I met Leslie a little over a year ago while attending a photography retreat in Northern California. I remember falling in love with her SX-70, I had an old one that was barely functioning so I just followed her around and watched. In fact one of the few Polaroids I took that trip was of Leslie herself. Since then she has become not only one of my favorite Polaroid shooters, she is also someone I consider my mobile muse. We recently met up again this time in Palm Springs and again I picked her brain about all things instant but I kept coming back to how much I loved what she was doing on Instagram. The conversation continued after our trip and I asked her if she would come over and do a guest spot on her mobile work for Mortal Muses. If you don’t already follow Leslie on Instagram you soon will. I describe her feed as colorful, crisp, refined and playful. Have you ever seen someone’s work and thought they see the world as you do? I feel that way with Leslie’s work.

My love affair with Instagram began last October when I finally got my first iPhone. In all honesty, the main reason I wanted this phone was for its amazing camera and the ability to easily share images with family and friends. I’d heard so much about Instagram but at the time it wasn’t available for my Android phone, so I had to sit on the sidelines watching all the fun.

With my new phone in hand, I decided to challenge myself for 2012 and committed to a 365+1 for the year, with photos taken entirely on my phone and shared via Instagram. This was a sure-fire way to me to expand my horizons and learn. One thing leads to another and my desire to improve was fueled by trying new apps, learning new editing techniques and making connections that helped in my growth process.

Which leads me to share with you some tips and techniques for “kicking it up a notch” when it comes to your Instagram images. Some of these suggestions may seem obvious, but I hope you’ll come away with some new ideas that will help you grow.

Find and follow people whose work you love and spend time analyzing what it is that draws you to their images. Look at their work over time and you’ll usually see a consistency in their editing process or subject matter that makes their photos easily identifiable. Perhaps they focus on self-portraits, food/still life, landscapes or just everyday living. Use these people as inspiration for your own work, taking ideas and making them your own. Be sure to take note of the photographers THEY follow, too, as that can lead you to new and awesome discoveries. Some favorites: @chrisozer // @yanpalmer // @amyseeley // @chriscodyyy // @jeysonpaez.

Join in the conversation!  One forum that’s really taken off this year is headed up by Josh Johnson (@joshjohnson #jj). So big that he has recently enlisted the help of editors that help him comb through the thousand of submissions for his daily challenge/theme.

Looking for a taste of Instafame?  Follow @instagram to find out the Weekend Hashtag Project (#WHP) announced every Friday. A select few are featured on the Instagram Blog every Monday.

Fancy typography? Look up #shytophgraphy to see some amazing things people are doing with words and images.  My favorite apps for adding text are Phonto (free – iPhone or Android ) and Over (1.99 USD). Both are fun and easy to use, and you can get inspiration by checking the hashtags #phonto and #madewithover.

Love to journal? Check out the Tiny Notebook Club (@tiny_notebooks and #tinynotebookclub). It’s amazing how many “specialty” groups you can find who are combining their love of photography with other passions.

Want to know the back story? Try AMPt (@ampt) to get detailed explanations from photographers as to how they are editing their images.

How about adding texture to your photos? Try the Blender app (Image Blender, $2.99) and experiment with free textures from Neal Dieker (@nealdieker and #ndpatterns) or Merek Davis (@merekdavisand #mextures). Other favorites:  Vscocam // Squaready // Snapseed // Afterglow // Over

And last but not least: Shoot, shoot, shoot! The daily discipline of shooting really forces you to expand your creativity while improving at the same time. I’ve been using an app called Photo365 (iPhone only but Android version on the way) that lets me track my daily photos. It’s very satisfying to get to the end of each month and see that calendar full of images!


I hope you’ll find at least one new idea or worthwhile nugget from the suggestions and links I’ve shared. And please chime in with any new discoveries you’ve made…I love to learn!

Leslie Adams
blog and flickr