I’m a professional photographer and these are the six most common photography mistakes I see on Instagram

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Instagram is the perfect place to tell your life and your things with the image. And we must take care of it. I have been a professional photographer for more than 20 years and these are the most common mistakes I see when reviewing photos on Instagram:


Shoot without taking care of the exposure

It’s hard to tell when a photograph is good. Some of us bet on a good message with a perfect technique; others just want the memory and trust everything to the automatisms of the camera. At least we have to get the lights and shadows to have details, a good contrast, etc.

And these nuances are difficult to appreciate if we look directly at the mobile screen or the viewfinder. In digital photography we have the histogram invaluable help to know where the lights are, the shadows and how far apart they are.

If you look closely, all the detail on the ground has been lost and it has become a black mass. The author could have measured the light at the horizon line to minimize contrast and achieve detail in both luminosities.

For this reason I recommend always use histogram. In current cameras, even on mobile, we should have it in sight so as not to screw up a shot, at least until you are sure of what you are doing.

Instagram photography mistakes

Exposure compensation on a mirrorless camera

There are many ways to control the exposure with the histogram, but the secret is to get it as close to the far right as possible. This way we avoid that the photograph is dark and that the lights have detail. And if we shoot in raw (raw format), we will have less digital noise.

With the live histogram it’s easy:

Photography errors on Instagram

Burned photo… We would have to take the histogram to the left by lowering the shutter time from 1/1000 to 1/500

  1. If the histogram doesn’t go to the right, we put a slower shutter time, for example, from 1/1000 to 1/500.
  2. If it is stuck to the right you have to do the opposite, go to a faster speed, from 1/500 to 1/1000.
  3. With a mirrorless camera it is easiest to control it with the Exposure compensationa button with the +/- icon that allows you to do the same in a more intuitive way.
Photography errors on Instagram

the exposure is perfect

A photo may be great, but if the viewer sees pure white where it shouldn’t, or everything full of black shadows, they’ll go straight to the next photo.

Use the Instagram camera app

The low quality of some images that I find is very noticeable. It is important work with the best camera and/or application that we have at our disposal. And I can assure you that the Instagram camera is not recommended due to the strong compression it makes of the image and the few controls it has.

I have always said that in digital photography it is easier to go from a large file to a smaller one than the other way around. And to achieve the highest quality it is not enough to have a good eye, it is necessary to have a team that offers you what you need. You don’t have to spend the money on a professional team, but you have to know how configure the camera for the highest possible quality of the file.

Instagram photo mistakes

On the right, the over-focused, saturated and compressed image from the Instagram camera

Within mirrorless cameras you always have to bet on the RAW format. On mobile, to take advantage of computational photography, you can shoot in HEIC, with more efficient compression, or directly in jpeg. And always with the maximum possible size.

If you look at the green meadow and the rocks in the background, the detail is conspicuous by its absence. We only see masses of color due to the excessive compression that prefers to eliminate textures to minimize noise and maintain recognizable shapes.

This way we will avoid that digital and compressed aspect that we see so many times. Technical quality is essential to have a good image on Instagram.

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Do not reveal the photos

Here we come to a sticky point. There is a fashion called #nofilter which presumes that the photographs come out of the camera exactly as they are. That they have not revealed any and that what we see is what the author saw. They think it’s more authentic. However, they forget to say that the file has already been revealed by the camera.

Instagram photo mistakes

Before and after reveal

Reveal a shot it is an essential step. I’m not talking about changing day for night or anything like that. It only consists of zooming in on what you saw at the time you clicked. A good development is not noticeabledoes not make photography a painting, just plays with light and shadow to direct the gaze.

Instagram photo mistakes

Before after

You can fall into the temptation of filters to improve photography. If you don’t know how to reveal, it’s a perfect help, because they automatically adjust all the parameters (brightness, contrast, saturation,…) to find a certain aesthetic, but you’ll be left without that effect when the trend passes and they change it for another. An good development It enhances the photograph, it does not change it.

This photograph needs to correct the horizon and vertical. It would also improve a lot if the sky was darkened in the development to focus attention on the construction. It could also be trimmed a bit more to avoid the foreground and make the white cloth more visible.

Forget that the photos are going to be seen on the mobile

Instagram has an interface where photos look very small. When you open an image it doesn’t take up half the screen. For this reason it is important to remember that small details will not be seen well.

Instagram photo mistakes

There are many things too small

The clearest example is group photography. If you take out 10 people it is impossible to see their faces well. It would be better to take 10 portraits so that they can be seen perfectly; or put them in two groups of 5. Small things are not seen on Instagram. And if they are not seen, they are not voted, unless you have unconditional followers.

This photograph is a perfect example of tourist photography. We want to remove the monument and forget everything else. We have to integrate the visitors to make them relevant, and in this case they are too small and create ‘spots’ on the image. It is a dirty image that would have been resolved with another frame or closer to the tourists. Or better yet, waiting until they were further apart.

Do not choose a good proportion for this social network

It is not good to post with any ratio on Instagram. And this is something that you must take into account when developing and taking the photograph. Because you will always have to cut it to adapt to the most common proportions.

Photography errors on Instagram

Same photo with different aspect ratio 1:1 vs 4:5

Also, to get the picture to look as big as possible, you have to bet on the proportions that we have discussed: 1:1 and 4:5. As I will detail in the next point, cropping is one of the easiest steps in any program or application:

It is a correct image but with a more square format we would have much more information and it would stand out more on the wall. We cannot forget that the photographs are seen on devices with a few inches and it is important to offer a larger size.

  • The square format has a size of 1080x1080px
  • The 4:5 format, always vertical, measures 1350x1080px

The correct thing is to cut at the time of development, so as not to lose the composition you have made. And for the record I know accounts where everything is panoramic and it is a delight to see the wall.

Let Instagram compress your photos

So many millions of photos are published every day that they need the photos to take up as little space as possible. For this reason, it is important deliver the photo to Instagram with a final size to avoid wild compression, which causes loss of sharpness and quality.

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom

My advice is to always reduce to these sizes and then export the photo in jpeg with the highest quality. It can be done in many programs, but I recommend Adobe Lightrooma simple program that also exists as a mobile app:

Instagram photo mistakes

On the left good compression; on the right, Instagram direct compression

  1. We click on the icon share on and let’s Export As.
  2. We choose File type> JPG; Dimension>Custom>1080px and Image Quality>100% (this is the most important).

We are facing a photomontage. And to camouflage the effect the author has put many filters. This has caused the image to have a lot of weight and Instagram has had no choice but to compress the image to the limit that we see.

It is the best way to have a file with the lowest possible weight and the highest quality so that it looks perfectly on Instagram despite the compression that it will always do.

How to post photos on Instagram from your PC with the web version

Little by little, if you pay attention to these tips, your photographs will be better. It’s a matter of practicing until you get good results. And let’s not forget that you learn from mistakes.

Instagram is the perfect place to tell your life and your things with the image. And we must take care…

Instagram is the perfect place to tell your life and your things with the image. And we must take care…

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