Beginner’s guide to Instagram

Instagram is a fun and simple social network that revolves around photographs and short videos. It’s a great way to document trips and share beautiful sights, so why not sign up for free?

What is it?
Instagram is a social network that allows you to share photos or short videos with other users. It also has easy to use built-in photo editing software which can make your photos look much better. Users on Instagram follow each other, similar to how you would add a friend on Facebook. However, on Instagram, you can follow someone who isn’t following you and vice versa.

Get the app
Although you can access Instagram on a computer, you need to use the phone app to upload photos and videos. Click on one of the following links to get the app for iPhone, iPad or Android.

Once you’ve installed the app, find it on your device and tap the icon to launch it.

You’ll be greeted with a login screen, but if you haven’t got an account tap the ‘Sign up’ option at the bottom of the screen. As Instagram is owned by Facebook, you can now choose to sign in using your Facebook details, or you can sign up using an email or phone number.

After entering some basic details (name, password etc.) you will be given the option to scan your Facebook friends and your phone’s address book to look for people you know who are already using Instagram. If you choose to do this, hopefully you’ll find some friends to follow, otherwise move on to the next step, which suggests some popular Instagram users for you to follow.

Your Instagram feed will show you photos and videos posted by everyone you follow, so if you follow a lot of people, your feed will update more frequently. Tap the follow button for any popular accounts that you like. When you’ve finished, tap the tick at the top right hand corner of the app to proceed.

You’ve now finished signing up. You should see a screen similar to the one below so, now that you’re a user, let’s walk through what you can do with Instagram.

Instagram explained

Tapping the ‘Home’ icon on the left of your screen will return you to your feed, which shows all the posts from everyone you follow. New posts will appear at the top, and if you keep scrolling down, you’ll keep seeing more posts from further back in time. There are three icons under each post which allow you to like an image, comment on it or share it with friends.

The next icon across takes you to the ‘Search & Explore’ page, which allows you to search for users or pictures by using hashtags. You’ll also be shown a selection of popular pictures that Instagram thinks you will like based on who you already follow.

The camera icon in the middle takes you to the upload section of the app, where you can share photos and videos with your followers. Tapping ‘Gallery’ at the bottom of the screen allows you to upload photos and videos that you have previously taken, or if you tap ‘Photo’ or Video’, you can take a picture or video to upload immediately.

Once you’ve selected a photo, tap the arrow at the top right and, by applying filters, you will be able to edit and enhance the photo. Have a look at Leon’s guide to Instagram filters if you want to learn more about them. Now tap the arrow at the top right and you can add a caption to your photo. You can also tag your Instagram friends in the photo or tag a location, as long as you have GPS enabled on your device. If you include some hashtags in your caption, people might come across your photo in the ‘Search & Explore’ page. To add a hashtag, type a ‘#’ symbol on your keyboard, then add a word (or words) immediately after without any spaces (i.e. #Australia or #coffee). 

Tap the tick when you’re done and your photo will appear on Instagram!

Next across is the heart icon, which shows you your ‘Activity’ and includes all of your notifications, such as people liking or commenting on your images.

The last icon on the right will take you to your ‘Profile’, and although it may be a little bland at this stage it will soon be packed full of beautiful images from your life and travels.

Finding people to follow (who will hopefully follow you return) is a big part of the fun, so why not ask around? Some of your friends and family might already use Instagram. By using the search tool, you can also find some blogs which you like. If you follow them they’ll get a notification and, if they like your blog, they might follow you too.

Here are some great Instagram accounts to brighten up your feed: National Geographic, NASA, Dogs of Instagram, PassengerShaming and Lonely Planet.

Related articles:
The world’s best travel photos
Instagram filters explained
Travel: five wacky gadgets that are actually quite ingenious

YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
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