In 2010, as cameraphone technology was making pictures clearer and sharper, along came Instagram, an app that made pictures blurry and old-fashioned looking. Facebook liked the idea so much they paid $1bn for it in 2012. Don’t you wish you could think of something like that?
There’s a lot more to Instagram than making photos a bit blurry of course. We’re long-time fans of this great app here at The Lowdown. And we’re not alone. It now has over 300 million users. So what is it, exactly?
Instagram is a free photo sharing and social networking app. ‘Facebook for photos’, if you like. With Instagram, users can enhance their photos with cool filters and effects, and then share with followers and friends – simple, yet satisfying. So let’s sign-up and start making the most of Instagram.
SIGN-IN AND SET UP
To get started, download the Instagram app and create your profile.
Your account will automatically be made public, but you can change this to a private account if you want. Going private means you’ll be able to approve the people that can follow you and view your pictures and every time you add a photo, you’ll be given the choice of making it public or not.
FINDING YOUR WAY AROUND
The homescreen works just like your Facebook newsfeed, so you’ll see a running update of all the latest pictures uploaded by your friends. You can add comments, ‘like’ images by double-tapping them, or tap on your friend’s profile to see their other Instagram offerings.
If you fancy doing a spot of exploring, tap the magnifying glass icon and you’ll be able to delve into public photos that interest you, or search for people you know.
You can also keep up-to-date with what your friends are up to by tapping the heart icon. This takes you to your news screen, where you can see the most recent activity of all the people you follow.
CHOOSING A PHOTO
Trust us, there’s really not much point in actually taking pictures with the Instagram app. It’s much easier and more convenient to take photos using your normal camera, and then editing them on Instagram. For iPhone users there’s a neat little trick to quickly access your saved pictures – just hold and press the camera icon and voila! There’s your camera roll.
Remember that Instagram resizes your photos to perfect squares though, so you might need to think about where to crop your original image.
FUN WITH FILTERS AND EFFECTS
Instagram is famous for its range of filters that can transform your pics into retro fabulousness with just a click.
There’s also some cool editing features that let you play around with your filtered photos for even more dramatic effect. We managed to take a sun-kissed beach and transform it into a dark and moody landscape in a matter of seconds (by turning the saturation right down, and adding shadows).
The tilt-shit editing option has to be our favourite. It lets you add focus to a particular area of your image, and subtly blurs everything else. This gives your photos real depth and makes for some truly stunning, professional looking images.
GET ORGANISED, USE #HASHTAGS
When you’re uploading your pictures to Instagram, take your time to add information that will help them get found in the future.
Every picture tells a story of course, but you can help it out a little by adding a caption with some interesting background information – think about the kind of things your followers would want to know about your photo. You can also easily tag people and add locations.
And then there are hashtags. Adding a relevant hashtag (or two) is the best way of getting your pic seen by likeminded people.
If you’re having trouble coming up with a good hashtag, just think about what the main subject of the photo is. Try and be specific so your hashtags don’t get lost in the crowd. If you’re into supercars, for example, think #BuggattiVeyron rather than #car.
BE SOCIAL. LIKE AND BE LIKED…
Instagram is all about sharing stuff you like – and it’s this positive, simple philosphy that makes it the friendliest social network around.
Get into the Instagram spirit by ‘liking’ other photos, or adding favourable comments.
While you’re doing this, look out for interesting people to connect with. If someone likes the same thing you do, check out their stuff and give them a follow.
Be active, be social, and before too long you’ll start building up your own followers.
We hope the above advice helps. It would be great to hear your thoughts on Instagram. Do you agree that it’s the friendliest social network? Have you got any advice for new users? Please feel free to share your thoughts below.