Thursday, June 8, 2023

The Ten-Minute Guide to Instagram – everything you need to know to get started

Tapu Javeri says he speaks in pictures – Instagram could have been made for him

If you haven’t tried Instagram yet because it seems complicated, think again. Anything this popular isn’t going to be rocket science – in fact Instagram is super-easy to use, engaging and kind of addictive.

So what’s Instagram?

Instagram is basically a visual form of Twitter – a social networking app that lets you share photos and videos of up to 15 seconds. You can post images yourself and follow others to see the photos and videos they share. You can follow friends, celebrities, brands or even random people – it all depends on how you want to use Instagram. You can stalk celebrities, only share personal photos with an inner clique of friends or family, drool over your favourite brands (quite literally in the case of Victoria’s Secret which is unsurprisingly one of the most popular brands on the app) or use Instagram to explore almost any interest ranging from travel to food to fashion.

Getting started is pretty simple. Download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play and sign up. If you are planning on posting personal photos, you may want to turn on the “Posts are Private” button in your profile. This means that only people you approve will be allowed to follow you.

Guide to Instagram App

The Home tab

This is where the pictures and images from everyone you follow turn up. Scroll down to see what they’ve been posting.

The Star (Popular) tab

Unlike the Home tag, which shows images individually, this shows a grid of pictures. These are pics that have made a hit with people and a great way to see some brilliant pictures and videos. It’s configured to show you popular pictures according to your interests, based on the people you follow.

The Heart (Notifications) tab

This is split into two sections – Following and News. The “following” tab tells you what all the people you follow have been up to. What pictures they like and who they started following. It’s a great way to find new accounts you may want to follow, and a way to keep up with what your friends are liking on Instagram.

The “news” tab meanwhile tells you who followed you and who liked your photos. As well as being a little pat on the back, it helps you work out which of your photos are most successful and (hopefully) keeps track of your route to Insta stardom.

The profile tab

This shows a grid of all the pictures you have shared and allows you to edit your profile. This is where you head to change your privacy settings. The info section of your profile is key in getting new followers so spend some time fine-tuning this. My favourites range from “Eat.Review.Eat.Connect” by @bombaybhukkad to @zarapeerzada “Model, maniac and adventuring food enthusiast”.

Other than that you have the central camera tab, which allows you to share pics from your camera library or even direct from your camera.


Some pictures labelled #Pakistan

In case you’ve somehow not encountered them, hashtags are basically labels used on social media. They are preceded by the # (hash) sign and at their simplest, tell you the subject or location of a post or tweet. They can also be used to signpost a cause #savethewhales, link to a trending topic #RIPRobinWilliams or make a comment #WhatILearnedToday.

Use them to find photos relating to your interests eg #fashion, #food, #islam. Be more specific to get more relevant photos, searching #pakistanfashion for local fashion for example.

On your own posts, remember to use relevant hashtags and add popular hastags like #love, #instagood and #happy if they apply. For a cooler spin, throw in a few clever, comical hashtags to spice things up #rollseyes #handMeAXanax or #11thcommandment – hashtags aren’t just about visibility, they can be used to make a statement.

Who to follow?

The first no-no is to follow everyone in your contacts book or all of your Facebook friends. Your home page can quickly get cluttered with random selfies and pictures of people’s dinner. Obviously you’ll follow you’re closest friends but after that get creative.

Check out the Insta accounts of your fave stars and look at whether their feeds interest you. For example, I’m not a huge fan of @sonamkapoor but her fashion choices are fun and she definitely makes it onto my list.

Explore the Insta feeds of your favourite bloggers and media sites. Scope who your friends follow and who the best Instagrammers on your home feed follow. Use the search function and surf hashtags that interest you and keep an eye on the ‘popular’ tag to keep in touch with the zeitgeist. Finally, take a look at our list of twenty popular Pakistani Instagrammers to get you started.

Instagram is home to all sorts – there’s something to interest just about everyone

What to post?

You don’t have to post anything. A lot of Instagrammers just lurk on other people’s feeds. But honestly using Insta without posting yourself is a little like going to a party and not dancing. It’s much more fun taking part than watching from the sidelines.

If you’re just sharing pictures with family and close friends, then sharing photos is a no-brainer. Just post whatever you think will interest them about your life. If you’re going to have random followers, posting takes a little more thought. Remember that a picture is worth a thousand words.

The best Insta accounts have something to say. If you’re posting selfies, then they need to be more than just random pictures you took because you’re bored. Your selfies can be a about your fashion and styling choices #whatiwore or about places you’ve visited or if you’re that way inclined how fabulous you look or how fabulous your life is.

But Insta is about so much more than selfies. Post about what interests you, whether its travel, fashion, food, film or current affairs. One of the most popular accounts on Insta, @9gag, is an endless stream of visual gags with witty captions so if you can make people laugh, Insta may be the place to do it. Pay attention to your captions, the right description can make an image sing.

More professional pictures are a snap with Instagram

Editing your pictures

Instagram is a mobile-only platform, so you’ll probably end up using your phone  camera a fair bit. Of course you can email photos to your phone or (ick) get them off the web, but really truly you want to use your phone. Think carefully about composition, background and how the photo will look.
Don’t be afraid of editing your photos to make them better. Instagram includes basic editing tools and some built-in filters, which can make your pics look like anything from a faded polaroid to a sepia shot. People went slightly nuts with the filters when Instagram first came out but these days its smarter to stick to no filter or subtle enhancers like Valencia. Better than Instagram’s clumsy built-in editing tools, try Photoshop Express or Snapseed to take your photos from ‘meh’ to ‘wow’. Both are free and are surprisingly powerful.

Be social

Interactions on Instagram
Be Social on Instagram

Like Twitter, Instagram is a way of connecting with people. Don’t just lurk or share your photos, be active. Like and comment on other people’s photos, follow accounts worth following and recommend them to you friends and followers. If you’re active on Facebook and Twitter you can link your accounts so everything post on Insta automatically gets posted to your twitter account and/or Facebook feed. Also, remember that real life etiquette is the best model for online behavior – do as you would be done by.

A final heads-up – posting other people’s pics without credit is discourteous at best, theft at worst. Don’t just take a screenshot of someone’s feed, crop and post it – download one of the many regram apps that let you repost images while giving credit where it’s due.

So that’s it – all you need to get started on Instagram. Just a warning though – Instagram is a top procrastination culprit – perfect for putting off getting down to work. Handle with care.

Copyright 2015 Karachista. All rights reserved

Salima Feerasta
Salima Feerasta is chief editor of and one of Pakistan's top fashion and lifestyle journalists.

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