Ever wondered how to take good Instagram photos? How foodies snap their mouth-watering brunch flatlays? Or how fashion bloggers always make the colors in their #OOTD really pop?

If you’re feeling a bit jelly because your photos and Instagram Stories always seem to look flat, the good news is you don’t need to splash cash on an expensive DSLR to take the perfect Instagram photo.

Your phone has everything you need to take the perfect Instagram snap, you just need to get back to basics—the basics of photography, that is.

So get ready to step up your Instagram strategy with these tap-worthy techniques.

How to take good Instagram photos: Get to know your camera phone

Seriously, spend some time really exploring your phone’s camera features and click through all the settings. You might think you know your camera like the back of your hand, but after 5 minutes reviewing how it works you might come across a setting you hadn’t noticed before.

1. Lock in the exposure

When you take a photo of something in the shade set against a sunny sky, cameras either make the subject too dark or the sky too bright. Fortunately, there’s a simple trick to fixing this—underexposing your photo.

To underexpose your shot on an iPhone, tap and hold the brightest area of the screen. A yellow square will appear along with “AE/AF LOCK,” which means you’ve just locked in the auto exposure and auto focus for your shot.

Now you can move your camera around to compose your photo and get the perfect snap!

How to take good Instagram photos - lock exposure.

You might be thinking, why would I want a dark photo?! When your photo is over-exposed, there’s no way to fix it. But if you have an under-exposed shot, you can easily brighten the dark bits of the image with editing later.

2. Turn off HDR

HDR (High Dynamic Range) aims to fix the problems with over and underexposure, promising the best of both worlds so you can take good Instagram photos. The problem is, HDR doesn’t always deliver.

Basically, what HDR does is take a bunch of different exposures of the same photo and then splice them together in one detailed photo. But if you want to take good Instagram photos, they can look unnatural and your colors off-balance. So keep your snaps simple and turn this feature off.

How to take good Instagram photos - HDR

3. Consider using a lens attachment

If high quality images are important for your brand, getting a lens attachment for your phone can make all the difference to the look and feel of your photos. A wide-angle lens, for example, lets you fit in more detail and create a greater sense of perspective, especially if you’re into travel photography.

There are many different types of lenses you can buy for smartphones; everything from telephoto and wide-angle lenses to fish-eye and macro kits that work on both the front and rear-facing cameras. If you just want an easy way to expand your phone camera’s capabilities, a clip-on lens set is an affordable option worth trying.

4. Get a waterproof case

For travel bloggers, it’s worth investing in a high quality waterproof case. Your phone will be protected against the elements and you’ll be able to take the kinds of underwater shots that get all the likes.

Photography basics for taking good Instagram photos

There are two over-arching conventions of photography you need to practice if you want to take the perfect Instagram photo: composition and lighting.

Composition

Composition is all about how you put together all the visual elements in your photo. Unfortunately, most people don’t really use their eyes before taking a snap! Instead of taking a hundred photos before settling on the “best” one, take a moment to look at the scene and really think about how you could take good Instagram photos with what’s in front of you.

Look at the subject, consider what’s in the background, and think about how you could best frame your photo. Also, take a second to check for anything that might be distracting (are there any potential photo bombers or reflections in the image?).

You want your image to direct the viewer’s eye to the subject of your photo while capturing a story or emotion. Patterns, textures, symmetry, asymmetry, depth, lines, curves, contrast, color, negative space, and shapes are all elements of composition that can take what might otherwise be a boring photo and give it visual punch.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind in order to take good Instagram photos:

1. Follow the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is one of the first things you learn when studying photography. Basically, it refers to a simple method for balancing an image. It divides a photo into a 3×3 grid and the idea is that you’re meant to align the subject of your photo along the lines and intersections of the grid to create balance.

Phones usually have a grid setting, so go ahead, turn it on, and experiment with how you compose your shots.

Here’s a great example of how the rule of thirds has been used to compose an image of a woman sitting on a cliff, her body perfectly lined up with the left line of the grid.

2. Use depth

Rather than just focusing on the subject of your photo, use layers with patterns and textures in the background to create a sense of depth. This draws viewers into your image beyond the subject, with each layer helping create a sense of atmosphere and movement.

3. Level the horizon

There’s nothing worse than a beautiful photo of a sunset with the horizon slightly off-center. It completely ruins the image! Instagram’s own editor lets you fix this, so if you want to take good Instagram photos and they have straight lines or angles—maybe a horizon or ocean—be sure to straighten them so they are perfectly level.

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Old snap from the archives in #Perth 🌞🌊

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4. Think about perspective

Instead of taking your photos at eye level, consider how you might be able to move the camera or your body to capture it from a more interesting perspective. Try crouching to shoot from below, standing on a chair to take your photo from above, getting up close or further back.

Often, if you want to take good Instagram photos the best ones capture a subject from a different or unexpected angle. So take the time to position yourself and your camera rather than taking your snap straight on.

5. Use white space

You don’t necessarily need to fill your whole screen in order to take good Instagram photos. Think about how you could best use white space—aka negative space, or the area around the subject of your image—to help steer the viewer’s eye to the most important part of the photo.

6. Direct the eye

In photography, “leading lines” refers to the lines in an image that naturally direct the eye. These include paths, roads, forests, and buildings. Using leading lines lets you take the viewer by the hand and walk their eye to the focus of the image.

Lighting

Lighting can make or break an image when you’re trying to take good Instagram photos. There’s nothing more disappointing than taking a great selfie with your mates and then later discovering the background is over-exposed and your faces are so dark you can’t see anyone’s features.

Before you take your shots, consider the lighting and how you could best use it to your advantage to bring out the colors in your photos.

1. Use natural light

If you want to take good Instagram photos, snap them indoors near windows with great natural light, or outside in daylight. Natural light provides the best clarity and colors for your photos, as well as helping keep them sharp and the lines crisp.

There are so many different ways you can use natural light to your advantage. Shooting your subject with light straight on is flattering, while subjects lit from the side look more 3D. Light can also add texture to images, create a moody effect, and from below can make subjects look scary.

2. Make the most of golden hour

Golden hour is just after sunrise and just before sunset when the sun is low on the horizon and light in the sky appears warmer and softer. It’s a magical time for photographers and offers the perfect light for soft shadows and beautiful color contrasts. Some even call golden hour “nature’s Instagram filter.”

3. Don’t be afraid of cloudy days

Natural light doesn’t automatically mean you need sunshine to take good Instagram photos. Direct sunshine can actually make taking a great snap harder than it needs to be thanks to harsh glare.

So if you’re outside, make the most of cloud cover—it can help diffuse sunlight, creating a softer and often more flattering effect.

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#Shanghai 2014 🚴

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Four classic types of Instagram photos

You’ve seen them all before, the quintessential Instagram photo “types” that always seem to pop up on the platform. They’re popular and like-inducing for a reason—these photos are taken with great care, using lighting and composition to create a beautiful image.

Let’s take a look at how you can compose and edit your images for similar results.

1. Foodie flatlay

Flatlay food shots look so simple yet can be difficult to get right. Here are some tips to help you take the perfect flatlay.

  • Resist eating your food right away! You want your dishes to look perfect, so hold off eating for just a couple of minutes.
  • Look for tables with interesting textures.
  • Remove anything from the table that might detract from the photo, like a stray wallet, phone, or dirty fork.
  • Watch out for any shadows that you and your phone might be casting across the food.
  • You don’t need to crowd every dish fully into the frame—it’s okay to cut a dish in half as the viewer’s eye will automatically fill in what’s missing.
  • When you’re editing, dial up the contrast, exposure and sharpness just a bit to really make your colors pop.

2. Tiny human in a big world

This type is a favorite of travel photographers who want to take good Instagram photos. A beautiful, wide landscape with a teeny tiny person in the distance isn’t just awe-inspiring, but it’s also fairly easy to snap.

  • Venture out into the wilderness for this type of shot. National parks are your best bet for big landscapes.
  • If you want to take good Instagram photos, do it during golden hour when you’re going to have the best light.
  • Use the rule of thirds to compose your photo so it’s evenly balanced.

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Wild times in the land of ice…

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3. Wall backdrop

Standing someone in front of a wall instantly makes them the focus of your photo.

  • Put your subject smack bang in the center of your photo. You want them to be the focus, not the wall.
  • If the wall is colorful, bring out the colors a bit during editing. Increase the saturation and warmth and experiment with the dials to see what looks best so you can take good Instagram photos.

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🍰

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4. Back to the camera

Taking good Instagram photos with your back to the camera from a distance throws up a couple of challenges. For a start, where do you put your phone? Also, how do you actually take the photo?

  • Use a mini tripod or a Gorilla Grip. Full-size tripods aren’t exactly convenient to carry around, whereas smaller adjustable tripods can be wrapped around railings and tree branches.
  • Use the self-timer mode on your photo or, better yet, get a Bluetooth remote for your phone.


Three best Instagram editing apps

Once you’ve taken your photo, that’s only half your work done—it’s time to edit your image. There is a multitude of editing apps available, all with easy to use features and filters. The following are three of the most popular apps around.

1. VSCO

How to take good Instagram photos - VSCO

VSCO was one of the first image editing apps for smartphones and continues to be one of the most popular. It’s a beautiful, easy to use app with dozens of filters and all the basic tools you need for adjusting contrast, saturation, highlights, shadows, temperature, along with many more advanced settings.

For a consistent look and feel across your Instagram account, choose a few presets that suit your style and stick with those for all your images.

2. Snapseed

How to take good Instagram photos - Snapseed

For serious phone photographers, Snapseed offers professional-level photo editing features combined with an intuitive interface, courtesy of Google. It has dozens of editing tools, from simple settings for adjusting brightness and highlights to advanced settings for touching up specific areas of your photos.

Snapseed also has tools you won’t find in other apps; you can adjust the “ambiance” of your photos for moodier or softer shots, use the brush tool to brighten, darken, or saturate part of your photo, or use the healing tool to remove blemishes from people’s faces.

3. Adobe Lightroom CC

How to take good Instagram photos - Lightroom

Adobe’s suite of photography software is arguably the best on the market and ideal for professional photographers. Similarly, the company’s mobile version of Lightroom CC provides a lightweight adaption but with the advanced editing capabilities, you would expect from Adobe.

The app feature powerful presets and is packed with tons of tools, enabling you to edit almost every little detail in an image. But what’s really special about this app is the built-in camera, which allows you to see presets in action while you’re taking a shot.

You’re ready to start taking good Instagram photos!

Now it’s your turn. Go out into the world and put the tips and advice we’ve covered here and start taking tap-worthy photos. Like anything in life, practice makes perfect! So take the time to experiment and find the techniques that you feel comfortable using before launching your first Instagram promotion.

Editing can make a good photo great, so play around with the different editing apps available and stick with the one that best suits your photography style so you can create good Instagram photos.

Don’t forget to write a good Instagram caption to go with your photos! They give your images context, let you show off your brand’s personality, connect with your target audience, and compel your followers to take action.

Lastly, don’t go too crazy with your photos! You don’t need to spend hours and hours taking and editing images.

At the end of the day, you’re using Instagram to connect with people, raise brand awareness and visibility, and promote your product or service.

So make sure you put just as much time into engaging with followers and reviewing your analytics for long-term Instagram success.