How To Take Better Instagram Pictures in 2020

January 1, 2020
5 min read

The one thing all successful Instagram accounts have in common is great images. Needing some tips on how to improve your Instagram photo game?

We’ve got a few insider tricks locked-and-loaded for you.

We’ll tell you why good photos matter, how to take them, quick and easy tips for editing and how to measure what works for you. Good luck, and happy Instagramming!

Why Good Instagram Photos Matter

Instagram is a visual platform and the better the quality of the assets are, the more users will engage with your post. The more engagement a photo gets, the more people see it. The more exposure your brand gets, the better.

See where we’re going with this?

Great photos are even more important if they are meant to be shoppable Instagram posts intended to drive sales traffic.

Shoppable Instagram Posts make shopping directly from your Instagram feed super easy for users.. Through shoppable posts, potential customers are taken directly to various landing pages on your website where they can easily buy your products. The simple truth? Dark, grainy and out-of-focus images don’t look good, and they don’t convert.

Believe Or Not...

More people are shopping directly from Instagram than ever before. This creates an exciting new opportunity for small businesses. In fact, every month 130 million Instagram accounts tap on a shopping post to learn more.

First, though…

You need great photos!

How To Take Good Instagram Photos

The first step to creating an attractive Instagram account for your business is knowing your brand and its aesthetic intimately:

  • What are your products and services?
  • How best can you showcase them?
  • What is your online personality?
  • What colours best suit your brand?

Put together a list of your favourite profiles. Some can be in your industry, some can just be profiles you really like the look of. Take notes about what you find appealing and what will work best for your business.

Most importantly, assess your brand guidelines. What colours are used in your logo? Review things like typography, patterns, and voice.

This will help you centre your choice around both what looks attractive and what best aligns with your brand.

Phone taking a picture of a mural

Composition Matters

Taking a great photo for Instagram requires a few composition techniques to draw viewers in. These techniques are fairly easy to execute and will give your photos the edge they need.

#1 The Rule Of Thirds

This is a fairly well-known photo composition technique that photographers have been using for years. When you go to take a picture, divide your image into thirds and place your model or product where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect.

Picture of a dog broken down into a grid

You can easily do this on your iPhone. Just turn the Grid feature on [Settings - Camera - Grid]. Now you will see grid lines where can place your subject in the appropriate spot.

Have a bunch of photos already taken that don’t follow The Rule of Thirds?

Just crop the photo until the lines intersect on your imaginary grid.

#2 Negative Space

When someone is looking at your Instagram photo, your subject (product or service) should be the centre of attention.

Air balloon

Negative space allows you to do just that. Using neutral backgrounds and eliminating all other distractions, you help guide your viewers to the central focus of the photo.

#3 The Rule Of Odds

You might not have noticed it overtly, but brands tend to showcase their items in odd numbers. For some reason, it’s more visually appealing. Just look at these hot air balloons… we like three better than four, wouldn’t you agree?

3 air balloons

#4 Centered Composition

While this goes against The Rule of Thirds, it can also be a great way to feature a product or person. However, if you use this method we recommend combining it with negative space. This way, you can create a balanced look and keep the focus in the centre.

Girl standing on middle of bridge

White Balance?

When it comes to Instagram, having a cohesive look across your profile is essential. That means ensuring the white balance across your grid is synced up.

Sometimes a photo just looks… off. Usually, it just means unwanted hues from random light sources have crept into your photograph.

  • Do your photos look blue-ish? — It’s probably your flash.
  • Do your photos look yellow-ish? — It’s probably the sun or an indoor light (lamp).

When you adjust the white balance you can remove those unwanted blue-ish (cool) or yellow-ish (warm) tones from your photos.

How Do I Adjust The White Balance?

You can adjust the white balance by simply editing our photos in an editing software or app. There are dozens available online. Some are free while others charge a monthly subscription fee.

We recommend Lightroom (which is included in Adobe’s package for $9.99 a month). You can use Lightroom on your desktop or download the app directly to your phone. VSCO is a free app and another great option for on-the-fly editing.

We love using Lightroom and find it to be the easiest software to balance your whites. Just drag the sliding temperature tool towards the yellow end of the scale if your photos are too blue. Conversely, if your photos are too warm, drag the temperature slider over to the yellow side.

Tweak Exposure

Exposure is the amount of light in your photos.

  • Overexposed: Too much light
  • Underexposed: Not enough light

A properly exposed photo replicates how the scene would look in real life. It looks natural while detail in the photo is crisp. The best thing you can do before you snap your next Instagram photo is to adjust the exposure.

Person taking picture of donut with iPhone

Using an iPhone?

Tap the area of the scene you want to focus on. When the sun icon appears, drag your finger up or down to make it lighter or darker. Once you find the perfect exposure, take the photo.

You can adjust exposure after the picture has been taken as well. Mobile photography apps like the ones we recommended earlier -- Adobe Lightroom CC and VSCO -- allow you to tweak exposure in the editing process.

Instagram Presets

Instagram Presets are often offered in collections and offer users a variety of different filters for your photos that help you maintain that cohesive look across your page. Below is one of our clients Francesco Holistic making use of an Instagram Preset.

Two people sitting in a window

See how cohesive his feed looks?

When his followers see a recent post, they can know it belongs to Francesco Holistic without ever having to see his username.

Have a Favourite Influencer?

A lot of Instagram influencers have started making and selling their own preset packages. That way, you can mimic your favourite looks on your own page.

BUT… we’re always of the opinion that creating your own look and feel is the absolute best route to take. Especially if you want to stand out on Instagram — a visually appealing (and content-saturated) app.

Measure What Works

If you’re a client or regular reader of our blog, you know we always end with data.

Instagram can feel like a weird beast in the beginning. Trying to carve out your own niche and create good quality content is harder than it looks.

Data is your friend and analytics will give you insight into what works best for your audience.

You can have a few goals on Instagram:

  • Gain more followers
  • Drive traffic and conversions
  • Establish your brand
Person on laptop

Analytics will help you do all those things and more. Measure traffic in Google Analytics or directly in the app itself with the Insights tool.

Each post will have a breakdown of likes, comments, actions taken (i.e. clicking on the link in your bio), how successful your hashtags were, and more. These metrics will help you define a clear-cut strategy and take better photos.

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Edmonton is located within Treaty 6 Territory and within the Métis homelands and Otipemsiwak Métis Government Districts 9 & 10. We acknowledge this land as the traditional territories of many First Nations such as the Nehiyaw (Cree), Denesuliné (Dene), Nakota Sioux (Stoney), Anishinaabe (Saulteaux) and Niitsitapi (Blackfoot).
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