I have no trouble picking out 22-year-old Adrien Radford when he walks into the coffee shop to meet me, stylish and smiling. Before I ask questions, he politely asks if he can take a short video of me setting up my audio recorder, which later ends up on his Instagram’s story. It shouldn’t come as a surprise since he practically lives on Instagram: It’s his full-time job and his 27,000+ followers have expectations. His feed is full of vibrant street shots that are quintessentially DC, like Metro stations, murals, and—most importantly—rowhouses.
If you’re gonna ‘gram the District, this is one of the photos you’ve got to nail. On a recent afternoon, Radford and I walked a particularly colorful stretch of Seaton Street in Adams Morgan as he shared his secrets.
1. Location, location
Go-to spots include Capitol Hill, Logan Circle, Blagden Alley, and Georgetown. “If I had to pick one,” he admits, “It would definitely be Capitol Hill. You just see beautiful houses and it’s so different.”
2. Take your time
Radford goes out for photo expeditions. “Those are the times where I would be like ‘Yup, I’m going to walk around the city for five hours and just take pictures.'”
3. Color is critical
“Color matters. That’s like DC’s aesthetic. If the colors aren’t as popping, I wouldn’t take a picture of it. I also really like green in my photos. So I always try to find something that has at least one bit of green in it… plants, ivy, anything.”
4. Don’t stage anything—don’t even move that trash can
“I love the trash cans. It gives it a more homey feel. It doesn’t look thought out, like I moved things or anything like that. I just took the picture.”
5. You can do everything on your iPhone
“All iPhone, everything on my Instagram is iPhone.” He suggests wiping the lens before taking aim—an obvious reminder that I often forget—and turning on HDR, a setting that bumps up the quality in exchange for more storage space.
6. Use editing apps
“Snapseed is like the best one. No one knows about that, it’s crazy. It’s the best all-around app. It’s all I use.”
Radford relies almost solely on emoji-captions. “I don’t like doing captions,” he explains. “I want people to say how they feel about the photo, or how they think.”