How to Make Your Instagram Images Stand Out

Landscape Photography

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I love photography — especially landscape photography. I took photography classes in high school (fun side note, my teacher’s sister-in-law was actually a famous photographer!), where I learned the basics of photography, such as how to do the following: make contact sheets, dodge and burn for contrast, and develop my own film and photos. Of course, this was all in the days before the iPhone (and selfies!). So it’s no surprise that Instagram has become my favorite social media platform. As much as I like to snap and post photos, I also enjoy following professional photographers, including a few with National Geographic and plenty of food and commercial photographers. I intend to create a separate post soon with some of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow.

But the more familiar I’ve gotten with Instagram, the more I have learned about what makes a good Instagram photo — and my photos themselves have improved. When I first created an account, I wasn’t even using hashtags (#gasp). I remember asking my former college roommate how you come up with good hashtags — and feeling confused and overwhelmed each time I posted.

More than a year later, I’m still learning about the platform as I go along, but here are some tips:

Use filters: When I first joined Instagram, I was completely against the use of filters. I still have a love-hate relationship with them, but I can appreciate their value with certain images.

Change up your filters: I’ve heard people say that you should be consistent with your filter use. I’m not one of them. While I understand it’s a good way to make your Instagram account seem cohesive, I tend to alternate my filters depending on what I’m trying to highlight in the image. Some of my favorite filters are Ludwig, Amaro, X-Pro II, and Lo-Fi.

Instagram Tips - Manual Settings

{Manual Mode: Before and After}

Play with manual settings: Don’t see a filter that works for you? Try adjusting the contrast, brightness, saturation, warmth, and highlights manually. This is a great option if you want to have more control over the appearance of the final image. I’ve been adjusting these settings lately, and while it may take more time before you can hit post, the finished product will be well worth it!

No Filter


#NoFilter, #NoProblem: You’re probably thinking “didn’t she just tell me to use filters?” You’re right. I did. But sometimes the natural beauty of an image can be overshadowed with filters and manipulation. And when that happens, I choose to tag my image #nofilter or #nofilterneeded to let the photo speak for itself. The shot above is one of my favorites. It was taken during a photo shoot on the beach last March (in 46-degree weather). I love how the colors all seem to blend together and resemble more of a painting than a photograph. When it came time to post it to Instagram, I couldn’t justify using a filter. So I didn’t.

What do you think makes a successful Insta-snap? I’d love to hear some of your Instagram tips!



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