How to Craft the Perfect Instagram Photo

Spring is the season of flower shows, county fairs, and the first beach trips of the year. In other words, it's the ideal time for selfies, group photos, and gorgeous social media shots! To hear it from influencers, Instagram photography sounds like one of the toughest skills to master out there. In fact, with a little natural light and a few quick tips, you can take pro-level photos with just your camera phone. 
Whether you're just figuring out your phone has a slow-mo setting or you're an expert at doing it #ForTheGram, these tips will help you craft the perfect photos for Instagram and other social media platforms. So put on your favorite sunnies and strike a pose!
  1. It's all in the lighting. Professional photographers and selfie snappers alike know that most of the credit for a top-quality photo comes from the lighting. Natural light offers that gorgeous, warm feeling that characterizes professional portraits. Make sure to capitalize on it whenever you can. If you're stuck with a cloudy day or indoor subjects, avoid using your flash--this can wash out the photo and make the colors appear flat. Instead, rely on things like street lights, windows, and reflective surfaces to mimic natural yellow light as closely as possible. 
  2. Don't use the Instagram app. This is a simple suggestion, but taking photos through your actual phone camera--instead of through the Instagram app--can help your photos stay crisp and professional. A full-size photo gives you more to work with, and you can always crop it down to size!
  3. Focus in. Like lighting, focus plays a major role in the quality of your photos. Many phone cameras aren't high-quality enough to zoom in without losing image quality. To that end, if you're trying to get a close-up of something, it helps to actually get up close and personal with it. Tools like selfie sticks can help you find the right angle, if distance is what you need. Be careful with your actual focus settings too--on most phones, you can tap your screen to redirect the auto-focus to whatever you're actually trying to capture. 

    The selfie stick in this image helps this surfer find a fantastic angle for his photo!

  4. Be there, AND be square. Instagram photos show up as squares. While you're taking your photo, keep this end goal in mind. You can use your phone's square photo mode if that makes things easier for you, but you may also find you have more to work with when you take full vertical or horizontal photos. Just be careful to leave yourself plenty of open space for cropping! 
  5. Use the Rule of Thirds. While you're at it, use your "Square-O-Vision" to make the most out of the Rule of Thirds. This is an easy photography trick where you imagine a grid separating your photo into nine equal sections marked out by horizontal and vertical lines. If you place your subject in one "third" of the photo (usually toward the right or the left), the viewer's eye is automatically drawn toward the person or object you're photographing. (Pro tip: some camera phones offer a "grid" mode that can help you line up your subjects like this!)

    The Rule of Thirds places the "action" of this photo in the right "third" of the photo. If you imagine a grid running across this photo, the vertical line would run right through the woman in the middle!

  6. Contrast is your friend. Bright colors are, too! Some of the most striking photos feature subjects that stand out in stark contrast, like white sand and a dark blue ocean. Bright colors automatically draw the eye--too many colors in one photo can make the composition seem muddled, but two or three bright, contrasting colors can produce a "wow"-worthy effect. 
  7. Find support for shaky hands. The best photos come from a completely still camera. This is why most photographers use things like tripods to hold their cameras steady. No tripod? No problem. Make yourself into the tripod by finding support wherever you can. Lean on trees, brace your hands on a wall, or lean your phone against something solid (like a bottle of water) and use the "timer" mode to take a still photo. 
  8. Reduce glare. At Bomber Eyewear, we're experts in the sunglasses selfie. (Don't believe us? Just check out our Instagram!) One issue many sunny-day photographers run into is reducing glare from reflective lenses--or worse, seeing the cell phone reflection in the final product! The best way to avoid this is to think about light angles. Tilting the chin slightly in one direction can change the entire angle of reflection hitting lenses. (When in doubt, you can always Photoshop the glare out--but where's the fun in that?!)

    You can't see the camera in this very good model's lenses because of the angle of attack. Shooting a photo from below or above is often a great way to reduce glare and lens reflection. 

  9. Invest in simple editing. Even if it's something simple like an Instagram filter, you can make easy photo tweaks directly from your phone that elevate your photos from simple selfies to professional-level portraits. The Instagram app itself offers many simple photo editing tools, but you can also try out free or low-cost apps like Photoshop Express, Lightroom, Canva, and Ribbet. 
  10. Draft your friends! When in doubt, smile it out. Some of our favorite photos are ones that include a whole bunch of people--even if a couple photos end up blurry, you've got the memory too. 

Now, it's time for the student to become the master. What are you sharing on Instagram? We'd love to see your creations! Don't forget to share your favorite Bomber sunnies with the hashtag #bombereyewear, and tag us (@bombereyewear)! We share our favorites all the time, and love seeing what our community is up to. 


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