How to Instagram like a Pro – Tips & Expert Advice

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Instagram TipsWith any new social media tool, I try to be one of the early adopters and was on the Instagram bandwagon right when it was released in October 2010. As a person who loves taking photos and documenting life, I was instantly hooked. Apparently they were on to a good thing and the rest of the world is now hooked too. In its largest acquisition deal to date, Facebook made an offer to purchase the company (with its 13 employees) for approximately $1 billion in cash and stock in April 2012. So they must be doing something right.

According to their website, Instagram “is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures”. What started as yet another social media tool has become a part of our everyday lives with over 100 million registered users. It helps us know the weather, discover new restaurants. As it grows in popularity and more people join, your feed may become cluttered with garbage, just like other social media sites have become. And nothing pains me more than seeing people abuse this platform. It is my favorite of all social media. It’s intimate, it’s artistic and it’s just the good stuff. So let’s keep it that way.

A Video by Casey Neistat

Filmmaker Casey Neistat made a video about his love of Instagram which now has over 1 million views. In an attempt to share my passion of this platform with the world like Casey, I want to “save” it from going into the social media graveyard. As he says in the video “the life expectancy of a social media platform site is about the same of a hamster’s but I really like this one and want to keep it good while it lasts.” I couldn’t agree more with Casey and his tips. Casey uses a good analogy in saying “If Facebook is lucky charms, Instagram is just the marshmallows.” Let’s not make it a bowl full of colorful milk and leftover soggy cereal.

Lead by example

The platform is only as good as its users. So we reached out to some of the leading photographers to get their tips on how they best use this social media tool. But before we dive in and share, their advice, I thought I’d share some of mine.

Do: Use all original content – and if you do feel the urge to borrow, at least give credit.

Don’t: Steal or do screen shots from the web (although I know it’s tempting I do it every once in a while).

Don’t: Use the black bars and do crop your photos. Luckily, the most recent update of the App got rid of this nasty problem.

Don’t: Be a lurker – if you’re going to be on social media, you have to participate. It’s that simple. I have gotten tons of requests lately from people (yes, even people I know) who are following hundreds of people but have posted zero photos. This isn’t social stalking, people – it’s a two-way street. I’m sharing the most intimate details of my life, the least you can do is show us what you had for lunch.

Do: Use hashtags, but use them wisely. It helps categorize photos from a trip, wedding or event. I throw in funny ones every now and again.

Do: Have a theme and, most of all, have fun, because that’s what it’s all about, right?

So now that I’ve shared my two cents, let’s take a look at some actual pro users who have built up a good reputation on this social media platform as they share their tips, techniques and etiquette.

Using Instagram to Document Your Life

Instagram 101 from ilangenhuysenUser Name: @ilangenhuysen
# of Followers: 833
Length of Use: Since March, 2011

What makes a good photo? Something that captures a meaningful moment in time no matter how big or small. Whether a person, place or thing it doesn’t matter. It’s a photo that means something to the person taking it. A visual record of that moment in time.

What makes a bad photo? I think anything not taken by the user themselves goes against the spirit of this platform. This can include quotes, memes and photos taken from the web in general.

Do: Take photos of important, interesting and fun moments in your life.

Don’t: Take photos of the same thing everyday, steal someone else’s photos or over hashtag your photos.

Ian Langenhuysen is a Video Producer & Social Media Strategist at Sparkloft Media a Division of GoSeeTell Network, Inc.

Using Instagram to Grow Your Brand

Instagram 101 from HilaryKennedyUser Name: @HilaryKennedy
# of Followers: 11,478
Length of Use: Since 2011

What do you believe makes a good photo? It’s colorful, has good composition, and actually has a discernible subject. If you have a niche and followers who are interested in your passion, give your viewers the kind of shots they followed you for! (For example, if you are a style blogger, show photos that showcase your stellar style.)

What types of photos do you believe make bad photos? They are repetitive (how many shots do we need to see in succession of your child eating Cheerios?) and bad shots have a subject that is too fuzzy, too close, or too odd to be able to discern.

Don’t take 42 “different” shots of the same thing.

Stick to one or two filters that you love. People like uniformity, so you are more likely to gain a broader audience by using a small handful of the same filters.

If you want “likes” and comments, then actively give props to your followers or those you follow.

You don’t need to document every moment of your day. Pick a special moment, a beautiful sunset, a delicious meal, but not every moment, every sunset, or every meal.

If you want to take photos that you don’t want exposed to the masses, then set your account to Private. Your boss, your co-workers, your spouse, or your children can see every single shot if you have an open account. Think before you snap.

If you wouldn’t be proud for your photo on the front of The New York Times, don’t snap it. Bad decisions can haunt you.

Hilary Kennedy, is a TV Host of a daily, live lifestyle show in Dallas. She has graced the TV screens in millions of homes as the face of The U.S. Youth Soccer Show on Fox Soccer Channel, the host of D Living on KTXD, The Bite Network, two home and lifestyle shows, and numerous national commercials. Hilary added more clutter to her mantle with an Emmy Award, and was voted one of the Ten Most Beautiful Women in Dallas by D Magazine.

Photography 101 – Back to the Basics

Instagram 101 from lauralawsonUser Name: @lauralawsonvisconti
# of Followers: 145,000+
Length of Use: Downloaded in February 2011 while watching the Super Bowl.

It is about sharing your day-to-day life using your mobile device (for me, an iPhone 5) as creatively and artistically as possible. Good photos do just that: tell a story about what would otherwise be a normal experience and make it interesting and beautiful.

Remember, it’s not supposed to be a popularity contest. Challenge yourself to be inspired by your world around you and see things in new ways. No matter where you live and what your life looks like, there are gorgeous images just waiting to be discovered. Here are some users who do an excellent job portraying their day-to-day life in a unique way: @naomipq, @reelpeet, @bexfinch, and @theoriginal10cent

Over-processed images, DSLR images, cliche images like duck faced self portraits, or reposting content downloaded straight from the Internet (or other users’ accounts) is not what the app is about. Browse the Popular Page for a few seconds, and you’ll notice that the “popular” users do not understand these concepts. In my opinion, what started out as a brilliant and admittedly addictive app has become a sad expose of what our culture is interested in as opposed to a unique art form.

The following suggestions are, of course, simply reflections of my own personal insta-style and shouldn’t necessarily be followed to the nth degree.

  • Don’t use the tilt-shift, Lux feature or any of the borders.
  • Avoid the Kelvin filter at all cost, and probably the 1977 filter too.
  • Fixing a crooked horizon line or beefing up the contrast in outside editing apps can go a long way — my personal favorites are Snapseed for quick fixes and VSCO CAM for film-inspired filters.
  • Don’t post blurry photos, period (unless you’re one of the few who have mastered bokeh).
  • There have been many fun fads that have come along. Search the hashtags #fromwhereistand #latergram #bluronpurpose and #fromwhattheysee for just a few. That being said, don’t get too caught up in the fads and the hype. Get involved in the community (organize a photowalk or two in your local community) but make it your own too.
  • Be genuine and authentic in your comments and don’t just like photos hoping to draw attention to your feed.
  • Using hashtags can be a great way to get your photos discovered but don’t go overboard and never put them in the photo’s caption. If I stumble across an account with a lot of hashtags in the caption, it’s almost always an immediate turnoff.
  • I do recommend participating in Instagram’s Weekend Hashtag Project that is posted each Friday on their account which is a great way to have your photos discovered and find new interesting feeds.
  • More than anything, don’t take it too seriously and have fun with it!

Laura Lawson is a 25-year-old artist, photographer, award-winning blogger, and writer. She is one of Instagram’s most popular users, with over 150k followers.

Using Photos to Inspire Others

Instagram user G1VEUser Name: @G1VE
# of Followers: 32,289
Length of Use: For my personal account for more than 2 years. For the G1VE account, it’s been about a month (within 2 weeks, G1VE had more than 4,000 followers).

What do you believe makes a good photo? Believe it or not, for the G1VE account, quotes have been most successful. If done right, they provide an amazing amount of inspiration.

What types of photos do you believe make bad photos? Anything that’s extremely low quality and poorly framed. Low quality includes photos taken with low light that are grainy or blurry.

Do: LISTEN to your community. Actively engage with your followers in the comments section of photos to get a sense for why they’ve liked the photos you’re sharing and what types of photos they’d like to see in the future. You’ll be surprised with their answers.

Don’t: Do not flood your followers streams with photos every hour of the day.

Brendan is currently the Marketing Manager and Co-Founder of Curalate, the world’s leading marketing and analytics suite for the visual web. He recently started an Instagram account called G1VE to provide motivation and inspiration athletes.

from a Student’s Perspective

Instagram 101 from bigheartcoutureUser Name: @bigheartcouture
# of Followers: 241

Do: Know when enough is enough: we all want to “live post” our events and birthday parties, etc. but for your followers sake, please condense all of your pictures with a collage-making app, such as Pic Stitch.

Do: Keep in mind this isn’t Facebook. Keep your descriptions short and fun (let’s leave the politics out of it too.)

Do:Take interesting photos and be playful with your descriptions: there are a million wonderful things in this world, keep an eye out for scenes that will photograph well and use those filters to enhance, not hide.

Jessica is a senior a California Sate University East Bay, majoring in PR and Communications and runs her own industry blog for students, interns and entry-level PR professionals with social networks.

Don’t forget to backup your precious memories

Ever since my Instagram account was compromised, I was devastated – like someone had taken my puppy away from me. Not only did I lose all the precious photos I took (with awesome filters of course) I lost all my followers and comments too. I also forgot everyone I was following. Not to mention my street cred, as I was an early adopter several years ago. The worst part? My user name is no longer available – indefinitely (gasp). Now slowly I am rebuilding my library and community. It’s tough but it got me to thinking, everything we do on social media we feel like it’s “safe” and there forever but it’s not. In addition to backing up your social media sites, make sure you back up your photos too.

What are your instagram tips?

Share what you like most or don’t like about Instagram. Have any pet peeves? What are your favorite filters?

Sadie has acted as the email marketing coordinator and web designer for one of the world's largest travel companies and managed social media for dozens of major brands. She has a breadth and depth of web and marketing knowledge that reaches far and wide. She loves all things Mac and keeping up with all the latest web trends.

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1 Comment on "How to Instagram like a Pro – Tips & Expert Advice"


This is so refreshing – thanks to you all for shining a spotlight on how to improve Instagram. I feel like people are starting to use it wrong and it’s defeating the whole purpose of it’s original intention. It will be interesting to see if they listen I hope so as this is too good of habit to give up. I am going to follow these experts now on Instagram for new, good photos in my feed.


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