I am completely addicted to Instagram. I love it. I don't post a ton - not even every day - but I'm on there lurking all the time. It's a bit of a no-brainer, really... Instagram is like the photographer's Twitter, but in my opinion, a picture can be worth so very much more than 140 characters.

My feed is a mixture of friends, photographers, and photographer friends, and the quality of the images varies pretty widely... which is to be expected. Instagram is as much a source of entertainment and connection for me as it is for inspiration, and you certainly wouldn't have to go too far back in my own photo roll to see that I don't require every photo I post to be a work of art. That said, I don't know anyone who would be opposed to making their phone photos a bit better and punching their IG cache up a few notches, so I thought I'd toss out a few ideas for how everyone with an camera phone can take their images to the next level.

(As a side note, all of the photos on today's post were made and edited with my iPhone only, and most have made it into my Instagram feed in the last year or so. They are not, however, presented in any particular order... just a random collection that hopefully illustrates the five principles listed below.)


As with all things photography, the number one key is light. With good light, you can make a good photo out of just about anything. Even better? Good light is all over the place. You can get lucky with a pretty sunrise or sunset, or you can get creative and make good light by moving your camera around in relation to whatever light source you have available. I can't tell you how many times I've used iPhone flashlights to light things for photos - including professional photos - in a pinch. It's not the light, it's how you use it...


One of the great things about your phone is that you've got it with you everywhere, so any time you find yourself in a particularly interesting setting, you can make a photo. Even if the setting isn't interesting, though - perhaps especially if the setting isn't interesting - consider changing your perspective to engage the viewer. Hold your phone directly over or under your subject, shoot your subject through another object, or skip your subject altogether and photograph him/her/it in a mirror or puddle. Make it your personal goal to avoid photographing anything from the vantage point that you'd normally see it.


Phone camera lenses are relatively wide-angle, meaning that they have a pretty large view of a given scene. This can be a drag when what you'd like is one of those pretty portrait lenses that flatters people and isolates the subject against the background, but it also lets you create some pretty dramatic photographs of landscapes and cityscapes. Phones also do a pretty incredible job of focusing up close, creating near-macro photographs. Keep your eyes open for the big and small scenes around you and you're sure to find some incredible things you can capture with your phone.


And what would Instagram be without the nifty filters it gives us to play with our photos? These photos don't have to be fine-tuned, people... the idea is that you shoot a photo, take thirty seconds to edit it, and get it out the door. People see these photos on a three inch screen, so impact is everything. I edit my Instagram much more aggressively than I do my professional work, because why not? It's fun!


Finally, the old standby: composition. I was watching the Grand Budapest Hotel recently and marveling at how Wes Anderson has dedicated his entire career to shooting scenes framed dead center... he pretty much started a whole movement around it. But whether you like to frame things dead center or go with the more traditional rule of thirds, do consider the composition of your images. Especially when you're working within a tiny square, the strength of your composition is your best advertisement.

So that's it! Don't overthink it, but don't underthink it either... and hopefully I'll see you on my screen sometime soon!