5 Top Instagram Tips from 8 Professional Photographers
Main Image Credit: Kristina Makeeva (@hobopeeba)
More than just a place to show off your photos, Instagram has become one of the world’s biggest social media platforms. What’s most interesting about this photo-and-video-sharing platform is that it’s also become a vital tool for professionals to market themselves to its 1 billion monthly active users.
Whichever field you specialise in, Instagram is a handy platform on which to showcase your product or service in the hope of gaining a loyal fanbase. Show off your craft in beautifully-shot images or videos, and with any luck, viewers will flock to your account – and eventually make a real-world purchase from you.
Success through Instagram is the common thread that unites the eight professional photographers featured in Currys PC World’s Through My Lens series. Created in association with Canon, the series showcases pro photographers who first made their names on Instagram, and asks them to share how they developed their skills – and gained followers in the process. Here are their top tips.
Pay Attention to the Time of Day
Image Credit: James Relf-Dyer (@jamesrelfdyer)
As an aspiring photographer, you’re probably already aware of “The Golden Hour”, the hour after the sun rises and the hour before the sun sets. As James Relf-Dyer (@jamesrelfdyer) explains, “It’s commonly considered the most photogenic time of day.”
Many of the photographers featured on the Through My Lens series swear by The Golden Hour as the best time to take photos. In fact, Emilie Ristevski (@helloemilie) says she “often wake[s] up before first light to capture the moments before sunrise, when there’s a stillness on the horizon.”
But, Emilie also recommends experimenting with different times of the day, as this will yield different results that might surprise you. Revisit places several times a day to take the same photo – and discover how the light changes the mood and composition of the capture. “Timing is everything,” says Emilie, adding that you’ll need to plan ahead so you’re at the right place at the right time.
If pre-planning isn’t your forte, you may have to rely on Harry Sinclair’s (@harrysinclairphotography) method instead. For a photo of Tower Bridge, Harry said he “sat on a rooftop for hours waiting for the sun to set” and when it did, he couldn’t believe what he was witnessing.
To get those wow moments, patience and perseverance is key: “Don’t leave your location until you are happy,” says Harry. “I used to give up too easily until I came to the mindset that I was not leaving until I had gotten what I had come for.”
So, whether you’ve got a shot in mind and plan ahead to turn up at the right time, or simply wait around for the perfect moment to present itself, paying attention to the time of day can help you produce exponentially more interesting images.
Experimentation is Key
Image Credit: Scott Rankin (@othellonine)
Few photographers discover their magic formula for perfect pictures on their first attempt. As a newbie photographer, you’ll probably find yourself needing to make several attempts – and taking several pictures – before getting the shot you want.
Fortunately, even professional photographers go through a similar process – of taking a photo, adjusting things slightly, taking another photo, and so on – and we’d positively encourage you to keep on doing it. Scott Rankin (@othellonine) agrees. “Practice your craft”, he says. “Take as many photos as you can. When travelling, look for the little things happening around you. […] Try to capture that interaction in as many ways as you can.”
As well as helping you discover your photography style, experimentation adds a creative element and fun aspect to photography that can see you enjoy the process more. So, play with scale, experiment with digital manipulation, make use of props and different textures, and explore different mediums.
And while you’re experimenting, you might just replicate Kristina Makeeva’s (@hobopeeba) success. One of her earliest experiments with Photoshop was an atmospheric black-and-white photo of a little girl framed by a building. It saw her win an Adobe photography prize netting her a full package of licensed software from the company. Her early win shows that even newbies can create stunning photos by simply playing around and being creative – particularly when you find out that she cited an “early inability to work well with light” as the reason for sticking with black-and-white creations when first starting out.
Know your Equipment Intimately
Image Credit: Carmen Huter (@carmenhuter)
While experimental creativity can help you produce surprisingly stunning photos, each of the eight photographers in the series stresses that it’s important to know the technical aspects of your craft as well.
“Learn to work the manual settings on your camera,” says Carmen Huter (@carmenhuter). “Though a mode like aperture priority affords a photographer some creative freedom, manual settings will allow you master the craft.”
That’s not to say that Carmen hasn’t indulged in a bit of automatic herself – a beautiful, tranquil photo she took at Lake Louise in Canada was featured by the National Geographic, but she’d taken it on aperture priority mode because she “had no clue how to work the manual settings.”
Getting to grips with the technicalities of your equipment is needed to transition from newbie photographer to pro. Learn about focal lengths, aperture, ISO settings, shutter speeds and how different lenses and filters affect your photos. As Jessica Bubb (@rusticbones) explains, “You have much more control over the end result” when you switch to manual.
To be a professional photographer, you’ll also need to be able to nail photography composition rules. Try to master techniques such as the golden triangle, the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, leading lines, symmetry and balance, depth of field, framing and more. Practise a few of these techniques each time you take your camera out and you’ll naturally start to use them in your shoots.
Get out of Your Comfort Zone
Image Credit: Harry Sinclair (@harrysinclairphotography)
“I began to see drastic improvement in my photography after visiting places I never thought I’d have the chance to see,” says Harry Sinclair. “So, try to get out of your comfort zone; it’s a sure-fire way of improving.”
Many of the photographers in the Through My Lens series agree. Emilie Ristevksi encourages you to challenge yourself in order to find a new way to capture the world adding that, if things don’t go as planned on a shoot, just roll with it – you may find your project goes “in an even more exciting direction than originally planned.”
While you may still be getting to grips with your craft as an amateur photographer, you’ll likely see rapid improvements in your photos when you push yourself to exceed your limits. Try and figure out what scares you as a photographer – whether that’s the small-talk involved when shooting portraits of real people, getting that landscape shot just right or struggling to get exposure in a night-time city scape – and actively work at it.
Don’t be afraid to seek out – and say yes to – opportunities abroad; opportunities that might force you to use equipment you’re unfamiliar with or contend with new experiences. By getting out of your comfort zone, you’ll be moulding yourself into a better photographer by default.
Don’t be Afraid of Post-Production
Image Credit: Loïc Lagarde (@loic.lagarde)
Of course, taking a great picture doesn’t end at the press of the shutter release button. Every photo you take with a digital camera will go through automatic post-production – but what you do when you’re back at your computer is important too.
Rookie photographers may baulk at the idea of editing their photos (“surely my skill should be enough to create a beautiful image?”). But, post-production is an integral part of digital photography and is as equally technical and creative as the shoot itself.
Many of the photographers in the Through My Lens series use Adobe Lightroom to edit their photos. “Shoot in RAW file format! Especially if you’re a beginner,” says Loïc Lagarde (@loic.lagarde). “You will then be able to edit your photos and make corrections to them if need be.”
Discovering your editing style and figuring out your workflow post-photo shoot matters just as much as working out your photography style and trying out different techniques. As Kristina Makeeva explains, “a bit like being an athlete, you need a good work ethic [to become a professional photographer]. You need to study, to work, to seek out information. That way everything will work out.”
With the above tips in hand, you’ll soon be on the way to becoming a professional photographer. By understanding photography rules, techniques and equipment – and practising them until they become ingrained – you’ll be able to take your photography to the next level. Make use of the platforms available to you – particularly Instagram – to showcase what you’re learning and gain inspiration from millions of other photographers. As Kristina says, “Thanks to instant feedback from followers, the creator gets an incentive to take photos every day. Each photo more beautiful than the last.”