I get some great feedback from my Instagram followers. They tell me how much they like the light, composition and subjects in my photos.
I wish it had always been the case.
When I started out, I’d take a photo of anything, slap a filter on it, and add a border to it and think that I had a good thing going for me.
Five years and more than two thousand posts later, I’ve learned about what works on Instagram the hard way.
Let’s take a look at the mistakes I’ve made, so that you don’t make the same. Also, as an aside, I haven’t deleted many of my early Instagram posts. I like to see how far I’ve come. And I’m not ashamed of it.
What NOT To Do On Instagram, As Told By My Feed
1. Don’t take photos of boring subjects.
This is my very first Instagram post. Of my computer screen. It wasn’t moving, but I still managed to get it blurry. Don’t use borders either. They’re really gimmicky. And Instagram filters? Stay away from them, unless they’re really subtle. I prefer to use these two free apps to edit my photos instead.
Have an interesting subject
Make sure your images aren’t blurry
Don’t use borders
If you’re going to use an Instagram filter, make sure it’s subtle.
2. Don’t overdo vignettes
Vignettes are a way of emphasising the subject in a photo. Like most edits, make sure it’s subtle.
Use vignettes subtly to draw attention to your subject.
3. Keep your horizon straight
It hurts me to look at this picture. Also, try not to shoot in bright daylight. Or while driving.
Keep your horizon line straight.
Don’t shoot in broad daylight.
Don’t shoot while driving.
4. Stop using the tilt-shift tool
I don’t know who invented the tilt-shift tool, but it’s horrible. Stop using it.
Corny captions aren’t going to earn you any points either.
Don’t use tilt-shift. Ever.
Tell a story in your captions. Keep it short and to the point.
5. Don’t use collage apps
Have you noticed how most of these posts have no likes or comments? Collage apps are nothing but gimmicks that make your posts look a little cheap. If you really have to create a collage, you should use Instagram’s Layout app, for iOS or Android.
Don’t use collage apps, and if you absolutely have to, use Instagram’s Layout app.
6. Use HDR in-camera, not in your edits
High-definition range, or HDR, works great on your camera or smartphone to balance shadows and highlights. Adding it to your photo in your edits is almost always a bad idea.
Most editing apps allow you to lighten shadows and darken highlights as needed, which means you have no reason to use HDR.
Don’t edit with HDR, it’s overkill. Lighten your shadows and darken your highlights instead.
7. Don’t post motivational quotes
That’s what Pinterest is for.
People use Instagram because it’s a visual platform. Post your motivational quotes on Pinterest.
8. Keep it simple
Don’t go overboard with the special effects and typography. Don’t post heavily pixelated photos either.
Keep your special effects subtle.
Try not to use typography in your pictures unless it’s for informational purposes.
Make sure your images aren’t pixelated.
9. Jump shots are getting old
I used to take jump shots all the time. I thought I was so cool. I wasn’t.
Jump shots aren’t cool anymore. Stop taking them. Think of something different.
11. Only post videos if they’re really great
This video makes no sense whatsoever. And it’s awful. Only add videos if they can add value to your feed.
Only post videos to your feed if they’re great and add value.
12. Don’t use fake depth of field apps
I used to love adding fake depth of field to my iPhone shots. It made my photos look like they were taken with a DSLR. Well, that’s what I thought at the time.
If you’re using a smartphone to take pictures, don’t try to fake the depth of field.
I learned these lessons the hard way, and I had fun while doing it. These aren’t hard and fast rules though. Rules are meant to be broken.