How to take Amazing Instagram Photos with your Smartphone

Instagram is a fantastic platform to share your images en get inspiration for new ones. Being successful and having a big audience is not something that happens overnight. To give you a shot at becoming an Instagram influencer in Smartphone Photography, you can use these 20 steps.

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The gear I used for writing this blog can be found on my favorite gear page.

  1. Clean your lenses
  2. Use a tripod
  3. Do not use Instagram to take pictures
  4. Avoid Hight Dynamic Range mode (HDR)
  5. Have a square result in mind while shooting images
  6. Turn on gridlines to use the rule of thirds
  7. Use leading lines
  8. Underexpose your images
  9. Change the perspective
  10. Focus on bright colors and contrast
  11. Use natural lighting
  12. Draw the viewer’s eye
  13. Get creative, create a desirable scene
  14. Create a unique style
  15. Cleverly use filters
  16. Don’t over-edit your photographs
  17. Try carousel posts
  18. Use hashtags that match your subject
  19. Aim for quality, not quantity
  20. Analyze the photos that get the most likes

That does not sound too difficult, does it? We will explain everything step-by-step in this article. You can read all 20 steps, or just jump to one of your favorite tips. You will be able to create an amazing Instagram feed in no time.

The gear I used for writing this blog can be found on my favorite gear page.

1. Clean your lenses

Your smartphone spends an awful lot of time in your pocket or bag. Dust and sand are always lurking. And greasy fingerprints can definitely ruin your images. Fuzzy or out of focus photographs are the rule rather than the exception. 

Buy yourself a little microfiber cloth to get rid off dust, dirt, and fingerprints. They are lightweight, small, and you can easily carry one around in your wallet or handbag. Use a circular motion to clean the lens of your phone. You can even fold the cloth in a triangle to get to the edges of the camera.

There are many other reasons why your image can get blurry, read more about it in this article ‘How to Clean your Smarphone Lens

2. Use a tripod and a wireless shutter

You do not want to carry around a hefty tripod when you are on a trip or having a good time with friends. We know! But a tripod, even a tiny one, will significantly improve your images. In combination with a remote shutter, you will get very sharp results. 

Looking for a good tripod? Take a look at our favorites. We use a remote shutter as well, you can buy one for just a few bucks.  

Smartphone Photography in Tent

3. Do not use Instagram to take pictures

It might seem convenient to use the Instagram camera app, but it will not create the best possible result. The native camera app of your smartphone will do a way better job. If this application does not come with a manual mode, you might want to consider using a third-party app like:

Manual ISO, focus, shutter speed only works when your Android camera is camera2api enabled.

4. Avoid Hight Dynamic Range mode (HDR)

Do not use the HDR mode if you do not master it. It is quite challenging to create perfect results. This mode will take images in different exposures and put them all together as one photograph. If you do want to use HDR images, do so, but take time to know how it is done correctly.

5. Have a square result in mind while shooting images

Although you can post landscape or portrait images, your feed looks much better with square 1:1 photographs. You are probably used to thinking landscape and portrait so it might take a bit of adjustment. These kinds of images come with a set of rules that do not necessarily apply to square photography. The rule of thirds, placing the subject on one of the intersecting points, can be used. But putting your object in the middle of a square image might work better in a 1:1 ratio.

Turn on Gridlines Smartphone Photography

6. Turn on gridlines

Gridlines will help you determine the middle of the image and the intersecting points you can use while applying the rule of thirds. It makes it easier to place the subject where you want it to be. Therefore gridlines will help you get a better-balanced image.

Leading Lines Mountain Road

7. Use leading lines

Leading lines are visible and invisible lines in your images that will draw the viewer’s eye to the essential part of the photograph. Images with leading lines are pleasant to look at because of the strong effect it creates. For example, you can use buildings, trees, roads, plants, and shorelines to create visible lines in your artwork. But you can also let negative space do this job for you. 

You can go for geometrical shapes and effects for symmetrical images. But you can also use more organic lines when you are in nature. Think about a winding road in the forest or a curvy shoreline at the beach.

8. Underexpose your Instagram images

Some mobile phones tend to overexpose certain parts of your pictures. You can fix this by under-exposing your photos just a little bit. These images are easier to adjust with software or third-party apps like Lightroom, Afterlight, and Snapseed. When you are new to using the full extent of your camera phone, try taking pictures with different exposures. This way, you can figure out what the best option is with your smartphone. 

To under-expose, an image with your iPhone, follow these steps to adjust the exposure manually: 

  1. Tap to set focus on your subject. 
  2. Swipe down or up to adjust the brightness of the image. 
  3. Or swipe up to make the photo brighter and down to make it darker.
  4. When you are happy with the level of brightness, tap the shutter button to take an image (or use your remote shutter). 

You can use exposure to change the mood of your image. Slightly over-exposed images can be bright and airy for a happy shot, which is often used in food photography. It works well when a large portion of the scene is white (or close to it). 

Under-exposed images are a great way to create silhouette photography or dark and moody effects. The dark tones will add a sense of mystery to your photos.

9. Change the perspective

Take a different look at the world around you. Get on your knees, lay flat on your belly, jump on a bench, and get new perspectives. It can change an image completely. Don’t break a leg in the pursuit of a memorable shot, but push yourself to get a different angle. You can use a tripod or monopod to get different angles and perspectives. For example, use a remote shutter while holding your tripod above your head to get a birds-eye view.

Bright Colors Instagram Photos

10. Focus on bright colors and contrast

You can use brightness, vivid colors, and the right amount of contrast to stand out from the crowds. Make sure your subject pops up from the background by choosing the right angle. Go for a shallow depth of field or pick a solid-colored backdrop. These kinds of images work exceptionally well in spring and summer when the sun shines bright, the sky is intensely blue, and flowers and plants are blooming. Bright and vibrant colors tend to make your audience happy and give them energy.

11. Use natural lighting

Light is one of the essential elements of creating an unforgettable Instagram picture. Try taking photos at different times of the day. Use the golden hour to make soft and romantic images or the blue hour or twilight to get a sense of mystery. 

The use of streetlights and no flash during nighttime can help to create dark and dramatic-looking portraits. Or try to use shadows to your advantage. You can use artificial light if natural light is not sufficient. Look at your subject, walk around, try different angles, and see what happens when the light changes.

Draw the Viewer's Eye Instagram

12. Draw the viewer’s eye

Try to understand how you can attract viewers. You are competing with millions of other Instagram images. Standing out is key! Colors, sharpness, leading lines, contrast, brightness, and composition are a couple of techniques you can use to draw the viewer’s eye not only to your image but to the main subject of the photo as well. Use humor in your pictures; try to make people smile when they see your Instagram profile.

Use Humor to attract Audience on Instagram

13. Get creative, create a desirable scene

Train yourself to look at a particular object before shooting the image. Try different angles; see what is appealing to the human eye. Or create a scene yourself, add a bit of humor to make your audience laugh. Tell a story in one image, or use the carousel posts to use more photos. Look closely at the scene and remove unwanted clutter or distracting objects. Take your time to create the best frame possible.

Photo Editing Apps 2020

14. Create a unique Instagram style

To not only make single images appealing but your entire feed as well, you could create a unique style. You will see it is essential for success on Instagram. Find some examples of photographers who have many followers and likes. See what kind of style they created and how consistent they are in using it. Consider a color palette, specific lighting, and a theme.  

So do not just think about one picture, but your Instagram feed as a whole. You can use software like Later to plan and arrange your Instagram feed before posting. It will give you great insights.

15. Cleverly use filters

Images that are over-edited or heavily influenced by Instagram filters are less likely to be viewed. Over-processed photos will have more noise and are less appealing to the eye. If you want to use filters, you can, but try the slider to adjust the amount that is used. 

We hardly ever use Instagram filters. We process our photos in Lightroom, VSCO, Afterlight, or Snapseed and post the image as is. You will have more control over light, exposure, colors, and contrast with one of these third-party apps than the editing tools of Instagram. You can buy ready-made presets for Lightroom if you are into an orange and teal effect for example. 

16. Don’t over-edit your photographs

We cannot stress it enough; do not over-edit your images. Give them a natural look. The grass does not have to be neon-like green, and the ocean is already pretty blue when the sun is shining. Be aware of over-saturation, white teeth, and silky soft skin. When you are preparing your photoshoot, aim for minimal editing. You will get the best and most appealing results.

>> You can find our top 3 editing apps in this blog

Nowadays, you can post more than one image in the same Instagram post. You can, for example, show your RAW image and the final result after editing. Or give the audience a behind-the-scenes look while you are shooting your pictures. Show different angles of the same subject, or zoom in and out at the same scene.

Instagram Smartphone Photography

18. Use hashtags that match your subject

Hashtags are used to categorize your images. Instagram is pretty smart and knows whether or not you use the right tags. So use hashtags that match your subject. Don’t overdo it. It is better to use 10 to 15 useful hashtags than 30 that do not cover your topic. 

Use niche keywords to target a specific audience that will have a higher chance to like your posts. When you post a macro photo made with your smartphone, use the #macrophotography or #smartphonephotography instead of #photography. It will narrow down the audience, but you will have a higher chance of engagement. A well-targeted audience means a bigger chance of quality engagement. 

19. Aim for quality, not quantity

Don’t just post anything on Instagram. Choose your images wisely. Do they fit your unique style? Are the pictures crystal clear and sharp? Is it interesting to look at? Did you use proper lighting? If so, go ahead and post that beautiful image. If not? Try again. Posting a lot of bad photos won’t help you become an Instagram influencer.

20. Analyze the photos that get the most likes

Check your Instagram feed regularly. What images get the most likes? Which hashtags did you use? Try to learn from previous posts. Don’t just look at your post. See what other smartphone photographers do to be successful. What is their style? What kind of images are popular? Which hashtags do they use? Learn as you go. You can always delete images as you learn and get better. Your feed will prove as you go.

What is the best image size for Instagram?

To make your smartphone photography life a little easier, here are the optimal image sizes for Instagram.

Type of PostAspect RatioPost Size in Pixels
Square1:11080 x 1080
Landscape1.91:11080 x 608
Portrait4:51080 x 1350
Instagram Story9:161080 x 1920
IGTV Cover Photo1:1.55420 x 654

Aspect ratios
The aspect ratio refers to the width of an image compared to its height. The first number represents the width and the second the height of the photo. Use the guidelines for supported aspect ratios; otherwise, your photographs will be cropped, which could result in part of your picture being lost. 

The size of your image refers to the number of pixels that make up the width and height of your photograph or video. In general, Instagram supports photos that have a width between 320 and 1080 pixels. If your images are smaller or larger, Instagram will adjust them to an acceptable size. Don’t upload pictures much larger than 1080 pixels. Instagram will automatically compress the image, which can result in distorted images. 

Compressing images
When you upload an image with a width of 1080 px, it does not mean Instagram will use the full size. They usually will compress the photo between 1.8 and 2.3 times. Even though Instagram compresses your images, it is always better to share at an optimal resolution so it won’t affect the quality. 

Final thoughts for taking amazing Instagram photos

Remember, practice makes perfect. Plan ahead. Sit down for half an hour with a pen and paper and come up with a plan. What will be your unique style? How does that picture need to look? How do you want your audience to see you? Answer these questions, find the right gear, and go out and practice. Take multiple images of the same subject and process them at home. See what works and what doesn’t. Learn from other Instagram photographers by following their feed. And above all, have fun, and enjoy the likes that will gradually increase.

Read more on taking the best Instagram selfies.

The gear I used for writing this blog can be found on my favorite gear page.

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