Lazy afternoon sunlight trickles through the dining-room windows and shines steely blue off the stainless appliances. Champ sits there in the kitchen, twisting the head of Big Batman, a “Dark Knight Rises” action figure aimed at adult collectors and probably unsafe for a toddler. I stealth-unlock my iPhone and crawl up next to him for a low-angle photo. This is going to make a great Instagram.
You should know about Instagram by now. It’s the service all the cool kids are using to square-off, stylize and share their best cameraphone photos.
I taught a journalism class last fall and devoted a large chunk of lecture to Instagram’s role in documenting Superstorm Sandy. Friends of mine interrupted a recent dinner party to make everyone watch an Instagram-themed Nickelback parody. Seriously, it’s everywhere.
Instagram is a big deal to me as a stay-at-home dad. I believe that if I can make my adorbz baby photos look hip enough, my childless friends won’t get sick of them and block me on Facebook. I rely on those friends for updates on things like limited-release beer and new movies, but my head would rainbow sparkle puppy explode if I kept all Champy’s cuteness to myself.
This post is not a gushy love letter to Instagram. This is a cautionary tale with a horrible, violent ending. Never forget that while you’re fussing with your Instagram app, your toddler plays on unsupervised.
Back in the kitchen, pictures are garbage. The angle is all wrong. The backdrop of cabinets isn’t interesting. Champ looks too serious. None of this is Instagram-worthy.
He scoots away from me and stops in front of the oven door. Big Batman’s head is straight now, so Champ is raising and lowering his arms. I lay on the floor and slide in for a shot behind Batman’s head. This is it.
Sprawled out on my back, I open Instagram and get to work. I crop the photo and thumb through all the filters to find one that makes these blues pop. Low-Fi is too dark. Batman gets lost in Inkwell. Ooh, Brannan. Definitely Brannan.
Now I’m trying to add a tilt-shift effect. I know newbs overuse the radial blur, but I know what I’m doing as I place and size that fuzzy circle around Batman’s head. Perfect. A quick caption, and I’m ready to post. Uploading …
Bam! The dishwasher door comes down hard. The steel lip grazes my nasal bone and nails the left side of my face. I guess the Champ got tired of Big Batman and decided to play with something bigger.
I chuckle through the pain, flip my phone to front camera and take another picture for Instagram.
Attack of the Dad’s Instagram tips
- Shoot in your phone’s camera app and upload to Instagram later. Your camera app will start up faster, so you won’t miss valuable seconds of cuteness.
- Turn on your camera’s grid and use it to follow the rule of thirds when you’re composing a shot.
- Tap dark areas of the screen to adjust the camera’s white balance. This helps bring out detail in darker photos.
- On an iPhone 4 or higher, use HDR mode when you’re shooting a darkened subject against a bright background.
- Choose a filter that brings out the emotion of a picture without sacrificing important details.
- Always turn on the border when you’re using the Nashville or Kelvin filter. Seriously, why else would you use those filters?
- Learn how to use tilt-shift effects, but use them sparingly.
- Pay attention to your child and avoid blunt-force trauma while editing and uploading.
- When someone tells you to “Instagram dat joint,” do it!