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Let’s Get Social! How to Get Started on Instagram

By Jenny Burdette

As a nature photographer, you’ve probably spent time enjoying the work of others on social media, and perhaps posting your own images there. But if you haven’t really embraced Instagram yet, perhaps it’s time you did. In many ways, Instagram is much more photographer-friendly than Facebook, because Instagram is all about images.

Here are some tips to get started on Instagram, including how to set up your account, post photos, and learn some basic rules of the IG road.

Step 1:  Set up an Account and Profile

First, you must install the app on your phone or tablet. Remember that Instagram is designed for use from a mobile device. You can view posts and manage your account from a computer, but postings must be managed through a phone or tablet.

GNPA’s Instagram page

Go to the App Store or Google Play and download the Instagram app to your phone or tablet.

Once you have the app on your phone, open it and follow the instructions to set up your account. You will be asked to choose an account name and a user name. These names can be the same, but your user name must be unique from other users. Your profile page will show your account name and your user name, but your posts and comments show only your user name. So other people on IG are much more likely to know your user name than your real name.

Your user name should be relatively simple and easy to spell. You want people to remember your user name, associate it with you, and easily enter it using the keypad on their phone.

Instagram allows a 150-character bio on your profile page. You can add this when setting up the account or come back and add it later. You can also include a URL link. Instagram creates a public account as a default, but you have the option to change the setting to private. If your purpose is to share your photography, a public account makes sense.

You will see that Instagram also offers the options of business or creator accounts, which you may want to investigate, especially if you plan to use Instagram to market your work. Users may switch between personal, business or creator account types at any time.

Be sure to add a profile picture. This photo must be uploaded from your phone or tablet. It will display in a very small circle, so keep it simple, whether it’s a headshot or a favorite photo. You can change this photo at any time by editing your profile.

At this point, your account is set up and ready to go! Search for people you know on IG and “follow” them. You can also follow a hashtag, which will notify you when photos using that specific hashtag are posted. Look for @gnpa_pix to follow GNPA’s page, where you can “like” and comment on the photos there.

Step 2:  Create Your First Post

Remember, posting must be done from your phone or tablet.

Instagram now allows photos in square, horizontal or vertical formats; however, a 2×3 vertical will still have a slight crop on the longer sides. Instagram was originally designed to post images taken with your phone, so any images processed on your computer will benefit from resizing.

Post from Anna Destefano

Image Size

Instagram will take whatever size image you upload and reduce it to fit their specs, but this process often results in an image that seems significantly less sharp. If you are exporting images from your computer, you don’t want to use full resolution versions.

I export from Lightroom with my images sized to 1800 pixels on the longest side and 100ppi. You can probably go as low as 1200 pixels and 72ppi, but 1800 seems to work well for me. Use the sRGB color profile, select high-quality JPEG, and sharpen for on-screen display. If you use a photo-sharing app, it will take care of resizing for you. If you are uploading images taken with your phone, there is no need to resize.

 Moving an Image from Computer to Mobile Device

There are several ways to move images from computer to phone, and if you already have a preferred method, just keep using it. The following methods are the ones I’m most familiar with.

  • Simply “airdrop” the image if you are using Mac devices
  • Use the USB ports and cable to connect computer and phone
  • Lightroom users can use Lightroom Mobile on their phones to get photos from the computer
  • Use Dropbox. Add the app to your phone and use (set up a free account) from the computer to upload images. Then use the phone app to share from Dropbox and save the image to your phone.

Note: Dropbox also offers an option to export directly to Instagram. But this option opens the photo in square format only. Saving the photo to your phone and then uploading to Instagram allows you to choose the aspect ratio.

Post Your Photo and Caption

Once the photo is saved to your phone, go to your Instagram profile page, tap the “+” icon and choose “Post.” If you see a “use Instagram camera” message, ignore it and just click on “Post.”

Photos from your phone will pop up and allow you to select the image(s) you wish to post.

Photos initially display in a square format; you can adjust the ratio if necessary by using the touchscreen or the arrows at the bottom left corner of the image.

Click “Next” (arrow icon on Android) in the upper right corner to open a selection of filters. These filters may be helpful for phone pics, but most likely will not enhance an already edited image, so simply click Next (arrow) again.

Now you have the option to add a caption.

Captions and Hashtags

An image is required for an IG post, but you can post without a caption. However, a caption is a great way to engage viewers. A caption can be as simple as naming your subject (“Chipping Sparrow”), or it can be a lengthy blog-type post.

Post from Clay Fisher @cfphotoimages

Post from Jenny Burdette @jennyburdettephotography





















Hashtags are a part of the caption and help others find your photos. One way to choose appropriate hashtags is to think of searching for your own image. What would you enter? You can also look at the hashtags others have used for similar images.

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, although many Instagram experts advise limiting hashtags to 10-15.

Certain hashtags also serve as permission for your photo to be “featured” by an Instagram group or hub. Add #gnpa_pix to let GNPA know that it’s okay to post your pic on our Instagram page, with full photo credit to you and a link to your page.

After entering your caption/hashtags, click OK in the upper right corner. You can always edit your post to add additional hashtags later.

Final Options

You now will have several options. You can tag various people, add a location, etc. Choose the options you prefer, tap “Share” (check mark on Android) in the upper right of the screen, and you’ve shared your first post!

Step 3: Rules of the Instagram Road

Instagram is a social platform and is designed for interaction and engagement with other users. So be engaged, by liking and commenting on others’ posts and responding to users who comment on your photos.

To ensure that accounts belong to real people, not spammers, Instagram places limits on liking, commenting and following. In general, limit activity to 100-200 “likes,” 60 comments, or 60 follows in an hour. Violating this unwritten rule can result in an IG timeout, where you are blocked from any activity for a period of time (days to weeks).

If you see something on Instagram that is inappropriate, report it immediately. Tap the three dots in the upper right corner of the objectionable post (opposite the username in the upper left corner) and choose “Report.”

Step 4: Get Social

Start posting your images and following others. Check out and follow the @gnpa_pix page and tag your photos #gnpa_pix so that our page can find and feature your images. And stay tuned for future posts with more tips and tricks for sharing your photography on the ‘Gram!

Jenny Burdette is a retired English teacher, photographer, writer, wanderer and grandmother. Her images are featured in the Visitors Centers at many of Georgia’s State Parks and have appeared on the covers and pages of several conservation-themed publications. Jenny is a member of GNPA’s Conservation Committee, a member at large on GNPA’s Executive Board, a moderator for GNPA’s Facebook page, and Administrator for GNPA’s new Instagram page, @gnpa_pix. Follow Jenny on Facebook and, of course, on Instagram (@jennyburdettephotography).