The day I downloaded the Instagram app is a memorable one because it snowed! I was beside myself with excitement at the prospect of being able to apply all those filters to such a picturesque scene. Since then Instagram has become a huge part of my daily life, it is hands down, my favourite social media channel. Sure, it’s owned by Facebook and there is a bit of cynicism around it but it remains a friendly place (for most of us) where people are generally very nice and you can find a daily dose of inspiration in those small but perfectly formed squares.
Let me start by saying that I only use my iPhone to take photographs, I own a couple of cameras but I like the practicality and immediacy of using my phone. I have always enjoyed experimenting with photography but when I started blogging as Tinker Tailor Online I realised that I had to up my game. My images were inconsistent and lacked the style that I wanted to develop.
There is an awful lot of advice online that is very helpful, both Emily Quinton and The Online Stylist have written excellent posts here and here and if you head over to Me & Orla you will find the answer to almost every question you could possibly have about Instagram – her blog is a real gem, do have a look. I have learnt so much about Instagram from workshops and various bloggers who are kind enough to share their knowledge that I feel it is my duty to pass it on. If you are hoping to improve the overall look of your Instagram gallery for whatever reason, then this post is for you.
- Natural light: I cannot emphasise enough the difference that natural light will make to your photographs. I’d go so far as to say that if you haven’t got good natural light you should try again another day or move to another room if necessary. I realise this may not always be possible and of course it entirely depends on what you use Instagram for but if you want to create a beautiful feed, I would recommend that you steer clear of unnatural light. Early mornings and late afternoons are known as the magic hour because the light tends to be bright but not too harsh. I usually take my photos at these times and move to the front or the back of my house depending on the time of day to catch the best light.
- Shooting: You probably know this already but don’t take photographs using the Instagram in-app camera as the quality of the image just isn’t as good. Always hold your phone completely straight when taking a photo, if your hand is slightly tilted and your phone isn’t parallel with what you are trying to shoot you will end up with odd-looking photos. Tap the screen to focus and click away! It might take 20 shots of the same thing to find the right image, take your time and edit later.
- Edit outside Instagram: That’s right folks, don’t use the Instagram filters. Things might change in the future but at the moment Instagram doesn’t give you much control in terms of editing. It’s better to use an app such as VSCO (which I love and use all the time) PicTapGo or Snapseed for example. Editing apps take a little getting used to but I promise that once you get the hang of it you’ll be thrilled with the results. Most of the time I just turn up the exposure and contrast and I’m pretty much good to go.
- Filters: It’s easy to get carried away with filters, they are so clever, so convenient, so versatile. My tip here is narrow down the filters that you like (you probably already have a top two or three) and stick to them! Your feed will look cohesive and much more stylish if you use the same filter time and time again.
- Flatlays and style: Flatlays are enormous fun and can be incredibly beautiful but they can be tricky to execute well. Putting a few things on a surface and taking a photo should be simple – and it is if you follow steps 1 to 4 AND if you have some handy props hanging around the place. For a white background I use an off-cut of my glossy white kitchen units, yes really. You can use pretty much anything as a background: trays, fabric and pretty wrapping paper all work well. In terms of composing your image, think about the message you want to convey and add props that might be appropriate, also think about the colours that you like and consistently include them in your photos. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that plants, flowers, stationery and cups of tea are my thing so they tend to feature heavily. Finally I’d suggest taking time to examine your favourite Instagram feeds and think about what appeals to you, having a clear understanding of what you like will help you to develop your own personal style. The key here is to experiment, play around with lighting, props and locations and you’ll see the difference in no time.
I know this post is a little longer than usual but I hope you found it helpful. I have attended workshops at Emily Quinton’s Makelight Studio and at Hero, they both really helped to set me up on my Insta journey, I would wholeheartedly recommend them both. If you have any Instagram or blog related questions for me, leave a message below and I’ll do my best to answer them.