Even though Instagram is fairly new, it’s still hard to remember a time when we didn’t have this social media site. Part of the reason for this is its staggering growth. In 2012 when Instagram was acquired by Facebook, it had 100 million active users, now that number is up to 400 million. More and more, indie authors are heading over to Instagram as part of their book marketing plan — to engage with readers, build their fan base, and sell books. Last week, I talked about some strategies for creative book marketing with Instagram, and this week, I’m focusing on how to create picture perfect images to maximize your Instagram Engagement.
When Instagram first started up, you could only upload square pictures which was annoying. You’d either have to crop the picture or just shoot it in square mode. Last year, however, Instagram changed this, lifting this restriction which opened up a lot of new possibilities. So if you’re uploading your picture to Instagram and want to return to the original size/ratio, just tap the bottom left corner of the photo. This lets you switch between square or landscape mode.
Finding Picture Perfect Images
You can always, ALWAYS, use your own photos. If you’ve taken it, you can use it. But sometimes the photos we take don’t fit into our theme or our goals, so we need to find photos that do work. As we all know by now, we can’t just take any image we find from Google. Instead, we need to make sure that we have rights to use the image or it’s royalty-free. You can purchase stock photos from a number of paid sites – some of the most popular are IstockPhoto.com, BigStockPhoto.com, and stock.Adobe.com. Stocksy.com is a newer site with exclusive images, making it a good option if you’re looking for something unique.
There are also a number of great sites where you can legally download images royalty-free, that is, without having to purchase rights. Most use the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license meaning they are completely free for personal or commercial use (although it’s frowned on to sell them). Here are a few great options:
- LibreStock.com is basically a search engine for free stock images from dozens of sites so users don’t have to search them out individually.
- Unsplash.com is another great site for images that are free to use. You can subscribe to have new photos sent to your email every 10 days, or browse the site.
Now that know how to find the perfect images to share on your Instagram account, let’s talk about getting them ready for posting. At minimum, you’ll want to watermark the images so that if they leave the confines of Instagram, people will know where to find you. So, include your logo and website URL.
Generally speaking, if you want to use a stock photo, you will want to customize the image in some way as well, whether adding a few words, creating a collage of a few images, or adding a quote. While a quote that’s meaningful in some way to you or related to your theme works great, many authors like to include a quote from one of their characters or even something memorable from their own book. Or, you can use an image as a teaser to announce something is coming soon. Again, keep in mind screen size limitations – don’t cram too much information into your image – instead you can add any additional messaging to the photo description.
If you prefer to do everything from the comfort of your phone, there are lots of apps out there that allow you to customize your images:
- Relaythat – This app is commonly used for event designs and events, and has a free and paid ($8/month) option. Both options allow for a one-click resize, so you don’t have to resize each photo by hand for every place you’re going to use it.
- Typorama – With Typorama, you can create images for a wide variety of social networks, and you can shadow text so it’s easy read against varying backgrounds. You can also easily watermark all of your images
- Adobe Spark Post – This is another great free app that, in their own words, allows you to “turn ideas into impactful social graphics.”
- Wordswag – With lots of great type styles, and the ability to easily swap between styles, and even variations within each style, this is a fun app to use. It also has the option to use a few basic backgrounds, instantly search royalty-free stock images from Pixabay, or use your own photos.
- PicsArt – This app allows you to create great collages in a huge variety of layouts. You can easily resize images within the collages and the drag-and-drop feature makes it easy to swap images and text around.
- Ezy Watermark – This app does exactly what it says – giving you an easy way to watermark your images. Limited to iOS at this time.
- Lumyer – Lumyer gives you the tools to create some really cool animated images.
- RIPL – With RIPL you can design animated images. The free version includes access to 5 free designs, as well as one free Ripl Pro design daily, while the paid version is $9.99/month or $59.99/year.
- DIPTIC – This app allows you to create collages and slideshows. The iOS version is more robust than the Android version at this time.
Or, you might want to do the work on a computer, and then save your new perfect images to your phone (using email or file transfer) for later posting to Instagram. Although this adds a layer of complexity, some people prefer it – and Canva is one of our favorite options (plus they have an iPad app).
Hot new feature!
Here’s a bonus idea! In the last few weeks, Instagram came out with Instagram Stories, a feature that lets you share all of the moments of your day without them appearing on your profile grid or feed. Basically, it allows you to share as much as you want to without over posting. It’s a great way to test out some creative ideas and showcase your day without creating a permanent record! Give it a try and see how it works for you and your book marketing plan!
Ultimately, you have tons of great options for finding and customizing your images for Instagram. So many in fact, that the selection of apps and programs may seem daunting! But, each has their own pros and cons, and everyone has their own preferences. I’m confident that you’ll find one that is a great fit for you. Regardless of which app you use, take some time to play with it, and in no time you’ll be creating picture perfect images for your Instagram account, as well as any other social media accounts!