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Social Media and UGC

5 Tips to Taking Great Instagram Photos

When marketers are expected to produce multiple engaging pieces of content every day, it’s not a surprise that they’re always looking for more. Brands get their social media content from a variety of places. A lot of times it’s custom creative content. Other times they use stock photography. However more and more brands are turning to their own customers for content. Why? Because social networks are a low-cost and efficient way to get content that already resonates with consumers.  With the best brands on Instagram posting an average of 5.5 times/week, there is a huge demand for content that’s current, relevant, and engaging.

Whether you’re a marketer looking to upgrade your brand’s Instagram game or a customer looking to have your photo featured by your favorite brand, we’ve compiled 5 key Instagram tips to create high quality, high-performing Instagram photos without heavy editing.

1. Focus on Lighting

Taking a VSCO at VSCO hq #VSCOcam

A photo posted by Kyle Wong (@kwong47) on Jan 23, 2015 at 1:58pm PST

When you take a picture, exposure is the amount of light collected by the sensor in your camera. Exposure is incredibly important in making your photo come to life. Details are everything. When someone comes across your photo in their feed, they want to feel like they are there with you.

One of the most common mistakes people make, especially when using an smartphone, is taking a picture that’s too bright or too dark. When the exposure is off, photo’s crispness and details tend to get lost. Exposure mistakes can go both ways; Instagram is full of both under and overexposed posts.

Avoiding underexposure (not enough light): The best way to fix this is to always avoid having bright light source behind your subject and your camera.

Avoiding overexposure (too much light): To prevent overexposure always make sure the light source directly facing your camera is not too strong.

If you think your photo is still under or overexposed, it might help to tap the screen to refocus the photo. While smartphone cameras have dramatically improved, sometimes you still can’t avoid exposure issues when taking a picture. I recommend apps like VSCO or AfterLight to help.

2. Placement is Key

Jump.....man PC: @farhat_sikder #regram #sneakerhead #instashot #jumpan #airjordans #aj11 #dmps #rare #industrialdesign #sneakers #hypebeast #designprocess #igsneakercommunity #footwear #heatswap #solecollector #finishline #nike #complex #sneakerporn #kickonfire #kicksoftheday #nyc #brooklyn #colors

A photo posted by Mo Rahman (@moe_ramen112) on Nov 28, 2014 at 2:00pm PST

It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many brands consistently screw this up. When setting up your shot, make sure to put your subject in the middle of the frame, either vertically or horizontally (or both).

Humans are naturally wired to be attracted by symmetry; it is a product of evolution. Do your best to find and highlight a key symmetry point. This will grab more eyes when your followers are scrolling through their Instagram feeds.  Movie director Wes Anderson is famous for phenomenal symmetry.

Also consider the “Rule of Thirds” which simply states that the subjects of your photos should appear along the lines or intersections when your frame is split in thirds. That’s what those “useless” guidelines on your camera app are for. Re-activate them and give it a shot. If you want to challenge yourself, pick two subjects for your photo and try to follow the rule of thirds for both! (position them diagonal from each other)

3. Pick a Subject


A photo posted by Humza Deas (@humzadeas) on Jan 22, 2015 at 4:01pm PST

This may be the most common mistake I see repeated over and over again when I browse my Instagram feed. When you create content, make sure to pick a clear subject and make it the focus of the picture.

Over crowded photos can be painful to look at, and your followers won’t have any clue where their focus is supposed to be. Whether you’re sharing a behind the scenes look at your new product line, or celebrating the brand’s lifestyle, make sure your posts don’t get too cluttered and chaotic.

When it comes to Instagram, often less is more. Empty space can add class and clarity.

4. Find Patterns

#artofvisuals #createexploretakeover #exploreeverthing @instagood #freedomthinkers #featuremeinstagood #bleachmyfilm #instamagazine_ #chasingessence #theunderrated #streetdreamsmag #vscogood_ #streetdreamsnypl #visualvoicemag #VSCOcam #vscogrid #mkexplore #picfxroundup #shootermag #shotawards #hot_shotz #hsdailyfeature #justgoshoot #hypebeastxvsco #mobiledarkroom #vsco #illgrammers #igersofnyc #ig_nycity #nycprimeshot #crispcaptures

A photo posted by Farhat Sikder (@farhat_sikder) on Oct 10, 2014 at 10:04am PDT

Who doesn’t love patterns, I mean come on.

As with symmetry, patterns draw attention to your post and help the brain understand what it is looking at. Whether it is a brick wall behind your subject, or a new paisley shirt, try to emphasize patterns in your Instagram posts to increase engagement and likes. Patterns are often overlooked in the world of snapshots, so focusing on them, can help you stand out.

5. Mind your Filters and Editing

You knew this was coming, but still, I’ll say it loud and clear; Do not go filter crazy! Yes, using filters or a photo editor can be fantastic ways to enhance an already great picture, but don’t treat them as your savior.

Adding sepia to a picture of a beach doesn’t make your followers want to jump into what is now, brown water. Use filters to make your photo as close to the real thing as possible, they are meant to help fix focus, saturation, exposure, contrast, and sharpness, not to change the basis of the photo. No one likes an overly edited artificial photo. Instagram started based around the idea of authenticity, keep it that way. Now that you've learned how to take great Instagram photos, it's time to get started!

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