Instagram

It’s an oversharing world – and whose electronic devices aren’t clogged with poorly executed pics? Here, two sharp-shooting experts – a professional photographer and a social-media standout – show you how to take and share smartphone snaps that’ll put the rest of the herd’s to shame.

1. Bury the competition
It has been estimated that humans have taken 3.5-trillion pictures since 1826, the year of the first fixed photo. Of all the extant pics, a staggering 10 per cent have reportedly been taken in the past 12 months, and more than a fifth of those now live on social-networking and photo-sharing sites. In other words, your images have a lot of competition, so you’ll need a strategy if they’re going to resonate. Helen Park – better known by her Instagram handle, missyhelly – has nearly 50,000 followers on the site. One of the secrets of her success has been not using Instagram’s filters for her photos. Since “Instagram is primarily a sharing tool,” Park suggests running pictures through other photo-editing apps – she has used Snapseed, AfterLight and PhotoForge2 – before you share them to “define a look that’s your own.”

If you want to increase your followers, pick a general theme and stick to it.

2. Achieve the right light
Use your smartphone’s flash? You could, but you may turn your friends into red-eyed ghouls in the process. The solution lies in a trip to the john: “Grab a piece of toilet paper and place it over the flash,” says Brooklyn-based photographer Bill Wadman, co-host of the podcast On Taking Pictures. “It will diffuse the light and take away that harsh look.” Alternatively, forgo the flash by downloading an app that enables you to take pictures with a slower shutter speed, making better use of scant light. But brace yourself (literally) to avoid a blurry shot.

3. Make it personal
“Don’t waste a photograph by trying to say ‘This is the Leaning Tower of Pisa,’ ” Wadman says. Instead, try for “This is my experience at the Leaning Tower of Pisa,” then focus on your buddy sharing gelato with the German he mistook for his sister’s college roommate. “The subject isn’t the picture,” he says. “The picture is the relationship between the photographer and who or what he is pointing his camera at.” For a pleasing composition, Wadman advises, don’t center the subject. Instead, follow the “rule of thirds” – imagine your frame is divided by two evenly spaced vertical lines and two evenly spaced horizontal ones. If you’re shooting a landscape, line up the horizon with one of those horizontal lines. Line up figures with one of the vertical ones.


A new rule of thumb (Photograph: Grant Stoddard)

4. Find (and work) your niche
Are you going to be a food pornographer or a capturer of lonesome prairie vistas? “If you want to increase your followers, pick a general theme and stick to it,” Park says. And think bigger. “Your images are mainly going to be consumed on smartphones,” she notes. “And iPhones have a four-inch display. That’s why landscapes and bold shapes work well.” Developing a following, however, is about more than just posting pictures. Park built up her popularity by interacting heavily on the site. “I followed people and they followed back; I commented on people’s pictures and responded to comments about mine,” she says. “If you want more people to see your pictures, stay active.” Post at least a few times a day (but not “selfies”) and only use hashtags “that relate to the image. Random hashtags are annoying.”