how to take artsy photographs + instagram hacks


Mastering the art of Instagram is kinda tough. It’s constantly changing. There used to be a time where simple iPhone photos were all the craze, but now, people hire photographers to make sure they have the perfect feed. While I believe the best way of mastering Instagram is to form your own style, here are a few tips I have found worked best when I was photographing my adventure in Lai Chi Kok:

Natural lighting.


Natural lighting will become your best friend. There’s something about sunlight that is so whimsical and easy about natural lighting. I love shooting in the studio, but nothing beats that one-on-one connection with the sun, nature, and me. In order to use natural lighting to your best advantage, look for strong contrast between light and shadow. Flat natural lighting works in some situations, but not most. It is much more interesting to look at a photo that has a range of black and white values, rather than just gray. Search spots where the light breaks. Search areas where light slices through an object. Natural lighting is so artsy!


Find reflections.


Reflections are beautiful things. Here in Hong Kong, there are a lot of glass skyscrapers that have beautiful reflections casted onto them. Looking at one side of a building, and somehow seeing another part of the sky, is probably one of the most magical things I’ve experienced while studying abroad. I know it may sound a little weird, but next time you come across a glass building, check out the reflection on it. It’s pretty amazing. Find a reflection and capture it’s essence.


Look up.


We spent a lot of our time looking down…at our phones, mostly. We’re constantly checking for likes, updates, or messages. It is easy to miss what is happening above us. Instead, look up at the city you’re walking through. Look up through the trees at the park. Look up at the sky. Like in the previous tip, for me, the sky is a probably one of the most prettiest things in this entire universe. Yet, we don’t appreciate it because we’re still trying to figure out if Kylie Jenner is officially pregnant or if it’s still a rumor. (Or maybe it’s just me.) One of the things I’ve been appreciating while studying abroad is the lack of wifi in the areas I decide to adventure in. I like not having my phone buzzing 24/7. It really helps me take in the moment, and ground myself. For your next adventure, wherever your feet take you, try turning off your phone for at least thirty minutes.

*For architecture shots, shoot upward in a wide angle. In doing so, the viewer can fully experience what you’re seeing through the viewfinder. Also, it also poses the question of how big is the world? Or are humans as significant as we think to be?*


Narrative captions.


Tell a story with your Instagram captions. Add a few hashtags. Make the caption fun. What happened while you were taking that photograph? What did you smell? What did you hear? If it’s of a portrait, tell your subject’s story. Surprisingly enough, people actually read your captions out of genuine interest. Over the past few years, I have gained a lot of friends who are in photography classes, and many times they enjoy reading my thoughts on a photograph or when I let them take a peek into my creative process through the Instagram caption. I love doing the same.


For the last photo of this section I posted this caption, “this woman was particularly interesting to me because i saw her crying halfway down the street. maybe it was a breakup. maybe someone died. was i rude to capture her vulnerability?” (I do not use capital letters in my Instagram posts because I’m edgy.) After posting this, my good photo buddy Cristina commented who she missed reading my stories in my captions. People care about your captions. Make them count. 

I hope that you enjoyed the post!

Comment down below any of your own favorite Instagram hacks!

You can see more photographs from my newest series, titled Passing, here on my Instagram.

Thank you all so much for the wonderful feedback on my last post: study with me | study tips for any student! It warmed my heart that you all were pumped about studying and stationary after reading my post!

get lost. get found.

-hello ninetyseven


Camera + Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | 50mm lens

Editing: Adobe Lightroom

Location: Lai Chi Kok, Hong Kong

Did you know any of the people you photographed? No.

Did anyone get mad that you photographed them? Yes, I think someone flipped me off at one point.

Were you intimidated by the strangers you photographed? Not all at. The key is to not make eye contact with them. Keep your camera raised and your eyes fixed.


10 thoughts on “how to take artsy photographs + instagram hacks

  1. Instagram definitely can be an up and down journey – it was so much easier back in the day before we had to worry about all the changes!! These are all wonderful tips and I am in love with your photography skills – you’re a natural when it comes to working the camera 🙂 xox

    Liked by 1 person

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