Lights. Camera. Instagram – a practical guide to improving your feed

By Danielle Scheepers

Posted on 21st September 2018

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. 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 wanted 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 that is scraping by with a sepia filter, but the kind 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. What follows is a summary of many hours of YouTube tutorials and Instagram stalking to glean 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 in practically observing the world.

Notice 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 getting to know them and what they care about on a personal level and then packaging it in a fresh new way to speak 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 look natural and interesting. 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. There is no perfect formula, 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.
  • 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 rebel you.

Manipulation station

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 want to look at an aesthetically pleasing page overall as much as every individual photo.

Although there are filters available on the Instagram app, most serious photographers use a combination of a few to create the result they want. A few good ones include: Snapseed, Facetune and Viscocam, all available through the app store.

Bang bang

Final piece of advice, have fun making mistakes. It is going to happen with everything you do and 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!

[Want to see the brilliant, ridiculous things that go down behind the Yellow door? Follow us here.]

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