When it comes to finding success as a content creator, Instagram is definitely a huge contributing component of it. I’m sure that by now that the algorithmic change has affected everyone, and has even caused some of the best creators out there to resort to immoral and non-ethical tactics to grow their following. Everyone knows and understands that the larger the following, the more attractive your account can be. Unfortunately, regardless of how hard we try to break that mold to prove that we’re more than just a number, somehow the game always goes back to that metric. So today I wanted to share with you some of my favourite tools that I always use when it comes to ensuring that I’m maximizing my presence on Instagram. Hopefully this will help out at least one of you out there that are considering beginning your Instagram journey, or are looking for a change to your regular method of marketing yourself on the platform!
A Good Camera
Let’s start with the basics. In order to take good photos, you need a good camera of sorts. That doesn’t necessarily mean using a DSLR because I’ve met many other talented creators who shoot with a little point and shoot, or use their phones. Most of the cameras on our phones nowadays are quite decent when it comes to dim lighting, and have quite the aperture and shutter speed settings that rival your entry-level DSLRs. It’s important to make sure that whatever you’re using has a quality camera so that your photos aren’t distorted or have too much noise in them when you’re snapping away.
My go-to equipment (depending on the situation) and a photo that I’ve taken with it are:
Nothing beats a good DSLR, but it’s heavy and not everyone wants to be lugging around that much weight with them as they’re traveling—though it 100% pays to know how to use them. It’s also quite expensive, and I wouldn’t recommend that you go out and invest in this set up unless you know for sure that your work is able to recup the costs for you for the purchase to be worthwhile. Though many of my friends often gravitate towards point and shoots due to their ease of usability, I still and always will love my trusty DSLR.
What I hate the most is constantly interchanging between lenses, which is what drove me to include this tiny point-and-shoot in my arsenal. While DSLR rivals almost all other point and shoots in the aspect of how much depth of field you’ll get without strange distortion, bringing 2 bodies just to have 2 different lenses is not conducive to my or P’s back. I opted for the small Canon EOS m100 with a wide angle lens since I use it less often, and almost only ever take it out with me when I’m traveling. Not only does its lightness contribute to a more comfortable trip, but having a second body makes it easier to switch between the lenses without potentially damaging any equipment.
P just recently switched over to the Google Pixel 2, and I have to admit that it has a superior camera. While in Montreal, we attempted to take photos in a tight space at a restaurant, and the DSLR proved insufficient because of the distance from where he would have to stand from myself to get the shot was blocked with other tables. We decided to test out the Pixel 2 to see how it would cope with indoor lighting and ease of picking up the details—it performed wonderfully. Though it wouldn’t ever be my first choice when it comes to photography, I can definitely appreciate the quality of its image capturing.
For all of the camera fanatics out there, you’re probably familiar with Leica. I was instantly intrigued when I learned that the Huawei P10 Plus comes fitted with a Leica lens. It’s not often that a comm tech company partners with a camera specialist to produce a superior camera phone. And I can definitely attest to it’s power. We took it with us on our trip to Morocco and Portugal and were pleasantly surprised by the phenomenal photos that we shot with it. The photo below was actually in an extremely dim space and I was able to manipulate the brightness and exposure of it enough to bring out the details in the background without blowing out other portions of the image. The phone has quickly become a definitive addition to my camera bag whenever we’re traveling!
Photoshop and/or Lightroom
When it comes to editing photos, I try to refrain from ever editing on my phone. Why? I’ve often found that editing content on my phone reduces the quality of the final image, and doesn’t retain all of the information that I would like. For example, I have an extensive background in creating content for print mediums, and editing your files on a computer provide for a much deeper layer of information when saving the final image.
If your final goal isn’t to ever have your content be used for print, then by all means continue using your phone. But I’ve trained myself to be prepared for when that situation comes so that I can already be familiar with the practice. Often times when I’m collaborating with a brand, they like to utilize the content on their websites, or to even include it in promotional materials. When I turn over my photos to them, I have to ensure that the quality is at the highest so that they can utilize it in any manner that they see fit. Which is why it’s best to train yourself to be familiar with professional grade programs rather than constantly resorting to your phone.
I’ve been using Photoshop for the past 10+ years so I’ve become quite familiar with the program and how to best use it to my advantage. I recently noticed a surge in popularity for Lightroom as well so I’ve taken on the task of familiarizing myself with it too. It never hurts to have an extra set of skills, and it is definitely an advantage to differentiate yourself from other creators!
Once you’ve edited your photos, it’s also important to place them all together in one place to envision what your feed may look like. Too many selfies side-by-side is not a good look. Same with posting too many back-to-back product shots. Your followers don’t want to see sponsored pieces of content over and over again without a break in between your posts. I used to plan out all of my content via a little template on Photoshop but found it too tedious to do, and I couldn’t easily access it while out and about.
I previously tried out using VSCO, but it’s update proved to not operate in the same way as Instagram and really messed up the photo upload sequence. I then tested out UNUM too, but it also didn’t update my photos in the proper direction that Instagram does, causing a lot of headache to fix my photos every single time I import something onto the app.
I was recently introduced to Preview and it works amazingly! Not only does it import photos in a way that simulates Instagram’s behaviour, but it also maintains the thin borders so that you can simulate a fake Instagram feed. It’s also extremely easy to shift photos around your grid, such that the experience is quite perfect and seamless.
I know a lot of other people out there like to also use Planoly (I’ve tried it before and it’s great!), but I’ve found a certain affinity for Preview.
Hashtags are phenomenal way to increase your posts’ exposure by categorizing it and putting it in front of other users’ eyes. Instagram only allows each post to be categorized under 30 hashtags at a time, so it makes sense to take advantage of every single one and to make sure that you’re posting with 30 hashtags at a time. The only problem that comes into play, is to remember each and every single hashtag to use every time you’re posting. It’s hard.
After spending hours researching the perfect hashtag for each photo (a fashion photo shouldn’t be categorized under the same hashtags as a home decor photo), the last thing that you would want is for all of that time and effort to go to waste, and to restart the process all over again with the next photo.
Many users tend to keep their hashtags within a notepad or document on their phone that can be easily referenced and copy/pasted, however this process takes time and is often frustrating. You’ll have many sets of hashtags going either across multiple notes, or a single one where you have to scroll through to find the specific set of hashtags that you want to use. Then you have to make sure that you highlight all of the hashtags and copy them before going back into Instagram and pasting them. Annoying, tedious, and a waste of time. But worth it, so you keep doing it. Until I was presented with a time saving app—and I haven’t looked back!
Jetpack has seriously changed the way that I include hashtags in my posts. It acts like an easy phone book for hashtags and even counts them so that you don’t have to sit there for 10 minutes counting them all out individually, and ensuring that you have 30, not 29. It also does the job of comparing all of the hashtags within a set to deduplicate any that you might have accidentally inputted twice. Genius!
Since using the app, my posting efficiency has definitely increased. And though it only removes about 2-3 minutes of my time spent posting a photo, between the 600+ photos that I post by the end of the year, that’s a lot of time saved that I could be spending doing other things.
Get the app, seriously. It’s only a few dollars, but it’ll make your life easier.