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31 Tips on How to Take Good Instagram Photos

Posted 30 August, 2023
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Is your Instagram engagement rate stagnating or decreasing?

Not good!

What's the secret to increasing your engagement rate on Instagram?

Posting attractive photos, of course!

But how do you do that??

How do you make your Instagram content stand out and entertain?

Good question! 

Read the 31 expert tips below to learn the answer.

31 Tips on How to Make Instagram Posts More Attractive

In this post, we'll show you how to take good Instagram photos AND how to make them more attractive in post-production.

Feel free to skip to the section you're most interested in:

How do you make unique & attractive Instagram posts?

You need to master these 2 main concepts:

Concept #1: Stop the scroll

There are about 300 million photos uploaded to Instagram EVERY DAY.

Instagram pictures 2

How can you POSSIBLY compete with all those photos?

Start by imagining this:

Dave, one of your page followers, is scrolling down his feed while at a doctor's appointment.

He comes across your IG post of a beautiful shell you found on the beach.

He thinks, "That looks nice."

Then he keeps scrolling.

Nice isn’t always unique or INTERESTING.

A unique twist on the pic may have led to more engagement.

For example, an extreme close-up of the shell with a caption asking viewers to guess what the photo is could pique curiosity.

If you want to take the funny route, you could capture something funny in the background.

For example, an awkwardly standing person or crazy-looking seagull.

The point is to post something that stops the scroll.

Unique photos make viewers "present with your photo."

image 12

The example above is a "scroll-stopping" photo.


It’s "outside-the-box" enough to MAKE you stop long enough to react to it.

I mean, have YOU ever seen a staircase like that?

Colors, photo depth, patterns, portraits, or shapes are all aspects that can stop the scroll.

Concept #2: Know your Instagram audience

Everyone has preferences.

That includes YOUR IG followers (people who prefer to see a certain type of photo).

The truth is uniqueness is a bit subjective.

That said, target your Instagram content at people who are into it.

To do that, you have to know your audience.

You can learn more about your audience by browsing the following IG content in your niche:

Once you view the posts, read the comments!

You can learn a LOT about your audience by reading their reactions to posts.

This "scouting" will let you know things people like and give you great photo ideas.

Focusing on a niche audience can take you a lot further than posting generic types of content.

When you couple the photo ideas you picked up with these 31 Instagram photo tips, your engagement will be BUSSIN' (bussin' = slang for "it's really good")!

10 Tips on How to Take Attractive Instagram Photos (on your phone!)

Ok, let's do this!

Follow the 10 tips below to learn how to take the PERFECT photo for Instagram.

They'll take the engagement rate on your Instagram posts to another level.


1. Adjust your phone’s camera settings

To take amazing Instagram photos, you want to hone in on (phone) photography basics.

Test out the photo features built into your phone’s camera, including the following:

  • Filters
  • Frames (square VS traditional)
  • Pano
  • Portrait mode
  • HDR mode
  • Live mode
  • Stability mode

Specifically, avoid relying on autofocus, overexposed photos, and flash.

Don't just rely on autofocus

If you’re taking quick, in-the-moment snaps, it's okay to rely on autofocus.

But it's always better to LEARN how to control the focus manually.

When taking multiple photos, manually focusing can even be quicker than autofocus.

It's pretty simple to learn the manual focus feature.

Tap on the point of the image you want to highlight, and then take the photo.

For iPhones, a yellow box should appear.

You will get a nice, clean, and focused shot of your subject.

Avoid overexposed photos

Overexposure = Too BRIGHT

Underexposure = Too DARK

Many amateur photographers make the mistake of taking a photo with full exposure.

What happens?

The details and highlights of the picture get LOST!

Instead, aim for a photo that's just bright and dark enough.

That method allows the highlights and shadows to make the image look natural.

Learning how to leverage exposure takes practice (which can be pretty fun!).

If photos come out too one-sided (too dark or too light), you can always adjust for brightness.

Just tap on the image (for iPhones, a yellow box should appear).

Screenshot 2021-06-29 at 23.14.24

Then, use the slider to swipe up (for more exposure) or down (for less exposure).

image 9image 10

You can also adjust the exposure of your photo during post-production editing (usually, underexposed photos are easier to adjust)

Avoid using flash

Flash CAN be useful.

BUT, it can also ruin the overall quality of your photo.


Flash blows out the picture's lighting.

What you get is an image that looks like it was captured on a disposable camera from 1999.

Great photos on Instagram typically use natural lighting and light photo editing.

2. Start by eyeing up good photos

What if I told you that the key to finding moments to capture with your camera requires zero technical equipment?

The only thing you need to find the perfect shots is your eyes. 👀

Learning the skill of "eyeing up" allows you to transcend the limitations of your camera to take photos that resonate on a deeper level.

Although getting good at this takes practice, here are some simple steps to get better:

  • Take a moment to immerse yourself in your environment. Pay attention to lighting, colors, textures, and the overall feeling of the atmosphere.
  • Look for focal points that draw your attention.
  • Consider your background's clutter and distractions. Is there anything you should simplify?
  • Look for opportunities to frame your facial point with balance and symmetry (we'll cover the rule of thirds later).
  • Look for lines that lead to your focal point.
  • Consider finding elements in your foreground that could add depth.
  • Using your artistic instincts to frame the shot.

In other words, you'll want to follow the rest of the tips in this guide — NATURALLY with your eyes. 

3. Leverage depth-of-field

Depth-of-field is a terrific way of standing out on Instagram.

This is essentially when the main subject of your photo is focused on more than its environment.

Here's a good example from a user taking a photo of the Space Needle in Seattle, WA:

imageNotice how the Space Needle is far away yet still in focus?

To get a good depth-of-field, practice using your camera’s focus features.

Tap the object you would like to focus on.

Then, move the camera around so that surrounding objects lose focus.

You've now accomplished an incredible depth-of-field!

Hear that?

Oh... It's just your Instagram followers liking and commenting on your new depth-of-field post!

4. Get your lighting right!

Proper lighting is KEY to great photography.

Your lighting source can come from the following:

  • Natural light - Light from the sun/nature
  • Artificial light - Lamp, selfie light, ring light
  • Light patches - beams of artificial or natural light

Lighting can really make or break a photo...even if you edit things very nicely.

Here's an example Instagram post with great natural lighting:

image 15

If possible, try to get natural light for your Insta pics. Natural light usually looks the best, but try not to be in direct sunlight.

Indirect natural light is the way to go.

You can do this by:

  • Shooting when it's overcast
  • Using a white sheet to soften the light
  • Looking for areas of open shade

5. Change up your angles

Playing with angles is a powerful technique for impacting the way people see your post.

Think about your subject and the combinations of ways you can view it.

image 16Angle your camera from the top, middle, or bottom of the frame.

You can even turn your phone upside down to create a foreground element.

Taylor Rees, a well-known photographer with 126K Instagram followers, suggests flipping the mobile upside down and taking pictures of your subject from the ground.

image 21According to Taylor, this is the best way to add the ground as a foreground element.

This tactic works for all kinds of objects:

Ground, a table, railing, or desk.

6. Use colors that complement each other

Complementary colors increase your chances of stopping your followers’ scrolling.

image 17So what are some colors that go well together?

According to Design Wizard, these complementary color combos make MAGIC:

Instagram pictures 1

Test these combos and try to take photographs that naturally contain them.

Remember: the color shades don't have to be EXACT.

Use this list as inspiration, not a rule book.

7. Use burst mode for moving object photos

Have you ever wanted to take a picture of a fast-moving object?

Then (after trying a few times) you gave up because of all the blurry results?

There's a way around this.

The "Burst Mode" feature can help you take great still photos of moving objects.


This camera setting takes about 10 photos a second (yeah — whoa).

This volume of photos increases your chances of capturing the perfect shot.

Activating burst mode is super easy.

Here's how to do it:

1. Open your camera app.

2. If you have an iPhone XS/XR or older, hold down the button that takes pictures (the shutter button).

3. For iPhones 11 and up, slide the shutter button to your left.

Screenshot 2021-06-29 at 23.23.26Source: 9to5Mac

4. When you're done shooting your burst photos, they'll be grouped in your camera roll, and you can pick the best one.

If you ever see a UFO one day, now you know what to do!

8. Make use of grids (the rule of thirds)

Your smartphone's camera likely has a grid feature you can activate.

Grids can help you center your subject precisely in the middle of the frame.

You can also follow the rule of thirds to enhance your picture composition.

Check your camera settings to make sure that your grid feature is enabled:

image 26image 22Using grids will also help you maintain consistency when cropping your pictures.

9. Leverage white space (to draw attention)

White space can guide the viewer's eyes to focus on the subject.

Using white space is an excellent way of having a singular focus on your photo.

Too much going on in one picture can be distracting for the viewer.

Here's an example of an Instagram photo effectively using white space:

image 2Here’s another example of using white space to highlight the photo subject:

image 14image 1310. Choose the right photo mode

Today’s smartphone cameras are becoming increasingly savvy.

But you want to make sure you’re using your powerful camera correctly.

When taking your Instagram photos, be mindful of the photo mode you are in.

Photo modes are different from camera settings.

Photo modes are designed to take certain types of pictures.

For example, portrait mode is a great option for a close-up picture of your friend.

Panorama works well for capturing vast scenery:

image 11The best way to learn how to use your photo modes?

Experiment with all of them!

You might be surprised by what you find.


12 Post-production Instagram photo tips & tricks

Some of these tips will be super simple that you can do from your phone's gallery app, while others might require different software.

But the good news? You can enhance and improve your photos AFTER you've taken them.

Tip: Before you start editing your photos, make sure you save an original copy. This can help you use it as a point of reference to make sure you don't overedit any of your photos.

1. Include graphics

You can embed graphics into your photos to announce giveaways, events, or products.

Canva is an EXCELLENT graphics and photo editing tool!

Check out the following examples for some graphics inspiration:

image 19


OR if you're a Post Planner user, you can use the Content Studio tool to spice up your posts before scheduling them. 😀

original graphic

2. Filter your photos like a pro!

Filters are probably one of the first things you think of when you hear "Instagram photos."

But there’s an entire WORLD of amazing filter tools in addition to (and maybe even better than) Instagram.

image 18Some great photo filter applications include the following:

  • Adobe Lightroom - Filter your photos and choose unique presets, one of the most popular photo filtering apps around!
  • Inshot - Crop your pictures to fit into the aspect ratio of Instagram. Easily edit photos and videos using beautiful effects and filters.
  • Mendr - Let professionals edit your photos for you!
  • Afterlight - Another highly rated photo editing application. Available for IOS and Android.
  • PicPlayPost - Create collages with its easy-to-use vertical-video interface. Free to download for both IOS and Android.
  • VSCO - Helps you create aesthetically pleasing images and provides a wider range of presets than Instagram.
  • Facetune 2 - Known as the "selfie editor," this app acts as a user-friendly touch-up tool. Available for IOS & Android devices.
  • Pixlr - This is a versatile software that allows you to professionally edit photos while still being simple to use. Available for IOS & Android devices.

Filters let you choose from a wide range of presets or modify your photo based on what you want to accentuate.

Here are 3 tips when it comes to filtering photo editing:

  • If you're using a preset, consider toning down the filter to a more natural level.
  • Tweak colors in your photo to help them pop.
  • Have a consistent photo editing “aesthetic” to set yourself apart.

3. Adjust exposure and contrast


Getting the perfect exposure while you're taking a picture is ideal, but if your picture still isn't perfect, you can still make edits.

Adjusting your exposure and contrast allows you to:

  • Highlight details
  • Create depth
  • Focus attention
  • Adjust the mood
  • Fix lighting issues

For exposure — Increase exposure to brighten dark areas or decrease exposure to darken bright areas.

For contrast — Gradually increase contrast until there is a pleasing balance of separation between bright and dark areas.

Pro tip: Don't go too extreme with any adjustment. You want your photo to still look natural. So avoid excessive harsh shadows or blown-out highlights.

4. Correct white balance

The white balance controls whether your image looks more yellow or blue.

white balance

Correcting the white balance in your Instagram post is important for 3 main reasons:

  1. It helps you convey accurate colors and moods.
  2. It helps you have a consistent aesthetic on your Instagram feed.
  3. It helps viewers focus on your point of interest by avoiding off-putting tones.

Depending on your editing tool, you should find a setting either called "white balance," "color temperatures," or something similar.

Here are my tips for adjusting your white balance:

  • If your photo has neutral colors (like white or grey), use them as reference points to adjust your white balance until they're their true color.
  • Try to make sure skin tones still look natural.
  • Try to maintain a similar balance across all of your photos to stay on theme.

5. Sharpen or reduce noise

Sharpening or reducing noise adjusts the graininess and clarity of your Instragram picture.

sharpen noise

Sharpening — Enhances details and edges to make your photo look more crisp.

Reducing noise — Smooths out the graininess in photos that can be caused by low lighting conditions. This can help make photos more clear.

6. Crop & straighten

Cropping and straightening allow you to make your photos more visually engaging, focused, and overall more aesthetic.

crop and straighten

For cropping — Can you crop out any unnecessary or distracting elements?

For straightening — Can you correct any tilted lines that should be horizontal or vertical?

7. Touch up with saturation or vibrance

Touching up your photos with saturation or vibrance adds more color depth and vibrancy.


Which helps you convey more mood and emotion!

Saturation enhances every color in your photo.

And vibrance only enhances parts of your photo that aren't that colorful.

Increase saturation — To make colors more vivid and your photo pop more.

Decrease saturation — To make your photo more soft and calm.

Increase vibrance — To add more balance to the vibrance in your photo and prevent oversaturation of already-vibrant colors.

Decrease vibrance — To decrease the intensity of less vibrant colors, allowing you to focus your palette. 

8. Enhance details with clarity

Adjusting the clarity of your photo edits the sharpness of edges in your photo.


Enhancing clarity helps you:

  • Add sharpness and to enhance fine details
  • Make your point of interest pop
  • Add realism

Reducing clarity helps you:

  • Add a soft, dreamy effect
  • Evoke feelings of nostalgia, romance, and mystery
  • Deemphasize distractions

9. Adjust highlights and shadows

Adjusting your photo's highlights and shadows helps you balance exposure, create depth, guide your viewer's eyes, and set moods.

shadows & highlights

Increase highlights — To add more details to shadows and balance exposure

Decrease highlights — To reduce the brightness of overexposed areas.

Increase shadows — To create deeper, more dramatic shadows.

Decrease shadows — To brighten dark areas and reveal details.

10. Remove blemishes & distractions

Did you know you can remove the parts of your photo that you DON'T like?

Without coming off as unrealistic to your followers?

That's what removing blemishes and distractions is for!

Blemishes on a person or anywhere else on your photo can sometimes take away from the real meaning behind your photo by distracting your audience.

Note: When using blemish removal tools, make sure that the end-product looks realistic (some tools are automatic and some allow you to do it manually).

11. Add subtle blurs

Adding subtle blurs to your photos helps you:

  • Add depth and dimension
  • Make your point of interest stand out
  • Reduce distractions
  • Create a sense of romance, mystery, and softness

Depending on your choice of editing software, executing a subtle blur on specific parts of your photo might take some skill and learning.


12. Optimize for Instagram

The last thing you want to do is take an awesome picture, just for it to not work on Instagram. 😖

Here are the basic rules you MUST follow:

Instagram composer

9 KILLER Instagram photo Ideas

You now have a war chest of amazing IG photo hacks to increase your engagement rate.

Now what?

Apply what you’ve learned to spark engagement with these Instagram photo ideas!

1. Weather

Screenshot 2021-07-09 at 00.53.24It’s hard NOT to like a fantastic Instagram weather photo.

Practice your filters, angles, and lighting with unique weather pics.

Post your best weather shots on Instagram!

Make sure to engage in the comments (people love their clouds)!

2. Flat Lay photo

Screenshot 2021-07-09 at 00.54.06Flat lay photos work well to show off a product.

Use white space to emphasize the subjects of your flat lay pics.

Ask your followers to pick out their favorite items in the photo!

Then, reply to their comments to keep the conversation going.

3. Animals/pets

Screenshot 2021-07-09 at 00.55.58There are few photos people love more than pet and animal pics.

Play with depth of field to emphasize a pup in the foreground (like in the pic above).

Got a spunky fur baby you want to show off?

Use burst mode to catch them in action!

4. Location

Screenshot 2021-07-09 at 00.56.41Location photos have the potential to be STUNNING. But they can also be boring (especially if you’re capturing someplace famous).

Use unique angles to showcase a location in an interesting way.

You can also play around with depth of field (like in the example above).

Remember, your goal is to stand out.

Help your followers see the same old location with fresh eyes!

5. Portrait, close-up photos

Screenshot 2021-07-09 at 00.57.51Don’t underestimate the power of a good portrait shot.

Believe it or not, people want to see YOU (at least every once in a while).

In fact, your followers want to know that your brand is HUMAN.

Use portrait shots to introduce yourself, your team, or customers who love your brand!

6. Food

Screenshot 2021-07-09 at 00.59.20Food photos are fan favorites.

But that’s if you can master at LEAST these 3 photography elements in your pics:

  • Lighting
  • White space
  • Colors

In the pic above, your eyes are drawn to the vibrant colors on the pie.

Those colors pop because the background is “white space.”

I know, I know.

It’s technically brown. But it’s plain (so it emphasizes the ingredients).

And all of that is made possible because of excellent lighting.

The lighting appears natural — there aren’t any glares (not even in the glass).

The photographer likely used SOME kind of external light source, but the outcome is what counts!

7. Clothing

Screenshot 2021-07-09 at 01.06.25Ever notice that you can just TELL when the purpose of a photo is to emphasize clothing?

How do photographers do that?

Consider the example above.

The background is not QUITE white space.

But it’s close to it!

The only color that stands out in the photo is the blue on the subject’s shirt.

How do we know what to pay attention to?

Well, the man in the photo is wearing sunglasses.

Plus, the shot captures the whole outfit rather than focusing on his face.

In combination, those aspects tell us that his apparel is the REAL point of the pic.

8. Try adding humor

"Why so serious?" 🤡

Have you considered taking and posting photos that are infused with your humor?

Jokes and comedy are a great way to get engagement.

Funny Instagram post

So consider snapping a picture of a funny moment.

Humorous photos also make for the perfect "caption this" contest!

9. Look at the analytics on your old photos to find what works

One of the smartest ways to come up with photo ideas is to identify what photos get the most attention!

You can do this by spying on other people's Instagram.

Or you can go through your old posts to see which ones got the most engagement.

Then you can create a new version of those posts.

Find your best posts with Post Planner

If you use Post Planner, you can easily filter through your most popular posts. 😉

4 Things that happen when an Instagram feed looks good

1. You get more followers

A by-product of a great Instagram feed is more followers.

Apply Post Planner's hashtag tips to maintain a successful Instagram feed.

2. Engagement goes up

People are likely to engage with an attractive Instagram feed because it grabs their attention.

Hold someone’s attention for long enough, and you’ll get more likes and comments.

Some people may even use Instagram's "save" feature on their best posts.

Engagement gets even BETTER when you post your Instagram pictures at the right time!

Here’s what I mean:

There are peak hours when your followers are online.

Posting during those times is one of the best ways to get your post seen.

But what if your peak hours happen at a time that’s not convenient for you?

Do what countless Instagram users do and use a post-scheduling tool!

For example, Post Planner lets you schedule Instagram posts in advance and automatically publishes them for you.

So enjoy your coffee and read a book while your posts go live at the PERFECT time!

Screenshot 2021-06-29 at 23.51.26Out of creative ideas for Instagram photos?

You can browse Post Planner’s MASSIVE content library for beautiful images!

content streams for photography

You can even save profiles that post great content into groups called Content Streams!

3. You build authority & credibility

An outstanding Instagram feed adds authority to your brand.


Because you appear above-average compared to most profiles.

Think about it.

You can tell when an influencer puts a lot of thought into their photos.

In fact, that’s what makes an influencer’s page unforgettable.

That type of impression makes you seem trustworthy.

If you’re selling a product or service, that trust can grow your business.

4. Partnership opportunities increase

As your following grows, brands will reach out, wanting to collaborate with you.

If forming brand partnerships is one of your business goals, post STUNNING photos.

The better your IG feed looks, the more followers you get.

The more followers you get, the more influential you become in your niche.

The more influence you hold, the more people will want to work with you!

What’s the best way to post on Instagram?

Creating Instagram photos that look good comes down to 4 principles:

  • Applying photo-taking fundamentals
  • Knowing your audience
  • Standing out
  • Publishing consistently

A post-scheduling tool can go a LONG way and help you practice most of these principles.


Post scheduling makes your IG marketing strategy SUSTAINABLE and EFFICIENT!

Ready to save time and money and boost Instagram engagement at the same time?

Create a free account with Post Planner today!

Got other photography tips for increasing engagement?

Drop them in the comments below!


Frequently asked questions about how to take good Instagram photos

How do influencers make their photos so clear?

Influencers usually take clear photos by using high-quality cameras or smartphones that have high-quality cameras.

They pay attention to lighting conditions, shoot in well-lit environments, and use software to enhance sharpness, clarity, and overall quality.

Why do my photos look worse on Instagram?

Instagram's compression algorithms can affect image quality.

To mitigate this, optimize your photos before uploading, using appropriate resolutions, aspect ratios, and compression settings.

Also, be mindful of Instagram's formatting guidelines to ensure your images display correctly.

Check out our tip #12 in our "12 Post-production Instagram photo tips & tricks" section.

Is Instagram worth it for photography?

Yes, Instagram is a great platform for photographers to showcase their work, connect with a global audience, and gain exposure.

It allows photographers to share their artistic vision, receive feedback, and potentially attract clients or collaborations. However, success on Instagram requires a balance of quality content, engagement, and consistent effort.

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