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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
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.

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