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

Fat Mum Slim /

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.