10 Tips for Mastering Instagram

10 Tips for Mastering Instagram


I have a confession.

Yes. I love taking photos. Yes. I am a professional photographer.

But no. I do not carry my camera around with me all the time. Nor do I want to.

This is why I am absolutely in. love. with Instagram.

Available for Droid or iPhone, Instagram allows you to manipulate the photos that come from your phone, and create masterpieces.

And don’t worry – I am going to show you just how to do that.

A few general basic tips:

1. Depth: Camera phones don’t give you the ability to have the same awesome depth of field as an slur. So you have to create it with your shot itself. Use lines, repetition, and space with foregrounds and backgrounds to do this well. Focus on this, and you can use the Instagram “Tiltshift” effect to make your depth really stand out.

I created this shot at a lodge where I was photographing a wedding. I deliberately shot with the footstool in the foreground and set up my frame some direction with the windows in the background.


2. Lighting: If the need to pay attention to your lighting is true for normal shots, it is crucial for your camera phone pics. The lighting will make or break your Instagram photos. Take pictures in lighting that is soft when can see detail in the highlights and the shadows. Then, once you pull your shot into instagram, you have a variety of options for your editing to bring the photo to a new level of awesomeness.

Over lunch with my friend Mish, I was in awe of the stunning light that fell through the window and onto her face. I was so obsessed with the light I couldn’t resist taking her portrait.


3. Angles: You need all the help you can get with Camera phones, so be sure to shoot from unusual angles. Shoot down. Shoot from below. Shoot with objects in the foreground to blur out. The more creative you can be with your angles, the more interesting your shot will turn out.

I was enjoying this particularly good cup of chai and reading when I looked down and saw this shot. A small moment of diversion was all it took for me to create this shot!


4. See the world in Squares: One of the most important considerations to keep on your mind when taking photos with Instagram is the crop factor. Think of the old polaroids – this is what you’ll get with Instagram. Its a sad day indeed when you take a fabulous shot and find yourself unable to work with the Instagram 1×1 crop.

During a morning run I found this shot while taking a breather at one of my favorite neighborhood ponds. It is now sitting as my phone background, reminding me of how precious these peaceful moments are in life.


5. Borders: Instagram has some really cool borders to incorporate into your shots. From paint-brushed to vintage, white to black, these borders give a lovely artistic feel to literally any shot you take.

This is another shot I took during a long roadtrip from Denver, CO to Portland OR. And once again, it is taken with the breathtaking light of dusk.


Some Specific Considerations:

6. Landscapes: Lighting is one of the most important elements of a landscape image. If you can get gorgeous highlights and shadows in a scene, the shot will take care of itself – and don’t forget to throw some “tiltshift” for artistic affect.

After a little weekend excursion, I was riding back home with a friend when I looked out the window and saw this dusk light. We didn’t stop driving. I just clicked my camera through the window. And it is one of my favorite landscapes.


7. Portraits: So… Portraits?!? With Instagram? Yes. In fact, you can create some gorgeous portraits with Instagram worthy of a living room wall. Once again, finding a soft and even quality of light will be your surefire way of a cool portrait.

Last week I was working at my studio, about to grab a snack when I saw this light flooding my kitchen. I knew that this was the kind of breathtaking light that good portraits are made of. Inspired, I took a few minutes to capture this self pic – and I do have to say, I really like it.


8. Details: I have been incredibly impressed with how lovely detail shots can turn out using Instagram. Even if you have to crop in a bit, use good light and good composition to get a really sweet shot.

I actually captured this while driving with a bride to our portrait location. It was one shot, one kill, and the bride and I both love how it turned out.


9. Moments: One of the things I love most about Instagram is the freedom to take beautiful pictures without making a big affair of each shot or loosing the artistic expression that makes your shots unique. Every day moments that have vibrant colors, interesting textures, and sweet stories can become art.

Sitting at a little coffee shop editing, I was mesmerized by this man who sat next to me. He came in to very simply read the newspaper with a good cup of coffee. I took his picture in his natural environment and am so pleased with its’ story.”


10. Capturing beauty: Instagram is for anyone, and everyone. In a day and age where we always carry our phones, there is nothing more lovely than having the ability to see and capture art wherever we go. On a walk. While working. Over coffee. On a roadtrip.


Instagram will enable you to make art too.

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Christina N Dickson is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography www.BrideInspired.com and leadership with www.RevMediaBlog.com.

Some Older Comments

  • Yung Yates May 18, 2013 09:52 pm

    great article ! its really helpful :) nice !
    excellent article youve got there ! keep it up :)
    wow, really great article youve got there! thumbs up ! :)

  • majed March 20, 2013 07:37 pm

    Thank you Christina for sharing these information with us, I liked the second comment also

  • Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri November 17, 2012 05:07 am

    I love Instagrams no matter how shitty your pics turn into. After all you dont totally use it for professional stuff. It is more like a hobby to me. :)

  • techiehandy September 10, 2012 12:16 pm

    nice article dude, see also instagram trick and tips for android here. there are also photography tricks.

  • Jessie July 26, 2012 06:06 am

    I have seen instagram photos where it has multiple photos in 1, every time I ask how people did it they say 'Instagram!' I have instagram but can't find how to do this, do you know what I'm talking about and how it's done?

  • Shannon May 7, 2012 08:41 am

    Please follow me! @shanfran15
    I have some really awesome pics!

  • Chrie April 5, 2012 11:33 pm

    Hello! :) I Have a question.. Can you help me with this? :) I Already Installed "Instagram" on my Android Phone.. But when I take a picture or pick some pics. from my old folder(on my Android Phone) I can't See it. :( Only a Black Box. :(( The Pictures are not appearing. :( But it was already uploaded on Instagram. But as I've said. I can only see a BLACK. Can you Help me please? Thank You so much!

  • Heidi March 28, 2012 01:46 am

    Thank you, Eric . I thought it was just me. All the instagram photos I see (including most of the examples above) look just like the crappy pictures we took with crappy cameras in the 70's.

  • Stace February 27, 2012 02:29 am

    Can you take photos from your photo library and put them on instagram? Oh yeah good job dude

  • Sierra February 16, 2012 11:52 am

    Hey everyone. I was just browsing the internet and came across this. I'm seeing so many negative comments. Yes, maybe she is overusing the blurry edit, but calm down. If this is her definition of beauty, then let it be. As for some people saying that the mobile phone camera is a waste of time, I strongly disagree. Think of the people who have an iPhone at their child's soccer game, but no camera. They can still take a beautiful shot of their child playing the game. Think about parents who take pictures of their babies. There can be such beauty, clarity, and a story in one touch of a non-existent button.

    Instagram isn't just an app for showing off pictures, it's about taking pictures of things that inspire you or taking a picture that tells a story. If the images aren't clear enough for you then don't download the app. It's that simple. I, being a 19 year old girl, don't have the money to shell out on an expensive camera with expensive lenses, but I still love taking photos as much as the rest of you. I take pictures with my iPhone 4 and it's all the camera I need! I think I take damn good pictures for a device so small. My pictures may not be taking with a DSLR or whatever expensive camera, but that doesn't mean that they are any less inspiring than yours are.

    Everyone just take a step back and look at the situation. If you don't like the iPhone camera, don't use it. It's the simple. Why use your time and energy to bash others about their pictures? You could be out trying to take even better pictures.

  • Lex February 15, 2012 05:50 pm

    Yea, no matter how many photos I take and how long I spend trying to adjust the photo I think might have potential, I cannot make it look anywhere near as cool as these and others I have seen. I feel like IG may be an app that functions best for individuals who are already naturally gifted photographers.

  • Ivan February 9, 2012 10:24 am

    hey! how do i import the same and exact photo from my library without "crop" it directly to instragram? ... when u take a pic from the normal app camera, and then u take it to instragram u get the "move and scale" screen, so what if i want to use the entire photo without scaling? thanx!

  • Sam February 2, 2012 07:56 pm

    For all the "pro photographers" bashing ig, you know you could upload your dslr photos onto ig right? It's another chance to show the world your work, specially with iPhones and the app itself getting so popular. What I do is I state my dslr camera as well as iphone4s in that little bio space in the profile, just to let people know you are using ig not just for phone shots, but multi equipments, which is fine.

    There are many purposes to ig. Some use it as a photo diary, some to show off their talent and perhaps inspire those who want to pick up an slr at some point. Whatever the reason, it's your own. So have fun with it, use it as you please and keep your opinions on the whys of others to yourself.

  • Breanna January 31, 2012 11:17 am

    Hey does anyone know what the name of filter is to create black thick border on top and bottom of pics? Or how to do it? I've been trying for awhile and can't figure out, thanks!

  • KC January 28, 2012 09:00 am

    can someone tell me how you get that nice rough white border, in the photo a few lines lower than the article part entitled: No. 5. Borders.
    I can't find it anywhere!

  • mary anne January 25, 2012 10:34 pm

    So many of these photos included in this post really are good shots. For myself, I tried using Instagram on an iPod, bought the iPod just to get Instagram. Found that syncing my photos taken with a better camera to the iPod made for better photos but syncing got to be a hassle. The thing that wore me out and got tiresome were the funky frames that Instagram puts around the photo. Those frames got old for me very quickly and I am back to using "regular" camera shots. But if someone likes it, so be it. It just wasn't for me.

  • Kimberly January 14, 2012 05:43 pm

    All of you complaining about camera phones and instagram ruining photography are missing the point. The movement is about providing everyone with a chance to capture moments in time which would otherwise pass by unnoticed or forgotten. I find it incredible that so many people are searching for beauty because of apps like instagram.

  • Harrison January 9, 2012 05:22 am

    This comment section is hilarious. Apparently the value of the work is defined by how much you spend on your equipment, not the end result. It doesn't matter if you took it on a DSLR and spent 4 hours processing it, or took it on your iPhone and slapped an instagram filter on it - if the photo looks good, people like it and it captures the moment well then it;s done its job. And if you don't need to spend £1000 on equipment and lug a bag around with you and then go through the hassle of grabbing images off memory cards, resizing etc. just to chuck it in a bloody email; then awesome.

    If you're doing a fashion shoot, or a wedding; then sure, use your DSLR. But if you're at the park, hanging out with your friends and you want to capture the moment and share it with the world, then put that bloody DSLR away, cause you look like a tool.

    I've seen some amazing shots taken with Instagram, and I've seen shocking pictures taken with a DSLR. Some of it's luck, some of it's skill - the equipment in this context is arbitrary.

    I'm also guessing that a lot of these commenters haven't used the iPhone 4S's camera, which is easily as good as most point and shoots under £200 - with the right apps possibly even better than many of them.

    Although that said, the examples provided really aren't very good. 'Professional Photographer' indeed.

  • James January 9, 2012 05:10 am

    I don't think that you understand depth of field, or tilt shifting.

  • Krys January 6, 2012 12:46 am

    Excuse all of my typos :/

  • Krys January 6, 2012 12:44 am

    I own 2 DSLR, 4 point and shoots, 3 SLR, and what do I use the MOST??? Yup! My iPhone 4s. I too have paid thousands of dollars for a photography education and equipment. Am I bitter over IG! HELL NO! I use it daily. It keeps me inspired. Art is in the eye of its maker! I think I used IG's tilt shift once..my IG prints look GREAT when printed out. There are a few that are a lil grainy but I kinda like it. I love the whole concept of "iphoneography" shoot, edit, upload....nothing like using my DSLR...find the card reader, upload, open in Lightroom, edit, edit, go back to editing lol. IG is a fun creative outlet for some of us...and for those who don't like it....simply DON'T USE IT! No need for bashing! Or my camera is better than yours, my print quality is better ya, ya, ya....a sense a bit of jealousy. Let's face it times and technology is change...I was just in school in 2009 and look at how editing has changed when the ipad2 came out because it allows the use of RAW DSLR images...all you "real photographers" get a grip already....I'm a photographer and an Ig'er....my IG stream doesn't even reflect my training because it's MY IG STREAM! Not a paid job!! It's my life in photos...

  • Jayare Lozano December 18, 2011 04:46 am

    wow...the "pros" are crying right now...no one cares that you can operate a camera properly or took classes or don't like people using insta g. any fool who knows a little about composition can take a good photo...fucking paint something...draw...whatever. just don't think of yourself as an artist because you press a button and capture whatever's in front of you. photography is not art, especially if used with photoshop. have fun with insta g. people, don't let no talent hacks tell you different

  • Rsmithing November 19, 2011 02:05 am

    Hey there - great post! I will definitely be referring back to the suggestions you include here. You might be interested to see my own post with 10 Instagram tips and a look at the top 15 Instagrammers. I link back to your post from there. Keep up the great pics! http://wp.me/p1UhOK-26

  • David November 11, 2011 05:51 am

    I started using instagram in 2010 and fell in love with photography. I still felt limited though by my phone so I started to study books about photography and read this site. Six months ago, I bought my first Nikon DSLR. I never leave it at home. I learned some aspects of photoshop and touch up with Nik Software. I still use instagram everyday. But, my posts are usually tagged #D3100 and #nofilter.

  • Just In Focus Photography October 6, 2011 03:37 pm

    I've been using instagram for everyday use, but also for behind the scenes shots on my photoshoots.

    Check out my instagram photos -

  • Veronica August 10, 2011 02:18 am

    Rich D and Jason, Luisa and Stassi- I totally agree. This is a great app to peak interest in true photography.
    I don't feel anyone is on the snooty train here- it's just that, like, come on... "the ability to take beautiful shots without losing artistic expression?" UGH!!!
    Instagram leaves only so much room for artistic expression and the social aspect of it is so we can all get a glimpse of what everyone else does with it!
    The REAL artistic expression in photgraphy comes with manual labor, experimenting, making choices, knowledge, some experience, etc etc etc.
    So, why can't some of us disagree with this woman?
    Instagrame is a play thing. I like it but don't give it the title of true artistic expression. Ugh X 1000.

  • Queen August 9, 2011 11:08 am

    Exactly, john j!

    They need to tone down their stupidity and jealousy!

    Christina, your pictures are AMAZING! I love them all! Great job!

  • vrosesmith July 27, 2011 01:21 pm

    There are too many comments in this thread to read them all, so if I am repeating another's words, forgive me:

    I have been messing with Instagram for a few days now. I find in traditional photography, depth creates itself in, let's say, a [not so close up] portrait, landscape, or candid shot (it goes without saying that it is an art, and every photographer's work differs, it is no simple task). So, if the base of your photo is a subject such as one of those three, why take credit from any of the surroundings in the photo? The tilt effect for Instagram, to me, is great to create only subtle texture around the alluring focal point- so it is the replacement for macro for something like a close-up shot; a single flower head on.

    Besides the tilt and shift, I figured Instagram was for making your phone pictures awesome! Why not filter the hell out of a photo you took that would otherwise look like any other? You get to look back on "phone art," and it is pleasing to the eye (most of the time). It is not, and I mean NOT any substitution for the real thing! I am sure most people know several authentic photographers who do not even subject their developments to Photoshop. Real photo development is time-consuming and done with heart and soul, so it does bother me a bit to see a blog post such as this one. I mean, come on hun... :D

    I give Instagram praise only for being a cool application!

  • ashley July 13, 2011 05:29 pm

    how do edit two into one picture on instagram? ive tried so many time i just cant do it.someone please reply i would really appreciate it :)

  • Jason Feldman July 12, 2011 01:44 pm

    As a pro - I would prefer a camera to take perfect shots then manipulate them in photoshop. Yes, the grainy look is nice - heck, I even use it... but start with a perfect picture then mess with it. www.bestexposures.com. just my two cents.


  • Lily July 10, 2011 09:42 am

    Stassi hit the nail on the head. Instagram is a way to share moments, images from your life with other people. It's a way to glimpse into other peoples lives without driving all the way to Brazil to see it in person. personally I favor the unaltered, #nofilter channel but I do use filters that will enhance or reduce colors in my little pictures. Most people on Instagram are not out to make millions from their iPhones, they're on to share. Connect. Meet others who love taking pictures as much as they do. I've met some intelligent, thoughtful people so far and I love it. @Lilybells is my little slice of IG and I wiling experimenting with some of the tips in this article. Thank you tons for writing it!

  • Stassi July 10, 2011 08:01 am

    Y'know what? In art it IS "everything goes"! Just because you've taken a zillion photos, and learned the "correct" way to compose, set your white point, focus, control DOF, control exposure, doesn't mean that someone else, less "trained" can't make art. There are still those who contend that photography itself isn't art, in that it's often a direct depiction of what a camera interprets - giving no credit to the photographer. To them, anything short of painting isn't art. Is that right? Do you agree with them?

    I've seen great art come from old 110 cameras (tiny negatives), I've seen beauty come from those kodak throwaways, I've seen amazing shots that nobody ever touched except to process through a standard enlarger and standard chemicals, and great beauty created through hours in the darkroom, and creative use of chemicals. And, some of the most amazing work coming out of Photoshop.

    When I was first learning to shoot, a teacher told me something wonderful. I'd asked whether I should go for exactly what I'd seen when shooting, or should I process it. The answer was "are you happy with the way the reality looked, or do you want to see something more..." Our question is whether we want real, or we want beautiful. Neither is mutually exclusive.

    So, if someone finds beauty in altering reality, who is anyone else to stop them? If a person who hasn't been a "classically trained" photographer gets something they love, and that other people love from simply shooting, whether or not they use "tricks" to alter the image, how can you deny that that's art?

    From what I read here, the biggest critiques of this work and this article seem to be the least secure, the ones most wanting of recognition, and the most jealous of someone's ability to create something others enjoy, without the "years of training".

    Please people - if instagram inspires you to shoot... then by all means....SHOOT!

  • TeriRoyPhoto July 9, 2011 03:13 pm

    The huge bonus of instagram is that now
    I notice a little art or beauty in my daily life everywhere I go. I find myself constantly asking myself, "is there a great shot here?" I frame it and try it. YES, it's simple. And YES, anyone can do it. But it is teaching me to be a little more creative, and compositionally aware. I use this app as a tool to help me learn how to tell a story with just a snapshot. The business of photography is a whole different animal and really is not to be compared with, or threatened by instagram. If you're staying current in the photo market, your business will not suffer due to this Instagram craze. It can only benefit by you connecting with
    people. It's FUN! So download it, get creative, follow people, & heck,
    go ahead and follow ME!

  • Pashminu Mansukhani July 9, 2011 01:35 pm

    Having a camera on a mobile is one of the most stupid things ever to be done. The images are grainy and make everyone a 'photographer'. These 'finger happy people just do not under stand anything about photography and just point their mobiles extending their arms in other peoples faces and click. Just a waste of time and technology.

  • Valerie July 9, 2011 04:37 am

    Christina, thank you for sharing this article with us. I'm often amazed with the shots that can be taken with a camera phone. My favorite was the bride's earring. Such a small detail tells such a large story.

  • Jason Racey July 9, 2011 01:06 am

    No problem with this article. You're providing some advice on how to shoot for instagram, but there's something about instagram itself that I really don't like.

    Here it is - I have a lot of time and money invested in my photography. I've taken classes, read books, taken probably over 100,000 shots in the field, and spent a lot of time honing my RAW processing skills. Then somebody comes along with their iPhone not knowing anything about photography - NOTHING - and shoots a candid of their dog, applies a filter, and posts it to Facebook and gets a dozen comments about how great a shot it is. Grrrr!

    Instagram is a cheap post-processing trick. I could apply it to any photo I've taken and ... so what? It's not my skill or even artistic vision you're seeing, it's just an instagram filter. Hopefully it will get over-used and die quickly.

    Instagram photos are the "big hair" of the photography world and instagram is the hairspray. A decade from now it will look silly.

  • Rich_D July 9, 2011 12:48 am

    Well it's quite intriguing to see the negative comments on IG and the postive comments to rebuke them! I have to say I stumbled across IG about 2 months ago, just to check it out. I'd never even heard of it before. One of the things that impressed me (and still impresses) is the social concept behind the app. It is so easy to see what other people are doing. It is also worth mentioning that the app is free and there are no sub fees. For all the anti-IGers out there, let's assume that bad photography is the fault of the photographer and not the camera, just as bad images on IG are the fault of the user and not the app (iPhone camera). This IG-bashing is akin to shouting down Harry Potter for being a bit purile but it has introduced a world of children (and adults) to literature in the same way IG has made "everybody a photographer".

    And back to Christina, first off, great article but you've missed a massive part of the Instagram experience. Having Fun! It really shows in the photos, if you know what you're doing but it's something else to see an amateur photo that has a lot of feeling and emotion behind it.

    I don't believe Instagram was created to be an art gallery for serious and professional photographers. This being said the biggest aspect of the app is the social side. BE SOCIAL! (Make that point 11 - it's the most important) If you're not being social then why are you on the app? Get involved, show people your life through pictures and let other share with you!!


    Being on IG and looking at other people has piqued my interest in photography and I am now in the process of scrabbling some pennies together to look into buying a DSLR.

  • Carla July 9, 2011 12:28 am

    Great tips and pics. Thanks! Looove instagram!

  • luisa July 8, 2011 11:58 pm

    this is not very different from "anything goes"... which may be pretty conforting but pretty useless as far as improvement and learning are concerned. It's like looking at five-year-old Tommy's drawing, which is always fantaaaastic. Ok I stop ranting ;)

  • karen July 8, 2011 11:15 pm

    Here's the thing. Every photo ever taken is meant to invoke an emotion. This can be done with any camera, including vintage cameras, expensive cameras, toy cameras, phone cameras, etc. Also, every photo ever taken is open to interpretation by the viewer. This means that no matter how the photo is captured, each person is going to interpret the subject matter in their own way, based on their own feelings, their own past experiences, and their own desires.

    Thus, if these photos make the photographer feel happy/sad/insightful/melancholy/angry/joyful when she looks at them, then they are a success.

    Let's get off the snooty train and just enjoy someone's personal interpretation of art.

  • luisa July 8, 2011 05:13 pm

    I thought this was a bit more than a site where one describes things one's excited about. Is some degree of critique allowed?
    I am not a pro, but I have the impression that if you strip these images of blurry parts (some look as though they've been dipped into water), borders, yellowness etc nothing remains. A good photo should not rely on all this to be good, period.
    Then, I can perfectly agree that camera phones are easier to use, lighter, always with you anyway, maybe faster in the sense that they don't encourage you to spend half an hour on settings before taking the image, less imposing (a small rectangle, not a big machine gun), and for these and other reasons a lot of people prefer them. Absolutely no harm in this. But good photos? It can happen, but not so often as the fad would have you think. And sorry, I don't see much good in the images posted here. Some absolutely non-photographer friends of mine have done better...

  • Sandy July 8, 2011 04:53 pm

    An interesting article, thank you.
    Instagram and Hipstamatic is helping to introduce photography to a new, younger generation, which I think is cool. They more avenues people have to express themselves the better, I say. Just check out twitter etc. Its gaining in popularity.

  • Stassi July 8, 2011 03:45 pm

    Seriously. In all my years with DPS, I've never encountered such harsh criticism of someone's work - and such judgemental attitudes.

    If you like you DSLR, if you like film, if you like Canons, Nikons, Kodaks, the little camera that comes in Cracker Jacks... If you like yellowing, or colors, or greyscale, or edges or vignettes or anything - then like it! If you don't like what other people like, that's fine too.

    But to rag on what someone else likes... that's just NOT the DPS I've gotten to know...

    And, thank you, Larry, for explaining that you don't have to use the online service if you don't want to (and explaining why you do), and thank you mattg for explaining the legal ramifications if we choose to go online with it.

    Mostly, thank you, Christina, for sharing your work (I really enjoyed it) and the article. I think I'll be trying this app I downloaded...

  • Lorri A July 8, 2011 01:08 pm

    What Joel said! If it's not your cup of tea then move along, there's no need to be so negative. And yes, good tips for those of us who have these toys.

  • Jet July 8, 2011 12:14 pm

    sorry, "type" should have been "typo" !!

  • Jet July 8, 2011 12:12 pm

    I've recently acquired an Iphone 4, and have taken a few with Instagram. It's extremely fun, and like Chase Jarvis says, the best camera is the one that's with you! I personally don't have the $$$ to acquire a serious digital point-n-shoot, and I can't always bring along my dslr, so if the iphone or android phone lets you express yourself, so be it, it's not hurting anyone else, don't see where all of the negativity is coming from.

    Christina can express her art, even with an iphone, however she wants! It's her vision, so what if you don't like it, she's courageous enough to offer tips on something she enjoys. Are we all such perfect photographers that we cannot even ignore a type?

    Lighten up, life's too short!

  • Stef July 8, 2011 11:22 am

    I absolutely LOVE Instigram. It's one of my most favorite tools to play with. I will say though, I don't really care for the tilt shift. I've tried it out on a few of my photo's and I never like the way it looks so I take it back off. The filters are really fun though. :)

  • Joel July 8, 2011 10:19 am

    Wow, people are way too negative. I think those people must have phone envy ;-)

    If it ain't your cup of tea, big deal. Instagram really isn't my cup of tea, but I liked the article and will keep its tips in mind if I ever get a smartphone.

    Everyone needs to take a chill pill and let people be excited about what they wanted to be excited about. No camera phone is going to hurt me unless someone chucks it really hard at me. I'll just photograph those people with my DSLR and throw the tripod at them :-D

    Btw, my favorite effect is the scratchy border

  • Marcy July 7, 2011 12:23 pm

    Really? People have to be *this* negative? Wow.

    I for one love the shots in this post, and am also addicted to Instagram AND YES even the tiltshift. As with any field in photography, and even any individual photograph, different people will have different tastes, and be drawn to different styles. Just bc it's not your "thing" doesn't mean it's not a valid form of expression or just plain enjoyable.

    Isn't that the whole point of photography, anyway? To capture moments and create images that speak to us? Who cares if that's done with a point&shoot, DSLR, or camera phone?

  • john j July 7, 2011 11:53 am

    Geez! Some of these people need to back the heck off. The pretentious attitude by some of these people is unseemly. I thought the Instagram pics in this article looked pretty good. Ms. Dickson obviously has a passion for this app, and frankly, this article has peaked my interest in Instagram. I have a Droid, and so I don't have the ability to use it yet, but I'm looking forward to it when it is offered.

  • Jennifer Murphy July 7, 2011 06:14 am

    I got my hopes up that this was available for Droid. I like vignette and retro camera for Droid. They work out nicely. Although I miss the way tilt shift works on these apps. I like Instagram better.

  • KC July 7, 2011 01:18 am

    Droid does not offer Instagram...wish it did.

  • Nancie McDermott July 6, 2011 11:12 pm

    Many thanks. I've learned so much from reading your information and having the examples right there. I've been finding my way 'in the dark' on this subject; your post opens the windows and doors. So glad it showed up in my twitter-stream, and looking forward to learning more from your blog.

  • Greg July 6, 2011 08:58 pm

    A decent pocket point and shoot will eliminate any need for this app or the bad pictures it takes. If you want the blur and yellowing, adjust the photo with your post-production software. I like the Canon ELPHs, myself.

  • sonya July 6, 2011 07:44 am

    I don't have an iphone but I have the android version called vignette and these are wonderful ideas to help me experience with my phone. thanks!

  • kodiak xyza July 6, 2011 06:22 am

    « Camera phones don’t give you the ability to have the same awesome depth of field as an slur. »

    not sure if a typo, but I love the concept of a depth of field of an slur.

    I am not sure why a shallow depth of field is that important for camera phones and Instragram. this makes me think that fake tilt-shift in Instagram is like HDR on flickr: a loud way to find popularity, with more-often-than-not disastrous results, to the point of hurting the eyes and leaving the site.

    if one is given a hammer, try to make the best of it and don't use it for surgery. the camera phone and the software available makes for a fun use of Instagram, but instead, the lust for shallow DoF (and popularity) is such that most of the popular photos are just dSLR photos uploaded through the phone. it kills the immediacy of the "site."

    there is the bit of "too much yellow" but Instagram did improve on the presets to get away from that, so that was progress.

    then again, if people have fun this way, then more power to them. the problem is in trying to justify something with that fun.

  • Noelle July 6, 2011 04:07 am

    I don't get all the antagonism here. It's not like the iPhone will ever be a replacement for a DSLR. Different cameras for different purposes. I'll echo that success with Instagram really requires a solid knowledge of light and composition to make really noteworthy photos.

    Also, you can "cheat" - I've downloaded my own photos from my Flickr stream and uploaded them into Instagram to see what they'd look like with some of the filters, just for fun. I've seen a lot of photos on there that are clearly NOT taken with an iPhone.

  • Scapevision July 6, 2011 03:52 am

    Wow, finally I can create masterpieces!

  • James July 6, 2011 03:37 am

    The program seems interesting enough, but the irony here is how much people will spend on a high end DSLR, as well as photo editing software, to achieve an effect that their, free with 2 year contract, iPhone can achieve.

    Once the vintage fashion fad is over, I imagine these apps and programs will die out. Until then, everyone's a photographer, capturing the things that inspire them. Who cares if every shot looks like an advertisement for American Eagle Outfitters? Photos that work beyond what's "in" are the ones people still enjoy after a specific style.

    Other than being a little border happy and tilt-shift crazy, I think these shots are fun. With claims like "living room wall worthy," well.. That depends on what your flat looks like, I suppose. ;)

    Interesting read!

  • RJ45 July 6, 2011 01:04 am

    Omg. These are GREAT!

  • Larry July 6, 2011 12:09 am

    First of all, Christina, thanks for putting yourself and your photos out there. I am surprised by all the bashing which seems uncharacteristic for DPS.

    A couple of comments about Instagram:

    No, you do not have to upload photos from a computer to the internet first. It works great from within the iPhone app – either take a new photo or select from your Photo Albums.

    Although Instagram offers many options for editing your photos, one option is to leave it as the original, or just adding a frame. So they do not have to be “yellow and blurry.”

    One point about Instagram that interest me, and is the only reason I use it, is its social networking possibilities. When you add a new photo to your Instagram account, you can have it automatically post the photo and its caption to both Facebook and Twitter. You can “like” other peoples photos, comment on them, and receive likes and comments for your own photos. You can “follow” other photogs whose photos you like, and they can follow you. So it has an online community of sorts that provides photogs another way to connect with your viewers.

    My username on there is lmaupin.

    And find more info a a wider range of photo styles here:

  • Tom_Vienna July 5, 2011 10:27 pm


    I agree completely with Simon. Its amazing how many people are "pissed on" or "amused" if somebody uses a compact camera or a phone for taking pictures and having fun with it. They care to much about how it is taken and what equipment have been used. I guess they still don´t have found out, that the silver lining of taking pictures is to love the moments, things and persons which are captured on the picture.

    We are not able to decide about the "right way" which a person should have fun composing pictures, paintings or music. If you don´t understand it or just don´t like it, it follows the same rules as in the museum of art. Nobody will force you to look up to the paintings of an impressionist if you dont like it. If sombody dont understands Twelve-tone-technique nobody will force him to listen at it and nobody can force him to compose. Where is the problem?

    Christina, i realy love your pictures and how they are composed. To see how much fun you had taking your nice portrait makes me smile!
    thank you for sharing and best wishes!


  • George Johnson July 5, 2011 10:23 pm

    Oldest trick in the book!

    Add blur and the non-blurred areas fool your eyes and brain into thinking they look more sharp than they are. Nice toy but can't see it's appeal lasting very long.

  • simon July 5, 2011 08:03 pm


    I recently had time to kill in berlin for a few days and found myself wandering round using hipstamatic on my iphone and leaving my dslr in my bag .... and damned heavy it was to ...
    On returning to England I was asked did you take any photos and showed them round etc ... and majoirty of replies where... but didnt you get any "real" photos...

    Far too much snobbery if you ask me .. a picture that "works" and your happy with .... who cares how it is taken etc.

    One thing about instagram though ... do you have to upload it online before you can save it to camera

    best wishes


  • Matt July 5, 2011 05:45 pm

    Sweet. A "professional photographer" who calls (digital) single reflex cameras "slurs" and who thinks that fake cross-processing effects and fake DoF make for "masterpieces".

  • oliverignacio July 5, 2011 05:30 pm

    I like Vignette more.

  • MattG July 5, 2011 12:36 pm

    The other thing to remember about Instagram is that it has the following Terms of Service apply to their web service:

    Instagram does NOT claim ANY ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials (collectively, "Content") that you post on or through the Instagram Services. By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content on or through the Instagram Services, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content not shared publicly ("private") will not be distributed outside the Instagram Services.

    In short, you take a masterpiece and Instagram can sell it for what they want, to whom they want and where they want with no kickback for you. You can change the privacy setting per photo to private from the default Public setting, but this is not always obvious to new users.

  • George July 5, 2011 10:42 am


    Thanks for taking your time out of your day to tell us about a product that you clearly like.

    Each to your own like it use it ... otherwise don't.

    All the best.

  • Diogo Santos July 5, 2011 05:41 am

    I got to agree with Eric (the first coment)
    Its transforms a crappy photo to something with pretty colors, and yes the blur.
    Some people live for theese kind of filters.. you have to understand when to you or not.
    Theese dont make your photos good, its just the colors that are attractive.


  • dok July 5, 2011 05:11 am

    Sadly, the blur effects are absolutely not convincing. A "Fake blur" watermark would be just as discrete :-)

  • Sloot July 5, 2011 04:38 am

    Instagram : Making bad photos with mediocre equipment since 2010

    Seriously, I don't mind the frames (except that they're EVERYWHERE) as much as the leaked light effect or the bands that are out of focus. It hides the deficiencies of the camera behind clutter. Rather than figuring out how to use the camera well, or what conditions it can work well in, people hide behind making "retro" photos which generally make the photo worse.

  • Momen Khaiti July 5, 2011 04:27 am

    Thank you for sharing... here's an example taken by my phone camera (Samsung Galaxy Tab).

  • scottc July 5, 2011 04:23 am

    Great article with regards to the possibilities behind the numerous apps available for camera phones today. I'm getting an iphone soon, and have been impressed with both the iphone and ipads photo capabilities. I have seen some great photos from camera phones, but the processing for those went well beyond anything "in phone".

    In the end there's just no substitute for the SLR, and I will carry it as often as possible until they pry my cold dead hands from it.


  • Marc Vogel July 5, 2011 04:05 am

    Christina, Great blog. Enjoyed it very much. Hope you're having a great 4th!

  • Jennifer Beitchman July 5, 2011 03:48 am

    I LOVE Instagram. Kinda obsessed with it. I even did a blog post about it: http://www.jenniferbeitchman.com/2011/06/02/i-heart-instagram/

  • Sean July 5, 2011 03:47 am

    Wow, you are way overusing the tiltshift tool

  • Tyler Ingram July 5, 2011 03:18 am

    The first point.. it says that
    1. Depth: Camera phones don’t give you the ability to have the same awesome depth of field as an slur.

    I would assume this is to mean SLR not slur ;)

  • Cameron July 5, 2011 02:22 am

    Maybe this is the new Lomo? I know I use the regular camera on my phone about as much as the few camera apps I have. I'm not a professional photographer, and can't have my DSLR with me as much as I would like. I'm personally a big fan of phonetography.

  • Jake July 5, 2011 02:12 am

    On Android there's Vignette, Little Photo, Retro Camera, and others that do the same or better. There are also image editors, like PicSay Pro.

  • Zach July 5, 2011 01:48 am

    I like the pictures, but the tilt-shift effect can be really distracting when set to 100%. try dialing down the effect a bit, and I think you will like the results much better. Overall, keeping the tilt-shift effect to tilt-shift ready photos is best.

  • Marco July 5, 2011 01:45 am

    looking at those shots I notice a strong
    repetitive theme: a small in focus stripe and
    2 big blurred borders...
    sorry, after few shots it looses appeal to me ....

    Anyway the easyness to apply filters and tranformations is
    probably the strength of this tool


  • Keren July 5, 2011 01:28 am

    Ok flamewar ;P... Who cares about Instagram? I am not a troll :D.

  • Erik kerstenbeck July 5, 2011 01:23 am


    I am a photographer as well, I also design Cell Phones. My products use Carl Zeiss 12MP lenses. Although I appreciate the vintage look of Instagrams, I would rather see sharp, accurate shots...just saying.

    Cheers and Happy 4th of July!


  • Claudio July 5, 2011 01:22 am

    Cristina, interesting suggestions and nice photos, but please, oh please, stop with the tilt shift effect already; it gets old *really* fast, and it detracts from your otherwise nice captures.

  • Joel July 5, 2011 01:11 am

    Vignette is great, I've also used picplz ... Both pretty good, but Vignette is my current must have...

  • Amarie July 5, 2011 12:51 am

    It's not available for droid, but mytubo, retro camera, and vignette are some great apps to try while you wait!

  • Nora July 5, 2011 12:47 am

    Right, still not available for Android phones. When I saw this, I thought I had missed the announcement or something, but when I went to the Android market, sure enough it's nowhere to be found. Maybe some day. I do have it on my iPod Touch and my iPad, but it's not the same as having it on my phone, now is it? :(

  • Paul Parkinson July 5, 2011 12:44 am

    Unfortunately it's (still) not available for Android phones. Sob.

  • Eric July 5, 2011 12:43 am

    Instagram -- turn you photos into yellow blurry shit, instantly!