Our current obsession with visual communication and taking snaps of anything and everything with our smartphones has skyrocketed Instagram's popularity over the past 12 months. So addicted are we to updating our own feeds with pictures of our feet, our food, our friends, our books and our surroundings, that Instagram has become a solid fixture in our daily lives.
But there's more to Instagram than just taking photos and giving them a cool retro filter. There are other ways to play with the social photo-sharing site. I've put together the following list to help you make the most of Instagram. As always, if I've missed anything, please feel free to add your own suggestions by commenting below…
View your stream online
Let's face it! Instagram doesn't have the best navigational structure, not if you want to quickly view and flick through all your photos. That's why all sorts of online services have popped up to help you view your stream online… And even better, share it with friends.
Statigr.am: This platform allows you to manage your Instagram account online. It has lots of features such as a search tool and photo hosting. But the best free service is its Instagram Web Viewer, allowing you to host and share all of your Instagram pics, quickly and easily.
Instagre.at: This service lets you view your streams as well as the pictures you've 'liked'. A very simple platform and one that's free.
Instagrid: This offers a clean web gallery for your Instagram photos, so you can view and share your photos on the Internet. Does exactly what it says on the tin.
Extragram: Extragram is a clean-looking app for browsing your own photos, those of the people you follow as well as popular snaps on Instagram. There's different viewing modes to choose from, including grid, filmstrip and map options. There's also a handy 'discover' option that lets you discover 'Hot Tags' and 'Photos Near You'.
Inkstagram: Similar to Extragram, this gives you a browser-friendly way to view your Instagram pics, all in a clean grid-like layout.
Print your pictures
When something becomes popular like Instagram, you can bet all sorts of businesses see an opportunity to make money and come up with products and services to compliment that trend. In this case, you can turn your photos into just about anything you want - from postcards and magnets to stickers and books. Here are some examples of where you can get things printed.
StickyGram: This service allows you to turn your Instagram pics into magnets, making a cool promotional product to send out to your clients, or just a nice gift to someone.
Postagram: As you'd expect, this service allows you to turn Instagram pics into postcards, all from a clever app on your iPhone or Android smartphone. No need to find a stamp from a local shop next time you're on holiday - everything is printed and posted with one click.
Instagoodies: Fancy turning your Instagram pics into stickers? This service gives you 22mm square stickable photos all placed in a book. Starting from $14, it's a great way to show off your photos.
ArtFlakes: This website offers 4"x4" giant stickers of your Instagram snaps. All available to order online.
Blurb: Fancy making a book out of your Instagram photos? Blurb is just for you. It's easy to get started and you can choose from various prices and options.
Find photos by location
Sometimes it's interesting to search for Instagram photos by their geographical location, especially if you're at a festival or event. Or perhaps you want to see real-time photos from a holiday destination you're planning to visit. Here are some great services…
Instabam: The most obvious choice is Instabam - a service that allows you to search for photos 'near you', i.e. near a certain location. This actually works best on smartphones as they can easily detect your current location.
Cartagram: This service shows popular public photos from Instagram arranged on a nicely designed map. Type in any location and Cartagram will display them geographically.
View Instagram snaps on your iPad
Sometimes, wouldn't it be nice if you could view all your Instagram pictures on your iPad? Well now you can thanks to the following services that bring your photos to life.
Instagallery: Available to buy from the iTunes store, this app allows you to browse Instagram photos in style on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. And thanks to a recent update, you can also share your snaps with friends and family.
Flipboard: An app that's been around for a while, Flipboard works perfectly to draw in feeds from Instagram and allow you to see your own photographs in a viewable stream.
Pinstagram: Another app that allows you to enjoy viewing your Instagram feed and also share it with others. A free service, Pinstagram lets you view your feed, popular photos, and more.
Search via keywords
Instagram has its own 'search' facility where you can type in keywords based on Instagram snaps that people have hash-tagged. But there are some other online services you can use as well.
Webstagram: Put any keyword into this free website and it will display the image results for snaps tagged with that keyword. It will also show you the top tag search results for your chosen keyword, giving you variations to browse.
Search.Stagram: Another free service that lets you find photos tagged with certain keywords. Known as a 'search engine for Instagram pictures', it also shows you related tags.
Statigram: Mentioned previously as a good source for browsing Instagram pics online, Statigram also has a nice search facility where you can find photos by username or tag.
Fun things to do
Now we've got all the practical stuff out of the way, let's tell you about some fun apps and services you can access with Instagram. From cat pictures to interesting things you can use, here are some suggestions…
Instacat: Love cats? You'll love this online service that simply shows a real-time feed of cats. Public pictures taken across the globe of our feline friends. But if you don't like cats, you can change the stream to anything you like using their search tool.
InstaKitty: Still can't get enough of cats? InstaKitty shows you the latest tagged Instagram photos of… yes, you've guessed it - kittens. Simply click 'play' to view a slideshow, or manually browse through the latest feline snaps. And if you prefer puppies, check out InstaPuppy.
Instawar: Here's a fun tournament-style competition where photos are randomly paired and you choose the better ones as you browse. Combine interesting image pairs to create diptychs you can share and re-insert throughout the web's image ecosystem. Instawar will then feature top photographers and image pairs.
Instagram on Meetup.com: Fancy meeting people via Instagram? Check out the Instagram Meetups that are happening everywhere on Meetup.com. They're even staging a Worldwide InstaMeet event on Thursday 26 July 2012. Check it out!
Instaprint: Fancy having a location based photo booth for Instagram at your next party or event? You can rent these cool machines from Instaprint who will literally print Instagram pics tagged with your location or specific hashtag. Very cool.
GramJunction: Last but not least, check out GramJunction - something that links Instagram photos to Flickr accounts. Simply put in your Flickr username that you use with Instagram to view your snaps. Cool.