Since its launch in 2010, the rise of Instagram has been meteoric. Over 60% of adults online have an account, sharing over 100 million photos per day. But despite the competition, Instagram is still a great place to be noticed.

Three professional photographers who owe some of their success to their Instagram accounts recently got together to share their secrets with O2 Sessions. Quitting their day jobs to follow a shared passion for photography, Bal Bhatla, Vicky Grout and Neil Andrews have learned how to stand out from the crowd.

Getting their hands on some of the best smartphone cameras around in a series of tutorials, they are spreading the message that everybody has the power to take great photos with just a smartphone.

How to take better pictures and stand out on Instagram


  • Find the right light


Bal Bhatla went from the advertising industry to a low light photography master. He says: “Start with a light source. It could be a streetlamp, a lit shop front, or even the reflection in a puddle. That should give you an interesting image.

Tech tip: If you’ve taking pictures in low light, set the shutter speed to 1 second and keep ISO low to avoid a grainy picture. When you have a good light source, increase shutter speed.


  • Focus on the background


It might be tempting to put all your attention onto your subject, but don’t forget about the background. Music lover turned portrait guru Vicky Grout knows this all too well: If the background isn’t done right, you can ruin the image. You don’t want a background that’s too cluttered or noisy.

Tech tip: For a focused subject and blurred background, you’ll need to have a small depth of field. You can achieve this by widening your lens. Go for a f-stop number like 1.8 or 2.8.


  • Find a new angle


Neil Andrews found a fresh perspective when he ditched his job selling greetings cards and started living life through a lens. He learned to stand out from the crowd by capturing familiar London landmarks from new angles. He says that experimentation is key: Stand in the centre, stand to the side, get symmetry, get asymmetry. Try all kinds of angles. The beauty of today’s devices is that they can store loads of images that can easily be deleted, so take lots of shots until you catch something special.

Tech tip: For the lowest angle shot possible with a mobile phone, turn your phone upside down so that the camera is close to the floor.


  • Be community minded


The number of people posting may seem overwhelming, but Instagram is really a platform made up of many small communities. By being an active user, you’ll get more engagement, more followers and more exposure. Engaging with likeminded photographer will also help you develop your skills. Joining in 2011, Neil Andrews quickly joined a London photography group: It was great to go and talk to them, be inspired by them, see what they did, find out what apps they used, what was their style of photography and meet people with the same passion as me.

Tech tip: Hashtags are how most people search Instagram. Make yours specific to each picture so that people can find your work.


  • Go manual


While most modern smartphones have the kind of AI that can take great picture just on automatic, they also let you tinker with the settings on Pro Mode. By playing with ISO, shutter speed or aperture, you can find ways to make your pictures truly your own. Having your own distinct look and feel is essential for standing out from the crowd.

Tech tip: Most flagship phones will have custom settings slots where you can save your perfect set ups.

Start off with these tips and you’ll soon make a name for yourself on Instagram. For more in-depth tutorials from Bal, Vicky and Neil check out their O2 sessions video tutorials.

By Jim O Brien/CEO

CEO and expert in transport and Mobile tech. A fan 20 years, mobile consultant, Nokia Mobile expert, Former Nokia/Microsoft VIP,Multiple forum tech supporter with worldwide top ranking,Working in the background on mobile technology, Weekly radio show, Featured on the RTE consumer show, Cavan TV and on TRT WORLD. Award winning Technology reviewer and blogger. Security and logisitcs Professional.