Lights. Camera. Instagram – a practical guide to improving your feed
I love learning. Seriously, we recently recapped our Gallup Strengths Finder results as a team, and two of my top strengths are related to gathering knowledge, almost to the extent of hoarding. (I'ts possible, trust me) So, when Em and Dom let us research and present a topic of our choice for our monthly challenge I had to suppress very real outbursts of joy.
But what to choose?! I wrestled through the mountain of skills that I long to possess and there it was: my ever-elusive unicorn - photography.
In this case, specifically smart phone photography. You may know from my previous blog post that my role is resident wordsmith, so this is more than a little out of my comfort zone. I mean, any person with working fingers and a smart phone can have an Instagram feed. Then again everyone can pick up a pen and write, but what is it that sets average and excellent apart?
I wanted to be great. Not just your average Joe scraping by with a sepia filter, but the kind of snapper that grabs your attention and keeps it. As a team we encourage one another to continually up our clients’ Instagram feeds, and implement practical ways of doing so. In lieu of this, I put together a summary of my many hours of YouTube tutorials and Instagram stalks where I gleaned the basics from the best in the business.
Wax on wax off
The golden lesson we all learnt from The Karate Kid. Sometimes the process of learning something valuable happens way before actually doing it. How can that possibly apply to photography, you ask? Like this: start with your mind. Not in a mystical, ethereal, meditation-but-no-action kind of way, but by practically observing the world.
Take note of how you view certain things and what you are naturally interested in, then focus on how best to share that viewpoint with the world. For example: are you big picture focused, positive and ambitious? You will notice things that speak to that in your everyday life, include those in your feed. We apply this to our clients, by really getting to know them and what they care about on a personal level and then packaging it in a fresh new way that speaks to the right audience.
Tell the story Daniel son. (nods wisely)
Coincidence? I think not.
Great photos make you feel as though you stumbled onto the perfect moment. They’re composed in a way that makes the shot appear natural and interesting to the viewer. What you don’t know is that you are looking at shot number 63 of 95 taken, and it was one of seven that ultimately made the cut. Realistically there is no perfect formula to guarantee a great shot, but here are a few helpful basics to get you started:
- Rule of thirds: if you divided your screen into a grid with two horizontal and vertical lines intersecting, the points where they meet are where you would place your subject. Most smart phones have a built-in grid option you can select to help you.
- Angles/ perspective: don’t make the obvious choice when capturing something, move around. Go above and underneath, get really close up, think out of the box.
- Framing: frame within a frame, or as I like to call it – frameception. Try to place your subject within a door frame, arch, window, etc.
- Lighting: try to use natural lighting and shadows. Play with harsh and soft light, depending on the time of day.
- Rule of odds: for whatever reason, people prefer an odd number of things in a shot. So, choose three instead of four, unless you want to make people uncomfortable – you little rebel you.
Editing isn’t only useful for making us feel embarrassed about our distinctly un-photoshopped features; it is also useful for setting a cohesive theme for your Instagram page. As pointed out by famous photographer Phil McKinney, “Instagram is like your online portfolio.” People are drawn to overall aesthetically pleasing pages as much they want to view amazing individual photos.
Although there are filters available on the Instagram app, most serious photographers use a combination of a few outside apps to create the result they want. A few good ones include: Snapseed, Facetune and VSCO, all available through the app store.
Final piece of advice: have fun making mistakes. It is going to happen with everything you do. It is an invaluable part of learning and will help you figure out what your storytelling style is. Ultimately, you want to connect with people through the personality of your business. Whether you do that with slick editing, tons of personality, or maybe a bit of both, stick to your guns to guarantee more hits than misses. Happy shooting!
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