Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to Take a Better Instagram

Instagram is arguably one of the most popular social media platforms out there currently, and its especially important for bloggers like myself to connect with others outside of our blogs. It's personally my favorite social media platform, simply because I love photography and it's a fun way to glimpse into what others are doing with their lives at the moment.

Recently, I've gotten a lot of requests to write a post on how to take/edit pictures for Instagram. So, here it is!

To make things simpler, I'll break it up into three different kinds of "typical" Instagram posts: food, friends, and things.


Food can be very tricky to capture at times, and there are a few reasons as to why that's true. The main idea is that you need good lighting, interesting placement, and the right editing.

Lighting//Natural lighting is your best friend. If you feel like you're going to want to take a picture of your meal that day, sit by a window! (Seriously.) The lighting should be soft, and not harsh, otherwise you'll have awkward shadows all over your picture of your cappuccino artfully placed next to your sunglasses, and no one wants that.

Placement//This is something you'll really have to play around with until you get the right feeling. My best tip: have someone place their hand somewhere, such as in the picture above. I've found that having someone interacting with the food in one way or another totally fixes any placement issues I'm having. Also, play around with the silverware! Make sure to grab napkins/other eating accessories to complement the food, as well. More often than not, it's the smallest, seemingly meaningless details that can pull a picture together.

Also, don't be afraid to stand up in the middle of a restaurant to get that overhead view! It makes for great photos. I also like to focus picture on one food item from where I'm sitting so that the person opposite of me is in the photo, but out of focus. (Click here for an example.) 

Editing//Unless it's coffee or tea, a lot of contrast is usually not your friend here. Play around with filters that have more softness to them, as in they add a faded effect to the photo. I wait until after I've applied a filter to do any further edits, since they usually take care of things like exposure and contrast. After you've chosen a filter, use the exposure tool first if the photo needs it, and then move on to other tweaks. 

If you use VSCO (my favorite editing app), definitely mess with the "fade" tool. Also try out the highlights tinting tool (it's all the way at the end of the editing options) and the temperature tool, both of which will allow you to change the entire tone of the photo and create the "vibe" you might be going for.


I rarely will post a picture where my friends and I are smiling into the camera. The candid photo, as cliche and tacky as it can sound, really does the trick here (even if it's not actually "candid.")

Posing//Normally, I'll try to find a unique area to take the photo in. That means a place where there won't be anyone crowding the background, and somewhere that complements whoever is in the picture. My friends and I will casually "laugh" and do funny things/different poses until we have the perfect candid. As tedious as it sounds, it makes all the difference.

Lighting//Never, ever take a picture in direct sunlight. It'll create harsh shadows on your faces and it just won't be pretty. Stick to shade, or have the sun behind you if it's rising/setting. Indoors is good if you're near a window.

Framing//Remember that every photo of you and your friends doesn't have to have you all perfectly centered in the middle. Try taking one (or cropping it later) where you are in the corner of the photo, as in the one above, or to the side. Different framing can make for a very interesting photo.

Props//Wear sunglasses. Hold ice cream cones. Carry a dog. Do something to make the photo more interesting!

Editing//When editing people in general, I stick to warmer tints/filters, simply because I feel like it makes skin tones appear better. But a bluer filter is sometimes more favorable if your photo already has a yellowish tint to it. Playing around with different filters is the best thing to do here. Adding a sun flare can be good too! Afterlight has a good array of options for things like sun flares and light leaks.


Taking a photo of a thing can be the hardest thing to do, especially because you have to make an inanimate object appear extremely interesting. This can all happen with just a few things.

Angles and Placement//Unless you're taking a photo like the one above, you're going to want to play around with numerous angles. This could mean hovering above the object, shooting from the bottom right and then left, moving it so the background is more interesting (lights of any kind make a background great - click here for an example), and so on.

In terms of placement, keep messing with the details until you have what you like. Add more things, take some away. Switch up the background. Add conflicting details while sticking to one color palette, as I did above where I chose a harsh metal and paired it with pearls all while sticking to a blue and white color scheme. Consistency is important, but always make sure to have a detail that stands out and allows the viewer to have something to look at.

Also, you don't need to see all aspects of the object. Focus in on the most interesting part, and leave the rest to imagination, such as with the pearls and part of the anchor bracelet above.

Editing//I highly recommend VSCO's filters for editing photos of objects. They draw out the right colors and tones of a photo to emphasize parts of it you wouldn't even realize were there. If you haven't bought any filter packs, I would say to definitely invest in a few because they are game changers.

Is there anything I missed? Leave a comment and I'll reply!

Follow me on Instagram: @caitlinmarie17


P.S. What would you all think of a general photography tips guide?


  1. Such a great post Caitlin!! Thanks for sharing all these great tips:)

    P.S. You should DEFINITELY do a General Photography tips post!!!

    Cathleen // Classy Cathleen

  2. These are great tips!
    Natural lighting is so important :)
    XO Amanda from
    Affordable by Amanda