Thembela Makhuba cell phone photographs Instagram Behind the scenes with Thembela Makhuba Images via Instagram @thembela_m

Image via Instagram @thembela_m

Mobile photography: Thembela’s tips to make Insta pop

Journalism graduate Thembela Makhuba shares simple home photography ideas you can take with your cellphone to liven up your Instagram feed.

Thembela Makhuba cell phone photographs Instagram Behind the scenes with Thembela Makhuba Images via Instagram @thembela_m

Image via Instagram @thembela_m

Thembela Makhuba is a journalism graduate who is passionate about both photography and Instagram. She uses her creativity to create studio-styled self portraits. The good news is that she uses basic resources you can find at home.

Makhuba shares the creative process behind conceptualising and executing the vision for each photograph.

You can use some of these ideas to liven up your Instagram account while you are at home.

Lockdown photography challenges

Over lockdown several photography challenges trended on social media. The outside mirror challenge and the newspaper photo challenge were two of these:

  • The “outside mirror challenge” was a TikTok trend of taking mirror selfies outside the house rather than indoors.
  • The newspaper photo challenge used an old newspaper as the background of the picture to provide an aesthetic.

Makhuba’s eye for photography matched with her open mind create aesthetically pleasing photographs. This took the lockdown photography challenges to a whole other level.

Simple props and colours

However, you can do this too. Makhuba uses her iPhone 7 and simple props that you are likely to find around your home.

Her favourite colours to use in photographs and as themes for her Instagram feed are neutrals. Her work therefore features plenty of black, white, brown, cream and nudes.

She also likes warm colours and, for a pop, she goes for bright blues or reds that just stick out.

Here are a few tips the creative has put together.

Use linen as a backdrop

Plain household linen actually makes a good backdrop, says Makhuba. The idea is to use the linen to create a smooth background to highlight the colours in the subject of your picture.

Take a look at the colours of your clothing, shoes or make up that you want to shoot. Makhuba then looks for curtains, duvets, tablecloths or sheets whose colour or pattern will accentuate these.

Blankets, for example, create a smooth yet matt studio-styled background like this:

Curtains also create a smooth background that gives you professional looking photographs. Makhuba generally opts for curtains that will give her dark backgrounds. This allows the subject to stand out:

You can also manipulate the light by shooting underneath a sheet, as she shows in this portrait:

Thembela Makhuba cell phone photographs Instagram Behind the scenes with Thembela Makhuba Images via Instagram @thembela_m
Behind the scenes (right) shows the work that goes into the image (left) of Thembela Makhuba

Make cardboard cutouts

Makhuba creates her own cardboard cutouts to use as props for her shoots. She has different sizes for different shot types. She uses a 4×4 cardboard cutout for tighter shots.

Pair colours

Makhuba also uses towels. Here she matched colours of a towel with a lollipop for her vision. She created a 1950s African royalty theme. The green tones bring a pop of colour and enhances the focus.

She suggests going for a colour theme to create this type of shot:

View this post on Instagram

Two more green pictures, hang in there ?

A post shared by Thembela Makhuba (@thembela_m) on

Let the light in

Makhuba suggests taking pictures at midday as the sun is at its brightest so it hits you directly and will give a strong contrast to your face.

However,  she suggests it is better to take selfies with natural light indoors at this time. The idea is to provide a pathway for the light to travel. It’s therefore a good idea to have a solid background indoors. This works better than outside where everything is light.

Nature adds depth

Nature, in the form of plants, trees and greenery, always adds depth to your photographs. So too do the sky and the ocean. However, if there are plants in the frame, make sure they compliment both the subject and the backgrounds.