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Top Professional Photography Tips For Instagram

As the world’s number one photo sharing platform, 60% of adults online have an account. This means that 100 million photos per day are uploaded and shared on the site. With so many pictures available, standing out from the crowd has never been more important.

Three professional photographers who made it big through Instagram shared their secrets with O2 Sessions. Making their passion for photography their full time jobs, Bal Bhatla, Vicky Grout and Neil Andrews have learned what it takes to get noticed.

With smartphones rivalling what could only be captured on more traditional digital cameras, our pros shared the tips that helped get them to the top.

How to stand out on Instagram with great photography tips

Learn to use light right


First, we talked to Bal Bhatla, who left advertising to beome a low light photography master. He told us: “Start with a light source. It could be a streetlamp, a lit shop front, or even the reflection in a puddle. That should give you an interesting image.”

Takeaway tip: Want to master low light shots? Set your shutter speed to 1 second and keep ISO low for better quality shots. Taking pictures with a good light source? Increase shutter speed.

Try different angles

A one-time greetings card salesman, Neil Andrews is now famous for his cleverly angled compositions. He tells us that you can bring something fresh to even the most photographed landmarks by finding new angles. It’s all about experimenting: “Stand in the centre, stand to the side, get symmetry, get asymmetry,” he says. “Try all kinds of angles. The beauty of today’s devices is that they can store loads of images that can easily be deleted, so take lots of shots until you catch something special.”

Takeaway tip: Extreme low angle shots are especially effective with tall buildings. To get the lowest angle shot possible with your mobile, turn it upside down so that the camera is close to the floor. You can then flip the image round in editing.

Get out of automatic mode


Most modern smartphones have powerful AI meaning you can take professional looking pictures without doing much of anything. But that won’t set you apart from other Instagrammers. Vicky Grout, a photographer who made her name taking portraits of Grime stars like Skepta, advises not to get stuck in automatic: “Get to a stage where you’re shooting fully manually. You don’t have to right at the beginning, but that should be the aim.”

Takeaway tip: Find manual mode on your phone. Start playing with ISO, shutter speed or aperture. Most new phones will have custom settings slots so you can store your perfect set ups.

Don’t forget the background

It’s natural to only think about what’s going on where we focus attention, but great pictures are compositions – so you should be thinking about every part of your shot. Portrait guru Vicky Grout takes her time getting the background right: “If the background isn’t done right, you can ruin the image. You don’t want a background that’s too cluttered or noisy.”

Takeaway tip: Looking for that sharp foreground and blurred background effect for a portrait? You’ll need a small depth of field, which means widening your lens. Try an f-stop number like 1.8 or 2.8.

Get involved with the community


It’s not enough to just take great photographs. Instagram is a social platform, so you’ll need to network and make connections like in any business venture. By being an active user, you’ll get more engagement, more followers and more exposure. You’ll also get more tips and develop your skills. Neil Andrews joined a London photography group on Instagram as soon as he started on Instagram: “It was great to go and talk to them, be inspired by them, see what they did, find out what apps they used, what was their style of photography and meet people with the same passion as me.”

Takeaway tip: Use hashtags that describe your offering so that people can find your work.

For more in-depth tutorials from Bal, Vicky and Neil check out their O2 sessions video tutorials.