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How To Take Instas That’ll Make You The Envy Of All Your Friends

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Instagram is not about how the world looks, it’s about how the world makes you feel. The best feeds make you feel like the world is a juicy peach, ripe for plucking; a technicolour theme park ride just begging you to jump on board. The best Instas scream, “Life is incredible! Get into it!” and they light a little fire in your gut. They also make you squirm with jealousy for the lucky bastard behind the camera.

When it comes to perfect Insta pics, Sam Earp has cracked the code. The 24-year-old lifeguard from Newcastle picked up a camera just three years ago to document his days of sand and surf, posting the epic, pristine beach photos to his fledgling Instagram account. Today, Sam has more than 90,000 followers and he is paid to travel the world taking holiday snaps and drone vids, capturing the world in all its wet and wild glory. From the Bahamas to the Maldives, South Africa to Croatia, Cambodia to New Zealand, he has carved a path in beautiful pictures. Here’s how he makes his Instas the envy of 90,000 friends.

Break the mould

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Sam’s first tip for budding Instagram stars is to be unique. “There are over 500 million Instagram accounts worldwide, so you need to make your feed stand out from the rest and be consistent with what theme you post,” he explains.

From day one, Sam’s feed was focused on all things ocean and beach: waves, watery sunsets, drifting coastlines and beautiful bodies doing yoga on the sand. Scrolling through his feed, there is no doubt what Sam is about, but what is incredible is how he manages to see that world from so many fresh angles. Perfect bodies drift underwater, waves curl around Sam as he scores the most insane selfies, and weird, sometimes funny objects find their way into the frame. If you want to build an Insta following, take unusual pictures, Sam says, and, “Turn your [Instagram] account off private!”

Location, location, location

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Sam has taken some gobsmacking pics of the Seychelles and Mykonos, but his pics from the beaches around Newcastle are every bit as beautiful. The right location could be anywhere if you have the eyes to see it. “I always hear people saying that you need to travel to take great photos. The reality is, if you look hard enough you can take amazing photos close to home,” Sam says. “Pick a location that is photogenic and brings depth to the photo.” For Sam, this means far horizons, bird’s-eye views and the occasional shot of him in a hand glider, grinning into a selfie stick.

When you’ve found the right spot, make sure you let people know where you’ve been. “Always geo-tag your location when posting a photo,” Sam advises. “This boosts engagement with your followers and allows people to search your photos in the [Instagram] Explore page.”

There are no rules

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“Composition in photography can make or break a photo,” Sam says, “[But] I don’t always find the traditional teachings of the rule of thirds to be relevant for social media. Be creative with your photo composition and try something different!”

Once you’ve found the perfect subject and the perfect spot, play around with how you shoot it. Straight horizons, thoughtful framing and having a feature subject are all important, but these rules won’t make your photo pop. Sometimes it’s just about finding the right angle, like the bird’s-eye view you get with a drone. Sam also likes to get low, shooting into the horizon from the surface of the water, or holding a small object in the middle of the frame to give the landscape a sense of scope. Of course, the unsung hero of the shot is always the lighting. “I find my favourite and most engaging images are shot in sunrise or sunset light situations,” Sam says. As the old saying goes, the early bird gets the worm.

It’s all about editing

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If you really want your photos to stand out, your Insta feed may not be so instant. The truth is that most leading photographers treat the original photo as raw clay that is moulded into shape with after effects, tweaking and adjusting the original pic until it is just perfect. “Editing your photos properly is key. Colour grading and editing of an image determines whether people are going to follow you or not,” Sam says. The good news is that there are mobile apps to get the job done, such as Snapseed (a sexier and more flexible version of Instagram), VSCO (a lightweight multipurpose image editor), and FaceTune (the ultimate selfie fixer-upper). For those that want to dive deep into photo editing, desktop programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom offer endless possibilities for nips, tucks and transformations, though more skills are required to get the best results. “I find vibrant colours and whiter whites get more engagement with my followers but this varies from account to account. Find out what your audience likes and stick to it,” Sam advises.

Sam also recommends editing the whole story, not just the individual chapters: “Use an app like Planoly to organise your feed prior to posting to make sure you get the aesthetic right!”

Get the right tools for the job

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All of the above tips will help improve your Insta game with nothing more than a smartphone, but if you want to play with the big boys and girls, you’re going to need pro gear. “You can shoot amazing photos on any camera or phone these days, but for my type of work I need to carry extra gear to get the perfect shot,” says Sam. The beaches, milky clouds and incredible underwater shots that litter his feed are captured with a range of professional photography gear including a Canon 1DX Mark II, a whole range of lenses, AquaTech water housing, a gimbal and GoPros plus the occasional drone.

There are lower cost versions of this equipment on the market, but you’re not just looking at an investment of money; you’ll need to invest quite a bit of time to get the best out of your gear. But if you really love photography, why not give it a go? As Sam’s Insta feed aptly demonstrates, there are worse ways to spend your time.

(Lead image: Sam Earp/Instagram)

Are you all about raising your Instagram game at every opportunity? If your head is nodding right now, we’ve got one word for you… SNAP. Learn more about Contiki’s SNAP tours here.

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