How To Take a Good Instagram Photo

Blog post on how to take a good instagram photo
Today’s post is a little, err, different, but it deals with something you probably use every day and (if you are like me) are obsessed with: Instagram! Surprisingly, a lot of the emails I receive from readers have to do with photography on my blog or Instagram, so today I’m sharing my tips and tricks for taking awesome Instagram photos. Let me preface this post by saying that almost every photo I post on Instagram is taken with my iPhone (unless it is from a blog post), so you do not have to be a professional photographer to take great Instagram photos, and you do not have to own a nice camera. Let’s start with the most important topic…

1. NATURAL LIGHTING
Good natural lighting is the single most important part of taking a good Instagram photo. Natural lighting is light that comes from the sun, whereas artificial light is created from lamps and other man-made light sources. While artificial lighting often casts shadows and a dull, yellow light, natural light is, well, natural. If you are taking a photo indoors, make sure that the room has a lot of windows or that there is adequate sunlight in the room. I try to never, ever use artificial light or my camera flash for photos. Another tip when taking photos indoors is to use a light reflector to bounce light back on the subject to brighten the subject even more (see the above photo for an example of what it looks like!). Light reflectors can help eliminate pesky shadows in your photo.
2. EDITING

There are all kinds of apps out there for editing your photos. There are apps that will add filters, brighten, saturate, add sparkles and much more. My favorite editing app is actually Instagram itself, now that they have added the tools function. Below is the unedited version of my photo. It already looks pretty good, because I took it in a room with a lot of natural light and used the light reflector to eliminate most of the shadows. 
In the Instagram app, I use the “tools” section to increase both the saturation and the brightness. Here’s the finished result, slightly brighter and more vibrant than the original pic. (Fun fact: I actually don’t ever use Instagram filters on my photos. I usually just increase the brightness and saturation in Instagram, and then post it!)
When you aren’t able to get good lighting in a photo, editing can make all the difference in the world. In these photos, Chris and I were having trouble getting adequate lighting. Our photo was too dark in the shade, but in the direct sunlight we had terrible shadows on our faces.
Using Snapseed, I was able to edit the above left photo to look somewhat decent by increasing the saturation, brightness and ambiance. Snapseed is a cool app because you can choose specific parts of the photo you want to edit. It’s my favorite editing app and its’s free! (Thank you to Krista for showing it to me.)
I also like the Picfx app, which is a great app for adding sparkles to your photos (see below).
3. CONTENT & COMPOSITION

Now that we have the lighting and editing taken care of, it’s time to discuss content and composition. As far as content goes, I like to take photos of bright, colorful items, whether it is my outfit of the day or a scene from my desk. I also like for the picture to be in focus. Let’s say I want the focal point of the picture to be my shoes. When my iPhone is in camera mode, I will tap on my shoes on the screen to bring that particular part of the photo into focus.
As far as composition, I always take photos in the square mode when I know I’m going to upload one to Instagram. Otherwise, you may end up cropping something out that you wanted in the photo! Another good rule of composition is to fill the frame. Below are two of my recent instagram photos. You’ll notice that I have taken up the entire square with my subject matter. In the first picture, I placed my feet in the corner of the square in order to fill the frame.

4. SELFIES
Of course we need a whole section dedicated to selflies! Honestly, I am not the best selfie taker, but I have learned a few tricks to make the most out of them. The number one tip I have is to make sure your face is towards the light, rather than having the light come from behind. In the below photo, a large window is five feet away from me, casting natural light directly onto my face. This eliminates any awkward shadows (like a nose shadow or under-eye shadows!) and creates a “glowing” effect on my skin. Another great place to take selfies? Your car (the lighting is usually great).
5. TAKE A LOT OF PHOTOS
Last but not least, take a LOT of photos! Whenever I am trying to take a photo for Instagram, I will take at least 10 or 15, all from different angles or with the items positioned in a slightly different way. That way I can look back at them, determine which ones I like best, and edit only the best ones. I usually end up deleting the ones I don’t like. The only way to truly get better at Instagram is to practice. Practice taking photos in natural light, practice editing your photos, and practice with different filters and apps. 
Well, that sums up my tips on how to take a good Instagram photo! I hope this was helpful, and if you have any other questions please leave them in the comments. If you don’t follow me on Instagram yet, you can find me here. Have a great Wednesday!

Leave a Comment

78 Comments

  1. Great post! I learned a lot and I think maybe I will use Instagram more now πŸ™‚

    8.27.14Reply
  2. Great tips. Thanks for sharing!

    xx Mira

    http://www.glamdevils.com

    8.27.14Reply
  3. Thanks for these awesome tips! I love your Instagram photos.

    Ellen | A Pop of Pink

    8.27.14Reply
  4. great tips

    8.27.14Reply
  5. This was an awesome post! Thank you! I swear somedays my BF is on his last nerve when I snap my 15th photo of our dinner or our selfie for the gram!
    Cheers, Monique
    Casually Chic by Monique
    Find me at : bloglovin' | facebook

    8.27.14Reply
  6. These are some great tips!! I will definitely take them into consideration when taking my next Instagram photos – thanks for sharing!

    Kacie
    RegallySoled.com

    8.27.14Reply
  7. great tips for photo taking in general! πŸ™‚

    8.27.14Reply
  8. Natural light is definitely key!! Love this post and I love following along with your instagram!

    http://chelseascollection.com

    8.27.14Reply
  9. What a great post!! I use Snapseed, too, and totally agree about the lighting in the car – it's the best! πŸ™‚

    8.27.14Reply
  10. Anonymous

    This is really helpful. I use Afterlight a lot for my Insta pics, but I just downloaded Picfx – love those sparkles!

    Liz
    http://www.liztheaustinite.com

    8.27.14Reply
  11. I love IG too! Great tips, this was really helpful! Xo, Alexandra

    Glam O’Clock | Beauty Blog

    8.27.14Reply
  12. Thanks for the Instagram tips Cait! I just downloaded the PicFX and Snapseed- you always have the best Insta photos πŸ™‚

    8.27.14Reply
  13. This was super helpful! Thanks for the tips πŸ™‚

    xoxo,
    Ashley
    Afternoon Espresso

    8.27.14Reply
  14. What great tips!

    8.27.14Reply
  15. Love this! Thanks so much for the tips, your instargam photos always look great! I'm going to have to check out snapseed!
    The Style Storm
    <3, Christina

    8.27.14Reply
  16. This is such a great post!! Thank you for doing this! xo

    Shauna
    lipglossandlace.net

    8.27.14Reply
  17. Obsessed with this tutorial — thanks so much!!!

    http://www.bigbrownblog.com

    8.27.14Reply
  18. one thing to note about the actual instagram filters (not saturation & brightness) – you can click on the actual filter again after you have selected it & then decrease how vibrant it is. sometimes i find the filters are too strong, so this is great way to have it diluted a bit.

    amanda @ as the wine cork turns

    8.27.14Reply
  19. Great post, thank you – definitely need to take some tips from this. My photos are less than appealing.

    hannahcharl0tte.blogspot.co.uk

    8.27.14Reply
  20. Thanks for the tips! PS, your hair game is ON point these days, what are you using?

    8.27.14Reply
  21. Love this Caitlin such a great post

    Brittany
    Bnbstyling.blogspot.com

    8.27.14Reply
  22. Great post! Snapseed is my best friend, I love it! Those leopard shoes are amazing, this is the second or third time I've seen them and I think I'm sold, may just have to get myself a pair!

    8.27.14Reply
  23. Such a great post! I love Snapseed and just downloaded Picfx:) I also appreciated the tip about taking photos in the square mode.

    Heidi D.
    http://www.wishesandreality.com

    8.27.14Reply
  24. These are great tips! I can't wait to try these new apps!
    Hope
    hchdesigns.blogspot.com

    8.27.14Reply
  25. Love your striped dress. Where is it from? πŸ™‚

    Best,
    Jonna

    8.27.14Reply
  26. I second Jonna P's comment above – where is your cute striped dress with the chambray cuff sleeves from?!

    8.27.14Reply
  27. Great post, honest and useful πŸ™‚

    domoshappypinkplace.blogspot.com

    8.27.14Reply
  28. These are great tips! Glad I'm not the only one who takes 15 different photos before deciding on one. I always have trouble taking OOTD pics because I can't figure out where to put the camera. Do you suggest over your head kinda behind aiming down or more high in front of your face straight ahead?

    8.27.14Reply
  29. Love these tips! I've already downloaded the apps! Can't wait to stylize my Instagram pics!
    Megan Star | Beauty Brawler

    8.28.14Reply
  30. Such great tips.. Now I need to download all the apps you talked about!!
    xo ClassToCloset

    8.28.14Reply
  31. It's definitely an artform in itself, and you notice the accounts that take a little more time and put in more effort to get good shots. Thanks for sharing !

    8.28.14Reply
  32. I've always wondered how you got your photos so vibrant and bright! They always look fabulous.. thanks for sharing!

    Amanda
    XO Strawberry Chic

    8.28.14Reply
  33. Thank youuuu so much for posting this tips! I am not using iPhone but I can use the same tricks with my android phone, I hope it works well (;

    8.28.14Reply
  34. This is a really useful post that I am bookmarking so I can keep referring to it. I think my photography is the thing that lets me down!

    <a href="http://www.averageadventures.org/>average adventures</a>

    8.28.14Reply
  35. Anonymous
    8.28.14Reply
  36. Anonymous

    Excellent tip, I love take a photos and this post it's perfect to me, thank you!!

    http://www.chicpineapple.blogspot.com

    8.28.14Reply
  37. Anonymous

    This was so helpful, I've been struggling to make my instagram look 'nice' so much recently! Thank you!

    Hayley xx

    8.28.14Reply
  38. Love this post! Great tips…

    strawberriegirl.blogspot.com

    8.28.14Reply
  39. Very helpful post! I''m only just beginning to get into instagram so will definitely be using these tips x

    Tilly Enn // A Beauty and Fashion Blog

    8.28.14Reply
  40. Love this! Thanks for sharing!

    xoxo,
    Amanda

    http://www.thechambraybunny.com

    8.28.14Reply
  41. love your photos they are so bright and fun!!
    keep sharing!!

    Click here for a similar blog!

    8.28.14Reply
  42. love love love the how-to's! You can never have enough insta tips! I will def have to check out snapseed. Thanks so much for sharing!

    http://stylecrushdiaries.blogspot.com

    8.29.14Reply
  43. Great tips. Fabulous job.

    8.30.14Reply
  44. Awesome post a lot of effort goes into these pics hahah i take loads of pictures for any recipe blogs that i do

    8.31.14Reply
  45. This is is brilliant.. Thank you for sharing. Wonderful stuff!

    8.31.14Reply
  46. Really great tips.
    http://divadiari.blogspot.com/

    8.31.14Reply
  47. Found this post via the Bloglovin weekly email – really helpful and interesting tips, thanks very much
    http://cakesbykath.blogspot.co.uk/

    8.31.14Reply
  48. Anonymous

    Great tips πŸ™‚ thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

    Cheryl
    http://daisycandle.com

    8.31.14Reply
  49. This was absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for writing this. I have sometimes struggled with taking amazing photos with an apple device (even though the camera is pretty great) but I just would never make it look professional and I wondered whether most bloggers used a DSLR for their Instagram too (which I didn't want to do). I will definitely be keeping these tips and tricks in mind.
    Zoha xx
    zoeandtima.blogspot.com

    8.31.14Reply
  50. I use it all the time but these tips are still super helpful! Always learning some thing new!
    http://www.sweetwordsprettypictures.com

    8.31.14Reply
  51. Anonymous

    Great tips! Thanks πŸ™‚

    http://justsem.wordpress.com/

    8.31.14Reply
  52. Great tips! I need to get a light reflector! Thanks!

    8.31.14Reply
  53. Tips were great, thank you!

    http://www.emilianata.com

    8.31.14Reply
  54. Honestly, such a useful post! Everyone is looking to up their quality of Instagram photos of course.

    Paige
    http://www.pagebypaige.ca/

    9.1.14Reply
  55. As an Instagram addict, I absolutely love posts like this to see how others create their amazing images (taken on their phones, no doubt!). I love the way you've used images alongside your descriptions for each point. Such a handy post!

    @lioninthewild
    http://www.lioninthewild.com

    9.1.14Reply
  56. I've just started using Instagram so I've just been using the main app – I'd never considered using other apps to enhance the photos as well *goes off to investigate* πŸ™‚

    http://www.thatjessebloke.co.uk

    9.1.14Reply
  57. Thank you, Caitlin! Your photos are really great, I've subscribed to your instagram account and looking forward to see some new excellent pics! I used to think that instagram photos should be darker before, thanks to you I know what to do. I don't have an iPhone, I have a HTC and I try to find some app like snapseed or picfx.

    Elena @ Mom
    http://momthinks.net

    9.1.14Reply
  58. Wow! This post was so helpful! We have been using Instagram and the auto filters, but I love the idea of just manipulating saturation and brightness for more control. We downloaded both of the recommended apps and can't wait to improve our pictures. Thank you for the concise and informative guide.

    Zoey Bear
    http://www.foxydogstyle.com/

    9.1.14Reply
  59. This is such a great post! I think it is great that you are actually sharing how you take and edit photos, some people can be so secretive about it, which is fine πŸ™‚ I just always get really curious lol! I just heard about Snapseed this past weekend from a friend, can't wait to try it out!

    9.2.14Reply
  60. Great blog post, I will definitely use this hints! Thanks for sharing!

    xxx
    E from Helsinki, Finland
    http://dragonflyelisabeth.blogspot.fi/

    9.4.14Reply
  61. great tips and blog! im still learning how to take a good pic with my instax because you know, the film is kinda expensive. thank you!

    scaleonetoinfinite.blogspot.com

    1.15.15Reply
  62. GREAT POST! Thanks for the tips!

    http://www.diaryofablonde.com

    2.26.15Reply
  63. Anonymous

    Great post! I use digital also, but will definitely try these tips out πŸ™‚

    http://www.trendyrockstar.com

    7.19.15Reply
  64. Lots of great tips! I found your post on Pinterest. Will definitely be back to read more posts.

    7.19.15Reply
  65. Love your tips! For pictures taken of your outfits from afar, are you enlisting the help of your mom or using a self timer? If you are using a self timer, are you still using your iPhone or a professional camera? Thanks so much, dollπŸ’“

    9.27.15Reply
  66. This was so helpful!

    6.26.16Reply
  67. Thank you so much ! this was so helpful….
    Great post
    Hira ,
    http://www.hirascabin.com

    7.4.16Reply
  68. Thanks for this post – it really helped me. Getting a light reflector now!
    http://www.PlannerShop.com

    10.14.16Reply
  69. Wow great tips thank you for sharing. This was so helpful. photo editing service

    10.17.16Reply
  70. This blog website is pretty cool! How was it made ! purchase instagram likes

    12.1.16Reply
  71. So glad I found this post; I will be definitely be using these tips!

    http://www.notsetinsilverstone.com

    12.16.16Reply
  72. The gadgets have been grabbing popularity across every section of the globe because of their advanced features and state-of-the art performance. stabilizer for dslr cameras

    8.8.17Reply
  73. This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. Looking to reading your next post. photo editor

    12.1.17Reply
  74. An additional thing is that password isn't any more valid, because some of the flagship smartphones with Android os are near the cost on iPhones. instaexpansion.com offers some in-depth insights on Insta Expansion – Instagram Growth Made Easy.

    7.19.18Reply