10 tips for a better Instagram feed

This won't guarantee you a jump in followers, but that's not the intention.

August 11, 2016

With the launch of Instagram Stories, the popular visual sharing app cannot be more relevant than it is right now. The new feature is already predicted to eat away at Snapchat’s market of oversharing millennials, and has pretty much secured the future of Instagram for the next couple years, or at least until users find some new weird craze on the App Store.

So now’s as good a time as any to give you some tips on how to curate a better Instagram feed. Ephemeral posts may be the current “it” thing on social media, but it’s the images on your feed that invite a following, not your less than perfect Stories. And now that we’re sure the platform isn’t going away any time soon, it makes sense to stay invested in it.

Let it be known that these tips will in no way guarantee a jump in the number of your followers, but that was never the intention. There’s a breed of people, such as myself, who do things because they want to, and because they want to do it well, and that’s the group that the below 10 points are for.

1. Get a camera

A camera does one thing and one thing only, and that’s taking photos. A smartphone will never be able to replicate the image quality that you can get from a proper camera (DSLR or mirrorless) no matter what the manufacturers tell you in their marketing campaigns. Dedicated cameras have bigger sensors and better optics than smartphones ever will, and are packed with features that will help you capture that Instagram-worthy moment.

Entry-level digital SLRs have gone down in price tremendously in the last few years, they’ve become cheaper than phones even, so there’s really no excuse not to get one if it saves your feed. If you’re a blogger posting outfits, the most affordable lens upgrade you can go for is a 50mm f1.8, which can really blow out the background while keeping the subject in sharp focus, a popular visual theme in street style photography and general portraiture.

2. Stop this flatlay nonsense

The infamous flatlay is a byproduct of Instagram’s two biggest evils – the use of smartphone cameras and the insatiable need for people these days to show off their possessions on social media. Proper digital cameras, which normally come with 18-55mm kit lenses, would not have been so easily able to capture all that because the field of view would not have been wide enough. People would have had to climb up a ladder to take photos of their things on a table or the floor to keep everything in the frame. Smartphone cameras solved that problem, and thus added fuel to the fire of conspicuous consumption.

Whenever these photos end up on my feed I ask myself, what am I supposed to be looking at? Are they promoting a garage sale? Are they moving to another country and selling all their stuff? Why must we see all their stuff? What’s the story? Why is there a pineapple next to a candle and a wristwatch and a pair of sunglasses on your rustic table top? So many questions, all of them go unanswered. The point of a photo is to tell a story and show a viewer what the subject is, immediately. If we have to solve your mysterious photo like a puzzle, then you failed the most fundamental part of photography, and that needs to be taken off your feed. 

3. Grids were cool… in 2013

You’re the only one who’s still amused with your chopped up photos that you post simultaneously to blow up your images on your feed, pixels and all. What is this nonsense? People don’t want to see a crop of your forehead one second and a crop of your hairline the next. Don’t spam us. There are enough images being shared on Instagram on a daily basis and it doesn’t need you to up the count. Think about the poor servers that have to store those pixelated crops. And the eyeballs of your followers that might pop out of their sockets from your oversharing.

4. Go easy on the editing

I figure I’m going to have to do a separate article on this, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. Just because you’ve suddenly discovered pulling up shadows or recovering highlights on Instagram doesn’t mean you should be overdoing it. The same goes for filters – it’s never a good idea to apply 100% of any specific filter because none of them look good cranked all the way up. The reason behind editing is to enhance a photo while maintaining as much of the realism as possible, so always keep that in mind when manipulating your images.

5. Go high-res or go home

If you want to have a professional looking feed, your images need to be bigger than the display dimensions of your own smart phone or tablet. A lot of phones and tablets now have QHD displays, so in order to avoid having your photos look like censored Japanese adult flicks, you’ll need to upload 2560×1440 pixels minimum. These are about 1MB per file, so storing them shouldn’t be an issue. If the app itself needs to downscale your images, which it always does, it’s better for it to have a big file to compress than a small photo to upscale.

6. Make variety your main ingredient

Some people need reminding, but your Instagram feed is not a Facebook album. There is no need to post five photos from the same set in a single day. It’s a lot better to look at an array of images, each with its own story and atmosphere, than have a sequence of shots of basically the same thing pushed against your eyeballs. Maintain a sense of variety so your followers actually look forward to your next post. It’s okay to love more than one image from every shoot, but it’s better to keep them for later. Trust me, there will always be a day when you find yourself with nothing to post and an old photo can be a lifesaver.

7. Develop a visual signature

Maintaining a uniform aesthetic for your feed has become an actual thing these days. Whether you’re into linear architecture, digital blending or washed out minimalism, you need to compile a set of images that bear a common denominator – something that will make your images unique to your vision. It’s not something that comes to you overnight. Much like your own literal signature, your visual DNA is developed over time. It’s something that you realize rather than consciously materialize. 

8. Watch your language

Instagram may have made headway in becoming the premier photo-sharing platform because of its focus on visuals, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the captions. They still play an important role in the online conversation and can make or break the post. If you can’t think of a witty line to go along with your image, hold off until you do. Let it brew for a little while and come back to it when you’re ready. Immediacy is no longer a requirement, that’s what Stories are for. Instagram is now a collection of your best work, so don’t let it join your other images if it’s not up to par.

9. Keep it original

Reposting is for Facebook and Twitter. Instagram has, since the very beginning, always necessitated the need for a separate app in order to repost an existing photo on to your feed because it discourages you from doing exactly that. The app advocates originality above all else – it’s for sharing something you’ve made yourself.

10. Tell the world who you are

Isn’t the point of going on Instagram telling the world who you are? Who you are now, and who you aspire to be, should be the highlight of your work. Your followers should get to know a piece of yourself with the kind of images you share on the platform. Like it or not, Instagram becomes a part of your life the moment you jump on it, and the only way you can give justice to the whole experience is to use it as a channel of your own personality.

This article originally appeared on fashionchameleon.ae and is reposted here with the author's permission.