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Arts Post
Posted at 10:47 AM ET, 04/04/2012

Instagram on Android: Tips for using the instantly popular app

Photo filtering and sharing app Instagram was released on Android Tuesday, and it was snapped up by 1 million users ready to snap retro-looking photos on their phones.

Instagram is already hugely popular on the iPhone, with more than 30 million registered users uploading more than 5 million photos a day, according to CNET. Apple named it the app of the year in 2011. Now that it’s available for Android users, expect to see even more vintage-inspired photography — a craze that seems like it will never end.

Apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic appeal to nostalgia for an era of photography that many of its users never knew firsthand. They attempt to put the art back into digital photography that, with cellphone cameras, has gotten sharper and easier to use, but — some would say — less soulful. An Instagram image seems to have its photographer’s fingerprints on it, and the filters provide a salve for a poorly-executed shot.

At the same time, as the app’s user base expands, the filtered photographs become even more of a cliche. People used Instagram to make their photos look different from a typical, poorly-lit cellphone snapshot — but now everyone’s photos have been run through a filter to make them look as though they were shot on a Holga. Professional photographers have been known to bemoan the trend, which allows people to so easily emulate effects that usually require special equipment or extra editing effort. But the still-growing app seems to show no sign of being a fad that fades away.

Android users: follow these tips to make your Instagram shots look great.

Mind your lighting. A well-lit photo is a more interesting photo, and it will work much better with the Instagram filters to make colors pop.

Find interesting angles and focal points. Shoot from above, below, or with objects close in the foreground. Focus on something small, rather than taking in a whole scene.

Consider the square. Instagram photos are cropped in a square, so it’s important to keep this in mind when you’re lining up your shots. In photography, there’s a guideline called the “Rule of Thirds,” which can help you create harmonious shots within the cropped space.

Keep it simple. Some of the strongest photographs can be a quick portrait, or a close-up look at a single object.

Tag it. To get the most out of Instagram as a photograper or fan, include hashtags and mention others in the captions of your photos. Just like Twitter, tapping on an Instagram hashtag allows users to see photos that share the same hashtag. Cities, landmarks and holidays are always good hashtags to include. Others, like #latergram and #nofilter indicate when a photo was taken and whether or not a filter was added. Hashtags are great way to gain new followers and increase “likes”.

Users can add hashtags to photos that have already been published by including the tags in a new comment.

Tag people with Instagram accounts by putting an “@” symbol in front of their username — we’re @WashingtonPost.

Share it. Instagram plays nice with Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Flickr, and Foursquare, allowing users to cross-post their photos. Configure these settings when you’re writing a caption for your photo.

See what’s out there. Search is not Instagram’s strength. If you’re browsing for pictures with a certain hashtag, try Webstagram.com and Gramfeed.com. Both Web sites allow for a desktop browsing experience of Instagram’s mobile-only content.

Show us your first Instagram: Whether you're a new Android user, or an iPhone veteran, we want to see your first Instagram photo. Tag your first Instagram picture with #my1stInstagram, and we'll display it here.

By tagging your photo, you are submitting it to The Washington Post and you give us permission to use it in print and online.

By  |  10:47 AM ET, 04/04/2012

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