So you’ve set up an Instagram account to promote your brand. Great! With over 1 billion monthly active users, your business is sure to take off—or is it?
Since your competitors are probably already on the platform, a large part of your success is dependent upon ensuring that your brand stands out from the crowd. And a huge part of that is filling your feed with top quality pictures. Great pictures are the essential meat and potatoes of any Instagram marketing strategy. Sometimes, even an incredible story isn’t enough, you should tell it with an incredible picture—and that is sure to attract followers to your brand.
But how do you do that?
1. Use the “Rule of Thirds.”
The “Rule of Thirds” is a guideline for composing photos in a way that most people find appealing. It states that pictures should be broken down into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, so that you have 9 parts in total. If you’re able to align the points of interests in your picture along the intersection of these lines, you’ll be able to create beautifully composed pictures.
To do this, simply turn on the gridlines on your phone’s camera, and then frame your objects along the intersections. Most people will find that these pictures look more pleasing to the eye than the ones where your object is in the center of the frame.
This isn’t the case for all photos, though. For example, overhead pictures of food will often look much better with the plate centered in the image. Regardless of whether you use it, it helps to be aware of the rule, and how it works, so you can tell for sure that breaking it will be more effective.
And don’t worry if the picture you’ve taken doesn’t already follow the rule of thirds—you can always crop it to reposition your object in a more aesthetically pleasing location.
2. Try different perspectives.
While it can be tempting to point-and-shoot at your subject, you may want to slow down and think of the angle you’re shooting from. Walking around and finding different perspectives can give you interesting framing options that can instantly make your pictures look better. Using a different angle will help your photos stand out—and that will make them more memorable.
So next time, try taking your picture from a unique perspective. Even if your subject is a common one, the position you choose to shoot from can result in an entirely different photo.
3. Experiment with lighting.
Never use your phone’s flash unless it’s absolutely necessary. Regardless of how much you spent on your device, almost all phone camera flashes tend to wash out objects in the foreground. Not attractive at all.
Try to use natural lighting whenever possible. Even in the dark, try to use ambient sources—such as streetlights or lights from traffic, to create a soft effect. This will also allow you to play with shadows, and use them to create a more interesting picture.
It’s also a good idea to keep the golden hour in mind. The golden hour refers to a short period of time just after sunrise, and just before sunset, where the lighting is perfect for photography. Shooting in the golden hour can help you create pictures with the perfect, soft lighting—so use this time wisely!
Is it raining, cloudy, or snowing outside? Perfect! Use the climate to your advantage. “Bad” weather is great for photography because it gives you tons of opportunities to play around. Use the reflections in puddles, or the dark, brooding lighting of a cloudy day to create effects that you’d otherwise not be able to.
You can also change the brightness on Instagram to adjust your picture until you get a perfect balance.
4. Think of your feed as a whole.
Go take a look at some of the most popular feeds on Instagram. What do you notice?
You’ll see that all their pictures have a consistent theme. From the hues in their pictures to the lighting and the filters they use, they all stick to their “visual voice.” This makes their feed easy on the eye and makes it a lot easier to scroll through than a feed that has an inconsistent—or non-existent—theme.
To make your Instagram feed successful, you’ll have to find your visual voice. Your feed should have a personality. Instead of thinking of each individual photo, manage your feed like you’d manage an art gallery—you wouldn’t put up a Jackson Pollock right next to a Renaissance classic, would you?
One way to maintain consistency in your profile is to simply use similar filters on your pictures. Think about the kinds of photos that you’re filling your feed with, and ensure that you’re posting similar pictures on every feed—ones with similar structure, colors, or composition.
5. Put effort into your #hashtags.
Hashtags are a great way to help people find you. Just make sure that the ones you use are relevant to your posts, and that you’re choosing hashtags that are popular enough to reach the most people possible.
The best way to find the right hashtag is to use Instagram’s search function. Type in a keyword that’s relevant to your picture, and tap Tags. Instagram will give you a list of related hashtags, along with the number of posts under one. A large number of posts means there are more people that follow that hashtag, but it also means it’s more likely that your posts will be drowned out among tons of content. The best way to counter this is to use a combination of both popular and niche hashtags, to ensure that you’re reaching as many people as possible.
Hashtags are the best tool you can use to reach new people, so it’s important that you get your game on point. One way to do this is monitoring the hashtags that competitors and influencers in your industry are using—by following certain hashtags natively from the Instagram app, or by using third party social listening tools.
So that’ll be all from us! Next time you plan a shoot, you might want to work it around the golden hour so you get the perfect lighting. Try playing around with different perspectives until you find something unique, and keep different framing options in mind. You might just find the perfect picture, and with the right hashtags, you’ll have your followers hooked in no time. Good luck!