Top tips for using Instagram to document your style

Outfits from lipsticklori's Instagram feed

Sometimes I assume that everyone is on Instagram as much as I am, which is daft. Just because I use it daily to both share and to browse images, doesn’t mean that everyone I know ‘gets’ that particular social media platform. Some folk might not be on it yet, some might have an account but rarely post because they don’t know what to share. But what happens when you want to use Instagram document your style, but don’t really know where to start? It can be tricky to dive in when everyone else already seems like an expert, so here are some tips that I have compiled after years of getting it wrong and eventually finding my feet. (Yes, if you scroll back a few years, my Instagram feed is awful!)

A mirror selfie by @luckythingsblogGo full length wherever you can
You’ve curated a full look today, so why not show the whole thing off? If you can’t get a friend or colleague to take a photo for you, or feel nervous posing when it’s someone else behind the camera, prop your phone up somewhere and use the self-timer function. Ladies toilets sometimes have good lighting and full length mirrors (@luckythingsblog found the perfect one in the image on the right) and accessible toilets occasionally have large enough mirrors, but I haven’t seen many outfit pics snapped in the gents! However, if you work near clothes shops, why not pop in to use the fitting rooms at lunch time and then snap outfit selfies rather than trying on the items you’ve brought in. Or do both, and snap pics of the things you try on too! Also, remember that you don’t always have to show your face if you don’t want to – with a full length mirror you can snap the outfit with your mobile phone or camera hiding your face.

A detail shot by @shaungordontiemakerBut remember to look at the details
Sometimes it’s the details that we love more than the overall look, so why not take a moment to photograph some of the colours, patterns and textures in your outfit? Or maybe just the accessories – photographed on or off the body. You could perhaps lay out your blouse, skirt and knitwear on top of each other the bed before getting dressed, and photograph a section of them all together, arranged like an abstract artwork. When you visit that ridiculously photogenic coffee shop near work, sit your stylish bag or briefcase on the table and then photograph it while you wait for your drink. Why not look down at your feet when you’re out and about, and snap your favourite shoes against an interesting floor? Take a pic of your wrist watch when you’re wearing your favourite coat so that you get a glimpse of sleeve in the image. Snap a selfie from the chin down to get where your shirt, tie and jacket all meet (like @shaungordontiemaker has done in the image on the left). Or take the easy option and photograph that lovely collection of pins on your lapel when your coat is hanging up, rather than trying to take a photo while you’re wearing them.

Perfect lighting for a selfie from @nerdabouttownBrush up on your key photography skills
You don’t have to have an amazing kit and lots of photography knowledge to get a good shot, but you need to pay attention and learn from looking at other people’s images what works and what doesn’t. Always be on the lookout for good lighting (like @nerdabouttown has done in the fantastic image on the right). This elusive ‘good light’ is almost definitely not your phone’s built in flash or the sort of overhead lights that cast nasty shadows, so look for daylight (stand by a window) or diffuse ambient light wherever possible. Not only will this help to show off you and your outfit in the best way, but it will also help to ensure any shots you take aren’t blurry. Pay attention to the composition and try to emulate the style of others’ images that you see and like on Instagram. If you’re worried about looking like you’re copying someone, just be honest when you post – tag that person in the caption and say that the image was inspired by them. Also, check out my blog post on photography for beginners for a few more tips.

Editing a photo using InstagramUse Instagram’s built in features
By this, I do not mean filters. Instagram’s built in filters were useful back when no one had a phone with a decent quality camera, but now they are just a quick way to make your images look dated and/or amateur. First of all, use Layout from Instagram (a separate-but-linked free app) and the multiple images feature to select your photos and arrange them in a pleasing way. When using multiple images that can be scrolled through, make sure you always select the best one first (even if it means everything’s out of chronological order) as that is the one that will display on your profile. Once you’ve chosen your image(s), use ‘edit’ to tweak the photo where needed. I sometimes use brightness, contrast, warmth or saturation to make the photo look more like what my eyes saw (as your brain will adjust for things that the camera’s sensor won’t), and tilt shift is also useful to blur out any distracting background details in a full length selfie. If you want to go black and white, just take the saturation right down and tweak the contrast until you’re happy. Don’t be afraid to play around a lot before posting.

@lipsticklori snaps her shoes against a gallery floorDon’t just post photos of your clothes
You may just want to share the contents of your wardrobe, but it won’t be log before your followers will be interested in you, so perhaps think about posting photos of other aspects of your life occasionally. Think about the places you’ve visited – parks, museums, restaurants – even a cinema or theatre trip can be captured by a photograph of the stage or the ticket before the performance begins. Mix it up a bit and include snaps of your slice of cake at that photogenic coffee shop, the window display of the shop you visited, or perhaps a particularly beautiful sunset. Of course, your surroundings may also provide the perfect background to your outfit (see my image on the right, taken in the Fashion Space Gallery), but keeping an eye out for a good photo whatever the subject will only improve your feed. Before long, you’ll probably find you have a colour theme emerging. Good luck!

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Image of Caravan (City) via LondonTown.com