Cropping & Framing: Instagram

Megs of Rivers & Roads and I are excited to announce that we are bringing back our Holders Not Folders challenges! We had our first challenge the summer of 2014 and when it ended so many of you cried for round two! Well, here it is!

It is going to look a little different this time than our first one. For this quick, six week series, we want to focus on teaching you something new (or reminding you of something you already know) to integrate into your phone photography. Each week we will announce the new challenge, share a quick tutorial and/ or tips, and then encourage you to practice that skill in your instagrams! Make sure you hashtag #holdersnotfolders and interact with the others participating! 
Are you in? We want to encourage you that you can create fun and inspiring photos with your phone and have a beautiful instagram that reflects YOU! Join the challenge and get creative.


Today we are starting with Cropping & Framing. For anyone who has posted at least once on instagram, you discovered that you needed to fit your rectangular photo into a square. Yes, there are ways around that if you use white boarders and such, but let’s stick with the squares for now!

Taking a photo for instagram is different than taking a photo on a camera. If you are a professional photographer or even a disposable camera user, you know that your goal is to fit your desired picture into the frame. Yes, sometimes dad’s head get’s chopped off or you end up needing to crop out photo bombers in the back, but for the most part, we do all our framing before we take the picture. Instagram is a different story (ish.)

Today I want to share with you the three things that I keep in mind when taking photos for my instagram – dead space, rule of thirds, and symmetry.

You need to PLAN on cropping. You need to imagine a square space when you are using a phone camera that shoots in rectangles. This is not always the easiest thing to do – especially when other people are taking your photo for you (cute shoes gone to keep my husband’s head & again, chaco shot lost because megs is just so tall πŸ˜‰ ) Step back so that you can see more than you need – this creates dead space. Don’t worry about how messy you photo looks at first, once it is popped into instagram, the look is much more polished.

When you are taking photos for your instagram, think about your subject. Where do you want the eye to be drawn? Remember, the instagram photo is a square – so you need to square off your photo and then draw imaginary lines on your photo. Draw three horizontal and three vertical – like a tic-tac-toe board! I know this sounds like so much work, but you will be doing it without thinking in no time.

I am not a professional photographer, but I do know that the rule of thirds is when you tic-tac-toe your board, your subject should be along one line or at the intersection of two lines. It creates a more appealing photo. I picked some examples from my instagram: The hot coco and the sweet baby’s face both hit the middle of two lines intersecting and Cinderella’s Castle and my friend Laura both fall onto a vertical line.

While thinking of how to frame and crop your photo, you do not always need to put your subject on the side. Some things are so symmetrical that a center photo is best! This sounds almost opposite of the rule of thirds, but not really – just a different way of seeing things. We are drawn to things that are symmetrical, so if you look head on at your subject and all the sides seem to point toward the center, try to post it that way!

I have included some of my instagrams that fall into the symmetrical feel – all of these have horizontal and vertical lies pointing inward. That is why I chose to center the subject.

HOMEWORK: It is your turn now! As you go into this week taking photos for your instagram, think about dead space, the rule of thirds, and symmetry. See if you notice a difference in the quality of your instagrams when you think ahead! Look at some of your favorite instagrams or instagramers – do they do some of these things? Share with us any photo you are proud of by using #holdersnotfolder and share some love on the other grams you see in the feed! 

Make sure to follow @oakandoats & @megmcilvaine on Instagram. To see the rest of this challenge and our others, click here. 

Author: Elizabeth Mayberry

  • I love Instagram challenges! I'll definitely join you πŸ™‚ (I'm @alicegreenleaf)

  • Love this! I am definitely in.

  • This is such a great idea! I'm excited to see where this goes.
    xo, Caitlin
    And Possibly Dinosaurs

  • I'm so excited for this!!! πŸ™‚ Love these tips already πŸ™‚

  • This is so fun!! So excited to join in! Great tips πŸ˜‰

  • I love this approach to Holders not Folders! So fun to be reminded of the Instagram photography techniques! πŸ™‚

  • I love this new challenge and all of your great suggestions. I can't wait to see what the community creates! πŸ™‚

  • YAY! I am so excited to have you join in!

  • Can't wait to see what you post this week!

  • We are so glad you are in! Can't wait to see what YOU come up with!

  • I am glad you are already feeling encouraged and inspired!

  • YAY! Cannot wait to see what you come up with you creative lady!

  • Madison! I am excited you like our new take! We had to start at the beginning but I am so excited to see how people grow and are encouraged in their phone photography!

  • YAY! I know – I am so excited!

  • I love that Holders not Folders is back! And I love your approach to this challenge. Did Hilary's instagram class help inspire this by chance?

  • Actually, we planned this before her class last year. It just happens to fit so well together!

  • Too fun! You two are so creative!

  • These are incredible points!!! Thank you so much. I am just getting accustomed to using instagram for promoting my blog, and this will help me tremendously. πŸ™‚

  • This is going to be fun πŸ™‚

  • YAY! We think so too!

  • Gennie! I am excited that you are on board!

  • YAY! Instagram is my favorite app by far and I love tips to learn how to make it better! Cant wait πŸ™‚

  • love holders not folders- excited to start posting again! and great advice for my absolute favorite app- always LOVE your photos! thanks for sharing!

  • Loved this post, Elizabeth! The rule of thirds is one of those things that I've heard a few times, but that I don't normally let sink in. You're right, though – it's a great thing to keep in mind. Excited for this challenge! πŸ™‚

  • Great post! πŸ™‚

  • Great tips!

  • Seriously, these are great tips. I am always looking for ways to enhance my instagram stream. also i love that mantle…wow!