How to take the best photos for Instagram

Shooting and editing the best photos for Instagram

I love discovering beautiful photos on Instagram and seeing the creativity of Instagram photographers from around the world. As a traveler, Instagram has become an essential resource when I’m planning my trip and looking to find visual inspiration about a destination or hotel. If your goal is to take photos that will be highly engaging on Instagram, here are a few best practices that should help.

Shoot photos with enough room to crop

I like to post my Instagram photos square or portrait as they appear larger in the feed than landscape photos. When I am taking a photo, I make sure it has enough of a border to then crop for Instagram.

Viewfinder Tip: Photos with a lot of background space and photos using the color blue typically get great engagement on Instagram.

Avoid over-filtering

Even if you love the way a certain filter makes your photos look, try to avoid using filters at their highest intensity. If I use a filter, it’s usually at less than 50 percent strength. You want to capture a mood for your photo, but also want to make sure it doesn’t look overprocessed and fake. There are apps out there that can erase fine lines, change your facial features, and pretty much turn you into an entirely fake version of yourself—but it’s so obvious when an Instagrammer has done that. Try to keep it real.

Convey an emotion

Your audience wants to feel emotionally connected to the experience you are having, or the place you are traveling. Photos that convey an emotion or some level of drama or theatrics help draw people in.

Make sure they are high resolution and not blurry

The latest mobile phones take such high resolution images that you should have no problem capturing the perfect Insta shot from your phone. But in general, avoid posting shots that are blurry or low resolution. If you absolutely love a shot but it’s a bit out of focus, trying using the sharpen or detail tool on the Snapped app, or the clarity tool on the Lightroom app.

Don’t over-share

Curate your photos and cull them down to only your favorites for Instagram. Posting multiple photos per day is not recommended. For me, posting one photo per day, or even every other day works best. I love to also mix in videos to break up the feed.

Let editing apps help your photo shine

I rarely post a photo on Instagram that hasn’t been edited. Sometimes they don’t need much—a bit of contrast, some brightening, and if they are crooked, I always straighten them (especially if there is a horizon line). Other times my photos require a lot of editing. For that I like to use Snapseed, Lightroom, and the Instagram editing tools. I especially love Instagram’s vertical and horizontal perspective adjustments. Try them out next time you have to straighten your photos.

Let there be light

Photos that are brighter or colorful get more engagement than dark photos. I like to shoot during sunrise and magic hour and rarely shoot indoors.

Tell a visual story

The best Instagrammers think about the overall story they want to tell with their feed and post photos accordingly. Put some thought into the order of the photos, how they look next to each other and what your followers will feel when they see the photos.

Captions are important

Emojis can only tell so much. Engage your audience with a personal anecdote, or ask your followers a question to give them a voice and build community.

What is your best Instagram tip?

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Courtney Scott

Courtney Scott is a New York-based travel blogger, TV personality, and leading on-air travel expert.She has appeared more than 200 times in national broadcast, radio, and print outlets including TODAY show, MSNBC, Fox & Friends, CNN, Wall Street Journal, and Peter Greenberg Worldwide. Her travel career began in 2007 when she kicked her cubicle and booked a one-way ticket to Italy.She now inspires others to live their travel dreams through her blog and her weekly YouTube travel series GLOBETROT with Courtney Scott. She is a regular panelist at Women's Travel Fest and is also the co-creator of The Getaway Girls, a travel show uncovering the best girlfriend getaways in the world, co-starring Kiersten Rich, a.k.a. The Blonde Abroad. Subscribe to Courtney's adventures on YouTube and keep up with her travels on Instagram and Snapchat (imcourtscott).

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  • RickGriffin

    Great tips Courtney! Thanks!