Getting started with Instagram

Instagram isn't just for hipsters anymore.

The photo-sharing app expanded beyond iPhones to Android devices last week. And today, it became a part of Facebook. You might enjoy giving it a try — even if your kids, like my daughter, claim it's really only for people under the age of 25.

Like Facebook, Instagram is a social network, and joining it is free. (For now, at least, Facebook says it will keep Instagram separate.) But at Instagram, it's all about the photos. Sure, you can share your own with family and friends, but Instagram is great for discovering new places to visit or simply enjoying the sights from the comfort of any seat you happen to be in with phone in hand.

And if you have an interest in photography, you'll find inspiration from the photographers you discover.


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Ready to get started? Download the app to your iPhone or Android). You'll create an account with a user name and password. Instagram will then ask if you'd like to connect with friends on Facebook, Twitter or through your contact list on your phone – or all three.

Privacy is simple: It's either on or off. When privacy is "off," your photos are visible to everyone, and anyone can choose to follow you. When privacy is "on," you'll receive a notification when another member wants to follow your picture stream. When you're setting up your account, Instagram also will give you the opportunity to follow notable photographers — you'll see a sample of work and decide to follow or not. You also can set Instagram to automatically send your photos to Facebook , Twitter, tumblr and several other sites. (Facebook says that it will not limit the ability to post to other networks.)

Taking pictures and giving them that retro Instagram look is simple. Launch the app, tap the camera icon and shoot. A strip of 16 filter options will appear at the bottom of your screen. "Inkwell" turns a photo to black and white, "Toaster" gives an overexposed spot in the center, and "1977" gives a faded cast. There's no right or wrong; just pick the one you like the best. Tap the check to launch the comment and sharing page.

To use Instagram like a pro, keep your commentary short. You can use a hashtag (the "#" symbol) to make certain words searchable. For instance, if you take a photo sailing on Lake Tahoe, you might want to write your caption like this: "Sailing on Lake #Tahoe." That way people searching for that Northern California hot spot would see it. Likewise, use terms to find photographers who shoot subjects that interest you or search by a professional's name — chances are they're on Instagram.

While there's no reason you can't use Instagram for a family photo album, you also can use it as a place to experiment as a photographer. Post an artsy photo of your keyboard on Facebook and you're a kook. Post it on Instagram and you're an artist.

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