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The Rife Team

How to use Instagram to Step Up Your Photography

Elkie’s photography game is on point. Learn how she’s used Instagram to improve her imagery

I see myself as a self-taught photographer. I achieved my A Level in photography without a photography teacher, instead using free resources around me to guide my learning. Instagram was the best resource to open my eyes to a wider world of photography that I didn’t have access to in the classroom. Here, I’ll share what I’ve learned so far with you from taking pictures to posting them to get the most out of Instagram.

Bristol’s Instagram Community

I use Instagram to see what people are doing in my community and get inspired. By following @igersbristol I discovered local photographers and locations influence my work. Bristol is such a colourful city filled with so many creative peopl,e it’s hard not to get inspired. A list of some of my favourite Bristol creators are:  

  • Alex Lucas: a illustrator and muralist whose work can be found around Montpelier, Stokes Croft and the surrounding areas. 
  • Jess Siggers, Ben Adams  and Rich Imal: photographers and admins of  @igersbristol
  • Ciara Hillyer: a digital content creator who shares her life in a rich, vibrant way from her trips around Bristol to find the perfect cup of coffee to her insightful videos on living with cystic fibrosis.

… and of course following  Rife Magazine is a great way to discover what is going on in Bristol and connect with young creatives.

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Using Your Phone

Last month I dropped my DSLR in a pond and no amount of rice in an airing cupboard could reverse my butterfingers. But with such good smartphone cameras available now, people rarely reach for their digital cameras to take pictures any more. Taking pictures on your phone is instantaneous and there are all the right tools to edit them on the spot. This meant that although I was disheartened by effectively making an expensive paperweight out of my camera and lens, I could continue to take decent quality photos with my IPhone 6. When taking a photo I make sure I have the grid template on so that I can choose whether I want to use the rule of thirds and to straighten the lines in my picture so that they sit on the horizontal or vertical axis. If you have an iPhone and want to be more experimental, you can use the live feature which records a few seconds of action and automatically chooses a key frame. This then allows you to give the photo effects, such as long exposure, if you swipe up from looking at the image in Photos.


When editing I use VSCO, a photo editing app and place to share images. I up the contrast to give the same effect of adjusting the levels in Photoshop as pictures are more visually pleasing when they show a strong range from black to white. I then pick out the colours I want to highlight in the picture in order to fit with my theme on Instagram and adjust the temperature, saturation and skin tone to help that colour “pop”. For example if a picture contains a lot of green I would enhance the red tones in it to give contrast as they are complementary colours. As a result, the green stands out more.

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I use apps such as Preview to plan the layout of my feed. I often try to keep to three pictures with similar colours in a row with more closeup or portrait shots in the middle column. In the app you can load your existing photos in and play around with the composition of the photos you are going to post – it also allows you to schedule posts and plan captions. Posts with captions often have a higher engagement than posts without.


The best time of day to post is between 6 and 9pm, as this is when people are back from work and school so have more free time to spend on social media. You do not want to oversaturate someone’s timeline so spacing posts out is best. To find out more specifically which times and days are best to post for you, you can switch your Instagram account to business which will also help you find out more about the activity taken on your account, the popularity of your posts and your audience.  The Instagram algorithm is constantly changing regarding hashtags – I would recommend no more than five hashtags per post or your posts may be regarded as spam.

I hope you’ve found this useful – obviously it’s subjective in terms of developing your own aesthetic. This is how I’ve used Instagram to create my own style and I want to continue to learn and develop my photography. You can check out my feed @elkierose.

Got any more tips and tricks to make your Instagram stand out? Let us know at @rifemag