TECH
11/12/2015 05:31 pm ET Updated Nov 13, 2015

29 Instagram Hacks From People Who Take Really Good Photos

Make your feed look like that of a professional photographer.

If you want to step up your Instagram game, take better photos and curate an enviable feed, who better to ask for advice than professional photographers acing the game? Which is why we've reached out to 29 Insta kings and queens and asked for foolproof tips and tricks. Their priceless advice is below.

  • Plan ahead, decide what you want your feed to be about.

    A photo posted by Simone Bramante (@brahmino) on

    Simone Bramante
    Photo by: Simone Bramante, @brahmino

    "Before doing anything, you should think about what's in your life and what you want to share with your audience. Select your content first."
  • Don't get hung up on Likes.

    A photo posted by Jussi Ulkuniemi (@skwii) on

    Jussi Ulkuniemi
    Photo by: Jussi Ulkuniemi, @skwii

    "Stay calm, observe and find what you like. Don't get stuck with what the Instagram community thinks is good, or what kind of photos get the most likes. Otherwise, you'll end up chasing sweet but ordinary visuals, even thought your talent lies in storytelling, humor or compelling portraiture.

    My three motives right now are calmness, surrealism and candidness."
  • Use natural light.
    Margaret Zhang
    Photo by: Margaret Zhang, @margaret__zhang

    "Lighting is key -- like any form of photography, no amount of filtering or app-editing will save a photo that's poorly lit. Natural light always reads better, so if you're outdoors, early morning, late afternoon and overcast days are prime times for shooting."
  • Use your eyes before you use the lens.

    A photo posted by Niv Rozenberg (@nivroz) on

    Niv Rozenberg
    Photo by: Niv Rozenberg, @nivroz

    "My first photography teacher used to say that the eye is just another muscle in your body that needs training. Unfortunately, most people don't use their eyes first, but rather hold up their phones and immediately snap. Instead of taking over 100 shots to settle on the best one, take a moment to look. Use your eyes to frame the picture. Taking a few minutes to really observe what's in front of you may open new ways of looking at it, and the perfect composition will likely present itself on the first or second try."
  • Turn on the grid feature.

    A photo posted by Dan Cole (@dankhole) on

    Dan Cole
    Photo by: Dan Cole, @dankhole

    "I love the strength and beauty found in centering a strong piece of architecture. When I come across a scene like this, I work to align all the elements as perfectly as possible. Whether photographing with my iPhone or my Nikon, I shoot with the grid turned on to aid my composition. Often, I rock side to side on my feet, watching the overlapping elements of my subject carefully on the screen or through the viewfinder, until I've found that magic midpoint."
  • Draw the viewer in with a clear point of interest.

    A photo posted by Sam Horine (@samhorine) on

    Sam Horine
    Photo by: Sam Horine, @samhorine

    "A good photo has a clear point of interest, whether that's a person in the foreground or a landscape with leading lines that draw the viewer's eye into the image. Great photos have multiple points of interest without feeling cluttered. Try and shoot photos that tell a story about the person or place."
  • Keep an eye out for moments.

    A photo posted by Joshua Lott (@joshualott) on

    Joshua Lott
    Photo by: Joshua Lott, @joshualott

    "Create pictures with great moments that focus on the subject, or subjects, you are photographing. Settled, extreme, emotional and peak moments are all natural and make for interesting pictures. Stay clear of unwanted information that will detract from the moment, unless it adds to the picture.

    The purpose of a clean image is to draw your viewers' eyes straight to the story you are trying to illustrate without the viewers being distracted."
  • Look for strong colors, shapes and lines.

    A photo posted by Ira Block (@irablockphoto) on

    Ira Block
    Photo by: Ira Block, @irablockphoto

    "A powerful Instagram image should have strong colors and very defined shapes and lines. You need to get close to some element in the photo that will loom large in your frame and draw the viewer into the photograph. Train yourself to see photos that convey some kind of emotion."
  • Don't be afraid to use outside apps to create desired effects.

    A photo posted by Dan Rubin (@danrubin) on

    Dan Rubin
    Photo by: Dan Rubin, @danrubin

    "Create the effect of a long-exposure by using an app that simulates a slow shutter to blur water and other moving objects. This is especially effective on large bodies of water or waterfalls, where you can show contrast between the smoothed water and sharp, still surroundings. 

    On iOS, CortexCam does this hand-held, while apps like Slow Shutter Cam and AverageCam Pro require a tripod or other stable support (similar apps exist on Android). In addition to this effect, they also allow you to shoot better images in low-light with less noise, and other effects like light-trails."
  • Play with light from unexpected places.
    Matilde Gattoni
    Photo by: Matilde Gattoni, @matildegattoni

    "The lens of the phone camera absorbs light in a different way when compared to traditional cameras. It offers great possibilities to play with light coming from above or behind the subject. By moving around the subject while you're looking through your phone, you will see the light changing until the rays of light become visible on your lens. At that point, the light confers a magical and spiritual look to your images.”
  • Take advantage of burst mode.

    A photo posted by laura (@bythebrush) on

    Laura Pritchett
    Photo by: Laura Pritchett, @bythebrush

    "To freeze a moment in sharp detail, shoot in a well-lit space or daylight to allow for fast shutter speed. Make sure to tap the screen to manually lock focus on your subject and perfect the exposure with the slide bar before the movement begins. Burst mode is a wonderful feature to help you choose the very best moment to save."
  • Shoot from different angles.

    A photo posted by Mike Kus (@mikekus) on

    Mike Kus
    Photo by: Mike Kus, @mikekus

    "Try taking pictures from unusual viewpoints. A view that seems normal can look amazing if shot from a completely different perspective than one is used to seeing. Try shooting from up high or right down on the ground to achieve more interesting pictures."
  • Play with props.

    A photo posted by Kym Pham (@kympham) on

    Kym Pham
    Photo by: Kym Pham, @kympham

    "Experiment with different objects and observe the way they enrich what your photo is trying to convey. Maybe it's a Defender off-roading through the mountains or a pair of wooden rowboats about to be taken out on a fjord. Suddenly, the scene is no longer just beautiful, it is alive with stories."
  • Embrace bad weather.

    A photo posted by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

    Pete Souza
    Photo by: Pete Souza, @petesouza

    "Bad weather equals good photographs. Get outdoors when there's snow, fog or rain."
  • Look for puddles after the rain.

    A photo posted by Los Angeles (@paolofortades) on

    Paolo Fortades
    Photo by: Paolo Fortades, @paolofortades

    "Reflections from puddles can make for interesting pictures so use use them to your advantage. I took this photo the morning after a rainy night.​"
  • White space gives your feed room to breathe.
    Hilary Rushford
    Photo by: Hilary Rushford, @hilaryrushford

    "White space equals chicness. Think of those Pin-worthy homes, or the latest J. Crew catalog. What they often have in common is lots of white space. Look to bring the same to your Instagram feed so that it's not so busy and cluttered, in the same way you'd appreciate a website that doesn't have copy and colors crammed all over.

    To do this, look for white walls to shoot in front of, if you're photographing a person. Then pick up a piece of foam board from an art shop, or use the white window sill in your home to photograph an object. Or use one of the many font apps, like WordSwag, to put a quote on a white background which gives your feed a little breathing room."
  • Take advantage of the newly-added portrait mode.

    A photo posted by Eric Rubens (@erubes1) on

    Eric Rubens
    Photo by: Eric Rubens, @erubes1

    "Take advantage of the new portrait mode on Instagram to emphasize the length of a scene. Using this format can help you tell a story that a square crop might've prevented."
  • Add more elements for scale.

    A photo posted by Pei Ketron (@pketron) on

    Pei Ketron
    Photo by: Pei Ketron, @pketron

    "To add scale to an image, include a person in the frame. Experiment with different poses that make sense within the scene. "
  • Look for layers.
    David Guttenfelder
    Photo by: David Guttenfelder, @dguttenfelder

    "I like pictures with many layers. In this image, I wanted the point of view of my photograph to be that of another passenger. I set my exposure to keep the range of tones in the sky and to render the man, standing in shadow, a silhouette. I used the ship's structure to organize the whole scene, as if I were looking through a frame within a frame. I took care to place the man's head within the lighter shaded ship's wake so the viewer's eye can follows his line of sight through the triangular shape in the waves all the way to the peak of the tower. 

    These are all technical and compositional considerations, but what really matters to me is that I make a photograph that can transport others to the same spot."
  • Use patches of light to your advantage.
    Paul Octavious
    Photo by: Paul Octavious, @pauloctavious

    "I like to find patches of light from the sun or street lamp and use them to my advantage. The fun thing about using patches of light from the sun when creating a a photo is that you'll always get something different, as time passes from days to seasons."
  • Stay out when the sun goes down.
    Shane Black
    Photo by: Shane Black, @shanemichaelblack

    "Stay out even after the sun goes down. Even though our eyes can't see that much after the sun goes down and the stars come out, cameras these days can pick up much more light than we have the ability to. It's a whole other world out there at night and I find it so fascinating to see what the camera is able to capture that I can't see with my naked eye."
  • Get physically close to your subjects.

    A photo posted by Ami Vitale (@amivitale) on

    Ami Vitale
    Photo by: Ami Vitale, @amivitale

    "Whether you're shooting people or animals, get close. It creates intimacy and emotion in your work."
  • Accessorize your phone.

    A photo posted by Sam Graves (@thesamgraves) on

    Sam Graves
    Photo by: Sam Graves, @thesamgraves

    "When considering the shot you want, using a lens attachment can make all the difference in the feel and look of the shot. Using a wide angle lens can offer a great deal of character. Stand closer to the subject and use the widest focal length possible. This will create a sense of perspective with the subject, filling in the frame of the photo and causing the subject to pop in a way that can only be achieved with the attachment.

    For DSLR users, my go-to is the 16-35mm lens. I also use the wide angle lens made by Moment when shooting with an iPhone to create the same effect."
  • Get a waterproof case.

    A photo posted by Cole Rise (@colerise) on

    Cole Rise
    Photo by: Cole Rise, @colerise

    "My absolute favorite is the Catalyst Waterproof case -- it's cheaper than Lifeproof and can withstand greater depths. And always get phone insurance. I've had more than a couple cases fail on me in the waves in Hawaii. Catalyst has proven the most robust, but having the insurance on the side has been a good fallback for a quick and painless swap at the Apple Store.

    Also, make sure you affix the case to yourself with a good wrist strap. A shoelace or a couple of hair elastics do the job just fine. I'd imagine most people wouldn't enjoy snorkeling around the beach looking for their phone."
  • Keep your edits simple.

    A photo posted by Karan B. (@sendingstache) on

    Karan Bhatia
    Photo by: Karan Bhatia, @sendingstache

    "Oftentimes, over-edited shots can be unappealing. When editing with filters, try to be conservative with which ones you use and how strong you make them. Pushing a photo far from its original state isn't always as attractive as subtle tweaks and maintaining a natural look."
  • Practice, practice, practice.

    A photo posted by Sezgi Olgaç (@sezgiolgac) on

    Sezgi Olgaç
    Photo by: Sezgi Olgaç, @sezgiolgac

    "For me, taking better Instagram photos means practicing all the time. I am always ready to capture the most interesting location/scene/moment/light. Practice composing your photo well, taking many different frames of the same subject for the best possible result and paying attention to the editing process. These will help you post a sharp and clean photo with nice tones and natural colors."
  • Aim for quality over quantity.
    Kirsten Alana
    Photo by: Kirsten Alana, @kirstenalana

    "The best way to up your game on Instagram is to curate your feed, posting less while sharing higher quality images. This means being picky about composition and lighting."
  • Keep your Instagram feed consistent.

    A photo posted by @moniqua on

    Monica Rubalcava
    Photo by: Monica Rubalcava, @moniqua

    "Have a constant look in all your photos. Right now I've been posting only black and white. Each photo is simple and similar, so when you view all the photos together it is more appealing to the eye. My favorite type of black and white photos are ones with strong blacks and bright whites. Best trick to get that is harsh lighting. Find a spot with bright light and when editing, add contrast."
  • The best captions encourage people to engage.

    Daydream with me 🌸🌪🌸 What or who do you daydream about? #createdoniphone

    A photo posted by Melissa Vincent (@misvincent) on

    Melissa Vincent
    Photo by: Melissa Vincent, @misvincent

    "Invite your audience to engage when using captions on social media. I use very short titles, usually song lyrics or what I feel the photo portrays. The caption is very important because it allows people to bring a part of their personal feelings into your post, making it more of a meaningful experience for them.

    I will sometimes ask questions so I can get to know my followers better. I made the #createdoniphone hashtag to let everyone know which of my photos I edited and shot with my iPhone. I use this in the caption of almost all of my post.

    Hashtags are equally as important. I look at the trending hashtags daily to see what others are talking about and use these when appropriate for my post. It's a good idea to use as many hashtags that seem relevant to your photo. Your image will probably get lost in the sea of photographs in the trending hashtags, but for other, more specific words, your post may stay near the top for awhile. This allows for more people who search that word to find your work.

    Lastly, I like to post the bulk of my hashtags in the first comment instead of the caption. I find that it can make your post look untidy if you put several hashtags in your main caption, or title."

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