7 Steps to Winning Instagram
- Part 1: The Instagram Photography Phenomenon
- Part 2: Self-Portrait Photography
- Part 3: Urban Landscape Photography
- Part 4: Still life Photography
- Part 5: Travel Photography
- Part 6: Wildflife Photography
- Part 7: The Next Step
Since launch, the holy smartphone has streamlined, simplified and supersized social lives – and it’s not stopping there. Having revolutionised business, commerce and information access, this glorious gadget is now taking the art world by storm – demonstrating that big innovations often come in rather small packages. The Instagram photography movement is a particularly hot topic, with some controversy surrounding the credibility of the format. Opinion’s split – with photographic purists sharing their disdain for this pop photography medium – but you can’t argue with 75 million daily active users committed to sharing their latest and greatest creative bursts.
The Everybody Artform
Even professional photographers are flocking to social channels to share their newest masterpieces – harnessing the immense reach of leading networks to bring their art into the digital mainstream. With Instagram account holders able to post directly from their smartphone camera roll or upload images captured on their DSLR through their mobile, the possibilities are near limitless at this point – and the audience is 300m strong and growing. The beauty of major networks like Instagram is in the mass appeal – and considering the diversity of the daily photo feed, it’s no wonder aspiring artists are finding their online fan bases through this innovative app. Whether it’s a stellar selfie, an earth-shaking travel shot or a meme-worthy cat snap, there’s no denying the immense potential of Instagram photography – and there’s currency far beyond likes and shares now up for grabs.
Social Media on a Salary
In 2015, adept Instagrammers are now able to use their phone photography skills to make a living online – with a controversial new job title being added to the creative sphere. ‘Professional Instagrammers’ are making up to six figures in exchange for their artistic iPhonography, harnessing the combined impact of creative vision + a fanatical follower base. This signals a shift towards a more open, all-encompassing idea of what constitutes ‘photography’ – making this an ideal time to get your foot in the phone photography door. The age of elitism is dead – photography fans of all styles, disciplines and skill sets are now free to experiment with the medium and send their outcomes into cyberspace for feedback. We say avid mobile photographers should embrace their artistry and snap, selfie and share their hearts out – and today we’re going to give you all the creative tools you need to have your followers eating out of the palm of your phone-wielding hand. ‘What could be more artful than a Sierra-clad Kylie Jenner getting her pout out?’ we hear you cry – and you’ll find the answer right here.
Part 2: Self-Portrait Photography
Back in 2013, when the word ‘selfie’ entered Oxford Dictionaries, it was clear Generation Y was on to something big. Reshaping the world of self portrait photography forever, this digital wave brought with it a new artistic niche ready to be mastered by the masses. If your objective is to share the most perfect selfie in cyber history, you’ve come to the right place. Heed these words and you’ll be the envy of Instagrammers across continents – harnessing old-school best practices in the name of Insta-glory.
Do it yourself:
- Experiment with angles. At or around eye level is the standard – meaning unique and evocative self-portrait photography happens when you try a change of perspective. Knowing when to leave parts of your subject (in this case, you) obscured will help you create infinitely more enigmatic images
- Explore eye contact. The entire mood and atmosphere of a self-portrait is influenced by eye contact, or lack thereof – and the decision to look to the lens or glance out of frame is a big one, depending on exactly what ambience you’re aiming for
- Break the rules. The laws of composition were made to be broken – so take some initiative and know which shots will benefit from some aesthetic anarchy, since these are sure to result in striking and creative compositions
- Play with props. Context is everything when it comes to self-portrait photography, and surrounding a subject with some hand-picked still life elements can enrich any physical environment – as long as you use props to enhance a shot rather than allowing them to dominate it
- Never forget framing factor. Photographic ‘framing’ can make or break any self-portrait shot – whether it’s letting elements of your environment to do the work, such as arches, walls and doorways, or incorporating manufactured frames into your image to keep the focus where it should be
- Light it up. Photography by its very nature is all about light. And while positioning yourself head-on in the glow of bright daylight will provide the most flattering selfies, they’re not always the most artistic. Experiment with light and shadow by using a variety of light sources at different angles
Susan Tuttle’s moody, abstract take on the selfie oozes existentialism, harnessing the principles of minimalism to awesome effect.
Part 3: Urban Landscape Photography
Traditional landscape photography will always have a place in the art world – but if you ask me, urban landscapes are where it’s at. Combining metropolitan zest with the man-made beauty of urban environments, this photographic niche is perfect proof that a traditional art form can be brought seamlessly into the modern age. Whether you’re doing some first-hand urban exploration, appreciating the nuances of your neighbourhood or on tour with your mates, working on your urban landscape photography will help you find sensational cityscapes in the everyday.
Do it yourself:
- Find life in the inanimate. Captured effectively, urban landscapes can be powerful, arresting and as vibrant as any human subject. Look for inspiring contrasts, man-made colour palettes and unique architecture to find some soul in any urban environment
- Evoke a sense of culture. All the best urban landscape photography projects the culture of a place, embodying communities, lifestyles and social paradigms through strategic photographic selection
- Get creative with composition. Don’t feel like you need to cram an entire block of buildings into one shot. Your photos will be much more impactful for the sacrifice, and honing in on one or two finer details is often the key to an insightful outcome
- Come out at night. The urban landscape in particular comes to life in the night time – and exploring your environment once the lights go out can be a rewarding experience. Shots flooded with neons and moonlight are unmistakably urban, bringing a sense of mystery to any after-hours image
- Follow the footprints. Even in shots without human subjects, the remnants of a person’s presence is still there. Whether it’s discarded items or hints at an earlier event, your urban landscape photography will say more by saying less – and it’s often absence that leads to a truly resonant result
Sam Horine’s minimalist peek inside the London Underground combines magnetic composition with a sense of urban mystery to create a truly dystopian aesthetic.
Part 4: Still Life Photography
Injecting life into an inanimate image is one of the greatest gifts photography brings. Many people pass over still life photography, convinced that there just isn’t the potential found in disciplines that use living subjects – but if you want to test your photographic mettle, taking a stab at still life could be just the creative challenge you’re looking for. Ready to bring your composition to life? Keep these nifty tips in mind to take your still life images to the next level.
Do it yourself:
- Let in the light. When it comes to still life photography, light is the most powerful tool at your disposal. Use both light and shadow to your advantage, knowing how to help the right elements stand out while others take a supportive role
- Say something. Whether it’s a commercial shot, an artistic composition or just a fun Insta-snap, all still life images should serve a purpose. Make your subjects pop by making design decisions that help your image do exactly what it should
- Share the spectrum. The world is a naturally colourful place and you’ll find all manner of visual spice pots in even inanimate environments. Do your photos justice by giving colour due consideration and enhancing the shades that deserve to shine when it comes to editing time
- Find your focus. Depth of field is as crucial in still life photography as ever, helping you shift emphasis to the most significant focal point in your image. Remember that the most impactful images have layers, and use focus to create a satisfying balance between the foreground and background
- Set the scene. The beauty of still life shots is that composition is completely in your hands – so take this opportunity to arrange your image exactly as you want it. Carefully constructing the scene will help you find the ideal visual flow, and piece together a beautiful visual jigsaw designed to your specifications
This still life treat comes from Green Kitchen Stories and demonstrates the vibrant potential of inanimate subjects, pouring a taste of the rainbow onto a stark grey backdrop.
Part 5: Travel Photography
Nothing says cultured and worldly like some expertly composed travel shots – and if you fancy taking your followers around the world in 80 Instagrams, the key to earth-shattering holiday snaps is in your hands. Travel photography is one of the most fulfilling art forms out there, giving you a chance to soak up an array of rich cultures and bring back the most valuable souvenir there is: hard evidence. Hone your craft and you’ll be able to bottle any atmosphere you find on your travels.
Do it yourself:
- Soak up the sun. There are no excuses when it comes to travel photography, and you’ll need to get up early to stand a chance of capturing any location at its best. The golden hours (an hour before sunrise and an hour before sunset) offer the ideal lighting for almost any subject – so you’ll have to commit to some early starts to take your images to the next level
- Get lost. All of the world’s greatest travel shots were taken off the beaten path – and that’s where you’ll need to go to capture something truly special. Actively avoiding designated tourist spots in favour of hidden gems and quiet backstreets is the key to finding authentic inspiration wherever your destination
- Capture communities. What separates travel photography from other artistic disciplines is the opportunity to truly evoke the character of an environment, bringing a landscape to life through a sense of culture and adventure. If an opportunity to live like the locals presents itself, take it – it’s only by becoming part of a world that you can effectively capture it on camera
- Seize the moment. Hesitation is a photographer’s greatest enemy, and every shot you fail to take is one that could’ve been spectacular. Stay alert wherever you go, ready to immortalise a moment in photo form and avoid missing the perfect shot
- Feel every shot. On the other side of the coin, getting overly snap-happy can result in a disappointing keeper-to-reject ratio – so it’s important to cast your artistic lens over every composition before you take the shot. You’ll know when the time’s right
Colin Cabalka’s lesson in travel photography brings together authentic storytelling and rich landscapes for a result that’s both inspiring and completely immersive.
Part 6: Wildlife Photography
If the phenomenon that is social media has taught me anything, it’s that pets are well on their way to world domination. Not satisfied with being valued members of the family and viral video sensations, our domestic dwellers have now got their sights set on being the ultimate photographic subject. Pet photography is fast becoming a legitimate art form in its own right, with its roots in more traditional wildlife photography disciplines – and transferring these skills to your own dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, turtle and tarantula photos is easier than you’d think.
Do it yourself:
- Get to know your subject. Animals are notoriously unpredictable, so it’s worth taking the time to understand the creature in question before you get position yourself to take a shot. Being able to anticipate their behaviours and movements before they happen gives you a valuable advantage guaranteed to bring more rewarding results
- Play the numbers game. Knowing when wildlife photography will benefit from multiple subjects is the key to creating something truly evocative. Whether it’s a lone animal in an urban environment or a family captured in their natural habitat, make sure your decisions are deliberate and result in a more exciting outcome
- Take your time. Unlike portrait photography, working with wildlife requires some professional patience. Without the ability to direct your subject, you’re at the mercy of their movements – meaning you’ll need to bear with them until a picture perfect moment presents itself
- Get some perspective. As always, exploring all available angles gives you more artistic scope – and a far greater chance of finding an animal’s best side. Do your subject justice by photographing them from a number of different perspectives, guaranteeing your wildlife photography is both vibrant and varied
- Amplify assets. Zebras have stripes, giraffes have necks and chameleons have camouflage. There are aesthetic nuances to every animal, and finding the thing that sets your subject apart gives you a chance to emphasise this asset. With the compositional code at the ready, make or break these rules to help their most beautiful features shine through
Theron Humphrey’s passion for pet photography is palpable in this shot, which is as artful, evocative and sentimental as you’ll get with any human subject.
Part 7: The Next Step
So you’ve mastered the art of the selfie and your pet photography game is on point. What next? Now it’s time to see what happens after you’ve lovingly applied filters, played with some tilt shift and determined that your Instagram is ready to enter the digital universe. Whether the image in question is a sunny travel shot, a mouth-watering food photo or a striking cityscape, the next decision you’ll have to make is how you’d like it to be immortalised. Put simply, you have two options before you: share it or print it.
Share the Love
If you’re ready to release your finished image into the wild, it’s time to hit ‘share’ and send your masterpiece out into the online sphere. Prepare yourself for a future of favourites, follows and Facebook shares as you join the ranks of the world’s most respected Instagrammers. If you’d love feedback from other social media addicts, sharing your Instagram photography is a great way to do just that. With pro photographers across all niches harnessing the reach of this powerful platform to spread the word on their latest pieces, this near-infinite network of photography lovers offers any aspirational amateur an ideal way to find out what the world has to say.
Make It Last
For the fairest Instagrams of all, life on the wall could be a possibility. If you’ve composed an image that’s packed with memories and personal sentiment, you might prefer to give this photo pride of place in your bedroom or living room rather than sharing it with the world of Instagram. Instagram photo prints are a brilliant way to immortalise images that mean something to you, whether it’s a treasured travel experience or a picture you’re particularly proud of. Choosing a professional photo printing service guarantees your photo will be preserved in all its glory, transforming a mobile masterpiece into a mounted feature that’s built to last.