33 Instagram Photo Mistakes You’Re Making In 2020

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The way you choose, edit and post your Instagram photos can have a huge impact on your following and success on the platform. By avoiding a few common Instagram photo mistakes you can take your account to the next level and really be at your full potential.

Have you ever looked at a large account and wondered how they manage to post such beautiful photos and gain thousands of followers? I can promise you that any successful account choose the photos they post very carefully and you won’t find any of the examples below on their feeds. Your Instagram should be carefully curated and visually pleasing. Don’t just post anything that you come across in your daily life. Consider your audience and what you like to see on other accounts.

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Before reading on it’s important to note that these Instagram photo mistakes certainly don’t apply to everyone. If you’re using Instagram for fun or to share photos with your friends and family then you can use Instagram in whatever way you like. Everyone is, of course, free to post whatever they want without judgement.

However, if you’re wondering why you’re struggling to gain followers and why those thirty hashtags you post below every picture just aren’t working then these tips are definitely worth reading. If you’re trying to gain a following and grow your account the most important thing is to make your posts and profile organised and beautiful. Make it look professional and not like someone who takes photos of their breakfast every day. What your account looks like will hugely influence whether people will want to follow you.

If you’re serious about taking your photography to the next level there is no way around Lightroom. This is Adobe’s editing software which is easy to use and gives you a lot of control over how you can edit your photos. Check out their free trial here.


As someone who spends a lot of their time on Instagram every day I’ve seen every single one of these mistakes in real-life accounts. Obviously, I cannot use other people’s pictures as examples in this post so I decided to recreate them myself as best as I could. For this, I created a whole new account with plenty of examples of what not to do on Instagram. It still exists and will serve as a bad example and probably really confuse anyone who stumbles across it.

I do want to mention again that all of these photos are very exaggerated and meant to bring across a point. I am not trying to make fun of anyone who posts pictures like this and again I am not saying you should stop doing it if that is what you like. I’m just trying to show how you could improve your Instagram photos and fix easy mistakes. Obviously, many of these things are a matter of personal taste and just because I personally am not a fan of them does not mean you’re not allowed to still enjoy Instagram the way you want.

If you’re interested in building an Instagram following in a sustainable way and making money using the app you need to check out @hotspotbucketlist ‘s Instagram education course. They give you a step-by-step guide on how to really grow your account and instructions on what all the pros are already doing. Use code “guideyourtravel” for 20% off today. Click this link to contact them directly on Instagram.

Let’s start with 33 Instagram photo mistakes you’re making in 2020.


Your username is the first thing potential followers will see of your account. It needs to be short and easy to remember with as few special characters (underscores, dots, numbers etc) as possible. Try to avoid misspelling words or using the same letter multiple times in a row. These will make your account difficult to find. Avoid long number sequences or too many underscores in a row. I chose the name @__b_a_dinsta.gram1357908642 for my example which is impossible to remember or to find.


Instagram bios are really short which is why you need to decide very carefully what you put in them. Every single person who visits your profile will read your bio so having one at all is really important. Avoid using just emojis or cliches such as “love travelling” or something generic like “wanderlust” or “Follow 4 follow”. Put the link to your blog, online shop or website in your bio and try to stand out somehow. If I see an account without a bio I will usually click away instantly as it doesn’t look professional.


Any account without a profile picture immediately looks like spam or a dead account. But don’t just take any picture. Profile pictures on Instagram are very small and you cannot zoom in. With that in mind, you need to choose a picture that is clear even when it is tiny. You can even pick one that you’ve posted before. Try to choose a picture with yourself in it if you have an account where you post your own pictures. It will make it seem more personal and appeal to followers. Don’t choose a profile picture that is too dark or looks unclear.

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The profile photo for this account is not great, you can’t really see what it is. The bio tells you nothing at all which will not attract followers.


This, of course, depends on what you’re trying to do with your Instagram account. Definitely put your account on public if you’re trying to gain followers. Not a lot of people will want to follow you if they have to request it first. However, if you’re running a very personal account or even a large meme page it might be smarter to leave your account on private.


If possible your pictures should have a location attached to them. Even if you’re just tagging the cafe you’re sitting in or a local landmark, a location will help your followers place your picture and make the whole post look more professional. In addition to that, you’ll definitely get more likes if your photo is tagged at a location. Especially for travel photos, this is crucial. Nothing infuriates me more than seeing a beautiful beach photo with no location.


This is probably one of the most important Instagram photo mistakes. It is insane how much better a photo does with a caption. It might seem tempting to just post if you’re struggling to come up with a good caption but you’ll see it makes a huge difference. It’s proven that Instagram photos with longer captions tend to do better but even just a few words are better than nothing. I would avoid using quotes as a caption but that is just a personal preference. Go for it if you feel like captioning your photo “be the change you want to see in the world” but I think you can be more creative.

These photos look pretty but they have no location or caption which will immediately make them less successful


Instagram hashtags are very important and you should definitely use them when posting a photo. What you shouldn’t do, however, is post thirty of them at the top of your caption. This immediately looks spammy and not very visually pleasing. Write your caption and place your hashtags at the very bottom with a few rows space in between. That way they only show up if you click on the read more section.

Using hashtags is great but you need to give your photos a caption as well


Please don’t do this. It might be a personal issue but I really hate Instagram mosaics. People create these using an app to form large photos in their feeds. I don’t really understand the point. First off, they spam your followers’ newsfeeds and you won’t get much engagement on the individual posts since they often look very confusing by themselves. Plus the mosaic only exists in your feed for a small amount of time until you post another photo and mess it all up. And even then I don’t think a mosaic looks very nice. Any time I see one I will think twice about following that account. Bonus points if you get the order wrong and the photo ends up all jumbled.

It’s very easy to get the order of these Instagram 9-squares wrong. They never look good


We all have those photoshoots with tons of pictures that turned out looking amazing and you just want to post them all. You can, but please not all in a row. If your last five photos were all in the same outfit in the same location then it doesn’t really make me want to look at all of them. It makes it appear as though you had one fun trip and then never took any photos again. This is one of the Instagram photo mistakes that is really easy to fix. Just use the swipe function to add multiple photos to one post if you like (although I would limit it to a few that look similar). Or even better just post them very spaced out while keeping the look of your feed in mind. Make sure they’re not too close together.

These photos are all pretty good but since they’re posted in a row the feed looks boring and unoriginal


Please try to space out your posts. There’s nothing more exciting than coming home from a trip and wanting to post all your pictures at the same time but it won’t do you any favours. Spamming your followers’ feeds will make you lose followers especially if you usually don’t post a lot. This will make many people want to unfollow you and you won’t get as many likes on your pictures. Don’t confuse this with accounts that have a regular posting schedule. You can definitely post three times a day if you do it every single day. This is a great strategy if you have quality content and can keep it up. However, don’t post five pictures in a row and then disappear for two weeks.


It used to be that you could only post 1 x 1 photos on Instagram. Thankfully that changed a few years ago which means there is no reason to post square pictures anymore. Please don’t do it. You’re wasting valuable space by not making the most of Instagram’s dimensions (ideally 4 x 5) and it just doesn’t look very good.

Both these photos could be amazing posts in theory but the square crop makes them look awkward


Another one of the typical Instagram photo mistakes that seemed completely acceptable when Instagram first came out and is a complete no-go today. Instagram filters have long been surpassed by the far superior Lightroom presets (which work in a similar way but with far more control and no loss in quality) or even VSCO filters if that is what you like. Your pictures will not be made better by slapping an Instagram filter on them, you’re far better off editing them carefully in Lightroom or really any other image editing program. Instagram’s filters are outdated and most of the time don’t look very good. If you really want to use one make sure to at least dial down the intensity and don’t use it at 100 per cent.

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Instagram filters make photos look home-made and low quality. Both these photos would look much better without a filter


Uploading a photo to Instagram will considerably decrease its quality one way or another. It’s important to try to avoid using photos that were bad quality to begin with. This often happens if you post screenshots, export your photo with a low pixel count or send it over WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Even if the picture you’re posting is incredible it will not look professional or gain much support if the quality is bad. If I see a great photo with bad quality this is a huge red flag to me that the image might be stolen or screenshotted from somewhere else.


This is one of those Instagram photo mistakes that comes from usually posting a weird angle of something or an everyday object where the viewer has no idea what they’re looking at. It’s usually paired with the lack of a caption and bad lighting or a strange crop. Make sure your photos are clear and not overly edited so if someone sees your photo on their newsfeed they won’t be confused and scroll past. If you do decide to post something a little abstract make sure to give it a caption and explain what you’re trying to say with this photo.

Can you tell what this is? It’s not only a bad picture but without a caption or location it’s impossible to tell what it’s supposed to be


Except for a select few cases you should always edit your photos in some way. This can be just adjusting the brightness a bit or cropping the photo correctly. Most photos benefit from a few retouches such as manipulating the colours or the exposure. No pro photographer will post a photo right from their SD card and you shouldn’t either. I hate seeing photos on Instagram that have so much potential but were just posted mindlessly without making a few small adjustments. You don’t have to be a Lightroom expert to do this. Even your iPhone photo app will do the trick if you’re a complete beginner. Just don’t overdo it (see the next point).

Unedited (left) vs edited with Lightroom (right)


If you’re still a beginner at editing photos it can be easy to go overboard. Especially the contrast, saturation and vibrance sliders can be extremely tempting and will make your photos look disastrous. Never edit your photos and post them immediately. Leave them alone for a few hours and come back for a second look. Often you’ll see where you went too far and fix the problems. People always tend to edit too much, never too little. So it’s worth dialling everything down just a bit. The pictures below might seem extreme but the amount of photos I’ve seen on Instagram that look exactly like this is shocking.

These posts could have been amazing photos but have been over-edited


No matter what anyone tells you please don’t do this. It’s one of the top Instagram photo mistakes you can make in 2020. There used to be an app called Whiteagram that everyone used in 2013 to add white borders to their Instagram photos. This came from the time when you could only post 1 x 1 photos so the white borders gave you a little more freedom. Please don’t do it in 2020. It looks awkward and ruins even the best photos. White borders are the low-rise jeans of Instagram; they were questionable back then but simply wrong in 2020. Don’t ruin your photos with them.

White borders make any Instagram photo look bad


This is probably one of the worst things you can do on this list. Using white borders is bad but please if you insist on using them edit your photo before you put them on. Any sort of filter or editing software will make your white borders change colour along with your photo which looks incredibly bad. The only thing worse than white borders are beige borders with a weird vignette.

These photos were edited after putting white borders in which makes the white change colour


I see a lot of pictures with strange white lines that usually come from making mistakes with cropping the photo. You should never screenshot your photo and then post it (like I mentioned in mistake 13) but if you must please at least make sure you don’t leave a white line at the side. This can also happen when you repost pictures from other accounts or edit them in certain softwares. Always double-check this doesn’t happen.

These photos had great potential but cropping mistakes lead to strange white lines on the side of the pictures


This might seem like one of those really obvious Instagram photo mistakes. Just don’t post bad pictures. You might say this is easier said than done but it really isn’t. Don’t just pick up your phone and post a picture of your lunch. You need to put some thought into your photos to have success on Instagram. The next time you’re taking a picture at the beach try to make it unique and maybe go for a different angle or add a subject to your photo. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need an expensive camera. An iPhone will definitely do but, of course, that DSLR will take you to the next level. Pick your photos carefully and never post the first photo you take.

This is just a bad picture. It’s slightly blurry, the lighting is very bad and the beach doesn’t look great.


Now, what is a bad selfie? Obviously that’s a really personal thing that might be different to everyone. I’m not a big fan of selfies in general, I’m always more impressed by photos that do not look like selfies or seem more candid. What you should definitely avoid is editing your selfies too much using apps like Facetune. Especially the smooth effect or adding makeup can really make your photos look terrible. Good lighting is definitely the most important thing to consider. Try to mix it up a bit and avoid exclusively posting selfies.


Don’t post photos on Instagram that you took on Snapchat. The quality will be very bad and it looks very unprofessional to have a Snapchat text or filter on the photo. This goes especially for face or location filters. Again, never take a screenshot from Snapchat and then post it. You can always tell.

Snapchat filters and emojis like this shouldn’t appear on Instagram


This is one of my favourite Instagram photo mistakes to avoid because it’s so simple. Just don’t put writing on your photos. Somehow it’s very popular to put a watermark or little box with your Instagram handle on photos presumably to avoid them being stolen. Just don’t do it. It looks terrible and does absolutely nothing. Putting writing on your photos will only distract from your actual content and confuse your followers. It is extremely unlikely that anyone is stealing your photos. Also don’t write quotes or inspirational messages on your photos (unless your account is dedicated to this sort of thing). That’s what the caption is for!

Watermarks only distract from your photos and make them look unprofessional. The white borders make the photos look especially bad


Try to avoid posting any sort of collage on your Instagram feed. There is no reason to. Just use the swipe option if you want to show off multiple pictures next to each other. Collages are a very outdated way of displaying photos. They belong in 2010 or a high school yearbook but not on Instagram.

Collages don’t belong on Instagram


Let’s face it we all have our favourite poses and that’s okay. You probably know how to make yourself look your best and if that means doing similar poses on most of your pictures then go for it. However, if every single one of your photos has you looking into the distance or making the same face it will start to look a bit weird. Try to mix it up and alternate your photos so they don’t all look the same.


Repost accounts are growing massively on Instagram and are a great way to use the platform. However, if you’re using other people’s content you need to give them credit in the caption. If you don’t do this you are confusing your followers and are creating legal issues concerning intellectual property. Especially if you post both your own and other people’s content you need to make a clear distinction.


Obviously this does not apply if you have a meme account. However, if you usually post normal photos I would advise against posting memes in between your content. Chances are your followers are not following you for memes and if you really want to post one why not put it in your story.


I’m not sure why people do this but I see it all the time. People love to put emojis over faces or just randomly in photos. Another one of those Instagram mistakes that seems like it doesn’t need to be mentioned but apparently does. Emojis don’t belong in your photo on Instagram.

Try to avoid putting anything like emojis or symbols on your photos


Everyone wants to be good at editing and enhancing photos. You need to be very careful when attempting this especially if you’ve never used Photoshop before. Apps like Facetune promise a quick and easy fix but they’re just as dangerous and tend to make it very obvious what you edited. If you’re not very experienced I would advise you to not alter your photos at all. There probably isn’t a need for it anyway! So no need to make these Instagram photo mistakes in 2020.


Many cameras like the GoPro take photos with a fisheye lens distortion. While this might be great for action or 360 shots it usually isn’t good for Instagram. It looks weird and makes your photos look a bit homemade. Use a program like Lightroom to fix the distortion or change your camera settings. Lightroom is by far the best editing software out there. Click here for more information on a free trial. This post will help you decide which version of Lightroom is right for you.


Before you post any sort of photo that includes a horizon or buildings you need to straighten it. Even if you think it looks straight it probably isn’t. Nothing is worse than posting a crooked photo and not realising it. It can ruin even the best shot. Most photo editing apps like Lightroom will do this for you automatically.

This photo would have been great if the horizon were straight


Similar to memes you should try to avoid posting pictures of quotes if your account is not dedicated to them. Having a quote picture in between your other photos will seem strange and misplaced. Again, if you really want to you could post them to your story.


There are lots of examples of Instagram photo mistakes that fall under this category. I’m not a big fan of photos that seem lazy when I see them. This includes pictures of artwork in a museum, pictures of fireworks or pictures of prominent landmarks like a sculpture. In other words anything with no character that looks like any one of the thousands of other photos taken by everyone else. Of course, you can take a photo of the Mona Lisa but is it worth posting on Instagram? Or that picture of you in front of the Eifel Tour. How can you make it special? This might seem like I’m setting the standards too high but for me, it makes the difference of whether I follow someone or not. I don’t want to see another picture someone took of a painting or street art. With millions of Instagram accounts try to set yours apart.

Do you feel like you’re already avoiding all these mistakes but you’re still having trouble growing your account? All these tips barely scratch the surface on what you need to know to really succeed on Instagram. I highly advise you to try @hotspotbucketlist ‘s Instagram education course which will teach you all you need to know. You can get 20% off right now by using code “guideyourtravel” if you contact them directly on Instagram. Click here to learn more.

Are you interested in travel blogging? Here are 22 mistakes to avoid as a beginner blogger and how to fix them.


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Hi! I’m Victoria, a travel blogger from Germany and the author of Guide your Travel. I write about my favourite destinations, travel tips, photography and how to become a blogger.

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Hi, I'm Victoria

I’m 24 years old and grew up in Germany. Right now I’m studying at a university in Scotland and am about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Full-time travel is my dream and I’ve spent the last few years slowly building my online business. Guide your Travel is technically a travel blog, but I also write about photography, social media and how you can start blogging. Don’t forget to check out my destination guides and travel tips.

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