Instagram Stories: Tips for using Instagram's photo story feature

Instagram's Snapchat-like feature lets you create photo sequences that expire after a day.

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Instagram added a feature on August 2 called Stories. Instead of posting carefully chosen photos, Stories lets you post a bunch of photos throughout the day. And at the end of that day, those photos disappear.

Sound familiar?

That's because it's very, very much like Snapchat's My Story feature. Only with fewer filters and lenses (at least for now). Here's how it works.

Making your stories is a lot like Snapchat

Stories are temporary videos or photos that are strung together to form a gallery that, well, tells a story.

Here's how to create one:

  1. Tap on the plus button found on the top-left side of your home screen or swipe left in your Feed. You can also quickly launch Stories by swiping right from the main screen.
  2. Tap the circle button at the bottom of the screen to take photos or tap and hold to record a video.
  3. Edit the photos or videos with text or add a drawing as you normally would. If you hit the pen icon, there are three types of pens. The third one makes your sketch look like a neon sign.
  4. Tap Done to save your Story.
  5. Tap the check-mark button to share to your Story.
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Click the check mark to add a photo to your Story.

Photo by Sharon Profis/CNET

Want to add more than one photo or video to your story so that it plays like a slideshow? Just keep repeating the steps. Each photo you add using the steps will be placed in your story.

While you're at it, why not use your saved snaps from Snapchat as Stories? After you take a snap, tap the Download button. It will save to your camera roll. Then, open Instagram, start a story and swipe down. A gallery with all of your recent photos will pop up. Tap on your snap and post as usual. You can only use photos that you've added to your camera roll in the last 24 hours, so be quick.

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You can upload recent snaps to your Stories.

Photo by Alina Bradford/CNET

The photos and video you chose for your Story will now be a series that people can swipe through for 24 hours. A colorful circle will appear around your profile photo to let your followers know you have a Story for them to view and your profile picture will also pop up at the top of your followers' Feeds. All they need to do is tap on your face to see your Story.

If you have a habit of adding things to your social media accounts that you later regret, good news! Stories can be removed. Tap on the three dots at the bottom right of the photo or video you'd like to delete, hit Delete and then confirm.

You can upload photos, Boomerangs and Hyperlapses, too

Any photo you've shot (or Boomerang you've made) in the last 24 hours can be uploaded to your Story. To upload, swipe down on the screen and choose your videos or photos. You can also choose Hyperlapse content for your Stories, as well.

Make Boomerangs

No need to go elsewhere to make Boomerangs. It's now available in your Stories. Boomerangs are fun, short videos that play forward and backward.

To start a Boomerang, swipe right from your feed. This will take you to the Stories camera. Under the record button you will find Boomerang mode. Select it and tap record to shoot a short burst of photos.

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Boomerang mode.

Photo by Alina Bradford/CNET

Look, no hands

No need to press and hold to make a video. The Hands-Free option in the format picker lets you record a video without, well, hands.

Go live, baby!

You can make live videos in your Stories, too. It works a lot like Facebook's live video feature. Just open your Stories camera and select the Live option. A Live tag will pop up on your Instagram Stories bubble to alert your followers and Instagram will also notify some of your followers that you're live.

And yes, there are filters!

Well, not like the puppy face you know from Snapchat. Or the rainbow barf. But there is a way to add filters. After shooting a photo or video, swipe across it and add a filter. There are seven filters right now, but we expect Instagram to add more soon.

Customize with stickers

After you've taken a photo or video, you'll find a stickers button next to the text and drawing tools. Tap the smiley face icon and you will be able to jazz up your Story with customizable stickers for weather, the current time and location. There's also holiday stickers for a few weeks during various holidays. Once you add a sticker, you can add another, move it around and resize the sticker.

Add colorful text

Black text just doesn't convey your range of colorful emotions sometimes. To add color to your text simply tap on the text icon in the upper right side of the screen and tap on your color of choice. If the colors just aren't right, don't despair. Just swipe left on the color palette to reveal more color options.

Fill in everything with color

Don't want to share a photo and just need a canvas for drawings or text? Take a photo of whatever, then go to the drawing tool. Choose your color, then place your finger on the photo. Hold it there. The color will slowly fill up the screen until the whole photo is covered.

Add stripes and polka dots for more photo fun

Tap on the Drawing Tool, tap on the pointed marker at the top of the screen, choose your color and tap on the three-dots button on the bottom left side of the screen. Toggle the line that appears toward the top of the screen. This will make your marker huge. Now to make polka dots, just tap your finger on the photo wherever you want them to appear. Hold your finger on the screen to make an even bigger dot.

To make stripes, go through the same steps, but choose the angled marker instead of the pointed marker. Then just tap the screen. Perfect little stripes will appear on your photo.

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Add a little color to your Stories.

Photo by Alina Bradford/CNET

Add thought bubbles

Some Instagrammers are using the polka dots trick to make thought bubbles on their photos. You can do this by creating a large polka dot above the person in the photo and then creating several smaller dots that trail down below the thought bubble. You can fill in the thought bubble using emojis or text.

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Thought bubbles make you the star of your own comic book.

Photo by Alina Bradford/CNET

Tag somebody!

When adding text to a Story, all you have to do is include the @ symbol followed by the username and that person will be tagged in your Story. The tag is a live link to the person's profile and you can tag up to 10 people.

When you tag someone, they're alerted in Instagram Direct, so it's a great way to let friends know about your Stories. If you mention someone that doesn't follow you, though, a notification will appear in their message requests.

Flipping through Stories is pretty easy

Navigating through Stories is super easy. While browsing the Stories of your friends, swipe right to go to the previous one, left to go to the next one and tap to skip a photo or video.

If you want to linger on one photo, you can pause a story by tapping and holding your finger on the photo. To start the story again, just lift your finger. This also works for video. If you hold your finger too long on a video it will stay paused, even when you lift your finger. To start the video again slide your finger back and forth in short strokes across the screen.

Mute Stories from specific people

If you cringe every time you see a certain someone's Story in the lineup, you can mute them. Simply tap and hold on that person's Story icon when it appears in your Story lineup. A window will pop up that will give you the option to mute this person's stories.

Muting doesn't hide the Story totally. It just moves it to the last of the lineup and it won't automatically open while you're playing Stories. You'll need to manually unmute the person to get their stories back in the normal mix. Just tap and hold on their Story icon and tap the unmute option.

There's a way to hide Stories from frenemies

You can choose who gets to see your Stories and who doesn't. Want to prevent your mom from seeing that epic Friday night out, for example? Go to your profile and tap the sun symbol (on iOS) or the three dots (Android) in the top right of the screen. Choose Story Settings from the menu and then tap on Hide My Story From. Select your mother from the list and tap Done. Mom will still be able to see your posts and profile, but won't see that Story.

You can't comment on Stories, but you can message

You can send a message to your friend directly from that person's Story. At the bottom left-hand corner of the screen you'll see Send Message. Tap on it and type out what you would like to say and hit Send. This only works for people who have comments enabled, though.

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Let your friends know what you think about their Stories.

Photo by Alina Bradford/CNET

Keep those haters at bay

You can prevent certain people from commenting on your Story, too. Go to your profile and tap the sun symbol (on iOS) or the three dots (Android) in the top right of the screen. In Story Settings, select an option from the list. You can choose Everyone, which will let everyone comment, People You Follow to let just those you follow comment and Off to prevent anyone from commenting.

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You can hide Instagram Stories and choose who can comment on them.

Photo by Sharon Profis/CNET

Save your Stories forever

If you've become attached to your Story and don't want it to disappear forever, you can download it to your phone. Open your Story and tap on the three dots on the bottom right of the photo or video. Then tap Save Photo.

You can easily save your Stories to your camera roll, automatically, too. Go to your profile screen, tap the menu, then tap Story Settings under the Account heading. Under the Camera heading, slide the Always Save Photos and Videos option on. You can also tap on the gear icon while you are on the Story screen and slide the Always Save Photos and Videos option. Now every time you create a Story, the videos and images will be automatically saved to your camera roll on your phone. On iOS, you can even save your entire story to your camera roll as a single video.

Or post them as regular photos

If you decide you want everyone to see your photos or videos more permanently, you can add them to your profile grid.

Simply open your Story, tap the three dots at the bottom right of the photo or video and tap Share as Post. You can then add filters, captions and locations to jazz it up a little. Once you're done, tap Share.

The photo or video will appear in your profile grid. Just beware, whoever can see your profile grid will be able to see the photo or video. It will no longer have special protections that you can add to Stories.

See who's looking at your Instagram Stories.

Photo by Sharon Profis/CNET

See who's checking out your Story

Curious to see who's looking at your story? Open your story and swipe up on the screen. At the bottom of the screen will be a view counter and the names of the people who viewed it. Shy about your numbers? Don't be. Only you can see this information.

If there's someone viewing your Story and you decide you don't want that person to see it, just tap the three dots beside the person's name and select Hide Story From [username].

See More links

Verified accounts now have "See More" links at the bottoms of their Stories. To open the link, swipe up and view it with Instagram's built-in browser. As of right now, the feature is just being tested with verified accounts. There's no word yet if this feature will become available for everyone else.

How your Story feed is ordered

Day in and day out, you may see the same people at the front of your Stories feed. How the feed is ordered depends on a few factors. One thing, as mentioned above, is muting. If you mute a person, their Stories get moved to the last of the feed. They will stay there until they are unmuted. This brings others to the forefront.

Another factor is Instagram itself. Instagram has a system that tries to predict what you would like to see, then present it first. Out of the people you follow -- and that Instagram thinks you want to see -- the Stories are ordered by time. Whoever has posted most recently will be first in the feed.

If Instagram is wrong about its predictions, you may find that you're missing out on certain Stories. From what I have found, there's no way to customize your Stories feed, yet anyway.

That's it -- for now

If you remember the first version of Snapchat Stories, it didn't have all the crazy stickers, geofilters and lenses you're so used to today. Unless Instagram chooses to stick with a minimalist approach, expect more features to be added later on.

Editors' note, December 20: This story was first published on August 2, 2016 and is updated when new Stories features are released.

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