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Instagram Tips from Photo Editors

Populating a social network—whether your own or your brand’s—with eye-catching images is enough to make any strictly-editorial Edster nervous. But you too can produce an Instagram that’s wildly popular! It just takes some practice and others’ savvy know-how. Ed asked some snap-happy photo editors to share their favorite Instagram tips, so you can start building a visual empire from the camera phone up!

Think Outside of Print

Or online, for that matter. Just like written stories that are meant to give a fresh look at a subject, Instagram allows users to feel like they’re getting a glimpse behind-the-scenes or witnessing a fleeting circumstance of note. “Instagram is for those out of the ordinary moments,” says Alissa Kombert, Photo Editor at, “like an amazing view or when your dog makes a hilarious face.”

Get a Little Technical

A great Instagram post starts with a good photo. First, get out of the Instagram app to capture your shot. “I never take it in Instagram,” says Stephanie Broad, former Associate Photo Editor at This Old House. “That’s too limiting.” Instead, Stephanie recommends opening a snapshot in your phone’s photo app and using auto correct to balance colors and brighten contrast.

Take those technical skills to the next level by using more of the tools that your smartphone gave you. “Thank goodness for the straightening tool,” says Allison Chin, Photo Editor at Health. “I usually have the grid set on my camera anyway, but I find it nearly impossible to take a perfectly straight photo without a tripod.” Chin also suggests working the angles by moving around to find the best composition. “Stand, kneel, move closer or farther away until you find the positioning that highlights your subject best,” says Chin. After all, you can’t let the photo tools do all the grunt work!

As far as filters go (your friends inside the Instagram app), Lo-Fi is a photo ed favorite for brightening colors, and Rise does wonders for creating a soft aesthetic.

Seize the Moment

The most Instagrammable opportunities come and go, so you have to take photos when you can! This is especially true for covering red carpets or other events. “Things move quickly in the celeb world,” says Kombert, “so one second you’re gazing into Ian Somerhalder’s eyes on the red carpet and then—woop!—he’s gone. You have to grab the photo op when it’s in front of you and just ask.” But what makes your Ian photo different from everyone else’s? “Make it a selfie or suggest a funny face,” suggests Kombert.

Aim for Consistency

Consistency includes subject material, caption tone, and most importantly, visuals. “Find what filter speaks to you,” says Broad, “and use those to create your palette so that you have continuity as a brand.“ Various occasions will call for different filters, but going back to a few of your favorites goes a long way in creating your Instagram’s aesthetic.

Plus, just like a written article, an Instagram feed should flow and tell a story. “I love seeing behind-the-scenes photos from shoots, or pics editors doing fun things related to their jobs at press events or in their everyday lives,” says Chin, “but the magazine’s account shouldn’t look like an editor’s personal feed.  There should be a mix of commissioned work, personal snapshots, and designed posts.”

Watch Tags and Credits

The easiest way to become that person on Instagram is to populate an inch of caption space beneath your photo with generic, overused tags. Select a few and let your new-found smartphone photography skills speak for themselves. “There’s a fine line between over-tagging and under-tagging,” says Broad. “I hate captions that are all hashtags. Use only poignant hashtags.” That means aiming for hashtags like #eggsbenedict instead of #brunch, for example. And if you’re publishing a photo taken by someone else, make sure to give them credit by listing his or her name, or better yet, including his or her Instagram handle.

And don’t forget to follow @_ed2010 on Instagram. He can’t wait to see what great pics you share next!

Image: Selfie via Shutterstock

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