With over 95 million Instagram posts per day, users need all the tips, tricks, and tools they can get to stand out on the platform.

The act of posting pictures on Instagram is pretty simple; snap a photo, slap on a filter, caption a few emojis and hit that “post” button. But the challenge is crafting one that garners engagement – one that pulls your viewer out of their mindless, endlessly scrolling trance.

Below, we discuss how to post pictures on Instagram, and the key ingredients to quality content.

How to Post on Instagram – Step 1: What’s Your Message, Niche, or Theme?

Your first step to quality content is to decide on an overall message or theme.

Start with what interests you. Is it fashion? Travel? Perhaps something a bit more niche, like needle-felted wool animals?

How to post pictures on Instagram - picking your niche

Whatever it may be, use it as your starting point. If you’ve already started on your Instagram account, then you’ve likely already picked a niche – a typical starting point for most Instagram users. Run with that.

Then, decide on what you’d like to communicate to your audience. Whether it’s a politically-charged, activist statement on current affairs; or to simply share your love of a topic, think about what you’d like to convey through your visuals.

How to post pictures on Instagram - having a meaningful message (thebeardedpublicist)

Courtesy of thebeardedpublicist (Instagram account).

You may also want to imagine how well your post would fit with your overall grid layout. This can be especially important for those who maintain a strict color pallette or aesthetic throughout their feed.

Instagram grid layout (fenacious)

Courtesy of fenacious (Instagram account).

Keep note of the elements, style, and story you hope to capture in your photo – and how it fits with the rest of gallery. This can help you maintain a consistent look, further solidifying your brand image and Instagram personality.

How to Post on Instagram Step 2: Take a High-Quality Photo

Once you’ve decided on your post’s objective, it’s time to take a photo! (Or a few, depending on your post).

Remember: Quality is key. Ensuring you take a sharp, clear, well-lit photo can help save you precious time on vigorous post-editing – so get that ideal shot down in the raw capture.

How to post on Instagram - Taking quality photos

It may help to bush up on basic photography principles, such as the “rule of thirds”, perspective guidelines, symmetry – and other composition standards.

Some general elements of a high-quality photo include:

  • A captivating background (or a plain background with a captivating subject)
  • Natural lighting
  • Capturing subjects in action
  • “Leading lines” that add depth or draw the viewer’s eye
  • Negative space to frame your subject

Of course, there are plenty more features that make up an alluring photo – what goes in your final product all depends on your content goals, themes, and message.

How to post pictures on Instagram - Taking quality photos

Also consider whether you’re posting a single photo or multiple ones.

Instagram now has the option of “carousel” posts, allowing users to post a collection of pictures in one post. Using this format is best for telling a short story as each picture weaves into the next.

Instagram carousel post (tommy.dorfman)

Courtesy of tommy.dorfman (Instagram account).

Some users ride the trend of “puzzle grids”, in which single photos make up one big picture when viewed from a user’s overall feed.

Instagram puzzle grid (i-love-png)

Courtesy of i-love-png.

Or, you can simply take the traditional route of a single photo. As they stand on their own, however, you’ll have to make them pop. Which brings us to…

How to Post on Instagram – Step 3: Edit Your Photo(s) to Perfection

Now we’ve entered the post-processing stage. You’ve snagged that picture-perfect capture – now all it needs is a few tweaks.

We don’t recommend going gung-ho on the airbrushing; in an era of endless Photoshopped images, viewers are quick to see right through this. But adding a quick filter for an artsier vibe, or editing your colors for a livelier appearance can transform a good raw photo into a great one.

On top of Instagram’s built-in tools, there are various apps available to help with this – a popular one being Adobe Lightroom. Its generous selection of filters and photo-editing tools help keep your Instagram posts looking professional, consistent, and visually appealing; navigated through an incredibly user-friendly interface.

Editing Instagram posts - Adobe Lightroom (iDownloadBlog)

Courtesy of iDownloadBlog.

Though controversial, FaceTune also offers the convenience of editing out minor flaws in selfies and portrait photos.

How to edit Instagram posts - Facetune app (Macpaw)

Courtesy of Macpaw.

When tweaking your photos, it’s also important to keep aware of size limitations.

Currently, Instagram offers three image orientations: square, landscape, and portrait. Each have their own default sizing; so crop your photo accordingly.

Instagram post orientations

How to Post on Instagram – Step 4: Write a meaningful caption

Once your Instagram post is ready to go, it’s time to focus on your caption.

Captions may not seem a important as the picture itself – but when done well, they can do wonders for your engagement. The more captivating the caption, the more likely viewers will stop to read it.

This prompts them to spend more time on your Instagram post, signalling the algorithm to acknowledge it as “quality content”. This then increases its likelihood of topping its corresponding hashtag pages, making one’s Explore page, or delivered as “priority” content in your followers’ feeds.

Instagram post - meaningful captions (shannonpurser)

Courtesy of shannonpurser (Instagram account).

It’s therefore important to spend time crafting the ideal caption for your Instagram post. Use it to tell a story, incorporate humour, or even ask your audience a question (this can encourage user participation, resulting in comments or likes). Experts recommend writing a good call-to-action to prompt further user interaction.

Don’t underestimate the power of emojis, either. For higher user engagement, studies show that brands under 1,000 followers should use 1-3 emojis; brands between 1,000 and 10,000 followers should use 4-10 emojis; and brands between 10,000 to a million followers should use 10 or more emojis.

Instagram post - using emojis (zanetakepa)

Courtesy of zanetakepa (Instagram account).

How to Post on Instagram – Step 5: Use hashtags!

It’s often echoed across most Instagram advice – but using hashtags on your posts is imperative to optimizing engagement.

Hashtags help categorize your post into their appropriate niches on the platform. Tags like “#fashionaddict” and “#fashionistasofinstagram”, for example, create their own streams of content that cater to users in the fashion community.

Hashtag feed -#fashionaddict

#Fashionaddict hashtag feed.

To get your content seen by the right people, using hashtags are a must.

Specific hashtags for specific audiences can vary, so we recommend doing a bit of research on your niche. While general tags like “#food” and “#cafe” help food bloggers reach a broad audience, ones like “#foodstagram” and “#foodieforlife” are more unique to the community; allowing users to really narrow down on their viewers.

Using niche-specific hashtags (hungry_california)

Courtesy of hungry_california (Instagram account).

Instagram posts have a limit of 30 hashtags, though marketing research claims 11 to be the sweet spot – gaining you the most engagement.

This may differ between users and follower counts, however; so it’s best to experiment. Other influencers claim to use the entire 30-tag limit to reach the widest audience possible.

Lastly, be sure to stick to best hashtag practices. This means avoiding any “spammy” hashtags such as “#like4like” or “#follow4follow” (ensuring you build a genuinely engaged audience); avoiding any “banned” hashtags; and switching them up every once in a while – using the same hashtags over and over may be considered as “spam” by Instagram standards.

How to Post on Instagram – Step 6: Tag your location and other users

At this stage, you’ve tackled the most important elements of an Instagram post. Now it’s time for a bit of marketing.

How to post pictures on Instagram - adding geotags and user tags

Tagging your specific location helps users of the same area find your content. This may be more beneficial for users who regularly host events, or those who own physical storefronts or company branches. Using geotags can direct users to the physical locations of your business – which, in turn, can drive up sales.

Instagram - New York geotag

Event managers can also benefit from geotags, leading audiences to the event location.

But if you’re neither of these, a location tag still increases your post visibility. Like hashtags, geotags have their own streams of content from users in the same location. Tagging your post can add it to these feeds, delivering it to those browsing through location-specific content.

Instagram post - adding a geotag

User tags, on the other hand, are effective for reaching out to those in your community.

Users have a limit of 20 user tags per Instagram post – though unlike hashtags, you needn’t max all 20 (this could put you at risk of seeming desperate and/or spammy!).

Instagram post - adding user tags

Instead, tag the individuals or brands featured in your photo. This is a great way to connect on the platform and acts as a shout-out to other accounts.

There are also “feature” accounts on Instagram dedicated to showcasing users of a certain niche; so if they allow it (and your post suits), tag them as well!

Instagram feature accounts (fashion.feature.xx)

Courtesy of fashion.feature.xx (Instagram account).

User tags are an easy way of boosting engagement on your Instagram post, as well as fostering friendships or business connections on the platform.

How to Post on Instagram – Step 7: Should You Cross-Promote?

Your post is almost ready for publishing – but there’s one last option to consider: should you cross-promote to other social media accounts?

Just before hitting the “Share” button, Instagram offers users the option of simultaneously posting to Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. (These require linking your respective accounts to your Instagram profile).

Instagram post - cross-promoting

Depending on your marketing strategy, this can reap plenty of benefits: the prime one being a larger reach. By sharing the same content to other platforms, you gain more social exposure – and hopefully grow your audience base in the process.

This also helps save time on creating new content for each individual platform. Cross-promoting through Instagram helps optimize a single post, ensuring it reaches viewers of every channel.

How to Post on Instagram – Step 8: Post Now, Save as Draft, or Schedule for Future Publishing

So you’ve ticked off every box on the list – now it’s time to finally post your content!

Or… you can choose to publish it at later (and possibly, more optimal) time.

Instagram communities have varying rates of engagement depending on the time of day, or day of the week. If you’ve figured out your best day/time to post (that is, the time likely to gain you the most engagement), you can always save your post for that specific time.

Instagram - best engagement times

A manual way of doing this is saving your post as a draft. This is done by simply returning to your homepage, immediately saving your photo – caption and all – as an Instagram draft.


Drafts can be accessed above your camera roll. When selected, the app takes you to the pre-publishing page, letting you pick up where you left off.

Alternatively, you can use an Instagram scheduler.

Instagram schedulers, such as Later and Hootsuite, allow you to conveniently automate publishing for specified dates and times.

Use Instagram on PC - Hootsuite Planner

Courtesy of Hootsuite.

These platforms typically provide you with a visual calendar to plan out your post days, weeks, or even months in advance. Users can craft out their captions, edit their photos, and add in their hashtags all in one sitting; then schedule them on the calendar for automatic publishing at their optimal engagement times.

Avid Instagrammers are recommended to use such apps, as they help save the time and effort involved in crafting posts on-the-fly, along with remembering to manually post.

How to Post on Instagram – Step 9: Should You Boost Your Post?

Though this step typically takes place after you’ve published your post, it’s still important to consider.

To “boost” your post is to turn it into an Instagram ad – marketing it as a “sponsored” post on the homepages or (Stories) of your target audience. Generally, users boost a post that’s doing well organically; if their direct audience is responding well to the content, perhaps it’d do well across a broader reach – potentially raising their engagement, discoverability, and follower count.

Instagram ad (olayau)

Courtesy of olayau (Instagram account).

Instagram tends to notify uses of how well certain posts are doing – recommending the option to boost them. This is done by tapping on the blue “Promote” button, and following a few simple steps to identify your target audience.

Instagram promote button

You can then choose your budget for the ad, and the number of days you intend for it to run. When you’re done, tap “Create Promotion” to send your ad to Instagram for review.

How to make an Instagram ad

Once your ads are up and running, you can keep track of their progress under Instagram Insights.

Now get posting!

We’ve outlined the nine key steps to posting pictures on Instagram – now all that’s left is to put them in practice! You may not be posting museum-grade visuals or writing Nobel Prize-winning captions off the bat; but with enough time and practice, you’ll have yourself a dazzling, engaging feed that both captivates and converts.