Instagram: composing a photo

Instagram: composing a photo

I wanna preface this post by saying that there is no rule book that states the right way or the wrong way to take a photo for Instagram. The ideas in this post are just suggestions and examples of techniques I use for IG so no haters if you don’t like my tips, I’m not claiming to be an expert ;)  Another thing to note is I use an iPhone so some of the tips may not work on Android phones and I apologize for not knowing much about droids either… I’m a bit of an Apple snob :0  Not to worry though because there are still plenty of ideas for everyone in this SUPERPOST. Every single picture in this post was taken on my iPhone and has not been enhanced or edited.

Did you know that when you are taking a photo on your iPhone  you can tap the dark areas within the frame to make the subject brighter? This works especially well when there is back lighting that’s confusing the camera on how much light it needs to let in. You can tell the camera where to take a light reading by taping on any dark areas on the screen which will then make the lighting balance out. However! When you tap the screen you are telling the camera where to focus so your picture may be more blurry. You just have to decide if you want a super dark photo in focus or a well lit photo that’s maybe not as clear. Usually you can tap on the dark areas of the subject and that will both focus on the person and adjust the lighting.Left: Jessica is shrouded in darkness because the window behind her is telling the camera there is too much light in the room so it compensates making the image darker.
Right: After I tapped on the “X” the camera was then able to properly gauge the lighting and Jessica and the room are now lit evenly.

 

Did you know that if you use the zoom on your camera it depletes pixels?Left: I used the zoom (pinch the screen with 2 fingers) on my iPhone to get a close up of this ring. As you can see the picture is dark and grainy which takes away from the detail of the ring.
Right: Instead of zooming with the lens I positioned my iPhone as close to the ring as I could while still allowing the camera to focus. If the lens is too close to an object the camera can’t focus and images will be blurry. In this image the lighting is brighter and the picture is clearer.

 

Whenever possible open any curtains or blinds to allow more light in. If there isn’t enough light in a room the camera will compensate but it subtracts from the quality which then makes images look grainy. Taking photos in a well lit area will also reduce blurry images.

Left: In this image I took the photo with Cookie sitting on the couch across from the windows pictured above. The front door and the blinds were all closed so the only extra light was coming from that partial window. You can tell this picture is not in focus and is noticeably more grainy than the right image.
Right: In this image I opened the blinds and cracked open my front door. Cookie is no longer blurry or grainy and the details in this photo are more brighter and clearer like the color of her eyes.

 

Lighting is such a crucial element in taking a good photo so I always recommend finding some natural lighting to take your photo in if possible. However, I never recommend putting your subject in direct lighting. If you stand directly in the sun out doors you bump into all sorts of problems. For starters the subject can’t look toward the sun without squinting. The sun also creates harsh shadows and inconsistent lighting over the subject.Left: Jessica is standing outside directly in front of the sun. The sun is blazing in her eyes and half of her body is in shadow and the rest is not. You can also see that her skin looks blown out and over exposed (unnaturally bright).
Right: I had Jessica take two small steps to the left so her entire body would be in the shade. Now you can see her skin is no longer glowing and she doesn’t have any harsh shadows under her eyes. The image over all has a more natural hue as well, instead of having a warm yellow tone.

 

As demonstrated on Cookie above you don’t have to go outside to use natural lighting. You can take your pictures in front of a large window or a glass door. As a rule of thumb I always recommend that your main lighting source be behind whoever is taking the photo, whether it be a window, a lamp or even a television providing the light. If you can’t avoid having the light coming from behind your subject the iPhone does allow you to adjust the lighting by tapping the darkest area of the image.Left: Jessica is completely dark and you can hardly see her face. On the other hand the yard is well lit and the trampoline stands out far more than Jess does.
Right: Using the tapping technique I mentioned earlier I tapped on the darkest area of the screen which was Jessica’s face  so now she is brighter and in focus. Unfortunately if Jessica is brighter the whole frame becomes brighter making Jessica nearly washed out by the light behind her. If you are stuck with lighting behind the subject I prefer this technique because at least now you can’t see the distracting trampoline in the back yard and the subject isn’t blacked out. It’s not the best image but you could enhance it more by adding some fun sun flare filters with a secondary app. I have some fun apps that will let you add sun flare that I will be sharing in my next post.

 

 

Since direct light behind your subject is not ideal you could reposition your subject so the window is behind whomever is taking the photo. In the image below I had Jessica take one step and turn around and face the window and then I put my back to the window so the daylight could light Jessica more evenly. As you can see there is a drastic improvement.

 

Often times the paint on the walls or the home decor in a room can cast a hue in your image. In the photo below Jessica is standing in my blue kitchen with artificial lighting. Between the blue walls and the yellow lighting Jessica is looking a little green. Icky icky! I suggest finding a room with less color and better lighting.
Sometimes just changing the background in an image can change the entire vibe of the photo.Left: I laid Cookie on the carpet, it’s brown and bluh and well, kinda dirty :0
Right: I moved Cookie over just a few feet onto one of our rugs and it changes everything. There’s now an interesting and colorful background to make the photo more appealing and less bluh. I’m not saying you can’t take pictures on carpet (I do ALL the time) but if you have a better option it’s something to think about.

 

Left: This is another example of how having an unattractive background can detract from your photo. I placed this lovely necklace on my kitchen counter top and it’s so busy that you lose the detail of the necklace plus there is a glare.
Right: In this image I just moved the necklace to one of my white desks in my studio. Now you can appreciate all the fantastic characteristics of the necklace and bonus, there’s no glare coming from the surface. You don’t have to use a white background or even a solid background but using something simple and lighter than the object will help viewers to focus in on what you want them to see, especially when it comes to small objects like jewelry.

 

 

Left: In this image I have a simple background but there’s quite the mess going on. The way my makeup is sprawled out everywhere doesn’t look visually interesting. Most of our bathrooms probably look like this everyday.
Right: If you want to show something off try separating it and make a statement by only displaying one or two items. There is so much beauty in simplicity.
This is just another example of how simplifying a photo can make for an eye catching picture.

 

If you don’t have someone to hold the camera for you when you want a photo of yourself you can still come up with a fun self portrait.
Left: I’m using a mirror to take this picture so I can show more in the frame. In this picture I have a lot going on with the cosmetics spread out everywhere and the blinds open and wonky in the back. Also, if you look at my face you will notice my eyes are looking at the camera button on my phone.
Right: I’m still using the mirror in this image to take my self portrait but I uncluttered the counter space and closed the blinds so there’s less distractions. I also use the mirror to look at the camera lens on the back of my phone to make eye contact with the viewer. Hello there!

 

Left: This is another self portrait using the camera on the front of my phone instead. When using this camera the distance between you and the camera is much smaller (about as far as you can hold your arm out). This means less of you will fit in the frame. In this picture, I’ve got my arm showing in half the frame and my distracting MESSY office behind me. Once again my eyes are focused on the camera button so I look like I’m in the middle of a blink.
Right: For this picture I held the camera closer to myself so my distorted arm wouldn’t be showing. I also turned my body so only the white wall was in the background. You can also notice that I am looking at the camera lens on my phone and not my reflection on the camera or the camera button so once again I look like I am making eye contact. Hi again! Making eye contact gives your viewers something to connect to.

 

There are accessories out there you can buy to enhance the camera on your phone. I purchased this detachable 0.67 lens (here) for my iphone. It’s magnetic and attached right to the lens on the back of the phone. As you can see in the picture it has two lenses you can use to make your pictures more interesting.  One is a wide angle lens so you can fit more in the frame and the other is a macro lens to get really close up shots of  interesting textures and prints and they screw together and become one piece.
Left: This is a picture I took of a disaster area using the camera lens that’s built into my phone.
Right: For this picture I attached the magnetic wide angle lens which lets you can see much more of the disaster area.

Left: I used my built in lens to get a close up of my eye.  I got as close as I could without using the zoom and as you can see the image is still blurry.
Right: I attached the macro lens to my built in lens for this picture. With the macro lens you have to get very close to the object in order for it to focus. Once you get close enough the detail is amazing and brilliant, kinda gross but still pretty cool!

 

 

Using some of these tips and tricks will make your images look even more intense once you start adding filters through Instagram. Some of the filters add a lot of shading or can even blow out a picture more, having a consistently lit image to begin will definitely help. There are lots of filters to choose from but if you are anything like me you stick to the same few filters. I use Walden and Valencia most of the time and occasionally Rise but that’s just because I love things super bright and even over exposed a little. The benefit of using the same filters consistently is your viewers will start to recognize your images based on your editing and your aesthetic. The filters are for you to play around with and use your imagination. In my next post I will be sharing some really awesome secondary apps that have more filters and super cool effects to make your images stand out!

Please keep in mind that there’s no wrong or right way to take a picture so don’t take any of the above suggestions too harshly. In fact, I don’t always use the tips myself. Ultimately I think you should do what makes you happy and stick with what YOU like.

If you liked any of these tips please feel free to share this post :)

 


11 Comments

  1. Liz @ Lizzie Jane Baby - August 22, 2012

    Becki these are great tips! Thanks so much with sharing all you’ve learned.

  2. Heidi @Mustache Mama - August 22, 2012

    I am ordering myself a lens now! I didn’t think it would really make that much of a difference. WOW! Now my Instagram pix will Rock Everyone’s Socks!
    Thanks for the tips!!
    Heidi

  3. Korey - August 22, 2012

    Fabulous post! So helpful!

  4. Julie - August 22, 2012

    Thank you for these tips , your writting is great I love how you express it

  5. Val - August 22, 2012

    Just started with Instagram and these tips are great! Thank you!

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  7. Kelly - August 22, 2012

    Loved the tap dark tip. Who knew!! Though I thought the baby on the beige carpet was the Do. That’s probably says a lot about me.

  8. Summer - August 23, 2012

    I never knew that you could buy lenses for your iPhone!! that’s just awesome =D

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  10. Ashley - January 22, 2013

    I purchased that same lens, but I can’t get the magnetic ring to stay on my phone! How did you get yours to stay?

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