Instagram has been around for years and it's hugely popular, but not everyone is completely familiar with the free photo app and how it can quickly transform your mediocre selfies into stunning glamour shots.

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but most Instagram users will admit that Instagram's filters changed their lives. You're guaranteed to find at least one that can make your mobile phone snap look like a work of art.

Before you dive in and fiddle with all the options, you'll need to know how the app works. With that in mind, we've laid out everything you need to know about Instagram, including tips and tricks and even descriptions for each filter.

What is Instagram?

Instagram is a video and photo-sharing social network. It launched in 2010 as a mobile device app and was acquired by Facebook two years later.

It primarily stood out because it confined photos to a square shape and features filters. It has developed since it originally launched though. Users are not only no longer restricted to square images but video clips, which have been available since 2013, have had the cap lifted from 15-seconds to 60-seconds.

How does it work?

Sign up

Instagram was originally meant for mobile devices. You should therefore download the iPhone or Android app in order to register an Instagram account. Once you download the app, you can easily login through Facebook.

After signing up, you can change your profile picture and edit your information, which includes a brief 150-character summary and the ability to link a website. All Instagram accounts are public by default but can be made private.


Every time you open and load Instagram, you will automatically be brought to your news feed, which is filled with photos and videos from people you chose to follow on Instagram. Along the bottom of all the app is a menu bar, while the top right (on iOS) has your inbox which is where direct messages can be found.

Above your uploaded images and below your profile is a another row of options. The first icon display images in a grid format, the second icon displays them in in a list format, the third icon shows where in the world you have posted images and the fourth icon displays the images you have been tagged in by other users.

The menu bar at the bottom has five tabs: Home, Search, Camera, Activity, and Profile. The Home tab takes you to the news feed, while Search is for finding people and discovering trending photos or other accounts you might be interested in.

Camera is where you'll go to post photos and videos (as well as edit them), and Activity is like a notification centre, as well as a place you can go to see photos your followers might've liked on Instagram by alternating between the two tabs at the top.

Finally, Profile is where you go to see your profile, edit your profile, and play with settings (found in upper right-hand corner). Settings has options for following Facebook friends, privatising your account, seeing posts you've liked and more.


There are three main ways of engaging with other users on Instagram: you can double tap on their photos or videos to like them; you can press the chat-bubble symbol below their photos to leave a comment, and you can direct message them. To direct message someone, tap the arrow symbol next to the chat bubble symbol.

Keep mind you can also tag people in photos and reply to comments with tags. You can also add and use hashtags across Instagram (much like you can on Facebook and Twitter).

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To post a photo or video, go to the Camera tab and choose between Gallery, Photo or Video at the bottom. Selecting Gallery will allow you to upload from your camera roll, while Photo and Video will let you take a shot or record directly from the Instagram app.

When snapping a photo, you will see two icons above the main circular capture button. The icon on the left switches between the front and rear camera, while the icon on the right turns on flash. You can also tap on the image being captured to focus on a particular point.

Once you proceed with a photo or video, you'll see a filter tray pop up, in which you can apply an effect. Double tap the effect to access a slider that'll let you increase or decrease the intensity of the filter. There is a small square icon next to the slider too which will add a white border around your image. Each filter is different.

Below the filter tray are two options: Filter and Edit. Flicking to Edit will allow you to fine-tune your image, from adjusting brightness and contrast to changing the structure, saturation, colour and fade, among other options. You'll also be able to adjust a special effect called Lux by tapping the centralised icon above the image your editing.

After you're done editing, tap the next button on the top-right of the Filters screen.


Upon hitting next on the top-right of the Filters screen, you will get to a screen that'll let you share your photo or video to either all followers or a direct follower by toggling between the two options at the top of your screen.

This screen is where you can add captions, tag people and tag your location, as well as choose if you want to share your post to any other social media outlets.

Instagram integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr, meaning you'll be able to share across most of the popular social networks by just toggling each of them on or off.


Instagram has introduced a new feature: Stories. And, yes, it's just like Snapchat's Stories feature.

Here's the deal. With Snapchat stories, you can broadcast multiple snaps (aka videos and photos) taken throughout the day, complete with overlays of doodles and stickers and filters and masks. This reel of snaps will disappear after 24 hours, thus maintaining Snapchat's ephemeral vibe. If you want to repopulate your story reel, just take more videos and photos and then broadcast them.

Now, here's where Instagram comes in...

Instagram has described its new Stories feature as something that lets you "share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile". The feature basically enables you to share multiple photos and videos, and they appear together in a "slideshow format", which basically means a reel, like Snapchat. And, of course, these photos and videos will disappear.

You can also view other people's Stories - just look for their latest updates at the top of your news feed on the Home Page or below the search field on the Search screen. Instagram's Help Center has several step-by-step guides that explain everything you need to know about finding and posting Stories. Pocket-lint also has an explainer feature here. 

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Before we move on to the next section, we thought we should go over each filter (including the separate Lux effect) and what they actually do to your photos and videos:

Normal - No filter applied

Clarendon - Makes shadows deeper and highlights brighter

Gingham - Gives images a vintage look, adding a yellowish tone

Moon - Another vintage look adder but in black and white

Lark - Desaturates reds and increases blues and greens

Reyes - Adds a dusty, vintage look

Juno - Tints cool tones green, amps up warm tones, makes whites glow

Slumber - Desaturates the image, adds a haze, emphasis on blacks and blues

Crema - Adds a creamy look that both warms and cools the image

Ludwig - Slight desaturation that also enhances light

Aden - Adds a blue/green natural look

Perpetua - Adds a pastel look

Amaro - Adds light to an image, with the focus on the centre

Mayfair - Adds a warm pink tone, subtle vignetting, brightens at the center

Rise - Adds a glow to the image

Hudson - Adds an "icy" illusion, heightened shadows, cool tint, dodged center

Valencia - Fades the image, increases exposure, warms the colors

X-Pro II - Increases colour with a golden tint, high contrast, slight vignette

Sierra - Adds a faded, softer look

Willow - Adds a monochromatic look, subtle purple tones, translucent white border

Lo-Fi - Enriches color, adds strong shadows, warms the the temperature

Earlybird - Gives an older look with a sepia tint and warm temperature

Brannan - Increases contrast and exposure and adds a metallic tint

Inkwell - Goes straight to black and white

Hefe - High contrast and saturation, similar to Lo-Fi

Nashville - Warms temp, lowers contrast, increases exposure, adds pink

Sutro - Burns edges, increases highlights/shadows, focus on purple and brown

Toaster - Ages the image by "burning" the centre and adds a dramatic vignette

Walden - Increases exposure and adds a yellow tint

1977 - Increases exposure, adds a red tint and faded look

Kelvin - Increases saturation and temperature to give it a radiant glow

Stinson - Lightens image and washes out colour a little

Vesper - Adds a yellowy tint for a vintage feel, while also smoothing out skin tones

Maven - Adds a yellow tint, darkens image and deepens shadows

Ginza - Brightens images and adds a warm glow

Skyline - Adds punch to colours and brightens

Dogpatch - Deepens contrast and washes out light colours

Brooklyn - Brightens images and washes out light colours

Helena - Adds an orange and teal tone to images

Ashby - Adds golden glow and subtle vintage look without deepening shadows

Charmes - Adds a red tint to warm up colours while also increasing contrast

Lux - Transforms photos that are underexposed or lack contrast

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Are there any tips and tricks?

Now that we've covered the basics of how Instagram works, we'll get into some tips and tricks:

Account switching

It's possible to switch between multiple accounts on Instagram. This is especially handy for those of you who run a personal account, along with a business account. Instead of having to log out and login to each account every time you want to browse or post new content, which you used to have to do, you can now switch between five accounts with a few simple taps.

To add another Instagram account, go to your Profile > Settings > scroll down to Add Account. Enter the username and password of the account trying to add and that's it. To then switch between accounts, tap your username at the top of your profile and choose the account you want to switch to.

Go directly to camera roll

If you want to save time and get straight to uploading a photo whenever you launch Instagram, just hold down the Camera tab on the menu bar. From there, the camera roll should immediately open and let you select a photo.

Edit captions

Gone are the days of typos and feeling embarrassed when you accidentally post a photo with "your" in the caption when you really meant to write "you're". Instagram launched an update that enabled editing captions.

Go to the post, then tap the three-dot symbol in the top right corner, and select Edit. You'll then be able to edit the caption. As far as we can tell, people won't see how (or even how many times) you've edited the caption.

Save drafts of photos

This new feature is a much-welcomed change, because we've all been in that situation where you spend 10 minutes editing the heck out of a photo, only to ditch the work altogether when something immediate comes up that needs your attention. If you were desperate or had the time, you could use a workaround, such as screenshotting. Well, all that's a thing of the past, because Instagram now prompts you to either save or discard your draft before you even leave the editing screen.

You can learn more about how the new feature works here.

Reply to comments

You can reply to a comment without having to enter the person's handle or tagging the person. Instead, select the comment, then swipe left, and click the grey arrow. The person's handle will then appear in the comment box.

Delete your comments

While replying to a comment, you might've also seen the trash symbol. It allows you to delete a comment. Go to the photo, click the comment symbol, and swipe left on the comment to see and tap the trash can.

Moderate comments

If you use Instagram's keyword moderation tool, you and your followers will no longer be able to see comments (on your own posts) that contain language you've deemed (or Instagram has deemed) offensive or inappropriate.

In order to moderate comments on your Instagram posts, follow these steps:

Mobile app

  • Tap the gear icon on your profile.
  • Tap Comments. You’ll then see a screen with a new Comments tool. It lets you list words you consider offensive or inappropriate. Comments with these words will be hidden from your posts. You can choose your own list of words or use default words Instagram has provided.
  • Enable the Hide Inappropriate Comments option to hide keywords often reported as inappropriate.
  • Alternatively, under the Custom Keywords section, manually enter words you consider offensive or inappropriate.

You can learn more about the feature from here.

Turn off comments

You can turn off commenting to prevent people from commenting on an individual post. Doing so hides all the comments that are currently on your post, and people will no longer see the option to comment below your post. If you re-enable commenting, all previous comments will be restored and people will be able to comment again. To turn disable or enable commenting for a post:

  • Tap the three-dot button above your post
  • Select Turn Off Commenting or Turn On Commenting

To turn off commenting for a post before you share it, tape Turn Off Commenting (under Advanced Settings) on the screen where you add a caption or location to your post.

You can learn more about the feature from here.

Pinch to zoom

Make a pinching gesture with your pointer finger and thumb anywhere on a photo or video that you'd like to see in closer detail, and then open your fingers (un-pinch, basically) while gliding across your device's touchscreen. That section of the media will simultaneously zoom-in as you open your fingers. It's pretty easy to figure out.

You can learn more about the feature from here.

Remove a tagged photo

If want to remove a photo under your tagged folder (furthest right option just below your profile description), you can either hide the photo from your profile or remove the tagged photo altogether.

Go to your Instagram profile, then tap the tagged folder, and select a photo you'd like to remove. From there, tap the button in the top right with the three dots, select Photo Options, followed by Hide from My Profile.

That'll hide the photo. To completely remove yourself from being tagged in the photo on Instagram, tap More Options, and then select Remove Me from Photo. Simples.

Manage filters

If you ever want to hide some filters to make it easier for you to decide between a specific few rather than the whole lot, you can slide to the end of the filter tray, and then tap manage filters in order to hide or show certain ones.

Adjust cellular data settings

Instagram videos are designed to play automatically on your feed, which can be taxing on your data when not near a hotspot, but you can change your cellular data settings so videos load slower and thus less data is consumed.

Just go to your profile, tap the Settings icon, scroll down to Mobile Data Use and toggle on Use Less Data.

Save originals

Instagram uploads photos to its network at 612 x 612 pixels in size. If you want to access a higher resolution version (like for uploading to your website), you can save the original photos to your device.

Go to your profile, then tap the Settings icon, and scroll down to Save Original Photos. From there, toggle on the option.

Embed your photos on the web

In order to get the embed code to share an Instagram photo on the web, you first have to find the post via Instagram on the web, then click the three dots symbol in the bottom corner, and choose Embed. You can then copy the code.

Hide Instagram adverts

Instagram adverts are defined by the "Sponsored" label in the top corner, but you don't have to scroll by annoying ones in your news feed. Click on the three-dot symbol at the bottom of the advert to either hide it or provide feedback.

Change the layout of photos

Many people like to give their photos white borders or compile them into collages before posting to Instagram. Although there are several third-party apps that let you do this prior to posting, Instagram has its own app called Layout.

Layout not only lets you easily combine multiple photos into a single image, but also create one-of-a-kind layouts by remixing your photos. When uploading from your Gallery, you'll see the Layout app symbol in the far right of the bottom of the image. Tap it and you can continue selecting images, followed by the layout you want. You can read more about it here.

Create hyperlapses

First of all: Time lapse or time-lapse photography is a cinematography technique whereby frequency at which film frames are captured (the frame rate) is much lower than that used to view the sequence.

Hyperlapse is an iOS-only app from Instagram that lets you create time lapses from your phone. It also has built-in tools for smoothing out shaking video, meaning you could use it to Instagram footage taken with a Go Pro.

You can learn more about Hyperlapse here.

Create a Boomerang

Instagram also has another app called Boomerang that allows you to create and share mini videos. "It's not a photo. It's not a gif. It's a Boomerang."

It allows you to capture moments and replay them, such as a friend blowing out birthday candles. Like the Layout app, you'll find quick access to Boomerang at the bottom of the image you are planning to upload.

You can learn more about Boomerang here.


In the past couple years, Instagram has really beefed up its online counterpart at You can login to your account, view your profile, adjust many settings also found in the Instagram mobile apps, view your notifications, discover people and other accounts that might be interesting to you, and search for things by names and hashtags.

Want to know more?

Pocket-lint has an Instagram hub with all the latest news about the app.