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A Beginner’s Guide to Instagram

How to use Instagram
An Instagram photo. (Laurie Cataldo)

Instagram seems to be coming up more and more, and lots of people are confused as to how it works.

It’s not nearly as confusing as it seems. This should serve as a step-by-step guide of how to use Instagram and what it is.

Instagram is a smartphone app that makes it easy to share photos. Originally only available for iPhones, you can now get it on Android devices as well.

This guide will mainly serve iPhone users, but I imagine the Android version is pretty similar.

Instagram is also a social network, where you can follow others and have them follow you. Following someone is like subscribing to what they post. Keep in mind, they will be able to see when you follow them (so if you start following your ex or your neighbor or your kids, they will know.)

Similar to Facebook, you have a homepage, like a newsfeed, where you see the photos of people you are following.

You also have a profile page, where you can see your recent photos, how many photos you’ve posted, how many followers you have, and how many people you are following. It looks like this:

Instagram profile
My Instagram profile page. (Laurie Cataldo)

The gear button on the upper right allows you to change your settings. (That’s where you can make your photos private

The star icon on the bottom takes you to the ‘explore’ page, where you can search for other users and photos using keywords.

The talk bubble/heart icon will take you to your Instagram newsfeed. There you will see the recent Instagram actions of your followers and the people you follow.

The far right ‘ID’ icon takes you to your profile page.

To take a photo with Instagram, you would press the blue button on the bottom of the screen that looks sort of like a camera. That takes you to a screen like this:

Instagram camera
Camera view (Laurie Cataldo)

The icons at the top, from left to right, are borders, flash (on/off/auto), flip (on iPhones, you can use the front facing camera, or the back facing camera), blur (line, round, and x-shaped), and cancel (This takes you back to the previous screen you were looking at.)

To take a photo, press the camera button in the center. To upload a photo already on your phone, press the icon on the lower left corner.

The icon on the lower right corner will let you take the photo using 15 different filters. You can also apply one of these filters after taking the picture.

After pressing the camera button, the filter icons will pop up along the bottom of the screen. On this photo, I used the round blur to focus on the headphones, blurring out everything around them.

Instagram photo filters
Picture with normal filter and round blur (Laurie Cataldo)

I then looked at the picture through various filters until I found the one I liked. (Note that on the top icons, camera flip is no longer available, and to the left, there is now a rotate icon, which lets you quarter-turn the picture counter-clockwise.

On the lower left you will see an auto-contrast icon. The lower-right will allow you to hide the filter icons.

I’ve selected the Lo-fi filter, which creates a blurred effect and adds a border. It also brings out the greens and yellows of the photo.

Instagram photo lo-fi filter
Using the Lo-fi filter (Laurie Cataldo)

Once you’ve selected the filter, press the green check mark. The red x will cancel (i.e. delete) your photo completely.

Instagram share screen
The share/upload screen. (Laurie Cataldo)

At this point, you can add an optional caption to your photo. The can be helpful if you want more people to be able to find your photo. Hashtags(#) create keywords that people can search for. My picture could use #radio or #headphones for example.

You can also geotag (share the location of) the photo, and choose other applications to upload the photo to using Instagram.

For example, my Instagram account is linked to my Facebook and Twitter accounts. So by highlighting the Facebook and Twitter buttons (see the photo above), when I share this photo on Instagram, it will also automatically be shared on my Facebook and Twitter pages.

You can link your various accounts to Instagram by on the settings page (gear icon) of your profile page. If they aren’t linked beforehand, you will be asked to sign into your other social network account when you share the photo.

When you are ready to upload the photo, hit the ‘share’ button in the upper right corner.

Once the photo is posted, you will see it on your home page.

Instagram photo feed
The photo on my home page (Laurie Cataldo)

Again, like Facebook, your followers will be able to ‘like” your photo, or comment on it, by selecting the appropriate button below the photo. (Don’t ‘like’ your own photos, that’s weird.)

When someone ‘likes’ your photo, their Instagram user name will appear next to a heart under your picture. Comments will appear beneath the original caption, if any.

Instagram sunset photo
My sunset photo got a few likes, but no comments. (Laurie Cataldo)

The ellipses icon on the lower right of your photos will allow you to delete the photo, share it, copy the URL link to share it elsewhere, or e-mail the photo. On other people’s photos, the ellipses icon will allow you to report the photo if you deem it inappropriate, or share the photo.

You should now be all set to Instagram! Look for me, username LaurCat26!

What social media sites do you find most confusing? Tell us below!

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