5 Ways to Improve Your Instagram Photography

Posted on April 28, 2014 by Kara Findley

InstagramSome claim it’s debasing true art, but with over 150 million monthly active users, Instagram is clearly a photography mainstay. Let’s face it, the app helped legitimize camera phone photography.

This is great since you probably don’t carry your DSLR everywhere, but you probably do have your phone on you.

Despite the ubiquity, Instagram can limit your creativity. Here are five ways to escape the confines of only 19 filters and elevate your photos.

1. Take photos with your regular camera app.

You’ll have to remember to frame your shot with Instagram’s squareness in mind, but your native camera app has a few advantages over taking photos through Instagram. First of all, this lets you save the original photo without filters, just in case you want to view or edit it later.

Second, if a fleeting moment is begging for a closeup, your native app is generally faster, both in accessing it and snapping.

Next, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll have tons more options than with Instagram alone. Being able to zoom in, a clear focus, and better lighting adjustment are just a few advantages. If you have an iPhone, you can use its built-in HDR function.

Lastly, you can tweak your photos through other apps before posting to Instagram. On that note, advance to #2.

2. Go high tech.


Okay, you don’t need to collect all the gear @adamsenatori carries. In fact, your best friend in Instagram photography is weightless: apps.

For zero to a few dollars, these let you adjust, crop, arrange, and enhance your pictures beyond Instagram’s options and filters. Instasize is great for shrinking photos from your DSLR, after emailing them to yourself or uploading them to Dropbox from your computer.

Popular apps such as Snapseed, PicStitch, and Diptic are available for both iPhone and Android, while Slow Shutter, Framatic and Afterlight are for iPhone only (though Afterlight has an Android version coming in 2014). Download a few, play around with them, and find which ones you like.

Want more? Level up with a photography accessory for your phone. From lens attachments to flexible tripods to extra lighting, there are a ton of nifty gadgets that enhance your phone’s capabilities without breaking the bank or weighing you down.

3. Focus on Composition.


Instagram photography is still photography. Whether you’re using a DSLR or a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, you can employ traditional composition tactics. The rule of thirds, as demonstrated by @colerise right, helps images be more dynamic and appealing to the human eye. If you have an iPhone, you can even turn on grid lines as a guide.


Instagram’s square images, however, provide both challenges and opportunities. Putting your subject right in the center can be very effective, like @elenakalis‘s photo left.

Similarly, a symmetrical shot like @treyratcliff‘s below and left, looks great squared. @Moneal‘s photo of the Golden Gate Bridge shows how interesting angles move the eye.

Or, for a shot that’s, well, edgy, put your subject close the edge, as @newyorkcity did with the Empire State Building below and right. Especially for smaller subjects, this tactic can be very compelling.

treyratcliff Moneal nyc

4. Expand your horizons.

aguynamedpatrickWe get it. Your cat is totes adorbs. Your new shoes rock, obvi. Your brunch looks delish.

Some users, such as @aguynamedpatrick, have admittedly elevated food pics to an art form. But there are infinite possibilities beyond the Instagram cliches. New places demand exploration, minute details await discovery, and stunning views long to be shared.

So find inspiration, whether it’s from the photographers mentioned in this post or elsewhere, then get out there and capture in the world around you, as only you can.

5. Enjoy the journey.

scottrinckIf photography is your passion, relish the experience every time you take a picture. Like this gorgeous sunrise by @scottrinck, each photo captures a fleeting moment. I can’t say it better than award-winning filmmaker and photographer Louie Schwartzberg:

“What’s great is we have these phones and we can capture [parts of our souls] at any moment. It almost becomes like breadcrumbs on a trail. What’s beautiful is to look back, and guess what? You’ve changed since you took that photo. And you can measure how you’ve grown and how you’ve evolved over time.”

Do you Instagram? Follow us at Camera_Sim and use #camerasim to share your best photos with us!

  • http://www.repurify.com Hunckler

    Love those app recommendations. I hadn’t heard of many of them! I’m @hunckler on instagram. Still learning, but would love your feedback!