We all want to take better photos. Especially with the popularity of Instagram taking over as one of the largest social platforms for growing an online presence.
In no way shape or form do I consider myself a photographer, but capturing moments has always been a hobby of mine. I have never eaten a meal or consumed a fancy cocktail without taking the perfect photo first, so that pretty makes me an expert.
Long before I was digitally planning my Instagram feed, I was staging photoshoots with my childhood best friend using my entire closet as our own personal fashion vault (it was the 90s, those clothes belonged and should have STAYED in a vault). Who knew we were the originators of the #OOTD Instagram hashtag – we were visionaries.
It’s no secret that having a perfectly curated Instagram feed is a necessity for building a cohesive personal brand that reflects who we are. For instance, if you were to stumble upon my Instagram page, you would know that I love food, wine, and pumpkin patches. (In other words, you’d basically find out that I’m a basic white girl, see my previous post on that HERE).
If you ask any professional photographer what their secret is for taking amazing photos, perfect lighting will usually be their number one top tip. When it comes to taking your own photos, natural light is going to be your best friend. If you’re taking photos indoors, be sure to set up your subject next to a bright window. Having the light shine directly on your subject will brighten up the entire image. Highlighting everything perfectly with natural light will really come in handy later when it comes time to edit. The reason photographers love natural light over artificial lighting or even your camera’s flash is because it provides a softer light source that produces crisp, bright photos nearly every single time.
TIP: Time of day is also a factor. Super bright sun in the middle of the day can cause your photos to appear over exposed, so try to take your photos either early in the morning or late afternoon for ultimate selfie sun.
Artificial interior lighting tends to make your photos appear yellow and since most interior lights are installed in the ceiling, the light will fall from the top onto your subject (let’s just say this is a nightmare for hiding an unsightly double chin). There are a few tricks that can help you mimic natural lighting indoors, keep reading for more on this.
It’s no secret that I love a good preset. If you’re not familiar with presets, they are predetermined failproof recipes for editing your photos using Adobe Lightroom.
Tip: The Lightroom mobile app is free to download and use, but you will need to sign up for a paid Adobe acount to use the desktop version.
Trying to navigate Lightroom on your own can be a bit overwhelming, so having a preset is a great way to make your photos look totally professional, even if you took them on your iPhone. They are a bit tricky to install, but once they are set-up in your mobile app, you can edit with one simple click. The great thing about using a preset is, you can use it as a starting point and still make the necessary tweaks to the brightness, exposure, and even the colour to create a one of a kind image that is cohesive to your Instagram palate. There are many different versions of presets online that are available for purchase, but there are some free options as well.
My favourite free presets are by Chic Presets. They have a series of free downloadable preset filters that provide a ton of variety for creating gorgeous photos that are particularly amazing for your travel photos. My personal go-to in this collection is the Spring Fresh preset.
My favourite paid presets are (so surprise here) Jillian Harris’ preset collection, Jilly Presets. Jill and her team have created an affordable collection of presets that were designed specifically for different light sources and scenarios which takes the guesswork out of trying to find the perfect edits for your photos.
Before and After Preset:
If you’re anything like me, when you stumble upon a new food blogger’s Instagram account, you probably find yourself drooling over their stunning marble countertops more than the food itself. I love to bake and cook and always found it so difficult to capture perfect drool-worthy food images because unlike my favourite bloggers I don’t have a bright white, home decor magazine-worthy kitchen to use as a backdrop.
Typically when I’m taking food or flat lay shots I try and find some crisp white linens to lay my props on and bring them over to the nearest bright window (my kitchen also has very poor lighting). That’s until I up’d my game and decided to create my own Carrera marble countertop dupe with this quick and easy hack.
Step One: Purchase a roll of marble tack paper from Amazon.
Step Two: Purchase a white piece of foam board from the Dollar Store.
Step Three: Cover the foam board with the tack paper (measure, cut and trim to fit if necessary)
Viola – instant Carrera marble countertop!
This DIY project took me all of 10 minutes and cost less than $20. All you need are scissors to trim the edges and a putty knife to smooth out the air bubbles.
4. Mobile Editing Tools
Lightroom presets are amazing, but sometimes your photos just need a little extra to bring them from good to Insta worthy. There are several apps that I use to add some special effects or details to my photos but these are my top two that I use most.
Facetune: This app gets a bad rap mostly because it’s known to be used for people who suffer with body dysmorphia, but Facetune has some really great editing features, that don’t include giving yourself a Kardashian waist cinch. The ones I use most often are the details feature to emphasize my subject, this works especially well with food photos. I also like to use this app to whiten linens and remove shadows using their exposure filter. You also have the ability to add frames to your images and blur out the background which makes every shot look like you took it in portrait mode.
Colour Story: This app has beautiful filters, but my absolute favourite feature in this app are the bokeh effects. I use this effect to enhance the sun in my outdoor (and even indoor) photos to give them the perfect burst of light. You can adjust the intensity, the angle, and even add different bokeh shapes in the Colour Story app. This app also allows you to plan the perfect colour palatte with it’s Instagram grid planner feature (more on this below).
Before and After Bokeh:
To be honest, you don’t really need expensive equipment to take amazing photos, especially if you use some of the tips I’ve provided. Most of the stunning images you see on Instagram are most likely taken with an iPhone. All you really need is a mobile phone, a keen eye and some free mobile editing tools, but there are a few items that I have decided to add to my (very) amateur photography closet that have made a big difference and have helped me take better photos:
A DSLR Camera: Most of my photos are taken with my iPhone, because I only recently started getting reacquainted with my DSLR camera. I tend to use my Canon Rebel T6 to take my blog photos and more styled images when I have the time to work on the perfect lighting and setup. I still edit these photos the same way I would an iPhone image using my mobile apps (Lightroom, Facetune and Colour Story) which is easy because of my camera’s convenient built-in Wifi function. My DSLR also has a compatible mobile app that I can use in live shooting mode. This means that I can use my iPhone to snap photos on my DSLR on the fly for perfect self-portraits.
Ring Light: Remember earlier when I mentioned lighting? Well, a ring light will step in and help you create impeccable lighting even when mother nature isn’t cooperating. A ring light is also great for self-portraits to give you that flawless” just left the spa” glow and you can even use it for your styled shots too if you position your light correctly. I picked up my ring light on Amazon for under $40, I believe it’s currently sold out, but they have plenty of options to choose from that will fit any budget.
Tip: When you’re positioning your ring light for product photography, try to mimic where the sunlight would naturally hit your subject.
Tripod: A tripod is a must if you don’t constantly want to keep bothering your partner, family, or friends to always be taking photos of you. If you don’t have a DSLR camera, you can use your ring light, which will typically have a built-in mobile phone holder. Or you can easily put together a make-shift tripod for your iPhone using a couple of soup cans and throw pillows. So, get creative and start putting your camera’s timer to good use.
Plan Your Instagram Grid: After you’ve mastered all the tips and tricks of taking incredible Instagram photos, you’re going to want to start planning your content accordingly. The best way to plan your content is to organize all of the photos in your Instagram grid to be atheistically pleasing. Using a planning tool like Colour Story’s grid feature or an app that you can even schedule and auto post on your behalf like, Planoly or Later will help make this process incredibly easy.
Instagram Grid Planner:
These apps link to your current Instagram account so you can visually see your live feed. Simply upload all the photos you plan on posting and arrange them in a way that looks best with your colour palette. My suggestion would be to try and scatter self-portraits, food pics, and all other shots to make sure you’re not posting similar photos back-to-back.
There are SO many tips and tricks to take your photos to the next level, and if all of these tips seem like a lot of work, then let ME do it for you! I obviously can’t take the photos for you, but I can implement the editing part and even help you with your Instagram grid planning.
Check out my Fiverr Gig HERE for more info and pricing.
There you have it, my top tips for taking better photos, my nephews don’t call me auntie Instagram for nothing!