This post covers a VERY detailed overview of what Instagram is and how to use it. This post will be especially helpful to those of you who have never tried Instagram or who have it, but don't know how to use it.

Instagram (or IG) is a smartphone app that lets you take, edit, and share photos with your friends. It's a fun way to catalog your life and useful social media tool you can use to market your business.

The first thing you will want to do is obviously download and install Instagram on your smart phone. You can check here on the IG website to see if your phone supports the IG app.

Once the IG app is installed you will want to sign up and create an account or sign in if you already have an account.

Enter your email address and select a username. If you are using IG for your business I highly recommend using your business name if it's still available. Choose a password, enter your phone number (optional) and upload a profile photo. If you don't have a profile photo ready that's ok you can add it later.

Before I go on I created a reference list of IG icons so you can learn and identify what the icons are for. Hopefully the list will come in handy throughout this post and you will be able to follow along more easily.

Once you sign in I suggest going to your profile. The below image is what your profile should look like if you are running the latest version of IG. Once you click on the profile icon you can click “edit your profile” to make changes to you profile.

Here you can edit your display name, add a link to your website or blog and write a short bio or description. Under your private bio you can change your email address or enter your phone number, gender, and birthday. I try not to submit too much personal information on social media outlets so I leave my phone number etc blank.

Once you finalize your profile I suggest going over to the settings tab to set your notification option. The settings page should look like the image below. “Find and invite friends ” allows you to find and follow friends through your phone's contact list or other social media platforms you link your IG account to like Facebook for example. “Photos you've liked” tab will show you a feed of all the photos you've ever liked, this is great if you want to go back and find something you saw later. “Log out”  logs you out of IG completely so you can log in with another ID or prevent people from photo bombing your IG feed at parties, it happens. “share setting” allows you to link your IG account to Facebook, twitter and other social media platforms  so you can share your IG photos on all your platforms with the tap of a button.  The “push notification settings” will let you decide when your phone will alert you or display a badge when your receive  new likes, comments or followers. “Clear search history” does just that, it clears anything you may have typed in the search field on the “navigation” tab. You can set your account to “private” if you wish to approve all your followers before they can see your images, or leave it off if you want to allow anyone to see your images.

If you insert your share settings first it makes finding friends much easier. Tap on each application you wish to link to IG and it will prompt you to enter your username and password for each one you choose. The great thing about linking to other apps is IG will auto populate your friends from those outlets in your “find and invite friends” tab so all you have to do is tap on a person to follow them. The other great thing about linking to other apps is you can easily upload your IG photos to Facebook for example with the tap of a button. One thing I love about IG is when my friends from these shared outlets sign up for IG I get a notification in my activity feed and can start following them right away. Likewise once you sign up your friends will get a notification that you are now using IG also. This makes it easier to find and follow people.

Once you've finished updating your sharing options you can go back to the settings page and tap on “find and invite friends”. On this page you can view friends from your phone's contact list who are using IG too and follow them. If you linked up to other apps on the share screen like FB or Twitter you can also tap on those tabs and follow your friends who are using IG as well. If you tap the “invite friends” tab your phone contacts will populate and you can invite people to start using IG via text message or email. The “suggested users” tab includes popular IG users you can follow like famous photographers or journalists.

Now that you've signed up, updated your profile, linked to other social media outlets and added all your friends you are ready to start sharing your photos. I recommend doing all those things before you start posting photos because what fun is it to share photos if no one can see them? From the main menu you tap the “camera” icon to start posting photos. You can use the camera in IG to take a photo from there (I don't recommend this because the IG camera isn't as good as the phone's standard camera) but if you do decide to use the camera you can select filter options in real time and see how the filter will look before you even snap the shot. If you do use the IG camera you can't crop the image later though. You can add a frame, rotate the photo, add tilt shift (blur), auto enhance the photo or switch between filters.  The red “X” will let go back to camera mode so you can retake the photo and the “hide” icon will hide the filters so you can preview your photo without interference.

I prefer using existing images from my personal albums because the quality is almost always better than the IG camera. Tap the “upload image” icon (bottom left icon next to the camera button) and it will take you to a screen with all of your phone's albums. You can then select an image from any album and upload it. Once you upload your image you will need to crop or move your photo and then tap “choose” to set the image and move on to the editing tools. To crop you pinch two fingers on the screen in or out to zoom in and and use one finger to move the image around.

The below image is what the edit screen looks like. You can scroll left to right to view and try different filters. To apply a filter just tap the filter icon, if you don't like the effect you can easily tap another. You can tap the “hide” icon (bottom right icon next to green check mark) to hide the filters and view your image without interference.

The top menu gives you more editing options like  adding a frame. Unfortunately, you can't choose your frame, the frame is assigned to a filter which I don't like, I would rather be able to choose my filter and frames separately.  You can also rotate the image, and add a tilt shift. The tilt shift too is a blur effect where you choose an area in the image to focus on and the rest will be blurred out. You can choose a circle effect or a line effect in the tilt shift tool and you the finger pinch to widen or narrow the blur effect and drag it around or rotate it to your taste. The “auto enhance” icon automatically brightens and changes the image but I don't usually like the way it makes the image look so I rarely use it.

Once your image is edited to your liking you can now publish it. Tap the green check mark and it will take you to the screen below. It will show you a preview of your image (top left) and you can write a comment or a caption to your photo. To hashtag something use “#” in front and don't use any spaces. Ex: #cutebaby. To tag someone in the post you use the “@” and their username. Ex: @whippycake. When you use a hashtag viewers can tap on it and view other photos with the same hashtag, this is a great way to gain followers. When you tag someone in a comment it will notify them in their activity feed so they can see that you are talking to them. The latest version of IG now allows you to map where you are taking your photos. This shows your followers where you were when the picture was taken. Finally you can tap on any of the social media platforms you are linked to that you would also like to share the photo on. For example, if you tap “Facebook” it will highlight in blue and then when you tap “share” it will publish to your Instagram feed as well as your Facebook timeline. Sharing your photos on other platforms is totally optional and I don't recommend doing it for every photo, otherwise your followers would only need to follow you on one or the other if it's always the same content.

Now that you are sharing photos you will want to see what people are saying. You can tap the “activity feed” icon and you will see a screen similar to the image  below. If you tap on “news” it shows you the most recent likes and comments on your photos. It also shows you when new friends join IG or when someone new has started following you. You can tap on a users name or icon to view their profile, follow them or comment/like their photos back. You can tap on your photo next to a like or comment to see the activity on that photo in real time. If you tap on “following” this page will show you the activity of the people you are following like if they uploaded new photos or liked a new user.

Another fun feature I like about IG is the “navigation” page. Here you can find beautiful pictures and fun users that IG suggests.

You can also search for users by typing in a name or brand or you can search by hashtags by tapping the “hashtag” tab and typing a search word or phrase. Remember don't use spaces in a hashtag. Ex: #iloveunicorns. You'll find some hashtags pull up thousands of images to browse. This is how I have found some of my absolute favorite people to follow, it's so much fun!

And that, my friends, is how you use Instagram! This post was geared towards beginners but hopefully everyone learned at least one thing and if you did I would love it if you shared it!  Each day this week I will be posting about Instagram including composing interesting photos, secondary apps, my favorite IG users and the best things to do with your photos including where to get them printed. I hope you come back 🙂