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Photographers Share Their Tips for Amazing Instagrams

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Let’s be real: Not every slice of pizza or fall foliage we spot is IG-worthy, but some of us post the snapshots to our profiles regardless. Whether your Instagram account has gone stale (too many selfies, anyone?) or you want to fill your feed with gobsmacking photos but don’t know how, we turned to three professional photographers for advice on how to make it happen. Follow their tips below for your best Instagram ever.

1. Decide what to photograph

 

A photo posted by sacco (@sacco_sorry) on

 

Timothy Kwon, photographer at Lin and Jirsa Photography, says the best way to get amazing Instagram pictures is to shoot something that ultimately tells a story instead of shooting random snapshots, which, as we all know, a lot of us do. “Images that tell a story will be more meaningful and will gain more attention and likes overall,” he says.

So exactly how do you decide if you should flaunt that scrumptious stack of pancakes you had for breakfast? “Experiment until you find what you like and what you don’t,” advises Mimi Giboin, a food, interiors, lifestyle and travel photographer. “Photograph what you find interesting and capture it from the perspective that you like best to get a nice composition. Be yourself–don’t bother with how ‘amazing’ your Instagram is; it only succumbs your creative sensitivity.”

2. Don’t take pictures within the app

 

When the forecast shows nothing but grey for days and the sun shows up anyway - that's pure joy! #whpshadowplay

A photo posted by Sandra Lundin (@myatilio) on

 

So you have the perfect idea for an Instagram photo. How should you capture it?

“Go for the existing phone camera—it’s simple and easy,” says Swedish photographer Sandra Lundin, one of four photographers featured on Forbes’ “Best of Instagram Landscape Photography.” On her Instagram and blog, Lundin uses only her iPhone camera to capture photos of her breathtaking travels.

Sticking to the camera on your phone will get you one step closer to the perfect shot. According to Kwon, using the iPhone/Android camera app rather than the Instagram app itself is better—the Instagram camera only allows for a square crop, which can hinder your creativity in terms of what angles and compositions you can capture.

3. Get the lighting and angles just right

 

Giboin points out that the very word “photography” means to paint with light. While Kwon believes lighting plays a crucial role in “making or breaking your Instagram photo,” he also encourages Instagrammers to be creative with the lighting and see where light falls on the main subject, then adjust the angle from there.

“If I’m outside, I´ll try to find some shadow, especially for portraits, otherwise the shadows might get too harsh,” Lundin explains. “But if I’m inside, I usually take photos close to a window with lots of light, but once again, no direct sunlight.”

Once you have the appropriate lighting, Giboin suggests choosing an angle that you wouldn’t typically see. “So many people take pictures from roughly chest height, just holding the camera out in front of them,” Giboin says. “I think it’s cool to get a different perspective and get on the ground and get dirty.”

Similarly, Lundin’s favorite angle to take pictures from is on her knees because “you get more stability and can move backward or forward to capture all the good stuff.”

Don’t be afraid to take more than one picture; sometimes it takes several to get the perfect one. Lundin notes, “A view can look magical, but looking closely, you might find an annoying branch or something ruining it all.”

After you snap a photo, check your screen to see what you can improve in the photo, or try tilting your phone to get a wider angle.

4. Editing makes perfect

 

'A Simple Flower Arrangement' - with Ranunculus - on the blog. Link in profile.

A photo posted by Ingrid Henningsson (@ofspringandsummer) on

 

You’ve got the money shot, and now it’s time to edit and go into a filter frenzy. Kwon says to crop out distracting elements that may detract from the main subject of the photo, like too much dead space, trash in the background, etc.

Lundin starts her editing process by first using a free photo editing app called Snapseed, available for both iPhone and Android users. “I use the button ‘tune image,’ and then I just play around,” she says. With the ‘tune image’ feature, you can control the balance of light in a photo as well as the vibrancy of colors. Lundin says she tries not to overdo it here since she adds a filter later.

Next, Lundin opens a free photo- and video-editing app called VSCO Cam (free for both iPhone and Android), which offers a minimal amount of filters that VSCO calls “presets” and the ability to view a side-by-side comparison of different filters you apply to your pictures.

Kwon is also a fan of VSCO Cam because it offers a lot more looks and filters than Instagram has. In addition to more filter selection, he says, you have more control of editing the image overall (i.e., exposure, contrast, sharpness). “Basically, you can make an amazing image you shot even more amazing when you edit your photos,” he says. 

If you’re looking for other options, try a free iPhone-and-Android-friendly editing app called EyeEm. In addition to the basic editing tools like contrast, exposure, cropping and rotating, EyeEm comes with 20 free filters. And if 20 filters doesn’t impress you, a $0.99 app called Afterlight will—with over 50 filters and 60 textures, you can up your ‘gramming game and make all your editing dreams come true.

Giboin, on the other hand, thinks #NoFilter is the way to go. “It can be challenging sometimes because the camera doesn’t always capture a scene the way you see it, but it makes it that much more interesting and honest in showing ‘life,’ which is what we’re all trying to do with our Instagram accounts, no?” she says.

5. To caption or not to caption?

 

#fbf #nyfw @openingceremony anyone know her? Need her name. Thx! #dance

A photo posted by Landon Nordeman (@landonnordeman) on

 

We’ve all been there: You have your picture edited and ready to share, but you go back and forth over the caption. Lundin has conflicting feelings about captions: “The caption is not that important—a good photo should speak for itself, but I have to admit that I love witty captions, even though they’re rare,” she says.

Writing anything, Giboin notes, automatically changes the viewers’ perception—what they’re going to notice or not. “The great thing about photography is there are so many ways to approach it,” she says. “I don’t follow any kind of ‘recipe,’ and I wouldn’t ever recommend someone to. If you set rules, you’re only creating boundaries that will limit you in the long run and pigeonhole your art.”

 

looks like good 'ol fun.

A photo posted by @mimigiboin on

 

Don’t forget, collegiettes: Snapping the perfect Instagram pictures can be fun, but only if you don’t take the process too seriously. The real fun begins when you stop paying attention to the number of likes you get and start enjoying your pictures for what they are! 


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