Ready for some inspiration? Let’s dive into our top ten recommendations for kits, gear, and tools that will level up your Instagram game in no time.
Chances are, if you’re a business owner, entrepreneur, or influencer, you’ll be using Instagram as a primary marketing channel for your business or brand. Still considered one of the most engaging social platforms, Instagram continues to attract millions of eyes every day. It also offers the potential of high engagement rates and substantial returns from advertisement.
As we move into the latter months of the year, customer needs and desires begin to change. Now is a fantastic time to review your own Instagram game and think about how you can level up in time for the holiday season. We’re going to assume that you have your content strategy mapped out, as well as a basic understanding of how to lay out your grid.
If you’re ready, let’s get started!
Before you can post anything, you need to get inspired. Thankfully, there are many services available where you can do just that. One of the best places to start is Pinterest. If you’ve heard of it but never dived in, now is the time to start. The service allows you to search for visuals on almost any subject imaginable, meaning no matter what kind of content you’re looking for, chances are there’s a topic on Pinterest curated by millions of users around the globe right now.
What’s really neat about the service is that once you dive into a subject, Pinterest will use machine learning to surface other ideas that are related to your search. Before long, you’ll be positively overwhelmed by inspiration. You can also curate your searches into “boards,” meaning you can come back and add to your search whenever you like.
2. Adobe Color
As a bonus, also check out Adobe Color. Though not strictly a curation tool, this online service has similar functionality to Pinterest in its Explore and Trends sections. Again, pop what you’re looking for into the search engine and it’ll present you with a whole host of ideas. This service also allows you to search by color profiles, or match your inspirations to certain color palettes. With very little effort, you can find ideas that specifically match your aesthetic, ensuring you keep your content consistent with your previous posts.
3. Shutterstock Editor
With pre-made templates for everything from Instagram Stories to PowerPoint presentations, Shutterstock Editor is a fantastic way to create posts. Editor offers endless options for customizing your designs, from typography to color and more — and it’s completely free. Plus, by using Editor you also get access to Shutterstock’s library of over 260 million images.
You don’t need to have a degree in graphic design to use this design tool. First, choose an image from the library or upload your own to preview your design in Editor. Make whatever changes you need, from resizing to filters to adding text, before you save and publish on social media. Editor can create posts at whatever shape and size you need, so you can easily reuse the same content on multiple platforms. This can be a huge timesaver when you’re gearing up for a campaign or event.
Once you have your content and your grid nailed down, the next thing to focus on is scheduling. You don’t want to create a whole host of fantastic posts and fire them out quickly. Otherwise, you’ll soon be back to filling up the hopper again. A steady, consistent flow of content, perhaps on the same days of the week or times of the month, readies your followers for when they can expect the next update from you.
Luckily, there are a number of services available, such as Buffer or Hootsuite, that allow you to schedule posts well ahead of time. They even suggest times and dates when you should be posting based on when your followers are most active on Instagram. You choose the time and date you’d like the post to go out, upload the image and description, and the software takes care of the rest. That way, you can have months and months of regular content scheduled. You never have to think about posting anything again, apart from the odd impromptu or reactionary post you decide to slot into the feed from time-to-time.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could see how your upcoming content will look on Instagram before you actually post it?
Well, it turns out, there’s an app for that. Preview is a fantastic tool that allows you to load up your existing feed, then add content you intend to share in the future without actually posting it to Instagram. You can move each post around in the grid, changing the order to your heart’s content. Rearrange until you have the perfect balance of content on your feed, ensuring your feed looks beautiful and your content tells the right story.
Another app that will improve your content game is VSCO (pronounced “viss-co”). VSCO is a professional image editing app (it also edits video) but without the complicated features of something like Photoshop. With a whole host of pre-installed filters, as well as the ability to create your own and then save them as “recipes,” VSCO is a necessary tool for ensuring your feed gets that professional, consistent-looking feel. Also, with its own community of avid photographers, you’re never far from inspiration for your next shot.
6. Photoshop Fix
Filters are just one way of improving your photography. To get that super high-end finish, however, you’re likely going to need to think about perspectives, retouching, and healing photos. Remove those blemishes, aberrations, and weird photographic leftovers that make the difference between an amateur photo and one that feels utterly professional.
Photoshop Fix offers all the major elements of the full Photoshop app boiled down into easy-to-use features for your phone. With Healing and Smooth, you can remove skin blemishes, wrinkles, and more. Liquid allows you to change facial features that didn’t come out quite right in the shot. Then, with Swell and Warp, you can fix perspectives and alter focus with the swipe of a finger.
7. Dedicated Camera
As Chase Jarvis, visionary photographer, once said: “The best camera is the one you have with you.” While he’s not wrong, even in 2020, improving your content game also means investing in some dedicated gear. A decent DSLR or mirrorless camera will still outperform a smartphone camera, giving your shots that extra depth of feeling that will make your content stand out among the competition.
The Canon E0S 80D is a perfect starter camera for business people and influencers, alike. Although there’s a learning curve to operating a dedicated camera, not only will it pay dividends for Instagram, but photography is also an incredibly rewarding hobby to get into — win-win!
Whether you’re using a smartphone or a dedicated camera to take your shots, you’ll need a few additional accessories. The first one is a decent telescopic tripod, or telepod. The best ones for Instagram use are those that you can use both as a standard tripod, providing stability and steadiness you can’t achieve when holding a camera or a smartphone in your hands, and as a handheld support, perfect for selfies or vlogging. The Joby GripTight Pro TelePod also comes with a Bluetooth shutter for taking shots and video remotely.
Lighting, not the camera, is probably the most important aspect of photography. Take the same shot with good versus bad lighting and the result is immediately obvious. We could discuss photography lighting in a series of twenty articles and still not be done, so we implore you to find out as much as you can about the subject. It’ll absolutely up your game.
However, in terms of gear, the Beamo and Beamo mini, again from Joby, are fantastic starter lights that will transform a subject from something flat and lifeless into something perfectly lit and illuminated. These lights are perfect for food shots, selfies, or just about any content you can think of. You can use them underwater or snap them to metal surfaces with their magnetic casing. Plus, if you have more than one of these babies, you can easily clip them together to create entire lighting boards.
Our final recommendation is a little more expensive, but it’s also a surefire way of leveling up. Drones have become increasingly popular over the years, with longer lasting batteries and huge improvements in lenses, allowing for some truly impressive photography and videography. A killer sweeping shot or overhead video of your product or scene will give an entirely new perspective and dynamic to your content.
If you’re just getting started with drones, then our recommendation would be the DJI Mavic Mini. It’s tiny, making it highly portable, and almost weightless, meaning you don’t need to register it with the authorities to fly it. The Mavic is also easy to operate, meaning you can get started almost immediately. Plus, for an entry-level drone, the results in terms of photography and videography are outstanding.
So, there you have it — ten surefire ways of improving your Instagram output. Although all of these combined would help you see an incredible improvement, just picking one or two to start with will make enough of a difference to get those heads turning.
Cover image by Soikina Kateryna.