Getting started with Instagram: a beginner’s guide

If you’re a part of the digital age than you’ve surely heard of Instagram. Founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the app became a huge hit and was subsequently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012. You may be asking yourself: What’s the point of Instagram if I can just share my photos to Facebook? This guide can answer that question and help you get started.

Who Instagram Is For

Instagram is used by billions of people worldwide, by professionals and hobbyists alike. Unlike Facebook, which has grown cumbersome over the years with more and more features, Instagram has remained simple and true to its roots: sharing photos.

Instagram is a bit more personal than other social networks. People, not brands, are central to this platform. Although businesses can certainly join Instagram and use it for digital advertising, their advertisements will surely be drowned out amidst a sea of food porn, models, scenic landscapes and more.

In short, Instagram is for everyone. Even pro photographers use it, and while it may not be a great portfolio tool, it’s a great source of creativity, inspiration and sonder – the realization that everyone has a story.

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Photo by Andrew Orr

We’re going to help you get the most out of your experience with Instagram by giving you tips & tricks to using the app and building your personal brand.

Tips

Quality over quantity. Depending on what you want to get out of Instagram, you can take or leave this advice. For budding photographers that want to showcase their work, I recommend staying consistent. Post one or two of your best photos per day if possible.

Be cognizant of your audience. While it’s completely fine to share photos of your day-to-day life with friends and family, be aware that you probably won’t attract a huge following of people, especially ones that you don’t know. Similar to Facebook, using Instagram like this will have your friends following you, but probably not strangers.

For professionals and hobbyists, there are things you can do to attract followers. Upload quality photos, write a good profile description, cross-post, and engage with followers. What do I mean by cross posting? When you post a photo to Instagram you can also select options to post it to other social networks as well: Facebook, Twitter, Swarm, Tumblr and Flickr.

Build a rapport with your followers. Try to respond to them if they comment on your photos. While you can’t respond to all of them, especially once you become popular and have hundreds or thousands of comments, but a simple “Hey, thanks for commenting!” can go a long way.

And don’t just use Instagram for posting your own photos. Explore the platform, search for hashtags you like and start liking and commenting on other peoples’ photos. They will often like your photos and comment in return, and quite possibly follow you.

Hashtags. Speaking of hashtags, they are an important tool to make use of, especially if you don’t have a large following. Instagram lets you use up to 30 hashtags per post. That’s a lot, but think of each hashtag as an avenue for categorization and sharing.

Use a mixture of popular and unique hashtags. Tags like #photooftheday, #photoshoot, #instagood, etc., are used by everyone, but that means if you only use those tags, your photos will be quickly overwhelmed by all of the other photos with those tags. So use unique ones as well, and use hashtags that are applicable to your photo, like #blackandwhite, #macro, #naturelover, etc.

Find a niche. Finding your niche applies not only to Instagram, but other areas as well, like the reason you became a photographer in the first place. Maybe you specialize in macro photography or boudoir, or only focus on black and white imagery. At the same time, don’t be afraid to grow and change.

Editing

As you can see, Instagram is a photo editing tool as well as a photo sharing platform. Depending on your level of expertise, you can choose to ignore these tools or slap a quick filter on your image before publishing. The tools include:

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Photo by Andrew Orr
  • Adjust: Fix the vertical and horizontal perspectives, or rotate the image to a precision degree.
  • Brightness: Making your photo brighter or darker
  • Contrast: Making the whites and blacks stronger to make the objects in your photo stand out more
  • Structure: Enhances the details to give an HDR effect
  • Warmth: Controlling the light temperature of your photo
  • Saturation: Changing the intensity of colors
  • Color: This is shadow and highlight tinting
  • Fade: Giving your photo a faded, vintage look
  • Highlights: Controlling the intensity of light in a photo
  • Shadows: Controlling the dark shadows in a photo
  • Vignette: Darkening the edges of the photo
  • Tilt Shift: Focusing on one area of a photo and/or creating an optical illusion regarding the size of the focus.
  • Sharpen: Making the edges of the objects in your photo sharper

Conclusion

Using social media becomes easier once you realize that each platform is a niche: Instagram is for photos, Twitter is for microblogging/breaking news, and Facebook is for general news and maintaining social connections. Hopefully our guides help you get the most out of these services.

 

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