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How To Get The Most Instagram-worthy Shots with your DSLR camera


From stunning landscapes to ancient ruins, anyone who has an Instagram account has definitely posted a #wanderlust travel photo. If you’ve ever wondered why you’re not getting more Likes, perhaps you’re doing something wrong. Let these travel photographers show you how it’s done. 

EOS 5D Mark IV, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens, 27 mm, ISO50, 281sec, f/11 by Joseph Mak

How do you create the perfect shot for Instagram?

Joseph Mak: Well, Instagram is a platform for friends to share photos, and there are tons of them every day. So we need to capture photos with punch to attract the viewers. When we take a picture, be sure that the focus on the subject or story is right in the middle of the frame. Subject with strong colours tends to attract viewers more. 

Calvin Seah: The perfect shot for me always starts before the shutter is released or even before I’m at the location. I’ve always said, the click of the shutter is the easiest, but what happens before and after the click is the most important. How well I’ve researched on my subject/locations and how well prepared I am plays a big part in getting that perfect shot. How I felt about the scene or what story I see will in turn result in how I want to capture and post process that image. I will always look out for what story the scene tells me, and in turn I use what I have to portray it the best I can. The end results will always portray the emotional attachment I remember the scene is telling me.

Alvin Ng: In my opinion, as a photographer I do not create the perfect shot for Instagram, as it’s just an app for sharing, so it must not dictate anyone's photographic approach. I believe in a quote by Corell Capa, “The concerned photographer produces images in which genuine human feelings predominates commercial cynicism or disinterested formalism.” I like to be mesmerised in the environments that I’m in, to be one with the events, the people, the cultures that occurs within that environment, and then photograph to my best extent what it feels like to me. 

Siddharth Jain: The focus is on the image, and photography as a medium while on the field. If the image is good, it will naturally attract viewers.

EOS 6D, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, 16mm, 1/30sec, f/9, ISO4000 by Calvin Seah

In your opinion, what makes for a popular Instagram shot?

Joseph Mak: Friends are key in social media. The more friends or followers you have, the more likes you’ll achieve. The timing of the post is also important. For example, if you have a lot of Singapore-based friends, you can post at peak hours like 7.30 am to 8 am, when everyone is on the MRT and browsing through their social media. 

Calvin Seah: To me, it goes down to how consistent you are with your “language” on Instagram. Once it’s consistent, then it goes down to how well that story is being told through your photo. A photo that portrays a very unique or different story that is positive will create great interest, even of a very familiar place.

Alvin Ng: Well, I’m not a believer of the numerical value of likes that constitutes a popular photograph on Instagram. To me, as long as the photographer is satisfied with his or her own shot, that is good enough. The greatest critique is oneself, that’s the way I like to put it. 

Siddharth Jain: A great image that is both inspirational and aspirational, accompanied with relevant hashtags and a witty/informative caption.

EOS 7D Mark II, EF-S24mm f/2.8 STM lens, 24mm, f/2.8, 1/200sec, ISO200 by Alvin Ng
An elderly Buddhist devotee in a small shrine, Bhutan.

Filters - when do you use them and how do you decide which?

Joseph Mak: We use filters to suppress light at certain areas. With the morning sunrise, when the sky is too bright and the ground is too dark, we will need to use filters to control the intensity of the light from the sky and balance the light from the ground.

Calvin Seah: I don’t use Instagram or software filters at all! They are there to help users to create something different with their photo but to me, it’s not necessary if I’ve told the exact story that I wanted. I still prefer to have control over how exactly my images are portrayed.

Alvin Ng: To be honest, I’ve never touched the Instagram filters since I created my account years ago. 

Siddharth Jain: To be honest, #nofilter works best.

EOS 5D, EF35mm f/2 IS USM lens, ISO800, 35mm, f/2, 1/6sec by Siddharth Jain

What editing apps can you recommend outside of Instagram? 

Joseph Mak: There are some free apps like Snapseed, which is pretty good in editing and produce good results.

Calvin Seah: One apps that I find particularly useful is Snapseed. I use it when I need to edit photo on the go.

Alvin Ng: I recommend Lightroom and VSCOcam. VSCO is really user friendly and it is fun for beginners; while Lightroom is more for experienced photographers as the platform allows one to experiment one’s own editing style and the control the tonality of the photograph. 

Siddharth Jain: Photoshop for editing an image, and Lightroom or Bridge for cataloguing images. For a basic job, one can also try Picasa.

Learn more about travel photography here: Travel Photography: Capturing Diversity with Joseph Mak

Quick Tips:

  • Download the Canon Camera Connect app for seamless image transfer on the go, meaning you can post to Instagram quicker!
  • Go for strong colours and keep your subject in the middle of the shot
  • Opt for image editing apps like Snapseed or VSCOcam while on the go
  • Know your social media hours. 7.30 am – 8 am is a good time to post as everyone will be on their phones during the morning commute



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