5 Easy Tips to Taking Better Photos for Your Instagram

Instagram is a highly visual platform. And to post successfully, your photos must be polished and captivating. These 5 tips to taking better photos for your instagram will help transform your feed and grow your audience.

As a quick side note, you don’t need an expensive DSLR camera to take stunning photos. Your phone’s camera will certainly suffice. However, when I discuss the exposure triangle and other technical lingo later in this post, you’ll need a DSLR for it to be applicable.

Tip 01: Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important elements of a compelling photo. And it’s one of the most misunderstood parts of photography.

So, to improve your photography skills and to create an engagement-sparking Instagram feed, here are 3 lighting fundamentals to note:

  • The Exposure Triangle: Your exposure triangle consists of 3 manual features: your aperture, your shutter speed, and your ISO. Keep in mind that to achieve a balanced exposure triangle, you must be shooting with a DSLR in manual mode. By balancing your exposure triangle,  you’ll ensure your photo has the ideal exposure, meaning it’s neither underexposed (too dark) or overexposed (too bright).
  • Shadows & Harsh Lighting: Natural lighting is your best friend when it comes to photography. However, it can also present challenges. On sunny days, you’ll often experience harsh lighting and frustrating shadows. To avoid this, try shooting at optimal times, such as early in the morning or late in the evening when the lighting is warm. You’ll often hear photographs refer to these ideal times as the ‘golden hour.’

    In addition, try shooting on more overcast days where the lighting is even. If harsh lighting is unavoidable, try shooting more in shadowed areas, where the sun isn’t shining directly in your subject’s eyes or casting harsh shadows across their features.

  • Avoid Mixed Lighting: Although natural lighting is preferable, you won’t always have the option of shooting outdoors. So, when photographing inside, try to avoid mixed lighting. This refers to instances where there’s a combination of artificial, natural, and ambient lighting that can affect the tones in your shot.

    Now, it’s certainly possible to correct some of the effects of mixed lighting in post. Yet, there are limitations to editing software. So, as a general rule of thumb, try to avoid mixed lighting by shooting near a window with the ambient lights off. Or try solely using a lightbox, selfie ring, or other professional-grade alternatives when windows aren’t available.

At times, lighting can be a bit tricky. However, if you’re serious about taking better photos for your Instagram, it’s essential that you experiment with lighting and find a technique that works for you.

woman typing on chair and learning tips to taking better photos for Instagram

Tip 02: Experiment with Different Angles

Angles are another important element of any strong photograph. They help craft the story and set the tone for your images.

Let’s have a look at a few different types that I’d recommend for Instagram:

  1. Medium Angle: This camera angle captures the top half of your subject. And it’s a common type you see on Instagram — mainly because you must follow the set dimensions that Instagram offers (ie., 1080 X 1080).
  1. Long Angle: This camera angle captures the subject in its entirety. Common for fashion bloggers, long angles are very prevalent on Instagram.
  1. Over the Shoulder: This angle is commonly used in branding photography, most notably for designers and business owners. Essentially, an object is focused on and captured over the blurred out subject’s shoulder. 

When working with angles, always ensure that your shot is straight. To help capture straight photographs, try looking for any horizontal element in your shot and align it with your grid. In addition, you can also edit it in post through Lightroom’s geometry tools.

Try experimenting with different angles and find one that works best with your style and your brand. By spending the time to practice with camera angles, you’ll be taking better photos for your Instagram in no time.

dark-haired woman on laptop learning how to take better photos for instagram

Tip 03: Composition

Composing and framing interesting and appealing photos is no easy feat. It requires you to view your surroundings with a different eye. And it requires you to take your audience through a particular visual journey.

Below, you’ll find 3 different composition types and some tips on using them to enhance your photography skills.

  • Rule of Thirds: As you’re photographing a subject, a landscape, or any particular scene, break your frame into 9 equal parts. You should have 3 vertical squares to the right, center, and left of your frame. Try to align your subject or most important element of your photo along these intersecting lines.

    Most DSLRs and even phone cameras have a grid functionality. If you’re struggling to visualize your quadrants, try using this feature.

  • Leading Lines: Our eyes naturally follow lines. Horizons, roads and pathways, trees, and doorways are all examples of leading lines. By positioning your subject in the center or beside these leading lines, it can help create balance and interest in your photograph.

    I mean, how many times have you seen a photograph with a man or woman sitting in the middle of a road?

  • Symmetry and Patterns: When you’re accessing a scene, always look for natural patterns. For instance, perhaps there’s a symmetrical cluster of trees that you can position your subject near to draw attention to them. Or, alternatively, you can find a natural pattern, then introduce your subject into the scene to cause interesting tension.

    Get creative with finding different ways you can create symmetry in your frames. And don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques.

Getting comfortable behind the lens and learning different composition practices isn’t easy. However, when you’re learning how to take better photos for your Instagram, it’s a pivotal part of the photography process.

woman holding a bouquet of yellow flowers against white wall

Tip 04: Understand Depth of Field

Your depth of field decides how sharp your subject is in relation to the background. For instance, in portrait photography, it’s common to find the subject is sharp and focused, while the background is blurred. This helps draw the eye to the subject and to lessen any visual distractions.

While a shallow depth of field—meaning the background is more blurred—is ideal for portrait photography, a deeper depth of field is optimal for landscape photography, where the image should appear sharp throughout the entire image.

Controlling your depth of field is more prominently possible in DSLR cameras, where you can manipulate your aperture. However, in most phone cameras, there’s a portrait feature that, in some cases, blurs the background for you. In addition, you can also achieve this effect in Photoshop by using the blur tool.

To practice manipulating depth of field, experiment with your camera’s focus. Try focusing on your subject in different placements and with different parts of the scene in front of them and behind them. And, like always, don’t be afraid to get creative. Part of taking better photos for your Instagram is trying new things and seeing what works best for your brand.

Vlogger filming video on camera

Tip 05: Photo Editing

Once you’ve strategized with your lighting, settled on an angle and composition, and experimented with your depth of field, you’ll likely have some pretty stellar shots. However, your task is not yet complete.

Now, you’ll have to edit your photos. I’d recommend purchasing an Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop subscription. There are free alternatives out there. However, there’s a good reason why this combo is one of the most preferred programs for photographers.

For editing your photos, here are some general rules:

  1. Don’t go overboard: When it comes to photo editing, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Always make sure your image is balanced. It shouldn’t look overly processed (unless this is an artistic look you’re going for). And it shouldn’t have competing elements.
  2. Start with a preset and adjust as needed: If you’re new to photo editing, try starting with a preset and adjusting it to fit your skin tone, preference, and overall vibe. Overtime, as you get more comfortable, you can start editing from scratch. Plus, this will help you keep a consistent style (more on this later!)
  3. Learn your software: Adobe software can be complex. And for good reason. There’s so much you can do with the applications to transform your photographs. So make sure you take the time to learn your software. Watch some tutorials, purchase an online course, or read some blogs.
  4. Be consistent: What do most successful Instagram feeds have in common? They’re consistent. Your audience should be able to browse through your feed and experience a consistent theme. Your tones should be similar, your style should be consistent, and your basic editing techniques should be relatively uniform.

Photo editing is a HUGE part of taking better photos for your Instagram. And there are literally tons of presets available. If you’d rather carve your own editing path, make sure you save your edits into custom presets, so you can use them in the future.

Woman drinking coffee by sofa

Other Resources:

  • Clicks and Confetti: read their helpful guide on taking better photos with your phone’s camera.
  • Digital Photo Mentor: read their tips on achieving better photo quality
  • PetaPixel: Want to learn more about angles? This is your one-stop guide.
  • Photography Mad: Some super helpful guidelines to improving your composition techniques

Still Can’t Figure Out This Photography Thing?

If you KNOW this whole photographing thing isn’t your jam, head on over to our contact page and ask about our photography services. We offer commercial, portrait, and product photography sessions for affordable prices in the YEG area.

Also, don’t forget to follow along on Instagram. Oh, and one more thing, if you liked this post, why not check out my other article on writing better captions for your Instagram posts?