, woof! If you use VSCO or are playing around with it, then you might agree with me here – I think that the changes between each level (the dots on the editing spectrum when in a filter) are too extreme from one level to the next so I’m iffy about VSCO sometimes.
I like Afterlight because it is so user friendly and I like the editing options. My general formula is to brighten my photos and add blue into my photos (because it makes my photos look whiter and eliminates a lot of the yellow in my photos). I brighten every photo I post. I will also tweak the clarity, saturation, and contrast of my photos in Afterlight.
Other Instagram filtering apps to look into are Snapseed, A Color Story, and Camera+.
Creating the Perfect Instagram Feed:
Yes, each individual photo is very important but how do all your photos look together on your feed? Do you have a cohesive look or does it look like a scattered mess? If you didn’t answer with “a cohesive look,” then you maybe, might want to read this. The Instagram feeds you love the most are probably your best friend’s feed and then the feeds with cohesive looks. Your Instagram grid = the first impression people have of you and your blog/company/brand so listen up about one of my most important Instagram tips and tricks!
There are a number of ways to create a cohesive look on your Instagram feed. First off, decide what your look is. Do you love bright colors like A Beautiful Mess and Jennifer Lake or do you like more neutrals like Happily Grey and Sincerely Jules? From there, a great way to organize your feed is by color. Creating a flow of color goes something like this: 1) post a series of photos that have pink as the prominent color 2) in your last pink photo have a pop of blue 3) then start to post a series of photos that have blue as the prominent color in them. Allison Norton does a great job of creating a cohesive Instagram feed based on the progression of color.
Another way to organize your feed is to do it by subject matter. So, post a natural flow of photos from your workweek in a group and then post a group of photos from your weekend trip. Keeping the subject matters separate is better than mixing them all in because your followers will get confused with where you are/what you are doing. (A secret: I really struggle with this because I am constantly trying to post photos from the blog (that might not be in real time) and have them blend with what I’m actually doing.)
My main tip for organizing your Instagram feed is to alternate between posting people and other compositions. For instance, my feed will look like this: photo of people, photo of a thing, photo of people, photo of a scene, photo of people, photo of a close-up outfit piece, photo of people, photo of a thing. To help me do this, I use the app Planoly, which allows me to see what my feed will look like before I post photos. Planoly does cost money but it’s such a helpful tool because you can also schedule photos, draft captions, keep up with your comments, and see some of your Insta stats. If you don’t want to pay, you can use UNUM or Mosaico for a similar experience but, after using all of then, I do really think Planoly is the best!
Growing Your Instagram Feed:
The Instagram tips and tricks continue! Always do these 4 things: tag, mention, geotag, hashtag, be consistent, and think about timing.
Tag every person, brand, company, and location (if your location has an Instagram account) in the photo. This way it will show up on their Instagram feeds in their tagged photos, which will make you more discoverable.
Mention people, brands, companies, and/or locations in photo comments. Hopefully brands (etc.) will see this as a notification (before it gets buried in their notifications) and will look into you and your account.
Geotag your photos especially when you are doing things like traveling or trying a new restaurant. People use Instagram now as a sort of search engine so people search by location. You will be more discoverable if your photos are searchable for popular places and locations.
Hashtag, hashtag, hashtag. Instagram allows you to post 30 hashtags per photo. I know 30 sounds like a lot but you can get up to 30 hashtags way more easily than you think. Hashtags are such a easy way to search things on Instagram and thus be discovered. Spend a little time researching popular hashtags for things like travel and eating out. Lots of websites have their own hashtag too that they encourage people to use like #LCdotcomloves for LaurenConrad.com and #flashesofdelight for the Glitter Guide. Brands will also often use hashtags so search brand accounts before you post and include brand hashtags anytime you wear a particular brand. J.Crew is a great example of a brand with hashtags. They use #shinyponies for Instagrams of just their shoes (I was featured once for using this hashtag!).
Being consistent is as simple as creating a posting schedule and sticking to it. I try to Instagram once a day. So, I always try to stick to that schedule as my followers have come to know and expect that they will see a photo a day from me. Other bloggers post twice a day and others post even more frequently. Regardless of how often you post, be sure to stay consistent. You will loose followers if you generally post once a day and then you go radio silent for a week and don’t post at all.
Timing can be crucial. You can post the same photo at 6pm on a Tuesday and at 11am on a Friday and have it perform completely differently. Keep track of when you post your Instagrams and see what times perform the best for you with likes and comments. If this task sounds too daunting, you can use the app Iconosquare to help. Iconosquare will create a timetable chart of the week for you and tell you which times on which days are the best and worst for you to post. Iconosquare also helps you keep track of things like followers lost and followers gained. The app used to be free but now costs a little bit of money (woof!) so determine if it’s right for you.
I hope y’all found this Instagram tips and tricks post helpful! Be sure to follow along with me on Instagram. I’d love to have you!