Recently Instagram announced it had reached 100 million monthly users, less than 3 years after its launch and only 1 month after hitting 90 million monthly users.
This rapid growth is testimony to its huge popularity and affinity with users. The platform is simple to use, instantly social, conveniently mobile and fun to create and explore. Add a dash of nostalgia and retro-cool, and you have won over hobbyists and professionals alike!
If you are new to Instagram and learning the ropes, here are a few tips across a broad range of topics to help you make the most of your experience.
1. Editing Photos
Instagram comes bundled with a number of free built-in filters and basic editing tools, with the most interesting being an adjustable tilt-shift effect to create focus. These are a great start to begin with, but if you want to explore more advanced editing tools, there are a plethora of compatible applications available.
Some of our favourite examples are:
– Wood Camera features an expansive suite of lenses and textures, and you can save photos offline if they are personal
– Camera+ is a powerful and popular editing tool, especially for adjusting lighting and clarity levels for crisp sharp images.
– Picfx offers over 100 fun effects and 13 different styles including bokeh, and you can layer effects for added impact.
2. Combining photos
If you have taken a series of photos that make sense as a collection, or want to further push the creative boundaries, you may want to consider combining the photos. Instagram itself does not offer functionality, but here are a few applications that do:
– Diptic offers 165 layouts to position your photos, and you can customize the frame look and dimensions.
– Photoshake! also enables you to arrange collages on your own, but comes with a fun feature where you can shake your device for a random collage.
For the dedicated smartphone photographer, you can invest in some specialist add-ons which can fit in your pocket to go wherever you do!
– Magnetic snap-on lenses are compact and convenient to use, with a wide range of effects available including fisheye, telephoto, and macro, wide angle, even panoramic. Popular brands and stores include Photojojo, Olloclip, and Kogeto.
– Portable smartphone tripods enable steady shots and are particularly helpful for low-light and night shots. Popular models include Joby Gorilla Mobile with flexible legs to wrap around anything, and Gary Fong’s Flip-Cage which is a case, mount and tripod in one, and the newly released SlingShot which easily fits all brands of smartphone.
– Waterproof cases are essential if you dare to take your smartphone camera underwater. They range from simple zip-lock bags like Bubble Shield, to vacuum sealed cases like DryCase, and even the Tat7 Scuba Case for instagramming at 30m deep!
The simplest way to connect with other Instagram users is to add #hashtags to your photos to best describe the content. This allows others to find and ‘like’ or comment on your photo, and for you to browse topics that interest you. Some good references on hashtag use include:
– Best Practices Guide on Instagram
– This handy Cheat Sheet explains what some commonly used hashtags mean
– Online communities have even been formed around popular hashtags, such as TagitJJ.com formed around #jj via @joshjohnson. They host daily challenges and provides tips, discussions, reviews, news and more to their 300,000+ followers.
– TIP: Use hashtags to organise your photos so you can search and filter them later on, for example if you want to print a photobook of all of your #blackandwhite, #instapet or #food images (see 9. Printing Your Photos)
5. Join an Instagramers group
A great way to indulge your passion for Instagram and to network with fellow addicts is to join your local Instagramers (Igers) group. There are over 330 groups worldwide, and if your city isn’t featured, you can apply to start one!
Igers groups organise events, competitions and most commonly, InstaMeets, where you can meet the person behind the screen-name and share tips or ideas, or participate in a photo-walk.
6. View by Location
Several apps have appeared to offer photo viewing by location, which can be a pleasant way to learn more about what’s happening in your neighbourhood or in other parts of the world.
– Instamap is an app available on mobile and ipad enabling you to browse Instagram photos by location on a map. You can subscribe to geographical locations, venues, users or tags and see the photos as they get posted.
– InstaEarth also offers viewing via location but is available to browse on computer. Search photos by location, by user or by tag and also find photos taken near you
7. Viewing Online
Instagram is predominantly a mobile focused interface, though it does have some online presence through its blog and a recently updated viewing feed. The functions available are still limited, but fortunately there are excellent third-party web apps which allow you to continue your passion while surfing the net at home (or, at work… *cough*)
Our favourite viewer is Webstagram, one of the original and most popular web-based Instagram apps with lots of options to explore random images, search for specific hashtags or users, and like or comment on photos. Bonus features include seeing hottest 100 hashtags, most popular filters, and a forum and personal messaging for added communication.
8. As a Background
The square format of Instagram photos lends itself very well to grid-style presentations. These apps turn your photos into colourful mosaic backgrounds to brighten your day:
– InstaWallpaper is a versatile online site which generates wallpapers to suit your phone, ipad, laptop or any other screen device. Not only can you create using your own photos, but of other public users, by tags, or by set categories. Choose the layout, spacing and colour, and download instantly for free
– Screenstagram is an Instagram-driven screen saver, which pulls photos from the ‘popular’ feed in Instagram, or you can log in to use photos from your feed and people you follow
9. Printing your photos
There will come a time when you are so pleased with your Instagram photos that you want to present them in the physical world. A selection of fun products available include:
– PastBook is a fast, convenient and ridiculously good-looking way to print your Instagram photos in a soft or hard-cover book for you to share with family and friends. You can choose a timeframe to select your images, for example by month or year, and now you can filter by #hashtag to select your #bestoftheday, #50likes or #blackandwhite photos in a book. Create a free PDF to keep, and purchase includes free delivery worldwide.
– Instacanvas allows you to print your images on quality stretched canvas, or framed posters, desktop prisms, and even iphone covers. Best of all, there is the ability to sell your photos to others as products or buy a photo you really love. In this manner, you can also browse and discover new Instagram accounts to follow
– Stickygram converts your favourite images into fun magnets to adorn your fridge. There are nine to a sheet, and you can also buy gift certificates
Ready to see your photos in a book? Try it by creating a free PDF, just click that green button below!
10. Our final tip is to backup your Instagram photos on a regular basis, just to be safe. An easy and frictionless way to do this is via PastBook’s Instaback service, which downloads all your Instagram photos and emails a link to your handy zip file, for free.
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