Instagram is a widely popular social media network that can be, let’s face it, addicting. You can spend hours scrolling through the platform admiring all of the diverse types of content in many different niches.
While doing so, you may notice some absolutely amazing photos. You may even think to yourself, “my goodness, how in the world can people take such stunning photos for Instagram?”
Because Instagram is a visual platform that focuses mainly on aesthetics and visual media, it’s really important to have eye-catching content. There is a lot of competition out there, so that means you have to do a lot to keep up.
With over 1 billion monthly active Instagram users and well over 25 million businesses on INstagram, you’ve got to keep up with the crowd and not get left behind in the dust with mediocre photos.
If you want a large audience, you want to make sure that your content stands out and provides value to your Instagram followers. You’ve got to have content that makes people want to see more and hit the follow button.
In order to achieve this, you’ve got to have a creative eye and skill for taking fantastic IG photos.
Some of the common obstacles you might be thinking:
- I’ve never taken a good photo in my life
- I don’t have time or money to invest in photography
- I’m just not creative enough
- Or any other reason why you feel you’re not taking the best photos possible for your Instagram account.
It may seem overwhelming, but at the end of the day it’s still possible for even creatively-challenged Instagram users to thrive in taking photos. To help, we’ve created this go-to guide with all the photo tips you need for Instagram, including:
- General photo principles
- 5 key photography tips
- Additional strategies for taking good photos on Instagram
- Bonus: gear for taking Instagram photos
You can do it! After reading this guide you’ll feel empowered to get out there and start creating new content for Instagram. Let’s get started!
General Principles for Taking Great Instagram Photos
This is where it gets fun. It’s really rewarding to take great photos and create content for Instagram that makes your brand look very professional, creative, and unique.
This is the true secret to getting more Instagram followers— high-quality content that keeps users coming back for more.
There are three main principles for taking great photos in general, and before we get into the 5 tips for Instagram photography, we want to make sure we understand these three basic principles.
1. Brighter is usually better
If you take a look at a photo that is brighter and darker side by side, you’ll notice that the photo with more brightness and accurate exposure is going to be a better photo. You want your photos to look clear and polished, not dark and drab.
You want to make sure that your photos are bright and clean.
2. People want to see photos of what the eye doesn’t see
People are always more interested in seeing things in photos that their natural eye cannot; the eye can see 35mm looking straight up and down at 5’5” POV. Expand your photos beyond that.
Incorporate angles that the eye can’t see and use other types of photos or videos like macro photography or timelapse. Use different depths of fields and natural frames and borders. Try out new things— experimenting is key.
We’ll get into this later. One great thing you can do is observe top photos on Instagram that are going viral and getting loads of engagement. This is typically because the photo is incredible and you can use it as inspiration.
3. Sharpness matters
You should always make sure that you take your photos with a steady hand and that the subject doesn’t move. You’ll need to ensure that the shutter speed is set right and is always focused on the subject and staying sharp. If at the end of the day it wasn’t clear enough, you can use photo editors to make your photo sharper.
What you don’t want is a blurry photo. Blurry photos do nothing for your account and look unprofessional.
You don’t want your photos to be too sharp, either; this happens when you use a filter to make it sharper and it becomes too sharp with harsh lines. It’s not pleasing to the eye so you want to find the right, clean balance of sharpness in your photo.
Photography 101 for Instagram
The worst thing you can do for your Instagram is just take photos willy-nilly with no thought or focus on technical elements. Taking even just a few moments to plan out your photo and create something worthwhile is a big step up from randomly taking photos that may or may not work.
Consider factors like what kind of picture you want to take, what angle would look best, what light source(s) you have, as well as a few other factors which we’ll discuss in the below section.
1. Exposure and Brightness
As we mentioned earlier, we know that brighter images are more professional and perform better than the darker ones. If you want a darker photo for a moody shot, you really need to know what you’re doing and keep it looking professional and edited correctly.
Exposure is what you need to consider to ensure that your photos look exactly how you want them to. If the image didn’t get enough exposure, it’ll be darker because it received less light and is underexposed.
If you get an image that’s very white and bright, too bright, it’s considered overexposed because it received too much light and is, therefore, very bright.
If you have a DSLR camera, you can control your exposure with different functions of the camera that include ISO, aperture and shutter speed on the manual mode of the camera. If you don’t want to do that, you can use the auto mode, which will do it for you.
Additionally, you can use your smartphone like iPhone to make these adjustments as well. The camera app has all of the options that allow you to fix the exposure. When you tap on the darker area of the screen, the photo will get brighter.
You can also press and hold on the screen to bring up the AE/AF lock, allowing you to change the exposure of the photo and lock that setting into place for other photos as well.
Contrast is one of the most important factors when taking pictures and can add a lot of mood and energy to your content. They also tend to look more refined and professional when you create images with contrast.
You may think that contrast only refers to color, but that’s not the case. Contrast can also refer to different photographical elements that are within the composition of the photo. Here are a few different types of contrasts that you should consider including in your photos:
- Bright vs dark
If you make the background of a photo dark and then use a bright subject in your photo, you’ll have a sharp contrast there that can be very eye-catching for viewers.
- Small vs big
Good for all different niches including fashion, food, and more, you can easily use the small/big contrast element to highlight different products in your photos. It’s a great way to get the eye to focus on particular elements of the photo.
- Warm vs cool
When you have different temperatures in your photos you can also create contrast. You can create a lovely photo contrasting cool tones like blues against warm tones like reds.
Alternatively, a lack of contrast can also make a statement about your photos and can make them seem a bit more vintage or old school. This is a whole different type of aesthetic and can also work well when you’ve made it a brand choice.
3. Use of Color
Color is one of the biggest eye-catchers on Instagram so you have to play around with it and make sure that it’s enhancing your overall photos. There are a couple different rules to help you with color combinations.
You should also have a color wheel available so that you can always check and reference color combinations.
Here are the different tips for using color on Instagram:
- Use contrasting colors from the color wheel
Your posts look better when you use complementing colors and those are ones that are contrasting on the wheel. For example, green goes well against a light pink because they’re contrasting.
- Use same family colors
You can use all of the colors from one particular family, such as reds and pinks in different tones, or blues in different tones. This also makes for beautiful photos that capture the attention of the viewer in a pleasing way.
- Color pops
If you want to add a distinct element to your photos, you can keep everything all one color and then add a pop of color to the monochromatic photo. This makes your colored items stand out and creates a truly enjoyable photo.
- Color blocks
Another great way to play with colors, especially in product photography, is to use color blocks that add diversity to your photos. You can use this blocking with simple pieces of colored papers that create the background for your photo.
These are just some cool color plays that you can consider when taking photos. Always have a clear vision in mind and be purposeful with your photos and the colors that are a part of them!
4. Depth of Field
Isn’t it cool when a photo has one principal focus and the rest is blurred out? That’s a cool effect to have in your back pocket.
You can easily get this look when you use depth of field. You’ve got to play around with it but this is a focus-based effect.
You can achieve this by understanding the depth of field. It’s super-easy, but it does require a bit of trial and error.
You can also achieve this on iPhone with one of the portrait modes, although it’s not as sharp or pronounced; it’s fairly subtle.
Depth of field considers the amount of focus that is on the subject as well as behind the subject. Here are the stops you need to follow to achieve the look:
- How to do it on a DSLR
- f/8 and up = all sharp
- f/4 and below = fuzzy
2. How to do it on an iPhone
- The closer your phone is to the subject, the better for fuzzy. The more distance behind your subject w/ open space, the better for fuzzy. (Increase distance behind focus point). You can also try it with portrait mode.
5. Composition and Framing
Photography is all about using interesting angles and framing pictures in a dramatic way. There are multiple ways you can compose an image. Some common composition rules include:
- Bird’s eye view
If you want to create a very dramatic image, you can use a perspective that makes everything look tiny from a high point of view. This is especially impressive in cityscapes and can create a super dramatic and captivating element for your photos. It can also be an interesting strategy for product photography.
- Rule of thirds
This is one of the most important elements of photography in general if you want to make sure the photo framing is captivating for your audience. You should divide your photo into 9 equal parts and then keep your subject where the lines cross. This can help you to have great photos.
- Ant’s eye view
This is a cool angle when you shoot from a low point that makes everything look bigger, hence the name. This is great for landscapes as well as for real estate folks that want to make their photos stand out and produce some nice listings.
- Natural frames
It’s also really fun when you can use natural elements from the scenery to frame the photo in a pleasing way. It can give a creative edge to your photo and also create unique elements that can add to your photos and make them more enjoyable.
- Centered symmetry
If you like symmetry and you want everything to be aligned, centering something completely in the middle with centered symmetry can create strong and powerful photos in a minimalistic way.
- Patterns and textures
It can be very fun and exciting to work with patterns and textures in both the background and foreground of your photos. If you find a unique pattern or texture that you want to include in your photos, make sure that it’s got proper focus and it works well with the other elements in your photo.
- Diagonals and angles
Diagonal lines and other angles help to create dynamic photos that catch the attention of your audience and create stunning photos that always provide something to look at, making them pleasing to your audience.
Pro Tips to Take Better Instagram Photos
Remember that because Instagram is a visual platform, enhancing the look of your content is what you ultimately have to do if you want to get noticed. If you don’t have strong content that you post regularly, you won’t see much success on Instagram. It takes some work, but it’s totally possible if you give it your all. Here are some final pro tips to remember:
- You should be trying to create a cohesive aesthetic for your profile page; all of the photos on your page should follow a similar image and appeal so that they can jive well together and give you an overall brand aesthetic on your Instagram feed.
- Always refer to leaders in your niche to see what they’re doing and what is working well. Don’t copy them, but notice different things. What kind of content do they post? What’s the subject of their photos? What color schemes and filters do they use?
- Create a type of vision board on pinterest for your Instagram. What type of photos inspire you and what is the look that you’re going for? You can also follow pre-created pinterest boards.
- Always take more photos than less. Take at least 20 photos so that you have options and can decide which shot was best. Change it up and take a bunch from different angles and viewpoints.
- Try out different complementing colors and take risks. You can always play around and spice things up until you figure out what works best from your brand.
- Don’t post photos that are blurry; it makes you look unprofessional. Always make sure your photos are in focus.
Alternative: Hire a Local Photographer
If you really feel that you’re not going to be able to deliver the results needed for top-quality Instagram photos or prefer to leave it up to a professional, you could always hire an agency or a photographer to help you out.
This is also a great way to partner with new professionals that can help you with your social media and bring you great photos and success to your content.
After you’ve spent all of that time and energy on Instagram you’ve got to make sure that people see your content. How terrible would it be if you’ve got all this great content and nobody is even looking at it?
Getting more reach for your content can be tough, but with captivating photos and a hashtag strategy that is targeted and optimized you’ll be sure to grow your Instagram account in no time. Getting your content in the right hashtag feeds is key, and that’s exactly what Task Ant will help you to do.
Task Ant Hashtag Generator
You can use Task Ant to not only search for the best-performing hashtags in your niche but also to find performance metrics about the hashtags, analytics, as well as create sets for different content types. This is the best thing you can do if you want to get seen by more people.
If you simply guess about which hashtags will get your content seen, you won’t see much growth; let’s say you post a picture of the beach and you post it with the hashtag #beach. This hashtag is far too general and disconnected from a particular niche to drive any traffic through hashtag feeds.
With Task Ant, you’ll be able to find the perfect hashtags to get your content seen and get the love that you deserve with more Instagram followers and engagement. Taking top-quality photos is an accomplishment that deserves to be seen, after all!
Bonus Section: Must-Have Gear for Taking Instagram Photos
If you want to take the best photos, you have to have a small amount of equipment basics so that you can achieve that. You don’t need much, and we’re going to talk about some of the things you may want to consider grabbing if you want to improve your Instagram content.
Cameras and/or Smartphones
It’s a common misconception that you need to have thousands of dollars worth of photography equipment to make your Instagram photos incredible. In fact, your smartphone may do the trick especially if it’s a newer model, as many new smartphones have incredible camera hardware.
It also may even be preferable at first for beginners to use a smartphone or simple camera because spending a lot of money on a high-dollar camera that you don’t know how to use is probably not the best investment.
What you need to look for when choosing a camera is to make sure it has autofocus as well as a high number of camera megapixels.
Take a look at photos on Instagram that were taken with smartphones and see what you can expect and what kind of photos are out there so you can get some inspiration.
If you’d like to dive into photography and are going to learn how to use a DSLR, there are some options that can suit your needs at an affordable price. The Nikon D3400 is one of them; at under $500, it’s among the top budget-friendly DSLRs.
It’s a really user-friendly camera and can provide a fun and enjoyable experience. You can use YouTube to help you fortify your skills and learn some camera basics; there are plenty of channels out there to help. One of the best ones is Photo Genius’s channel. If you’re really strongly considering Nikon’s D3400, you should watch his videos; he can teach you so many valuable tips and tricks to help.
Another option for an accessible DSLR is the Canon 80D – If you have the budget ($999) for one of best entry-level DSLR cameras, then buy Canon 80D. This camera is the most popular and widely-used camera amongst the top YouTubers, influencers, etc.
You can stick to mostly natural light sources as starting out and you don’t need anything too crazy; look for areas of your home or outdoor spaces that have good lighting and shoot there.
Due to the fact that sunlight can be unpredictable with sunny days one moment and overcast the next, you can try to take photos at different moments of the day and see which option works best for you. You may have to do some testing out at first but usually you’ll get into the swing of things.
If you don’t have a lot of lighting in your house and want to shoot indoors, get all of your household lamps and light sources and put them where you want to shoot. This is one option; you can also buy some different lighting tools to supplement your indoor lighting.
If you’re interested in purchasing a lighting kit for your indoor studio, a great option is the StudioFX lighting kit at an affordable price of $126.99.
Props and Extras
When shooting your content for Instagram, you should always have a plan and know exactly what you can incorporate into your photos to make them fun and unique. You need to have a great background and foreground but you also need some props that can help take your photos to the next level.
Always keep your eye on your Instagram and you can pull inspiration for your everyday life. You can also go to the thrift store, eBay, pull items from your closet, and borrow stuff from friends for great photos.
You can also pull inspiration from other users on Instagram. Check out some similar accounts to yours and see what type of content they use and what complements and extras they have. You can then use that as inspiration for your own photos.
It’s great to get inspired by other users on Instagram but remember to keep everything unique and give it your own personal touch so that it’s not a straight copy and you have your own take on it.
Final Thoughts: How to Take Awesome Instagram Pictures
It can be overwhelming to start taking Instagram photos with photography in mind, especially if you’re a beginner or haven’t really dabbled in photography. The good news is that it’s a process that takes a lot of having fun and experimenting.
The more that you experiment with the tips we’ve mentioned above the better quality Instagram photos you’ll have. You can also check out our article about the best photo editing apps to get your photos edited to perfection.
Once you’ve got your content ready to go, use Task Ant to help you get the right hashtags for your photo and get your awesome Instagram photos seen by new people in your niche!
What are your favorite photography tips and tricks for Instagram? Let us know in the comments!