Making Masterpieces with Instagram + #PhotoADay Tips

This post is actually a continuation of my last post, Instagram + Statigram = Insta Heaven, in which I waxed philosophic about the amazingness that is Instagram. But what started me down this track was not so much Instagram (IG), but Aussie blogger and IGer @fatmumslim who started the #photoaday challenge on Instagram via her blog that is practically viral now. So let’s start with that.

# PhotoADay

I started noticing #febphotoaday hashtags on IG and Twitter last month, and was intrigued, but I didn’t jump in, because I couldn’t be saddled with one. More. Commitment. But over the course of the month, I found myself drawn to the photos others were posting. I decided to click over to Fat Mum Slim to check it out and discovered—HEY—she’s an Aussie!

The cheesy little graphic was made completely on my iPhone using the Pic Collage app. You should check it out!Six Degrees
Had a six degrees of separation moment when I realized that that Chantelle (of Fat Mum Slim, who is in Sydney), knows Carly (of Smaggle), whom I met at IFB Con through Wendy Brandes (of Wendy Brandes Jewelry) last September. And of course there’s my favorite person in the blogosphere, Aussie blogger, Lee Oliveira, also in Sydney, and my Hubby, whom I imported from Sydney. OK, I’m definitely digressing. But you get my point. I’m an Aussie magnet. So I felt obligated to be supportive based on the mere fact that the children I’ll never have would be half-Australian, so that practically makes us family. That’s how Southerners (and Greeks) work. Hmph.

Back to # PhotoADay
Interestingly, I found myself cognizant of the challenge on February 29th, so I looked at the assignments and decided I wasn’t just going to participate in the #MarchPhotoADay challenge, I was going to take it seriously!

And you know what? It’s been fun challenging myself not to just participate, but to create beautiful photos of everyday things. What’s also interesting about the challenge is that some of the assignments aren’t as easy as you might think. Attempting to capture non-tangible things—like emotions—takes some thought.

After a year on Instagram, and a month doing a # PhotoADay challenge, I wanted to share some tips for making your Instagram shots into masterpieces, and how to get the most out of photo challenges on Instagram.

Some of my favorite March photo a day shots:

march photo a day shots by gritandglamour

Make Every Shot an Insta Masterpiece

  1. Use filters or # nofilter. That’s the fun part! Add a little blur, pick a filter ( and you can transform the whole mood of a photo. Of course, if your photo is totally gorge all on its own, let people know it is un-retouched by using #nofilter. My faves are Nashville and Lo-fi.
  2. Ditch the frame if you want consistently-sized shots. This is especially helpful if you want to add them to your blog or create a collage. (In the shots below, that’s the square icon, top left of the screen.)
  3. Play with light. Lighting is a huge aspect of what makes a photo beautiful. Sometimes tilting your phone a certain way overexposes the subject or catches a little sparkle or sunbeam. It can mean the difference between pretty and ethereal.
  4. Take photos with your phone’s camera, then import to Instagram. Can’t tell you how important this is if you’re trying to capture a shot while you or the subject are moving, or the light is changing. Just snap, snap, snap, then decide which photo makes the cut. This also gives you the chance to do some pre-IG editing if needed. When you use the camera in IG, the dimensions are perfect, yes. But if the photo isn’t good, you have to abandon it to take a new one, and that new one may or may not be the money shot. Take it from someone who’s lost a lot of great shots doing that.
  5. Don’t inundate your IG feed with sexy photos and gratuitous cleavage shots (ladies). It’s pretty obvs when someone’s come-hither shot was only because they’re feeling too sexy for their shirt that day, versus a shot intended to show their hair, makeup, or accessories. There are a couple IGers I’ve seen with shot after shot of I’m too sexy… Please. Just. Don’t. You might be sexy, but if that’s all you got, I’m already bored.

Left: Original photo. | Center: Rotated, now adding a little blur. My legs sure needed it. | Right: Testing a filter.

Tips for Participating in #PhotoADay Challenges

  1. You don’t have to participate every day. The challenge should never feel like a chore—it’s meant to be fun! Better to skip a day when the assigned subject doesn’t appeal to you. No one enjoys humdrum shots. It’s no biggie if you miss a day.
  2. Change your perspective. I mean this literally and figuratively. If you really want some interesting shots, change your view, the level/angle of your camera. And think outside the box. If the assignment is “trash,” you could be very literal and snap your trash can. Or you can shoot gossip magazines as “trash,” like this shot by @hairromance. Unexpected. Brilliant.
  3. Share what’s unique to you, show your personality. Every day’s assignment is an opportunity to share a little of you. For the “key” assignment this month, I saw lots of shots of key rings. I chose to shoot my car key in my hand because it highlights my love of the BMW brand, and all things nail polish. Still a key. But again, perspective.
  4. Remember your hashtags. Without a hashtag like #MarchPhotoADay, no one knows you are participating, and other participants can’t see your photo in the list when they tap the hashtag in Instagram. Hashtags are important across the board. Not only do they become searchable in IG, but Twitter too. So if you’re sharing your shots on Twitter, your reach is exponential. Not bad for growing your connections in several social spaces. If you do a lot of mani shots (like me), you might add #nails or #gelish to your shot. Maybe you’re into architecture or travel…you might add a hashtag for the city, country, or place you’re sharing. If it’s your pet, some use #petstagram or breed-specific tags like #Frenchie. 🙂
  5. Share! And ♥ like! Sync your IG account with Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr and get even more exposure for your photo of the day. And the most important part is the like. It’s as easy a double-tap on your phone screen. When you see another shot you like, let that person know. IG is another social medium, after all. Connect with others and they will connect with you.

New Photo A Day Challenges

A couple new challenges have cropped up. Will you be participating? Images via Fat Mum Slim.
Starts today!
Happy snapping!


  1. Great post! I’m way late on catching that IG bandwagon, but better late than never, eh? It’s actually a very enjoyable social media, not filled with status updates or verbal minutiae. Minutiae is much more enjoyable when it’s visual! 🙂 Serene

  2. Great entry and lots of good tips. Your feed is, as my Aussie friend would say, stellar! It’s always interesting and I like the way you edit. 🙂

      1. Awww, I’m glad you like them. The idea behind them is to “add meaning” to the shots, sometimes it’s to make people think about an issue or idea and sometimes it’s just to make them smile. 🙂

  3. wow, how helpful! I’m a huge instagram fan yet don’t play enough with the blur and other IG features. PS: totally agree with you regarding the frustration of losing photos with IG. Wish there was a way to save in there without posting. ALas, a girl can dream.

  4. Great info! I have not participated in the photo-a-day challenges, but I think I want to in April! I love unique Instagram shots. Totally agree with #5 Masterpiece snap tips, haha! 🙂

  5. I’ve been watching these with some interest during the month of March. I guess your post is perfectly timed to get me to jump on the April bandwagon. This should be fun and a good little challenge. I have to say that in the few months I’ve been using Instagram I have found it so very helpful in creating posts and just seeing the world in a slightly different perspective. – Katy

  6. Brilliant as ever, Vahni. keeping this post for when I have Instagram.
    Wishing you the best weekend , and all the happiness in the world.

  7. Yuhoo. Instagram is the best. I took pictures and edit it with instagram and it’s fabulous. Great thing you post this ideas that makes us more aware about it. I’d love to join the contest. I’ve got this bid ideas in my mind that would love to show the world. Hoping it would be liked.

  8. So you know I started on instagram because of your last post and I really do like it. It’s fun! I don’t know if I could do a photos a day because I think I would find it too stressful, but I do enjoy taking them when I have time.

    Thanks so much for your sweet comment on my blog too vahni!


  9. I have been seeing all the photo a day challenges as well. (Loving your photos btw) Now that Instagram is on Andriod (WOOT!!!!) I am participating in the #30daysofbeautyapril challenge, which coincidentally is also run by an Aussie. Go figure lol.

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