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A Beginner's Guide to Taking Stunning Instagram Photos

Updated on November 7, 2017
Alyssa Nichol profile image

Alyssa is a wife, mom, and coffee enthusiast who loves sharing her favorite lifestyle tips with the world.

Back in 2012, I had a Motorola Xoom tablet. It was one of the best in its time. Instagram was a new form of social media back then and I downloaded the app to see what all the buzz was about. I instantly fell in love with it! You could upload your picture and add a fun filter to it. This was amazing to me and a step up from the average camera on my Blackberry and Droid phones. I had a blast sharing filtered photos of my wedding, my son and I, and artsy shots of random objects. But after about a month, I ended up deleting my account for a variety of reasons. I never gave Instagram another thought after that.

In the years since, Instagram has become one of, if not the most, popular social media app. It seems like everyone has an Instagram, even businesses. So, this past summer, I finally decided to give it another try. My intention was to use my profile as a way to showcase reviews and promote my writing. However, it quickly turned into a fitness, yoga, inspiration profile, occasionally showcasing my favorite pieces of writing and sharing reviews on products I've tried.

Over the past few months, my picture quality has improved with simple trial and error. I have no formal training in photography, but I enjoy experimenting with different angles, techniques, lighting and apps. I've also taken advantage of my local library and read several books that have taught me a few tricks. Much to my surprise, I've had numerous people reach out and compliment my pictures, asking questions, and wanting to know how I do it.

This guide is for the average person who is looking for simple tips and tricks on helping improve the look and quality of their Instagram photos. Let's dive in.

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A morning coffee selfie. Morning sunlight is soft and makes for a gorgeous selfie. Taking advantage of the natural light outdoors for a yoga photo.
A morning coffee selfie. Morning sunlight is soft and makes for a gorgeous selfie.
A morning coffee selfie. Morning sunlight is soft and makes for a gorgeous selfie.
Taking advantage of the natural light outdoors for a yoga photo.
Taking advantage of the natural light outdoors for a yoga photo.

Lighting

Number one is lighting. It is the most important factor when considering where and when to take photos, especially selfies and yoga poses. If the lighting is horrible, it's considerably more difficult to get an amazing shot. With that said, in my experience, natural lighting is best.

It's taken a little trial and error on my part to get lighting down. This summer, the natural light flowing into my house was gorgeous, and helped me get some beautiful pictures. Getting outdoors was even better! Sunrise and sunset are always great times to catch that natural sunshine.

If you are taking a selfie, be sure that you are not in direct sunlight. Getting in front of a window with the sunlight shining in will help you capture that natural glow.

The best way to find your perfect selfie spot is to simply get out your camera and start taking photos. Walk around your house and play with poses. Within a few minutes, you'll see where the lighting is best.

For indoor yoga pictures, it's roughly the same technique. Turn your camera on, walk around your house, and figure out where the best lighting is. You may need to move some furniture for your spot. Everyday when I work out, I move my dining room table, my bar stools, and the chairs. I do my workout, the yoga pictures, whatever else I need to get done, and then move all the furniture back. No big deal.

Outside, it's the same technique: find the lighting!

In the video below, Valeria gives some great advice on lighting and posing to capture the perfect Instagram selfie. Check it out!

The Perfect Instagram Selfie How To- Makeup, Hair, Pose | Model Tips from Valeria Lipovetsky

A simple selfie.
A simple selfie.

Camera and Set Up

Mobile phones have come a long way. My 2009 BlackBerry took great photos in its time, but today's smartphones have cameras that can rival a more expensive, professional camera. As they should, considering the hefty price tag on most smartphones.

I'm not a fancy gal, I love my Samsung. My phone came equipped with a standard camera and Z Camera. I use both. For my selfies and pictures of nature, I use the Z Camera. For my yoga poses or other "hands-free" pictures, I use the standard camera. This is because I normally take the pictures myself. The standard camera has a voice capture feature which comes in handy. Using the camera right on your phone makes life simple and easy.

For a fabulous selfie, hold your phone at about a 45 degree angle, slightly above your face, with a slight bend in your elbow. Play around with the positioning of your face to find your most flattering angle.

Yoga pictures are a bit different. I like to prop my phone on a chair, using my folding case. If I need the camera positioned higher, I will stack boxes or books, whatever I have available, on top of the chair. Once I'm in my pose, I simply say, "capture," and my phone will take a photo for me. Outside, I often recruit my son or husband to help me out. But, if they are not able to, I use a picnic bench or table to prop my phone.


The only apps you need for amazing Instagram Photos
The only apps you need for amazing Instagram Photos

Editing

Editing is magic. You'll be hard pressed to find photos on Instagram that are not edited. You don't have to go crazy with photoshop to achieve desireable results. I use one main app to edit all my photos and a second app to help me remove an object if needed. Both are free and available in the Google Play Store.

ToolWiz Photos is my favorite photo editing app. I always use the "Portrait" feature first. I give my photos a soft glow using portrait, brighten my eyes, and occasionally give myself a little teeth whitening. Then comes cropping. It's important to crop out any unnecessary background noise. Finally, if needed, I use the "Filters" feature. Here you can find a wide range of options. My favorites are "Aurea," "Walden," "Palm," and "1977." Occasionally, I enjoy using the black and white options, and if I'm outside in a grassy area, I love using the Landscape filters. This usually takes 5-10 minutes.

PhotoDirector is another app I like to use when I need to remove something that I can't crop out. You can use the removal tool three times a day with the free version. For unlimited use, you can purchase the full app.

Once editing is finished, you're ready to upload your picture! I love incorporating inspirational quotes or music lyrics in my captions for a little extra oomph.

Take a look at the pictures below to see the difference editing makes.

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Before editing, but pretty lighting. After using the ToolWiz app. Editing makes a beautiful improvement!
Before editing, but pretty lighting.
Before editing, but pretty lighting.
After using the ToolWiz app. Editing makes a beautiful improvement!
After using the ToolWiz app. Editing makes a beautiful improvement!

That's it! Those are my secrets. Implementing these tips will help you capture gorgeous photos and jazz up your Instagram feed.

Have fun!

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    • Alyssa Nichol profile image
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      Alyssa 11 days ago from Ohio

      You're welcome!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      For anything related to technology or apps, I need a beginner's guide, so thank you.