Where is BCHK?
Brian HK Chan

Where is BCHK?

A fashion and travel blog by Brian HK Chan

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all photos: me

Introduction (and disclaimer)

Many people have asked me how I prepare or take my Instagram photos, so here is my step-by-step guide on how to Instagram (the BCHK way).

Now by no means am I a master at Instagramming, nor do I have a ton of followers for that matter, but I do have my little tricks and techniques I try to keep in mind and follow every time I prepare for a photo - to make it look as if a little bit of thought had been taken into account before hitting the 'share' button.

I only ever use my iPhone 5 to take Instagram photos (it's too much of a hassle importing photos back and forth from the computer), so any photo I do take on my phone has to be instagrammable with minimal editing. Speaking of editing, a short visit to my good pal VSCO would be sufficient.

2 Quick Rules

But before hitting my incredibly detailed (not really) guide, here are 2 uber important things to consider:
1. Lighting
2. Composition
As mentioned in one of my answered questions on Tumblr, these 2 things play a huge part in determining the quality of a photo.
Lighting can change all the colours and tones of a photo. While some people may be into distorting colours and applying lots of filters, it's not really my thing, as I try to keep everything as natural as possible.
Composition encompasses so many things: the order you put things in, the angle you take the picture from, how far back you want to take the photo, how many things you want in the photo... the list is endless.

Let's Get Real

Without further ado, my take on the 5 main types of photos you'll find on my account:

The Flat-lay 

Beginning with the hardest yet simplest (looking) photo, the infamous flat-lay. Everyone has attempted a flat-lay, and while some have completely mastered the skill since day 1 (ahem, Justin), others like me aren't as lucky and will only usually get 1 good flat-lay after 9 failed attempts. Personally I worship Margaret's flat-lays, and constantly check her Instagram for inspiration.
How I do it: 
1. Choose a theme: be it accessories, fashion, products, school, procrastination, anything.
2. Pick your objects (monochromatic layouts are in right now)
3. Find a flat surface that is either a solid colour or material (wood, marble, tiles). I usually use white.
4. Think of a shape/pattern: vertical, slanted, circle, oval. 
5. Place objects in chosen shape/pattern: this is the most important bit - you want to have enough space in between each item so it doesn't look too clustered, but you also need to have enough going on. 
6. If you have an iPhone, switch to the 'square' mode. If 'square' mode is not available, try to keep in mind the top and bottom bits of the photo that will be chopped off in Instagram.
7. Try taking the photo multiple times: first try different angles, then try varying distances.
8. Keep on taking the photo until desired frame. I usually like filling the whole frame with objects leading out of the frame.
9. Edit with desired phone app. Personally I use VSCO, but I never use the filters. I only change the brightness, contrast and temperature. For flat-lays, I like keeping things on bright and cold.
10. Instagram it! 

The Food Shot

Next up we have the ever-popular food shot, which always seem to get lots of likes (I'm not a like-freak, I swear). The best food shots are ones taken from straight above (similar to a flat lay), usually containing 2 or more 'dishes' before digging in. People don't want to see half-eaten food, it just doesn't look great. And, having 2 or more dishes ensures that people don't think you're a complete loner even if you may be (lots of sarcasm here).
How I do it:
1. Order/prepare food.
2. Make sure it looks aesthetically pleasing.
3. Stand up and find the angle: lighting is always difficult in restaurants, so try moving around your table to find the perfect light.
4. Take as many snaps as you can, as quickly as possible: even though everyone takes photos of their food, very few people do it standing up. Regardless of how shameless you are, it's still a good idea to speed up this photo-taking process.
5. Edit by increasing contrast, brightness and saturation, only changing the temperature if it's really necessary. I always find food more visually appealing when I edit it this way.
6. Instagram it!

The Wow-So-Pretty Shot (aka scenery)

For scenery shots you're gonna focus on either the sky or the land. Pick one and don't try to focus on both (search Rule of Thirds). For these types of shots, weather is so important it overrides technique (all hail Mother Nature) so don't expect to be able to take an amazing shot everyday.
How I do it:
1. Turn on the grid feature on your phone. This will usually divide your screen into 9 different segments or squares.
2. Decide what is more visually appealing and take shot: sky or land.
3. Editing is the key here. Bump up the saturation and contrast to make all those colours pop. Also try changing the temperature (colder or warmer) according to your own taste - sometimes changing the temperature can bring out some hidden colours and it's really cool.
4. Instagram it!

The Down Under

Now unfortunately (or fortunately for my case at the moment) this has nothing to do with Australia. This type of shot is mostly used for people who a) think the ground is really interesting b) think something on the ground is really interesting c) think their legs are really interesting. Again, it's important to have the grid on for this shot to refine your focus: the ground or your legs.
How I do it:
1. Turn grid on!
2. Lean forwards until you're about to fall.
3. Bring phone as close to your face as possible and aim camera straight down.
4. Choose subject (ground or legs)
5. While dangerously leaning forward, take as many shots as possible, covering as much of the ground or your legs - you can crop excessive bits out later.
6. To edit, bump up the saturation and contrast. Sometimes a tweak in brightness is useful.
7. Instagram it!

The #Selfie

How can an Instagram post not cover #selfies? I don't think there's much to say here since most people have already mastered them, but here's a few tips that I always take into account:
- Take your phone far away from your face (crop later if needed). You don't meet a friend a walk straight up and examine their nose do you? Nor do I, so pull the camera back to a comfortable distance. Imagine talking to your camera like you're talking to a friend.
- If you look at the camera, tilt your head down a bit (not so much as to reveal your triple chins). This will ensure the lighting is most flattering for your face.
- If you look away from the camera, turn your head at least 45 degrees and either look up or look down. Looking down will make people think you're really shy and cute. Looking up is more care-free and I-don't-give-a-sh*t. Try on both sides if you don't already know your 'better' side.
- Try try try. Take as many shots as you like, you can delete the bad ones afterwards anyway.
- (whiskers and animations optional)

And there you have it. My complicated process of instagramming a photo. Even if not useful, I hope this was at least entertaining. There are so many more techniques and tricks to keep in mind while Instramming, but it's 2am and I'm tired so I'll leave it to you to discover on your own (you probably know more than me anyway).

Don't forget to check out my Instagram account here. If you did read and try one of the above methods, don't hesitate to #bchkig on your photos so I can check them out!

@brianhkchan, logging out.

- Brian

connect with me: facebook / instagram / twitter / tumblr / flickrbloglovin