5 Simple Tips for… Getting More From Instagram

I’ve been thinking about starting a tips series for quite a while because I feel like while I am an expert in nothing, I know lots of little tricks and tips of many sorts of things. I’m, as my dad used to say, a jerk of all trades.* BlogHer inspired me to get my butt in to gear and start writing.

As I’ve previously mentioned, my favorite session at BlogHer was iPhoneography. As per usual with conference sessions,  I already knew some things, I learned something and I had a pretty good time. I decided to focus on Instagram rather than iphonegraphy, but I thought I would include the link to the liveblog of the session. I’ve gathered these tips through playing with my phone, reading random blogs and who knows what else. A bunch of these fall in the I know I heard them somewhere, but I might as well get them all in one place. In fact one I learned from Suzanne at BlogHer at lunch. Also – learning random blogging tips at meals is one of my favorite things about going to conferences.

5 Tips for Getting More From Instagram

1. Capturing motion  This is a tip that made the rounds a year or two ago and seems to have disappeared, so I’m reviving it. The easiest way to capture motion on an iPhone or Android**, whether in Instagram or the native camera, is to hold down the camera/shutter button until you are ready to take the photo and then release it.

That is how I caught this:

And the composition isn’t the best, but I also had to throw the ball, so I think it is pretty darn good. Especially because a certain Mr Spencer wanted me to get in the pool.

2. Saving Instagram photos without publishing them to your feed This is one of my favorite tips on this list and it isn’t even mine. This is the one Suzanne impressed a table with at lunch. Let’s say you take a great photo with Instagram, but you don’t want to upload it or you want to save it to see if you can get a better one. With Instagram, normally  you need to upload the photo to shoot the next one. To get around that either start shooting while in Airplane mode (under phone settings) or minimize Instagram after you take the picture, turn on airplane mode, reopen instagram and when you hit share, the upload will fail, but save the photo to your phone. Then just hit the x on the fail screen and carry on. Don’t forget to turn airplane mode back off to share.

3. Shooting with Instagram filters on This is sort of a silly tip, but did you know you can shoot with the filter on instead of just adding them after the photo is taken (the app’s prompted workflow). Just hit the little arrow next to the camera button on the bottom of the shooting screen and it pulls up the filters. This is a really good way to learn about how the different filters can change a shot.

4. Instagram minus the 70s vibe While it is fun to use all of the filters in Instagram, some people are put off by the grainy 70s browns. It is an aesthetic choice and some people do it amazingly well. But it doesn’t have to be so brown. Instagram is a great tool for simply cleaning up photos on the fly. Every once in a while, it is fun to have a photo that looks like this:

but I mostly do it to photos that aren’t that good to begin with, but the moment is cute. I loved Spencer in his jammies with his puzzle, but the morning sun was really harsh. Add a little brown vignette and it is palatable. I mostly just use the filters to boost a photo a tiny bit. To take things from this:

to this:

Using Instagram filters without looking like a hipster

See how the bubbles pop and the square crop is better? I think this was the Lo-fi filter.

5.Tap to focus   This came up at the iPhoneography session and I am including it here because I was surprised how many people didn’t know it. When the camera is open, tap on the screen where you would like the camera to focus. It auto-focuses, normally on the faces or the largest thing in the frame, but this is a way to manually play with the focus a bit.

So the following photos I literally took right now to have an example and didn’t edit them at all. I chose the riveting subject of poorly lit things on my table.

how to take pictures with an iphone

Look how the light shifted just by focusing on the bucket versus the magazine. Changing the focus does not make these good pictures.

I hope these tips help you have a little more fun with Instagram. It is by no means an advanced user guide or anything. Just the things I have told other people the most. Except, of course, the one I stole from Suzanne. Do you have an iPhoneography tips to share? Or favorite things about Instagram? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Bonus tip: if you want to link to a followable link to your Instagram profile, you can use statigram or followgram.

*This wasn’t mean. He said it mostly about himself.

** Thanks KittyConner for letting me know it works for android too via twitter.


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42 Responses to “5 Simple Tips for… Getting More From Instagram”

  1. Emily Y. says:

    Ooohhh… thank you! The airplane mode tip is awesome! And I can’t wait to try motion shots. I have about a zillion blurry shots on my phone.


    Amy Reply:

    I still have a ton of blurry shots too. The hold and release doesn’t always work in super low light with toddlers being toddlers…


  2. Amy says:

    Great tips!

    Holding the shutter button halfway down also works on Androids too. The only thing that doesn’t work on android is the shooting with the filters on, unless I haven’t seen that option.

    One of my favorite ways to capture motion is to follow the subject with my phone (and the shutter button halfway down) and then snap the picture. The subject will be in focus and everything else will have a really cool blur.


    Amy Reply:

    That’s awesome. I’ll have to try that today!


  3. Sarah says:

    Yeah! I’m glad that you went ahead and published the lists. I love them and don’t necessarily think the person is trying to assert themselves as an expert. I just always think, “Damn – they’re super helpful. LOVE IT!” So yay!

    To prevent having to use the Airplane mode thing (because mine gets Twitchy when it switches between networks on/off), I just use Camera Zoom and export (or not) to Instagram… that also allows you to get to fiddle with other applications for editing (which some people love and/or hate).

    ANYWAY! I love this and hope to see more of them in the future. :)


    Amy Reply:

    Is Camera Zoom a separate app? I don’t think I had that one when I still had my droid. I would love to do a post that is all people’s favorite photo apps, too. Just compile a list of people’s favorites iPhone & Droid. I also was thinking of you when I was writing this and trying not to make it too iPhone! iPhone! iPhone! but instagram wasn’t available for droids when I still had it, so i wasn’t sure how the two versions compared.


  4. Kim says:

    love this. I am totally clueless when it comes to instagram. Suzanne told me about #2, and I was in awe. To be honest, I didn’t even know there were more than 4 filters for MONTHS until I accidentally scrolled to the rest. I am going to play with all of these tomorrow!


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  6. OT and ET says:

    airplane mode?!?! WTF! That is genius. Also I didn’t know about the focus thing. Thanks for this, Amy! Rad tips, all of it filed away now. xo


  7. gold price says:

    5. Bonus tip for getting your whites whiter: Put your phone on airplane mode and upload a photo to instagram and apply the Valencia filter. The upload will fail but the image will save to your photos folder on your phone. Remove airplane mode and upload the already filtered photo to instagram and apply the Valencia filter again. It’s my little trick for brightening up my pictures.


  8. I’ve figured out that instead of using airplane mode once the photo comes up to adf filters just hit the button as of you are posting it. It’ll say “processing” and will save it. Works on my Droid anyway.


  9. Veronica says:

    Awesome tips. I didnt know about shooting with a filter or saving without publishing. Thanks for sharing.


  10. Christie says:

    Great tips! Thanks.


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