One of my most asked questions on Instagram is how do I edit my photos. I wrote a full post on this a long time ago and as any hobby develops with experience, changes in style and skill the way I edit mine has completely changed. I will get round to a more detailed post on this at some point, but when I’m answering this question there are some things that are really quick and easy that anyone can do with just a smartphone, so here’s some quick Instagram photo edits you can make to improve any photo.
‘You don’t take a photograph. You make it.’– Ansel Adams
I am by no means a professional photographer, but I take a lot of photos. Most of the time it’s on the go snaps that I edit later so I don’t take a great deal of time actually taking them – which definitely isn’t good advice for anyone, but I spend more time on the edits afterwards. For the past two years all of my photos on Instagram and this blog have been taken on my iPhone.
These are the instagram photo edits I do every time as a general rule, and are the first things I look at before I get into more detailed technical edits. I always use Lightroom now, having gone through phases of using VSCO, iPhone tools and Photoshop, Lightroom is just the most advanced and easy to use for me. Most of these edits can however be done on normal iPhone edits. You’ll notice from the photos that most of the changes I make are actually very small.
Just a note that these tips won’t include Presets. I don’t use many presets, I play around a lot with colours and more technical edits to find and save my own presets, maybe one day I’ll release some. So this is just some of the basic things anyone can do whether you have a Lightroom subscription or not.
Looking at wonky photos just irritates me, and it skews the photo completely. Look at any natural lines in your photo such as doorways or windows, and use the straighten tool to fix it. Some photos are taken this way on purpose obviously, usually to get more subject in but this is a general rule for normal photos.
Consider composition when you’re taking it to get it as straight as possible to start with, but then edit to make sure. Most phones now even have the option to add the grid lines as you’re taking a photo if this helps you. This is the area I have the most trouble with as I’m short and honestly every photo I take needs straightening.
Playing With Light For Your Instagram Photo Edits
99.9% of the time I will increase exposure, even if it’s just a tiny amount to make the photo brighter. Good lighting is everything but so many of my photos are taken where I don’t have control of the light. I take them of places or outside rather than in controlled settings like flat lays or product photography.
I find that increasing the exposure brightens the photo, just make sure you don’t go too far and lose the detail or over expose. In very rare circumstances I decrease the exposure if it brings back some of the detail.
I slightly increase the contrast on most photos, but again not enough that it starts to look unnatural. Sometimes it’s barely noticeable but I always do it a bit.
If a photo is a bit dark I decrease the shadows ever so slightly, but only a tiny amount.
I think it’s really important to look at what you take photos of and play around to see what colour edits work best for your photos. Don’t make the mistake of liking someone else’s photos and trying to get the same results if what you take photos of and how you take them isn’t similar. Edits that work for scenic places don’t work for people, for example. Most of my photos are taken outside so similar blue sky colours, and building colours are always present.
And that is the issue with presets. Presets often work on specific tones, colours and subjects, which is why the presets look so good especially themed ones, but then some people expect their photos to then look a certain way even if they’re completely different just by using a preset. It doesn’t work like that at all and I would really encourage you to not spend a lot of money on presets without spending more time playing around on edits first to find out what works for you.
I’m not going to go into individual colour mix edits here as it really does vary from one photo to the next, but you can adjust the intensity of each colour in an image if you wish.
Over the years I have drastically changed how I use colour. I went through a phrase of really wanting bright pop out colours, but I outgrew it as my photos didn’t look real anymore. I also went through a really cool tone phase, where I preferred white light to yellow light and this also changed over time.
As I changed from bright, cool tone photos to more realistic but slightly textured images, I noticed my stand out colours are blues – usually turquoise rather than deep or cold blue, and orange. I would never have expected this back in the day but I just find they suit the photos I take.
I often increase the temperature or warmth slightly now if the original photo has more blue in it (see below), or the other way round if it has more yellow or orange in it. What I do try to do though is avoid green entirely. I hate it and really struggle with any edits on photos with green in.
I always increase the vibrance, and if you don’t use Lightroom and use iPhone edit tools on their own the Brilliance tool is very similar. It makes photos ‘pop’ without being over the top.
The two I use in this category are Clarity and Dehaze. I increase Clarity but not to the point where it goes grainy, and I only dehaze very slightly if it’s needed.
I also increase ‘Sharpening’ but again not to the point where it becomes grainy or too detailed.
I’m aware this is very basic and there are so many more edits to play around with than I’ve mentioned here. It completely varies from photo to photo, and the desired outcome of the image. If you take really dark moody photos then these definitely won’t be for you, but as a rule these are my go to Instagram photo edits that I will always make regardless of the photo.
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