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How to create, share and maximize photos on Instagram from the Photo Detective
The photo-sharing app Instagram can be used for family history. - photo by Megan Hulse
Social media is a popular method of interacting with friends and family, and according to Maureen Taylor, also known as the Photo Detective for her work to identify people and places in old photos, image-sharing sites like Instagram are also popular with genealogists.

Instagram is fun, she said at RootsTech on Feb. 10 at the Salt Palace. It is the perfect place to create something out of your genealogy research, share it with the world and maximize your content to make new connections.

Taylor shared several tips on how to create, share and maximize photos into a powerful story using the Instagram app.


Pictures are extremely important in family history, because every picture represents a story, she said.

First, watch dimensions, she said.

Since Instagram requires images to be in a square format, Taylor suggested a couple of websites to help resize images so that no part is cropped out, including, which help alter pictures to fit Instagram, and, where users can apply custom dimensions to their photos to avoid distortion.

I like to use a background as well, to eliminate white space on my feed, Taylor said.

Next, use the editing tools available in Instagram.

Angle adjust: If a photograph was scanned crooked, it can be straightened in Instagram.

Filters: Images can be altered with filters in order to make certain details more visible if a picture is too dark to see properly.

Brighten: If a filter doesnt do the trick, the brighten tool can help bring faces to light. The contrast tool can also be experimented with to help eliminate shadows.

Warmth: The warmth tool helps edit the color saturations within an image.

Sharpen: The sharpen tool can help fix blurry images.

Sharpen is a great tool for fuzzy old photographs, Taylor said.

Use other features, such as Instagram Stories.

You can share your discovery process through Instagram Stories, Taylor said.

Images that have been taken in a single day of research can be shared with the story feature on the app, she said. Selections can be edited and put into collages, and videos of the research going through old photographs can be shown.


Taylor said that she loves Instagram because it helps her show off her work.

However, it's important to honor copyright and ethical practice codes online, she said.

There are licensing issues, and you never know where your image could end up, Taylor said. It may end up on a site you don't want it posted on or, the nightmare of the genealogist, it may even be reposted to the wrong person's family tree.

Before sharing on Instagram, Taylor said to consider the following questions: Did a family member give permission to post the image online? Was the image copied online? If so, are you sure the information is accurate? Is the image copyrighted?

These considerations can help avoid licensing issues, said Taylor. Do not right-click and copy other peoples images. Always ask for permission if you didnt find the photo yourself.

Always attribute images, and use repost apps when necessary, she said.

The Repost for Instagram app allows users to share an image from another profile and attribute the original creator. With these apps, the attributions are automatically included, and make sure that the original post can be found.

To protect images that a researcher posts, post images at the right resolution to ensure the quality and validity of the image and watermark photos, she said.

If you take a sheet of writing paper and hold it up to the light, youll see a design in the paper, Taylor said. That is a watermark.

Taylor said that watermarking is a great way to keep the credit for images online and recommended to create custom markings for Instagram posts.

When creating a watermark, Taylor said Instagram users should keep it simple, such as using a nice font, and make the watermark small.

The photo is the most important part, said Taylor. Dont overpower it with your watermark.

Also, include a website or a hashtag, if applicable.

Including identification can help other genealogists find you online, Taylor said.


Instagram can provide genealogists with an instant connection to distant family and potential sources, she said.

Seventy-five percent of Instagrams users are outside of the U.S., Taylor said. You never know who you will be able to find.

To to find an audience, Taylor recommended posting often, which creates more opportunity to be discovered, and pick two platforms based on who is targeted by the material distributed.

My favorites are Facebook and Instagram, said Taylor.

Posts from Instagram can be shared directly to Facebook, Twitter and any other major social media sites.

Also, use hashtags as descriptors and keywords, she said.

Hashtags are the best way to connect with potential family and sources, Taylor said. Hashtags are tags that can be added to photos to categorize them within Instagram.

For hashtags, ideally include ones that are #surname #dateofphoto and #place. Also, be specific use specific names, places and objects, she said.

One-word tags are ideal, if possible, and hashtags do not work properly with spaces in them, she said.

One can find more general terms by browsing other Instagram accounts, Taylor said. However, since genealogy is fairly general on its own, family names and places are better for connections.

Use no more than 10-15 hashtags per post, she recommended.

Capitalize on holidays and trending themes, she said, as these can optimize posts to reach more people.

Also, tag known family members or other relevant people, she said.

Once a family history researcher finds family members online, Taylor said that the best way to share photos and information about them is to tag them in posts. When tagged, they will receive a direct notification.