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How to Take Good Instagram Photos

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Are you getting the best Instagram photos possible from your smartphone camera?

Read on to make sure you’re doing everything you can to get stellar Instagram photos on your phone.

A triptych of three smartphone screens open on Instagram feed - how to take good instagram pictures

4 Simple Smartphone Photography Tricks That Work for Instagram

Phone cameras are impressive these days. Before all else, get familiar with tools at your disposal that will make a big difference in your photos.

Avoid Using HDR Mode

Using HDR mode can make photos look fake and over-processed. With Instagram, it’s all about looking naturally gorgeous.

Underexpose Your Photos a Bit

Highlights get easily blown out on phone cameras. It becomes impossible to bring any detail to those highlights in your editing. To avoid this, underexpose the photo a bit. Brightening up shadows is much easier than trying to get detail in a blown out window. To underexpose, touch and hold a bright spot in your image for your camera to adjust its exposure setting.

Use the Grid

Turn on your phone’s grid to help guide your compositions. You can find the grid in Settings > Camera.

Adjust the Exposure Manually

You can touch and hold to select a point of reference for exposure, but you can then select to raise or lower the exposure manually!

When you touch and hold, a yellow box appears in the reference area for exposure. Next to the box, you’ll see a sun and a vertical line.

Touch and drag the sun up or down to manually adjust exposure.

Plan Your Posts Ahead of Time to Ensure Consistency

Each individual photo needs to be eye-catching. But you also need to consider the overall look and feel of your Instagram feed.

Are there certain colors, patterns, or themes that run throughout every photo? Keep your feed’s branding in mind when you’re taking a photo and editing it.

To avoid any bad decisions in the spur of the moment, it’s a good idea to plan out your posts ahead of time.

Even planning out a general idea of what you’ll post will help to create some consistency for your audience.

A triptych of cool instagram photos
Consider your feed and the look or feel you want to create.

Use Natural Light to Stay Authentic

Instagram is not just about beautiful photos. It’s also about authenticity. Photos that look natural will automatically feel more authentic to the viewer.

Whenever possible, avoid using flash or artificial light. Instead, take full advantage of natural sunlight.

Your photos will feel more natural. And sunlight can also create beautiful effects that can’t be mimicked by flash (such as sun flares).

Even cloudy days can create beautiful images. Don’t get discouraged by gloomy skies!

A smartphone screenshot of a portrait of a female model on Instagram feed - how to take good instagram pictures
Natural light will always feel the most authentic, so take advantage of sunlight!

Photography During the Golden Hour for a Soft Look

Speaking of natural light, the time of day is going to be crucial. Early morning and late day light is golden, soft, and creates a magical feel.

Midday light is bright. It lends itself to more contrast and has cooler tones.

If you’re looking to get a specific effect, you may need to visit the location where you want to shoot to make sure to be there at the perfect time.

A smartphone screenshot of a landscape photo on Instagram - how to take good instagram pictures
Good timing can take a photo from just pretty to pretty amazing.

Best Compositions for Instagram Photos

Do you want your subject in the dead center? Or is your subject peeking in at the edge of the frame?

Here are a few ideas for composing your photos for more impact.

A smartphone screenshot of changing composition settings on Instagram - how to take good instagram pictures

  • Rule of thirds. This is a classic rule of composition. Place your subject along one of the lines of a grid that divides the image into nine even spaces. Make sure to turn on the grid feature on your phone. The grid overlay will help you out!
  • Leading lines. Elements that create strong lines can direct your eye to the subject of a photo. These leading lines add interest and help to immerse the viewer. A common way to create a leading line is by using a path or dirt road. This will point your viewer to the subject.
  • Negative space. Negative space is the empty space around a subject. Leaving a large amount of negative space in the photo can emphasize scale, simplicity, or emotion.
  • Symmetry. Symmetry is an instant way to add impact to a photo. Be sure to take the photo straight on, rather than at an angle. This will make the symmetry as perfect as possible.
A smartphone screenshot of a cool portrait on Instagram - how to take good instagram pictures
The bridge creates a strong leading line to the subject in the yellow rain coat.
A smartphone screenshot of a minimalist landscape on Instagram - how to take good instagram pictures
Negative space above the trees makes this a strong image of a simple setting.
A smartphone screenshot of a cool portrait on Instagram - how to take good instagram pictures
Symmetry is created with the steps and arches, and the subject in the center helps to add scale without throwing off the symmetry too much.

Use Perspective to Add Depth to Your Images

Not everything interesting is right in front of you! Don’t miss opportunities that are all around. Look up, look down, look behind you.

Changing perspective and finding unique angles to familiar things can spice up an otherwise boring photo.

Consider moving closer to your subject, too. Photography a subject up close will emphasize the distance between it and the background. This will add depth and interest.

A smartphone screenshot of a cool portrait on Instagram - how to take good instagram pictures
Look up, down, or behind you to change your point of view!

Editing for Instagram

There are more Instagram filter apps than ever before for editing your photos on your phone! You can always edit within Instagram itself. But the editing tools are more limited.

Some other great photo editing app options are:

  • Snapseed has an impressive variety of tools to edit photos. The interface is also very user-friendly.
  • VSCO is a modern take on editing. It has clean and trendy filters you can apply and adjust. Known for a strong community, VSCO is a top option for serious Instagrammers.
  • A Color Story is all about bright whites and pops of color! If that fits with your feed’s look, then this is the perfect app to try.
A smartphone screenshot of editing photos on Instagram - how to take cool instagram pictures
Snapseed’s tools are easy to use and varied.

No matter what app you use for editing, be sure to check exposure, clarity, contrast, and color (saturation, light temperature, tint). Then move on to more creative adjustments.

When applying your edits, stay consistent with the look of your brand. That way your feed will have a coherent flow.

To save time, you can edit a batch of photos at a time. That will make planning ahead much easier, too!

Conclusion

Cell phone cameras these days can create beautiful Instagram-worthy photos, but only if you know how to use them.

Follow the steps above to step up your social media photography. You’ll create the Instagram feed of your dreams!

Why not check out our posts on famous fashion photographers or dance photographers for some inspiration!

Save this article to your Pinterest profile to access it later!
1 comment
  1. Hi Natalia Robert, I read your post about How to Take Good Instagram Photos. I don’t do all the setting kinds of stuff or using the Grid before the photo. I take the shot right away. However, the pix isn’t always that good looking. Thanks for sharing these new tips; I’m obliged to put them in practice.

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