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Expert Advice: How To Take Great Instagram Photos

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how to take great Instagram photos

How do you take your Instagram photos? – one of the most frequently asked questions I get on my Insta and it’s a very important one! After running a series of Social Media For Business seminars in Australia* and reviewing hundreds of Instagram accounts, I came to the conclusion that there are two main components that determine success of any Instagram account:

1 – how good your photos are,

2 – how well you’re promoting your content.

I’ve seen accounts that were really good at promoting** themselves and those Instagrammers tend to succeeded sooner or later. Also, I’ve seen many accounts with absolutely fantastic photos that do really well too. Usually accounts with great photos grow their following much faster.

Of course, it’s easy to upload great photos on Instagram if you have a team of professional photographers, stylists, models, etc but let’s talk real life. Let’s focus on real people and real life situations. You still can do really well without any professional equipment or an army of stylists.

Here are my top 5 tips for taking great Instagram photos:

1. Put Some Thought Into Composition

Instagram photo editor

The easiest way to get your composition right is to place your subject right in the centre of the photo. Your subject is whatever you want everyone to see and it needs to be eye catching. Whether it’s an accent nail, beauty product, flower or horizon. However, photos can become more interesting if you follow the “rule of thirds” and place your main subject in the lower right or left corner. Or, for instance, like the photo above, place your subject diagonally with the main focus in the top right corner. To find that perfect composition, use the lines on the screen when you open up the camera. These lines divide the screen into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Easy! So go on, open up your phone and give it a try right now!

2. Crop & Straighten

instagram photo editor

The only thing that looks great on an angle is the falling tower of Pisa. Everything else, not so much! The straightening tool in the Instagram photo editor is one of my favourite features and it’s so easy to use. A photo with a straight horizon looks much better.

3. Adjust Lighting.

tips for great instagram photos

Natural light is your best friend! The flash on your phone is your enemy. Photos turn out much better in natural, soft light. My best tip for getting the lighting right in a photo is playing around with focus on your camera. When setting up your photo, tap on the screen, that is where the lens will focus. Tap on the darkest area of the photo and you will add more light. For instance, when taking a flatlay photo, like above, I always tap on the darkest object (i.e. polishes) to get the background perfectly white. And if you’re still not happy with the result, try one of these photo editing apps to brighten up your photo.

4. Choose The Perfect Filter.

vsco cam photo editing app

I suggest sticking to one filter on your Instagram feed, it’s the easiest way to get some consistency in your style (more about here) and make your Instagram stand out from the crowd. I don’t use the original Instagram filters at all but I do use VSCO Cam to edit my photos and then apply VSCO filters if required. If you haven’t yet, get this app now (it’s free!) and play around with photo-editing options. It’s amazing how small changes in brightness, temperature, contrast and saturation can improve your photo significantly. By the way, my favoriteVSCOcam filter to use for @So_Nailicious is S3 and for @CrashingRed it’s HB2.

5. Keep It Simple.

instagram photos

Some of the most liked Instagram photos are deceptively simple. One beautiful object, like a flower, nail polish or a cake on a plain background will get more attention then a complex, busy photo. The same rule applies to captions – be succinct and concise. Think for a minute what this photo is about, what message you’d like it to carry and then express it all in one sentence. Instagram is a photo-sharing app after all so let your image do the talking.

Hope you’ve learned a few useful tips about Instagram photos today. It seems like a lot of information but remember, keep it simple! Don’t over-think the process, just go with the flow and have fun!

What’s your best tip for taking great Instagram photos?

Feel free to leave a link to your Instagram account below, I’d love to check it out!

– Maria, xx

* More about our Social Media For Business seminars – next week on SoNailicious.

** Here’s some of my best Instagram tips for promoting your account.

*** Photos: taken & edited by me with iPhone 5. Yes, the last one too ;)

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  • Wendy Santos

    This is great advise thank you … IG @StuckIn666

    • My pleasure! Just checked your photos. Great nail art ideas, maybe try to edit a bit more. Adjust lighting, try different hand poses, etc… Practice makes it perfect ;)

  • Thanks for your helpfull tips. I am sure going to try em out.

  • Thanks fr a lovely post. I would love you to check my account @nailartandbeauty_setu.

  • Great tips what do you think of my out Instagram @bridalbeautyxo
    Thanks :)

  • Reina Santana

    Thank you for the tips. My IG account is Reina8292.

  • Claudia

    Great advice – I really enjoy reading your articles ! If you could please check out my Instagram @nailsbycharts that would be great xx

  • Yadi

    Thanks Maria! You have the best tips and you’re always so engaging! I can’t believe those photos above are iPhone 5 pics! They look so pro! I will definitely get started on applying these tips to my IG @raptornails. Also, thanks for that wonderful list of hashtags! -Yadi xo

    • You’re very welcome Yadi! Yes, iPhone 5 has fantastic camera/lens, so much better than iPhone 4. Love your nail art by the way! ;)

      • Yadi

        Thanks so much & for checking out my account! ??

  • Kathi

    thank you for your helpful tips! i will definitely try them out ?
    I’d be really happy if you’d check out my instagram @nailsbykathi and tell me how i can improve my photos!

  • Maria, thank you for the awesome tips and Instagram inspiration! I’m definitely trying to increase my followers, and love to discover new beautiful feeds. The hashtag post was super helpful too! I’m @daydream4beauty on Instagram.

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