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Instagram for Nature Photographers

By March 22, 2016No Comments

Story and Photos by Greg Vaughn


Fun facts about Instagram: as of January 2016, there were 400 million Instagrammers uploading over 80 million photos every day. The hugely popular social media platform may be best known as a favorite of fan-hungry celebrities and with those who want to quickly share a snap of their latest meal, but it is much more than that. Instagram has become a showcase for outstanding photography of all genres, including nature, wildlife and landscape.Is Instagram for you? If you’re a member of NANPA, you obviously have an interest in photography. Instagram is all about photography – much more so than Facebook (which owns Instragram), Twitter or any other social media platform.

Unlike other social media platforms, you can only post to Instagram from a mobile device – a smartphone or tablet. You can manage your account from a computer, but you can’t upload photos directly from your laptop or desktop. That doesn’t mean you can only post photos taken with your mobile device; there are ways to post your best images from your DSLR and superlens. Keep reading for the how-to.

One of the great things about viewing photos on Instagram is that you chose whose work you want to see. You can quickly look at someone’s Profile and see what types of photos they post. If you don’t care about the daily posting of what Bob had for breakfast, don’t Follow him. When you find someone, or an organization, who consistently posts the kind of photos that interest you, click Follow. That simple.

If you’re not already on Instagram and want to give it a try, following are some tips on getting started. If you already have an Instagram account, skim the first part and look for some more ideas on how you can use Instagram.

Starting an Instagram account is really easy. Using your smartphone or tablet, go to the App Store for iPhones and iPads, or Google Play for Android devices. Search for Instagram and download the official app. Once you’ve installed the app, tap the Instagram icon to open it, and follow the instructions to sign up. If you’re already on Facebook, you can log in with that info. Otherwise, register with an email address and password, and create a username. I recommend keeping your username relatively short, and avoid using underscores. More detailed instructions, with links, can be found on the Instagram Help pages.

Instagram was originally designed just to post photos taken with mobile devices, and part of the attraction was the basic processing and editing software that was built in, especially the Filters for creating distinctive looks. If you’re new to Instagram, give it a try using your phone and play with the editing tools. Caution: you might get hooked and play for hours with sliders, filters and frames.

In addition to the “native” camera app on phones and tablets, there are several excellent 3rd party apps that give you more options and control with the device hardware. There are also some great apps for processing images on your phone or tablet. Some of the most popular are in the links below.

A sizeable number of Instagrammers think that only phone photos should be posted, but many advanced photographers have realized that Instagram can be a great way to showcase their best work. That gets a bit more complicated than just posting your phone snaps, but assuming that as a NANPA members you want to post some of your best nature photos from your DSLR, let’s go into how to make that work.

If your DSLR or mirrorless ILC camera has wi-fi capabilities, try shooting RAW+JPEG and send the JPEG to your phone or tablet, then open the image in Instagram.

If you have your photos on Flickr, Smugmug or PhotoShelter, install the app for that service on your mobile device and then you can download the photos in your online collection to your phone or tablet. Once the images are on your device, you can open them in Instagram just the same as if they were originally captured on the device.

Mac computer users can import their DSLR images to the Apple Photos app, then sync with an iPhone or iPad to access the photos for posting on Instagram.

Lightroom users can use LR Mobile to get their photos from computer to smartphone or tablet to share in Instagram.

Another way to get photos to your mobile device is to use DropBox. If you have that app on both your computer and mobile device, just drag a photo from wherever it is stored on your computer harddrive to your DropBox folder. Open DropBox on your phone or tablet and the photo will be available. Tap the filename to bring up the photo then tap the Download icon. Now choose either Save Image or Open In. If you choose Save Image, the photo will be saved with your other photos and you can access it with Instagram or any other photo app. If you choose Open In you can select Instagram from the options, then the Instagram app will open with the photo displayed.

The difference in these two methods is that if you choose the Open In option, Instagram will crop your photo to its default square format. Instagram will now display horizontal and vertical (landscape and portrait) format images as well, so if you don’t want your rectangle cropped to square, choose the Save Image method. Then go to the Instagram app and have it bring up your photos. When you select the photo you want to post Instagram will still initially display it as a square. Tap the little symbol of arrows in a circle at the bottom left of the photo to have the photo appear in its actual format.

What kinds of photographs should you post? Whatever is your passion and your speciality. Keep in mind that people viewing Instagram scroll through the feeds fairly quickly, and the initial images can be quite small, so go for photos that are grabbers. Have your Instagram feed full of imagery with good graphic elements, composition and color. Take a look at the NANPA Instagram account for some examples (see photo above).

What about photo sizes and resolution? Instagram currently uses photos at a maximum of 1080×1080 pixels, but displays them at 640×640. Having the larger image size available means the images will render better on the new high resolutions (HiDPI) monitors like the Apple Retina. That doesn’t mean you have to resize your photo to those dimensions. Instagram will take whatever size you upload and reduce it to their specs. If you use one of the photo sharing site apps to get your photos on your phone, you don’t have to do anything about file size. If you are using Dropbox (or similar) to get files from your harddrive to your phone, you don’t want to be sending your full size image. Make a copy of your master file and then reduce it in size. I’m currently using 1400 pixels on the long dimension for all my social media postings, because images that size hold up well on the high res monitors when viewed online at the standard social media image display sizes. Whatever size you choose, convert the file to sRGB color profile and save as a JPEG at high quality, with sharpening appropriate for screen display.

Some people don’t like to see copyright and photographer name watermarks on images posted online. I personally think they’re a very good idea as long as they’re discreet and not something plastered over the center of the photograph. You can add watermarks to your images in Photoshop and Lightroom when you resize them for online posting. For photos that are already on your mobile device, you can use an app like Marksta to add a custom watermark.

Once you have your photo displayed on the Instagram app on your phone or tablet, click Next. With your already-processed photos, you probably won’t want to add a Filter or Frame, or make any other editing moves, so just click Next again. Now type in a caption using the keypad on your mobile device. Some people just add a few words, some write a whole story.

After finishing the caption, you have option of adding a Location. With phone snaps, location name options are displayed based on the GPS location data recorded when the photo was taken. With uploaded photos, you can tap the Add Location box and enter the name of the place; choose one of those that appear from the search if appropriate (sometimes they aren’t, in which case, don’t add a location).

On this same screen you’ll see that you can opt to send the photo to your other social media platforms. I find that this works great for sharing on Facebook and Flickr; I don’t recommend it for Twitter because the tweet only shows a link, not the actual photo, which is much less effective in getting eyeballs on your images.

The next thing you’ll want to do is add a few #hashtags. Hashtags let others find your photos, and let you find images of subjects that you’re interested in. If you add the hashtag #nanpapix to your post, your photo will be available for viewing by anyone who searches Instagram for that hashtag.

You don’t have to enter hashtags right when you post a photo; they can be added at any time later. It is a lot easier to type in hashtags using a real keyboard instead of the virtual keypad on a phone or tablet. In your computer browser, go to and login to your account. Click on your account name at upper right to bring up your own images. Click on a photo, and then type in the hashtags as a Comment. If you repeatedly use the same hashtags, you can put them in a Word doc or Evernote note and then just copy and paste when you want to add hashtags to your Instagram posts.

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags for each photo, but experts seem to agree that no more than 10 is best. For the NANPA feed, we’d like to see things like #mainsubjectname, #generallocation, #morespecificlocation, #naturephotography, #landscapephotography, #wildlifephotography, #macro – whatever is appropriate for the photo. If you’d like to submit your best photos for sharing on the NANPA page, include the hashtag #nanpapix.

Here’s an example of how I’m captioning and hashtagging the curated collection for NANPA’s Instagram account:


Ready to view some great photography? Go to the Instagram app on your mobile device or to the website on your computer. Search on hashtags for your favorite subjects and by name for the photographers you admire most. When you see images you like, click on the heart or leave a comment and Follow that account. Many times those actions are reciprocated and you’ll gain followers and likes yourself. Better still, go to the NANPA profile page and click on the photos that interest you the most. Click on the link to the photographer’s Instagram account, and if you like what you see, click Follow.

If you really get into using Instagram and are interested in analytics and reports on followers, engagement, etc., you’ll likely find the app Iconosquare valuable.

Here are some links to more information about Instagram and apps you may find either useful or fun to experiment with:

Have fun with Instagram, and be sure to follow @nanpapix!

About Greg Vaughn: Greg is a photographer, writer, traveler, husband and father. After living in Hawaii for many years, he moved to the Pacific Northwest and now lives in Eugene, Oregon, USA. He’s done a lot of different kinds of photography during his career, but specializes in stock and assignment photography of recreational travel and the natural world. He is an author and photographer of Photographing Oregon and Photographing Washington. Greg is a member of the NANPA Communications/Marketing committee and leads NANPA’s Instagram initiative.

Friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, find him on Google+, and join his network at LinkedIn. And, of course, he is also on Instagram.