Getting Started: The Ins and Outs of Instagram

instagramWhat do cameras and telegrams have in common? It turns out more than you would think. Combine the two and you have Instagram, a mobile app that allows you to take, edit and share photos using your phone.

Now back to those cameras and telegrams. When the creators of Instagram were kids, they loved how different types of old cameras were marketed as “instant” — think Polaroid. They also felt like snapshots were kind of like telegrams that got sent over wires — “Insta” + “gram.”

Instagram is designed for the mobile generation. It’s best used on your phone, although you can now scroll through images on your computer. If you haven’t signed up yet, we’ve got all the details to get you started.

To create and register an account, you must download the iPhone or Android app to your device. The good news: You can download the app for free.

InstLogInHow to Register/Setup

1. Download the app on your Android or iPhone.
2. To launch, tap on the Instagram icon on your device’s home screen.
3. Tap “Register” and fill in the information. Note: Though we recommend uploading a profile image as soon as possible, providing a phone number and uploading a profile photo are optional.
4. If you would like, you can import contacts and friends from your contact list, Facebook account or Twitter account. You can also search for names and user names. You can add friends at any time from within your account.
5. You will be prompted to follow suggested Instagram users by tapping the “Follow” button next to their names. You can skip this section by tapping “Done.”

One thing to note before you start taking photos: All photos are public by default, which means they are visible to anyone using Instagram or on the website. You can make your photos private (under the “Privacy” setting on your account profile tab, far right at bottom), limiting viewers to only the people who follow you.


Once you have registered/logged in to Instagram, you’ll notice there are five icons — or tabs — at the bottom of your screen. This is your navigation panel. Note — the Android and Apple versions of this app look different, although they operate the same way.

1. Feed (home icon) — Similar to Facebook, you can scroll through posts from all the people you are following in real time.
2. Popular (star icon) — Like “Trends” on Twitter, you can see the photos getting the most attention on Instagram.
3. Share (camera icon)— Tap to take a photo or select photos from an existing album already on your mobile device.
4. News (thought bubble icon)— Updates from Instagram and other users are found here.
5. Account (newspaper icon)— Need to change any of your account settings? This is where you go.

Taking Photos

Before you start sharing photos, it’s a good idea to test out Instagram’s editing tool and get a feel for the app as a whole. Keep in mind that Instagram automatically sizes images into squares, even if they were originally rectangle.

InstaFiltersPicture this — Tap the camera, aka the “share” tab in the center of your navigation panel. This will activate your camera. You can either take a picture from there or choose a picture saved to your phone by tapping on the square button at the bottom of the screen. “Cancel” will close the camera and bring you back to the last tab you were on.

  • Tap the arrow in order to rotate your image.
  • The stamp/square toggles borders on and off. Each filter has its own border.
  • Tap the drop in order to choose a shift. This allows you to selectively focus on certain plains of an image.
  • Tap the sun to turn Lux on or off. Lux auto-enhances and enriches the colors in your photo.
  • Select a filter from the tray. Try a number of different filters — you’ll soon notice that certain filters work better with specific kinds of images.

Share — When you’re done editing your image, you’re ready to share. Tap the next button at the top of the screen. You’ll see a bunch of fields that are pretty self-explanatory.

  • InstaShareCaption — This is where you explain your picture and say anything else you think is important. Add hashtags and @mention people, especially if you plan to share via Twitter (or if you want to participate in our #USANALifestyle promotion). The caption will be the text of the tweet.
  • Social networks — Tap on the networks you’ve linked to Instagram (account profile, share settings). Tap the “Share” button at the top of your screen.

Filters and borders — Once you take or select your photo, you’ll notice icons beneath your image.

That’s it! Start snapping photos and begin building your Instagram network. If you have more questions, Instagram has an online Help Center, which can be accessed from a computer:

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Comments 2

  1. It says above that all photos are public. Does that mean that ones you take while in the app? Ones you decide to share? Or all of the ones you take from your camera once you have the instagram app? Please clear this up for me. Thank you!

    1. Hi Judith,
      Great question! Photos you post to your Instagram stream are public unless you select to have your account private (then only people who you accept as followers are able to see the photos). You’re able to make that decision during the set-up process. Your photos on your camera will not be public unless you post them to Instagram.

      Hope that helps!


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