How to be an Instagram rockstar: Part One – A Little Leopard
How to be an Instagram rockstar: Part One – A Little Leopard

How to be an Instagram rockstar: Part One – A Little Leopard

Instagram is one of my two favorite social media platforms. The other? Pinterest! Both are visual mediums that offer an escape and break from the day. What I particularly love about Instagram is that, when done well, it’s really a storytelling platform. Whether you’re a budding stylist, a chef, or something in between, Instagram is a way to share your best self and unique way of seeing the world. Here are some tips and tricks to really rock it out.

First, think about the big picture – your Instagram end game. What do you want people to take away from your feed? How do you want it to make them feel?

The best Instagrammers have a well-defined brand. They know who they are, and so do their followers. It can be bright + colorful or moody + vintage, but it should be consistent. Try to think of a theme or overarching style to guide your posts.

Check out some of your favorite ‘grammers for inspiration – why are you drawn to their photos? Is it the editing? The subject matter? Look for patterns and elements that really stand out to you, and how you might be able to incorporate something similar into your own feed.

Not sure where to start? These ladies are killing it in terms of Insta-branding:

Kate manages to find the most darling corners of Chicago + shares snippets of her daily life with a clean, bright aesthetic.

Jennifer Lake’s Instagram is full of colorful, dramatic fashion, travel and more Chicago snaps. (What can I say? I love my hometown girls.)

You know exactly what you’re getting with Lindsey Louie: San Francisco and chic neutral outfits.

My friend Margaux’s Instagram is a wonderful blend of her mad design skills, Southern-charm-meets-Chicago-style and adorable dog Dipper.

Before you even get to filtering, it’s important to master the art of iPhonetography (iPhotography? You know…taking pictures with your phone).

First – clear your lens. It’s such a “duh” thing that I never thought to do until someone pointed it out to me, but it makes such a difference! Wipe it off with a scratch resistant cloth…or your cotton shirt if that’s all that’s handy. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

If the ultimate goal is an Instagram post, always shoot in square mode. At first I was resistant to this advice – “I can crop it down later!” I thought stubbornly. “What if I want the full photo at some point?” Well, wanting a full photo has pretty much never been an issue, and it’s so much easier to compose a photo in square mode.

Use the focus tool by tapping on different areas of the screen to see what yields the best results when shooting. Different areas of focus can create vastly different effects with your iPhone camera!

Use natural light as often as you can – whether that means shooting outside or right next to your window.

Don’t be afraid to look a little silly while shooting, either. Many of my favorite photos were shot on tiptoe, lying down (not like…on the street…but I frequently do this in my apartment) or at various weird angles. I’ve heard of bloggers standing on chairs to capture that perfect aerial brunch shot. I think that might be an urban blogger legend, but honestly…it would probably result in a great photo! The behind-the-scenes of Instagram can be decidedly less glamorous than the end result.

Speaking of behind-the-scenes, invest in a few basic props. White poster board is the secret to all my clean-background photos, and also acts as a great light reflector when you’re shooting (see: natural light, above). I know many bloggers who swear by DIY backgrounds created with contact paper, too. Want to really step up your iPhotography game? Check out iPhone lenses, tripods and camera remotes  – the latter two of which are great for sneaky selfies that look like they were taken by someone else!

Protip: when composing photos, consider white/negative space. It doesn’t have to actually be white, but photos with plain backgrounds tend to do really well – people like the visual break in their feeds!

Finally, take a million photos. Okay, maybe not a million, but at least one more than you think you need. You’re going to want to have options when it comes time to edit…which I’ll cover in part two of this post, along with actually sharing your photos! (Who knew there was so much to say about Instagram?!)