Photographer Mario Testino's Advice for Taking Awesome Instagram Photos

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Find out the secrets behind the famous lensman's Instagram feed, now 1 million strong.

He’s shot Vogue covers, iconic portraits of Princess Diana and signature ad campaigns for Estee Lauder. But between setups, 60-year-old Peruvian-born photographer Mario Testino — possibly the greatest fashion shooter alive — puts down his $10,000 cameras and starts taking pictures with his cellphone.

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“If I post a picture, it has to feel right to me,” he tells THR of his Instagram account, which has attracted 1 million followers. “I wouldn’t post just for the sake of it.”

And it’s not always fashion models, movie stars or Rihanna (above) who end up on Testino’s Instagram feed. It's a fascinating mix that caught our eye, and we just had to catch the famous photog for a quick dish session on Instagram and why it's having such an impact on his life and work.

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The Hollywood Reporter: What’s your advice for taking eye-catching Instagram photos and, now, videos?

Mario Testino For me, it’s all about capturing the moment. One always has to have their eyes open and their camera ready. I also like to have fun with the person I am taking a photograph of, so what I’m really capturing is that moment between us, and the camera is not a barrier between that shared moment.

What's most important to you when you're taking a photo? Is it the lighting, composition, etc.?

Again, it’s about that moment. It can be anything, though. Recently, when I was leaving London early one morning to catch a flight to L.A., there was this most magical sky with this incredible light. So beautiful. I photographed it and shared it because for me, I really felt it was something special that I was lucky to see and others might enjoy. A few minutes later it had changed. I guess, moreover than any technical aspect, it has to feel personal and authentic, regardless of what it is.

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As for captions — you write them both in English and Spanish. Why is it important for you to include both languages, and how do you think that’s helped you grow your followers?

One of the wonders of Instagram is that your images can reach anyone anywhere in the world. I’m Peruvian, so it’s important for me to write in both languages. Almost half of my followers are Spanish-speaking, and it’s a little more work for me, but they appreciate it. They tell me so in the comments. Communication is key.


A video posted by MARIO TESTINO (@mariotestino) on

So you recently hit 1 million followers — congrats! What advice would you give people trying to build their own followings?

Keep your eyes open, keep engaged and stay true to your own vision. Don’t feel limited by what rules there may be — make your own rules.

Lastly, what’s one of your all-time favorite photos you’ve posted on Instagram and why?

Oh! That’s not possible to say. I’m blessed that I have experienced so many great times and had such wonderful access that I couldn’t pick one image over another, as they all mean something different to me. I haven't taken my best photo yet …


A photo posted by MARIO TESTINO (@mariotestino) on