6 pro tips for taking killer Instagram photos

How to be less hipster, more pro with the "everyone can be a photographer" app
Justin Mott's Instagram work in Vietnam

Justin Mott's Instagram work in Vietnam

Instagram is not just for 'food porn' - smart photographers, such as leading snapper Justin Mott, use it to make money too. He shot a whole project on Vietnam for a client using just a smartphoneInstagram and his thumb. Exclusively for Stuff, he reveals his top tips for taking kick-ass Instagram shots.   

(All images via Justin Mott)

TIP 1: REMEMBER, IT DOESN'T DO MIRACLES

Justin Mott's Instagram work for Intercontinental Hotels in Vietnam

Justin Mott's Instagram work for Intercontinental Hotels in Vietnam

Don’t rely purely on the app to make your picture look sexier - anyone can do that. Think real photography. Layer your picture with interesting subjects, textures, or scenery, and think foreground and background. Pay attention to composition and colour. Instagram should be used to add the final layer of sexiness. It can't work complete miracles. 

TIP 2: DON’T UNDERTHINK LIGHT

Justin Mott's Instagram work for Intercontinental Hotels in Vietnam

Justin Mott's Instagram work for Intercontinental Hotels in Vietnam

Interesting light makes for interesting pictures. And Instagram is great for highlighting images with beautiful light. Learn to recognise gorgeous light and begin the hunt for light patterns and shadows. Then be patient and wait for something interesting to happen. Break the rules and don't be afraid to shoot directly into the light.

TIP 3: DON'T BE LAZY

When you see something you like don’t simply stop, take your phone out and shoot it. Move around a bit. Find a good angle, look for something interesting to shoot through. Get high. Oh yeah, and get low too - perspective is what separates the novice from the pro. Don’t be afraid to lie on the ground and shoot from the floor. When people walk by and think “What is that guy doing?” is often when I'm getting my best pictures. 

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TIP 4: PICK YOUR FILTER WISELY

Justin Mott's Instagram work for Intercontinental Hotels in Vietnam

Justin Mott's Instagram work for Intercontinental Hotels in Vietnam

Use Instagram’s filters in your favour. For the hotel resort shoot (pictured), I wanted to give a sense of sun and warmth so I chose a filter with a warm tone, like Toaster. Use a filter like Nashville or Walden with a blue tint to give a colder feeling for an image more solemn or bleak. Just like you think carefully when you frame a picture, you should give the same amount of brain-time to using the right filters.

TIP 5: EASY ON THE EDITS

Justin Mott's Instagram work for Intercontinental Hotels in Vietnam

Justin Mott's Instagram work for Intercontinental Hotels in Vietnam

Go careful with some of the extremely exaggerated filers like Kelvin or Tiltshift - they can look too fake and are overdone. Yes, Instagram itself is gimmicky but try to strike a balance of believability in your image and filter combinations. If you want to go even further with post-production, run your images through software like Adobe Lightroom to get them perfect.