15 Tips On How To Make Your Instagram Pictures Look Good (To Get More Likes)

You can roll your eyes at people who try to get more likes on Instagram all you want, but let’s be real: seeing your photo get attention and love feels pretty freakin’ great. Trying to get likes and follows should never be your main goal on Instagram – the app should be used to show off your life and the things you love, regardless of whether others approve or not – but that doesn’t mean you can’t care a little bit.

I’ve always been very interested in photography (although I’ve never been great at it, sadly), and so I absolutely love Instagram. I love looking at other people’s pictures and getting to post my own. It’s really important to me that my Instagram photos look good, because, sure, it’s just an app, but it’s also a social media profile that represents me. I like to be able to look back at my Instagram photos and remember fun times and great memories, and having quality photos helps me do that.

But taking great Instagram photos can be hard sometimes. The camera on phones has come a very long way, but they still aren’t as good as professional cameras (and never will be). If things aren’t perfectly in place, it can be really easy for your photo to look like a mess. Want to up the quality of your Insta uploads, impress your followers, and get more likes? Here are 15 tips on how to mkae your Instagram pictures look good… no, look GREAT. (PS: To avoid putting down people I don’t know, I made fun of my own crappy photos!)


Avoid The Flash, Always Use Natural Light

The number one Instagram rule is this: natural light is always, always best. The flash on your phone will make photos look bad no matter what. It's way too harsh and it will blow out your photos, as well as ruin the lighting and just make everything generally weird. It's not good. Use natural light to your advantage. If you're taking a photo, go outside or close to a window. Avoid harsh, bright sunlight if possible, as it will have similar effects to the flash. If the picture is still a little dim, use editing and filters to adjust.

Source: Instagram

Use Other Sources Of Light If Needed

If you're in a dark place and really want to take a picture, don't automatically go to the flash. Try to use other sources of light. If you're with other people, have them shine the light from their flashes on your subject, and then take your picture without using the flash. Find something else to use as a spotlight instead of your camera flash. It will look SO much better.

Keep It Simple, But Not Too Simple

Whenever you're taking a picture, keep this in mind: you want things to be simple, not messy and busy. At the same time, you don't want it to be TOO simple. Take the picture on the left as one example: if this were just a picture of the black bag on a completely white background, it would be boring, no matter how beautiful the bag is. Adding just one other prop - the vase of flowers - and putting these on a textured background instantly makes the picture better without distracting us from the main focus.

There's a lot going on in the second photo, but it still looks simple because of the way it was put together. The items are on a very plain background (just a wooden table), which isn't distracting. Each item is carefully placed and looks neat - it's not too busy, even though it very easily could be. Remember: use props to make your picture better, but don't go overboard.

Source: Instagram

Edit Before You Filter

Instagram has come a long way since it first came out. Now you don't only have the option to add filters - you can also edit your photos, almost like a baby Photoshop. Before you filter, try editing. Playing with the brightness or contrast can make your picture look sharper, better, and more natural than a filter can. Sometimes pictures look better with just a little bit of editing rather than a whole bunch of filters.

Don't Over-Filter or Over-Edit

Speaking of filters, let's talk about them for a second. Filters are great, they're fun, and some of them look so wonderful. But there IS such a thing as using too many filters or using a filter when it isn't needed, or just not toning it down enough.

Compare these pictures - it's obvious which one looks better (the one on the right). In the picture on the left, I edited it and then used a filter that, in hindsight, is not attractive. It doesn't make my brunch look appealing at all. In the picture on the right, I edited it just a bit, then used one filter and toned it down A LOT, so that it looked as natural as possible. Looks much better, right?

Source: Instagram

Use Other Apps To Edit Your Photos

I'm sure you've heard this before, but seriously: look beyond Instagram for editing and filter options. There are countless amounts of photo editing apps out there. Instagram is getting better with filter options, but a lot of these apps are just far superior to them. My favorites are VSCOcam, Afterlight, Camera+, and Litely. They offer gorgeous filters that you just can't get on Instagram.

Take Pictures With Your Phone Camera, Not The Instagram Camera

Never taker your pictures in the Instagram app, always take them with your iPhone camera. The Instagram camera feature doesn't take the best pictures, plus, you're then confined to that little square, which can be limiting.

Keep The Background Simple

The background of your photo is really important. If you have something super busy and crazy going on, it distracts from your subject. If you're trying to take a picture of an object, using a plain white background is best. White backgrounds make your whole picture look brighter, and they also ensure that the focus is on the subject. If you're taking an #ootd picture, stand by a wall that isn't distracting. It doesn't have to be plain white, but it should be pretty bare.

Source: Instagram

Know When To Use Black and White

Sometimes we take pictures in terrible lighting that would be SO CUTE if the lighting were better. Rather than post a picture that offers truly awful lighting and colors, take advantage of the black and white feature. Black and white takes away pretty much every lighting issue. In the image on the right, I could not manage to get a photo that had good lighting. Changing it to black and white definitely made a difference.

Source: Instagram

Clean Your Camera Lens

Don't forget your camera lens! It gets smudged and dirty really easily, and it's also easy to forget to clean it. Before you take a picture, wipe down the lens to ensure the picture is the best it can be.

Try Different Angles

Don't be afraid to experiment with different angles. Sometimes a photo shouldn't be taken head on. Sometimes you need to change your perspective a bit. For example, I find that most food photos look better when you're taking them with a birds eye view (like this example). Move around and try to look at your subject from different angles before finding what works.

Source: Instagram

Pay Close Attention To Lighting In Food Pictures

Lighting is exceptionally important in every photo, but it's especially important in photos of food. The wrong lighting can make food look gross and just really, really bad. In the picture on the left, I used the flash, did some weird editing, and basically made my pasta look terrible. In the image on the right, I had some great natural lighting to work with (which is ideal for food).

Source: Instagram

Use The Grid For Straight Photos

This should be obvious, but I see tons of people uploading photos that are crooked all the time. It's so easy to straighten your photos! There should be a grid feature on your phone, and if not, Instagram offers a straighten feature that works like a charm.

Source: Instagram

Use Apps To Get The Right Size

Your Instagram pictures can only be square, but this doesn't mean you have to crop things out of your photo to make it fit. Use outside apps to resize your photos or to create an image that works. I love the app InstaSize, which is so easy to use and works great.

For Better Quality Photos, Buy An Extra Lens

If you're really serious about your Instagram photos, buy a lens to place on your camera. Most camera companies make these now. Some are more hi-tech, expensive, and quite large. Others are small and portable. Do some research and find the one that works for you.

Which of these tips is your favorite? What tip did I forget to include? How do you take good photos? Tell me in the comments.

You can follow the author, Jessica Booth, on Twitter or Instagram.

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  • Kurt Moser

    Not too much said. I use apps for that. Many types of them. For photos and for getting followers. My favorite is zen-promo that finds real and active followers that love my content. So, we share cool moments together

  • Carolyn Thompson-Mew

    The last one since I’m a bit serious about my photos. LOL.????