For all womenーentrepreneurs, bloggers, and influencers alikeーInstagram can be a powerful tool if used wisely.
With over 800 million monthly active users on Instagram according to CNBC, the social networking app provides one of the best ways to gain followers and reach diverse audiences. Both business and personal accounts actively use the app, giving the perfect opportunity to showcase your company, restaurant, blog, or empowering ideas.
Many of the most successful entrepreneurs have Instagram accounts and know how to use them. Because Instagram focuses on displaying visual media in the form of photos, it is essential to know how to take pictures worth being on your Instagram account for everyone to see. Here are the 4 steps for taking Instagram-worthy photos so that you can start building your consistent feed and gaining followers today.
1. Use Equipment You Already Have
You probably thought you had to buy a techy camera and purchase Adobe Creative Cloud to edit the photos you captured, right?
Actually (and thankfully) wrong!
Breathe easy with this news: posting high-quality photos with the same device you use to log into Instagram is more than possible. The purchase of the newest DSLR is not necessary. Photoshop and Lightroom don’t have to interfere with your monthly budget either.
However, that doesn’t mean fuzzy, sloppy photos are acceptable. You can and definitely should still take photos like a professional. Here are a few of the free photo-editing programs photographers rave about that can make your shots look skillful and intentional:
- GIMP.ORG, or GNU Image Manipulation Program, gives photographers the opportunity to perform specialized tasks on their photos like retouching and editing their images without limitations. The program supports Mac, Windows, and Linux platforms and has been likened to Adobe Photoshop and Bridge.
- FOTOR.COM, an online designer and editing tool, offers text, filters, frames, stickers, and collage outlines. This quick and simple program supports Web, Mac, Windows, IOS, and Android platforms.
- GETPAINT.NET, an easy-to-use photo editing software for computers, is a great tool for Microsoft Windows users.
2. Find Your Style
Everyone has a style they find themselves gravitating toward most naturally. Think about it. When you walk into your favorite boutique, there’s a reason you always return. Its quality of product, price, and service are consistent.
Or consider the music you love so much. Whether country, pop, folk, indie, rock and roll, or even a blend of genres, you can always find a commitment to a signature style.
In finding your own style, make sure it belongs to you. One of my talented art professors tells his students again and again: “Creativity comes from other people.” This is so true!
Looking to other creative minds for inspiration is important. A recent but rich history of media production and digital art is thankfully available through just a few scrolls through social media.
But when the time comes to find your own style, make sure to create your own and not mimic that of your favorite blogger’s, regardless of how beautiful it is.
Pictures are a form of visual art, and no other artist can have the unique style and creativity that you have to offer.
Each photograph may be impressive on its own. But when someone clicks on your profile, they are seeing your entire feed and how it works together, not just how each image looks in isolation. This is why consistency is important.
You are showing your audienceーpotential clients, employers, or fellow entrepreneursーyour dedication to the single cause or product you are promoting. It makes sense, then, to choose a single theme to fall in line with your mission.
As you shape your style until it becomes your signature, pay attention to a the following 4 things that will help you stay consistent.
Choosing a color palette that fits the theme or product you want to convey is one of the first aspects of finding your own style.
Generally, some color palettes to consider are warm, cold, and neutral. Before you select one based on your favorite colors, consider the tone you are trying to achieve. Not all color schemes are appropriate for your brand or business.
For example, when I was designing graphics for a Mexican restaurant, I started out with my favorite colors: simple neutral hues and cool blue tones. Very quickly, I realized the colors I was using did not match the products I aimed to advertise. Vivid colors like bright reds, greens, oranges, and purples were a far better fit.
In the same way, consider what you are trying to say and promote before you decide what kind of color palette you’ll choose.
Here’s a helpful rule of thumb: choose a few colors (no more than 5) and be consistent with them throughout your feed.
Pay attention to the subject and background of your photos. If you integrate a tropical theme with an oceanic subject, you’ll confuse followers if you begin to use dark colors with cityscapes and skyscrapers as the focus.
If you are a nutrition blogger shooting mostly images of food, suddenly capturing images of buildings or even people may not be the best idea if it is not consistent with your style.
Also be attentive to your models’ outfits. While they can be easy to forget, your subject and his or her fashion color palette can affect how your image looks. Just as the outfit can fit naturally into your color scheme, it can also very much clash.
They can be a lot of fun, but you also have to make sure they align with your subject and theme. Ask yourself the following:
- Would a vintage, muted theme complement what I am trying to express and promote?
- Is a filter necessary when the image is already busy?
- Are my filters consistent, or am I choosing them sporadically?
Frequency of Posts
A big part of staying consistent is time. Are you posting consistently, or are you leaving your followers in suspense of when they will hear from you again?
Post frequently to make sure your followers know you’re there. Instagram photos can be a wonderful way to remind your readers to read your latest blog post or check out your business if you use your tools right.
3. Use Words
Don’t shy away from using words on your images! Captions are great, but sometimes layering words and even designs on your pictures can be even more efficient.
Consider the efficient, simple, and eye-catching use of words and images in Elaine Rau’s account @ladybossblogger. Her posts alternate between announcing the newest blog post and an image of an interviewee paired with a quote from the interview. Followers know consistently what to expect, and photographs, words, and simple designs are used to avoid monotony.
She also layers text onto her lifestyle images on her personal account @elainerau.
4. Pay Attention To Your Surroundings
Finally, consider your surroundings! You could easily follow all three of the previous steps and not be satisfied with your photos if you aren’t conscious of what is around you. And the exciting part is that you don’t have to be a travel blogger to capture intriguing and professional photos.
As thankful as we are for the lightbulb, natural light is irreplaceable. If you’re taking pictures indoors, make sure to tie back the curtains and let some natural light soak the room. This light will be more flattering for your subject, and it will help eliminate awkward shadows that your phone’s flash or spotlight might create.
Be on the lookout for the perfect lighting throughout the day! Some of the best light is found in the early morning and in the evening. Mornings cast a bright but not overwhelming glow, and dusk can be perfect for more dramatic or romantic shots.
And one more tip on lighting: Embrace overcast days. They can create dramatic, beautiful backgrounds, and surprisingly perfect light, even in the middle of the day.
Don’t be afraid to try different angles! Your subject does not always have to be at the very center of your photo. Be creative and experiment again and again before you find the shot you want to edit and post on your Instagram account. Practice is encouraged and vital!
Make sure the grid feature is activated on your phone to get the perfect ratio of background and foreground.
Background and location
Take advantage of your location, which can help no matter where you are in the world. For example, notice the murals that stand out in your local downtown, and decide if they align with your color palette and theme.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- Is there any interesting art and architecture unique to my area?
- How can I use the landscape and nature around me to create eye-catching photos?
- Do the background textures and colors complement my subject, my color palette, and my product or latest blog post?
When taking photos, it might be a relief to know that your surroundings right now help make the Instagram-worthy photos you have always wanted to create.
Be assured一all you need to create Instagram-worthy photos is a passion for your cause and a dedication to consistent, quality photos.
Instead of going out to purchase the latest DSLR, remember these four points:
- Be creative with the tools you already have.
- Find a style unique to yourself and your mission.
- Don’t be afraid to use words and designs to draw attention.
- Stay attentive to your surroundings, here and now.
You already have every tool you need to begin promoting your business or blog today with Instagram-worthy photos.
Giselle Gaytan is a sophomore at Wheaton College (IL) studying English Writing and Journalism. For the past three years she has served as Marketer at Los Tres Manantiales, a restaurant in Wisconsin. Her creative nonfiction work has been published in two issues of the Kodon literary journal. She currently serves as Special News Reporter at the Wheaton Record.