Instagram may need no introduction, but for the unfamiliar, it is a free social networking app that lets users capture and share photos and videos. Created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger back in October 2010, Instagram quickly gained popularity, attracting more than 100 million active users by the time it was acquired by Facebook less than two years later for a cool $1 billion. Instagram has since swelled to more than 400 million users, making Instagram one of the top social networks.
To remain popular, the company continuously introduces new features — but this can also make its growing list of capabilities difficult to keep track of. Whether you’ve been addicted to Instagram for years now, or you’re brand new to the photo-sharing behemoth, these tips and tricks will help you master it.
Creating your Instagram profile
Already have an account? Go ahead and skip this section. Otherwise, let’s start with the basics. To register for an Instagram account, simply open the app, tap Sign Up, and either sign in with your Facebook account or provide an email address and password. You’ll also need to come up with a unique username, or handle. This can be as simple as your actual name, or something more creative. If you’re joining instagram for professional purposes, it’s a good idea to use a handle that relates to what you do or to the theme of your account.
Add a profile picture
You can easily add a profile photo to the Instagram app from your mobile device. Go to your profile by tapping on your profile picture in the lower right, tap the blank circle by your name (this is where your profile photo will go), and either take a new picture or import one from your phone, Facebook, or Twitter.
Tell the world more about yourself (or not)
In the Edit Profile menu, you can determine how you want your name displayed (real or pseudonym), change your Instagram handle, link to an external website (just one is allowed), and add a bio. You can also list private information like your phone number and gender, although these aren’t shown to the public. The nice thing is that Instagram does not require you to fill any of these fields, nor do you have to provide your full name if you don’t want to.
Find people to follow
By now, a lot of your friends are probably already using Instagram, so you can go to your profile tab and select Find Friends in the Options setting (the gear icon in the upper-right). Here, you can search for friends that have connected their Facebook and Twitter accounts to Instagram. You can also search by name, username, or tag. You can also follow celebrities or people whose photos you admire. Following interesting people is a great way to get inspired, and it helps Instagram’s algorithms learn what you like and suggest photos and videos in the Discovery tab.
Post your first photo or video
To post your first photo or video, simply tap on the camera icon in the middle of the bottom menu of the app. You can then either snap a photo, record a video, or choose one from your phone gallery. Once you choose the photo you want, hit Next. From there, you’ll be able to apply a filter or even edit the look of the photo manually. The app lets you crop, change exposure, boost the saturation, increase sharpness, add a vignette, and much more.
Hit Next again and you’ll be prompted to add a caption, tags (of other Instagram users), location, and any other social network (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, or Swarm) where you would like to post a link to the Instagram post. When you’re ready to post, hit Share.
Sharing a video works much the same way, but you can also select the clip length (up to a minute) or compose a montage from multiple videos. You can also turn the sound off if you’re not fond of the background noise in your video.
How to perfect your Instagram photo
Instagram offers a good selection of filters and editing tools to make your photos stand out and take them to the next level, or even rescue bad ones from the trash. If you’re feeling like going even more in depth, there are also plenty of photo-editing apps like VSCO, Filmborn, Snapseed, Aviary, and Adobe’s Photoshop Express and Spark Post (iOS versions linked, but you can also find them in the Google Play store). VSCO is particularly well known for its film-like presets, whereas something like Spark Post lets you make collages, add text and graphics, and more.
Thinking outside the square
For years, Instagram only let you upload square photos. In August 2015, it finally lifted this restriction, much to the relief of photographers everywhere. Square is still the default, but you can now also upload in landscape and portrait orientations, although there are still some limitations on aspect ratio. To quickly pick the original aspect ratio, or closest acceptable ratio to it, simply tap the icon in the bottom-left corner of the photo.
One thing to note is that portrait-oriented photos will appear larger in the feed, since Instagram is a vertically-oriented app. For this reason, you may want to consider using it more often than square or landscape, and planning your shots accordingly.
How to tag people
Want to call attention to your mom, friend, dog, barista, or whoever else appears in your photo? Simply tap on Tag People beneath the caption field on the last editing page before sharing your photo. Next, tap on the person or object in the image that you want to tag and enter their name or Instagram username. You should see a list of suggestions as you type, but if for some reason you don’t see the person you’re looking for, Instagram makes it easy to search for people you know.
Forget to tag someone in a photo you already posted? No worries. Simply tap on the photo in your profile, tap the “…” button in the upper right to bring up the menu, select Edit, and then tap Tag People.
How to mention other Instagrammers
To mention a friend in your caption, type @ in front of their username (e.g., “Great article, @digitaltrends!”). Your friend will then receive a notification in their activity feed letting them know that you mentioned them. You can also mention people in comments.
Note: If you mention someone and they later change their Instagram handle, your mention will not automatically update and will no longer link to their profile. Tags, however, will update if a user changes their handle.
How to like, comment, and send photos and videos
To like a photo or video on Instagram, simply double tap the photo or video, or you can tap the “heart” icon. If you liked a post by accident, just tap the icon again to unlike it.
Next to the heart icon is a text bubble icon, which is how you make a comment. There isn’t a limit to how much you can write, but for the sake of the Instagram community, we suggest keeping it brief.
The arrow icon that lies to right of the comment button will let you send the photo or video as a message to other users. Tap it, select who you want to send it to, and tap Send. The post will be shared in a private message, and is a good way to draw someone’s attention to content you think they’d like — just keep in mind, doing this too frequently is a good way to annoy people.
How to post more than one photo at once
In February 2017, Instagram introduced the ability to post more than one photo at a time. Now, you can post up to 10 photos at once in an album. Albums show up as a single post in the feed, but your followers can swipe to see all of the photos.
To post multiple images at once, simply tap on more than one image when uploading from your device. Instagram will automatically create an inline, carousel-style album. While you can post up to 10 photos, you’re limited to a single caption for the entire album. What’s more, images must all be cropped to the same aspect ratio, so no mixing and matching of portrait, landscape, and square images.
How to make your photos and videos private
When you first create your Instagram account, anyone can see your profile on Instagram. Your posts will only show up in the feeds of people who follow you, but anyone will be able to see them by navigating to your profile or if they search for a hashtag you’ve used.
If you would rather make your posts private so that only your followers can see them, period, Instagram lets you do this. Go to your profile, tap the three-dots icon to bring up account settings, and turn on the Private Account option.
How to link Instagram to your Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Flickr accounts
Because Instagram is one of the most popular social apps, you may want to connect all of your social accounts to get the most out of it. You can choose to link your Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Flickr accounts; there are also less-popular networks (in the United States, at least) that you can link to, including Ameba and VKontakte. To get your social accounts linked, go to the Profile Tab > Linked Accounts > Share Settings, then select which accounts you want to connect. Every time you upload a photo to Instagram, you’ll have the option to select which photos you want to share to each of the social networks. You can also choose to share your photos on Instagram only.
How to embed your photos on the web
Did you take a photo that is absolutely amazing and you want to share it on your blog? Go to Instagram on the web and find the picture you want to share, click on the symbol shown as three dots, and choose the Embed option. You can copy and paste the code anywhere on the web to show off the photo you took. If your content is set as private on Instagram, you won’t be able to share the photo.