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  • Writer's pictureJuliana C Stryker

How to Take Good Instagram Photos

The post you’ve been waiting for is finally here!

My apologies that it took so long as I’ve been totally swamped with wedding and Honeyz Cube affairs but as the saying goes – better late than never!


As mentioned the last time, taking pictures everyday actually gave me a different perspective about my surroundings and helped me produce more interesting photos. And it seemed like I’ve struck instagram gold with whatever I was doing because I’ve been getting a wee bit more followers and likes than before. Woo hoo!

As such, I’ve also been receiving requests through email and my social media channels for a post on how to take images that look clear and well-thought-out. Well, this entry is just what the doctor ordered. 🙂

I’ll be sharing tips and tricks on how you can take great ‘square-ready’ photos with everyday items that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.


I would like to reiterate that I’m not claiming to be some Instagram expert/celebrity. This article is more like a documentation of what I’ve observed and personally experienced using IG and which types of photos garner more followers and likes.

Here we go now!

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1) Good natural lighting

I can’t emphasize this enough. Before I go on any further, here’s your proof of what bad lighting can do to your photos:

Bad lighting

How to Take Good Instagram Photos

Good lighting


Another example: Same wooden floor but see what bad lighting did to it.

Bad Lighting


Good lighting


Light completely transformed the vibe of the photo and floor – from bat cave to welcoming cottage.

All I did was – open the windows and allow as much as sunlight to enter as possible. Trust me, bright photos look best on your IG feed.

If the light is too bright and casts an unsightly shadow on your subject, counter the effect with a reflector. It acts like a mirror that lightens the darkness of the shadow. Place the reflector in the direction where the light is coming from and it should bounce the light back towards the shaded side of your subject.

You can get reflectors from any camera store or even online stores. I got mine at Taobao. 🙂


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2) Cute props

These are like the quintessential Instagram ‘Likes Generator’ I tell you. Haha! I realise IG-ers are more prone to click on photos that are decorated with nice flowers, stationery, ornaments, furniture, etc.

Don’t believe me? Compare these photos. Which do you like better?

Without props


With props


The difference is massive eh? With the same variables, even toilet paper can look alluring. 😛


As for flatlays, my prop choices differ slightly.

I would try to make my photos more interesting by using colored papers as my background.


And this is what they can do:



Mixing and matching coloured paper will also add an artistic touch to the photos.





The items do not always have to come from the same color family or be arranged in a very neat fashion. Feel free to mix up the hues and arrange them in a messy yet coordinated style for a more realistic look of your daily lifestyle. The IG community likes that too – a picture that captures a slice of your life. 🙂


I get most of my props from these retailers:





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3) Photo Editing Apps

Bright and cheery photos tend to garner more likes so I’ve downloaded several apps to counter different photography problems. More specifically, AfterLight to brighten photos, Snapseed to reduce shadows and VSCOcam for artistic filters.

And here are the results:



After editing:




After editing:


Depending on the quality of the original photos, I usually permute the order of the apps used. If the photo is too dull, I’ll increase its saturation level and if the photo is not clear enough, I’ll adjust the clarity. After a while, you’ll get the hang of what each feature can do to your photos.

Special shoutout to Alene (aka PaperKitties) for introducing Afterlight to me. It’s an absolute godsend! Thank you! Muuuaaaahh! :*

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4) The Square Format

The usual composition rules change when you’re taking photos for Instagram. Remember that every photo will be cropped to a square so always take photos like you’re looking through a square window.

This is what happens when you don’t take the square frame into consideration:


After cropping:


Yup, my beautiful orchids got cut off. 🙁

So nowadays, I’m extremely mindful of the square frame by making sure that my subjects are within the frame.

And that’s why most of my photos look like this. Haha! #neglectedsurroundings


But look what happens after you crop it to a square!


My contents filled up the frame perfectly!

Make sure you always have extra space surrounding your subject matter so you can crop it later.

If you’re looking for more great composition tips for Instagram photos, check out this article – 10 Composition Tips for Stunning Instagram Square Photos.

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5) Good Camera

I know I’ve mentioned in my intro that the tips will not cost you an arm and a leg but if you’re really committed to becoming the next Ansel Adams of Instagram, you may want to consider investing in a good Wifi-enabled camera (that may actually cost you all your limbs). :p

Phone-taken photos simply don’t cut it. You should take as much pride in your Instagram posts, meticulously planning your shots, as you do for your blog posts.

I’ve been asked many times about the camera I’m using and here it is  – the Sony NEX-5T.

The 16-megapixel Sony NEX-5T compact system camera (CSC) takes some of the most breathtaking photos (This is not an ad).

The mirrorless design means the camera is much smaller and less bulky than a DSLR camera but the giant sensor inside means image quality is essentially the same. So you’re basically getting the best of both worlds! A lot of pros are jumping onto the Sony mirrorless bandwagon so don’t be afraid to ditch your tank sized cameras. The proof is in the quality of the photos!

Taken by Nikon Pro DSLR


Taken by Sony NEX-5T


Adjusting shutter speeds, Aperture and ISO is now a breeze because instead of confusing menus and numbers, you are presented with the options in layman terms: Background Defocus, Brightness, Crisp, Warmness, Vividness, etc.

But the winning part is its fast Hybrid AF with lightning-quick response which is usually only available on larger, more expensive DSLR cameras.

According to Sony, the fast phase-detection AF quickly moves the lens to bring the subject into near focus after which the highly precise contrast-detection AF finishes focusing. It all happens in the blink of an eye so you’re always assured of capturing every fleeting moment.

So nowadays I don’t have to anchor my arms against something to take a blur-free photo. It is an interchangeable-lens model so I could also purchase lenses with larger apertures and faster shutters to take photos with nice bokeh blurred backgrounds or even foregrounds.

Here’s an example of a blurred foreground taken with a 35 mm f/1.8 lens.

More photos of subjects with nice blurred backgrounds:





Doesn’t the subject matter stand out more? And this has also proven to help me get more likes than crystal clear photos with everything in focus.

And why a Wifi-enabled camera? Well, you want to be able to upload high quality photos even when you’re on the go without lugging a huge laptop, don’t you?

So get a good Wifi camera!!!


I hope the above tips will help you achieve your Instagram photography goals. However, I have to remind you that mastering all the skills above does not necessarily mean it will give you an instant surge in followers. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You’ll have to be consistent in your postings and ensure that your newsfeed always looks good as a whole.

With this, I wish you all the best in your IG photography endeavours. 🙂

Let’s connect on IG!

Your friend, Juliana



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