HOW I EDIT MY PHOTOS FOR INSTAGRAM
I want to start this off by saying that I am no Photoshop or photo editing expert. I very much so learn by doing and have really just been playing around with different apps and programs to get the right look and feel that I am after for the photos that I post. Each edit ends up a bit different than the last, and I have no set rhyme or reason for what I do or a theme that I follow.
I have taught myself a lot since the beginning of this Instagram journey and can definitely say photo editing is at the top of the list in terms of life saving Instagram skill sets. I don’t know about you, but even a year and a half into the Instagram game, I still seriously wonder how some of the content creators do it! They make it look like they have a photographer following them around 24/7 and capture the most beautiful photos. Clearly part of the reason they are at the level of content creation they are at, but still… mind blowing.
Now, before you set your expectations too high, let me bring it back to reality for a second. I still have no idea what I’m doing half the time, how to pose, what angle the lighting should be at, or what looks good together. I set up a tripod with my phone, use a timer, and end up with probably 70 terrible photos before I get the one good one to share. I just kinda do, hope for the best, and clean up the colours in post. Which I actually feel is more realistic for anyone looking for everyday editing tips as there is no fancy anything happening here. The best part about all of it is that I shoot and edit everything on my iPhone (sidebar – there are some occasions where I have a photographer for things but majority of what you see is shot on an iphone).
A few tips before we dive in:
1. If you are looking to shoot and capture “the photo”, be prepared to throw all your public insecurity and shame out the window because it can be embarrassing as fuck sometimes, but you just gotta do it to get the shot.
2. Poor lighting makes an iPhone photo very difficult to edit. The more natural light you can get from the start, the better your edit will be. Ie. Outdoor photos usually turn out very well in post vs dark condo photos.
3. Always always wipe the camera on your phone and make sure it is finger print free. You cannot edit out a blurry fingerprint smudge. Making sure you have a clean lens beforehand will give you a much better quality picture.
The two apps I live by are Snapseed and Facetune (and not for body editing). I occasionally use VSCO, but only one feature/filter and honestly hardly ever lately.
1. Tune Image
Purpose: To edit the classic things like brightness, contrast, saturation etc.
How I Use It: I always increase the following: Brightness, contrast, Ambiance, & Highlights. I decrease shadows and I don’t touch Saturation or warmth 99% of the time.
Purpose: To edit the sharpness and structure of the photo
How I Use It: I normally increase both structure & sharpening slighting unless it’s a photo with low quality lighting. In those cases, I decrease the structure as it helps soften the image and remove some of the haze/low quality
Purpose: To change the angle (perspective) of the photo
How I Use It: This one can be tricky and seriously mess up your image if you over edit with it. You can never lengthen one thing without shortening something else so pay attention to that if you use it. I use it to help turn images slightly so they appear more centered when they are a tad off.
Purpose: To expand the edges of the photo
How I Use It: If an images doesn’t properly fit in the Instagram frame/square on my profile (I’m super picky about the overall look and feel on my page), I use this feature to give it a bit more size so it fits when I post it.
Purpose: To selectively change the brightness, saturation, or structure of a specific area of the photo
How I Use It: I use this to brighten specific areas of an image without altering the entire photo. Great for giving the sky a bit more brightness without over brightening the people in the image.
Purpose: To increase or decrease the brightness, exposure saturation or temperature of the image based on where you brush
How I Use It: Be careful with this one. I used to love it and get a little carried away with how I used it. Now I use it to brighten things like walls (more specifically shadows on white walls) or in the sand etc.
Purpose: To place a spotlight on and brighten the face in the image
How I Use It: A great way to draw attention to the faces in an image. I like “Combo One” with a few adjustments to the face spotlight and eye clarity. Be careful not to overdo it as you can look very edited if you do too much with this feature.
Purpose: To remove items from the photo
How I Use It: This is a great tool for removing unwanted people, or items in an image that make the background look messy.
This may seem like a lot to do for one image but it honestly takes 5 min and can dramatically change your photo.
Facetune can sometimes have a bad rap because it mainly used by people to edit their bodies and make them “skinny” (Full disclosure – before I started my fitness journey and learnt to actually love myself, I fully used this app to change my body and all the things I didn’t like about it). BUT, Facetune has a ton of other amazing features in it that I use more often than not to help with colouring an image rather than body editing.
Purpose: To mimic one part of a photo and place it on another
How I Use It: Probably my all-time favourite tool. I use it to remove unwanted items and people when the healing feature in Snapseed doesn’t quite get it right. Think things like outlets or other unwanted background items.
Purpose: To match one colour and place it elsewhere
How I Use It: This is an amazing feature. It allows you to pick a colour and apply it in another place. Great for blending and taking away any harsh highlights that may be in the image.
Purpose: To whiten your teeth
How I Use It: I use this feature to brighten walls, tile, sand etc. and really give the background a nice bright white feel. I find it easier than the brush tool on Snapseed and you get the same effect.
Purpose: To smooth your skin
How I Use it: I use this if the image is really poor quality to help with graininess or if I’m trying to blend something I’ve removed by patching. I don’t often use it to smooth my skin unless the photo is of very low quality. This feature is similar to decreasing the structure in Snapseed but can be area specific.
Purpose: To accentuate details
How I Use It: This is my go to in order to draw attention to something. I mostly use it for products/logos that I am featuring as it helps the item pop in the picture especially when they may be a bit out of focus.
VSCO is more of a pre-set filter based app. From what I know, this is a common app for many bloggers and content creators as it allows them to have that consistent aesthetic/theme when you look at their profile. I tried to stick with it for a bit, but I prefer a page that is full or more real and less curated colour moments. It may look a bit messier but its more me and tbh a lot less time consuming. This app also has a ton of paid options in it but I have never gone down that road.
When I do use VSCO I stick to A5 or A6, I bring it down to about a level 4/5 then increase the exposure and contrast in the selective edit feature. This works most of the time and does wonders for brightening an image.
Now without this feeling overwhelming or having you think I'm a crazy person, let me remind you that I do not use all of these tools on every photo. Some photos don't need as much love as others, but when they do, these steps can be very helpful!