Instagram is one of the world’s most popular photo starring applications and it’s a free download for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone devices. If you’re not using Instagram, you’re probably aware of it thanks to the millions of photos people have posted using it to social networking feeds.

The stylish crops and tailored filters which made the app famous make Instagram appear quite difficult to master, but nothing could be further from the truth. Even for beginners, Instagram makes it easy to create beautiful photos.

Here is our step-by-step guide.


1. Getting started

1: Getting started

First you’ll need to download the app and create an account. You can either sign up with Instagram using your email address, or you can login through Facebook, which has owned Instagram since 2012.

Once you log in you’ll be asked to hook up to your social network accounts and choose which of your friends to follow. That will populate your scrollable feed of photos, allowing you to ‘like’ and comment on existing snaps.


2. Taking photos

As fun as it is to peruse the creations of others, it’s time to get snapping. Hit the camera icon to enter the capture screen.

Here you’ll see options to use a grid for framing, switch to the front-facing camera to aid with selfies, and toggle the flash settings. You can also tap the camera roll/gallery button in the bottom left corner to import a photo you’ve already taken or simply hit the capture button to take a snap within the app.

There’s also a Video button, but we’ll come to that later.

2: Taking photos 3: Scale and cropping

3. Scale and Crop

If you’ve taken a photo using the app, this won’t be unnecessary, but if importing from the gallery you’ll need to scale and crop your photo using two fingers to pinch the photo to zoom in or out and one to move it around the frame.

Once you’re happy with your crop, hit Next.


4. Filter up

4: Filter up

Now it’s time to choose your favourite filter. We’d advise adding the filter first as it can change how you use the other editing affects such as Lux and Tilt-Shift. Just hit the respective icons at the foot of the screen to see the effect in real time.

You’ll soon get a feel for which ones work for which type of photo, so just play around and see what you like.

Tip: Rise can be good for selfies as it’s warm and can conceal blemishes, while Lo-Fi is perfect for food pictures due to the high colour saturation. Amaro helps to give photos that vintage, aged effect all the hipsters love.


5. Straighten and Frame

5: Straighten

Once you’ve chosen a filter (or not, if you’re happiest with the original photo), you can hit the straighten icon and use the pop-up slider to level your creation or even skew the angle for affect. You can also add a frame effect and each filter has its own frame style.


6. Tilt-Shift

6: Tilt-Shift

Have you ever seen those Instagram photos that offer stark contrast between the foreground and the background, leaving a single object perfectly in focus to give the effect of a miniature model village? That’s down to the tilt-shift tool, which in Instagram is represented by a teardrop icon on the edit screen. Press once for radial tilt-shift (circular) and press again for the linear (line) option. Pinch in and out with two fingers to position the effect.

Tip: For circular items like faces, you can create a shallow depth of field by positioning the tilt-shift effect close to the subject without touching the edges. You can also fake a miniaturising effect by using the line tilt-shift tool, for example, on a row of buildings.


7. Lux

7: Lux

The final piece of the puzzle is the Lux tool, which enables users to add or remove contrast and brightness from underexposed or overexposed photos. Select the Lux icon and then move the scroll bar left or right to achieve the perfect exposure.

This effect, and the option to toggle it, can give photos more life. The addition of your favourite filter can transform a boring, underexposed photo into a compelling one.

Tip: Adjusting Lux by swiping left can desaturate a portrait drenched in sunlight, while swiping right can add colour and brightness to shots taken in poor light or on overcast days.


8. Captioning and Sharing

8: Captioning and Sharing

Once you’re done playing, hit Next to advance to the Share to screen. Here you can add a caption, tag fellow users, add the snap to a photo map (with the help of your phone’s GPS sensor), name the location and choose which social networks you want to share it with.

You can also choose just to share with specific users instead of all of your followers by selecting the ‘Direct’ option and hand-picking recipients. This is perfect if you wish to share pictures of the kids (or yourself) without divulging to all of your followers.

Once you’re happy, hit Share and the post will appear in your feed where fellow users can like and comment. It’ll also be added to your profile.

Tip: If you want to increase the number of people who see of your photos, use hashtags when typing the caption. For example, a photo of your dog could include the hashtag #cutedog, meaning it’ll show up when other users search for the term.


9. Video on Instagram

Instagram now supports short videos of 15 seconds or less. On the capture screen hit the video camera icon. To shoot a clip hold down the capture button and release when complete. You can do this multiple times until the progress bar is complete, deleting the last clip if you’re unhappy with it. Once complete, hit Next and all of the other tools (Filters, Lux, etc) remain available.

9: Video on Instagram 10: Privacy Settings

10. Privacy settings

Finally, we should look at privacy settings. You can keep your profile locked if you prefer, meaning only followers which you have approved can see your photos. Navigate to your profile page and hit Edit Your Profile. Scroll down and switch on Posts are Private. From then on, other users will have to send you requests to view your images, which you can approve or reject.