12 Tips for Taking a Great Instagram Photo

12 Tips for Taking a Great Instagram Photo

Cairns is full of beautiful, Instagram-worthy locations. But sometimes photography and Instagram require a little more work than just point, shoot and upload. Read below for great photography (and Instagram!) tips and tricks to ace your perfect shot and take your Instagram feed to the next level.

1. Keep the Horizon Horizontal!

Once you notice it you won’t be able to un-notice it. The easiest way to immediately improve a photo is to keep your horizon straight on.

The horizon is something that will always be horizontal to everyone (the clue is even in the name ‘horizon’), so while it can seem ‘artsy’ to get your camera on an angle where the horizon is diagonal, it’s one of the easiest way to tell a novice photographer (or one who took a photo on the run!).

Keep your horizon horizontal and even this tiny improvement has a really big impact on the quality of your shot!


2. Rule of Thirds

When most people take a photo they put the focus point of the photo right in the centre and click. Use the Rule of Thirds to improve your photo instantly and make it much more interesting and eye-drawing. It is a popular framing technique that is simple and easy to use!

How to implement Rule of Thirds:
  • Imagine gridlines on your camera that divide what your camera is seeing into thirds horizontally and vertically.
  • A lot of cameras actually already have inbuilt gridlines that show these rule of thirds through the viewfinder – just have a look in your settings.
  • You are going to use this grid as a working guide to frame your photos.


Ways to use Rule of Thirds
  • If you are taking photos with the horizon in it (like a sunset), instead of running the horizon through the centre of the shot frame it so that it sits either on the top or bottom line (depending whether it’s the sky or the sea/land that you want to show the most in your photo).
  • For other focus points in the photo, instead of putting the point in the centre, frame your photo so that the focus point is sitting on the left or right third of the photo.
  • Doing this creates a ‘scene’ that the focus point is in, rather than just a point-and-shoot-and-this-is-what-you-have.

You’ll see this a lot on Instagram and popular Instagram photos tend to implement the Rule of Thirds more often than not.

However, it is important to remember that there are no real ‘rules’ in photography. If you don’t think the Rule of Thirds is going to work for the Instagram shot you have in mind – divert as you please!

 3. Use People

People like photos with people in them. It’s pretty simple. Adding yourself or your friend into your photo brings a human element that makes the photo instantly more interesting. Photos with people in them on Instagram tend to be a lot more popular than photos without.

People in photos also provide a scale and perspective – it can be hard to gage the height of a waterfall or just how tall those tress are without a person to show a comparison.

Don’t be afraid to jump in front of the camera to give it a human perspective!

4. Early Bird Gets the Worm

One thing that’s easy to notice about great photos on Instagram is they are often sans crowds. This is especially true when you are travelling. Most popular places get very busy in the day, making photos difficult or not as good as they can be.

Wake up pre-dawn and getting to where you want when first light hits can make all the difference. There is a chance you’ll find some other likeminded photographers doing the same thing, but you’ll have your opportunity to take a great photo without a lot of random people in it.

Plus, having some of the busiest attractions in the world all to yourself is well worth the early wake up call!


Guess which photo was taken at 6am?

5. Pay Close Attention to Your Framing

Pay close attention to what is in your shot. Often people will look at the focus point of their camera, even implement Rule of Thirds and then snap the shot without realizing that moving it even 2-3cm to the left could have brought a whole new aspect in!

Keep an eye how much ground is in your shot, or whether half a tree is hanging in on the top corner. Including the entire tree could improve the whole photo and as a general rule getting rid of unnecessary ground will also improve your shot!

It’s not just about the focus point of the photo but every element that comes into it, so be sure to keep a close eye to what else is on your frame!


Shoot from a range of different angles (though don’t forget to keep the horizon horizontal!). There is always a benefit from taking additional photos from up high or down low from your original aim.

Photos with people overlooking a scenic location can often look more impressive if taken from up high because it allows more of the location into the shot.


This photo would be more impressive if the camera was angled from above showing more of the background scene and less focus of the tea plant at the middle.

7. Take A Lot. I Mean A Lot.

The beauty of the digital age is photography is definitely a lot easier and much less expensive. Gone (almost) are the days of film and development, now with digital cameras and phones we are able to snap away to our hearts content, delete what we don’t like and keep what we do – and all instantly! Utilize this and make sure when you are taking photos you take a lot of them.

8. Use Natural Light

Wherever possible harness the sun and the light it gives. Natural light always looks better than man-made light, so if you are choosing between both, natural light will tend to always give you a nicer photo.

 9. Harness the Golden Hour

The hour from sunrise and the hour before sunset are a photographers dream. Often dubbed ‘The Golden Hour’ it is a time where the suns rays are falling across the Earth in the most aesthetically pleasing fashion. The light is very soft, often highlighting trees and waterfalls and there is limited to no harsh direct sunlight or deep shadows that throw off a photos composition.

The Golden Hour is when you are most likely to see photographers out and about. Do what they do and get yourself out of bed early and out and about just before dusk.

10. Edit!

There is not a single photo on Instagram that isn’t edited. It can be misleading when you look at your own photos, and can be frustrating if you feel you can’t get as good as the person posting on your feed. But every photo you see online is edited, and therefore it’s not fair to compare your original raw images with edited ones posted on Instagram.

To know about Editing

  • Editing is used to enhance and bring back elements of the scene that the camera may have failed to capture (especially less vivid colours!)
  • Editing doesn’t mean to necessarily use the pre-embedded filters. Filters often look exactly that – filtered and obvious. It can be best to avoid them.
  • Tweak the image with the editing options provided by Instagram or other apps like Lightroom. There is a range out there so try what you like until you find your perfect fit.
  • Be careful not to go overboard. Anyone can tell when an image has been highly saturated and it often can make the photo look worse than it did beforehand (and it is something that everyone falls guilty off at one time or another).

    Concerned your image might be too highly saturated? Look at the clouds and the sky – they always give it away – cloud edges start turning computerized and digital and blue skies start turning patchier the more the image is saturated!

11. Tripod and Remote – Your Two Best Friends

A lot of photographers are often asked “Yeah, but who TOOK your photo?” without realizing that a lot of photographers have a tripod and a remote with them wherever their camera is.

Cameras now often come with in-built Wi-Fi to connect to a remote (or even an app on your phone) meaning that you can take your photo and be in it too.

And if your camera doesn’t have Wi-Fi, there is always the 10 second self-timer dash.

Tip: Don’t get embarrassed. Who cares if people are looking at you funny for taking photos with a tripod, it’s very unlikely you are going to see them again. It’s also very likely those who are looking at you are the same people who admire the photos taken by this method when they see them on Instagram.

 12. Look and Learn

Like someone’s photo? Study it and work out what it is you like about it, what you think they might have done and then try and implement these techniques next time you take a photo. Seeing someone else’s Instagram can be the best way to inspire your next shot, and teach you interesting new ways to frame a photo.


That’s the thing about photography its all a constant learning curve. Whether you have invested in a DSLR camera or using your phone, these tips can be used to improve any photo.

And the best way to improve your photography and take the perfect Instagram snap? Practice!

Written by Sarah Latham

Looking for the Best Locations in Cairns for Instagram? Click here.

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