How To Take Better Instagram Photos


the blog

by sarah elrod

How to take better instagram photos

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Do you want to learn how to take better Instagram photos? Whether you are a business looking to up level your product shots, a content creator who wants a little makeover without having to hire a pro, or just a mom who wants to learn how to take better photos of her kids and day to day life this is for you.


There is this ongoing controversy about whether or not having a beautiful aesthetic feed actually matters or not. We often say that “done is better than perfect” and there is full truth in that.

Pretty looking feeds will grab someone’s attention more so than a bunch of random photos that were not planned out. But I also believe that people crave authenticity and want real-ness from the people they follow. If you want to take better Instagram photos, you are going to have to do both.

My biggest secret? Presets! I used to be terrified of posting an iPhone photo next to one of my client’s wedding photos because I thought it would look so tacky. But after I started using the same presets that I edit my client work on my phone images I realized that they can actually mesh together very well!

Presets are filters for your images that can help you create a mood across all of your images.

I have another blog post with some presets attached that you can purchase & download right now! 

You can find that post by clicking here:


A huge game changer for any photos you take, iPhone or with a professional camera, is going to be lighting. If you are able to maintain a similar lighting style across your images, your Instagram feed is going to appear more pleasing to the eye. 

The best type of lighting is going to be either window lighting or open shade. Window lighting is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the lighting that is glowing in through a window. Typically it’s a much softer, more even look and is very flattering on all skin types. 

If you are shooting outdoors, then it’s best to find open shade. This could be next to a building where a large amount of shade is cast onto the ground or even a cloudy day when the skies are overcast and the entire ground is shaded. 

Both of these lighting situations will create a really pretty, evenly casted soft light across skin or any products you may be shooting. And if you didn’t notice, both of these types of lighting as also natural light. 

There’s just something about using the good ol’ sun that God gave us instead of setting up a bunch of softboxes in a studio. But that’s just my own opinion!

If you do need to use artificial lighting for whatever reason, I highly recommend a ring light! They tend to give off the best replica of window lighting and they really are not that expensive!

Now as a professional shooting portraits I am also a big fan of back lighting, which is usually best around sunrise or sunset golden hours. This is when I put the sun directly behind my subject and it creates a really pretty golden halo effect. I don’t find that it works as well on iphones, or when shooting on a camera in auto mode. So it’s best to stick to this if you know how to use a DSLR in manual mode.

Graphics & Flat Lays

Something I like to incorporate into my Instagram feed is graphics, flat lays, and stock images.

Graphics are a fun way to share quotes on your feed or even to add some negative space to break up your feed. They can easily be created in Canva or photoshop!

Another way to break up your feed is using flat lays! These are images you can take yourself that don’t require a ton of effort. The more simple your flay lays are the more pleasing to the eye they will be. Do not feel like you need to add in 500 items scattered next to each other. 

If you don’t have time to create your own images for your feed, then you can use stock images. There are a ton of places to find stock images online, either for free or paid. I like Canva and

Disclaimer: even though stock images are okay for you to use, you never ever want to take credit for the image itself. Especially if you are a professional photographer! You need to make sure you tell people that the image they see is not one you took. 

Branding Photos 

Branding photos are photos of you that tell your story and help people gain insight into your business.

If you are the face of your brand, you need to be posting photos of yourself on your Instagram feed. People need to see who YOU are. This is the golden ticket to connecting with your followers and building relationships.

And trust me, I get it! Photos of yourself can feel so awkward! I mean we are not professional models right? So I want to help you learn how to level up your branding & content photos of yourself!

Create A Mood Board

  • When planning for a branding shoot I always suggest creating a mood board that is broken up into sections. Have sections for poses, locations, clothing, lighting, literally everything.
  • You can make a mood board on Pinterest or a saved board on Instagram! Use this as a reference when styling your outfits or for poses on your shoot. That way if you are out on location and need some inspiration you can just open your phone and click on the board and scroll through all the saved images.

Choosing Intentional Locations

  • We want to show our audiences real life and our real day to day (even if it’s mixed in with more curated content). If you work from home at a desk, take some cute photos at your desk. If you work in coffee shops a lot, do photos there! If you love the beach and live around the beach and it’s a place you go a lot, do photos at the beach or riding horses or playing with your kids in your backyard. 
  • Choose locations that tell the story of your life and are real to who you actually are as a brand and business. 

Choose Intentional Outfits

  • Wear outfits that show your personality and the meaning behind your brand. Also colors are very important when choosing outfits too! For me personally, my brand is very warm, summery, and bright. I want people to feel happy and bubbly when they meet my brand. So I try to wear lots of loose fun pieces of clothing and stick to warmer colors or neutrals. Trust me when I say, the colors you wear will do wonders with how cohesive your feed looks on Instagram.

Remember: Self timers are our friend. 

Once you have a location and outfit figured out, it’s time to start snapping away!

It will feel super weird at first. My suggestion is to play some music to get yourself loosened up. Add movement into your images. When you move around, you will loosen up and not feel so stiff.

It may take 10-15 images before getting the one you want. As time goes on and the more you do this, the better you will get.

Click Here To Watch The Video Version Of This Podcast Episode

Click Here To Check Out Some Awesome Presets

Click Here For A Free Trial Of HoneyBook


I'm Sarah Elrod

The Podcast

Rural Lifestyle



I'm a Cowgirl turned serial entrepreneur.
I'm a horse trainer, western wedding photographer, business coach and ranch wife.
I help women in the western industry grow thriving businesses from rural America.
When I am not strategizing new marketing tactics, you will find me riding my horses, cuddling my cattle dog, or kissing my hot husband.
There is also a good chance I am buying way too many outfits from western boutiques.

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