Taking Good Instagram Photos in 2019: 5 Simple Tips

how to take good instagram photos

In this post I’m going to show you simple tips you can start using to take better Instagram photos.

In fact, these are the exact tips I use to grow my Instagram account as a portrait photographer.

taking better instagram photos


I think you’ll agree with me when I say:

A nice photo on Instagram will instantly capture your attention.

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A post shared by Nate Joaquin Torres (@ay_nate) on

The question is:

What exactly differentiates a photo that captures your attention from one that doesn’t?

What makes that photograph so great?

How do you take good Instagram photos?

Why is this important?


Taking better photos will up anyone’s Instagram game.

Whether you are trying to rack in the likes, or you just want your feed to look aesthetically pleasing for your own personal enjoyment — knowing how to take good Instagram photos will help.

There are only 5 simple steps to turn your boring Instagram photos into photos that are visually appealing and pleasing to the eye:

Here are the 5 steps:

  1. Lighting
  2. Simplicity
  3. Rules of Photography
  4. Emotion
  5. Have Fun/Relax

By the end of this post, you will have a new outlook and approach towards the photos you are posting and the execution behind each photo.

You will be excited to photograph your next post and your friends will be commenting on how awesome your photos are!

So how do you take an aesthetic picture on Instagram?

Follow and know these 5 steps:

1. Lighting

Source Light:
So what’s all the hype with lighting? Won’t you look the same in each photograph no matter what lighting it is? 

Well, that’s not the case:

For example, take a look at this image:

taking better instagram photos lighting


This example illustrates how different directions of source light can affect the shadows and lines in your face. 

The shadows can accentuate certain features of your face. 

While this example is using studio light to exemplify the importance of lighting, the same principles are applied when photographing outside with natural light.

So what does this mean for your Instagram photos?

Look at where the direction of your light source is coming from. 

If you are taking a selfie or a photo of a person, it is best to have the subject facing the light source whether that be through a window or directly in the path of the sun to avoid any harsh shadows:

taking better instagram photos lighting



taking better instagram photos with a selfie

This technique also largely depends on the intensity of the sun at the time you are shooting. 

If the sun is too intense and you or your subject is having trouble taking a photograph without squinting, then I recommend going for a backlit shot. 

Just as the name implies, a backlit shot occurs when you or your subject turns away from the sun.

For example:

Backlit shots create a dreamy, beautiful radiant glow on your subject. 
taking better instagram photos with backlit shot
Photographer: Jessica Kobeissi
It is important, however, to have your subject stand in front of the sun, blocking the majority of the sun with their head.

Bonus tip: on a very bright day, find a shady area to take your photograph such as under a tree. The shade will cause the light to become softer and create an even skin tone.

For example:
 taking better instagram photos with models
In conclusion:
In order to best utilize lighting within your Instagram photos, find a natural light source and have your subject face the light to avoid harsh shadows.
If the time of day leads the direct sun to be too harsh to face, then have your subject stand in front and cover the sun to create a beautiful backlit image. 
This leads us to the second important aspect of lighting which is the time of day you choose to shoot.
Time of Day:
The time of day you choose to take your Instagram photo is very important. 
Some important times of the day to remember:
The periods before sunrise/after sunset which is called the “Blue Hour.” 
The period before sunset/after sunrise which is called the “Golden Hour.” 
This example shows the New York City skyline from Golden Hour to Blue Hour:
 taking better instagram photos in the city
During Golden Hour, the sun creates golden tones coupled with a warm color temperature. 
The lighting during this period is often diffused and soft which creates for beautiful images.
For example:
 taking better instagram photos golden hour
 taking good instagram photos
taking good instagram photos in golden hour
During Blue Hour, there is a deep blue hue coupled with a cool color temperature. 
Unless you are going for a moody photograph, unlike Golden Hour, blue hour might not be the best time for a selfie session.
For example:
 taking good instagram photos blue hour
taking good instagram photos during blue hour
Now that we have covered some basics of lighting, let’s talk about simplicity!

2. Simplicity

Ever heard of the phrase K.I.S.S, also known as “Keep It Simple Stupid?”


I believe this phrase can also be applied to photography.

Keeping it simple and avoiding clutter within your Instagram photos will drastically improve your Instagram game.

Take a look at these photos and see if you notice a common similarity:

taking good instagram photos composition
composition for taking good instagram photos
taking good instagram photos leading lines
taking good instagram photos minimalist
These photos utilize the concept of simplicity.
In the frame of a photo, there should only be about 3-4 subjects/focal points within the photograph.
Take the last photo for example, there are 4 focal points within the photograph. They are:
1. The man in red
2. The ground he is sitting on
3. The ocean
4. The sky
Simplicity prevents clutter within a photograph and allows the viewer to better understand what is going on within the image.
You might be thinking:
Most of these photos are of nature, I don’t take these kinds of photos.
Well let’s look at some photos that you might actually come across on your feed on Instagram.
For example:
example of taking good instagram photos
example of taking good instagram photos
Not saying these photos are bad, but do you see how one could improve them by following the rule of simplicity.
 In the first photo with the man, I can count:
1. The man standing
2. The cars
3. The ground
4. The grass
5. One house
6. The other house
7. The trees
8. The sky
By just shifting the angle of the shot or zooming in more and only capturing 3-4 focal points, the photo could be drastically improved.
Here are some examples that follow the rule of simplicity and see if you can notice the difference.
These photos are taken on a DSLR camera, but the concept still applies:
View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Nate Joaquin Torres (@ay_nate) on

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Nate Joaquin Torres (@ay_nate) on

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Nate Joaquin Torres (@ay_nate) on

In conclusion:
Another way to take good Instagram photos is to keep it simple.

3. Rules of Photography Composition

If you follow some basic rules of photography composition, you will be taking better Instagram photos in no time.

The rules of photography I will be touching on are:

– frame within a frame

– leadings lines

– the rule of thirds.

A Frame within a Frame:

This rule of photography is exactly as it sounds.

To accomplish this, you create a frame within a frame.

When photographing, whatever is showing up on your phone or camera screen is within the frame.

Well — you want to have another frame within this frame.

What do I mean by this?

Take a look at this photo, it is an example of a frame within a frame:

It is pretty easy to see that within the frame are two palm trees and a woman. 


Examining even further, the palm trees are framing the woman. This is an example of a frame within a frame.

Here is another example of a frame within a frame:

taking good instagram photos framing


Using a frame within a frame is an easy way to bring the viewer into an image and add a sense of depth. 

Try framing your Instagram photo within a frame next time you are on an Instagram photo session.

Leading Lines:

Leading lines is a rule of photography composition in which the photographer uses lines to direct the viewers’ attention to a certain subject within the frame. 

Leading lines create a path for the viewers’ eyes to follow through the elements within a photo.

Leading lines can be utilized using various objects found within city areas and nature. Common objects used as leading lines include:

– Roads

– Rails

– Fences

– Building

– Trees

– Rivers

– Cliffs

– Etc.

Take a look at these photos for example:

taking good instagram photos leading lines
taking good instagram photos leading lines example

Next time you are taking an Instagram photo:

Take a step back and look at you surroundings. 

Use your creativity and you will be surprised how leading lines can make your photograph “pop” and stand out from the rest!

Rule of Thirds:

The rule of thirds is one of the most well-known rules of photography composition.

What are the rule of thirds? 

To understand and picture the rule of thirds, imagine breaking an image into thirds horizontally and vertically to create 9 parts:

the importance of rule of thirds when taking good instagram photos


The goal is to have the subject on one of the intersecting points or lines in order to create balance within the image:

taking good instagram photos rule of thirds


taking good instagram photos with the rule of thirds


taking good instagram photos with the rule of thirds


Keep the rule of thirds in mind next time you are photographing something to create a balanced shot that attracts viewers to your shot.

Remember to utilize some of the basic rules of photography composition:

 — frame within a frame, leading lines, rule of thirds — 

You will be surprised how much better your photos turn out and how much love they receive on Instagram!

Now that we have covered some basic rules of composition:

Let’s talk about the power of emotion!

4. Using Emotion - Go for Candid!

I’m sure it’s safe to say that some of the best photos you have taken have been candid photos. 

What do I mean be this?

For example:

Photos that were taken in the midst of a laugh with a group of friends or when you had a casual relaxed smile on your face because you weren’t planning to have your photo taken.

So how do you accomplish this candid look when you know you are having your photo taken?

You can do 2 things to accomplish this:

1. Tell the person taking your photograph to take lots of photos. The more photos there are — the more likely there will be a photo you love.

2. Act out an emotion or a character.

Okay, I understand, but you’re not an actor — bear with me.

For example:

A classic one you may see is to have everybody start laughing pretending like they heard something funny. 

When you act out this emotion of happiness and laughter, your smile and body position look more relaxed:

taking good instagram photos

This technique can work both ways — if you are taking someone’s photograph, or if you are having a photograph being taken of you. 

The goal is to take on a character and an emotion

The more specific you can be, the better, to get a full sense of the character. 

Next time you ask someone to take a photo of you, or you are taking a photo of someone, give them a character to act out. 

For example:

If you are going for a happy and joyful look within the photograph, tell them you want them to act out a character such as a person who just won the lottery and will never have to work another day in his/her life.

taking good instagram pictures man smiling

If you are going for a more serious/moody look within the photograph:

Tell them to act out a character who is on a game show and they are solving a really difficult math problem in their head that will win them the grand prize. 

Or that they just heard their dog since childhood has just ran away 🙁 

 taking good instagram pictures using emotion

Be careful not to go too far with the hypothetical scenarios because it might backfire and you might receive an emotion that you were not intending.

Rather than saying “act happy” or “act serious,” the more specific the character description the better. 

It will be easier for you to picture the character or for you to describe the character to the subject. 

Pro tip: if you are being photographed, tell the photographer to snap lots of photos. If you are the photographer, take lots of photos. This increases the chance of capturing the perfect photo with the right emotion you were looking for.

Bonus tip: if you are being photographed and you are struggling keeping a serious face or you are shy around a camera, look down at the ground and then up at the camera right before the photographer snaps your photo. 

Sometimes a person is shy around the camera when they are staring directly into the lens and this tension can show on their face. 

The moment you look up at the camera after looking at the ground is the most candid and relaxed your face could look because the photo will be taken before you can realize you are staring at the lens again.

5. Have Fun With It!

This 5th tip may be a cop out or a cliche, but honestly, you just need to have fun with it. 

Post a photo or take a photo because you want to, not because you feel like you have to because “you haven’t posted on Instagram in weeks.” 

taking good instagram photos

Have fun taking a photo by yourself or with friends and expressing who you are.

 People create “Finstas” and enjoy their “Finstas” so much because that’s where they feel like they can truly be themselves. 

I find it so strange that people have this “real account” and a “Finsta” account. It is like two accounts within the same platform. 

The more you learn to not be subjected to societal pressures with “social” media, the more you will begin to have fun, trust me 🙂

Leave a comment down below or share with your friends. Let me know if you found any of these tips helpful!

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