Level up your Instagram game

Benjamin L. Walker, Campus Carrier Asst. Photojournalism Editor

So you don’t have that nifty $5,000 Canon 1DX Mark II or Nikon D4 but you still want to take killer photos. These two simple rules will allow you start raking in those coveted Insta-hearts no matter what camera system you choose to use.

The first and most important rule is to stop worrying about your camera. Your gear doesn’t matter. Now, I’m not going to say that an iPhone camera is the same as a $50,000, 100 Megapixel Phase One XF Camera system. If you start shooting on a camera like that, your Instagram game will definitely take a step forward ,but not as much as you may think. 

When it comes to gear, remember this: the best camera you can have is the one you have with you when it counts. If that means you take a photo with your iPhone at the exact moment that the Berry Eagle is majestically flying over the college chapel and the light is hitting Martha’s grave at just the right angle and the angels are singing in the heavens, then my friend, your iPhone was the exact camera you needed for that shot. So stop stressing about megapixels and dual-pixel autofocus and go take some photos.

Before you go out and start killing it on Instagram, we should talk about composition. Composition is basically where objects in your image are placed. There are many rules that you can follow (or break; you’re a grown adult you do what you want), and the cool thing about these rules is you have complete control over them and the composition of your image. 

The first and most basic of these rules is one you’ve probably heard of if you’ve taken a Reporting and Writing class or ever walked into Laughlin: the Rule of Thirds. Essentially the Rule of Thirds involves dividing your image into three equal sections horizontally as well as vertically. If you have an iPhone you can apply a thirds grid over any image by going to: Settings → Photos & Camera → Grid and turn it to “on.” If you have an Android, you should buy a iPhone. That is all. 

Once you have your grid, either imaginary or real, you can start to compose your image. Simply take the points of interest in your image and place them at the intersections of your third lines (there are four). Examples of “points of interests” are your eyes, in the case of a selfie (duck face optional), or the setting sun in your romantic silhouette photo. Another trick for your third lines is to place important images along the third lines. So in our eagle and grave example, if you were following the Rule of Thirds, you would put the chapel along the right third line in your image. For more balling suggestions for how you can use the Rule of Thirds, the Internet is awash with cool articles and examples.

The second rule is not necessarily a rule but more of a concept and also one of my favorite things to play with in photography. It doesn’t really have a cool name like the Rule of Thirds, so I just call it Secondary Framing. The basic concept is to use something within your image to frame your subject. 

This concept is a little harder to describe in print, so bear with me. As an example, say you want to take a photo of a deck of playing cards. You think to yourself “Hmm, how can I make this deck of cards look hella cool?” You lean back in your chair to think deeply on this subject while taking a sip of coffee and BOOM. It hits you like a ton of playing cards. The mug! You can use the handle of your mug as a second frame for your playing cards, in addition to the frame already provided by your camera system of choice. Excitedly, you set the deck on the table and place the handle of the mug so that you can see the deck through the mug. You snap the photo, throw that up on Instagram and contentedly finish your coffee as the likes start rolling in like high schoolers to the dance floor on prom night.

The Rule of Thirds and Secondary Framing. That’s it! Use these two concepts to instantly take your Insta game to the next level. Now, obviously these are not the only two ways to better your photography, but they are a good place to start. 

Don’t forget: the best camera to have is the one you have with you when it counts. Now go out there and make some incredible photographs. 

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