Instagram is a free app for all smartphones. You may have heard of it (a while ago Facebook bought it for a billion dollars, that makes the news), but you probably aren’t using it. And you should! Here’s why:
Most people have a lot of photos on your phone. Maybe most of your child’s major life events even ( in which case PLEASE call me for a series of proper photographs). But also undoubtedly, cute every day moments that make up the majority of life. Is your phone backed up? Do you ever plug it into your computer? Download the images? Or (gasp) print any of the photos? Most of you are hiding your head in shame right now–keep reading. Instagram can solve your problems (and you don’t have to belong to Facebook to use it).
First step is downloading Instagram and picking a user name. Easy-peasy. Mine is @portraitsbylisa if you want to check out my feed. Then you can choose if you want your pictures to be public or private. You can change your mind later too. Share your handle with friends, your mom, whomever, or don’t. You can follow others, which is super fun. I personally follow tons of photographers, friends, florists, over-the-top event planners, and chefs (my other passion).
The first thing that you need to know is that Instagram’s default picture shape is square. I’ll teach you a work around for this, but if you take photos using Instagram’s built in camera, thepictures will be square. But, I highly recommend NEVER taking photos in Instagram, just use your regular camera app. You can easily import things from your camera roll into Instagram.
But, here’s the absolute beauty in using Instagram: you can post and share photos without texting your entire clan, you can back up without trying (Instagram saves your pictures), you can build galleries that combine your photos through time or from a variety of users, and, if you want to, you can easily share with Facebook. And here’s the very best part–you can print the photos! Books of pictures for your kids, just like you used to have, with almost no effort. Imagine other people album building for you. All you need is a tiny bit of forethought and organization.
How you ask? It’s pretty easy, let me give you an example:
Last year my sister had a baby. First grandchild. Long anticipated (read: begged for). She had about 9,743 photos of her taken in the first year of life. I wish I was exaggerating. Anyway, these photos were spread across many phones and folks. BUT early on we chose a hashtag for her photos. This means that anytime we put a photo on Instagram we wrote in the comments #sweetsylvieg. If you search Instagram for that tag, photos from many sources (but all of Sylvie) appear. But you don’t just have to do this for a person–you can uniquely hashtag an event (#jayneandjongethitchedMA–wedding hashtags are super common now) or a vacation (#theseidelstakemanhattan) and easily see them all together. And, when you uses hashtag enough, Instagram just lists it for you to insert. What could be easier? Pro tip: choose a unique, not super obvious hashtag and search it first to make sure it’s not in use. Our first hashtag for Sylvie was #sweetsylvie and someone stole it (started using it too) when she was a few months old. Re-hashtagging to keep your photos separate is not fun.
When you post a photo to Instagram, the app asks you if you want to share on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. If you have a flickr account (or want to open one), and always choose to export to flickr in addition to Instagram, then your photos will automatically be double backed up. Instagram will have a copy and so will Flickr. Then if your phone ends up in the toilet, you’ll still have access to the photos you shared on Instagram. Hooray!
And now that work around for the square crop in Instagram–the easiest thing to do, in my opinion is buy the app Pic-Tap-Go. It’s not expensive. It’s an easy editing app that accesses your photo roll and allows you to export to Instagram. One of the options for upload is full crop,showing the entire rectangle. At this time there is no way to avoid using a third party app for full frame photos in Instagram, but this might change in the future. (If you want to be really slick, you can take your photos with the regular camera on the square setting. Viola, no cropping in Instagram.
And now for my absolute favorite part, printing. I firmly believe that a photo doesn’t really exist until it’s printed! As much as your kids love scrolling through your phone to look at photos, it won’t compare to curling up and thumbing through a book. There are several different options. The easiest one is Booksto.me, another one that’s very pretty is Artifact Uprising, but even Snapfish, etc have square options now for just this reason. You can ask them to send you a your entire feed–and you can subscribe and get a new book every month or quarter. Imagine this: you go on vacation, take lots of photos on your phone (as does your spouse and mother in law–although I concede that teaching them to use Instagram might be a time consuming process, but grandchildren’s photos are great motivators!). Lots of photo takers, but the photos all have the same hashtag. Send that tag to Past Book and BOOM–instant vacation album! How’s that for technology workin’ for you?
Here are a few of my favorite Instagram photos from my own feed.