Instagram For Dummies: Sharing, Hashtags & Building Followers
Being somewhat of a super user of Instagram myself (shameless plug here for @thelucidword), Apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic (another wildly popular photo app I love) appeal to a longing for an era of photography that many of the app’s current users were too young to appreciate firsthand. Both attempt to put the art back into digital photography. Smartphone cameras, though easier to use, often lack the soul you get from with a DSLR camera. An Instagram image seems to have its users fingerprints all over it, and the variety of filters offered can transform even a poorly executed shot into something pretty darn remarkable.
There are some downsides however. As the app’s user base expands, Instagram photographs are starting to become more of a cliché. People want to use Instagram to make their photos look different from a typical, poorly lit cell phone snapshot — but now everyone’s photos looks as if they’ve been run through a filter to make them look as though they were shot on a pricey Holga camera. But, I say, let art rule. I think a tool like this opens all sorts of creative doors for people who are just finding a new outlet for their creativity. At the end of the day, there will always be room for both groups to play in this photography sandbox.
Here are some easy tips to get you going. Follow these simple rules to make your Instagram shots look great:
Composition is everything: Ansel Adams once said, “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” He was right, and let’s face it, he should know. A well-framed photo is a more interesting photo. Find interesting angles and focal points. Shoot from above, below, or with objects close in the foreground. Focus on something small, rather than taking in a whole scene.
Light play can be fun: Bright light, low light; explore with both. Instagram filters are designed to really to make colors pop, so if your shot isn’t quite as bright or interesting, adjust the contrast control and toggle between different filters till you find a version you love.
Square it up: Instagram photos are cropped in a square, so it’s important to keep this in mind when you’re lining up your shots. In photography, there’s a guideline called the “Rule of Thirds,” which can help you create harmonious shots within the cropped space.
Simple is best: Some of the most amazing photographs can be a quick portrait, or a close-up look at a single object, like a still life of a basic everyday item. I remember once I took a great shot of a pepper shaker and the reflection it cast on my lunch table. I was blown away by the simplicity and beauty of it – as well as how many people commented on it.
Hashtag it: Instagram is driven by hastags, and in order to get the most exposure out of what you post, include hashtags and mention others in the captions of your photos. Hashtags are great way to gain new followers and increase “likes”. You can add hashtags to photos that have already been published by including the tags in a new comment. Like Twitter, tapping on an Instagram hashtag allows users to see photos that share the same hashtag. Some basics: Cities, landmarks, locations and subject descriptions are always good hashtags to include. Tag people with Instagram accounts by putting an “@” symbol in front of their username — I’m @thelucidword. The Instagrammers site is a great resource for how to maximize your Instagram feed too. I highly recommend it.
Don’t be a fly on the wall: If gaining followers is your goal, then play nice with others and get out there and comment. People are more likely to follow you if you show interest in their feeds and comment on their photos. Remember, Instagram is more than just an app; it’s a community, one that has a very vocal base of users who are eager to give praise and advice when approached. If you like something you see, say so. Comment, give praise, and watch your feed grow.
Be sure to share: Instagram plays nice with Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Flickr, and Foursquare, allowing users to cross-post their photos. Configure these settings when you’re writing a caption for your photo. Note: This can be done ahead of time in the settings section when you’re setting up your account too.
Search and explore: If you’re browsing for pictures with a certain hashtag, try Webstagram.com, Statigram.com and Gramfeed.com. These websites allow for a desktop browsing experience of Instagram’s mobile-only content. Exhibit A: My Webstagram feed for your artistic approval.
Now that you’re armed and dangerous, get out there and start snapping some shots and have some fun! But watch out, this might just become something of a delicious photo addiction. In my next post I’ll suggest some of the top hashtags you may want to include on your images. It took me awhile to narrow mine down by trial and error. Happy snapping!