Instagram influencers reveal photography secrets for amateurs.
A picture’s worth a thousand words — especially if it gets a thousand likes.
Apple debuted its official Instagram feed earlier this week, and thousands of amateur photographers are jumping at the chance for the tech giant to repost their snaps. The @Apple feed is aggregating these images, captioned with the hashtag #ShotOniPhone.
And if your photos are good, you could get more than just recognition from Apple. Just ask Brooklyn photographer Daniel Arnold, who, with just $90 in his bank account, decided to sell his Instagram photographs in 2014 for one day only for $150 each, to mark his 34th birthday. Within 24 hours, he had racked up $15,000 in orders, and pocketed $5,000, Forbes reports.
The pros make even more. In 2015, Yahoo reported that Instagram influencers with over 100,000 followers were being paid between $700 and $900 per image by brands hoping to market to their considerable audiences. Accounts with over 500,000 followers could net between $2,000 and $3,000 per post.
Even if you don’t hit it big on Instagram overnight, you can still elevate your photography game with some helpful tips. Here, top international influencers spill their secrets for taking the best smartphone pictures.
1. Know what your phone is capable of: “Get to know your iPhone,” says Alpana Deshmukh, a London-based social media strategist for luxury brands who was called one of the BBC’s “favorite Instagrammers” in 2016.
In your phone’s Settings tab, “turn on the grid lines: it helps immensely with straightening and composition,” Deshmukh suggests. “Tap the screen to fix your focus before shooting, and consider turning on the AE/AF lock to fix your exposure and focus,” she adds.
2. Don’t zoom: Zooming in can blur your image and decrease pixel quality, according to iPhone Photography School, which recommends only cropping a photo after you’ve taken the picture.
“If you see something that you want to frame, get closer [to it],” agrees Nicolee Drake, an American photographer in Rome who runs @cucinadigitale — an account with over half a million followers.
3. Change the background: “A friend took me for afternoon tea at [London’s] SoHo Hotel,” Deshmukh recounts, “but it was difficult to capture the tall display of cakes and sandwiches side-on.” So, instead of fighting to make it work, she picked up a plate of desserts and “found a different background altogether. I discreetly carried the plate to a colorful corner in the room, found a sofa with interesting colors, and placed it on top for the picture.”
Oh, you pretty things…sweet delights from the new summer 'G & Tea' at the Soho Hotel, an afternoon tea where Isle of Harris gin takes centre stage. I loved the theatre of watching Flávio expertly mixing gin cocktails from a marvellous trolley and how the botanicals from the gin are also reflected in the sweet treats 🍰 #onmyplate black pepper and vanilla macarons, ruby grapefruit drizzle cake, cardamom and coriander custard tart and a luscious gooseberry and elderflower fool ❤️🍸
Other backgrounds involving movement or natural scenes can make for interesting shots, too. “Try to harness the right moment when activity is occurring, so that you can convey an environment,” Deshmukh says. She waited patiently to snap this picture of children running outside of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, “because the imagery of the kids worked well with the structures around them.”
4. Alter lighting and angles: Food generally works best when shooting directly from above, according to Deshmukh. “It’s called flat-lay photography,” she tells Moneyish. “Hold up your camera phone horizontally or stand up discreetly to get height and more of the tabletop – it really helps to give your shot context.”
If you’re taking pictures of people, “Keep your camera straight at all angles, and keep it on an even plane,” Drake advises. She says she sees people standing with their mobile phones tilted forward or backward all the time — a common mistake.
Drake also says that lighting has a big impact: “[It] should be natural and soft.” Speaking of a recent beach photo she snapped near Rome, she recalls: “I woke up in the dark, got on a train, and timed it just right for the sun to come up. Then I climbed over a lot of boulders and rocks, got my feet wet, turned a corner, and shot all along the way.”
5. Use editing apps — but sparingly: Deshmukh says that editing apps can enhance photos, but she cautions: “They’re not for recreating an image.” Her personal favorites include VSCO, Afterlight, and Snapseed.
“You can subtly enhance photographs by straightening or cropping them, or adding tiny bits of brightness and contrast incrementally.”
But don’t over-saturate (or enhance the color of) your photos, says Silia Eleftheriadou, who is known by her Instagram alias “The Viennese Girl.” Eleftheriadou, who lives in Vienna and has amassed an audience of more than 66,000 followers, tells Moneyish that she achieves her bright, luminous photos using editing apps to tone down some of the natural saturation.
6. Avoid filling every inch: Don’t worry about cramming as much as you can into the frame, Drake cautions. “Negative space is really important — I often see people that have too much stuff in their photographs. It’s distracting,” she says. Negative space in a picture can draw your eye to the subject that matters most, like this image of monkeys in Japan.
“Take whatever subject you want to shoot and put it into a third of the grid [on your screen]. If you put your subject too far into a corner,” she says, “[you won’t end up with] a balanced image.”
7. Tell a story: Influencers agree that making waves on Instagram is about having a distinct point of view and conveying your passions. “Photography is an expression of yourself,” says Eleftheriadou. “My photos express my character, my personality.”
You also may want to use InstaStory “to communicate with your audience and share off-the-cuff, spontaneous moments,” Deshmukh suggests. On a trip to Hong Kong last year, she used InstaStory to take her followers on journeys to sites like the city’s giant Tian Tan Buddha or its exclusive restaurants, without spamming their timelines. “Experiment with interesting features like Rewind and Boomerang,” she recommends. “They give you scope for greater creativity.”
Perhaps most importantly of all: Practice makes perfect. “Just snap away,” Deshmukh says.
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