How to Take Better Instagram Photos

30 Days of Smartphone Photography in Portland Day 5

It's a gray rainy day here in Portland, so I'm having a home day with our Airbnb host dogs (Toots, Goober, Milo, RZA and Killer) and 2 cats Orange and Blac B****. Yes that is actually her name and also yes she is a bit of a b****.

On rainy days it's hard to feel motivated to get out and take photos, but Instagram gives you the option of staying at home and still capturing some awesome shots. To demonstrate what I mean, all of these Instagram photos are from around the house today.

Think in squares

When you think of an Instagram photo you usually think of a square Polaroid. There’s nothing worse than taking a great shot and then discovering that Instagram wants to crop some of the most important details to make the image square. Make sure you leave enough space for cropping in your photos! You can create different shaped images for Instagram with apps like Whitagram, but I generally stick to square. In the photo below I wanted to capture Orange's crazy eyes, so cropping out his ears was OK in this example.

imageUse the light

How you use light in your Instagram pictures can transform them entirely. You can take beautiful shots even without the filters if the light is right.  This photo doesn't have any filters but the light was still really good for highlighting the colour of my pink lemonade. In fact when I added a filter it just didn't look right. I always try all the filters to see what looks best, but sometimes its just better to keep it simple.

imageUse your phone Camera

This one is simple but makes a huge difference. Avoid taking photos with the Instagram App. Take the picture with your built in camera first to get the highest quality before trying to edit it for Instagram. Make sure your camera resolution is set at the the highest level first!

imageConsider composition

If you have ever learnt anything about photography you probably know about the "rule of thirds". The idea is to divide your image into three distinct levels, generally with the most interesting subject of the image in the center third.

This works really well for landscape photography, but for some images it's a good idea to break this rule. If you have one particular object you want to showcase in your photo you can make it take up most of the frame, especially if there isn't anything particularly interesting surrounding it to distract the eye. Or, if you want to capture a small subject you can place it off center with open space around it, which will also draw the eye. You can add a grid to your phone camera in the shortcuts to make it easier to decide where to place your main subject.

imageStraighten up

OK so this one obviously wasn't taken from home today, but I wanted to share it anyway. When you take a landscape shot its really difficult to get the horizon straight. You think you have it nicely lined up, and then you get it home and look up close and it's all wonky! Make sure when you use your images for Instagram that you use the straighten tool before you post!

imageUse interesting angles

Instagram is the perfect platform for sharing your creativity. Break the rules and capture subjects from a different perspective. Experiment with a few different angles and then see what you like best. This image was actually taken the other way up, but I like it better upside down.


I don't use borders very often, it's kind of a personal preference thing with Instagram and I prefer a more simplistic approach. Borders are great for capturing a Polaroid style photo like this one though. All the filters in Instagram have a matching frame which you can switch on or off by tapping on the filter and then tapping the small square frame icon.


The filters in Instagram are it's biggest appeal. With the touch of an icon you can turn your boring photo into a spectacular burst of colour with depth and character. I like to use the most subtle filters for my images to help the important features stand out without taking too much from the original image. As always, its a good idea to experiment with all of them and see what you feel captures your particular style.

imageCapture the moment

Today I walked out into the garden in the rain and plucked this perfect strawberry right off the bush and took a bite. Wow! You just can't beat home grown strawberries. Instagram makes it easier than ever to share perfect little moments just like this.

imageFocus on the detail

Get up close and focus on a small detail, like Goober's nose and whiskers. You can use the tilt shift icon (shaped like a water drop) to blur the unimportant parts of the image.

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Thanks for reading!