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How to use Instagram on Android

March 13, 2013

One of the most popular camera and photo sharing apps for Android is Instagram — downloaded more than a million times in less than a day when it was launched in April last year. Already a big hit on iOS, Instagram for Android has created a huge ripple among Android users.

Although the app sports simple controls and settings, many users still scratch their heads in wonder as to how the app works and what wonders it can provide.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to use Instagram on Android. It is very easy to set up and it won’t take you long to realize how much of a joy it is to use.

Feel free to skip the post for now, if you like, and jump to our video tutorial at the end of this post.


Setting up an Instagram account

If you haven’t installed the app yet, download Instagram from the Google Play Store for free.



If you already have an Instagram account, just sign in to your account and start using the app. If you need to create a new account, here are the steps:

    1. Run Instagram.
    2. On the starting page, choose whether to register or sign in.  Skip the next steps if you already have an account.
    3. Select Register to create a new account.
    4. Designate a username and password that will become your login details the next time you access Instagram. You may also specify a display image.
    5. Provide your name and email address to complete your profile. Or, tap Use Your Facebook Info to use your Facebook info to fill out the remaining fields.
    1. Tap the Register button to create your account.
    2. On the next page, choose whether to search for Instagram accounts of your contacts or Facebook friends. You can skip this step and manually search for your friends’ accounts later.
    3. Instagram suggests users that you can follow. Tap on the Follow button to follow users that catch your fancy — or you can skip this for later. You will be seeing posts from the users you follow.
  1. Tap on Done to finish setting up your account.

You now have an Instagram account!  You will be taken to the Home tab where a stream of images from you and from your followed users will appear.

Main screen buttons

Aside from the stream of pictures on the Home tab, you’ll see five buttons at the screen’s bottom. What are they and what are they for?


Home button

The first button is the Home button and takes you home whenever you get lost anywhere in the Instagram app or whenever you just want to start over from the beginning. The Home tab displays photos from the people you follow, as well as your own published photos.

Explore button

Tap the second button to see the Explore tab where a bunch of awesome photos recently shared by random users are displayed. From there, you can follow other users, especially when photos shared are interesting to you. You can also search for users here by tapping the Search button (magnifying glass icon) and typing in the username or name on the search bar. You can also search for photos with specific tags.


Camera button

The third button is the heart of Instagram. It opens the Instagram Camera so you can take a photo or select a photo from your gallery, and, thereafter apply filters/effects before sharing the photo to the rest of the world.


News button

Although not shaped like a newspaper, the fourth button opens the News tab, which shows news from the users you follow and of course, notifications from your own account. Interactions made by the people you follow will appear under the Following tab. Friend requests and other interactions related to you are all found under the You tab.


Profile button

You won’t miss this button at the rightmost part, shaped like a calling card. Tapping this button opens your Profile page, which shows your profile, stats, and your photos.  This page is also where you can edit your profile, including changing your profile picture, changing your password, and even changing your username and display name.

Posting on Instagram

To start enjoying the wonders of Instagram, you need to take a photo first or select an existing one from your albums. It doesn’t even end there. You may want to apply filters that complement your awesome photo and then, share it simultaneously to other social platforms.  Here’s how all of that happens:

    1. Tap on the Camera button to start taking photos. If you want to switch between front and back cameras, just tap the small camera icon at the upper-right.
    2. Use the tap-to-focus feature to focus on your subject. Only some phones support this feature. Just tap on the screen until the marker turns green.
    3. To capture a photo, tap the camera shutter. Or, If you want to use a photo from your gallery, press the Gallery button right beside the camera shutter button. Choose a photo from the gallery and tap on it.
    1. If you choose a photo from the gallery, you will need to crop the image to fit the standard Instagram size. You’ll see a resizeable crop box that you can move around on your image. Tap the Ok button to crop the image. You don’t need to crop photos taken using the built-in Instagram Camera.
    2. After taking a photo or selecting a photo from the gallery, you will be taken to the editing screen. Here, you can use the following buttons at the top:
      • Border – adds or removes a border on your photo
      • Blur – shaped like a droplet and adds either a circular or linear tilt-shift
      • Lux – adds brightness and vibrance to your photo
      • Rotate – rotates your photo clockwise
      • Next Icon – press this if you are done editing your photo
    3. If you want, apply a photo filter by selecting one from the bottom. The selected filter will instantly be applied on the photo preview. If you don’t want to apply any filter, choose Normal.  Instagram currently has 20 built-in photo filters.  Here are some samples:
    1. After applying a filter, tap the Next button (double arrows pointing to the right).
    2. Add a caption to your photo. You can use hashtags on your caption. Photos that bear the same hashtags will be grouped together, making the search for a particular photo easier.
  1. Instagram also allows you to add your photos to a photo map before publishing and sharing them. Adding a photo to Photo Map will require you to provide the location where the photo is taken using Foursquare’s registered locations. You can also add your location if it is not on the list. Photos added on the Photo Map will be presented in map view, corresponding to the places where your photos were taken.
  2. Tap the name of the social networking sites that you want to share the photo to.
  3. You will be asked to login to that particular site. Providing your login details once will link your account to Instagram. You won’t need to re-enter your login details the next time you want to share your photo.
  4. If you’re done logging in, press the green check mark at the top. This will publish your photo not only to Instagram but also to the sites you’ve specified.

Editing your Photo Map

Use prudence and caution when adding photos to your Photo Map; this feature divulges your whereabouts. If there are photos taken in locations that should remain private and you accidentally added them to your Photo Map, worry not. You can edit the photos that show up on your Photo Map.  Here’s how to do it:

    1. Navigate to your Profile page.
    2. Tap the Photo Map button.
    3. In Photo Map, press the Menu button (represented by a three-dot icon).
    4. Tap Edit.
  1. Tap on the stack of photos and a popup list of options appear. Tap on Edit.
  2. Tap on the photos you want to omit from Photo Map. Once you tap on a photo, the photo will be grayed out, signaling that it won’t appear in Photo Map.
  3. Tap Done once you’re done editing your Photo Map photos.

Sharing photos

You can also share your Instagram photo to other apps installed on your device. You can do this by pressing the three-dot icon found below your published photo on the Home screen or on your Profile page. Press Share and the photo will be shared to the app you specified. Some apps will only allow you to share the URL of the photo but some, like Google+, will share the whole photo itself.

Following users

Following fellow Instagrammers can be done in several ways. Following users make their photos appear on your Home tab and you’ll also be notified about interactions they may have on Instagram.

Searching for users to follow

  1. Go to the Profile page.
  2. Tap the magnifying glass. This is the Search button.
  3. Type in your friend’s Instagram username to search for that user’s profile.  If you don’t know the username, you can try searching for your contact’s name instead.
  4. Once your friend’s profile link appears on the list, tap on it to open the user’s Profile page.
  5. Tap the Follow button to start following your friend’s account.

Finding users via the Explore tab

  1. From the Home tab, tap the Explore button to open the Explore page.
  2. The Search button will also be available. You can use it to search for a particular name or username.
  3. There will also be thumbnails of photos from random users. If you find an interesting photo and want to follow the user who uploaded it, tap on the photo to open the publisher’s profile.  You will then be taken to the photo’s page.
  4. Open the photo owner’s Profile page by tapping on the username or the user’s display image.
  5. From the user’s Profile page, tap on the Follow button to start following the user.

Finding more friends

  1. Go to your Profile page.
  2. Tap the Options button represented by three square dots.
  3. Tap on Find Friends from the menu.
  4. The next menu will provide options for you to find friends from your contact list, Facebook, and suggested users.  A link to the Search page is also available here.

Interacting with Instagram photos

See an awesome photo on your Home tab and want tell the author how great it is?  How do you do it? There are actually two ways to do so — by liking the photo and/or by leaving a comment.

Showing some photo lovin’

Liking Instagram photos can be done in two ways. The ordinary way is through pressing the heart button below the photo. Tap on the heart button until it turns red.

The not-so-ordinary way of liking an Instagram photo is through double-tapping on the photo. A heart icon will quickly appear on the photo, signaling that you’ve successfully liked the photo. If you accidentally liked a photo, you can unlike it by pressing heart button again.


Leaving a comment

There are times when liking a photo is just not enough. Why not throw in a comment instead? Leaving a comment for an Instagram photo is simple.  Just tap on the speech bubble icon found beside the heart icon and type away.

Deleting a Comment

Be extra careful when leaving comments because you cannot edit them. The only thing you can do is to delete the comment completely.  You can delete comments that you own.  But, you can’t delete comments left by other users for a photo that isn’t yours.  However, if you are the owner of the post or photo, you can delete any comment for it.

You can delete your comment by pressing the speech bubble icon then tapping on the Edit button at the upper-right corner. Tap on the “X” mark beside your comment, then tap the red Delete button that appears.

Dealing with the nasty on Instagram

Instagram encourages its users to be responsible service users. If you see inappropriate content or a certain user has been spamming you, you have the option to report these to Instagram and authorized agents will immediately take action.

Reporting inappropriate photos

If you find a photo appalling or deem it inappropriate for circulation on Instagram, you can report the photo as inappropriate. Under the photo is the three-dot button.  Tap on it to bring out the Report as Inappropriate button.  Tap on the button and select a reason why you are reporting the photo as inappropriate.  You will receive confirmation upon successfully reporting the photo.


Reporting abuse or spam

If you are getting annoying spam and/or abusive comments, you can report them to Instagram.  Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Tap the Comments button (represented by a speech bubble icon) under a photo to open the comments page for that photo.
  2. Tap on the red exclamation mark beside the comment that you want to report as spam or abusive.
  3. Select Report Abuse from the popup dialog.
  4. Select the reason why you are reporting the comment (i.e., spam/scam or abusive content).
  5. You will get a floating notification that your report has been submitted.

Blocking users


If you don’t want a particular user to follow you on Instagram, you can block the user entirely so that she or he can’t find you in search results and follow you.

Head to the user’s Profile page and tap on the Options button on the upper right corner.  From the popup window, select either to block the user or to report the user for spam.

To unblock a user that you blocked previously, repeat the same steps, but tap “Unblock user” from the popup.

Profile management and privacy

If, for some reason, you want to change your profile photo, name, username, password, and other information, Instagram allows you to freely do so. You can also set your account’s privacy by preventing others from following you without authorization; you can also set your photos to private.

Changing profile photo

  1. From the Home tab, tap on the Profile button to open your profile.
  2. Tap on your display image or avatar.  Or, tap the Options button (at the upper-right) and select Change Profile Picture from the menu.
  3. Choose one of the following options from the popup dialog:
    • Remove Current Photo — does what it says
    • Take Photo — opens the Camera app so you can take a photo and set it as your display image
    • Choose from Library — opens the Gallery app so you can choose a photo to set as display image
    • Import from Facebook/Twitter — fetches your Facebook/Twitter profile photo and sets it as your Instagram profile photo

Changing user data, password, etc.

  1. From the Home tab, tap on the Profile button to open your profile.
  2. Tap on the Edit your profile link.
  3. On the Edit Profile page, you can edit the various text fields for the following:
    • Display name — The name shown on your profile page
    • Login name — The username that you use for logging in
    • Website — Your website; this is optional.
    • Bio / description — Short self-description
    • Email — Email address associated with your Instagram account.
    • Phone number — Your telephone number; this is optional.
    • Sex — Your biological sex; this is optional.
  4. If you need to change your password, you can also do so on the Edit Profile page.  Just tap the Change Password option, type in your current password, enter a new password, retype your new password to confirm, and then tap Save.

Hiding photos from non-friends

If you don’t want strangers to snoop around your photos, you can set your photos to private.  When Photo Privacy is enabled, new followers will need to be authorized by you before they can follow you and view your photos.  Here’s how to set your photos to private:

  1. Go to the Profile tab.
  2. Tap the Options button (three square dots) to open the Options page.
  3. Tap Photo Privacy.
  4. Toggle the check mark for “Photos are private.”

Your photos will now be visible only to people whom you authorize to follow you. The next time someone wants to follow you, you will be prompted to grant her or him approval.


Clearing search history

Earlier versions of Instagram for Android didn’t have a dedicated option for clearing
search history.  But, this important function arrived a few updates ago.   In the past, you’d have to log out and then back in just to clear your search history.  But, in recent versions, you’d only need to go to your Profile page, tap the
Options button, and select Clear Search History from the menu. Next time you use the search function, you won’t
see a list of your previously searched usernames or tags.

Logging Out of Instagram

Instagram newbies realize that the log out button is not very accessible but not hard to access either.  You won’t find it on the Home tab.  It’s neatly tucked away in the Options menu on the Profile tab.


To log out of Instagram, open the Profile tab.  Tap the Options button (three dots).  Tap Log Out from the menu.  Confirm that you want to log out.

Video Tutorial

Watch our video tutorial about how to use Instagram for Android:


Instagram is easy to use and easy to love because of its simplicity and function. After setting up an Instagram account and sharing your very first photo, you may find yourself using the app more often than not, especially when you have a lot of friends who also use the app. The charm of Instagram lies in its simplicity and its ability to make photo sharing more interesting and fun than it already is.

What’s your say? Does Instagram tickle your fancy and nudge the inner photographer in you? What filter is your favorite? Let us know your experiences with this most talked about and most preferred photo sharing and social networking app in Android by leaving a comment below.