Instagram – Tips and tricks

I’ve just come back from a fascinating Instagram workshop at the Bullitt Hotel in Belfast. It cost 25 and the price included coffee and a donut, followed by a cocktail and nibbles.

The whole thing was hosted by Marianne Smyth, one half of the Smyth Sisters Instagram account and professional photographer.

This wasn’t about how to use hashtags and get followers, this was purely about Instagram photography – how to get the best pics and the best apps for editing them on.


If you’re fond of Instagram then you’ll know most of this stuff but it’s worth remembering anyway.

Use your gridlines

All IOS and Android phones have a setting that brings up gridlines on the screen. If you haven’t done that yet do it now and use them to frame your pics. They are particularly good for ensuring your pics are level and making sure you have the proper focus. Once you have your layout done properly, tap the part of the screen that you want to be the focus of you picture and your camera will auto focus on that particular object.

The golden hour

At sunrise or sunset natural light is so much better – and much golder. Now is the time to take pics and make sure you get as much natural light as possible. It’s very flattering.

Don’t use your flash

Ever. It will over expose and wash out all the colour of your pics. If there isn’t enough light to take a photo, it’s not worth it.

Natural light

Speaking of natural light, use it whenever possible. Take pics outside or at the very least move as close to the window as you can. It will always be more flattering than electric lighting unless you have a full photography studio in your house. On the flipside, try to to take photos with a window in the background – it will just take a hard to make out silhouette.

Use lines and angles

Making sure your photos are straight and all of your angles are exact really lends to the composition of a photo. On the other hand you can use lines to lead up to the subject of your photo – a cup of coffee sitting on a windowsill for example.

Zoom with your legs

An oldie but a goodie – zooming with your phone will immediately decrease the quality of your picture and make it more pixellated. if you can, physically move closer. When taking pics of food, you can take a pic from directly above or from the same angle someone would actually be looking at their Instagram feed.


Marianne uses apps for all of her photography and asked us to download three before we attended the workshop.


Used by professional photographers, the filters and editing tools far outshine those on the Instagram app. You do have to pay for many of the filters but they’re not expensive and it’s a one time fee. It’s not a bad idea to pay for a year subscription which is good value at £17.


This was one I hadn’t heard of before but I’m so glad I have now. Facetune is £4 but you can do a lot with it. You can erase spots, make your teeth whiter and your lips redder. You can smooth the texture of your skin and even reshape your face. If  you’re a selfie fan this is absolutely worth the purchase.


This is an app I’ve heard of before but thanks to Marianne I now really appreciate how many functions it has. You can use it to lighten and brighten and add all sorts of textures to your photos. It even has a healing function that allows you to erase items from your photos.

If you fancy upping your Instagram game it’s certainly worth having a go with one or more of these apps. Like everything else, the more you play around with them, the more you find their functionality. Marianne actually advises not to use Instagram filters at all – the ones on other apps are much more versatile.

So time to get snapping!





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s