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5 Ways to Make Your Instagram Photos Hotter Than All the Rest

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Stacey Kelly

Stacey Kelly is a Los Angeles-based director and photographer. She is the founder, writer and photographer for Spectacular Is, a fashion blog that showcases people wearing their glasses. New features come out every Tuesday.

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Well, the Solstice and July 4th have come and gone, but there is still ample opportunity for you to head out to the beach and take some hot selfies this summer!  With the advent of Instagram, everyone thought that they were taking better photos just by throwing on a few filters.  But the scene has changed on Instagram, as bloggers have been posting better, more professional looking photos by using the simple app.  Don’t be just another filter-filled consumer:  use these tips to make your Instagram photos stand out and look more professional than all the rest.

1.  Always Seek the Light

Good photography is all about lighting and the same applies for Instagram pics.  If you take a photo facing the sun, then you will have whiter skies in your photo.  If the sun is behind you, then you will have a bluer sky in your photo.  It’s all up to your aesthetical choice, but the biggest no-no is shooting with the sun directly in your subject’s face.  Not only does it cause your subject to squint, but it creates harsh shadows on their face and that is not pretty.

Good:   

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Bad:

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2.  Using Snapseed or a Font App Before Instagram

This is one of the newest secrets that Instagram users do:  they import their photo into Snapseed (which is free) and add all sorts of other fun filters on to the photo before importing the photo into Instagram.  Snapseed offers more choices like changing perspective, sharpening the photos or add fun grunge filters.  Then, you can get a free app like Photolettering and add a word or two.  People love seeing a single word here or there… it adds a more magazine-type feeling to the photo and not many people use it, so you will definitely stand out with the on-photo caption.

Using Snapseed for:  a “drama”  filter and a tilted perspective (P.S. – he’s wearing cool glasses!)

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Using Snapseed to enhance the night lighting and Photolettering for the “Nightlife” type:

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3.  Composition:  The Secret Rule of Great Portraits

What makes everyone’s Instagram photos look alike is the use of taking a photo of someone dead center.  When you use the rule of thirds, your subject is moved a little more to the side and emulates the composition of how your actual eye is viewing the subject.  How does the rule of thirds work?  When you frame the photo, imagine a grid of 9 boxes.  Make sure your subject’s face is in the area where the top left or top right box intersects with the middle box.  Voila!  You have a better photo because you have established a look that seems like you’re actually looking at the subject with the human eye.  All great photographers use this technique.

Centered:

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These faces are within the rule of thirds.   

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4.  To Contrast or Not to Contrast

Instagram has many filters that are all about contrast.  Again, it’s a great place to play with your aesthetical choices.  Do you want a lighter more airy look, or a crisper colored edge?  You can get both by using Instagram.  Check out these 2 photos with filters used only in Instagram.  P.S  The latest trend I’ve noticed used most lately is the use of the light airy feel, as shown on the left.  

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5.  When All Else Fails:  DSLR – It’s a Cheat, but People Use Them

I have definitely noticed that many photos are actually taken with DSLR cameras before being imported into Instagram.  DSLRs are the Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras.  That means that they are taking the photograph with a lens  that has a specific focal length (the mechanics of this gets complicated, but basically it’s not as straightforward as a point and shoot camera and unlike the point and shoot, the DSLR cameras can use interchangeable lenses.)  I have noticed an online debate about this “cheat.”   After all, Instagram was built to make phone camera photos more fun to edit and share.  When you use a DSLR photo, there’s definitely a more professional look to it, such as richer color, more pixel information and if you shoot with the right lens, you will already have a shallow depth of field (there is more to depth of field than just blurring the background with a filter.)  But hey, DSLR pictures allow for a more professional feel on the platform and the more serious bloggers use them.  Personally, I see no harm in sharing your best photos, no matter where they originate.

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Do you have any tips that you can share? If so, please share them in the comments below. And happy shooting this summer!

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  • http://theindiechicks.com/ Chiara Mazzucco

    Thanks for posting! These are fantastic tips for instagram.. Especially because mastering the instagram shot is a bloggers secret to never having to buy stock photos again. Brava, Stacey!

  • Jewels

    I’m so guilty of never thinking through an image. I see something, I shoot, I filter, I post. I see a quote I like, I borrow, I crop, I post. I am so not creative when it comes to things like that. I am usually posting on the go with kids needing attention and a ton going on so the forethought to add text and loading to one app, saving to camera, reloading to instagram, etc just isn’t likely for me. HOWEVER, I love these tips and I’m going to do my best to implement as many as possible.

  • http://www.mycyberhouserules.com/ Marie Nicole

    I am such an obsessive compulsive instagrammer! Trust me, it’s so bad that when he said in November he wanted to cruise to Mexico I nearly bailed “But I won’t be able to post on Instagram’ didn’t seem a viable reason to not sail South. So we pushed our boat to the high tech side of things and turned it into a hotspot. Yay!

    I never heard of Snapseed or Photolettering, will check it out. I play with Aviary (love-love-love it). Thanks for the tips…

    p.s. my Avatar was an Insta-selfie I took recently. Loved it so much it’s now my avatar for all my social media stuff – Instagram to the computer, rather than the other way around <3

  • Stacey

    @Jewels, no worries, that’s the original point of Instagram, is to take a quick photo and share with your friends. These tips just help with enhancing them in different ways outside of the usual filters. I’ve followed your Instagram feed and it’s filled with great photos! @chiara thank you! Yes, Instagram is the blogger’s answer to avoid the stock photo option (which can get costly from post to post!) @Marie I am as obssesed as you are but wow, no trip b/c of no Instagram? Yeah, that’s crazy talk. Glad you were able to take that vacation anyway! :)