8 ways to amp up your Instagram game

Gone are the days of boring Instagram pictures. Whether you’re sporting a smartphone camera or a DSLR, these tips will help you amp up your photo game and get those oh-so-coveted likes.

Composition is Key

Photo composition is what makes a photo pleasing to the eye. There are plenty of ways to manipulate your subject and its relationality to its environment to create a winning shot.

Rule of thirds (or rule of anything but the center of the frame)

Rule of thirds is easy to conceptualize if you think of a 3X3 or 3X4 grid on your photo. The rule of thirds says that putting your subject at the intersections of these grid lines produces more interesting and visually stimulating photography, as opposed to a head-on, dead-center approach to taking photos. Obviously, there is a multitude of ways to take a well-composed photo, but the rule of thirds is an easy way to get there (especially for beginners!). This is not a hard and fast rule, but a great way to introduce yourself into the realm of varied composition. It can be played around with and tweaked. Different things work for different people!

Bird’s Eye View // Worm’s Eye View

Why did that picture of that latte or that brunch on Instagram look so good? You can thank bird’s eye view for that. Popular among foodies, planners, and other aesthetically-inclined individuals, bird’s eye view does exactly what it says; changes the perspective of the photo from head-on to above the subject. It is a top-down approach to photography; and let me tell you, if you’re looking for a gold-star for composition, bird’s eye view will be your best friend.

Worm’s eye view is the exact opposite, but another great way to toss up the point of view a bit. As the name denotes, worm’s eye view looks at its subject from the ground-level. It works great especially in outdoor photography, where there’s typically some texture on the ground that brings interest to the photo, which brings me to my next point …

Look For Objects of Interest

By objects of interest, I mean objects that are in some way visually stimulating. This can be something with a lot of texture, interesting organic or geometric shapes, or a pattern.

Zoom In

As I did in the picture above, zoom in. This doesn’t mean use the zoom feature on your smartphone camera, but either get closer to your subject, like what I did with the rock, or take a picture from as close as you can get and crop it further to zoom in on your subject. Photos taken using the zoom feature on phone cameras tend to come out grainy or blurry, and are oftentimes hyper-sensitive to your hand shaking as the picture is taken. It’s best to just avoid that whole ordeal and do it the old-fashioned way. If you own a point-and-shoot or DSLR camera, you’ll already have a high-quality zoom feature built into your camera, so don’t worry about this! Remember, this isn’t a rule set in stone; just a good guideline for your more artsy pictures.

Lighting & Coloration

I combined these two because I find that they go hand in hand. It’s hard to make a picture beautiful if the photo is too overexposed or underexposed, just as much as it’s hard to make a photo with no color look interesting or eye-catching. Backlighting is a personal favorite of mine; it adds a glowy effect to the subject because the lighting source is hitting the subject’s back (hence the name). Front light is the opposite and puts the subject directly in front of the light source. There is also side-lighting, but you get the point. Play around with lighting and figure out what works for you. Additionally, know when to use flash. It is extremely hard to make a dark photo light again. Flash provides that lighting and prevents the grainy-ness you might find in those lightened photos I just mentioned. Lighting means balance, so in the same way, remember to not make your photos too light; it’ll be harder to darken them. The goal is “just right”. If you have your lighting right, your colors will look the way you want them to. Aim to take pictures that showcase color, so you can either amplify the color or minimize it by using the desaturate tool.


Cropping can make a world of a difference, whether it is decluttering your photo, or making it easier for the viewer to identify the subject. Avoid awkward crops that cut someone out of the photo (it’s pretty obvious what you did there), don’t crop for the sake of cropping (yeah, all of your pics are square, but if the picture looks better as a rectangle, let it be!), and use cropping to your advantage. Cropping is a dual-edged sword; it can make a photo look odd and weirdly-composed, or it can make a photo look 1000x better.

If You're Going to Selfie, Do it Right

I know what you’re thinking: there’s no right way to selfie. But there actually is. For those of you who selfie on say, the iPhone camera, and like how it looks, you can skip this tip. But for those of you who take selfies on the iPhone camera, only to view it and wonder who in the world you’re looking at, know you are not alone. The iPhone front-facing camera actually flips the photo horizontally, which is annoying considering when you ready yourself for a selfie, you expect the same face you saw a second before the shutter clicked. Instead, you end up with a flipped version of yourself. A way people solve this is by taking their selfies on Snapchat, which does not flip the photo. But then you are left with an oddly elongated photo that either requires you to “insta-size” your photo with a border, or crop it (but then you’re left with an uncomfortably close-up selfie, and no one wants that). Try taking your photo in another photo app! One that I love to use for my selfies is VSCO. On that note…

BREAK THE HABIT OF EDITING YOUR PHOTOS ON THE INSTAGRAM APP If I am going to be completely honest (no offense IG!), the best feature the Instagram edit tool offers is luxe. Other than that, I find that the other editing tools are decent, but there are some better editing apps out there. VSCO, as I previously mentioned is not only a selfie-haven, but an incredibly powerful editing tool that offers great filters and other tools for tweaking. So as much as you love the Valencia filter on Instagram, it might be best to break the habit and expand your horizons. You never know what other aesthetics can be created, especially when there’s a whole world of different filters out there.

Find Your Aesthetic

The most aesthetically pleasing Instagram pages have the most streamlined looks. Find one that works for you; whether that is all square pictures, using the same filter for every photo, or just adjusting the levels in your picture so they look natural, but true to color. You may find it hard to stick to just one thing. You might even think that it will be too hard to overhaul your past aesthetic. Good news is: you don’t have to delete everything. Just begin posting pictures using your new standard, and things will fall into place. Plus, it’ll be super cool for your visitors to look back on your old pictures and see the progress you’ve made in creating a cohesive look.


All pictures are situational and there is no one way to take great photos. Most of the magic happens when you hear that shutter click. The editing you do on apps is simply meant to enhance what you’ve already captured, not blow it out of proportion. Set yourself up well for the kinds of pictures you want, whether you are the one taking them or if you have enlisted a friend to help. Also remember to sell yourself! Your Instagram is your own personal public relations outlet, and you are your own representative! Do yourself justice and most importantly, post what YOU would love to see on your Instagram! It is a direct representation of you, so make it a good one!

Good luck with your photo endeavors, and have fun slaying the photo game!

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