It’s the year 2017 with super cameras in our phones, but have you ever looked at your Instagram feed and felt that your photos are just way too boring? As much we humbly deny ourselves instant self gratification most of the time, we can’t help but smile when we get a like on Instagram (especially if it’s someone we like!) After all, Instagram IS a platform for engagement. The formula is pretty simple if you haven’t already discovered it. Better photos = More followers! Read on to learn how to take an Instagram-Worthy photo!

L-A-C-E

Believe it or not. These 4 simple letters are just what you need to grab you more likes and followers on Instagram! Grab your camera (any modern camera smartphone works beautifully as well) and let’s snap!

1. Lighting

“In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.” – Aaron Rose

Good lighting gives color and depth to the subject, creating interest. However, too much of a good thing is always a bad thing. Too much light and your photos will appear overexposed and details will be lost. Too little and that picture of your friend will look like a ghost. Bad positioning of the subject with good lighting will also kill the shot. “Woah, woah, woah, so what exactly is good lighting, Brandon?” The answer is soft light and good positioning of the light towards the subject. In the photo below, I asked Geraldine to face away from the Sun so that it hits the right side of her face, casting shadows and creating interest and mood.

Lighting

Light hits her face on the right, casting shadows and creates interest and mood.

The best time of the day to take amazing photos is during the magical Golden Hour, where the light from the Sun is at its softest and appears orangey. In Singapore where I live, the Golden Hour starts at 6.50 PM and ends at 7.19 PM. You can use this online calculator to find out the best time to shoot those kick-ass photos in your country. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can only take pictures of your dog in-between these times. Use objects such as pillars, blinds, trees (or wait for that cloud) to block that full-on harsh light on your subject!

The next thing to do is to position your light towards your subject. Full frontal light often creates boring photos. Try to move your subject and position it at an angle towards the light (or move the light, whichever works). What this creates is a photo with depth and interest, like the image above!

The next time you’re heading to that hipster cafe, choose a good table with great lighting to ace that shot of your friend (or food, yummy!)

2. Angle

Heard of the phrase “Perspective changes everything”? That’s right. In this case, it’s our shooting angle which makes the shot. I always like observing my friends or strangers whenever they take their photos. And this is what I observed: that 96.978% of the time, they are either sitting down or standing up straight when they are taking a shot and they expect to get a great shot just because they are using a DSLR or a great smartphone camera. They are absolutely WRONG! (Sorry guys!)

Angle

Low Wide Angle Shot of Singapore National Gallery

In the photo above, I kneeled down on the floor and leaned my head towards the floor to get this low wide angle shot of the Singapore National Gallery. Don’t be afraid of looking awkward while taking photos. Only the results matter! Also try shooting in both portrait and landscape. I always do the same shot in both orientation to see which works the best. Always try using different angles for your shots and you will be amazed at what it can do for your upcoming Instagram-worthy feed!

3. Composition

“Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.” – Henri Cartier Bresson

This is my favourite part of photography. “Composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject.” For beginners, composition is how you place your subject in the shot. In the photo below, I framed Amanda in the foreground middle of the photo with an overarching structure in the background.

Composition

Placing the subject in the middle with an interesting background on the sides is an easy approach to composition.

The easiest and most common approach to composition is placing the subject in the middle with asymmetrical (or equal) spacing on each side. This is a safe and easy way of framing your shot. Yes it might be boring, but if used with great lighting and angle, your shot could totally become Instagram-worthy. In order to really make this work, you would need to ensure that the subject is perfectly centered (crop if necessary).

Another method I always use to frame my shots is the Rule-of-Thirds. The rule of thirds proposes that an image should be divided into a grid of 9 and that the subject should be placed along the lines or their intersections. See how my subject in the shot below is along the three-third vertical line with the extra room in front of the subject? Shots like this create a lot of interest and depth to the photo, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing photo.

Rule-of-Thirds

Place your subject along these lines or intersections with the extra room always in front of the subject.

That being said, don’t be too bogged down by this rule every time you shoot! It is not a rule (although the name implies) that this method should always be used, as there are many other methods that will get you that Instagram-worthy shot. The next time you go shutter crazy on your camera, think about framing your shot first!

4. Experiment & Experience

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” ― Henri Cartier-Bresson

Experiment, experiment, experiment. Experience, experience, experience. Remember, the painting is only going to be as good as the artist, not so much the paint brush. Stop waiting and start shooting even if you don’t have a DSLR yet. I started photography using just my smartphone and then bought myself a second-hand point-and-shoot camera for S$200.

Experiment

One of my first few shots with my point-and-shoot camera. Shot in 2011, Shanghai with a Panasonic DMC-LX3.

Experiment with different locations, angles, lighting and composition. Experience by shooting different subjects such as models, products, street and landscape.

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