If someone were to wake you up in the middle of the night and ask you “What’s the most important thing on Instagram?” you would most likely answer instinctively “photos”. And, without entering into the intricacies of marketing strategies, you would be absolutely right to trust your gut. Because let’s face it! No matter how awesome the marketing strategy you come up with might be, without some high-quality photos to put it into practice, you’re going absolutely nowhere.

That’s why today we’re going to talk about how to take the most stunning, breath-taking, amazing, OMG Instagram photos. It’s the kind of artsy talk that requires you to find a charming shop, grab a fancy coffee and dream of your next snapshot. So, are you ready for the most pleasant lesson you’ve ever attended? Great! Because we’re starting the countdown of things to do in order to win the Instagram game like a photo expert!

When in doubt, under-expose your photos

Over-exposure is the worst-case scenarios you can encounter when revisiting a set of photos you feel highly excited about. Why? Because an over-exposed photo is beyond any editing you (or anyone else) could do!

But don’t worry, we understand! In the beginning, it can be hard to figure out the right parameters for great pictures. Thus, until you get a better hang of how much exposure is too much exposure, we suggest a nice trick: go for under-exposure.

Whether you’re using a pro camera or your relying on your phone (and phones nowadays do have amazing cameras), you can make the necessary changes to under-expose your photos. For phones, tap the brightest area before snapping the photo and adjust your composition. For cameras, well, this depends on your type of camera and things can get really specific, so do a quick Google search.

An under-exposed photo can be quickly edited and with the help of some filters, it can shine as bright as it should.

To HDR or not to HDR?

Another conundrum that has taken the world of Instagram by storm is the endless debate on HDR. Is it a blessing, is it a curse? We believe it should be a choice. But an after-edit choice. That’s why we recommend you deselect the HDR option and leave your choices open for after edits.

To better understand why we prefer to fly solo and leave the HDR behind, you must understand that in most cases, simple works better or at least it can be edited with more ease. The High Dynamic Range function is anything but simple. Actually, it can easily make a photo look like too much in your face by taking different exposures of the same photo and mixing them together in a flamboyant final picture. We believe you have the right to test and decide if you want to go in that direction but at least give yourself the option to tone it down. Believe us, you won’t regret it.

The rule of thirds for composition

Ah, composition! Whenever you hear this word in relationship to photos, you know things are getting serious. You’re moving out of the amateur domain into the professional sphere of people who carefully assess what must go into the frame and what must be kept out. It’s an art, it’s a science, it’s a must!

If you want to take photos with stunning compositions, you must make sure every element that’s in the photo serves the goal of directing your viewers’ attention to the point you want them to. A great composition will send out a powerful visual message, fully charged emotionally. Which brings us to the rule of thirds, which entails dividing an image into 9 equal squares. The most important compositional elements should be placed on the lines that create these 9 imaginary squares or at their intersection.

Don’t worry though, you don’t have to imagine these imaginary lines, as every phone or camera has a grid specifically created for this purpose. So go ahead, use this very handy grid to get the best shot for your photos.

What’s light got to do with it?

Everything! Without light, there would be no photos, no Instagram, no nothing! Okay, you know we got a flair for the dramatic from time to time. But seriously, great Instagram photos come with great light. Fortunately, not every amazing picture has to be shot in a studio with professional lights. Actually, you can easily make use of natural light, even when the sun’s not out.

Natural light is, in fact, your best friend. And if you know how to select the best moment of the day for snapping a pic, you’re going to have amazing photos. There’s a reason why photographers talk about “the golden hour”, which is a short period after sunrise and briefly before sunset when the light is reddish and soft, making for some breath-taking photos (and views as well). Dusk and dawn are also great moments for well-lit photos and some of the best you could take advantage.

Photo at dusk @_itsbeautifulhere

However, plain daylight can also be your bud, if you put a bit of effort into it. Try not to point your camera directly at the source of light (contre-jour) unless you want strong contrasts between light and dark. If you want to emphasize lines and shapes while putting the focus on silhouettes rather than details, go for it! Otherwise, it’s really not indicated.

Does size matter when posting photos?

While we might say it doesn’t, we all know it does. Until not long ago, Instagram made us commit to a single type of size in a 1:1 ratio. It was a take it or leave it situation and there was no way around it.

Things have changed, and now Instagram allows for two more photo sizes:

  • landscape (2:3 ratio)
  • tall photos (4:5 ratio)

Now, what does your gut tell you again? And truly think about the fact that Instagram is a platform mainly accessed from phones. If your mind went straight to the 4:5 ratio, we’re on the same level! Landscape photos tend to be very hard to view, as many details can remain hidden in plain sight. And what is the use of having a stunning photo that nobody can…well, see in full detail! With less space taken on every screen, these photos will also take less love from your followers.

The tall photo in 4:5 ratio is a much better size alternative as it pops right up, better filling a screen.
Not only photos cropped in this ratio have better chances of getting seen, but they also reveal more details. In the end, the choice is yours. But be sure to make the right one! And don’t forget, the Preppr crop tool is here to help you go for the ratio of your dreams!

4:5 ratio photo @theblondeabroad

Ready to snap a photo?

Ready or not, here come the photo opportunities. Yes, do seize them! Sure, sure, plan your photo sessions and stick to the plan. However, also keep an open eye for the unexpected situations that demand a snap! Those are the absolute best. And now, with the knowledge of how to take the best Instagram Photos carefully studied, you’ll be ready at all times! Oh, one more thing: don’t forget to have fun. Ah, and another thing: take as many photos as you can! Okay, the last thing: once you’ve got your perfect snap, schedule it with Preppr.

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Feature photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash


Ilona Iftode is a copywriter with a taste for adventure. She lives to write, travel and explore new concepts in the realms of advertising, marketing, SEO and beyond.

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