The best way to browse Instagram

Instagram is becoming a video site (mirror) like TikTok, isn’t it? I want to see photos when I go to Instagram. I don’t want to see reel after reel from suggested accounts just because I liked something random. I only ever post photos on Instagram, so this is a shout out to anyone who follows me and doesn’t see my fabulous/amazing/gorgeous photos! You’re missing out!

Flowers in Waterloo

There are two ways to get control back.

  1. Add 50 of your friends to the Favourites list.
  2. Use the Following feed instead of the algorithm.

Both features were only added in March this year, so you might not be familiar with them, even if you’re a long-time user.

Dancing in Birmingham

The favourites list is a list of up to 50 Instagram accounts you want to see first in your feed when you open the app. You’ll still see suggested reels and other nonsense, but these 50 accounts will be given priority.

Fireworks on Spike Island

There are two ways to fill up your favourites list. Either go to the profile of the account you want to add, click on “Following” and then tap “Add to Favourites”, or open your own profile, tap the burger menu (the 3 lines at the top-right of the screen) to open settings, and tap Favourites where you will be shown a selection of your friends, and a search box to look for others.

The other way is much simpler and allows you to view your feed in a chronological order. And, don’t let Instagram know, but it appears to be advert free too! Tap on the Instagram logo on the top-left of the screen and you’ll see a menu saying Following and Favorites. The Favorites feed will obviously show your favourite accounts, but the Following feed is what I’m interested in.

The Following feed is a refreshing look at Instagram. It’s chronological, so you start from the newest photo or video uploaded by your Instagram friends. You’ll suddenly see posts from people you haven’t seen in years because the algorithm decided you weren’t interested in their photos! If you do nothing else after reading this post, try the Following feed. Let me know what you think of it.

A Window on Rome

I have a few accounts on Instagram, docinphotos and streetsofcork are my main ones. I also occasionally share old photos of Cork on the Photos of Old Cork Instagram account. Check out the photos. If you like them, follow me and say hi!


Backup your social media accounts

I’ll keep this short. You should download your Twitter data, Facebook data, and as you probably have that too, your Google data. You never know when you might be banned from using them, even accidentally.

After you’ve saved that data, go to Instagram and Reddit and do the same!


Download your data from Settings->Your Account->Download an archive of your data.


Download your Facebook data from Settings->Your Facebook Information->Download your information. I like that they offer HTML and JSON options.

Google Takeout

Google Takeout is where you download your Google data. There is a lot there. At the time of writing, it shows 53 products, which includes YouTube, Gmail and Google Photos.


Download your Instagram data from their Privacy and Security page where you will find the request page.


And finally, Reddit. You can download your data from their data-request page.

Keep that data safe. Don’t leave it in your download directory. It potentially has lots of private information you won’t want to be shared with anyone who uses your computer.

Google lets you schedule up to 6 data downloads per year, but it might be worth setting a calendar reminder to do this at least once a year. Store your downloads in dated directories to make it easy to keep track of when they were downloaded.


HOWTO: Square Instagram images with white borders

I noticed that a lot of Instagram users, such as Alan Schaller to name but one, were posting images with thick white borders to make their images into the square images that Instagram favours. I like the striking look these images have in the Instagram gallery.

I wondered for some time about the best way of adding this border and from brief searches there are apps that will add the border but my workflow involves Lightroom so I wanted to integrate the border making into my export process.

I work on a Mac, and already have ImageMagick installed so I knew a little shell scripting would probably go a long way.

A couple of searches later, and I found this page describing how to use ImageMagick to create a floating image within a square canvas without changing the aspect ratio of the image.

Instagram resizes to 1080px wide so by using the following code I could make a rectangular image into a square:

convert -background white -gravity center input.jpg \
     -resize 1080x1080 -extent 1080x1080 result.jpg

Here’s an example from my street photo today. See it on Instagram here.

Once I could do that, the rest was simple. I have a Lightroom export for Instagram images that resizes them and places them in a folder where they are synced automatically with my phone using Syncthing.

Export actions have a “post processing” section where Lightroom can call an external script. I created the following script, made it executable with chmod a+x and added to Lightroom using “Open in Other Application”.


# Square and add white borders to images.

for i in "$@"
    /usr/local/bin/convert -background white -gravity \
        center "$i" -resize 1080x1080 -extent 1080x1080 \
    mv /tmp/out.jpg "$i"
    open "~/Sync/Instagram"

The script goes through the exported images from Lightroom, adding borders to them, and then at the end opens the folder in Finder for review.

Hopefully this will be useful to someone else. If you add borders to your images, how do you do it?