Instagram 101: the basics

There is no rulebook on how to be a good instagrammer. To make things even more ambiguous, instagrammers rarely share what they are doing behind the scenes to create their successful accounts. You can tell their photos look good, but you don’t know why. Well, here’s a peek behind the curtain into what they are doing! This is the first in my series of Instagram secrets that I am calling “Instagram 101”.

1. Clean your lens

This is super basic, but so important! We carry our phones everywhere: we throw them in messy bags and carry them in dirty pockets. Worst yet, we let our kids use them! They inevitably get smudges on both camera lenses (front and back) and these smudges can make a big difference in your picture. A quick “ha ha” of hot breath on the lens and a wipe with a soft cotton material (I usually wipe it on whatever I’m wearing) and you’re good to go. Notice in the pictures below how the top photo with the dirty lens is blurry and has duller colours compared to the picture below that is crisper and brighter. I have not edited these photos at all, the only difference is that I cleaned the screen in between shots.

dirty lens

clean lens

2. Focus your picture

  • I recommend always taking photos with your camera app that came with your phone (i.e.: not in Instagram). This way you have more than one chance to take a good picture and you can even take multiple photos (which I also recommend doing) so you have options to choose from when you go to upload an image.
  • If your phone gives you the option (most do) take your photo using the square screen option. This will allow you to frame your photo more accurately and you won’t need to crop it when you upload it into Instagram.
  • Be sure to photograph in natural light whenever possible. This means turning off the lights when you are inside during the day if there is enough natural light to work with. Overhead lighting will only cause unwanted shadows in your photo. It could also make your picture overexposed.
  • While in camera mode, touch the image on your screen to focus the picture. You should see the camera refocus to where you have touched the screen. Touch an individual item in the picture to focus on that particular item.
  • If you touch an item in the foreground, the background will the be less in focus. If you touch an item in the background, it will make the foreground of your image less in focus.

focus on forefront

focus on background

To darken your image, touch a light part of your image. Likewise to lighten your image, touch a darker part of your image.

touching a light part of the screen

touching a dark part of the screen

It is helpful to play around with these options and take photos where you have focused on different parts of the image to see what works out best. To reset the camera’s focus, try touching a different part of the screen, or (better yet) briefly focus the camera away from your subject and then bring it back.

3. Ready, set, go!

When you are ready to take your photo don’t rush things. Focus your photo, hold your phone very still, and wait just a moment after you’ve taken your photo to ensure you’ve not moved while taking it (as this will make the photo blurry). As mentioned above, take multiple photos. When you go back to look at the photos in your camera roll, favourite the photos you like best (this is a heart at the bottom of the photo on an iPhone).

This way when you go to upload your photo, you don’t accidentally upload a subpar version. Choose the photo directly from your “favourites” album (most phones add this album automatically). You can then delete the photos you haven’t favourited.

I will be back soon with a tutorial on how to edit your photos, so stay tuned! Also, be sure to follow me on IG as I plan to do a few Instagram Live tutorials to go over information from this series! Whoop!

I hope this has been helpful! Comment below with any questions about the above and I am happy to answer them. I would also love to hear suggestions for future topics in this series. For inquiries regarding one-on-one Instagram help, drop me a line at bethie@hustleandfox.com. I offer everything from email consultation, to full monthly management of your account.

Lots of love,

Bethie xx


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  • Reply
    Sophie Ireland
    February 2, 2017 at 10:42 am

    This is soooo helpful! I don’t post loads on Instagram but the tips for taking decent photos are so amazing. I always wonder how people do it and now I know! I had also assumed most keen instagrammers use a proper camera rather than phone. Do you think this is the case? Keep the blogs coming! Thanks.

    • Reply
      February 2, 2017 at 11:18 am

      Great! Thanks for the feedback, Sophie! Some instagrammers use proper cameras, but many of us (like me!) only use an iPhone. The post about editing photos will get into making an iPhone photo look more like a real photograph. Thanks for reading and I really appreciate your feedback!!

  • Reply
    Di James
    February 2, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    What a great post! V well written and informed. Thanks Bethie xx

    • Reply
      February 2, 2017 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks, Di! xx

  • Reply
    Susan Coleman
    February 2, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Terrific post! Thanks very, very much for sharing this information! So generous! I’ve also made many of your recipes, ♥️ from 🇨🇦

  • Reply
    Susan Coleman
    February 2, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    Follow up question….any tips on using a selfie stick? Thanks!

  • Reply
    February 3, 2017 at 5:37 am

    Thanks for this post, I still feel totally inept at instagram, but I do think it is fun. I wonder though, are most people on it for fun, or are they on it for something else – I can’t quite figure out if people are really sharing on IG to ‘connect’ with other people or to just build a following to build their ‘brand’. What does having a personal brand even mean? And what benefit does it bring to the account holder to have xxx number of followers? These are the things I wonder about with Insta! And what about all of the ‘robot followers’? Why are personal trainers liking a picture of my baby? I mean, my baby is cute but he’s not going to be able to work out with you anytime soon. As you can see there are many things about IG that I do not understand at all! Bethie, I’m glad you are still blogging as well as using IG – I’ve noted a lot of bloggers have cut down on blogging and are doing more ‘micro-blogging’ on IG as well as supplementing with IG stories…that’s another one – how do you ‘interact’ with someone on IG stories? Would love to hear your take on using IG stories. At least it seemed to bump people off snapchat – I just felt that snapchat wasn’t really made for the over 30’s but hey, maybe I’m old fashioned. 🙂

    I’m liking these new additions to your blog and excited about more recipes with your friend Kate….who I’ve just started following on IG!

  • Reply
    Caroline Nicholls
    February 4, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    Such a useful post. I love instagram – much more than any other social media which I hardly use, but to date I just point and shoot. I’ve just followed your tips and my latest picture is so much improved. I enjoy following your instagram and rate your blog and weekly meal plans , so thank you (I’m a committed Bloom & Wild user, thanks to one of your posts). Ps any tips on how to stop random slightly (sometimes very) dubious people liking your photos other than making your account private? I suppose it doesn’t really matter but some of these people seem very dodgy.

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