Buried Something Deep
A few months ago, a friend asked me, “How do you take all those cool Instagram shots?”
My simple advice: pull over.
A lot of my Instagram photos are snagged on my work commute, through back country roads with great views of the sky. Some are grabbed when I’m traveling for work, or out doing errands. But the common thread is that I pull my car over, get out, and snap the shot.
Sure, keeping an eye out for possibilities helps. Also, I try to keep locations in mind so that, if I return, I can pull over and grab the shot.
But the kicker is to just get out of the car. That’s it. If I see something noteworthy, or worth grabbing, I pull over and snap the photo. This is how I avoid banal Instagram shots like food or coffee.
Step one: go somewhere. Step two: see something cool. Step three: pull over and take the shot.
There are times when I’m concerned about traffic, especially on highways. And if someone’s behind me, I tend not to pull over. Something about being on an empty road makes me more likely to pull over. But that’s why I keep a mental inventory, for times when I am alone on the road. If a car does happen to pass by, sometimes I’ll pretend like I’m looking for something along the road.
It also helps to make sure no one’s on the property. You avoid awkward questions that way.
I’m usually not afraid to take pictures of someone’s property. Sometimes the shot is worth it. In general though, and for the style of photos I like to share, #abandoned property is best.
For the above shot, I stopped by a house that I pass fairly often. I noticed the For Sale out front, and saw that some of the barns in the back looked pretty rough. So I pulled over to walk around the property to grab some shots.
I probably looked mighty suspicious to neighbors, who had a clear view of the property. But the light was just right, and the abandoned buildlings were in disarray. It was a great opportunity to do some iPhoneography.
All I had to do was pull over.
I’m a frequent Instagrammer – usually averaging two photo posts a day. I also try to post a photo to Flickr every day, and some of them are iPhone photos.
So how do I edit my photos to share with the world? Like this:
When taking a photo, I’m not picky. Usually the default iPhone camera app, accessed from the lock screen, does a good enough job.
If I’m not in a rush, and I want to take more time on composition and framing, I’ll usually use one of these three camera apps:
I prefer not to have a camera app store each photo in the app itself. The iPhone photo gallery is usually my go-to place. But sometimes the app doesn’t allow for this kind of photo storage.
I like VSCO cam because the shutter is fast (however, it does have a tendency to corrupt photo files).
KitCam (above) is great because you get a preview of what the film/lens combo will look like before you snap the photo. I tend to like the Brooklyn film and Accent lens presets. But you can have a lot of fun (and get a lot of flexibility) out of various combinations, à la Hipstamatic (another camera app I enjoy using).
And Camera + is a good, all-around camera app to use.
When it comes to editing iPhone photos, my number one editing app is PicFX (shown above). The combination of editing styles and filters – plus the ability to layer effects on top of each other – makes it a killer app.
As shown above, I tend to stick to straightforward filters. The vintage film effects, the PFX 15/150 filters, and the greenish Meadow and Creek filters are my favorites.
PicFX is nice because it crops photos in the square format, too, making it easy to share with Instagram when you’re done editing. In fact, sharing your edited photo with Instagram is as easy as hitting the Share button.
For “problem” photos (like the one above, where it’s a bit underexposed), I try Camera+’s “Clarity” scene preset. It tends to lighten the shadows a bit – although sometimes (as with the photo above) you get a glossy HDR effect. I’m not a fan of this look, so I usually try some of the other scene modes to see what looks appropriate.
Camera+ offers some nice filters as well. I try to avoid the obnoxious ones. The black and white whites tend to be good on certain photos.
My newest editor is VSCO Cam. You can import photos from your default gallery into VSCO, or take the photo from the app, and turn its film-style effects loose on your image. I’m a big fan of VSCO film packs for Lightroom, and you get a bit of that old-school look with this app – especially that faded, grainy look that’s so popular now. A nice, subtle vignette is easy to do with VSCO cam, too.
Finishing and Posting
After editing, I save the finished photo in a photo album called “Instagrammable.” Rarely do I post a photo immediately after snapping it – I usually save it in the album until a certain mood catches me.
My Instagram album is full of photos. I’ll dip in and grab a photo that fits whatever I’m thinking about that day, or fits a song lyric I like, or is weather-appropriate. There’s no hard and fast philosophy.
Often, I’ll take a photo and re-edit it if I find a filter I really like. Also, rarely do I use the standard Instagram filters anymore. Not that they’re bad. I just like a unique look, and I find the third party editing apps do a better job of creating the look I like.
For posting, I do two Instagram posts a day: one in the morning that’s shared with other social networks (Facebook, Twitter, sometimes Flickr). The other one gets posted at night, usually before bed. The evening photo is exclusive to Instagram. It’s also where I play around with styles, and get creative trying out different looks.
Find me on Instagram to see what I’m up to, where I’ve been, and what I find beautiful or interesting in the world.
For me, photography is my memory. I’ve chosen photography to prove that I exist.
Beautiful series, promoting a service I adore.
And that’s the thing: you wonder whether this is an Instagram-sponsored web series. If it is, it’s not obvious. If it’s not, well…good for them.
Sometimes you need to just do stuff, and see how it turns out.
Instagram feels like my one-off way of sharing photos. I see something I like, I post it everywhere (well, Twitter and Facebook), at least once a day.
But now I find that (a) I’m constantly taking Instagram photos and (b) I have a backlog of photos to use. What to do?
Simple: post two photos a day instead of one. Except that one will be reserved for Instagram users/friends only. It’s Instagram-exclusive.
We hypershare everything these days. We have the ability to post something once and have it appear everywhere. By doing this, no one social platform gets exclusive anything. Part of the attraction of certain social networks, however, is their unique strength: Flickr for photos, Twitter for random thoughts or links, Facebook for information no one cares about.
For Instagram, it’s in-the-moment photos. A photo log of your day. More and more I feel that some of those photos should stick to Instagram, and only Instagram. That’s what makes Instagram special. If someone isn’t on Instagram, they don’t get to reap the benefits.
Plus I get to clear out my catalog of Instagram photos, and my friends on Instagram get to see stuff no one else gets to see.