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Welcome to the Instagram blog! See how Instagrammers are capturing and sharing the world's moments through photo and video features, user spotlights, tips and news from Instagram HQ.

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User Feature, portrait,

Finding the Light with @fabsgrassi

For more photos and videos from Fabs, follow @fabsgrassi on Instagram.

"I believe in getting my hands dirty more than I believe in inspiration, but I can’t deny that a book, a song or a conversation can fuel my energy for shooting," says São Paulo Instagrammer Fabs Grassi (@fabsgrassi). “The idea that we have an infinite creative repertoire inside of us reminds me of the Ansel Adams quote, ‘You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.’”

Fabs, a fashion designer, considers himself just a regular guy. “I have a job and I like going out with my friends. Of course, waking up at six in the morning to catch the right light for a photograph does not seem normal to most people.” Recently, however, Fabs shifted his focus from street photography to portraits. As he explains, “In 2013 my street photography sort of hit a wall. I felt it was time to try and refresh my ideas and find something less frenetic. I started picking out songs by my favorite bands and attempting to recreate their atmosphere through photography. I got some friends of mine to pose for these shots. They were really nice and brave about being my guinea pigs.”

Fabs has also started incorporating shadows, once used heavily in his street photography, into his portraits. “Shadows help create a really unique atmosphere for each photo session, where light takes on a different form in each portrait. I try to create an intimate image, something that feels languid and not too sexy. Usually, the woman posing in the photograph greatly influences the final result, so a photo session might start one way and have a surprising outcome.”

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User Feature, photojournalism, anastasia taylor-lind, portrait, negative zero,

Through the Viewfinder with @anastasiatl

To view more of Anastasia’s photos and videos, follow @anastasiatl on Instagram and visit her website.

“Traditionally, photographers are taught not to share their work before it’s finished,” says documentary photographer Anastasia Taylor-Lind (@anastasiatl). “What if someone steals your idea, or the work turns out completely different than what you told people it would be about? Photojournalism is all about being invisible, but I think it’s more honest to show how I work and how I make my photographs.”

Anastasia’s Instagram account stands as a deep look into her photographic process. Since October, she has been working on a long-term personal project called Negative Zero that documents population decline in 19 European countries. She’s shooting entirely on 6x6 negative film using her Hasselblad and Bronica film cameras, but by holding her iPhone above the viewfinder and making photos directly through the ground glass, what she calls “the view from my belly button,” she’s creating a whole new subset of photographs that can be published and shared instantly on Instagram.

For Anastasia, being so open on Instagram “allows me to muse on my own process. To sound things out and be encouraged. It’s a way of pondering what I’m doing.”

Her integration of digital and analog expanded to shooting video portraits when she found herself in Ukraine during the outbreak of anti-government riots in Kiev. With a custom-built flexible mount for her iPhone that attaches to the camera body, she devised a hands-free system to record video while making portraits of protestors inside the barricades of Maidan Square. Through these video portraits, we are able to watch her subjects prepare to have their portrait made: we see the slight shift in their stance, their gaze tilting, and ultimately, the precise moment Anastasia releases the shutter. These videos bring her subjects to life and provide an immediate, living connection to the images that Anastasia will release this summer in a book entitled MAIDAN - Portraits from the Black Square.

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how i shoot, portrait, makeportraits, user feature, benjamin heath,

How I Shoot: Making Portraits with @benjaminheath

How I Shoot is a series where we ask Instagrammers to tell us about the set-up and process behind their photos and videos. For more of Benjamin’s portraits, follow @benjaminheath on Instagram. For more portraits from photographers across Instagram, browse the #makeportraits hashtag.

For Los Angeles Instagrammer Benjamin Heath (@benjaminheath), portraits are an artform. As he explains it, “Making a good portrait is hard, much harder than making a pretty landscape. I wanted to challenge myself. I felt a spark and I wondered if there were other folks in the Instagram community that shared that spark. The answer is a resounding ‘yes!’—there are!”

To Benjamin, there’s a difference between a portrait that you make and a photo that you take. “Make is such a strong word. I think it connotes a methodology or a particular rhythm to creating. If it’s going to be worthwhile you have to take time to make something. You have to hone your craft.” Benjamin, the creator of the #makeportraits hashtag, shares some of the methodology, craft and planning that goes into his own process of making portraits below.

Camera

"I use an iPhone 5s for mobile photos and shoot with a variety of digital and film cameras otherwise. I probably own too many cameras but I like picking up a camera I haven’t used for awhile. It’s like catching up with an old friend."

Planning

"Getting inspired with an idea is step one. I have a collection of photo books that I study for inspiration: Bruce Davidson, Alex Webb, Dan WintersPhilip-Lorca diCorcia blows my mind. I spend a lot of time studying photographers I love and am influenced by. Once I feel like I have an idea or some thoughts on what I want my photo to look like, I’m ready to go.

"Finding a good location is important. I like to shoot portraits that are more environmental with a sense of time and place along with the subject. For me, giving some background and environment adds depth. I think of these portraits as little 1/250 second plays that I’m directing—and this can be difficult or easy. Sometimes I’ll find something wonderful when I’m out and about and will make a mental note to come back when the light is right. Sometimes I see something online that I like and will add it to a running doc that I keep. And, you know, sometimes you stumble onto something terrific as it is and you’re fortunate to have a friend with you.

"Shooting with an experienced model is extremely helpful. I’ve been lucky to work with some great ones. That creative exchange between people is such a charge for me. I love working with people like that."

Editing

"I really don’t edit too much. I use a few of the VSCO (iOS and Android) filters pretty consistently, but like to add my own touch to each. My general view is that if I’m spending a lot of time editing a photo, I did a bad job of making the photo and it’s probably not a keeper.”

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User Feature, portrait,

Blending in with @dejumatos

For more photos and videos from Ju, follow @dejumatos on Instagram.

“I like investigating everything that is human, unstable and ephemeral,” says São Paulo Instagrammer Ju Matos @(dejumatos). “I enjoy being in the kind of moment where you have to breathe in the environment in order to belong.” Ju’s creative portrait series explores the relationship between individuals and their surroundings. Her portraits feature herself and other characters blending into their surroundings either while in motion or lounging. Ju explains, “For me, movement has lots to do with mystery. It tells a story. It asks you the question, ‘What’s next?’ You have to continue the story in your mind. When you put yourself in contact with something, your body blends—be it with nature, art or other people.”

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howishoot, portrait, wesley taylor,

How I Shoot: Capturing Portraits of Friends with @wesleytaylor

How I Shoot is a series where we ask Instagrammers to tell us about the setup and process behind their photos and videos. For more portraits from Wesley’s adventures, follow @wesleytaylor on Instagram.

For Instagrammer Wesley Taylor (@wesleytaylor), every portrait is an opportunity to connect more deeply with a friend. “I enjoy shooting portraits because the possibilities are so endless!” he explains. “The range of human emotions is there just waiting to be captured. I love how even the same emotions can look different depending on the person or their surroundings. I get a jolt of adrenaline when I see a portrait begging to be made.”

Want to try your hand at capturing portraits of your friends? Wesley provides the following tips:

Device

iPhone 5

Vantage Point

"The majority of my shoots are spontaneous. Often a patch of light catches my eye, I’ll see a wall that someone matches perfectly, or I’ll have an idea and grab a friend who’s nearby. Over the last year I’ve focused on staying aware of my surroundings and making use of them to the best of my ability.

"Typically I take a quick survey of the surroundings, live in the space for a few minutes when possible, and then decide how my subject could fit in and interact with (or sometimes ignore) what’s going on around them. I’ll look for the way light is hitting a spot, or how the shadows can convey a specific mood."

Shooting

"Have your subject face toward or stand in the light. Pay attention to what moving them around does to their face, or to the feel of the portrait in general. One quick way to tell if you’re in good light for a close crop: take a picture and check their eyes. For most portraits, even moody ones, you’ll want to use the energy and emotion in their eyes to convey your message. Making sure the face is well-lit also gives a solid base to any portrait.

"For me, using an app that allows me to split and lock focus and exposure is invaluable! I love being able to choose how I want a portrait to look—often it’s a matter of tricking the camera into seeing things the way my eye does. Find the brightest light source, and move the exposure reader closer to it to make the portrait darker or further away to make it brighter. Don’t forget to double-tap to lock it. Always make sure your focus is in the right place—it’s a very simple detail that can make the difference between a perfect or unusable shot.

"Don’t be afraid to take as many shots as you can! Have your subject do different things with their body and hands. Sometimes it’s the ‘in-between’ shot that is the best! Get creative, and always keep shooting. Regardless of what you’re shooting, where you are or what your purpose is, never forget to enjoy the process and the people you’re with. What’s the point otherwise?"

Editing

"For the last year or so I’ve used VSCOCam exclusively, with the exception of the native camera app for quick shots. I’ve used a wide variety of apps in the past, but I’ve found that being in control of the focus and exposure combined with the finesse of the tools VSCO provides works best for me. I’m a fan of the film-inspired filters as well, and loved the ability to give the Faces of Friends portraits a uniform look despite the fact they were taken on different days at different times.”

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User Feature, portrait,

Capturing Aura Portraits with @jalvarezcastillo

For more from Josefina’s #peoplesaura series, follow @jalvarezcastillo on Instagram.

For Buenos Aires art director Josefina Alvarez Castillo (@jalvarezcastillo), creative work is a way to bring out the best in people.

"As a creative director, I work to help people make their businesses shine with ideas and design," she says. "My work consists of making people see the beauty in things—but far more to see their own beauty, learning how to accept and love their inner selves."

With those goals in mind, Josefina created her own series on Instagram, #peoplesaura, where she captures portraits in front of circular objects or designs. As she explains: “The circle behind their head represent their holiness. I believe that we are all saints.”

Want to capture your own #peoplesaura portrait? Josefina has some tips to share:

  • "Start looking for circle shapes in the street, your house or wherever you are.
  • "If the theme of the aura is related to the personality of the person you are going to shoot, it’s even better!
  • "Look out for the symmetry in the composition of your photo and point your camera straight towards the eyes to capture their humanity better."

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user feature, emilycall, Portrait,

Whimsical Portraiture with @emilycall

Did you know that portrait photography has existed since the invention of the camera? While those classic portraits focused on the subject’s face, modern photographers like Emily Call (@emilycall) are breaking from tradition. By simply hiding her subject behind or underneath objects, she’s added a unique twist to portrait photography.

“I began taking portraits with my subject’s face hidden purely out of interest,” said Emily. “I was very interested in the questions provoked by the subject’s face not being visible, and the positive feedback I received from my posts encouraged me to further pursue my concept.”

Although whimsical in nature, Emily plans each of her scenes well before shooting them. “Inspiration comes to me through the world with its flaws and beauties. I come up with a lot of the concepts for my portraits far in advance from when I actually take the photos. When I have a free second, I’ll round up a few subjects (mainly my two brothers, who are very patient to put up with me) and I will find some nice, even lighting.”

Be sure to view the fruits of Emily’s delightful labor at instagram.com/emilycall!