Follow my easy, step-by-step guide to Instagram editing and turn your basic camera phone shots into swoon-worthy photos you’ll love. In this post I will share with you all my secrets to improving your photos right in the Instagram app itself . So there’s no need to buy a digital camera or spend extra on fancy editing apps. Make the most of your camera phone with these easy tips. Here is a step-by-step guide to creating your own swoon-worthy photos in Instagram.
We all want to achieve swoon-worthy photos, but how? Even if you don’t have (or have decided to forgo using a digital camera) beautiful photos are within reach if you follow this easy tutorial. I’ve been taking pictures with my Samsung Note 5 phone and posting on Instagram for over 2 years. If you really want to see the difference editing can make take a quick look back at some of my early pics and you’ll notice the difference right away. The lighting is all off. They appear dark, or yellow, or faded with too much light.
Before…..and After IG editing. I cropped the original pic to focus in more on the bed and specifically the details of the throw and the pompoms. I brightened just enough and used highlights to add to the drama of this pic. Finally, I added a bit of structure to increase the crispness and bring back some of the shadows.
Step-by-Step Guide to Create Swoon-Worthy Photos in IG
Firstly, you need to decide if the picture looks best horizontal in the “wide” mode, in the regular “square” or the longer vertical option. To help you decide try it different ways and see what your first impression is. IG is all about grabbing attention so try to decide what your subject is.
- Are the space and details of the room important to the pic?
- Do they add a lot?
- Or are they just distracting and therefore detracting from your subject?
- Sometimes a close up can pack a powerful punch if the details are important.
Once you decide then you crop it. After your photo is cropped hit “Next” and you will have a choice, “Filter” or “Edit.” Choose “Edit.
The first step I take in the edit mode is to align my picture. Basically you want your picture to be straight. Sometimes it’s hard to tell until you get into this mode and as soon as you start moving the alignment the grid lines will appear. Use these as your guide. If you took your shot on an angle this can get a little tricky. What I suggest is using the lines of your walls, or your table or couch (depending on your subject) and make sure these are lined up.
Some people choose to take purposefully crooked photos. Hmmm, how do I put this nicely? Julie and I think it makes pictures look “juvenile”. Ask yourself, have you ever see magazines take pictures like this, and you’ll have your answer. If you want your pictures to look professional and be taken seriously we don’t recommend it. Our goal is swoon-worthy photos, so let’s leave the crooked photos for the teenagers who are just having fun.
This is a really useful editing tool, especially since the one limitation in using a non-digital camera is the inability to control the amount of light. If you shoot your photos in bright natural light they can often come out blurry or fuzzy. So, the best solution to get those beautiful “Light and Bright” photos you see on IG is to take your pictures in moderate, indirect light and then brighten them up using this editing tool.
A word of caution. In all out pursuit of swoon-worthy photos, be careful to not go crazy in this brightening mode (like I used to.) Over-brightening was one of my first editing mistakes. If you watch closely what it does to your picture you will see that at a certain point you start to sacrifice clarity/crispness and color. I will talk about ways to balance these later, but you want to tread lightly with adding brightness. You can always adjust a bit and come back later.
This is similar to “Brightness” but instead of bringing up ALL the light in the picture it only brightens the whites and accents the areas where light is coming from. It has a way of adding sparkle to a pic because it will increase reflections from glass or anything that is reflecting light. You will want to play with this and how it balances with “Brightness.” Depending on the amount of contrast you want to have, while brightness decreases contrast, highlight increases it. These are both useful tools in achieving the “Light and Bright” goal.
This is a good example of how adjusting the warmth (decreasing), increasing brightness, increasing highlights, and adding a bit of contrast and/or sharpness back in can really enhance the natural beauty found in these tulips.
If all this editing has you confused at any point and you find yourself looking at the edited version and wondering if you are actually improving the pic or maybe even making it worse, just tap the pic at any time to take a quick peak back at the original. You can start over at any point by hitting the back arrow and selecting “Discard.” No harm done. Just start over.
I often do several “takes” with this whole editing process because I like to compare and contrast. You can use the “save draft” function and create several versions so you can take your time deciding before you finally decide to SHARE.
This is a fun editing tool that I only figured out recently. If your pic has become washed out because of the amount of light (either edited or natural) you can use this function to create dimension or to give “structure” to the objects. It adds both highlights AND low-lights to the edges of objects. Structure is a bit more subtle than the “contrast” function and similar to but a little more dramatic than the “shadows” function.
More Editing Tools to Create Swoon-Worthy Photos
- Contrast: This tool is useful if your picture is looking a little washed out. As I mentioned above, it is similar to Structure in that it adds sharpness to the edges of object but comparatively is a bit sharper/more intense.
- Sharpen: This is supposed to add to the clarity of a picture. I just don’t find that it makes much of a noticeable difference unless all you need is a very subtle crispness. It’s worth playing around with.
- Warmth: Great if you are using indoor (artificial) light that often throws a yellow hue over everything. You can lessen the warmth a bit until your wood tones and whites look less gold/yellow and have more of a neutral tone.
- Saturation: This fades the color a bit. You might want to play with this if you want to create a certain tone or mood that is a little softer. If I have a yellow or brassy tone I sometimes play with decreasing this.
This pic was taken in a “Selective Focus” mode. I deliberately chose to blur the background to concentrate the focus on the vignette in the foreground. Here you can see the before shot looks dull and lifeless. All it took was some editing with my handy “brightness/highlighting/structure” tools to make this into a fresh pretty vignette.
Ready to Create Swoon-Worthy Photos? Take This Quiz
You can use these questions to quiz yourself….or use them to review what you’ve learned from the above editing steps to swoon-worthy photos:
1. If the picture is faded/blurry but I don’t want to decrease the amount of light, what should I do?
- Increase “Contrast.”
- Increase “Structure.”
- or….if you can afford to decrease the light a bit go back to “Brightness” and see if you can decrease the “Brightness” a bit.
2. If the picture is too yellow-y what should I do?
- Decrease the “Warmth” to create a more neutral tone.
- Try decreasing “Saturation” a bit.
3. If the picture becomes too brassy and acid looking, what should I do?
- Decrease the “Highlights.”
- Decrease the “Structure.”
- Or, just start over. Sometimes too much editing just starts to make a picture look fake. Start over and try to keep your edits soft and subtle for best results.
Create Your Own Swoon-Worthy Photos
This is not a complete discussion of all your Instagram editing options. It is simply a review of what I do and what I have found works for me. Sometimes I still dream of getting a “big girl” digital camera, but until then I will continue to perfect my picture taking skills within the perimeters offered by my Samsung. And, I will continue to play around with the editing features within Instagram to create my own swoon-worthy photos (and you should too!) I may not be a professional photographer (yet), but it doesn’t hurt to pretend!!!
If you are debating whether or not to “upgrade” to a digital camera you’ll definitely want to read Julie’s post “Camera Phone vs. Digital Camera: Pros & Cons.” She walks you through a detailed comparison based on ease, time, cost, and value of both so you can make an informed decision and decide method is best for you.
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