Instagram is arguably today’s biggest social media platform which stems from its primarily visual nature. People from all around the world can communicate with each other through photos, cutting through language and cultural barriers. Instagram has fostered a community of users that utilise smartphone photography to document their lives. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional photographer or picking up a smartphone for the first time, Instagram makes it easier for you to make your photos look good.
This also means people are presenting moments from their life with so much beauty and style, that your own photos seem to pale in comparison. But almost every person who constantly shares amazing photos on Instagram has learned how to capture and edit their photos in a professional way. Their photos don’t turn out well without any effort.
Whether you’ve downloaded the app out of curiosity or you’re a hardcore user, here are some tips to help you get inspired (not intimidated) by Instagram.
1) Tell a story
What separates Instagram from other photography platforms like Flickr, 500 px or Google photos is that it enables you to easily have a personal connection with your followers. Users get to know each other through the images that they share and by default, observe their life.
The more bits and pieces from your life that you share, the more you invite people to get to know you. For businesses on Instagram, sharing “behind the scenes” photos allows their followers to get to know the people behind the brand.
2) Lay out a content plan
I know that this might sound like a very serious thing to say but trust me, it isn’t. Every year I lay down a “content plan” for my Instagram which basically means I decide on things that I want to expand and focus on in my personal life and incorporate into my Instagram photos. It’s almost like Instagram resolutions! Last year, I wanted to get healthy, learn more about art and read more books and my Instagram reflected that. Having a social media aspect to my resolutions added the pressure I needed to help me see through my goals. I would post a photo every time I did something healthy, visited an exhibit or read a new book, that way I could keep track of how I was doing while having the benefit of encouragement from my followers, as well.
3) Learn from successful users
Instagram can be daunting, especially for people that don't come from a photography background. That is why it is always a good idea to look at other people's accounts to see what they are doing right or wrong. Whenever you see an account that you like, take a screen capture and save it to your phone. After you've gathered around 4 or 5 accounts, identify the different things that you like about these accounts. Do you like the filters they use? The content? Their overall feed? Their captions? Once you've established these different elements, you will be able to figure out what style you want to use and see in your own account.
Don't feel pressured to get it right the first time. A lot of successful users have taken years to find a style that works for them. Your aesthetic will grow with the story you're trying to tell, and evolve with who you are as a person. Experiment with different editing apps, in addition to using the editing features in Instagram. Some apps such as VSCOcam offer more editing options to improve your photos than Instagram does, but they also enable you to import photos straight to Instagram.
4) Be authentic
Even though Instagram is how most people share the highs in their life, it’s good to keep it real. A feed full of stunning holiday photos and post-gym selfies and not much else, will make people feel that you’re not willing to share other aspects of your life. We all have low days, and by sharing a raw, imperfect moment or two, you allow people to get a greater sense of who you are.
It could be something as simple as showing “outtakes” to show how many snaps it took to get a great photo, or a wider “pullback” on a perfect shot to show a little bit of mess. If everyone did this more often on Instagram, it would be much less intimidating.
5) It's not about the number of likes that you have
Instagram is primarily a social media platform so the measurement of success still revolves around the number of followers and likes that each user gets. Don't get caught up in all this hype. The way I see it, you should be your primary audience, with close friends as your first followers. Instagram is all about being able to look back and enjoy the highlight reel of your life. If you're feeling really good after an event or activity, take a selfie to remember the feeling. Upload photos of things/people/places/events that you want to remember and share with the important people in your life. Other followers will come later.
One way to find followers who are like-minded is to use hashtags that attract people who are interested in the same things as you. You may even find over time that you and your followers become comfortable enough to turn an online friendship into a real one. Plenty of people have become real life friends through social media. Instagram can’t replace good old human contact.