Okay okay, I get that it’s easy to hate on Instagram‘s algorithm (does this even impact people anymore?) and complain about how hard it is to grow your follower count, but I’ve been wondering: are y’all setting your feeds up for success??
Whether people like it or not, part of the job for influencers and bloggers is to create visually appealing photos that viewers want to interact with. I’m getting tired of seeing people give viewers the equivalent of zoomed in, dim-kitchen-fluorescent-lighting plain oatmeal photographs, and then complaining about lack of engagement. Would you engage with that photo? Only for a pity like y’all, and I’d definitely unfollow if that was regular content (or probably never follow in the first place). Keep those boring photos for your stories, because I’m about to help y’all hopefully never take shots like that again.
This post was written with Instagram in mind, but these tips are able to be applied to taking photographs in general, which is important for those creating blog content! I included examples of some fabulous Instagram pictures with each category, so you can see exactly what I’m explaining. Think I missed something? Let me know below!
1. use natural light
One of the best things you can do for your pictures, especially instagram photos, is shoot in natural lighting. People tend to be drawn toward bright, evenly lit photos (seriously, good light is my fave). Flashes and indoor lighting tend to create stark shadows across the face that can be hard to edit, and even harder to fit into a cohesive theme.
I personally find that the best times to take photos are earlier in the morning, slightly overcast days, or during golden hour. This gives you light that is more diffused and even. When the sun is high in the sky (around noon), it can create harsh shadows on your face or whatever else you’re shooting.
If your noon lunch break with the sun directly overhead is the only time you can make it work, try taking photographs with slight cover, like under a tree or awning.
Seriously, how GOOD is all that bright light?!
2. learn rule of thirds
This is a basic but necessary principle to help create balanced (and therefore interesting) photographs! Just utilizing this can improve your photographs immensely.
Basically, imaginary lines break a photo down into 9 parts. The 4 points where those lines intersect are generally seen as the “strongest” focal points. The idea is that by placing your photo subject on any of those 4 lines or 4 intersects, your image will be more balanced and pleasing to the eye. This will make it easier for your viewer to interact with!
• With PORTRAIT PHOTOS, the easiest way to line up your subject is with their eyes on the top line of the rule of thirds graph. This photo below of Allie Michelle is pretty much a friggin perfect example, with her eyes hitting the top line on the graph, her nose hitting the left line, and her jaw hitting the right. The picture is asymmetrical but balanced out by the shapes of the leaves on the left and the greenery in the background.
• With LANDSCAPE PHOTOS, you want the horizon line to be on the top or bottom rule of thirds line, rather than directly through the center, cutting your photo in half. The photo below of Ryan Resatka‘s shot is a perfect example, with the horizon line not only placed on the top line, but the mountain on the top left intersect. You can pretty much see that the viewer’s eye will start at the mountain, and follow the waves down to the foreground.
• This is neither portrait or landscape, but I figured this is also a good example of the Rule of Thirds being used properly for the fashion bloggers. Not only are Brighton‘s shoulders almost squared with the top line, her body follows the right line to her hip hitting that bottom right intersect, and her left leg on the left line. There’s some great negative space working for her on the right as well!
[clickToTweet tweet=”The rule of thirds can help you create more balanced, visually appealing photographs for your audience.” quote=”The rule of thirds can help you create more balanced, visually appealing photographs for your audience.”]
3. utilize the flatlay
Flatlay photographs are pretty much overhead or birds-eye-view photos taken from directly above of various items that have been styled on a flat surface. They can be used for a lot of things, including: food, fashion accessories, plants, product shots, and blog graphics. I personally like to use these for food, and think they look great for coffee in cafes.
A good flatlay has a simple background so that the arranged objects can stand out, and doesn’t appear cluttered. You’ll want to pay attention to:
• decent lighting
• negative space
• balance of objects
• use of textures
This is something that can take a bit of skill and getting used to, so don’t be afraid to play around with prop arrangement, and don’t be afraid to move your phone around! Make sure you’re holding your phone parallel to the surface so that you get a clean overhead shot though (and this way you can rotate the picture around in any direction when cropping).
(RELATED READ: Taking Your Own Blog Photos)
4. take more photos
When editing your pictures, would you rather have 3 options to choose from, or 50 options? 50, right? So don’t be afraid to take more pictures! Try covering all your bases, and shoot from all the angles too, like flatlay, from the side, or the 3/4.
Are you taking fashion photos? Don’t be afraid to kick your feet up or do funny poses! Turn and get a walking away shot. Stick your tongue out and wink at the camera. Take that profile photograph! And don’t you forget photographing those little details. Have fun with it!! The more photos you take, the more you’ll give yourself to work with, and the greater chance you’ll “get the shot” (instead of forcing yourself to work with just “a” shot).
Plus, when you have multiple photos from different angles, you’ll be able to fill your instagram calendar for those #tbt days you haven’t had a chance to create fresh content!
+ A little tip: make sure if you’re using your dSLR you’re shooting in “burst” mode. This will catch a couple photos at once, so you can choose between different nuanced movements, rather than one photo![clickToTweet tweet=”Taking extra #photos can make the difference between finding ‘the’ shot, and just making ‘a’ shot work.” quote=”Taking extra photos can make the difference between finding ‘the’ shot, and just making ‘a’ shot work.”]
5. simplify the shot
When people are visually overwhelmed with a busy photograph, their eyes don’t now where to look. To help your view know exactly what the subject is, you want to simplify your composition and remove distractions. Just like great lighting, people respond well to more minimalist photographs. If it’s not helping tell the photo’s story, get rid of it! Some easy ways to do this include:
• Utilizing depth of field. By opening your camera’s aperture real wide (or using your phone’s “Portrait” mode), you simplify your photo by isolating your subject from everything around it. This will give you a professional-looking photo and a creamy background, great for food and details.
• Taking advantage of negative space. If you’re photographing a flatlay product shot (or food) try using a white or plain background. This will build shapes around the objects that are not only pleasing to the eye, but help direct the flow of the photograph. If it’s not a flatlay, be aware of colors and how they can create blocks of space (like in Orion’s photo that I’ve featured below). Those blocks can help emphasize the subject if used appropriately.
• Filling the frame. You want to let your subject occupy the most space in your photograph when you’re trying to fill the frame. Get close, then get even closer. You can really emphasize this effect when you’re cropping down your pictures to fine tune them.
Orion‘s entire feed is amazing for simple, minimalist inspiration, as is Kelsey Simone‘s.[clickToTweet tweet=”If it’s not aiding your picture’s story, cut out the excess clutter!” quote=”If it’s not aiding your picture’s story, cut out the excess clutter!”]
6. play with the background
A good background is important for flatlays and product shots, so pay attention to what you’re shooting on! You don’t want the busy background to detract from your subject.
One of my favorite tricks is to use contact paper to fake a fancy background (#doitforthegram). You may have seen the “marble” counter top in posts like this one, but in reality, that’s marble contact paper stuck to a poster board!! I don’t find my fake wood counters particularly aesthetically pleasing (see picture), so it’s fun to switch it up.
You don’t have to go crazy making a fancy background for your photos either, just get creative. I’ve bought funky patterned wooden placemats, and sometimes utilized my fuzzy rug for texture, like you can see here or here.
7. don’t be afraid to crop
One of my favorite ways to fine tune an image is to crop it down. Pretty much every single photo I’ve uploaded here or Instagram has been cropped to make it more appealing. When you crop a photo, you can:
• remove excess and simplify your photo
• increase the impact to your viewer
• set up Rule of Thirds in post production
The picture above for example: While it would have been a flattering photo (if I do say so myself) at the full size I’d taken it, by cropping it down, I took the focal point from my glasses straight to my red lips. From there, the negative space draws your eye to my necklace. Much better!
Here and here are other examples of pictures I’ve cropped down for effect. Next time you have a photo that you’re ready to send to your e-trash bin, try bringing down the frame and see if you can’t actually save it!
+ A little tip: Instagram viewers seem to respond better to VERTICAL photos, rather than those cropped HORIZONTALLY. Try switching to upright photos, and see if there’s a change in your engagement![clickToTweet tweet=”7 tips to help improve YOUR #instagram photos, and a FREE #hashtag list to help get more eyes on your content!” quote=”7 tips to help improve YOUR instagram photos, and a FREE hashtag list to help get more eyes on your content!”]
Want more eyes on your photos?
So now you know how to take better pictures, and want to make sure the most people possible are actually seeing them?? I hear ya! To make sure you’re getting the absolute most out of your Instagram experience–
I’ve put together a FREE updated hashtag list that you can snag below!
Over 300+ hashtags to help YOU increase the eyes on your content when you hit subscribe!