How to Create Eye-Catching Instagram Posts with Basic Design Principles

This article was contributed by Emily Evans who is a Social Media Marketing Specialist at

One misconception about Instagram is that you need to be a professional photographer or an experienced graphic designer to see success. However, this isn’t necessarily true. To succeed on Instagram, you need to follow some basic design principles that will get your posts noticed. You can buy Instagram shares all you want, but you need engaging content that your audience will love. Here are some basic principles.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is one photography technique to make your posts more interesting. This divides the photo into a 3 x 3 grid, with four points where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect. The idea is to put the most crucial part of your photo within one of those lines.

This does look better, and also makes the photos look more professional. Having something smack in the middle all the time is tiresome and boring. It also doesn’t look as good.

Many modern cameras have the rule of thirds grid built-in as an option. It’s convenient, especially if you’re trying to learn how to do this. This way, you can take a striking picture with less guesswork.


Contrast involves highlighting strikingly different colors. One example is black-and-white photography, where the subjects are against a black background or contrasting colors like reds and greens side-by-side. You can find contrast naturally in your surroundings; alternatively, you can create contrast through graphic design. Sometimes, you can create contrast through photo editing to create contrast when there is none. Look at some examples for inspiration, then try your hand at it.


Next, we have repetition. Repetition is when you have a repeating shape or subject matter. People lined up for an event is one example. Taking a photo of many eggs in a row is another. Repetition is a widespread technique because a person’s eyes follow it. You can create an infographic with repetition that allows a subject’s eyes to go from one point to another. Look at several examples and create a striking photo that utilizes many similar shapes.


Alignment is when the subjects in your photography meet perfectly straight lines. For example, if you’re taking a picture of a building, the building is photographed with a straight line. You may have photos with crooked lines because of how the camera is held or your shakiness. This can create a sense of unprofessionalism.

One way to ensure good alignment is to use a camera stand. Another way is through a grid. Like the rule of thirds, many cameras have a grid you can select to ensure your subject fits perfectly within those straight lines.


Next, we have proximity. Proximity involves how close or farther away your subjects are, which can give a feeling of depth or guide the subject’s eyes. Another use of proximity is to create an optical illusion. Someone could put their fingers directly in front of the lens and look like they’re picking up a skyscraper from further away. Or, a much taller person can appear smaller than the other person.

Do not be afraid to move your subjects around for better proximity when creating a striking photo. Experiment and try making some incredible optical illusions, or use proximity to create invisible lines that your audience will follow when looking at your picture.


Another thing to be mindful of when taking photos is the exposure. This is adjustable via options on your phone. Your pictures must be well-lit, but there is such a thing as being too lit. If your image is too bright, it’s difficult for you to edit it to look good. On the other hand, if certain aspects of your photo are too dark, it’s easier to edit them.


Another principle to be mindful of that has nothing to do with your photography skills is the fonts you choose if you want to add an in-photo caption or make an infographic.

Fonts can be professional, offering a source of authority to the photo. Alternatively, they can be playful or evoke feelings of nostalgia. Meanwhile, using an inappropriate font can ruin the post. One example that most people know is using Comic Sans for something serious. It’s a cartoonish font, yet some people misuse it, putting it on serious posters.


What is Instagram without its filters? Often, you can take a photo that stands out without editing it, but filters can enhance an image or give it a different mood. For example, you can add retro filters to give your photo a vintage look. You may find seasonal filters to give your photo extra Halloween or Christmas flair. Some may select light filters, which can add new lighting effects or special effects to one’s photo.

Some may stick with one filter as a branding, while others may change the filters depending on the mood. There is no correct answer to this. But it would be best to be extra mindful of your chosen filters.

Be Creative

Above all else, be creative. You can take a photo that follows all design principles, but people will just scroll by if it’s boring. It has to have an exciting subject or be something different. You must learn and perfect basic design principles, but once you know these, you can learn how to bend or even break the rules creatively. Yes, rules are essential, but once you know them and disassemble them, you can make something mind-bending.

These are just some principles to consider when taking an Instagram photo. Once again, you do not need to be an award-winning photographer to be successful; many accounts with millions of followers are still amateurs. However, knowing the basic design principles puts you a leg up in the competition.

I hope this article was helpful. Now that you know some of the basic design principles, practice them. Can you create fantastic photos or graphic designs that fit your brand and interest your loyal followers and potential audience? I believe so!

About the author

Emily Evans is a Social Media Marketing Specialist at With a deep passion for digital marketing and a knack for harnessing the power of social media, Emily has become an indispensable part of the team. She specializes in crafting strategic social media campaigns that drive engagement, increase brand visibility, and boost online presence.