4 tips from a non-influencer to up your Instagram game

Yahoo Lifestyle is going to Paris Fashion Week on a shoestring budget, and we’re taking you along with us. Every day for a week, we’ll give you tips on how to pack, where to stay, and how to enjoy the French capital without breaking the bank — or forgoing any of the fun. Follow us on Instagram for daily stories. Today’s lesson: How to pose for your Instagram shots.

If you’re an Instagram user, chances are you’re following an influencer or two whose profile seems like a never-ending portfolio of well-dressed, happy people conquering some new international city.

And many of those influencers head to Paris Fashion Week (PFW), the biannual gathering of fashion editors, bloggers, models, and buyers to attend fashion shows and events. Often, those influencers can thank brands for covering both transportation and lodging costs, as well as providing enviable outfits. In return, influencers post advertisements on their personal social media profiles (even if they’re not marked as an #ad).

But I do not have the unlimited travel and clothing allowances that many an influencer has. Instead, I’ve been chronicling how to enjoy PFW on a budget, which includes finding out what makes the ultimate Instagram pic. (You can see my progress on my own Instagram, @hautetakes). We’ve also outlined how to save money on your luggage, flight, and lodging.

So, if you’re interested, you can study principles of photography like the Rule of Thirds or the Golden Ratio in your quest for more likes. But the truth is, life — and Instagram — doesn’t have to be so complicated. Here’s a how-to guide to improve your Instagram game, whether you’re in Paris or not.

1. Bring a change of shoes

On your mission to capture the ultimate Instagram shot, you’ll want to explore the city you’re traveling for cool alleyways, gardens, and architecture in front of which to pose. But because you’re operating on a budget, taking cabs to each of these venues is expensive and unnecessary. Taking the public transportation system, especially in a traffic-ridden city like Paris, is cost-effective and reliable, but not particularly conducive to stylish but less-than-functional shoes.

That said, wear a pair of not-as-flattering, comfortable shoes and pack a chicer option you can swap for when you’ve found the perfect location. It goes without saying that bonus points are awarded to those who can find comfortable and stylish chaussures (luckily, sneaker-mania is still alive and well).

If you’re committed to wearing your heels all day or intend on breaking in a new pair of shoes on your trip (NOT recommended) be sure to also pack a box of Band-Aids in case things get rough. Red bottoms: good; literal red bottoms: not good.

2. Don’t be shy to ask for help!

Selfies are good; candid photos (or posed-candids) are better. That’s why you should always ask for help when taking photos of yourself, whether from a friend of a stranger (preferably one who speaks a language you do too). It may make you feel uncomfortable to interrupt someone you don’t know for a photo in a high-traffic area, but a good way to ease that feeling is to also offer to take the other person’s photo in exchange.

Once you’ve found someone to help you out, be communicative about what it is you’re looking to capture. There are a few strategies that data has shown yield higher “likes” (or make you seem more attractive on dating apps), which include looking away from the camera, smiling, and standing alone. Do you want a horizontal or vertical shot? Do you want the background in the image? (The answer to this should almost always be “yes.”) If you’re trying to capture an action shot (say, for a Boomerang), let your stand-in photographer know.

And remember the ancient influencer proverb: “The only shots you miss are the ones you didn’t take.”

3. Natural light is best

While you’re traveling, you might find yourself in a cool store or museum that you think is Instagram-worthy. We’re not saying you shouldn’t document your time through images, but when it comes to capturing solid images, brighter is generally better (especially when you’re trying to showcase an outfit).

That said, try to find compelling outdoor spaces (or indoor spaces with plenty of windows) for your shots. Overcast days are great for shooting because sunnier days can create unflattering shadows, depending on how you’re shooting. And if you’re yet unsatisfied with your lighting, remember you can always adjust the brightness in an app.

4. Let your personality shine

Consumers are better than ever at spotting inauthentic branding on social media, and the same goes for posting photos on your Instagram that don’t reflect who you are. The best photos tell a story about their subject, and that should inform where and what you decide to shoot.

In Paris, there are so many places to capture a strong photograph that aren’t the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, or the Champs-Élysées (but if that’s what speaks to you, by all means…) If you’re a coffee lover, scope out an Insta-friendly café (I went to Café Kitsuné, also conveniently located near a lush, green, photo-friendly park). If you’re a foodie, maybe you’re wandering a farmer’s market or holding up a rainbow doughnut.

And, if ever in doubt, a bright pink wall like that outside La Maison Rose never fails.

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Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Lifestyle. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.