Instagram 101: a step-by-step guide to using Instagram

Chances are, if you’ve got a smartphone, you’ve got Instagram. If you’re a newbie to the Instagram game, let me help you figure it out in 13 easy steps:

Step 1. Download the Instagram app (here for Apple products and here for Android users). It’s free. I’ll wait here while you get it. I’ll just snap photos of my breakfast. As you do. Done?

Step 2. Create an account. Think of a username and set-up your account. If you’re active on Twitter, try and choose the same name handle that you use there, that way the account will be linked and if you share on Twitter there won’t be any confusion.

Step 3. Take a photo. You can take a photo in Instagram {the easiest option} or with your phone camera, or using another camera app. For simplicity’s sake, let’s take it with Instagram. Click the camera icon in the bottom panel, make sure you like what you see in the viewfinder and snap away.

Step 4. Choose a filter. You’ll see at the bottom of your photo a series of little trees, they’re the range of filters Instagram has to offer. Click through each to see how they change your photo. Select the one that looks best with your picture.

Step 5. Add a frame or take it away. You’ll notice as you flick through the filters that many of them have different frames. If you like your photo with a frame, leave it as is. If you want to take the frame away, simply click the frame icon in the top left-hand corner.

Step 6. Play with the tilt-shift focus.You will notice a teardrop at the top of their screen. Click this and select an option from the drop-down menu {circle gives a smaller area to blur and focus, while the strip will give you a long strip the width or height of the image}. Move it around on your photo and you can make parts of your image in focus and the rest blurred. If you decide you don’t want this feature, just choose the teardrop again and click the ‘x’.

Step 7. Rotate and add some lux. You can also rotate your photo by clicking the arrow at the top of your screen. You can also add some lux by clicking the sun icon in the bottom left-hand corner. This adds sharpness and contrast. Once your photo is as you like it, click the green arrow.

Step 8. Add a caption. What do you want to say about your photo? Make it short, to the point and relevant. If you plan on also sharing your photo to Twitter, make sure you also keep it under 110 characters to make sure your message doesn’t get cut off. Captions are optional, but they do help tell your story.

Step 9. Add a hashtag. This is completely optional. Hashtags are a way for Instagram to group photos together. For instance, with the photo a day challenge we use a hashtag. When people tag their photos, it means the community can click the hashtag and see each others photos. You might add a tag if you were traveling somewhere like New York {so #NewYork} so your photos could be pulled together with other photos of New York. You can create your own hashtag or use others that people have created, just click around and explore.

Step 10. Add to your Photo Map
This is a new feature {it came with the update just yesterday, so if you don’t have it you can get it now in the app store} where you can add your photos to a map of the world. It’s the same as geotagging but you can get a snapshot of all your photos on a map. So if you select ‘on’ for the ‘add your photo to the map’ option, it will drop your photo onto the map on your current location. Just be careful because it can pinpoint the exact area you are, so remember you’re sharing with the world and you might not like people to know where you are. I only geotag or add to the map when I’m in a big public place {airport, theme park} and never from home. I suggest you do the same.

Step 11. Share with others. Before you publish your photo with the world, you can choose to share it with platforms other than Instagram. You can set up in your profile to publish to your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr accounts, or even to email yourself a photo each time you publish. Once you’ve selected where you want to share it, click done.

Step 12. Be part of the community. Start by visiting your profile and clicking find friends. Instagram will show you Facebook and Twitter friends who use Instagram that you can add to your following feed. Like their photos, leave comments and find new friends by exploring the popular page, yours friend’s friend’s photos and hashtags too. To check what people have said about your photos or if your username has been mentioned, simply click the speechbubble/heart icon.

Step 13. Explore. Instagram had an update where they introduced the explore feature. It looks like a star or a compass. Click on it to see the current popular photos or to search hashtags or look for users.

Are you on Instagram? My username is @fatmumslim. Share your username below.

198 thoughts on “Instagram 101: a step-by-step guide to using Instagram”

  1. I have Android Chantelle and they actually do have the tilt-shift feature (even though I didn’t know that’s the actual name). I have used it to blur out the background in some of my pics. (@psychbabbler)

  2. Well, I haven’t Instagram on my Blackberry, but I’m following your challenge Photo a Day, and it’s very funny!!! My username is @arzamonte

  3. @lizslens i am in the middle of my 6th month of photo a day, and i am so thankful for your hallenges… they are chronicling my life in ways i’d never imagined. thank you!

  4. I love Instagram, as well as your photo challenges. Been doing it for six months in a row now! πŸ™‚ I’m @blissamongstchaos xx

  5. I have been doing your photo challenges since March (that’s when I discovered your site). my instagram is: glennygs and android does have the tilt-shift feature.

  6. I’ve just followed your instructions…the end result of being a hit is yet to be determined, but I think it’ll be fun exploring.

  7. @monica2884 is my username. i love your photo challenge, I did a few but it was before I had instagram and just posted them to facebook. I am excited to join in again in next months photo challenge.

  8. This is a brilliant snapshot, thank you! I have been using instagram for a while but I learnt a couple of new things! I am mezziec

  9. I totally agree with you about tagging photos. I don’t want random people knowing where I live but public places are different. My username is @pinkylea

  10. I am and I’m following you and doing the photo a day challenge for the first time – LOVE IT!! I’m @1onthesunnyside

  11. Good page. Just one question – I am with Android – how do I tag my older photos to the Map….just can’t work that one out. I also wish that Android had as many edit options and i phone. My username with Instagram is:cals45. I am already following you!

  12. I’ve recently found your site, and blog and instagram work, and have been avidly going through it all, bit by bit…
    As a Mum of 5, Gram of 4, Wife of 1, lifelong photographer, I’d love to share ideas and thoughts through photos!
    On instagram you can find me as: fulload

  13. Haha maybe now I can get a better grasp on Instagram! Thanks for the informing post =) My username is @Merginginto_me

  14. @klj11 & I just found you photo challenges this month! It’s actually been quite fun & has given me something to look forward to each day! Thanks so much!

  15. I’ve been using Instagram on my iPad, and before that I was using it on my husband’s android phone, but I just got an iPhone (switched from a BlackBerry, something I never thought I’d do until I got an iPad!) today so I am very much looking forward to being able to use Instagram more often. My username is @kyl21z

  16. Great explanation! I too will only geotag if I’m nowhere near home πŸ™‚ @houseofpowell

  17. That is a great explanation… I’ve had loads of friends ask me how to use it… think I’ll just refer them here!! Cheers. @aboo10:disqus

  18. aaah, now I understand what the tilt-shift button is πŸ˜‰ thanks for this post. sunny greetings from germany, @geisslein.

  19. I am @angiehay- I use to take photos many years ago and then lost my interest ( family, kids, work ect got in the way!). Started your photo a day challenge back in March this year and did it for 4 months straight. I have now been able to get my mojo back and loving it again. So thanks for your inspiration! I would love you to check out my photos.

  20. Just a comment – android users DO have the teardrop blur/focus feature! I know, cause I have a droid and use this feature all the time! Good explanation. Love your blog. @scoops1982 is me at instagram (don’t get confused, I’m old (HAHA) that was the year I graduated college πŸ˜‰

  21. I’ve been participating in your photo a day challenges for a couple months now, my instagram name is @linda_anne

  22. just showed this to my husband. been trying to get him to use instagram, maybe he will now! i’m @thepajamachef

  23. Soooo, I’ve been using Instagram for a while, and apparently incorrectly. Thanks for teaching me something new. I do your photo a day challenge on FB. You can follow me on Instagram @melissamedina79.

  24. Thank you for the tips! I’ve started to take pictures again, thanks to your photo a day challenges! I’m @hapa_girl

  25. Love Instagram! And love the #photoaday! My username is @amarins
    Greetings from Holland.
    ps. where’s your phone case from? It’s so sweet!

  26. I love your helpful and informative posts. It’s nice to have questions answered so succinctly and fully! @amchey

  27. This is brilliant! I’m pretty new to Instagram, but I follow you and your photos are spectacular! I’m @oliviashannan

  28. oooh, thank you for solving some mysteries for this Instagram newbie! I am loving more shooting options (ie: not having to lug around my big a** Canon, lol!) I would love for you (and any/everyone else!) to follow me at: seattlegal1

  29. This makes a lot clear in instagram! Thanks a lot! Am following you for a while now, but would be great if you will follow me too; and give me some tips on how to do better πŸ˜‰ @fibollen

  30. Thanks Chantelle. Only started using Instagram at the beginning of June due to you and photoaday! Hooked! Been following you on ig since then. My username is @wordage

  31. I follow you on Instagram, my username is snowingindoors, you left a comment on a photo of my kiddos watching the Olympics and made me a very happy camper!

  32. Love instagram. I’m always on the look out for a great instagram shot when I am out and about. I’m based in NZ! @ksummersby

  33. Excellent post, you are the reason that I have become so addicted to Instagram so thanks for that.

    Slight correction though: the Android version of Instagram does have tilt-shift on it. It didn’t when first created but they’ve added it on in one of the recent updates.

  34. Instagram is a photographers best friend when they don’t want to lug their gear around to take candid shots of their everyday life! LOVE!! @theashleymae

  35. I just moved to Austin, Texas, so most of my pictures are of my adventures exploring my new city! @missmandy33

  36. Thanks for this post, I’ve been using Instagram, for a while and had no idea about half of these things… now I can do heaps more!

  37. @cooperskitty – Love your photoaday have been taking part for 3 months – I have started everyone I know on to it as well. Thank you,

  38. I joined instagram around new year, but have really developed an addiction to it, thanks to your photoaday challenge! I don’t like the new photomap thingy tho, especially since you can’t add your photos to the locations where they were actually taken (only where you added them) @wynken_de

  39. It’s my first time to join a photo a day and I’m loving it, it helps me to be more creative in taking photos. Thanks for this great idea. my username : @lm_iphone4s2

  40. Hi Chantelle! I started today on Instagram (@smartins26).
    I just love your blog and your Photo A Day idea πŸ™‚ I’m ready for September! πŸ™‚

  41. Hi I’m @kewarra I am really enjoying your monthly challenges it is really motivating my creative side. Thanks so much!

  42. Hi FMS – Am the one that keeps asking you about the FAVE PHOTO Hash Tag for the Photo A Day πŸ˜€ … I am @caz888 …I came across your photo challenge through a friend on Face Book and have been enjoying these photo challenges since April 1st (and first discovered Instagram) Have been hooked ever since πŸ™‚

  43. Hi all, I love instagram, and thanks to FatMumSlim & the photo a day challenge, I’ve channelled my inner creativity over the past months πŸ™‚ I’ll admit I’m not the most committed snapper, but I love browsing other users pics – its amazing to see how differently other players interpret their perspectives of each prompt! Feel free to follow me @ngahuia213 πŸ™‚

  44. this post has been in my google reader forever. finally getting around to clearing the thing out. the day android got instagram was the happiest day ever. i dowloaded right a way. i’m @aubreyzaruba

  45. Just discovered you…along with Instagram! Posted my first photo for Photo a Day October but forgot to add the hashtag and can’t figure out how to edit the comments…suspect I can’t! You can follow me at amnewbery.

  46. I just recently joined instagram, and I started the Photo A Day challenge today. Really enjoying it so far – my only problem is sticking to just one photo! I’m a bit snap-happy at the moment!

  47. Just recently discovered you through Instagram! Ive been looking for photo challenges.
    So happy you do this!! looking forward to joining your monthly photoaday challenges! @JudySariego

  48. I’m charl_azz on insta! I’m into my 2nd year of the 365 project πŸ™‚ I find fmsphotoaday awesome when I’m running low on creativity and need a boost/ideas.

  49. All that matters on Instagram is followers. By the way zen-promo (com) can help you with getting of them. Visit and read.

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