Instagram: The How-To

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I first heard of the up-and-coming social media platform in the Red Eye over two years ago. 211 photos later, I’m still as into it as I was when I first started “instagramming”. What prompted me to write this post however is the launch of their new online profiles. Until now, you could only view individual photos that were shared through Twitter or Facebook but there was no one-stop location to sit and admire a user’s complete body of work. Needless to say, I was quite excited about it and shared my thoughts through this Tweet and flourish of exclamation points.

Unlike what you might be thinking, this post isn’t about my love for Instagram. Instead, I thought I’d compile a couple of the tips I’ve picked up along the way and hopefully inspire you to start sharing your own sepia-toned images.

  1. NO BLACK BARS: I’m sorry to start off so violently but this is probably the one behavior that drives me up the wall. Everyone’s guilty of it when they first start but after a few tries, this habit should fall by the wayside. I’m specifically talking about what happens when someone doesn’t properly zoom in on their image, causing black bars to appear above and beneath it – almost like watching a movie in widescreen mode on a TV that’s meant for full screen. Just because some celebrities do it, doesn’t mean you should too!
  2. Look for the details: One of the great things about Instagram is that you only have a small space to make a big impact, which means you really need to zero in on what’s most important in a picture. When looking at a building, maybe it’s the railing or the door that stand out. Very rarely is it the whole thing.
  3. Vary your content: I know how tempting it is to take pictures of your food – we’ve all been there! Keep in mind though that not every meal is worth recording. If you’re like me, you’re probably eating the same thing over and over again, which can become tedious for your followers so try and find diverse content to post about. It could be something you noticed on your way to work one day, the change in the weather or a funny sign. Whatever you do, don’t let your account start looking like Justin Bieber’s.
  4. Stitch pictures together: This is where you place several pictures in one frame, as can be seen in the first image here. People who have a hard time editing will love it since not only do you not need to cut back on your picture taking but you can tell a more robust story. In my case, it allowed me to show a multiple step process at one time. One thing to note is that you’ll have to download a separate app – in my opinion, this should have been added to Instagram ages ago but that’s another conversation all together. I’m personally using Pic Stitch but there’s a wide variety of options for you to choose from if you just type “Instagram” in your phone’s app store.
  5. Have fun: At the end of the day, Instagram was created for you to share your experiences with other people. It’s about capturing a moment or feeling in a visual way, which means you can let your creativity run rampant! Be proud of what you’re doing and no, there are no wrong filters so don’t be afraid to experiment. I guarantee you’ll end up with some awesome photos and probably some great memories along the way.

What have you learned from using Instagram? Do you have any criticisms of the platform? Post links to your Instagram profiles below  – I’d love to see them!

PS: I obviously bypassed explanations on how to set up an Instagram account. It’s pretty easy but if you need help, let me know and I’ll gladly walk you through it. 

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4 thoughts on “Instagram: The How-To

  1. akcomputer says:

    Great tips! One addition worth mentioning is the power of captions. They’re essentially Instagram headlines and oftentimes, they’re just as important as the photo itself. Smart captions are a great way of gaining followers and likes because it personalizes your account.

    My Instagram caption tips:

    1. Don’t over hashtag: Think about the content in your photo; is it really worth classifying and making your caption appear busy and spammy? #Chicago or #Election2012 make sense; they’re places or events that the Instagram population would likely use or search. But #room or #book, do those really need to be explained? Probably not. And I didn’t make those up; one of the users I follow literally tags everything.

    2. Keep it short and sweet: Think about your tweets and Facebook statuses, they’re meant to be short, to the point and impactful, so why should Instagram captions be any different? Keep your captions concise and compelling because Instagram provides sharing functions for your other social media channels – a good rule of thumb I use is keeping your captions under 140 characters.

    3. Use Foursquare!: Adam, you bring up a great point about the food – I hate seeing photos of generic, boring, uninspired food. However, when I see photos of delicious, unbelievable food or drink – I really appreciate when the location is tagged as well. I’ve discovered a few great restaurants just by seeing my awesome food photos from my peers. By tagging the location of your activities, Instagram can almost double as a shorter, easier version of Yelp.

    • Adam says:

      These are all great additions, especially your point about using the platform as a way to discover new things through hashtags and Foursquare. This is particularly true if you follow news outlets or lifestyle brands on Instagram. For example, in Chicago, the Red Eye account is a great resource for what’s up and coming in the city and Kate Spade is constantly posting pictures of restaurants and activities relevant to their audience.

  2. akcomputer says:

    By the way, who’s that girl in the gray v-neck? She’s pretty.

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