Have you ever fancied yourself a brilliant photographer, eager to capture the beauty that surrounds you? Or do you just want cool pics of everyday occurrences that look particularly neat? Instagram by Burbn, Inc. came up with a free app for your iOS and Android devices that can do both of these things. Billing itself as a "free, fun and simple way to make and share gorgeous photos" – Instagram is a must for anyone who loves taking pictures and enjoys social networks.

Let's tackle that first part – taking pictures. Once you install Instagram on your device, you'll need to set up an account which is super easy. Pick a name for yourself (creative or obvious) and you're ready to go. Next, you'll want to get comfortable with the five navigation icons at the bottom of the screen; these will be your guides to the various Instagram paths. Starting left to right, there's Home, Popular, Camera, News and Profile.



Home – see your photos and your Instagram friends' photos here in choronological order.

Popular- a feed of public photos taken by people you probably don't know, but have gotten a lot of "likes".

Camera –where you actually take a photo.

News – you'll learn if someone new is following you, liked one of your photos or made a comment about one of your photos.

Profile – this is essentially your "Account Settings" page. Here you can make your account private so only your friends can see your photos, as well as find friends, edit your profile or view all of your photos.

Once you tap the "Camera" icon, you're ready to begin! You can take any picture you want, or even pull one from your phone's Camera Roll, and edit it to your heart's desire. Instagram automatically squares off a picture (think Polaroid) but you can add elements to make a truly unique picture. There are 18 filters to choose from, all found near the bottom of your screen after you've taken a picture. They have seemingly random names – Amaro, Hudson, Earlybird, etc. – and make your picture black and white, or washed out, or really enhance certain tones. You can play around with these, or if you're happy with your true picture, then leave it in "Normal" state. Next, decide if you want to add any elements of focus by tapping on the water-drop icon on the upper right-hand side. Here, the app lets you add a motion-blur effect that's either circular or straight. Ta-da! Instagorgeous picture! Your masterpiece is complete.

So what makes this a social app, you ask? Well, I'll answer your question with another question: where's the fun in keeping that cool picture to yourself? You have one more step to become a true Instagrammer and on the next screen you'll be prompted for a title for your image, a location for the image's occurrence (which your phone's GPS can help provide) and the option to share the pic with your social networks. None of these are mandatory – you needn't name your picture anything, nor promote your whereabouts on Twitter, but it's a cool option for those social experience seekers. At the very least your photo will be added to your Instagram feed so anyone you add as a friend to your Instagram network will see your pictures – which is why you should Instagram wisely. As in, don't take a picture of the game from the ballpark when you've called in sick and your coworkers are also your Instagram friends. Otherwise, get to tapping – pointing and shooting has never been such fun, especially since it's free!


Instagram by Burbn, Inc.
Free


For a sample of the kinds of pictures you can take with Instagram, here are some favorites from my collection over the last year.






Instagram images courtesy of Kate Holt.