5 Tips for better Instagram photos

May 3, 2012 at 9:00 p.m. ET

If you're like me and you're more than just a little bit addicted to Instagram, you know that some photos truly stand out in the stream. Here are 5 simple ways make your Instagram photos even better.

Photos taken with Instagram

Start with a clean image

Instead of taking your photos from within Instagram, take the original photo with your phone’s camera. By taking your photos with your native phone app, you will be able to keep a completely untouched photo, just in case. This frees you up to try all sorts of different effects. You’ll also be able to zoom in and crop, whereas Instagram itself doesn't offer you that flexibility.

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Play around elsewhere

Before you import your photos into Instagram, try tweaking them with another fun photo editing app first. There are a ton of great photo editing apps, but some of our favorites have built-in timers, offer a great variety of interesting effects, allow you to create collages and help you to merge photos into one panoramic image. Some of our go-to apps are Camera+, Snapseed, 100 Cameras in 1, Diptic, Dynamic Light and AutoStitch Panorama.

Layer it up

Here’s how to double or triple up on your filters within Instagram to make your photo unlike the others in your stream:

  1. Import your raw photo into Instagram.
  2. Apply a filter of your choice.
  3. Minimize the filter options bar with the arrow on the bottom right.
  4. Take a screen shot (press your off button and home button at the same time).
  5. Click the x to cancel the edits and go back to the home screen to choose another photo.
  6. Import the screenshot, which will have the filter you already applied.
  7. Add another filter.
  8. Repeat until you find the right combination.

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Rethink and reframe

When taking photos that you'll import into Instagram, try looking at your world as a square.

Once you’ve taken your photo, try taking it again from another angle — hold your camera high above your head or scoot down and take the shot from below. Your subject can look dramatically different when taken from an unusual angle.

Spot the small details

Yes, your entire subject is wonderful. Take one great shot of your subject in its entirety to capture the moment, but then take another where you capture just one small detail. Think tiny, perfect hands, cute shoes or a pretty necklace.

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Put it all together

It will definitely take a bit longer to take your photos up a notch, but by trying some or all of these helpful tips, your photos are sure to stand out in the stream.

More on photography

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7 Tips for better photographs
Guide to common photo editing tools and techniques