Peer pressure, way of marketing, social media pressure… call it what you may, but the sad truth is that now I am on Instagram. My nametag (the term that I learnt from Instagram) is: maini.live
Based on what I have learnt over the last few days of this platform, here is a quick guide to those of you planning to start with it and also for the veterans who have been there for a long time.
First, the most important thing that I have learnt from Instagram – Don’t use Instagram if you don’t want your photography to suffer!
Here are my reasons for this statement –
- Most Instagrammers (the term used for people active on Instagram) use various filters, plugins, and effects that are nowhere close to the real thing. This creates a false benchmark in our minds about the photographs that are good. Such over-edited photographs do gather lots of wows and likes but it is not something that can be displayed on a wall and cherished for years. The really good photographs don’t need any such gimmicks.
- The number of followers and likes increases the confidence and brings it to the brink of being called over-confidence. Sometimes users go beyond this threshold and start to think of themselves as all-learned and the greatest photographer of all times. This is a trap! A good photograph doesn’t require any endorsements and a large number of likes don’t make a photograph great.
- The small smartphone/tab screens in comparison to enlargements printed on paper give a false sense of quality. The brighter the LED, the better appears the quality. Small screens also hide small flaws which become visible even on average computer screens.
- Like all other social media things, Instagram is also a time killer. You won’t know how quickly the time flies by. It will become an addiction. You’ll start longing for likes and followers (a trap!) and then after a few days, you’ll have less time and patience for good photography.
If you can convince yourself that, yes, you will remember that Instagram is not the zenith of photography and it is just a way of sharing images… then go ahead and read this article further. (If not, then quit reading this article and search for something new in my list of writings – Index of Articles)
(Rock and Swirls– a photograph that I had shared on Instagram, hoping for an instant boost in likes and followers, but it did not gather the response I had hoped. Instead, an enlarged version of this hangs on my wall)
So, your mind is made up to read this article! Let me first start with basics of Instagram that can help you improve your photography uploads –
Instagram uses a square format as its default for showcasing the images. As I write this article, the recommended resolution is 1080 pixels by 1080 pixels. Earlier this used to be less but Instagram increased this resolution, keeping in sync with the improved screen resolution of the smart devices. Anything above 1080 wide is down-scaled (resampled) to the default 1080 pixels.
Since it is made to work with mobile phones, the desktop version does not permit uploading the images (I’ll discuss a workaround to this later on).
The supporting feature of Instagram is tagging. Each photograph is provided with tags to let people find it. The tags are inserted using the # symbol followed by whatever tag you intend to attach. Multiple tags can be used with each image, separated by space. The hashtag (#) symbol is what tells the code that this is a tag… and no there’s no real ‘hash’ here for the minds going into that direction (this instruction is for me!)
Instagram is owned by Facebook and so a lot of cross-posting is possible. I am planning to keep the two platforms segregated but not everyone does so. I realized this when I saw many of the posts on my Facebook feed carrying the ubiquitous hashtags (no Maini, once again, there’s no real hash here, so simmer down).
(View of the hills from Maini’s Hill Cottages, Natadol. This photograph was also posted from another nametag that I and my family frequently use – hillcottages. This kind of heavily edited, unreal photographs are what makes people swoon on Instagram)
Some settings to consider on Instagram –
Based on the purpose that you have started using Instagram, here is what you should check out in the settings –
- Make your account private if you don’t want the world to see your uploads. If you are planning on uploading your family pics, this is what I highly recommend. (Actually, I strongly discourage uploading any kind of family pics on social media).
- Do you want to push the uploads to your Facebook account too? Link your facebook account by going into settings (either on Facebook or Instagram) and enable uploading to Facebook. I have disabled it since I like to control what gets uploaded where.
For getting the perfect pictures on Instagram –
I guess this is what most of you have been waiting for. Uploading the images to Instagram is simple, getting the right image to upload is difficult. This is what you should be focusing on –
- Stick with their default resolution. Upload images that are 1080 x 1080 pixels in size. Sure you can upload other resolutions and then crop, but starting with the correct resolution makes a difference. I use 1080 x 1080 pixel images at 300 dpi (300 dpi for the simple reason that my high-resolution images are processed for printing and so at 300 dpi). I do sometimes upload non-square images, especially when the composition can’t be cropped to a square format. However, those images are few. In fact, this is one of the reasons why most of my good works are still not on Instagram.
- Use non-square pictures only and only when there is a pressing need to do so. I will not crop a wide image to show as a square. When you have to do so, resize the image so that the width is 1080 pixels! Another thing to remember that the default ‘non-square’ sizes should be between the ratios of 1.91:1 and 4:5. Any ratio outside this is forced to be cropped (This translates to a range from 566 pixels to 1350 pixels, when the width is kept at the 1080 standard)
- Keep the subjects simple. Limit the number of main and supporting elements to three or even less. In the above image, the elements used in the composition are – snow-covered peaks, the ranges in the middle in blue color and the foreground in sea-green. Though people keep uploading images with lots and lots of elements but keeping in mind the format and size of the platform, simple compositions with few elements stand out.
- The size may be small but the resolution is very high of these small display screens. So, have a good amount of details in areas which you want to show. Use sharpening on all your images (as a final step in your workflow before saving the photograph). Here is the correct way to do it – Sharpening.
- I hope that I don’t end up being labeled as a hypocrite for this – Go a little overboard with post-processing, ready to use filters, etc, if you want to earn more and more likes. (To all my readers, this is probably the only place where I say this). This is one of the main reasons which ends up spoiling the photography skills of the user. I prefer to stick with not too much ‘edited’ images for most of my uploads.
- Hashtag (ah.. that word again) as per the viewers you want to reach out to. In the screenshot on top of this article, I have hashtagged the state and their tourism as well, in the hope that people interested in that aspect will also see my upload.
- Keeping this point for the last (so that it remains in your minds) – Have a strong photograph to begin with. A simple and strong composition, a good interplay of light and shade, colors to add to the overall effect! A good photograph is the foundation on which you have to build up the image to upload.
A simple way to post panoramas is to post them as it is, provided the height is not less than 566 pixels when the width is 1080 pixels.
A better way is to post them as a series of photographs. Instagram has a great feature that showcases multiple images as continuous while swiping right-left. There are no separators or lines in between. So, take a panorama, ensure that its height is 1080 pixels and crop it so that the width is any whole multiple of 1080 (eg- 3240×1080 or 4320×1080). Cut the image into multiple images of 1080×1080 size. Post them as multiple images on Instagram using the phone itself, keeping the number 1 image as the leftmost and proceeding to 2 towards the next image on the right and so on.
See this image for the final result – Panorama from my Instagram. This consists of a single panorama of size 3240×1080 which was split into three images and posted.
(Sunset at Natadol – A photograph that was well received by the masses. In a way, I also like the graphic nature of the image and simple composition with the three slanting lines, well-demarcated by the change in hue.)
How to upload from a computer?
Here is how to go about uploading your best work to Instagram. I am guessing that you already have an image on your computer that you want to upload to Instagram.
The simple way is to email it to yourself and then save the image on your phone… after that uploading from the phone is easy. (Don’t whatsapp it or whatever other apps you happen to use. They resample the image and therefore reduce the quality a little bit). Sharing space on a cloud service is another good option (Google Drive, Dropbox, and the likes). I use google drive.
Method 2 (use this on your own risk)
Use Google Chrome as your browser. Open a new tab and right-click on empty space. Click on ‘Inspect’. You can also press ‘Ctrl+Shift+I’. By default, the screen should look like a mobile phone now. If it doesn’t toggle the view using the second icon on the top-left panel of the inspect screen. The keyboard shortcut for this is ‘Ctrl+Shift+M’. Now log into your Instagram profile and upload as you would do on your phone.
(A lady with her grandson.)
For many established and accomplished photographers, Instagram is a platform to enhance their market presence. Sometimes this is the force behind joining the Instagram community. For me, this was the main reason. I want to improve the reach of my blog and our cottages that we occasionally rent out. For people like me, Instagram is now a necessary evil.
If you are a new user and have not yet used Instagram, I once again strongly recommend not trying it out. It will eat up your time, degrade your photography and cause you unnecessary stress. So, take your camera out, go click click click and don’t Instagram! For that matter don’t use social media at all. They are evil!
Addendum (14 May 2021):
Since the time I wrote this article, there have been some changed in the way how Instagram works. I’ll write about those in detail after sometime.
Here are just two more things – 1. For stories, a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels works the best. 2. Now Desktop for Instagram is available which makes the things easier (though I am yet to try it)
Part 2 of this article – Learning to Instagram (Part 2). This second part will only make sense to you if you already have done the above and have an Instagram account.