Instagram is just a whole different type of social media than the others. For those of us used to communicating with words, the visual aspect has been fun and stretching of my creativity. While I've dabbled with improving my "good" camera abilities, it happens in fits and starts. I'll go weeks without picking up my Nikon. My phone, however, is always within reach, and I've gotten a lot better at using it to capture the moment.
I wish I had a whole arsenal of tools in my belt (there are so many good apps and tricks out there), but I've tried a bunch of them and still keep coming back to my same very simple method. So instead of telling you all the different ways you could be making your photos better, I'm just going to show you exactly how I take and edit my photos for instagram.
1. Use the iPhone's built-in camera. If I really want to take a photo of a fast moving object (maybe the kids jumping or something), then I use the Camera+ app, because the "shutter" is faster there. (It's not really a shutter, of course, but the snaps the photo faster in that app.) The main reason I don't like to shoot inside another app is because it stores the photo there, which is one extra step for me to then save it to the camera roll. And time is of the essence! Less steps in life!
2. Frame it well. I'm really a stickler about the edges of a photo, so I try and frame it so there's nothing distracting in the background. I know this is photography 101, but when you're shooting casually with your phone, that's the kind of thing one forgets about, then when you go to look at it later, you realize that the ugly whatever in the background or to the side sort of killed it.
3. I crop it. Oh, how important the crop is, I'm learning. By cropping a photo, you can tell a whole different story. Here are two photos both before and after crops that look pretty radically different:
This was a moment of surprise and I had to grab it quickly. I had no time to frame up or even focus. At first I thought I was disappointed with the shot, but when you crop out the unnecessary parts of the room, you can see her face up close and the pure happiness.
This photo was one a bunch that my mom was taking with my phone while we were about to take a family photo together on the beach. I almost skimmed right over it. Until I realized that when you take out all the space of it, it told a really beautiful story of our family, when my son walking towards us and my husband with his hand on our backs.
Sometimes it feels counter-intuitive to crop out a pretty sky or beach, or maybe the little surfer people don't bother you too much in the original photo. But eliminating those things (and lightening them) said something far more interesting than just another pretty sky.
3. Brighten. Most of my phone pictures need to be brightened. I do this in worlds easiest photo editing app, Pic Tap Go. It's SO easy and quick. (Sometimes I crop in Pic Tap Go, too, just to save a step.)
In Pic Tap Go, you simply open the photo you want to edit, and below the photo appears dozens of filters that you can choose from. But you can layer them, and I almost always do. First I brighten using Lights On (the first one to choose from) or Brightside. Then you can tweak the color or contrast by scrolling back down and applying another one. I use Warm It Up or + Contrast or sometimes any of the funkier options. One of the reasons I especially like Pic Tap Go is that you can instantly see what the filters are, so unlike Instagram itself, you don't have to click through to each one and try it out. I'm usually pretty decisive when I have the options laid out for me like that.
Also I like that you can adjust the filters, so if you want just a little brightness, or just a little more contrast, you can do that, too, using the left-to-right scroll.
If you have a combination of filters that you use a lot, you can save them as "recipes," making it THAT much quicker. My most common tweaks are Lights On and then + Contrast. So the other night when I was trying to take a picture of my dinner (ha! I know), this is what it looked like:
See how much better it looks? Not perfectly life-like, which is often the criticism of over processed photos, but I like it plus you can see the detail, which is the challenge of looking at something on a photo screen.
4. Save to camera roll and then post to Instagram. Occasionally I use the filters in Instagram, too, if I'm going for a really specific look, but most of the time I don't. You can use Iconosquare to tell you some of your Instagram stats, like which filter you use the most. (And if you're a blogger, Iconosquare has lots of other information about engagement, likes, etc. I try to stay away from this stuff because it taints what I'm doing, but in some cases it can be useful.) This is over the life of my IG account:
See how easy that all is? I know that there are more sophisticated ways to edit your photos and effects you can add that really make your photos pop, but I usually don't have the patience for all that. I need easy, or I won't do it. For me this is taking the photo in a way that will need very little editing, then using one app to edit, then posting. The whole process takes just a few minutes a day and really adds to how I'm documenting our life.
Do you have any quickie Instagram tips or questions? Let me know in the comments!