How I Take Photos For Instagram: Photography 101

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Many of the photos I share on Instagram are either a shot of a sunny beach or style posts, taken on Brighton beach or a French village that aren’t exactly easy to recreate. Although my blog isn’t very heavily focused on travel, I do love to share a good holiday throwback photo and an outfit shot! However, perfecting your Instagram is easier said than done; there are many shots you should learn about and master, including the famous flatlay. More on that later! I talk about self-timing functions, making yourself look shorter and taller, a few fantastic editing apps and how to fake golden hour – so enjoy this collection of tips and tricks I use to improve my photography for Instagram and produce photos for my social media.

If you’re finding Instagram hard work at the moment, persevere! Many bloggers say Instagram is one of the hardest social media platforms to manage and convert followers into visitors of their blog, and it is. The visual concept is great, but it also means photography can take up quite a bit too. So, if Instagram is getting the better of you, you can read my up-to-date guide on how to get 1000 followers in only 30 days by clicking here.

Lighting

Lighting is super important, and often for outside photography it can be harnessed and used to your advantage, which is great. However, I find taking flatlays or product photography inside quite difficult due to the light difference and patterns. Bright white light can often look too harsh, golden light may create long shadows and distract from the centre of the photograph, and low light can cause your shot to look of a poor quality, grainy or too dark. The trick is to settle in one area (I use my desk and a wooden table) that will allow natural light to infiltrate the photographs at the right time of day.

Feed

Keeping in mind that most blogger and entrepreneurs have a specific Instagram feed that is either minimalistic or sticks to a colour theme, photography can be difficult. You may strive to take photos that fit a certain feed which is not only difficult, it’s also time-consuming and annoying. I take my photos whenever I have time and the opportunity – I don’t often organise big photoshoots ahead of time, so it’s up to me when I shoot. This means I edit all my photos when I take them, and then put them into my feed (using the Preview app) so I can decide on an order. I use VSCO for editing and only alter a few details of each photo so the feed looks neat and orderly; by only changing the Exposure, Contrast and Fade, you can create your own stylish feed. No, your photos may not look as great as another blogger’s who blogs full time and has a huge camera, but you can personalise your Instagram and make it yours, which I think is a really positive thing. As it’s so visual, I feel like you can connect with people better and allow anyone who comes across your profile to get an instant first impression, so choose a style wisely, ideally one that reflects you and your blog.

Style

You might not associate style with photography, as surely they don’t go? Surely a photo doesn’t have its own style? Well, no. It does. You can either style your photos the same and have a feed that resembles similar photos, all styled the same with smaller details varying, or choose to ignore it and just concentrate on sharing images that reflect you. I go for the latter option, after giving up on flatlay after flatlay and opting for a much more personal idea. However, if you want some ideas for different styles you could stick to within your feed, here they are:

  • A certain colour, or group of colours (eg blue, pastels, bright colours, monochrome)
  • A backdrop, for example, a white wall, the beach or a certain wall mural
  • A type of photo – portraits, selfies, flatlays, action shots, quotes
  • The content of each photo – a certain object, a person, a room or setting
  • A theme; the beach, festival, a certain season, a certain mood, etc

Backdrop

Backdrops can be difficult, which is why I think they belong under a separate subheading. I often use the only available space (tables, desks, even a wooden floor) for quick flatlay shots, but sometimes its necessary to zoom in a little further, pay attention to the detail and try something slightly more professional. For more flatlays, you can use small things such as a table surface, a wooden worktop or desk, an old shirt, carpet or curtains that might add a pop of colour to the photo, or use special equipment. Foam boards are small boards made of er, foam, that work like a backdrop; you can just use one or put many together for bigger objects, or cover it with FILL IN!

However, these ideas don’t work for shots of an outfit, people, or a bigger thing, so you have to improvise a little. I often use painted walls (wall murals are found more commonly in America, and they’re few and far between here) or natural backgrounds, such as a forest, beach, or brightly coloured scene. Often, cafes, shops, ice cream vans, park statues, gardens and benches are great for photos as they provide a focus to the picture and add some colour. Experiment with whats near you and see what you like best; your Instagram can be styled however you like! Some ideas for backdrops are below, with a few examples:

Self-Timing

The issue is – who will take the photo? I often ask my family members or certain friends to snap a photo, but the shots I produce in organized photoshoots are often me using my iPhone SE and the self-timing function, placing the phone down somewhere then running away and posing and repeating this as many as 50 times to get a good photo. Although it is definitely time-consuming, frustrating and a little awkward when you come across someone, it does get the job done. Below are some examples of photos I’ve taken using a self-timer, all taken on one rather successful photoshoot.

So, if you’re taking your own photos, there are still tips you can stick to that will improve the quality of the photo, make the lighting look better and flatter your body shape.

  • Stand with your legs slightly apart, but try to avoid bending one knee too much as it can make you look awkward
  • Face almost forwards, but try not to directly face the camera; this makes you look as if you have put no effort in and it’s just a very simple shot
  • Experiment with different outfits, patterns, prints and positions so you know what works best for your body type and each outfit style
  • If you’re tall, horizontal stripes can make you look a little less tall
  • If you’re shorter, high waisted skirts, shorts and jeans can make you look taller, as do patterns and belts
  • Try to keep the camera at least a few metres away from you, so it looks more natural and not like the phone is under your feet

Golden Hour

That’s the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, where everything is a stunning, er, golden colour. The sunset or sunrise is often just beginning so you can also get the pastel colours in the sky in the background of the photo! However, golden hour can sometimes not be too great, or it might not suit you; it’s possible to fake golden hour by using warm lights or lamps against warm whites, often a white wall. It should give the impression of a golden glow over your face or body; there are also specific lights that give the exact effect, and you can purchase them online. If you can go out at golden hour and take photos, take close-ups or whole body shots against cooler colours, and stay away from blacks or navy blue.

Editing

I use VSCO Cam, Snapseed and Filterra to adjust and edit all my photos, and of the three VSCO is by far the best. Each shot for Instagram is edited through VSCO, and my favourite filter is C1 – it gives a bright summery vibe and looks good with almost any photo. You can also change many settings such as brightness, saturation, exposure, contrast and skin tone; by choosing your ideal settings and editing each photo in that way, you can achieve a professional and seamless looking feed.

7 thoughts on “How I Take Photos For Instagram: Photography 101

  1. isabellahume says:

    I really struggle with props! I see all these amazing insta posts with flowers, pens, notebooks, old parchment, cats, beyonce’s wedding ring, moon dust… and I think where did they get all that stuff?? And where do they keep it when they’re done shooting???

    Liked by 1 person

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