For when showing is better than telling, Instagram's a way to tell others where you are and what you're doing that's better than posting a dumb tweet ("I'm at Wednesday at the Square! It's pretty outside and I'm eating a taco") or some pointless Foursquare check-in ("I'm at Wednesday at the Square (New Orleans, LA) w/ one million other people"). Plus, the app's filters can often greatly improve the look of a shitty phone photo.
But just like with all social networks, users constantly find new and interesting ways to be bad at Instagram. Having a good feed is not about being a good photographer: it's about having an eye for what's interesting. I've even seen professional photographers with bad Instagrams (do not pay those people to take pictures for you).
Of course Instagram is free, and so is the Internet, and we're all able to unfollow/ignore the people who annoy us. But if you're a new user and want a feed that's not going to bother everyone who follows you, consider these tips:
1. On food photography. Everyone loves taking pictures of the food they're eating with their phones and posting those photos all over the Internet, especially in a city like ours where delicious food abounds. Food photography probably accounts for much of what's posted on Instagram. But there are rules for this! First, the photo of the food thing must be objectively attractive. Again, it's not about being a great photographer: it's easy to distinguish between a photo that conveys how delicious this food is and a photo that's blurry and poorly lit and will make absolutely none of us want to eat food ever.
Food pictures must be Food Porn quality (food porn: here, here and here). Because just like regular porn, Food Porn exists all over the Internet in high quality versions, so the Internet has no use for your sad po-boy shots.
2. On photo subjects. This is not Facebook — Instagram is not the place to post boring group shots with the caption "SUNDAY FUNDAY WITH MY GIRLS!" Facebook is also replete with memes, infographics, grainy childhood photos and other things you didn't take/create yourself, and that stuff also shouldn't appear on Instagram. Just because you slap a vintage filter on it doesn't make it Instagram worthy.
3. On how much you should post. Just like with everything else, it's all about quality over quantity, so don't blow up everyone's feed with a million pictures documenting one event. Choose a few of the best ones.
4. And one final rule: Adorable photos of animals (preferably small animals) are always, unequivocally, allowed and highly encouraged. Cute babies are OK, too, I guess.
The bottom line is that Instagram should function as your photo journal, giving your friends a glimpse at what you're seeing. Even if you're a terrible photographer, people will appreciate your feed if you post original stuff that conveys a unique point of view.
If you want to see how it's done, check out the Instagram accounts of WWL-TV reporter Scott Satchfield (user name: satchfield), who makes frequent appearances in Y@ Speak with gorgeous Instagram shots of happenings around town, and New Orleans Museum of Art communications and marketing director Grace Wilson (user name: gracelovesneworleans), who recently captured some quality shots from Super Sunday and Barkus.