Part One - Know your tools...
Instagram can be pretty hit and miss.
On one hand, you’ve got the likes of National Geographic and NASA blowing our collective minds with incredible shots of Earth and the incredible wonders of the universe.
And then we’ve got Dave, whose gallery is filled with blurry shots of his latest culinary experiments and uninspired shots of a ‘spoons beer garden.
You are, of course, welcome to snap whatever pics you like on Instagram – but you’ve already got Facebook and Twitter for that.
If you want to take your Instagram game to the next level, then we’ve got the ultimate crash course for you right here.
Basically, don’t be like Dave.
THE BASICS - KNOW YOUR TOOLS
FRAME YOUR SHOTS
No matter what your subject is, nailing the framing is massively important, and it can easily make the difference between an average shot and an amazing one.
If you’re taking shots of an impressive building or tourist attraction for example, do your best to capture it from an unusual angle – preferably without a mob of tourists filling up the shot and make everything look cluttered and messy. Bloody tourists.
Like it or not, food pics are of course, a massive part of Instagram, but they can look perfectly presentable too, as long as they’re framed properly.
Shots from directly above are your safest bet, as long as everything’s arranged nice and neatly on the table beforehand. You’ll get odd looks if you start recalibrating cutlery at a restaurant mind - and rightly so.
Lastly, square shots aren’t always the best option, especially if you’re taking pictures of things like skyscrapers and trees. Your best bet for these sort of subjects is to take them with your regular smartphone camera app, then select to upload them in Instagram.
Tap the button with the two arrows in the bottom left corner of the photo, and it’ll swap to aspect ratios up to 4:5. You can also buy additional lenses from all sorts of different manufacturers who let you capture more with wide angle lenses, letting you cram more into each shot. We've used Aukey's offering with success in the past, and it's small enough to chuck in your bag without any hassle.
USE THE RIGHT FILTER
For a long time, Instagram was seen by naysayers as an app which ruined perfectly adequate photos with unnecessary filters, but they can genuinely improve your snaps, as long as you use them properly.
Picking the right one helps massively, for a start. It’s well worth taking the time to go through each one to see how they affect your chosen photo.
After a while, you’ll get a feel for which ones work best for certain styles of photos. Perpetua, for example, has a blue/green tint, which lends itself rather well to shots of trees, giving them an otherworldly, mystical look.
You can also change the intensity of each filter by tapping it twice, and adjusting the slider bar accordingly. Sometimes a hint is all you need to make a picture pop.
If you find yourself using certain filters more often, you can easily rearrange them as you see fit. Just scroll to the end of the filter list, hit manage, and tweak away.
Pro tip: Take a picture of a white wall or sheet of paper, then apply all the different filters to it. This is a great way to see exactly what each one does to your photos.
HOOK UP YOUR CONTACTS
If you haven’t hooked up your contacts and Facebook account to Instagram, it’s well worth doing if you want to increase your followers, have more people viewing your snaps and, well, generally being more social and stuff.
Just hit the Discover People button (person icon with a + next to) it on your profile page, and you’ll be given the option to link your various accounts.
You don’t have to accept every single person into your loving arms of course - especially not Eric from year three, who stole your Charizard and ripped it up out of spite - but if you’re new to the Instagram game then this is the quickest, easiest way to gain exposure and see what your friends are up to.
If you want more than just pictures of people drinking at festivals and squashed homemade muffins though, then hit the search button, where you’ll be treated to a list of photos Instagram thinks you’ll be interested in, based on who you follow and what you’ve liked in the past.
It’s not amazing though - according to our feed it reckons we’re interested in people taking duck face selfies, which we can categorically state is absolutely untrue.
Sometimes you’re going to want to share some private shots with your mates that you don’t want the whole Instaworld to see.
So next time you see something you only want to share with one person, you can send it to them as a direct message. Just tap the very top right icon from the main Instagram feed screen, choose who you want to message, and you’re all set.
You can also use it to just chat to people, but there’s not much point when everyone and their grandmother is already nattering away on WhatsApp.
LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION
If you’re an avid traveller, you’re definitely going to want to spend the extra few seconds to turn on your location and tag where you’ve taken your photo, just prior to sharing it.
Over time, you’ll build up a nice world map covered with pins of all of your photos, which can be accessed by clicking on the location pin icon on your profile (third from the left, just above your photo feed).
You don’t have to do this of course, but it’s a nice way to sift through your photos to see where you’ve been, and it’ll also allow other people to find your photos, if they’re looking at the public photo feed for the same locations.