The bigger Instagram gets, the more complicated its app becomes. Indeed, it’s easy to miss some of Instagram’s most clever shortcuts, such as the quickest way to “heart” a photo or preview a snapshot in your feed.
There’s also a way to see your geo-tagged photos on a map—or wipe them off the map, for that matter. You can set your account to private, block unwanted followers, and erase tags of yourself that others have added to their photos. You can even get alerts when your favorite Instagrammers posts new photos—an important feature now that Instagram wants to change the way it arranges recent images in your photo feed.
Read on for nine must-know tips for Instagram newbies, starting with…
1. Set your account to private
One of the biggest surprises awaiting an Instagram newcomer is the first time a complete stranger “likes” one of their snapshots. It’s a jarring reminder that by default, all the snapshots you post on Instagram are public.
If you don’t want the entire world flipping through your Instagram photos, you can set your account to “private.” Doing so puts all your Instagram photos behind a privacy wall, meaning only your existing followers will be able to see them. Also, once you set your account to private, no one else on Instagram will be able to follow you without your approval.
Just tap the Profile button in the bottom corner of the main Instagram interface, tap the gear icon (on iOS) or the three-dot “overflow” button (on Android) in the top-right corner of the screen, then flip the Private Account switch.
2. Block randoms from following your account
So, you’ve set your account to private, but not before a few strangers or frenemies followed your account. You can give them the heave-ho in a few simple steps.
Tap the Profile button in the bottom corner of the screen, tap Followers, then tap the name of someone you don’t want flipping through your photos. Now, tap the three-dot button in the top corner of the screen, then tap Block User.
Once that’s done, the blocked users won’t be able to view your snapshots anymore (and no, they won’t be notified that you blocked them).
3. Quickly ‘like’ a photo
One of the principle pleasures of Instagram is scrolling through your Home feed, gazing at the latest snapshots of the users you’re following.
If there’s a picture you particularly like, you can tap the little heart button just below the image.
Even better, though, you can like a photo the way Instagram experts do: Just give it a quick double-tap.
4. See every photo you’ve ever liked
Liking snapshots on Instagram can get addicting—so addicting, in fact, that it’s easy to lose track of all the pictures you’ve liked.
To take a look at your history of “hearted” photos, tap the Profile button, tap the gear icon (for iOS) or the three-dot button (Android) in the top corner of the screen, then tap Photos You’ve Liked option.
Bonus tip: You can always “unlike” a photo by tapping the heart button again. (No, double-tapping a liked snapshot won’t unlike it)
5. Long-press to preview a photo
If you tap the Search tab at the bottom of the Instagram interface, you’ll land on the Explore page—a grid of dozens of Instagram photos liked by your friends and followers as well as by all your fellow Instagrammers.
You can tap any photo on the Explore screen to see a full-screen version, but there’s also a way to quickly preview a photo: Just tap and hold it. When you do, a larger version of the image will appear on the screen, and it’ll stay there until you release the image.
If you’re an iOS user, you can push a photo preview up a bit to lock it in place and reveal three options: Like, Comment, and Send as Message (to another Instagram user).
On Android, the process is slightly different: Instead of nudging up a preview image, just slide your fingertip down to one of three options—Like, View Profile, or Share—then release.
6. Single-tap a photo to see people tags
Just like on Facebook, you can tag people in Instagram photos; indeed, you’ll be prompted to do so whenever you post a new picture on your Instagram profile.
While viewing other photos, you might see a little circle with a blank silhouette in the bottom corner of the image. If you do, it means that the image has been tagged. Just tap the image to reveal the tags, then tap a tag to jump to that user’s Instagram profile.
7. See every Instagram photo in which you’ve been tagged, and remove yourself from a tagged photo
Curious to see whether you’ve been tagged in someone else’s Instagram photo? There’s an easy way to find out.
Tap the Profile button in the bottom corner of the screen, then tap the “photos of you” button (it’s the one that looks like a tag with a silhouette inside) near the top-right corner of the screen.
Now, let’s say you find you’ve been tagged in a photo you don’t want to be tagged in, or that a stranger has tagged you in a picture by mistake.
In that case, tap your tag to reveal your two options: Either hide the photo from your profile, or remove the tag altogether. On Android, simple tap the Remove Tag option to nix the tag; on iOS, you’ll first need to tap More Options, then tap Remove Me from Photo.
8. Get notifications when Instagrammers you follow post photos
Ever since Instagram first launched, your main photos feed has always showed the most recent photos posted by your Instagram pals first, in strict chronological order.
Recently, though, Instagram said it would start testing a new, Facebook-style algorithm that would favor the posts that it thinks you’ll want to see the most. Of course, that means the most recent pictures from your Instagram friends might not necessarily appear first in your Instagram feed.
Instagram swears that it’s taking baby steps with its nascent feed algorithm, with Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom promising (to the New York Times) that “it’s not like people will wake up tomorrow and have a different Instagram.”
That said, the advice of some panicked Instagram users—to turn on alerts for new posts from specific users—isn’t a bad one.
When you’re looking at the Instagram feed of someone you’re following, you can tap the three-dot menu button in the top corner of the screen, then tap Turn on Post Notifications.
Once that’s done, you’ll get an alert whenever that particular Instagram friend posts a photo, whether Instagram’s percolating feed algorithm thinks that user is important or not.
9. See (or remove) your photos on a map
If you tag your posted photos with a location, anyone on Instagram (or just your approved followers, in the case of private accounts) can tap the location tab on your profile screen to see your geotagged snapshots on a world map.
Don’t like that idea? Then go to the location tab on your profile, tap the Edit button in the top-right corner of the screen, tap a photo to remove its location tag, then tap Done.
You can also click the grid button near the bottom of the screen to see all your visible geotagged snapshots at once; you can then tap Edit and select any photos you want to wipe off the map.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.