Be Instagood not Instabad at Instagram

Since getting my iPhone in October of 2012, I’ve been a semi-regular user of Instagram. I can’t say I have an amazing amount of followers, because I don’t. I’m sitting currently at just over 100. A respectable amount to have I suppose for a non-celebrity, given the tendencies of the average user.

A clear icon for an app filled with unclear photos

A clear icon for an app filled with unclear photos

While many have discussed the virtues and vices of Instagram before me, most of those discussions have been generally negative. There are even two different videos on the net that I know of that openly mock Instagram’s users and the stuff they post. One was by “Youtube Filmmaker” Casey Neistat  and the other, a brilliant parody of Nickleback, produced by CollegeHumor.

I will readily and openly admit that I have committed some of the Instacrimes outlined by CollegeHumor – which specifically have to do with the kinds of photos being taken/posted. Neistat’s approach attack focuses on hashtags.

The unwritten rules of hash-tagging do not apply to power-users and celebrities. 

For the regular user, hashtags are important for exposure. Without adding them, only your friends and followers will see your pictures. That’s the sad reality of the internet. By hash-tagging your pics, you open yourself up to all of Instagram – or at least, those who are interested in the things you’re posting. This of course, ONLY applies to regular users, not power-users, whom have hundreds if not thousands of followers. If you only have a couple dozen or so, then you should really think about how you’re handling your photos from a tagging standpoint – if you’re seeking to get noticed.

Now, there are users out there that commit a psychologically worse crime – NARCISSISM. Quite a few celebrities are guilty of this, posting shots they have taken of themselves using a mirror. But there are regular users who do this just as much as celebrities and you know what, if that’s how you want to use Instagram, then fine… be a narcissist and post pictures of only yourself. I cannot stop you. Take all the “selfies” you want.

What I can do is ask that you be sensible about it and not post fuzzy, unclear pictures where the sole source of lighting for your shot was a 40watt incandescent lightbulb above your head. As other bloggers have put it, THIS IS WHY YOU SUCK AT INSTAGRAM.

While I enjoy sarcasm and derisive comments every now and then, I feel that such titles are too harsh/critical and not conducive to improving the Instagram experience. Thus I propose that we all become better by being Instagood not Instabad.

Fortunately, blogger Todd R. Jordan has written a few simple tips of how to use Instagram better. Unfortunately, he too has decided to use the negatively worded title “Why your Instagram Photos suck“.  Now, his list has five tips. I’m only posting three of them because the fourth is pretty much the same rule as the first. And, the fifth tip, while being good, is not properly explained in my opinion.

A market farm in the GTA – the best shot out of a half-dozen snapped

Tip 1: Light the place up – the biggest problem with your photography on the phone isn’t you, it’s the lighting. You’re not going to bring your own flash and the one on the phone likely won’t work well. Do what you can by finding an angle where you’re not blocking the light and the food isn’t otherwise in the shadows.

Tip 2: Focus the shot – cameras on phones should come with a focus button, most just ‘autofocus’. Many don’t work well without practice….and great lighting. To improve your ability to focus, first light up the shot as best you can. Second is to move to a distance where the lighting is even across the shot. Third – sit the phone on the table, a box, on anything that’s not moving. No matter how steady your hand, it moves.

Tip 3: Start with no filter on – Instagram now comes with several filter choices, and the ability to lighten, darken, and more. Those can all be applied after the shot is taken. Before you apply any filters or changes, check to make sure the shot is well lit and focused. Toss the bad ones. Taking another shot is easy.

As I said, Tip #5 is good, but needs explanation. For his fifth tip, Todd suggests taking a lot of photos. “Take more photos than you share” as he puts it. This is exactly what you should do, but only for the reason of getting a good one with proper lighting and focus, that works with a filter applied after the picture is taken.

As an extension of this tip/rule, don’t post more than one to two pictures in a go. If you’re posting three or more in a row, you’re not being selective enough and definitely not being self-critical of your “work”. Being selective really applies if you’re posting related content. If you’re posting a half-dozen pictures and they’re all of different things, then go right ahead, post all of them. But don’t forget to be self-critical of the pictures you’re posting. If any of your shots are blurry/fuzzy, don’t post them. Posting fuzzy/blurry pics will only show the world that you don’t care about anything, especially if you’re trying to build a brand/image for yourself.

Another thing to consider is that, the digital zoom on most camera-phones does not allow for clear pictures either. So, if you had to zoom in for your pic, you probably will want to avoid posting that picture too.

Everyone wants to be awesome. Being awesome is a difficult thing to maintain if you’re awesomeness includes blurry photos of you looking into a mirror while you attempt to take a “selfie” to post on Instagram.

In closing, my advice summarized in one line is:

BE AWESOME: TAKE CLEAR PHOTOS.

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