Facebook is probably your main social-networking squeeze. Perhaps you’ve dabbled in Twitter. Do you have room in your life for yet another social-media companion? It may be time to get to know Instagram, a service that revolves around photos and mobile devices.
Instagram describes itself as a “fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures.” The network is based around the Instagram app, which you can install on your iPhone or Android phone. Snap a photo, adjust it with a filter or edit in some effects, and share it with the Instagram community. You can view Instagram images through a web browser, but it’s designed for mobile phones. You won’t get the full photo-sharing experience without the app.
Like with Facebook, every Instagram user has a profile (filled with your photos) and a news feed where you see pictures shared by your friends and people you follow. You can comment on other people’s images and they can comment on yours.
Integrate with Facebook
One of the most satisfying aspects of Instagram is how it can tie in with Facebook, which is probably where most of your friends and family are already hanging out. Instagram lets you link your account to Facebook during the setup process (or later through your account settings). You will need to provide your Facebook login information. The app will then let you choose to share photos on Facebook. You can share them all, or pick exactly which ones will appear on your Facebook profile.
Instagram can also share your pictures with Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr if you use those sites.
Find your filter
What makes Instagram fun is all the ways you can manipulate your photos before you share them. Snap a new picture from within the app or choose a photo from your gallery. A selection of creatively named filters appears at the bottom of the app, ranging from the classic black-and-white of “Moon” to the faded and rosy hues of “1977.”
The filters are designed to mimic the look of vintage cameras or enhance the colors to really make your pictures pop. From there, you can fine-tune the photos using the app’s editing features. Adjust the straightness, up the brightness ante, play with shadows and highlights, and sharpen the image. It’s easy to get pulled into Instagram playtime where you experiment with all the different filters and editing features to make normal photos look extraordinary.
Let’s take a moment to check out one of Instagram’s most intriguing editing options: tilt shift. Tilt shift uses selective focus to add an almost magical look to a photo. You may have seen photos taken of real-life scenes that look like miniature models. That’s the beauty of tilt shift. It’s like having an optical illusion at your fingertips.
You can choose either a round effect or a linear effect. Use two fingers to expand or contract the area. The areas inside the radius will stay in focus while the areas outside are blurred. The effects of tilt shift will vary with each photograph, so play around to find a look you like.
You now have a photo of your family that looks like it was taken with a Polaroid camera in 1980 and it’s time to share it. The sharing screen is where you can choose to upload the photo only to Instagram, share it with specific people, or add in Facebook or Twitter. You can also include a location or tag people you know in the image. Type in a quick caption, hit “Share,” and you’re all done.
Instagram has over 600 million users. That’s a whole lot of photos to sort through. One of the best ways to search pictures and make your own photos findable is to use hashtags, short terms that start with a “#” sign. Some popular hashtags that often pop up include “#catsofinstagram,” “#love,” “#instagood,” “#selfie,” and even “#nofilter” for pure, unaltered photos. Think of hashtags as a way to organize your images.
You can add a popular hashtag into the caption section of your Instagram photo, or you can have fun and come up with an amusing or descriptive hashtag like #mondaymorningcoffeefail or #outhikingwiththedogsonsunday.
There are a few rules for hashtags. You can’t have more than 30 hashtags on a single post. Numbers are allowed, but you can’t use spaces or special characters. The hashtags used in Instagram posts are clickable, so you can quickly see other photos tagged with the same terms. It’s a fun way to explore and make connections on Instagram.
To search Instagram for specific hashtags, select the magnifying glass in the app. Let’s use #cats as an example. Type it in and the app will generate of list of suggestions starting with #cats. You will notice there are nearly 50 million public posts marked with the heavily used #catsofinstagram hashtag. Select that term and you will instantly be treated to a selection of adorable fluffballs for your visual enjoyment.
Chances are, you already enjoy sharing photos over social media. Instagram is a fast and entertaining way to achieve that goal. If you already use Facebook and Twitter, then it’s easy to connect all your social networks together through images. Snap photos, play with filters and enjoy getting to know the wide world of Instagram.