GETTING TO GRIPS WITH INSTAGRAM: A BEGINNERS’ GUIDE
Used by over 700 million photographers, Instagram is a simple way to share your own creations and take a look at others’ work as well. If you’re into a certain genre or subject, there’s nothing like nosing around other people’s images to get a little inspiration. And who knows? You might even make a friend or two along the way.
First things first: you’ll need a smartphone or tablet that’s compatible with Instagram. Download the Instagram app from your store of choice, and get ready to create your account.
Before you go any further, you’ll need to do a little thinking. Although many people have “general” Instagram accounts which cover the full range of their interests in photography, many others are now choosing to specialise in specific subjects to attract a niche audience. A good example is our wildlife Ambassador Tesni Ward, for example, who also has a second Instagram account which is purely devoted to her images and her love of badgers.
If you’re just starting out, perhaps a general account is a good place to begin: in which case, we’d recommend using your name or an alias you’re known by, and using a photo of yourself as the icon so your friends will know to follow you. As ever, don’t give away too much personal information when setting up your Instagram account.
What do I post on my Instagram account?
The main factor to note is that by default, Instagram turns your image into a square crop. You can use portrait or landscape ratio photos, but they’ll be shown cropped in the main view. If you desperately want to keep your landscape or portrait shape, you may have to put your image into a borders app like Whitagram, which adds the border you’re looking for.
The other issue you may stumble upon is that you can’t upload to Instagram from your computer: you’ll have to transfer the images to your phone or tablet first. This is simple if you’re using O.I.Share to transfer shots you’ve just taken, but older work will have to be emailed to yourself or sent via Bluetooth, Dropbox or another system you use – whatever enables you to access images and save them to your phone or tablet.
Now you’re ready to post! Remember the square crop, and take a look at Instagram’s selection of built-in filters and editing tweaks to see if you like the way they change your photo – of course you’ll have got the shot right in camera, but reviewing few last-minute nudges and boosts don’t hurt.
On the final screen of posting you’ll be given the chance to write a caption to go with your image. This is where you can explain the shot: where you were, what settings you were using, or what thought had gone into its capture. Longer, well-written captions which invite conversation with your fellow Instagrammers are usually the most successful, but trends change fast: keep an eye on popular Instagram accounts to see how they handle the business of writing for captions.
Now, post it! Congratulations. You’re an Instagrammer. But if you’ve started a brand new account, how do you get people to see your work?
Start out by dropping in a set of relevant hashtags: these are words preceded with the “#” symbol, which turns that word into a searchable unit. You might choose the location you were in, the subject, or any descriptive terms which spring to mind when looking at your photo. At the moment you can add up to thirty hashtags to your image, and we’d recommend you try as many as possible to get your feed in front of people who are interested in that genre or style of shooting.
Again, the best way to accumulate hashtags is to take a look at other Instagrammers whose work you admire, and see which ones they’re using on their pictures. Don’t go too generic: tags like #dog and #photo are so widely used that your shots won’t stand out in the crowd, but more subtle ones like #makeitdelicious – with smaller usages – are more likely to get your shot seen.
There are two ways of adding hashtags to your shot: you can either edit the caption to include them, or pop in the hashtags as a separate comment – normally the first comment after posting your photo. Try both approaches and see what works for you.
A very useful tool is Makelight’s Hashtag Library – this allows you to search by subject, see what’s working and what’s popular, and create your own list from there. It can be helpful to keep your list in a notes app on your phone so you can quickly copy and paste them across when you’re posting a photo. Tweak your list as you go by editing out the tags which aren’t working, and always make sure that the hashtags you use are relevant to the subjects in question.
Make sure to comment and chat with other Instagrammers taking pictures that you’re impressed by: if you give a little, you’ll get a little. It’s not called “social” media for nothing: getting involved with the community is the best way to get your pictures seen by more people. And who knows where it might lead?
Enjoy experimenting with Instagram and make sure you follow @OlympusUK – we run monthly themes, and share OLYMPUS users’ work when we’ve been tagged in. Add #OlympusUK to your hashtag list, and we’ll take a look at your photos!