John Barnett, co-creator of Bright Mango’s Wood Camera app, is a professional travel photographer and cinematographer and a contributor to Getty Images. While some photographers reject photo-sharing sites that are aimed at artsy amateurs, Barnett has embraced Instagram as an artistic and social medium. Since joining the network in 2010, he’s attracted more than 43,000 followers. Here are a few of his best tips.
1. “The biggest thing you can do is post good content.”
“All the principles that have applied to photography for the last one hundred years apply on Instagram,” said Barnett, but the application itself has two notable limitations:
First, because you’ll be using an iPhone or an Android rather than a DSLR camera to take the pictures, you’ll be working with a fixed lens. Barnett advised moving in closer to an object to get a better shot.
Second, because you’re working within a small, square space, it’s hard to capture landscapes in a single shot. Focus on “details that people wouldn’t see in National Geographic,” Barnett said, or “try shooting a “series of images that will tell the story.”
2. Don’t limit yourself to Instagram’s filters.
Apps like Pro HDR “are great because they pull out the color and contrast that the eye doesn’t see,” said Barnett. Slow Shutter is good for capturing streaks of light, fast-moving traffic, or rippling water. “Anywhere there’s movement, you can capture something that the eye doesn’t see,” he said.
Barnett’s own app, Wood Camera, lets you control the sharpness, brightness, contrast, saturation, and hue of your photos. You can also customize your photo’s radius, position, and intensity with tilt-shift and vignette effects. In January, Wood Camera was the #1 paid app in the App Store.
3. “Don’t clutter people’s feeds with 40 images like people do on Facebook.”
When you post an entire album’s worth of photos at once, your followers may only “like” one or two pictures before moving on to something else. Barnett posts one image every few hours instead of several in a row to give each photo a chance to be seen. On days when he’s shooting an event, he’ll save the pictures on his phone and edit them before he puts them on Instagram.
4. “Use appropriate hashtags.”
“If hashtags aren’t applicable to your image, it’s a misuse of the system,” Barnett said. To start, use hashtags related to the location or event where your image was taken.
But hashtags can be fanciful as well. Barnett was taking pictures at a museum when he noticed that many of his photos showed people staring at paintings or sculptures. He started tagging his pictures with the hashtag, #LookingAtArt. Soon, hundreds of people saw the hashtag and used it to inspire their own pictures.
The Instagram team even featured the hashtag on the company blog.
5. Engage people with similar interests.
Many Instagram photographers use the network to share their passion for certain topics, like classic cars or their favorite cities. By following others with similar interests, liking their photos, and leaving positive comments, you can find a niche among people who are more likely to follow you back.
“Instagram is a community where everyone is upbeat,” Barnett said. “It’s a place where you can connect with people, see their world, and show them your world. One thing we all have in common is our love of photography and great images.”