11 Steps to a Decent Instagram Post

Anybody who has known me longer than 30 minutes is more than likely aware of my borderline obsession with Instagram. In this entry, I’m going to take you through step-by-step details on how to create a decent Instagram post, using the photo above as an example.

The purpose of this blog post isn’t to show everybody ‘the best way’ to post a photo on Instagram, it’s just my approach. Also, this approach changes on a regular basis, it’s just where I’m at right now.

Hope you enjoy!

Step 1: Take the photo IMG_3461 App used: Camera

This step shouldn’t be overlooked. In the words of my Video Production Lecturer: You can’t polish a turd (in other words, good editing does not make up for bad original content).

Execution is key to taking great photos, and this might take more than one attempt. To get this photo, I literally took 28 other photos that I have now deleted. Composition, timing, lighting, external factors, (for example, someone else being in frame), all play a part in getting the right photo.

Don’t worry about taking your time to get the right photo. If you’re worried that you look like a tourist, you probably do already anyway, so embrace it.

One more tip on taking the photo: Burst- Mode. When you hold your photo button down on an iPhone 5s or later, it goes into burst-mode, taking ten photos a second. The result of this is you can choose between multiple pictures and get the exact photo you want with the right timing. See how the runner in the horizon is mid-stride?  This was achieved through burst-mode.
Step 2: Straighten your image
App used: Afterlight

This can’t be stressed enough: No-one wants to look at a crooked horizon! Personally, I like to do my initial edits in Afterlight. Thanks to iOS 8, you can access Afterlight within the camera roll, meaning you don’t have to make a duplicate when you save your edit. It’s also non-destructive editing, so you can always revert to the original at any time. Simply tap on edit, choose the three little dots at the bottom of your screen and choose Afterlight. If you don’t already have this app, stop reading this and download it now.

Step 3: Crop
App used: Afterlight

Cropping is an important step in producing a decent photo, as you are literally determining what is worth showing the audience. Every pixel should add, not subtract to the overall picture. The current Instagram resolution is 632 x 632 pixels, so as long as your photo is bigger than this it won’t look pixelated.

I’m a sucker for the rule of thirds, so I try to incorporate this when possible. If you really want to see if your composition is ‘on point’, exit your editor and view the photo as a tab in the camera roll. If it doesn’t look quite right as a small icon, it’s definitely not right as a full sized picture.

Step 4: Adjust Brightness

App used: Afterlight

Once you have your crop sorted, ask yourself, ‘How do you want people to feel when they look at your photo?’  Generally, I want people to sense joy. Joy = brighter photos. If you’re wondering “how bright is too bright?” Then turn your brightness WAY up, and then gradually turn it down until you are happy. Alternatively, if you’re wanting people to feel melancholic and introspective,  turn the brightness all the way down and slowly bring it back up until it feels right.

Step 5: Adjust Shadows

App used: Afterlight

The danger of bright photos is they can have a tendency to look washed out. Turning the shadows down makes your image ‘pop’ a little, and the darker shadows actually enhance the brightness of the image.

6:  Choose a filter

  App used: VSCOcam

I want people to notice my photo, not the filter, so subtlety is king when it comes to filters!
For me, choosing a filter is a game of comparison. Choose a filter initially, and then choose a second one. Which one is better? Choose that one, then compare it to another filter. Which one is better? Choose that one then compare it to another filter. Which one is- you get the picture. Keep doing this until you’re positive you have the best outcome. Eventually, you will be confident you have the right filter. Personally, I’m a fan of 4,5, 10, A4, A6, C1, C4, HB1, HB2, S1, S2 and S3. Over time you develop a feel for what works best in different scenarios.
One more thing on filters: pick a key element of your picture that you know should look a certain colour, (for example, the sky, a strawberry or someone’s face), and try to choose a filter that makes this part of your photo look the best. Whilst a particular filter may look ‘interesting’, if something is obviously the wrong colour the whole picture won’t seem right.
After this, save to camera roll.

Step 7: Fix your perspective


Have you ever noticed that if you’re standing at the bottom of a building and take a photo looking up, it gets narrower towards the top? This is due to your perspective. SKRWT is a subtle way to fix this, and is particularly helpful when shooting in an urban setting.
For this particular photo, I only had to adjust my vertical perspective, (which is shown above).
On a side note: standing directly in front of the centre of your photo means you won’t have to adjust your horizontal perspective. For example, standing in the middle of a road or in the centre of a hallway results in a horizontally symmetrical photo.

Step 8: Adjust Brightness (again)

App used: Afterlight
Once your filter is on, it’s worth re-looking at your brightness. Again, turn it all the way up, or all the way down, then adjust until you’re satisfied.

9. Adjust Shadows (again)

App used: Afterlight

As mentioned earlier, turning up brightness can blow out an image. Personally, I like my shadows nice and dark so adjusting brightness is always followed by looking at the shadows to see if any changes are required.

10. Crop (again)

App used: Afterlight
Call me crazy for repeating this step, but there’s nothing more annoying in Instagram world then posting a photo and then a small little detail bugging you.
Take another look at your photo; is there anything that bugs you that could be removed by cropping? If so, crop it out.
In this particular instance, the concrete on the left border of the photo was distracting from the rest of the picture, so I cropped it out.

11. Post to Instagram

I’ll probably do a cheeky blog post in the future about Instagram posting, so I’ll leave the details out of here for now.
That’s it! I hope you enjoyed reading this, and found it helpful. Feel free to follow the steps, or to pick and choose what works for you. Alternatively, ignore all of it and do your own thing!

0 thoughts on “11 Steps to a Decent Instagram Post

  1. Haha you have no idea how much the cement on the left side was bugging me looking at those photos. Thankyou for cropping it!!!

    Oh and great post! I have always wondered how other can get their IG photos to look amazing!

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