Instagram Lighting Tips and Hacks
Is it not the #actual #worst when you're gazing out into a beautiful sunset, and your Instagram photo just doesn't do it justice? You want to share the love with your audience, but the blurry mess of a photo pales in comparison to the glimmering horizon before your eyes. Capturing a good shot requires effort, luck, and well, good lighting. But how do you optimize it?
Mel Vandersluis, a Montreal-based freelance travel and lifestyle photographer says "to get the best light on a subject, make sure you shoot in the same direction as the light and not against it." Otherwise, your subject will look dark.
Behold, more fail-proof tips for a feed that's truly lit.
Use natural light.
"Whether indoors or outdoors, I will never post a photo without natural light," says Ver Sepasi, a Montreal-based photographer and influencer. Ensure your subject, er, brunch, isn't backlit, and that the light is shining down on it directly or coming at it from an upper-diagonal angle. If the light hits it from the back, you'll be left with a dark, indiscernible green smoothie bowl, which is social media blasphemy.
If it's a flat lay, make sure there are no shadows anywhere (like from your hands or from the sun). Ver uses a white bristol board placed on the floor or near the window that acts as a reflector, evening out the natural light.
You can get a little more creative with light-enhancing tools, however. "I use a fake marble backdrop that costs around $20 [or you can DIY one] and it looks very real. It's a very clean, sleek look. People associate [marble] with a luxurious vibe," she says. "Because it's such a neutral color, anything looks good next to it and it pairs with anything." Light-colored wood does the trick, too.
As for selfies? If you're indoors, let the light filter in through the window. For outdoor glamour shots, Ver says she always takes her selfies in the shade because it evens out her skin tone.
Take photos at night.
To flash or not to flash? That is the question.
Say you're standing in front of a neon restaurant sign emitting strong artificial light. If you don't use flash, it could come out grainy and blurry, but if you do use flash, light could overwhelm the entire photo. The lesson here is to take both versions — that way you have the option, and you can experiment to see which photo is most salvageable.
If you're inside said restaurant at night, don't use flash, but have your dining partner shine their flashlight on food so the light is less harsh and mimics natural light.
For serious night shooters, Mel suggests bringing a tripod. "The less light you have the more prone to grain and blur you'll be," she says. "By using a tripod you eliminate any movement, allowing the camera to take in more light by leaving the shutter open longer."
As for that fancy phone case adorning celebrity phones? Ver says the LuMee case makes a huge difference, since it brightens up the camera lens from every angle.
Choose the right time of day.
You can make it work any time of day, really, but the "golden hour" just before sunset casts a particularly enchanting yellow glow over landscapes and portraits. Mel is also partial to shooting at sunrise and sunset "when the light can make a photo really magical."
If you're still slapping on Instagram's OG filters that came with the app like Amaro and Kelvin, you're stuck in 2012. But you can be saved! "I always use a filter but I'll always edit it, whether it's the lighting, contrast and shadows," Ver says. If she's editing a picture taken on an iPhone, she opts for A6 (edited for warmth and exposure) on the VSCO editing app. If you can't find the exact level of exposure you're looking for on VSCO, you still have another chance to adjust it within the Instagram app. Phew.
Mel uses Lightroom to edit each photo, often playing with the exposure. She customizes her own presents to ensure a streamlined theme on her feed.
Focus the lens.
If you're shooting with an iPhone, focusing on your subject is as easy as tapping on the centre of the screen, or on the image you want to focus. Then, you'll see a yellow circle encase your subject. Click the yellow sun beside it and boost the exposure. From there, tinker with the final photo by clicking on the three lines beneath the photo. Play with brilliance, exposure, highlights, and shadows.
If the camera app just isn't doing it for you, look to Snapchat, where the camera often pulls through in clutch situations. If the screen is dark, tap the screen and it'll brighten it up.
Get into formation.
Is your shoot taking place in a forest with trees or a busy festival? Position your subjects so that light filters through the background, whether that's buildings or a large crowd. Thin rays of light add a majestic feel.
Invest in a professional camera.
Your smartphone has thousands of tricks up its sleeve, but its built-in camera has limitations. If you're thinking of using your Instagram platform as a professional portfolio, Ver says there are a range of professional cameras on the market for under $1,000 that are great for beginners. They interpret light better, and boast overall quality. "It's like night and day," she says.