The seniors’ guide to Instagram

1. Introduction

Welcome to the seniors’ guide to Instagram. This guide aims to describe to you exactly what Instagram is, how to use it, the best ways to use it, and a few finer points to make you a great user. The guide is designed specifically for seniors and tries to explain all terminology and take you through the learning process as slowly as possible.

2. What is Instagram?

Instagram is a free app that allows friends and family to share photos. It also allows the person who shares the photo, to apply a filter to their photo to make it look different or better. For example, they might be able to accentuate certain aspects of the photo, or turn it black & white, or bring out a certain colour.

Aside from sharing photos, Instagram allows people to make comments on photos that people post, and also to “like” photos. “Liking” a photo is sort of like giving a thumbs up to the person who posted it – acknowledging that you enjoyed the photo and appreciate them posting it.

3. How do I get Instagram?

If you have an iPhone, the best way to install Instagram is from the App Store.


Pictured Above: The App Store icon you will need to press on your phone.

If you do not have an iPhone, Instagram is also available on “Google Play” and other phones, you can find out more information about that by going to the Instagram website, but we will only be covering the iPhone application in this guide.

4. Creating an Instagram Account

Once you have installed the Instagram, to open it press on the icon (1). If you can’t see the app on your main screen, remember that you can swipe your screen with your finger to the left or the right to see more apps. It will be on the last screen if you have more than once.

Once you have done so, you will see a screen like the one below. Unless you already have an account and know how to login, press the register button (1) and we will be ready to set you up an Instagram account:


Below is the registration screen. Enter a username and password. Your username can be anything you like and doesn’t need to be your real name. Most people prefer to use some combination of their name, however, so that friends and family can easily identify them and the photos that they post. An example might be your first and last name together, in lower-case, e.g. “johnsmith”. You need to enter a password too (2). Enter your email (5) and real name (6) so that people are able to find you, and your phone number if you like, but as it says on the screen it is optional.

You may also add a photo of yourself at this point (3). If you don’t have one, it will allow you to take one.

Once you have finished entering your details, press the “Done” button (8) to complete creating your Instagram account.


5. Finding friends and family on Instagram

The most important step to having an enjoyable experience on Instagram is to find your friends and family so that they can see your photos. Since your children and grandchildren are likely to already have the app and know how to use it, the best way to get them on your Instagram is to tell them the Username you created in the previous step, and let them add you.

When someone adds you to Instagram, they will appear in your followers list, and then it is simple to follow them back. For a detailed guide of how to do this, please see section 9 about your profile screen and section 12 for searching for a particular person if you know their Instagram nickname.

The other way to find Instagram users is to click on the profile screen icon (5)

Once your are on your profile screen, click the cog icon in the top right hand side of the screen. You will then see an option called “Find & Invite friends”, press that, and then you will have a few options.

Facebook Friends, will allow you to find friends who you are friends with on Facebook if you have Facebook. You may not have Facebook, so your best bet is probably to use the “My Contacts” option, it will ask if it can search your address book. If privacy is a big concern to you, you may not wish to use this. But it is fairly harmless. You will then see a list of any of your friends from your address book who use Instagram, and you can use the blue “Follow” buttons to add them to your list.

When you are finished, press the home button (1) to return to your main screen. If you added some friends, you will now start to see them on your home screen (described below).

6.The Instagram Home Screen

If you use Facebook, this is similar to the newsfeed on Facebook. If you do not have Facebook, this home screen is similar to an overview page, that allows you to see all the latest news, of what your friends have uploaded (put onto Instagram). You will need the Internet (wireless or mobile) for Instagram to update, it will not update without the Internet, rather it will show you previous photos, that were downloaded previously.

To get to the home screen, press on the icon which look like a house, at the bottom of the screen (1):


If your home screen does not contain anything yet, it is because you have not added any friends yet. To learn how to do that, please read the previous section, “Finding friends and family on Instagram”. Otherwise, you will see a list of photos, with items similar to the one below:


If you have the factory settings on your phone or iPad (you have not changed anything to do with how you scroll on your phone or ipad)  the news will appear in a list form.

The latest news will be at the top and by pushing the screen upwards with your finger, you will scroll down the list.

If you have the Internet but your feed has not updated, then you may see a ¾ arrow on the top right hand corner near the blur bar that says Instagram. If you click on this, it will refresh, or try again to renew your feed. The home screen will not update for every comment that people make, rather it will update only when your friends post new pictures. However you will be informed when people like or comment on photos you have posted (put up on Instagram).

Each picture will appear as follows; on the top left hand corner you will see a small square picture (1), which is the profile picture of the person who posted it and their name will appear next to it (1).  On the right hand side you will see a small grey clock (2) and a number which will either be a m/h or d indicating how many mins/hours or days ago the picture was uploaded, Underneath this you will see the picture (3). Underneath the picture you may see a speech bubble and then some comments (5), or a love heart followed by names (4). You may also see some blue words that are preceded by a hash tag, #, we will talk about these in a coming section.

You may also only see two buttons, one that has a love heart that says like and another that has a speech bubble saying comment (6). If you click like, your name will appear underneath he picture, if you click on comment a new screen will appear and you will be able to type in your comment. Once you press send your name will appear next to your comment which will appear below the picture.

Some people will have many followers (people who can view their pictures and receive updates of what they post), this means that there will be many many comments. You will not see all the comments, unless you choose to do so. The way that you can view comments is you will see a grey sentence saying “ view all … comments” the .. will have the number of how many comments there are. If you click on the grey sentence, some of the comments will appear, if there are still too many you will see a grey button at the top of  comments that will say “ load all comments” if you click on it all the comments will appear. You will also see that you are able to comment at the bottom of this page, again press send to allow your comment to be posted.

If you are reading the comments and you wish to write to someone in particular then you can do this by typing in the comment box using their user name. You will need to know the person’s Instagram user name, when you know this you simply type in @ followed by their user name. Instagram may suggest names based on the letters you are typing, so be aware so you don’t need to overtype, or mistype.

Finally you may notice on some pictures people will have a few words, you can click on these and there are links that will guide you to a website or another user.


When you use Instagram from a tablet or phone that has a touch screen (i.e. you use your fingers instead of a mouse) you have the option to double tap (touch) which will show up as a like. This means that beneath that particular picture, your Instagram name will appear next to a love heart and the number of other people who have liked that particular photo. You may like a photo for a million reasons, including that it is a good picture, you wish to tell the person that you like the picture, or that you are looking at their photos, you may have been there with them.

I didn’t want to like that picture, what do I do?

It’s easy to fix if you accidently like a picture. Just press the like button again, which should be red if you liked the picture, and it will turn grey, taking your name out of the list of people who liked the picture.

What are all the # or hash tags?

#thingslikethis, known as hashtags, will appear as a blue # followed by a word or words, you will realize that the hashtags do not have spaces so that often a sentence will appear as one long word. You must be careful to check your hashtag, as the lack of spaces means often there are unintended meanings.


A hashtag (1) is used, so that a particular photo enters the public realm and can be seen by everyone. If you do not have high privacy settings, people are able to follow you by clicking on your profile attached to the photo, if you do however have higher security this will not happen and only that particular photo will be publicly accessible. The reason that people add hashtags are varied: some wish to accumulate more users and will therefore add popular hashtags, some people wish to meet followers with a similar interest, while others may be promoting a business or some people may just wish to share a particular passion or idea.

7. Putting a photo on Instagram

The square picture of a camera is what allows you to upload photos (3).

discover_icon.pngThere are two main ways that you can upload photos, the first is to take a picture and then upload it. To do this you click on the picture of the camera, this will take you to a screen that is initially a black screen cut in half, which after a few second will change into a grid (1), this is similar to using a traditional camera and the shutter opening, and once the grid appears you are able to take a picture, by clicking on the round blue camera symbol at the bottom of the screen (2).


Before you take the photo you should be aware of the three buttons in the centre of the screen. The first is a grid symbol (6), if you touch this it will turn the grid on or off, you may want this on if you are trying to center something in your photo. If you turn it off by accident simply, touch the grid again and it will be turned on again. The same applies for all buttons, you simply touch them to turn them on or off.

The second symbol it that of a flash (5), if the symbol is blue, it indicates the flash is on, if it is grey as pictured above (5). Please note not all devices will have a flash.

Finally, the picture of the camera with an arrow around it will allow you to either use the front camera or back camera, this way you can take a photo of your surroundings, or yourself, or yourself and a friend. If you ever hear someone refer to a “selfie”, this is the act of taking a photo of yourself and posting it to Instagram.

Once you have taken the photo, you will see a screen like the one below:


If you don’t like the photo you have taken, you can simply return to the camera and take the photo again, by using the blackish Camera button in the top left hand corner (4).

If on the other hand you would like to  use a photo that you have previously taken on you device, you will see a square next to the blue camera button, there you will see the last photo that you have taken , by clicking this you will be taken to your devices album (1).

Once you have the photo you wish to post on the screen, either the one you have just taken or a previous one, you can use your fingers to pinch the photo (2) or stretch it (imagine you have a rubber band around your thumb and index finger and are stretching or contracting the band while touching the screen). This will allow you to zoom in or out on the photo.

You can also just touch the screen with your index finger (2), and move around, to focus on different sections of the photo.

When you are happy with the photo you have taken, press the crop button (3) to continue to the next screen. Don’t worry, your photo will not be posted just yet.

8. Editing and filtering photos

The next step allows you to place a “filter” on your photo. This involves adjusting the colour balance of the image in interesting ways to make the phone look more interesting. This is why you see some really good-looking photos on Instagram.

You will see at the bottom of the screen there are two rows of buttons. The lower row are all hot air ballons (2) and you are able to scroll through these, they are called filters. Above these there are four buttons, we will go through the four buttons now. To learn about the filters, the best way is to just click on them and see what they look like. If you don’t like the way it looks, you can come back and select the “Normal” filter at any time. Your photo will never be modified permanently.


The big circle arrow with a diamond (6), this button will rotate the picture a quarter turn to the right, if you click this accidentally, you can just keep clicking until the photo returns to its orginal position. The picture frame (5) indicates that the filters you have applied contains a border which you can turn off by pressing the button if it is blue.

The tear drop (4) will focus on a certain part of the photo and make the rest of the photo slightly blurry. You would use this to focus a certain part of the photo as the focal point. At the moment you can only choose from focusing on a circle in the center and blurring the background, if you choose this a circle will appear in the tear drop. You are also able to choose to have a thin strip in the middle of the picture clear and the rest blurry, this will appear as a tear drop with a strip across i If you accidently touch this button simply click on the tear drop until there is no symbol in it and again your photo will be returned to its original .

The sun and moon (3) is a contrast button, and will make the contrast in your photo stronger, you may or may not need this depending on your photo, to apply it simply press the button and to remove it simply click the button again.

Here is the same photo with a filter, blurriness and contrast button applied:

9. Viewing your profile screen

Your profile is the information that people see about you on Instagram. You can access it by tapping the file card at the bottom right hand corner of the app. Number (5) in the picture below.

Once you tap the button, a screen will appear that will vary depending on the information you have entered. You will either see a picture of yourself which you have chosen as your profile picture (1), or if you have not done so, a silhouette of a person. Next to this you will see three buttons that have a number, with photos (2), followers (3) and following (4). Beneath these, you will see any photos that you have posted (0).


Your profile picture

The picture or silhouette you see is your profile picture. It appears whenever you post a photo next to your name, and when you comment on other people’s photos.

To change your profile picture, or set one if you do not have one yet, just tap the silhouette or picture, and a box will appear with some options. These options allow you to choose where to find a photo. It allows you to select one from your Instagram photos or the ones which you already have on your phone. If you don’t have a photo yet, you can just take one!


The button that has a number followed by the word followers, is a count of how many people that are “following” you. Following simply means that the photos you post will show up for those people when they browse the Instagram app. If you tap this button, it will list all of the people who are following you (1). It will have their profile picture and name (1), and next to that it will have either a green button that says “Following” (2), which indicates that you are following them too, or a blue button that says follow (3), indicating that you are not following them.


If you wish to follow someone, you can simply press the blue button (3), and they will be added to your list of users that you are following, and in doing so, become a follower on that person’s list. If they happen to have a private account, pressing follow will send a request to them, asking if you can be their follower. If they approve, you will automatically be their follower, there is nothing else you need to do to complete the process..

If you decide that you no longer wish to follow someone, for example they have been posting too many pictures of cows lately, you can simply click on the green “following” button (2) and it will turn blue, indicating that you are no longer following them. Once you have done this you will no longer see their photos in your news feed when you browse Instagram.

If you tap on their profile picture(1), you will be taken to that persons profile page.

To return to your profile, press the “Profile” button (4).


The next button is a number followed by the word “Following”. This is how many people that you are following. If you press this button you will see a list of the people you are following. Again, if you wish to follow people who are following you, you can press the green “Follow” button.

Edit my profile

The long rectangular bar with an arrow on the right hand edge called “Edit my profile”, allows you to change what information about you is available to others. Once you tap this button you will be taken to a range of information about you.


The first field is your full name (1). The second field is your nickname which people will know you by on Instagram (2), this doesn’t have to be your real name and can be anything that you like. It is best to pick something that your friends and family will recognise, but it is not a requirement.

You are also able to add a website if you have one (3), and a short biography of yourself which people can read if they view your profile page.

This is also where you are able to change your password, something which you should do regularly to make sure that no one else can access your account.

The final button allows you to decide on your level of privacy (5). If you leave this set to OFF, it means that anyone in the world can view your photographs, even if they are not following you. If you are worried about people seeing the photos that you post, you are best to turn this option to ON, and then your photos will only be shown to people who you approve when they request to follow you.

Other icons on the profile page and what they do


The four buttons in the middle, allow you to view your photos in different ways. The grid button (6) is the view you first see, and shows your photos as pictured above. The list button (7) will show your photos the same way they are shown on the home screen: larger, and in a list.

The button which looks like an upside-down teardrop (8) will take you to your “photo map”, which will show you where in the world each of your photos were taken on an interactive map. This is especially exciting if you have been travelling!

The button marked (9) will take you to any photos that other people have “tagged” you in. In other words, photos which other people have taken but you are in the photo. We learned how to do this for others in the adding a photo to Instagram section.


10. Can I put my picture in an album or arrange them in someway?

The answer is not really, your photos will be uploaded in the order you have uploaded them, with the newest appearing at the start and the oldest at the end. However if you add a hashtag, your photo will appear in that particular album, but again it will appear in order of uploading. Remember this is a public album that anyone can view, if you add no hashtags, depending on your settings, only your followers will see it.

11. Etiquette rules for Instagram

One of the main things that seniors struggle with in social media apps, especially according to their kids and grandkids, is the unofficial etiquette rules which are normally followed by users. Use the simple concepts below to make sure that you are a valued Instagram user, and your kids and grandkids will be very impressed at how well you have picked things up:

  1. Don’t comment on every photo that you see, comment occasionally.
  2. Make sure your comments are in context and are not cryptic, e.g. say “That’s beautiful, it reminds me of that time in Cooma”.
  3. Don’t like every photo that you see, you can like more photos than you comment on, but don’t over-do it. See your “likes” as a form of currency, use them more sparingly and people will value them more.
  4. Don’t post too often, especially in a short period of time. A rule of thumb might be to post one or two photos a day as a maximum, and only if the photos are interesting. It is OK to make exceptions for special family events or holidays, use common sense – will people find this interesting?
  5. Instagram can and will be used as a verb, for example “I am going to Instagram a photo of this cow”
  6. “Gram” is not a way to short “Instagram”, do not say “I just grammed that cow”. Reversal: you can deliberately tease your kids or grandkids by doing this; watch their reactions. This is called “trolling”.

12. What does the star symbol do?

The star symbol (2) is the explore symbol. If you click on the star symbol you will be taken to a new screen where you will see a box at the top that you can type in and picture beneath it.


This screen allows you to search for individual users by nickname, or search for photos by hashtag. Below is an example of searching for a user when we know their nickname (1). When you find a user that you recognise, you can press on their name (2) to view their profile page, and follow them if we aren’t already.


You may wish to search for hashtags (1), if you have a particular interest that you wish to see more of, this may be pets, body art, nail art or clothing. You may wish to see what hastags are out there and what is contained in these albums, or you may just wish to see what other people are posting. In the example below we search for summer and find the relevant hashtags (4) and the number of photos for each (5), evidently summer is very popular!


Alternatively you may just wish to look at what is popular at the moment, and you can simply scroll through the pictures below the search bar. You can click on any photo that tickles your fancy and have a look, and if you are interested in that particular user you can click on their name, which will show you their profile, it may show you a lot of information including their pictures, number of followers and limited information or very little if the user is private.


If you have clicked on a photo and then the user, to get back to exploring you simply click the back photo arrow in the top left hand corner and this will take you back to the original photo, and then in the top left again you will see a back arrow saying explore, simply click this and you will return to the explore screen. If you would like to see other popular Instagram pictures, but you have looked at all of the photos on your explore screen, simply press the ¾ circle arrow in the top right hand corner (2) and new pictures will appear.