Being famous on Instagram can come with a lot of perks, but unless you’re a celebrity, getting thousands of followers isn’t easy.
There’s no special trick to becoming an amazing and popular photographer on Instagram, but there are a few shooting and editing practices you can adopt to take your Instagram game to the next level.
To learn the best mobile photography tricks, Tech Insider spoke with four famous Instagrammers who combined have over three million followers.
Use interesting angles
Cole Rise designed the Instagram icon, built several of the app’s filters (including the aptly named “Rise” filter), designed the photo editing app Litely, and has over 900,000 followers. He knows a thing or two about taking good photos for Instagram.
For Rise, a unique angle can make a photo really pop.
“Most people see the world when they’re standing up,” he tells Tech Insider. “Look down or look up and see what you can do. Get down low on your belly.”
Understand and study light
The use of natural light can make or break a photo, and it’s important to understand how light works if you want to take advantage of its effects on a landscape or subject.
Instagrammer Cory Staudacher, who has 596,000 followers and lives in Seattle, has a video explainer on light and editing that’s worth watching. Here are the two key points he makes on light:
- Harsh light is direct sunlight that blows out a photo’s natural colours. Light will generally be harsher the closer the time is to the middle of the day, so the morning and evening are usually the best time to take photos with warm, flattering light.
- Clouds and overcast skies are great for softening light and getting rid of harsh shadows.
The hour before sunset is often called “golden” or “magic” hour because it’s when the sunlight is the most warm, and it’s an especially good time of day to shoot portraits. Many weather apps will tell you when golden hour starts and ends on a given day, but if you’re serious enough, a $US4 iPhone app called Lumy tracks the day’s different light phases.
Capture, capture, capture
Staudacher is a big fan of taking as many photos as possible. “I like to capture a ton,” he says in another video. That way he has more options, with a range of exposures and focus settings, to choose from.
The iPhone’s burst mode is another great way to take a lot of pictures at once.
Use physical filters to make things more dramatic
While software filters can be great for creating interesting photo effects, physical filters over your phone’s camera lens also make great images.
Rise sometimes puts his sunglasses over his iPhone camera to make a skyline look more dramatic or add cool light leaks. “It creates really awesome reflections with your phone,” he says.
“A little goes a long way” with editing
Avoid making a photo look too edited. When Chris Ozer is editing a photo to share to his 652,000 Instagram followers, he starts on a filter’s weakest setting and slowly makes it stronger.
Follow people you admire
“Follow and surround yourself with people you admire,” explains Liz Eswein, who runs the @newyorkcity Instagram account with 1.2 million followers. “You can learn the most from them.”
A great way to do this is to pay attention to Instagram’s suggested users, who are based on who you follow. To see a few suggested accounts, tap the little green down arrow on the profile of someone you follow.
Don’t post for the likes
It seems counter-intuitive, but Ozer tells Tech Insider that it’s a bad idea only to post what you think will get the most likes. Being a good Instagrammer is more about sharing what best represents you or your personal style.
So the next time you’re on the fence about a photo, ask the following question of yourself: “Are you posting for likes or are you posting content you feel good about?”
Above all, live in the moment and observe the world around you
It sounds simple, but to Cole, the best way to get followers on Instagram is share photos that people like. To find those photos, you have to experience the world around you and be open to adventure.
If most people stop walking down a trail in the woods after the first mile, be willing to walk three miles. The extra effort will go a long way and result in your ability to tell more interesting stories.
“Go out and live an awesome life, and can tell a great story,” Rise says. “The photo will follow.”
“You can’t make it up. You gotta go live it.”
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