Instant Masterpieces: 3 Steps to Gorgeous Instagram Photography

October 16, 2018

Planning and coordinating an Instagram account for your brand can be more challenging than it first appears. For the uninitiated, Social Media platforms can seem to exist in a vacuum, with content succeeding or floundering on a whim. You hear over and over again the importance of content, and although you take the time, read the guides and post frequently, your viral success rate is hit-or-miss. While this is happening, other brands continue to churn out gorgeous photos while follower counts continue to climb. From here, marketers may ask themselves: “What on earth are they doing differently?

If this scene is familiar to you, you’re not alone. Content is, without a doubt, the biggest draw for followers and fans on any social media platform. Without high quality content, your profile can appear dull, your brand can appear uninviting, and most notably, your content will not be shared. In fact, sharing via other users is the single most influential vector for going viral, meaning that even if your reach is small, high quality content creates an undeniable advantage in reaching audiences. On Instagram, the content in question is primarily photography and video, and outstanding photography is the reason as to why some brands go viral while others sink. True to form, any Instagram profile looking to drive massive traffic needs a strategy in place for creating beautiful photography.

What, then, is needed to make photography “beautiful?” “Beautiful” can mean many things to different people, but marketing professionals agree that audiences appreciate several key factors when it comes to Instagram Photography:  Lighting, Composition, and Aesthetics. Because each of these factors plays an important role in your audience’s perception, we will be discussing how to implement each aspect to make your photography shine brighter than your competitors and accelerate your follower count.

Let There Be Light!

Just as in Hollywood, lighting plays a vital role in the production of quality imagery. Whether it’s a panoramic shot or a simple selfie, the lighting determines an image’s visibility and color palette. Without adequate lighting, photos often appear grainy, murky, blurry, or out of focus. The reason for this lies in how cameras (especially digital cameras) process photos.

On most smartphones, the onboard computer chips process the amount of light filtering through the camera to determine overall brightness and color range. This results in low light photography appearing grainy and washed out - even on the most high end phone cameras! Knowing this, it’s important to select lighting that works well with the subject of your photograph. Studio lights, for example, produce far cleaner results than fluorescent lighting, although the latter can be used for specific color effects such as a greenish tinge or a more modern aesthetic. Natural lighting from the sun often makes photos show their best colors and details, but working with sunlight can be somewhat unpredictable.  Your phone, however, can remedy this with HDR mode, or ‘High Dynamic Range.’ This means that your phone’s image processor exposes your images twice with different light settings and carefully edits them together into a cohesive image. HDR can create incredible color palettes and lighting effects, particularly during moments like sunrise and sunset.

Elegant Composition

To non-photographers, a picture may appear to be no more than a still image captured with the click of a button. The truth, however, is far more complex. Every photographer brings something unique to their images - a touch of their own style, taste, senses, and spatial awareness. This is our next factor for great Instagram photography: Composition.

Composition refers to the technical aspects of your media.  Angles, positioning, color, and even your choice of subject all factor into Composition. While there are many theories as to how photographs should or should not be taken, you don’t need to be an expert in order to achieve great composition.  Instagram conveniently adds some key functions for photographers right into the vanilla app itself, including square frames, filters, and photo stitching. Most notably, your phone also includes the option for a Grid Overlay when taking photos. The grid overlay, despite its deceptive simplicity, may actually be one of the most useful tools for the platform.. By selecting this option when you take photos, a simple 9 square grid appears over your viewer, allowing you to get a better idea of object placement in your content. This leads to easy application of essential photography techniques such as the rule of thirds, which is easy to keep in mind when shooting, and allows you to develop more high-quality images that stand for your followers.

Aesthetic Authority

When talking about wowing your Instagram followers, no element of posting is more potent than Aesthetics. Aesthetics, or “the artistic or beautiful qualities in something” is a primary attracting force for users of Instagram. Instagram is a  unique in that, by emphasizing photo or video content, users tend to gravitate towards content that fits their own tastes, and treat Instagram as a gallery to their liking more so than a discussion platform. With Aesthetics on Instagram, this most commonly refers to a consistent overarching theme, color scheme, or technique used for a profile’s entire selection of posts. While this may seem counterproductive on its face, this could not be further from the truth. A consistent aesthetic across your entire profile helps your account be taken by users as greater than the sum of its parts. When they visit your profile, they see your content as a cohesive whole rather than a collection of assorted images. This appeals to users who are looking at the bigger picture when it comes to brands, and speaks to the image your brand is trying to present. Plus, most importantly, it’s gorgeous to behold an account composed of beautiful, consistent themes.

Museum Quality

In the end, Instagram users will have widely varying takes on what beautiful Instagram Photography means to them. For some, it’s all about images with brilliant color and detail. For others, it’s about the overall aesthetic they evoke as part of a greater whole. Nearly everyone can agree, however, that brands who pay attention to the desires of their followers and put effort into their graphical content see much greater returns than those who do not.

In this article, we glossed over just a few of the many aspects that contribute to the quality of Instagram Photography. Lighting, or “how your content is illuminated,” helps establish details, color, and clarity in your images.Composition, or the “technical aspects of your content,” adds a layer of professionality to your work that helps it stand out above your competitors.  Finally, Aesthetics or the “cohesive nature of your content” lets your followers know you’re “authentic,” creates an inviting tableau out of your entire profile, and leaves a lasting impression for visitors.

With more and more brands harnessing the potential of Instagram for their Social Media programs, it’s inevitable that competition for followers will grow fiercer each year. Knowing the factors that draw the eyes and hearts of your audiences, however, will be what separates the trailing accounts from the viral juggernauts. Playing to your follower’s tastes will keep them coming back, and striving for excellence in your content is the mindset for massive followers. How will you make your photography pop?