© Sunshine Urbaniak

Tips to Improve Instagram Photos

Instagram has great filters and photo editing abilities to take your photos to the next level. Whether you want dramatic changes or subtle improvements, Instagram can help with color and tone, highlights and shadows, and clarity. No matter what filter you choose, there are additional attributes you can tweak for an even more exciting image. Whether you’re posting images for your business, your family or vacation, here are some tips to improve your Instagram photos every time.

Note: All great photos begin with good lighting, and by good lighting, I mean enough light. If your photo is too dark, it will be difficult to lighten it without increasing graininess. So when taking photos, avoid heavy shadowing and dark spots, unless you’re going for a moody vibe of course.

Instagram Filters

Instagram is most well-known for it’s quick and easy filters to help add personality and tone to photos. Most people choose one and move on. Did you know that you can tap on the chosen filter a second time to bring up a percentage scale? This sliding scale allows you to set a percentage of the filter’s effect. This can be beneficial if details are getting lost by fine-tuning the filter’s application.

While most of the filters adjust color and tone, don’t forget to try out the black and white ones: Moon, Willow, and Inkwell. Depending on your shot, converting it to black and white adds instant timelessness and truth. Removing color from a photo has powerful effects on our mind’s perception, allowing us to focus more on the subject matter versus distracting details, like a bright red umbrella.

Inkwell filter, 100%; Structure 20%; Contrast 15%; Shadows 10%  © Sunshine Urbaniak

Photo Edits

So you’ve chosen your filter, maybe even adjusted the percentage. So now, it’s time to go into the Edits section. There are 13 options to choose from, which can feel overwhelming if you’re not sure what they will do to your photo. I’ve curated a few that no matter what filter you’ve chosen or subject matter, it will help to improve your pic overall.

The structure setting has similar effects as HDR, high dynamic range, which helps to reveal greater detail and slightly hyper-realistic images by adjusting the bright and dark areas of your photo. By increasing the structure of your photo, it makes it more dimensional, which helps attract the eye and pull the viewer into your image. This added depth can be the difference of someone scanning past your photo, or stopping to appreciate it, and give it a like. This setting, just like the filter, has a sliding percentage scale. Depending on the look you’re after, use it to add just enough detail to create more contrast or go full boat to emphasize every pixel.

This setting is more dependent on your filter, however, it can still help attract more eyeballs. Yahoo Labs and Georgia Tech researched and analyzed 7.6 million photos from Flickr and Instagram to see what Instagram filter is the best for most likes and/or comments. They discovered that filtered photos with increased warmth had significantly more engagement than un-doctored images. These findings do relate to color psychology. Warm tones like orange and yellow elicit feelings of happiness and excitement. So add some warmth to your image if your chosen filter hasn’t already.

Increasing contrast in a photo refers to the differences in the lightest and darkest tones in the frame. When you increase the contrast, it helps to visually define subjects and objects better. This again adds to the overall dimension of the photo, creating more depth.

Lastly, sometimes with all these settings plus the filter effects, shadows can either lighten or deepen too much. Pay attention to them and make any necessary adjustments for accuracy.

Below you can see a before and after by only utilizing the above-mentioned tips. These simple tips can help you gain more followers to grow your business, or put more smiles on the faces of your friends and family. Have fun and explore all that Instagram has to offer!

BEFORE © Sunshine Urbaniak

AFTER Gingham filter 60%; Structure 20%; Contrast 20%; Warmth 30%, Shadows 5%  © Sunshine Urbaniak


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