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Ten Commandments of Instagram

How to Travel Instagram Better

This post was authored by Nicole Standley and originally featured on Savvy Sassy Moms January 9, 2014.

Don’t Let Your Instagram Turn Into Instadrag!

Instagram is my favorite social media platform. I cannot think of another app or social site that I am so ridiculously overprotective about. I am on a mad crusade to safeguard it from careless graffiti, hopelessly trying to save it from becoming the MySpace of photo-sharing sites. But I cannot do this on my own friends. I need your help. I implore you.

I’m going to start out by saying, IG is a beautiful place. It is your visual autobiography, travel journal and family album. Your profile is an intimate snapshot of your life and a peek into your soul. By not committing IG sins, you are on a direct path to a huge cult following. HUGE.

How to Travel Instagram Better

What does your feed say about you?

Did anyone read the article The Agony of Instagram in the New York Times Fashion & Style section? For the life of me, I cannot understand why some make IG so complicated or dream up “Instagram Envy.” It is not hard to tell by the user’s overall profile whether or not someone is collecting trophies like the NYT piece noted, and per Marcy Massura, it’s not everyone’s goal on Instagram is to show off or Instabrag. Some folks really aren’t trying to compete or keep score. I swear.

It is more about editing and proudly displaying your life.

Personally? I won’t post unless it’s something I love, a cool place I want to share, or a special moment that I’m really, really excited  or proud about.

If that makes me an Instabragger, well, then I suppose I’ll own it because I’m not trying to bore people.

So if someone could pass me a milk crate so I can climb up onto my soapbox easier, that would be awesome…

Thou shalt not: The 10 commandments of Instagram

I. Thou shalt not post the very first picture. 

When it comes to IG, I live by the motto, “Use the best, not the first.” It is the best piece of IG advice I have ever read and I wish I could remember where I heard it. BRILLIANT! And don’t be afraid to delete. If a photo doesn’t jive well with the rest, adios! 

How to Travel Instagram Better

II. Practice makes perfect. 

Nothing is worse than scrolling through your IG feed only to find boring subjects, space wasters and blurry pictures. This is not the way to get new followers. Practice, practice, practice. Tinker with apps, filters and cropping until you are comfortable. The only way you will organically gain Instagram followers — and entice your audience — is to post photos of great content and allow your personality come through your descriptions.

Oh, and avoid snark. It’s really not attractive. 

III. Thou shalt not abuse hashtags.

Enough said. Come up with a signature hashtag for tracking and add one or two popular ones for categorizing. Also, avoid tagging and adding hashtags in the initial description unless you plan on editing and deleting them afterwards. It’s always nice to include them in the comments so you don’t take away from the photo. Remember, the life of a popular hashtag is only a few minutes. 

Related article: The BEST Travel Hashtags for Instagram

How to Travel Instagram Better

IV. Thou shalt not post for the sake of posting.

It’s not a race and there are no statute of limitations for posting. I get it — photos or it didn’t happen. You are at the Justin Timberlake concert and that tiny blurry spec is the man, JT, himself, but if it’s not crystal clear, I’d much rather see a picture of your concert stub or even a crazy fan (i.e. you).

Then again, you can always go back and edit. Don’t be afraid to edit!

V. Thou shalt not post blurry photos.

(See IV.) Stand still and use your body as a tripod. The closer to your chest the better. Stability is the key. Point, tap your screen on the image you want to focus on and shoot. Also, lighting is everything. Work your angles to try and catch the best lighting. If the picture comes out blurry, don’t use it. I mean it. Skip it. 

If you must shoot in dark places, avoid areas with blue and red lighting. 

Dave Grohl at The Roxy

VI. Thou shalt be consistent.

Less is more; however I want the Instagrammers I follow to be regular posters in the community. There are many ways to tell an interesting story. I want to know all about you. From life with your kids and hubs, to what your favorite drink at Starbucks is. And engage! Comment back. Unless it is of course a passive aggressive comment, then feel free to delete! 

VII. Thou shalt save the blog promotion for Facebook.

For the love of all that is good and IG holy, let’s keep it pure and save the blog promotions for Facebook and Twitter. Contaminating someone’s feed with promos/announcements or the feeling like your advertising something, will get you unfollowed. Consider yourselves warned.

VIII. Three is the magic number.

Posting more than three photos of any event or occurance is major overload. #Latergrams are completely appropriate. If you are at a fantastic event, or on an amazing trip. Slow your roll. Your followers would much rather see 3 photos showing the course of your day rather than 3 even before you finished that amazing breakfast.

IX. Flash is not your friend.

Neither is lighting applied directly to the subject. Photos that have been taken with the flash scream, “Novice!” Especially when it comes to food. Plates of food when photographed properly can be as beautiful as travel photos, but when flash is involved, chances are it will look more like dog food. Get creative and snap the menu or a nice glass of wine and just geo-tag the restaurant. Everyone will be happy.

Related article: How to Properly Instagram Food

How to Travel Instagram Better

X. Does your profile accurately reflect who you are?

You know how your mother always said to wear lipstick because you never know who you are going to run in to? Well this applies to Instagram as well. When I click the link to your IG profile, you have the amount of time it takes for me to scan your bio and scope the first 6 – 9 photos to convince me to follow you. Take pride in your profile. You never know who is lurking. 

This is your story – Instagram is your personal talk show channel. This is your chance to be Oprah. Own it!

Related article: Who to Follow on Instagram

And there you have it. The do’s and don’ts of Instagram. Another important tip for Instagram is not to take it too personally. If someone is not following you, it’s OK. Each person follows different people for different reasons. And whatever you do, don’t be that person that unfollows people out of jealousy or spite. See the world through someone else’s eye. Have fun and enjoy your IG to the fullest.

So fire away and share a link to your favorite Instagram photo in the comments below!

Photo credits: all photos are by Nicole Standley
Review overview
  • Jen A January 16, 2015

    I’ve heard both-don’t use too many as well as use as many are allotted as far as hashtags go. Also YES on the blurry shots. I follow someone who is a travel blogger, 3 of 4 shots are bad lighting or blurry. I feel bad I almost wonder if she doesn’t see it…?!

  • mel January 18, 2015

    Now that you write this, I need to change my profile pic. That is for sure!

  • Daisy January 18, 2015

    I love these tips. Personally, I am getting better about my photography. I’m also cutting back to not use so many hash tags. 🙂

  • valmg @ Mom Knows It All January 18, 2015

    You have no idea how many pics I’ve tried for and couldn’t get because of darned red lighting at concerts. On hashtags, I’ve heard the opposite. I haven’t read anywhere where it says hashtags will perform as well in comments, it’s something worth me looking into.

  • Mistee Dawn January 19, 2015

    I think I break more than half of these rules on a daily basis. I am still learning! lol

  • Rosey January 19, 2015

    I didn’t know there was Instagram envy, ha! I wonder if there is Pinterest envy too. 🙂 I think the boards are a personal reflection of who we are, and worth visiting/embracing, def. not competing. 🙂


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