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7 Expert Tips for Mastering Instagram Stories

How to use the Instagram feature to craft gorgeous Stories from your travels

A well-crafted Instagram gallery is a thing of beauty. In our recent travels, however, we’ve fallen in love with the app’s Stories feature—Instagram’s cheeky answer to Snapchat. While a full gallery showcases your favorite photos, a good Story allows you a little more creative freedom and is a fun way for your followers to take a peek at your trips in real time. We wanted to get the inside scoop on how to create the best Stories ever, so we caught up with Alex Palomino (@palographic), the mastermind behind our amazing Instagram account, @afarmedia. Palomino has been crafting Stories for our account since the feature was introduced in August 2016, and her works are always delightful mini-journeys that consistently inspire us to up our own Stories game. Here are her tips for crafting a memorable and downloadable Instagram Story.  

Instagram's vertical format means shooting vertical is a must
1. Shoot vertically and film in the app

“The most basic thing to remember with Instagram Stories is to shoot vertical—even if you’re shooting with your phone’s default camera—because it lends itself to the format of Stories,” says Palomino. If you really need to fit every thing into one frame, consider shooting a video, but she cautions, “Stories will trim videos to a slightly thinner size than most default cameras film, so if you want to make sure what you’re filming is exactly what people will see in your Story, use the Instagram app.”

2. Mix up your media
As Palomino explains it, “When you take a photo for your Instagram feed, that photo needs to tell a story on its own. But with Stories, you have all these other elements you can use to tell your story.” She recommends a balance of 30 percent videos, 60 percent still photos, and 10 percent Boomerangs or time lapses, noting that Boomerangs (six-second looped videos) and time lapses are good ways to change the pace. “When we post a Story of the newest issue, we’ll often use a Boomerang of flipping through the pages to make an inanimate object a bit more fun,” she says, “and if you’re doing a travel story, a time lapse of takeoff and landing is a good way to start off.”


The best Stories use a combination of video, photos, and Boomerangs. (Video by Alex Palomino)

3. Make your videos count
For Palomino, an effective video takes the Story to a memorable level: “It should feel like an experience that someone is having. It’s nice to see video of movement from a first-person perspective, like the view from a moving boat or car, and panning through the scene is always effective.” But she emphasizes that it’s not about capturing a flawless video. “I don’t really think about how great it looks when I film; I focus on what it says about the place,” she says. “I also like sound on videos. The background sounds might seem boring to you, but it really does make the viewer feel like they’re there. But if there’s sound that doesn’t add to the story, get rid of it.”

Using a combination of stickers and text wisely helps move the story along

4. Create a narrative through your slides
“With Stories you’re, well, telling a story. Maybe it’s the story of what’s happening or a retrospective of a trip. Sometimes with AFAR’s feed we’ll do roundup Stories that dive deeper into a certain theme, such as the animals you can see in the Galapágos, or places to see when you go down the coast.” But Palomino doesn’t always make the theme obvious right off the bat: “Sometimes it’s fun to introduce the place a couple photos in to build anticipation.” Above all, keep things interesting. “Seeing the same thing in several slides gets tiring—unless you’re showing all the angles of a crazy building or something like that—but if it’s essentially one long video, it’s not so interesting.”

5. Use your extras wisely
Palomino doesn’t often use a lot of extras in her Stories but will do so if it’s fun or furthers the narrative. “The geotag sticker is the most useful for travelers. Followers can click through and see more about the location,” she notes. “Temperature and date stickers can also be used to make a point about what’s happening that might not be visible.” And the opportunities are endless when it comes to the brushes and text tool: “If you want to get information across, the type tool is your friend, but for more sweeping ideas, large lettering is fun. I like using the drawing tool on images to highlight certain parts of the photos by adding doodles or drawing rays or patterns around a certain object. I really like that you can pick colors outside the presets by pressing down on the color selector. My favorite is tomato red.”

Posting in real time allows you to interact with—and thank!—your followers

6. You don’t have to post in the moment—but it’s more fun
Instagram only allows you to post photos and videos to your Story that have been taken within a 24-hour time frame. While she thinks it’s more fun to post within the 24 hours, Palomino understands that sometimes that’s just not possible. “There are a few apps, like Metatrickster, that trick Instagram by changing the photo’s metadata, making it seem like a new photo. But we usually take a simple screen shot of a photo, which does the same thing. Or you can save a video or photo in iMovie and export it, which is like creating a brand-new video.” Just remember, the more times you save and repost a photo, or take a screenshot of a photo, the worse the quality becomes.

7. Have fun with it 
“The best part of Stories is that they’re so ephemeral and light. You post experiences that you have while you travel in real time without having to worry if it’s precious enough for your Instagram feed,” Palomino says. “You can have fun with it and take risks that you may not really take with the photos you generally put on your Instagram.” Her best advice? “Start taking more videos when you travel and play around with all of the features. It’s only going to last 24 hours after all!”

>>Next: Instagram’s Latest Announcement Will Stoke Your Wanderlust