It’s not just another reincarnation of Facebook or Twitter. For those who love photography, Instagram–an online photo-sharing and social networking service that allows users to take and share pictures and now videos–is a gateway to inspiration. It took me a while to warm to Instagram, but it has now surpassed Facebook as my favorite social media site. Here are five ways to have fun with Instagram:
- Don’t treat it like Facebook. If you’re the kind of person who likes to post tons of pictures of her kids on the first day of school or her besties making the duck face, that’s…fine. But leave that to Facebook and your close friends. I try not to document every detail of my life on Facebook, but when I do want to share pictures or information with friends and family, I do it there. For example, if I see a bizarre grammatically incorrect sign out at a restaurant, I’ll share it with Facebook friends for a few laughs. But with Instagram, it’s all about creating a pretty gallery of life moments. I do include pictures of my two human children and my one feline child, but the majority of my photographs are of the natural world.
- Put your best pictures forward. Furthermore, I don’t treat Instagram as a dumping ground for all my photos. I pick and choose the best ones of my very favorite moments. I very my Instagram profile as a “gallery,” a gallery of my life. When I started using Instagram, I strictly uploaded photos taken with my Samsung Galaxy cell phone. Now, I thoroughly enjoy using my Eye-Fi application and card, which allow photos from my Canon DSLR to transmit wirelessly from my camera to my cell phone, in order to be uploaded to Instagram. While many people use Instagram as a portfolio of their best photography over the course of months or even years, I still like to stay true to the idea of posting life snapshots in real time. But now with Eye-Fi, I can post higher quality photos.
- Go public. Like many people, I keep my Facebook settings on high privacy. With Instagram, I do the opposite. My account is public; anyone can see it. In this age of fraudulent internet activity, one might think that’s not wise. And perhaps that is so! But I do safeguard myself by not using my last name and not posting any information about my address. The industrious person might be able to discern the general location of where I live from the location of some of my photos. But I have made the decision to open my photography to the world. I strive to be a better photographer, and I also strive to find inspiration in all sorts of areas on Instagram. In order to do this, I’ve chosen to make myself public in this domain. I’ve found that it makes for a richer, broader experience amongst my fellow “IGers.” Yes, there is spam! If you have a public account, you will undoubtedly get spam followers, but I personally haven’t found this to be a major problem on Instagram. I rarely get spam comments, usually just a like or occasional follow from someone wanting to sell a service or the ability to “get more followers.” I just ignore and report spam, and it has not detracted from my Instagram experience thus far.
- Don’t be shy. Do be polite. Don’t be afraid to like, positively comment on, and follow complete strangers on Instagram. If a member’s account is public, I guarantee-that’s what he or she wants you to do. The best IGers will acknowledge your positive comments and thank you for them. I’ve found that the Instagram community is very polite. People are there to enjoy taking and looking at awesome pictures-that’s really all there is to it! If someone comments on one of your photos, make sure you thank him and like a few of his photos in return. And, in general on Instagram, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all! In some ways that’s refreshingly opposite of how the internet tends to be.
- Explore. Instagram is the perfect window to the world. Using hashtags (a word or symbol prefixed with the # symbol), you can connect and categorize your pictures. Other users can find and view your pictures, and you can in turn explore pictures under hashtags you find interesting. For instance, I have come to believe that Norway has got to be the most beautiful country in the world-pictures from Norwegian IGers have definitely contributed to my belief! By exploring the hashtag #Norway, I have stumbled upon some wonderfully beautiful pictures from Norway and have started following some talented photographers, as well. I have also connected with a number of individuals who share a mutual obsession of mine: that of succulent plants. I collect succulents and love to plant them in containers and photograph their gorgeous and unique textures and colors. Through exploring succulent-related hashtags, I have enjoyed seeing pictures of others’ plants and creations. And finally, if you’re so inclined, there are many opportunities to participate in Instagram contests or features. Certain accounts, such as Naturehippys and leaveonlyleaves, showcase photos of those who have tagged their photos with these accounts’ respective hashtags. The best photos that follow daily themes and contests can be featured. It’s a great place to see great photos and, if you’re lucky, be seen by others who will surely appreciate your photography.
With Instagram, your worldview broadens, one square at a time. It truly shows that there is beauty to be found everywhere in this great world-not just Norway-but in your own backyard, your cat’s paws, or the water drops on your potted plants. Don’t be afraid to dive in and capture your own beauty and share it with the world.