5 Tips for Insta-Worthy Pics: Photo Editing

In today’s mini-lesson, we will be talking about Bonus Tip #6: Photo Editing to Enhance Photos and Create a “Signature Look”.

Check out the other mini-lessons here:
5 Tips for Insta-Worthy Pics: [Lighting] [Background] [Angle] [Framing] [Props] [Editing]

We’ve all seen perfect Instagram pics. You know, the ones where the lighting is so bright and crisp, the image quality crystal clear, all the colors just seem to pop! The picture is just so good in every possible way. There’s no way your Insta photos could ever look that good! Well, about that…

I can’t make you and your camera phone a professional photographer overnight, but I can share with you 5 super easy tips that can bring your photography game to the next level. Best of all, every tip is for the blogger on a budget, so you can get stunning photos without breaking the bank!

 

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I know, I know. Everybody’s first reaction to “photo editing” is negative. Photo editing seems to have a bad reputation because of how it can sometimes inaccurately portray the original photo. I promise you I’m not going to encourage you to manipulate your photos to make it look like your Walmart-brand planner on your lap in the car is actually a Louis Vuitton planner sitting on a pile of diamonds. We’re not getting that fancy. 😂 I’m just going to go over some photo-editing basics to help correct some minor lighting issues, as well as using photo editing to create a “signature photography style“.

Really, all you usually need to do is slightly increase the brightness and/or contrast of your photos. Sometimes I’ll do this if I take pictures of my planner, but notice that they came out a little dark or dingy. I could avoid having to do this if I would have taken my photos with better lighting in the first place. To learn more about better lighting, check out the first post in this mini-series.

If you do choose to edit your photos, the key is consistency. Try to use the same filters or adjust the brightness/contrast the same each time so that each of your photos has the same “look”. This can help your photos to stand out among others’ photos, and give your photos a “signature look“. For example, if you always use a filter with a light pink tint to them, people will begin to associate the light pink tint with your photography style.

photo editing difference
The original is on the left, and I increased the brightness and contrast on the right. The result isn’t the “ideal” photo, but it is certainly an improvement! What this photo really needed was better lighting!

Most importantly, I use photo-editing to correct minor lighting issues. When I’m adjusting the brightness and contrast in my photos, my goal is to make my subject appear as it does in person. I’m trying to get the colors to look as “true” as I can. This is important to keep in mind especially if you’re taking pictures for your blog or small business. But if you’re taking planner pics just for fun, there’s nothing wrong with using a light pink tint to all of your pictures to give them a soft, dreamy, feminine vibe.

So, how do you increase the contrast and brightness of your photos? Where do you find filters?

The best part about this lesson is that you don’t have to spend any money on fancy photo-editing software. Your phone most likely already has basic photo-editing capabilities included in your photo-viewing app.

Before I go into the specifics for each device, here are a few general tips:

  • Less is more. Don’t turn up the brightness or contrast too much, as it can make your photos look unnatural. I can’t give you specific “numbers” to use, because each program/app has its own settings. Just play around with the settings to find which levels work best for you.
  • Filters are okay… in moderation. Just like the brightness and contrast settings, you can use filters, but not at full strength. Full-strength filters could result in unnatural-looking photos.
  • Save a copy. I always like to keep the “original” photo, and save any edits I make as a copy. I do this just in case I later realize I don’t like the edited photo, so I can go back and “start over”.

With these basic tips in mind, now I’ll talk about how to edit these settings on your Android and Windows, and Apple devices. When I talk about the built-in Android photo-editor, yours might be a little different since I’m only describing my experience on my Galaxy S5. Similarly, since I don’t own any Apple products, I’ll do my best to walk you through the steps for your Apple device, but I can’t offer any first-hand advice.

Built-In Photo Editor on iPhones

  • Open the Photos app.
  • Tap the photo you wish to edit.
  • At the bottom of the screen, tap the icon that looks like 3 lines with circles on them
  • At the bottom of the screen, tap the icon that looks like a dial with dots around it.
  • At the top of the menu at the bottom of the screen, tap the icon that looks like 3 bullet points with 3 lines.
  • From this menu, choose “Contrast” or “Brightness” and use the slider to adjust your contrast or brightness.

iPhones come with built-in filters, too. To access these:

  • Open the Photos app.
  • Tap the photo you wish to edit.
  • At the bottom of the screen, tap the icon that looks like 3 lines with circles on them
  • At the bottom of the screen, tap the icon that looks like 3 circles.
  • Select your filter and adjust its strength as necessary.

As far as I know, it should be generally the same on your iPad or iTouch, but could be different if you have an older device or iOS. For more detailed instructions about editing photos on your iPhone, iTouch, or iPad, you can check out this Support article from Apple.

Built-In Photo Editor on Android

1
Step 3: Tap on the icon that looks like a photo of mountains with a pencil in front of it.

1. Open the Gallery app

2. Tap the photo you wish to edit.

3. At the top of the screen, tap the icon that looks like a photo of mountains with a pencil in front of it.

4. At the bottom of the screen, tap the icon labeled “Tone” with a paint pallet above it.

5. At the bottom of the screen, choose “Contrast” or “Brightness” and slide your finger to the left or right to adjust the contrast or brightness.

6. When you’re finished, tap the icon at the top of the screen that looks like a floppy disk to save your photo. On my Android phone (the Galaxy S5), my photos edited like this are automatically saved in a folder called “Studio”. If you have a different Android phone, it may save in a different location.

 

4
Step 5: At the bottom of the screen, choose “Contrast” or “Brightness” and slide your finger left or right to adjust as needed.

Android comes with built-in filters, too. To access these:

1. Open the Gallery app

2. Tap the photo you wish to edit.

3.  At the top of the screen, tap the icon that looks like a photo of mountains with a pencil in front of it.

4. At the bottom of the screen, tap the icon labeled “Effect” with a magic wand icon above it.

5. At the bottom of the screen, choose your filter and slide your finger to the left or right to adjust the strength of the filter.

6. When you’re finished, tap the icon at the top of the screen that looks like a floppy disk to save your photo.

Built-In Photo Editor on Windows 8.1

1. Double click the photo you wish to edit to open it in “Photos”

2. Click the photo once to bring up the toolbar at the bottom.

3. In the lower right, click “Edit”.
1A

4. On the left, click “Light”

5. On the right, choose “Brightness” or “Contrast” and adjust each setting as desired.
4A

6. When you’re all finished, be sure to save as a copy! To do this, click the picture once to bring up the menu at the bottom of the screen. From there, choose “Save as Copy”

Windows comes with a couple built-in filters, too. There aren’t very many, but to access these:

1. Double click the photo you wish to edit to open it in “Photos”

2. Click the photo once to bring up the toolbar at the bottom.

3. In the lower right, click “Edit”

4. On the left, click “Auto Fix”

5. On the right, choose your filter.

6. When you’re all finished, be sure to save as a copy! To do this, click the picture once to bring up the menu at the bottom of the screen. From there, choose “Save as Copy”

If you have a different version of Windows, these steps might be a little different for you, but they should be generally the same.

Looking for something a little fancier? Maybe a more powerful program, or an app with more filters? I’ve got you covered! 👍 I’ll talk about 2 of my favorite mobile apps and 2 of my favorite PC/Mac options. The best part is that all of these options are free!

Photo-Editing Mobile Apps

InstagramIG

Instagram is pretty awesome in that it comes pre-loaded with a ton of basic photo-editing features. Instagram’s filters are very easy to access and edit. To access Instagram’s filters, all you need to do is either take a picture with your camera in Instagram, or import a photo from your Gallery. Then you will see a variety of filters you can choose from towards the bottom of your screen. Tap the filter once to select it, tap it a second time to change the strength of the filter. Ta-da!

Did you know that you can edit the brightness and contrast, as well as a number of other settings in Instagram? To do this, import a photo into Instagram and at the bottom of the screen tap “Edit“. From there, tap “Brightness” or “Contrast” and move the little dot to the left or the right to adjust each setting as needed. Super easy, huh?

You can download Instagram free on in the App Store for Apple devices, and in the Google Play Store for Android devices.

Candy Cameracandycam 1

This app is a TON of fun! It has a whole bunch of filters, lens filters, stickers, and other settings to add to your photos. At first, it has so many options it can be a little overwhelming. I recommend opening the app and just playing around with it when you have some free time to get used to it. I like to explore the different filters and sticker bundles when I’m waiting in line at the store!  Anyways, I’m only going to talk about filters and adjusting the brightness and contrast just like I did all the other options.

1. Open the photo you wish to edit in the Candy Camera app.

2. Tap the scissors icon in the bottom toolbar.

3. Tap “Adjust”candycam 3

4. Adjust the brightness and contrast as necessary.

To access the filters, tap the icon that looks like a little roll of film (the second icon from the left). There are so many filters, they’re broken down into 3 categories. One of my favorite things about this app is that you can save your favorite filters by tapping and holding! Find your favorites by navigating to the fourth filter category, a heart symbol.

As fun as this app is, it’s important to mention that it leaves a watermark in the lower right corner of your photo. To be honest, I don’t really want this watermark on my planner pics, so I don’t use this app for any planner pics. But it’s a really fun app for editing selfies! Especially with all the stickers! 💖

You can download Candy Camera free on in the App Store for Apple devices, and in the Google Play Store for Android devices.

Photo-Editing Programs for PC/Mac

GIMP

I’ve been using this program for years. It’s a great free alternative for Photoshop. In the past, it used to be super unstable and crashed all the time. But from my experience using version 2.8.14 since about 2014, it hasn’t crashed once. (However, I recommend you download the most recent version available on their site). Yes, there is a learning curve, but this is a complex program that can do quite a bit. I highly recommend it!

You can find out more about GIMP and download it for free on their website (www.gimp.org).
To adjust the brightness and contrast in GIMP:

1. Open the photo you wish to edit in GIMP

2. Go to Colors > Brightness-Contrast
GIMP 1

3. Adjust the brightness and contrast levels as necessary.
GIMP 2

4. When you’re satisfied with your image, go to File > Export As… and type in a name for your file. You can also change the file type and destination at this screen. Click Export. Another window might pop up with additional options. Review these and adjust as necessary. Then click Export again.

One of my favorite parts is that you can save these Brightness-Contrast settings as a preset! Just click the little plus sign to the right of the “Presets” drop-down menu in the “Brightness-Contrast” pop-up window. Name your preset, and save it!

Gimp also has some filters, but to perfectly honest I never really use these. These filters are more like effects filters than light or color filters, like on the previously mentioned apps and programs.

Canva

 

I only just discovered Canva about 7 months ago, but I totally love it! Canva is not a program you download. It’s a website where you create an account, upload your pictures, and edit your photos right there on the site. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never used Canva to edit my planner pics. Instead, I tend to use Canva to make graphics for social media. It’s suuuuper easy on Canva, especially with all the free templates they offer! Anyways, let’s talk about filters and changing the brightness on Canva.

1. Go to www.canva.com, and create a free account.

2. Once you’ve logged in, Create a New Design, and from the offered image dimensions, choose “Instagram Post”

3. In the toolbar on the left, click on “Uploads”, then “Upload your own images”. Select your planner pic from your computer.

4. After it finishes uploading, click on the thumbnail in the toolbar to open it on your canvas.

5. Click the image on the canvas. A second menu at the top of the screen will appear. From this menu, click “Filter“.

6. Choose from one of the preset filters or adjust the brightness and contrast as needed. One of the coolest things about Canva is that you can copy and paste the Filter Code # so you can quickly apply the same adjustments to your other photos!
canva 2

7. Canva is usually really good about auto-saving, but just to be safe I like to manually save my work once I’m all done. Within the Canva page (and NOT in your browser’s menu), go to “File” and click “Save“.

8. In the topmost Canva toolbar, click the third button from the right, labeled “Download” to save the image to your computer.

Conclusion

Phew, that was a lot of information to take in. If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a little pat on the back. 😊 Just like I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I recommend photo editing to compensate for poor photography skills (primarily lighting issues), and to create a consistent look to your photos. If you use the same filters or brightness-contrast settings in all of your photos, you will create a consistent look or “vibe” to your photos that will help set them apart from others’ photos and make them “uniquely you”!

While there are plenty of other options for editing your photos, these are just a few of my favorites as well as some options that I think might be the most convenient. Which programs or apps do you use to edit your photos?

Feel free to share any questions or comments below! I’d love to hear ’em!

Join us in the Facebook group, to share your photos and chat with others about photography tips and tricks! Don’t forget to follow my blog to be the first to know about the next photography tips!

That’s all for now, sweet friends! I had a lot of fun putting together this mini-series, and I hope that you found it helpful! I’m always happy to answer any questions, and I’m always open to ideas for future tutorials or mini-series. You can let me know in the comments below, or contact me! Thanks for stopping by! 💖

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If you reeeaallly loved my photography tips, consider buying me a cup of coffee to say thanks! ☕💕

Check out the other mini-lessons here:
5 Tips for Insta-Worthy Pics: [Lighting] [Background] [Angle] [Framing] [Props] [Editing]

5 thoughts on “5 Tips for Insta-Worthy Pics: Photo Editing

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