How to Get Started on Instagram

What if there were a service that instantly sent you new photos of your grandkids the instant they were taken? There is. One of the most popular social networks in the world, Instagram lets you share your own photos and see the photos of others you follow. If that sounds a bit like Facebook, it is and it isn’t: Instagram is all about friending and sharing, liking and commenting – but it’s entirely photocentric and never needs you to upload. Thus the name Insta-Gram.

What is Instagram?

Instagram is a free photo sharing app. You might recognize it by the signature look of images taken and shared with it – they’re square, and they often look like old Polaroids – that’s because the app includes a set of easy to use Polaroid-like filters. 

Though you can access Instagram through your computer for viewing pictures, it was designed to be used with a mobile device – a tablet or smartphone. As an app, you can use Instagram to snap a photo, add an artistic-looking filter, then share that photo to your list of everyone who follows you. Or you can simply use it to look at other people’s pictures. You can also interact with photos by liking them or leaving comments, just as you would on Facebook.

Following other people is an integral part of using the app. Part of the fun of Instagram is seeing everyone’s photos – so if you’re not following anyone, using the app won’t be very exciting.

How Do I Register for Instagram?

On your tablet or smartphone, search for Instagram in the Apple App store or Android Google Play store, and download it to your tablet or smartphone.

The first time you open the app, you’ll see this screen.


Registering with Facebook

If you already have a Facebook account, registering through Facebook is the easiest route to go. Facebook actually owns Instagram, so the two sync seamlessly. Registering with Facebook does not mean that every photo you share on Instagram will be posted to your Facebook profile; you have absolute control over which photos you choose to share that way. Using your Facebook login to register simply means Instagram will collect your Facebook account information (user name, email, etc.). Registering this way will also make it easier for you to connect with friends and family who are using Instagram. The app will let you know which of your Facebook contacts is on Instagram and will also notify you each time one of your current Facebook friends joins.

Registering with email 

If you don’t have a Facebook account or don’t want to sync your Instagram with your Facebook right now (you can always do it later), you can create a new profile using your email address. You’ll also need to create a username and a password. Be sure to follow our guidelines to choosing a secure password.

Instagram only allows one username per person. Since a lot of people around the world are already using Instagram – 150 million as of September 2013 – most of the basic usernames are taken. You might have to get creative and come up with a username that incorporates different initials or numbers, like SallyM23. Or you can really creative and invent a username.

Lastly, when creating a new account you can tap the big plus sign to add your profile photo. You can either select a photo that’s already on your tablet or snap a new one.



Next you’ll be asked to add your real name and phone number. These are both optional steps. The purpose of asking for this information is to make it easy for friends to search and find your profile. Instagram will not publish your phone number, but they will add your full name to your profile.

Making your Instagram account private

When you create a new account on Instagram, the default setting is public, meaning anyone can see your pictures. With a private account, friends and family will still be able to find you, but they will need to request access to follow you and view your photos. This is what your profile will look like to a stranger if you have you are private:

If you want make your account private, you’ll need to go into your settings.

To change your settings, tap “Edit Your Profile.” On this page, you can change any of your personal or private info – your name, email address, password and profile photo. You’ll need to scroll to the very bottom to change your privacy settings. Tap the slider next to “Post are Private” to change your profile to private.

When you’re done editing your profile, tap the green “Done” at the top. You’ll be asked to confirm your privacy settings next. Tap “Yes, I’m sure.”

Start following friends

Before you share your first photo, Instagram will ask you to find other people to follow. You don’t have to do this right away (just tap skip at the bottom), but it’s a good idea to start off by following at least a few people you know. You can either log into Facebook at this time or allow Instagram to search your contacts.



You’re all set!

How to View Friends’ Photos on Instagram

To see what friends and family members have been posting, you’ll want to access your feed. Just like on Facebook, your homescreen is your feed. Just click on the house icon at the bottom of your screen on the left, and you’ll see a stream of photos that people you follow have posted, along with comments people have made and “likes.” (To read how to “like” a photo, scroll down to the bottom of this article and read our Tips & Tricks.)

How to Share a Photo on Instagram

On the bottom of your screen, in the center, you’ll see a blue square. Tap that to take a photo.


Once you take a photo, you’ll see a new screen with balloons at the bottom and different names like “AMARO” and “MAYFAIR.” These are Instagram filters – they can brighten the colors of your photo and make it look more artistic. Try out different filters to see how your photo looks. You can even make your photo black and white.

Here are three variations on one photo, made using the Instagram filters:

instagram-filter-amaro instagram-filter-raster instragram-filter-willow

Once you’re satisfied with how your photo looks and have picked a filter you like (or you can just go with “NORMAL” and not use a filter at all), hit Next at the top right of your screen.


Here you can add a caption for a photo. You have a few other options like adding a location or sharing your photo to Facebook or other social networks, but none of these steps are required.

After you finish writing your caption, tap “share,” and voila: Your photo is shared.

If you want, you can also email the photo to friends and family or delete it entirely; to choose other options, look for the three horizontal dots to the bottom right of the photo. Tap that and select your option.

How to View Your Instagram Photos

Tap the icon that looks like a boxy camera on the bottom right of your screen. Right now you’ll only see one or two photos there. Once you start sharing more photos, you’ll be able to see all of them here.



How to Follow People and Browse Topics on Instagram

If you didn’t start following people when you went through the process of creating your account, here is how to find people you might know.


 On the bottom left of your screen, look for a star. Tap that to visit the explore page.

how to follow people on Instagram


In the search bar at top, you can type in the name of someone you’re looking for, such as a friend or family member. You can also search for brands to follow on Instagram. Since this has become such a popular social network, many brands have started to create accounts to interact with their readers or fans. For example, Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart and Senior Planet have Instagram profiles! You can also find Advanced Style and the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas.

Find Facebook friends or contacts

On the bottom right of your screen, tap the rectangle. This will take you to your profile. Tap the gear at the top right.

At the top of this screen, you can find people to follow by either connecting your Facebook account or by allowing the app to access your contacts.

Find Instagram-recommended accounts to follow

If you tap the heart on the bottom of your screen and you are not yet following anyone, you’ll see a screen like this.



Tap the green “Find friends to follow” button.

Once again, you’ll be prompted to connect to your Facebook account or connect to your contacts. On the bottom of this screen, tap “Instagram Suggested” to see some suggestions. Off the bat, these will likely not be people you know. These accounts are of famous photographers or publications that have several thousands of followers – and since so many other people like these accounts, Instagram thinks you might like them, too. Tap a name to check out their photos, and tap the blue plus sign to follow them and add their photos to your feed.

As you begin to follow people, Instagram will get smarter with its recommendations for you. Similar to Facebook, the app will start looking for people you have in common with the friends you already follow and will begin to recommend those.

Browsing topics

You can also pull up photos by topic – Instagram uses hashtags, just like Twitter. Go to Explore by tapping the star at the bottom of your screen.  Then click on the light gray “Hashtag” button under the search bar. In the search bar, enter a hashtag. You could try “Elders” or “NYC,” for example. All the photos that people have hashtagged will come up. Click on any of the results that come up, and you’ll be taken to a stream of photos.

Sometimes, a company or organization will run a hashtag activity. They’ll ask all their followers to post Instagram photos around a particular topic during during a set time period, and add a specific hashtag. It’s a way of creating an Instagram community, and joining one of these events is a fun way to get started with Instagram.

Liking, Tagging and Other Instagram Tips & Tricks

Once you get comfortable posting photos, following people you know and using the app, here are a few “pro user” tips you can try

  • To “like” a photo, simply double tap it. If you liked a photo by mistake, you can double tap to unlike it.
  • You can identify someone you follow in a photo by “tagging” them. After you add a caption you can search the list of people you follow to select who you’d like to tag.
  • You can add a location to a photo. After you add a caption, tap “Add location” and search nearby locations.
  • Click the star on the bottom left of your screen to “explore.” You can look for other Instagram users by name or search different themes by searching hashtags.
  • You can also use Instagram to film 15-second videos.

Ready? Once you’ve got the hang of Instagram and have started posting photos, try adding the hashtag #seniorplanet so we can find you!

And stay tuned for our first Senior Planet Hashtag Friday.

Happy Instagramming!


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