Instagram smashed through the 200 million user mark in March, so it doesn't seem to be suffering too badly from the surfeit of competitors taking it on. Whether you're an Instagram newbie or an old-timer on the network, these 10 tips should give you a few fresh ideas about how you can get the most out of the app.
1. Save your originals
The photos Instagram uploads to its network and shares with the world are 612 x 612 pixels in size. If you want to access a higher resolution version (for uploading to your website perhaps) then you can find these on your phone or tablet.
On Android, full-size pictures are automatically saved in an Instagram folder in the gallery; on iOS, they are added to your camera roll. In both cases, make sure the Save Original Photos option is activated on the settings page (it's turned on by default). Note that the maximum resolution that Instagram will save pictures at is 2048 x 2048 pixels, irrespective of your device's capabilities.
2. Embed your photos on the Web
Just taken an Instagram shot that's so inspiring you want to share it on your blog? Find the post via Instagram on the Web, click the menu button (three horizontal dots) and choose View Photo Page, then open the menu button again and select the Embed option. The code that appears can be pasted anywhere else on the Web to showcase the picture, and you can embed images from other Instagram streams just as easily as your own. Each embed comes with a link back to the photo on the Web, and it only works with public Instagram accounts—content set as private cannot be shared.
3. Take time with your edits
Did you notice the more sophisticated editing tools that Instagram added last month? Not only can you adjust the strength of each filter for the first time (press again on the selected filter name to see a slider), you can also access a host of extra options too.
Use the Shadows option if part of your picture is a little too dark, or open up the Saturation slider if you want to turn the strength of the image's colors up or down a notch. A gray line appears underneath edits that you've already applied, so you can easily retrace your steps if you want to go back to the original settings.
4. Save your favorites to Dropbox
We make no secret of our admiration of IFTTT, the online app that pulls together all kinds of services and tools. There are many different ways you can use Instagram with IFTTT, from sending your pictures to Twitter to keeping track of images at a certain location.
Add Dropbox into the mix and you can build a recipe that saves all the Instagram pictures you favorite to your hard drive, which is a great way of building up a collection of the best snaps you come across on the network. The 640 x 640 public version of each image is the one saved to your Dropbox account.
5. Manage your photo map
Every time you share a photo to Instagram, you have the opportunity to add it to your photo map. As we've explained before, you should always be wary when sharing the location of your pictures, but the feature can be useful for grouping images together or charting the progress of a particular trip. To review the pictures you've tagged with a location, tap the map marker symbol on your profile page—the subsequent screen shows where your photos are pinned and enables you to remove the attached location information, should you want to. Remember that public geotagged photos will appear on that location's page within the Instagram app.
6. Pick your hashtags carefully
Think twice about why you're hashtagging your pictures: is it to get them seen by more people or to add them to the mix at a public event? Pick hashtags that are too common and they'll get lost in the flood, so keep them relevant and use them sparingly. It's also worth browsing through related hashtags already being used on Instagram to see if there are niche hashtags or even official hashtag streams relevant to your images that you didn't know about. Be specific, be relevant and be observant is the advice from Instagram staff when it comes to using hashtags.
7. Make more of your profile
Your profile is the first page that strangers see when they're checking out your Instagram feed, so make sure you give them a few good reasons to tap the Follow button (if indeed you want any more followers). Say something about yourself, what you do, and the types of photos you'll be sharing (as it may not be obvious from the first few pictures in your feed). Make use of the website field to direct visitors to your full portfolio, your Twitter feed or anywhere else that's going to help convince someone that you're worth a follow. You'll be Insta-famous in no time... probably.
8. Share more widely
Instagram can plug into plenty of other social media services, so make use of these links and share your photo-taking abilities with all those people who don't have Instagram installed. At the same time, you should avoid spamming your friends across multiple social networks too often—you can turn the sharing options on or off for each individual photo, once you've established the connections.
Unfortunately, Instagram pictures are no longer shared as native images on Twitter, but you can use this IFTTT recipe as a workaround. Facebook integration is very straightforward, as you would expect, with linked pictures duplicated in an Instagram Photos album.
9. Learn from the pros
Mix up your contacts list by adding in a few Instagram experts and professionals alongside all of your family, friends, and favorite celebrities. You'll soon pick up ideas for how to use lighting, scenery and the various filters available in the app just by studying the work of the experts. Try road tripper Foster Huntington (909,995 followers), the National Geographic's Ira Block (52,072 followers) or CNN journalist Jethro Mullen (900,800 followers at the time of writing) for starters. Keep your eye on the Instagram blog too, where staff members and expert users sometimes share tips on getting the best pictures you can (such as this post on macro shots).
10. Add extra apps
As Instagram is able to load in photos from your phone or tablet as well as take them with its own camera, you can add some third-party apps to the mix. Plenty of apps (such as Diptic for iOS or Photo Grid for Android) will let you create photo collages within one Instagram image, while dedicated camera tools (like Camera+ or Camera Zoom FX) can really take your snaps to the next level before you even open Instagram.
You can invest in some extra hardware too, to get more out of your phone's camera lens—everything from fish eye attachments to tripods can help improve the quality of your Instagramming.
Any other handy Instagram tips we missed? Include them below!