Instagram Aesthetics

For artistes, designers and rest of the world

My first listicle on a thing I care about art, design and aesthetics(on Instagram). I narrowed down top composition aesthetics that would separate your Instagram pics from the your average Instagram account. This guide is a retrofitted from the parts of Photography 101, and Painting compositions.

I am assuming that you understand how Instagram works and I focus solely on making your photographs more appealing.

Warning: Unless you practice these at least a few times you might not notice a huge difference. Its like workout, the results build up over time.

All photographs below are taken by me.

1. Composition

So I’ll run you through basic composition techniques mainly Rule of third, patterns, silhouette, shapes, ‘S’curve and framing.

Rule of Third is to divide the image in 3 line equally spaced vertically and horizontally then keeping subject near those intersection points.

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Use of both contrast and silhouette. Silhouettes convey emotions, mystery create a sense of suspense

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Look for patterns

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Or make your own.

This millipede wasn’t impressed asked for a refund after this shoot. Arghh you get tough clients every now and then.

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Using S curve in images to lead the eye

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Using shapes and lines to direct attention

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Framing with a foreground element is a common technique and gives context and depth to an images.

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2. Embrace the square

I see a lot of big photographers and cinematographers making this mistake. They take photos from there DSLR cameras and post on Instagram in wide aspect ratio with letterboxing(Black boxing on top and bottom). This defeats the purpose of having a Square composition.
Square won’t reflect the awesome wide landscape shot you took on your skii trip but it doesn’t have to. You need to use eyes to crop a small interesting segment of the landscape and tease your audience.
Avoid this white pillarbox(since the pillarbox is white it merges with background)

Or this letterbox

Go full square. Zoom and isolate the interesting parts.

3. 60–80% Rule

This is a term I made which comes from my background in design and photography. It is always better to have a breathing space 0r padding around your subject. It makes subject look more neat.
So basically this is keeping the size of your subject around 60–80% the instagram frame size.
Images below have key elements within 60–80% of the whole image frame.

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4. HDR is not for everyone

Abuse of HDR in photography is reckless disregard of aesthetics and willful blindness to natural beauty. HDR in photography is High Dynamic Range imagery which is achieved by combining 3 or more image exposures. You can achieve similar results with Instagram filters or Topaz Adjust.
Like they say great power comes with great responsibility, use it wisely. Keep a balance with details a little more than a human eye can see and below the level the photograph goes beyond the realm of even paintings.
A good example of a well balanced HDR photos on Instagram

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5. Videos are for storytelling

On Instagram people will actually see your videos. People don’t really have a whole lot time to see your stuff on email or facebook that goes to Vimeo(a website they have not heard of, since they lived under a rock till that day.)

Instead a 60 seconds Instagram video is perfect to get them engaged for full 6000 milliseconds.
It can be a random video, but Instagram is a really good platform where you can share a well crafted 15 seconds of short trailer, monologue, skit, a bit from your stand up, interview series, time lapse, behind the scenes(BTS), hyperlapse.

Short Film series / Motion graphics in storytelling

Time lapse of an event

POV Action Cam Head Mount Experience


Some animations

6. People are comfortable with Instagram

Flickr is losing out for image sharing website because of lack of good smartphone apps. On a day to day basis people use their phones to take pictures rather than DSLRs or mirrorless camera and Instagram is frictionless way to share images.
So this means if your audience is using Instagram to upload pics they will surely see your work on the same platform.

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7. Minimalistic Images/Graphics

Minimal elements in the images make it recognizable to the brain super fast, which I know from Semiotics. In a nutshell icons are easier to recognize than their real counterparts. And they give a sense of calmness, and clarity.

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8. Don’t forget colors

Colors in your photos make your overall Instagram page pop out. It will make your Instagram look like Google search results when you search for Mark Rothko
Use color contrast

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9. Use hashtags always

Always use hashtags because people that like or follow that hashtag will watch it and like it. If they are nice people they will leave and encouraging and ego boosting message too.
Skip this if you are as big as National Geographic.

10. People like motivational Stuff

A recent study shows that everybody likes reading motivational stuff once in a while and people often abuse the use of “A recent study shows” to get their point across

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TL;DR Summary

  • Composition (Rule of third, contrast and silhouette, shapes, and framing)
  • Embrace the square (Crop images into square period.)
  • 60–80% Rule (Keep key elements within 60–80% of the frame)
  • HDR is not for everyone (Use it wisely)
  • Videos are for storytelling (Great platform for 15 seconds videos)
  • People are comfortable with Instagram (People browse it on the train and on the bed.
  • Minimalistic Images (Keep images simple)
  • Don’t forget colours (Use colours for contrast, boldness etc.)
  • Use Hashtags always (Make images searchable via hashtag)
  • People like motivational Stuff (You know this one already)

So I tried my best to write this Aesthetics Guide for people to take advantage of and contribute to little less visual pollution. I left out a few sections to keep this article at 10 things on Instagram aesthetics.

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