Tips, Tactics and Best Practices to Improve Your Instagram Life

reposted from @fashion_do_and_dont

Like most successful social media platforms, if it isn’t easy to use, it probably won’t make it, but after my Three Reasons You Should Try Instagram post, I figured I shouldn’t direct you into unknown waters without giving a few tips and and practices to help avoid feeling lost.

Getting started . . .

  • Getting Started: You have to have a Smart Phone to use Instagram. You can access open your account online, but Instagram is a smart phone only app. Visit to open your account, set up your profile and download the app for your iPhone or Android. You do NOT have to do any of this online, so if you prefer, you can simply download the app and get set up.
  • Name, Bio and Picture: When you do start your account, include both your full name, a bio and a picture. I find it helpful when deciding if I should follow someone if their full name and a picture is part of the profile, so unless there are extenuating circumstances that demand anonymity let us know who you are.
  • First things first: After you have set up your account and downloaded the app, open it up and explore the app itself. After a few clicks around you will find out where each button takes you. I have some suggestions below, but I would suggest just taking a few pictures and playing with the filters and focus settings while getting a feel for your camera. Soon you will discover the artist within.
  • Find friends: Once you have wandered around the app, you should now find some folks to follow. Even though your app may say that you can find folks via Twitter, you can actually only find friends via your contact list, your linked Facebook account and by username/name. I have found that the “Find Friends” feature works really well, so consider connecting your Facebook to your Instagram account.
Capturing and editing . . .
  • Which camera to use: In the app, you will need to select in the setting if you will use the Instagram camera or your phone one. I have used both setting, but have settled on my default camera because it gives a little more flexibility. You do have to remember that Instagram post square pictures, so you have to keep the subject in a square area of the picture.
  • Taking your first picture: No secrets here. Find something or someone that captures something unique, interesting or puzzling and snap away. Seriously, if even taking pictures seems daunting, this might not be the platform for you. You can also grab pictures that you have taken before by sharing from your phones photo gallery. This is particularly helpful when you don’t have to edit and post, but will want to share later.
  • Editing the image: After you take a picture, the Instamagic begins. You can use the crop square to choose the exact image, use the filters to create the effect you like, choose what to keep in focus and add some brightness. In the screen shot to the right –Still trying to get used to the idea that I have have a child old enough to drive – I used the Lo-Fi filter, blurred everything except the face and added a little brightness. After you have played around and are satisfied, you hit [>>] in the top right hand corner and the final image will be created.
Sharing, captioning and tagging . . .
  • Captioning: Now that you have created your latest masterpiece . . . or are just gloating about the awesome dessert you are about to devour, you should caption it. Captioning is where you let us into your mind a bit. Any image is going to be seen through the lens of the viewer, but you should give the view a little idea about why YOU thought it was worth sharing.
  • Tagging: Now that you have added a caption you should tag your pictures with some of the more widely used tags in order to connect with more people or add unique tags that you think will help bring the picture to life. You can go back to each picture and tag in a comment line if you don’t want to include tags in the initial caption. Here are the top 10 general tags that I would add to a picture if you want your photos to be seen more widely: #instagood #instamood #instahub #igaddict #ignation #followme #igdaily #instadaily #bestoftheday #picoftheday #photooftheday #webstagram #statigram and then here are some other popular tags: #food #dog #pet #me #beautiful #food #sky #cute. Keep in mind that more tagging will not generate more followers and some see over-tagging as spammy.
  • Tag limit: Each picture can only have 30 tags to avoid tag spamming, so be somewhat discerning when you do tag.
  • Sharing and geo-tagging: If you are one who does not want to share your locations, past or current, Instagram geo-tagging is opt-in, so you have to check the box in order to share your location. In the picture to the right, the box for geo-tagging is checked. After you opt-in you can search for the exact location via Foursquare. For sharing on other services: Twitter, Facebook, etc. you also have to opt-in. This is particularly helpful so you are less likely to accidentally share on other platforms.
  • Uploading: When you have finished choosing all of the options – Do not worry, the process gets easier and quicker the more you do it. – just hit [UPLOAD] and your pic will be be uploaded and will show up in the photo stream of all who follow you.
Playing nice with others . . .
  • Twitter/Instagram Username Dilemma: Like other social media platforms, you can mention other users by including the @username in your comment. Be sure to do this if you want that person to know that you have mentioned them, especially on a photo that is not their own. When sharing a picture that includes an @username via your twitter feed, be sure that their Instagram and Twitter usernames are the same. Otherwise, some stranger will get notified on either platform that they have been tagged and they will wonder why. Not that this has ever happened to me 😉
  • “Like” and double-tapping: As you see pictures via tags or through the people you follow, be sire to show some love by “Liking” the pic. To like a picture, you can either hit the ♥ or just double-tap the picture and it automatically “likes” it.
  • Commenting: If a picture touches you in some way that warrants more than a “like,” I know that I always appreciate comments people leave. If you want to reply to someone else’s comment be sure to use their @username so they are notified that a comment has been left from them.
  • Interaction: In general, like all social networks, the more interaction the better experience or everyone. This does not mean that you have to follow everyone who follows you, but taking the time to respond to comments and liking people’s pictures is a good general practice on Instagram as on other social networks.

Now I am sure there are many more tips you there, so please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comment section and I’ll update as I can. My next Instagram post will include a selection of apps and online services to enhance your Instagram life. If you are dying to try one, check out Statigram a viewing, analytics and management site for Instagram. And of course, if you want to follow my Instagram life, I can be found by searching for breyeschow.

Three Reasons You Should Try Instagram

Recent images (as of July 29, 2012) from my Instagram activity. Compiled by

By now most of you have heard of Instagram. Not only did Facebook buy this fledgling company for a bazzillion dollars, but for many folks it has become the social media platform of choice. The reason that I too have gravitated to Instagram might be that my twitter and facebook feeds are getting more and more difficult to track or that I am more a visual person, but whatever the case, I have found myself thinking Instagram first in my social networking life.

I asked some people to share why they use Instagram here and offer three more reasons you might want to give Instagram a try.

ONE – We are given the power to unleash the artsy fartsy creative monster within. With all the basic Instagram app features EVERYONE can find the artist within. We each see beauty in different things whether it is architecture, food, nature or the city and now we can share those passions in a new way. Using the different editing tools: filters, focusing, brightness, etc. it does not take much to create a picture that looks very cool and better captures what we are trying to say through a particular image. Case in point, this is a picture I snapped during a recent coffee stop at Cup in the Glen Park area of San Francisco. It is just three drinks: a latte, a havana and a hot chocolate, but with a few edits . . . voila, artsy beyond my own true ability.

TWO – We see the world in new ways through the eyes and words of our friends.   One of the greatest surprises as I have gotten into Instagram has been being able to see another side of people I know. While Instagram allows us all to be artsy, people still have to decide what images to share. Many times a day, as I scroll through images of those I follow, I find myself thinking, “Wow, that is a really cool shot!”  or “Hmmm, I had no idea that he liked X.” The angles, objects and stories that people choose to capture can share a whole other side to a person’s personality and perspective that we don’t always see through words. For instance, if you had not known me before, you might not have known that our family is a big Oakland A’s family, now you do. Go A’s!

THREE – We create a scrapbook for ourselves and our families. As with Twitter and Facebook, I am most interested in the in-between moments of life that help me to see the complexity of humanity.  Through capturing images of children, pets, food, buildings, etc. we are given a glimpse into the ongoing journey of life that folks are living. As look back on my own photo feed, I am given a visual reminder of some of our memorable moments in life. Yep, that’s us fishing.

Of course none of these services come without some cautions to think about. Now that Instagram is owned by Facebook, some have raised concerns about privacy, photo ownership and other issues about the general usage if both services. You can read some of that here, here and here.

In future posts I’ll compile some tips/apps to enhance your Instagram experience, but until then, download the app for your iPhone of Android (Yes, it’s a smart phone-only app) and dive in. Here are a few folks who I would suggest you follow as you get started.

  • UPDATE: TOTALLY forgot to list another photographer and friend who takes some very cool shots. Give @mfphotog some love.
  • @denisekendall – For great architecture and landscape images from the Bay Area.
  • @leslieannrod – Lots of dogs, food and life captured with a photographers eye.
  • @edunny – Another photographer friend, captures some very cool shots.
  • @casacullen – Great food, a new baby boy and a cute little dog.
  • @philz_coffee – Um, because it’s the best coffee in San Francisco.
  • If you would like to follow me you can find me by searching for breyeschow

So, there you have it, just a few reasons you might want to give Instagram a try. If you have other reasons, please feel free to leave them here or on my I ♥ Instagram because . . . photo.