Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Beyond the Filter: Simple Tips For Getting Started on Instagram

It may not seem like it, but Instagram has been around for almost 5 years now. Those 5 years have led to numerous food and travel pictures, jokes about food and travel pictures and, no joke, is even affecting how college-bound students choose their college.

And with Instagram ads rolling out more and more, we're without a doubt heading for a future in which the channel will be a viable advertising option for all and not just bigger name brands. With that in mind, here are some basic ways that you can stand out amongst the Instagram clutter:

1. Think Outside the Square

Instagram's default aspect ratio is 4:3. It's so pervasive now that iPhone's have a camera preset for Sqaure to accomodate Instagram photos without cropping. However, just because it's what Instagram designed itself for, doesn't mean it's what you should stick to.

Most major brands find themselves sticking to the square, but the more you come across photographers on Instagram, you'll see them opting for 3:2 photos that allow you to utilize a wide screen image. This not only allows you to use more versatile shots, it'll stand out more for people scrolling through their followers' pics.

Use mobile photo editing apps like VSCO cam to find different crops, then screenshot them in your library with a white background and simply post to Instagram!

2. Avoid Instagram Filters

It's really easy to get stuck using just Instagram's filters. Nashville is so awesome, right?

Yes, for people using Instagram for the first time.

Apps like VSCO cam provide you with more filter and photo editing tools than Instagram likely ever will. Simply import your shots into VSCO, edit them, download them again and post them for a more refined looking image. Again, everyone is using Instagram filters, but not everyone is using VSCO's. Stand out from the crowd by simply downloading a free app.

3. Use Your Phone

This seems really simple and obvious. And it everyone except for far too many major brands.

If you do a quick run through of a major brand on Instagram (Nike, Walmart) you'll see they have some nice photos in there...too nice. Why? Because they're stock photos taken by a professional photographer on a really nice camera.

Thing is, there's nothing wrong with these photos...on Facebook. But they really should have no place on Instagram. Instagram is built for mobile photos and it's what your community of followers will want. Instead of paying money for stock photography or just reusing stock photos that don't look like they could've been taken on a phone, invest time and energy into generating some nice camera shots.

Check out Taco Bell and Starbucks Instagram feeds for great examples of photography that looks like it came from a phone (even if it didn't).

4. You're Not a Photographer, But You Can Learn

There are some real photographers on Instagram taking great photos. But most people aren't those photographers, and the odds are that neither are you. Which is fine! Instagram was not designed for great photographers just like Guitar Hero was not designed for true guitarists.

That doesn't mean that you can't educate yourself on how to make your photos look good. Check out this article from Vogue Austrailia with easy lessons on how to make your photos better, including composition and angle tips, as well as a rundown of photo editing software.