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7 Steps to Making the Perfect Instagram Post

7 Steps to Making the Perfect Instagram Post featured image

Each day more than 95 million photos are uploaded to Instagram.

With some basic photographic knowledge and understanding, it is easy to create a sophisticated and interesting post.

To get you started, here is a step by step guide to creating a stand out Instagram post.



Before you start the process of picking a photo, take a moment to consider what your Instagram account is about and who your followers are.

For example if your passion is dogs, and you post predominantly dog related photos on your Instagram account, it is fair to assume that your followers are animal lovers.

Thus keeping your feed on theme to dogs and animals will hit the spot with your Instagram followers.

Example of Followers List


It is important to appear authentic. Stay away from common stock photography and go outside. (Armed with your phone or camera of course!)

Also take a moment to browse Instagram accounts that are similar to yours. It is surprising how much inspiration you find just by observing what others are doing. A few things to take particular notice of might include:

  • The angle of their shots.
  • The subject matter of their shots.
  • The location of their shots.

If we apply these observations to our dog example, it could look something like this:

  • An extreme close up of a dog’s nose and whiskers instead of a full bodied shot.
  • A shot of the dog’s favourite toy, instead of the dog itself.
  • A shot of the dog peering through a gap in the fence, instead of sitting on the grass.

Tip: You can find similar accounts by using Instagram’s search function. This is found by tapping the magnifying glass icon in the menu and selecting either ‘people’ or ‘tags’. Then start by typing in keywords, for example: Dog, Puppy, Animals.

Extreme close up of dogs whiskers and noseExtreme Close Up

Picture of dogs toyFavourite Toy

Dog peering through the fence Peering through the fence


Part of appearing authentic is making sure your photos look natural and realistic. Lighting plays a major role in achieving this.


Using the flash function on your phone will often cause your photos to appear overexposed and under saturated. This is not ideal. It is much better practice to use natural light.

[Over-exposure is when an image is exposed to too much light. The result is often a photo that is washed out and too bright.]

[Saturation refers to the intensity of colour. When something is under saturated, there is a lack of colour.]

You can do this by placing your subject near a window or by going outside. Try to avoid placing the subject of your photo in front of direct sunlight as this has a tendency to darken the foreground.

Failing this, it is best to capture a dark photo and use editing applications to lighten. You can do this in Instagram by using the Brightness and Contrast tools.

Tip: If natural light is not an option, consider other ways of lighting the scene such as placing a lamp nearby or shining a torch on your subject from above.

Example of bad lighting in a photo

Here you can see that flash has made the image appear foggy. The reflection of the flash has also resulted in Eyeshine.



When setting up your shot take note of where the focus is. This will often be indicated with a square outline or circle shape, as shown on the left.

You can manually change the focus by tapping on different areas of the frame. If you tap on the darkest area of the frame, the lens will get exposed to more light and consequently change the focus of the photo. If you tap on the lightest area of the frame, less light will touch the lens and the background of your photo will become darker.

Tip: Once you are happy with the exposure, press down and hold until the AF/AE Lock is activated. This will maintain your chosen focus and exposure even when you move the camera around.


At its core Instagram is a photo sharing application. People use it to see photos they like. Thus it is important that your images are engaging and visually appealing.

A pixelated or blurry photo makes the viewer work harder to understand the message. It also makes you look unprofessional and apathetic towards your account.

Some tips for ensuring high quality images:

  • Take lots of photos and then pick the best one for Instagram.
  • If you are using a camera phone, avoid zooming in too close. This will distort the image and decrease the quality.
  • To avoid pixelating your photo, ensure that it is a minimum of 1080px wide. This is double the standard resolution of 640px.
  • If you are editing photos on your desktop, be sure to save them as .jpeg, .png or .mov for video.

Tip: On Android phones, you can adjust the resolution of your photos before you capture them. A larger resolution photo will assist in ensuring quality and enhance your ability to zoom.

Example of 100% zoom resulting in a pixelated imageHere is an example of an image that has been zoomed in 100%. The image appears pixelated and washed out consequently reducing the quality.


Making subtle, mindful edits to your photos can often make a huge difference to the aesthetic of your post.
Here are a few things you can do to improve your photos:


When you first select an image to edit in Instagram, you are immediately given the ability to crop. This is done by using a number of finger gestures:

  • Pinching and Expanding – This will zoom in and out of the image.
  • Horizontal Swiping – This will move the image left or right.
  • Vertical Swiping – This will move the image up and down.

Tip: When cropping, carefully consider what the main point of focus is. If there is something distracting or unnecessary in the frame, crop it out.

Cropping in Instagram

Straightening in Instagram


Whether it’s an horizon or a headshot, it is important that your image is straight.

Inside Instagram there is the option to adjust your image. By looking at the grid and moving the line left and right you can twist your image until it appears straight. There is also the option to adjust the horizontal and vertical perspective of your image.

Tip: For more accuracy, change the grid increments by clicking on the # symbol in the top left corner.


On August 27 2015, Instagram lifted its restrictive square format to allow for full size landscape and portrait images.

You can toggle between the formats by pressing the symbol in the bottom left hand corner of the editing panel. Each image will be different so you will have to use your own creative judgment to decide which format best suits.

Tip: Remember that Instagram automatically crops your image into a square when viewed on your profile grid.

Formatting in Instagram

Rule of Thirds Example


The Rule of Thirds proposes that an image be divided into 9 equal parts using 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines. Subject matter within the image should be positioned on these lines or at their intersections to create more visual interest as this sometimes makes for a more compelling photo. This is a common and often preferred alternative to centering your subject matter.

*Tip: You can use the adjust feature in Instagram (as outlined in ‘Straightening’) to play with this rule. *


The perfect image needs no description or explanation. You want your image to explain itself. In order to do this, you need to keep things simple.

Start by observing and analysing every element in your viewfinder. Your subject matter should always be the primary element. Anything else is a prop or background element and should only be included if it adds value to your image.

If there is too much clutter in your photo, consider removing some unnecessary elements as seen in the example on the right. If the environment is too chaotic, try another location.

Subject Matter Example

Negative space example 1Negative space example 2


It is also important to be mindful of the negative space around your subject matter. Negative space is the vacant area around your primary focus.

Ample negative space can help to balance your image and provide a clear visual hierarchy. It also has the power to infer distance, isolation and time depending on where the subject matter is situated.

A lot of Instagram users have taken to using Flat Lays. This is where a series of items are positioned in a frame, usually on a plain background. In this case, negative space is particularly important in keeping things simple.

Tip: Some simple but effective backgrounds include plain coloured walls, a sheet of cardboard, floorboards or a wooden table top.


The caption is the only chance you have to use words – so make the most of it! The caption should not explain the image, but rather add personality and boost engagement.

Think about your audience again. Will they appreciate a pun? Maybe a fun fact? Or maybe just some insight into your thoughts and feelings at the time the photo was taken? Whatever it is, try to make it quirky and catchy.

If you want to boost engagement, tell your followers what you want them to do. There is no shame in asking for likes. To start a conversation, ask your followers a direct question. For the best results make sure the answer is IN the question.

  • Do not ask: What do you think is a good dog’s name?
  • Do ask: Do you think Sophie or Elle is a better dog’s name?

Tip: Sometimes words will escape you. When this happens, try using emoji’s to caption your Instagram post instead.

Example of Instagram TaggingHere is an example of the tagging process on Instagram. You can also push your image to other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for extra engagement.


These are a great way of categorising your photo so that other people can search and enjoy your content. For this reason, it is important to keep your hashtags relevant and specific.

Some hashtags we might use on our example dog account include: #dogs #mansbestfriend #playful

You can also take advantage of trending hashtags in your category. For example: #dogsofinstagram, #dogstagram #dogoftheday


Geo-tagging works in a similar way but allows people to search for content by location. This is particularly useful if you want to get a preview of a certain area or event. People who are connected to this place will likely be viewing and engaging with photos that are tagged there.


If there is a particular person or account featured in your post, you can use the ‘Tag People’ tool. This will give your post more exposure by featuring it in the activity tab and on the person’s profile under ‘Photos of you’.

Tip: If you are unable to find your location using the geo-tagging tool, it is probably because it hasn’t been used before. You can create a new location by logging into Facebook and adding it yourself.


Have we forgotten anything? Let us know your techniques and tips in the comments below.
You can even tag us in your new creations with @manageflitter_ig!

Extended thanks to my hairy pooch, Elle, for her modelling efforts!

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