Gwennan Rees

Blogger and Illustrator

How I Edit My Instagram Photos

How I Edit My Instagram Photos

Ok ok so these posts are so over done I know I know but I still like reading them and I still like seeing side by side shots of before and after edited photos - hey what can I say, I'm a basic bitch. (Shout out to Corrie's post over here on why that's ok!)

As much as my Twitter account is taking off (read about that here), my heart lies with Instagram. I have three Insta accounts - yes really - one which is private for my personal life and full of photos of my niece, one is for my blog and one is for my illustration business. 

I am obsessed with Instagram and whilst I'm resisting a theme for the moment (blog post on that coming soon), I do spend a lot of time snapping away, saving 'back up posts' to my camera roll for a dull day and composing the perfect flat lay. 

I'm sure we'd all like to pretend that our lives look Insta worthy all the time but in case it's not, here's how I edit my photos before I press share. 

So first you should consider whether or not your posts actually need editing. Sometimes you might fluke the PERFECT shot which is all in focus and nice and sharp and not too yellow or blue and then you need to think - does this really need editing? I am a fan of over editing for sure (as you're about to see) but even I think sometimes gurl you really need to tone that down. 

If you try and set up a shot or make sure your camera or phone is focused and take photos in natural light and if you have enough brain power left think about composition, you might get away with not having to edit and that my friends is when you can truthfully add the #nofilter tag. 

Secondly it's time to think about your camera. I have a Nikon Bridge camera from about 4/5 years ago that I LOVE and whilst obvs I want an SLR or ideally the Olympus Pen (in rose gold naturally), my trusty old Nikon hasn't let me down so far. I also have a daylight lamp for those grey Welsh weekends plus the standard wooden floors and white marble backgrounds and 73489258 blog photo props so I'd say I'm pretty well stocked to take crisp, well thought out photos.

However, what I actually do is forget to bulk take photos when the weather is nice and end up doing some last minute snapping on my iPhone because shit this post needs to go live in 5 minutes and I haven't taken any photos. 

If this scenario gives you a bit of deja vu, maybe you need to think about the quality of the camera you take photos on. I upgraded from my iPhone 5C to a 6 about a fortnight ago and the camera is so much better and makes such a difference. 

Don't forget, everybody post edits but there's only so much Photoshop can do if you've taken a crappy quality photo in the first place. 

Thirdly, if you are snap happy on your phone, get the grid setting on there. I used to have it up on my iPhone 4 way back in 2012 but for some reason just plain forgot the grid existed in the 9 happy months I spent with my 5c. Luckily when I got the 6 I remembered and now I have the grid on all the time and it just makes composing images so much easier. Remember your rule of thirds from A Level Photography yo. 

Find your grid via;

Settings > Photos & Camera > Grid

It really is that easy but I don't know about you, I always miss the Photo & Camera section and legit had to Google to find the grid. I know, I don't deserve an iPhone. 

Ok so now you've got your camera sorted, your grid on, you've taken your photos in as best natural light as you can muster and you're happy with the composition but accepting that you need a little tweak or two before you upload. 

So I'm just going to throw it out there...I NEVER use the Instagram pre set filters. I think they're fine but they just don't do things quite the way I want but if your photos are pretty solid you might find one of the filters just gives your image that tiny bit of oomph and that be all it needs to be sharing ready. 

Right so the first thing I do is take my photo into the VSCOcam app. It's free to download and it is a bloggers wet dream for photo editing. I haven't come across anyone who when discussing how they edit photos doesn't say they at least do SOMETHING to it in VSCO. 

I am not a massive fan of the pre set filters on VSCO either and can't actually remember a time when I used them but I know a lot of people buy additional filters which they use which they really love and shaves off a good few minutes of manually editing but I am a cheap skate and have yet to invest in purchasing any filters. 

I also know a lot of bloggers ONLY use VSCO to edit and they use it as a way of getting their grid together before they share it to Instagram to see how their new photos look set against their old ones and to make sure it matches their theme. 

Like I say, I am resisting a theme for now at least and so I don't use VSCO for this, I use it as a way to edit and my grid is full of photos I never edited or photos I never uploaded; let's be real, it ain't a pretty grid. 

However, I can absolutely see why some bloggers use it as like a pre trial Instagram and it must be a god send to those who have themes so yeah, if that's you that might be something you want to investigate. 

Like I say, I don't use the pr set filters so I take my image straight into the manual editing (its the little tool icon FYI). So one thing I rarely do is straighten, crop or align my photos. I try and think about the composition of my posts before I take them and the grid certainly helps with that. 

However, if you did think your photo needs a millimetre or two of straightening or you wanted to crop something unsightly out of it, I would absolutely so this first off because you'll have a much better idea of how it is going to look before you start editing.

The first thing I do is up the exposure of 99% of photos I take. No matter the natural sunlight pouring in through the windows, they are almost certainly not quite bright enough and the exposure just inches that up. Don't over do it on exposure though because it does wash the colours out FYI. 

After that I'll move on to contrast which I don't always need but if I do use it it's normally to make black tones blacker and remove that horrible grey kinda tinge when something should be super black. Again, be careful not to over do it, I only take mine up a peg or two. Three if I'm feeling super reckless. 

Again, saturation makes the colours more vivid and if the contrast hasn't 100% done the trick this is where I'll turn next. Quite often I take photos that have a brown hue to them like a red brick colour or a floor or a desk and I find a tiny wiggle with the saturation just makes them kinds of colours pop. 

I ALWAYS bypass clarity on VSCO and head straight to sharpness. I am all about that razor sharp quality to my photos and less about the blur and sometimes dodgy focusing but clarity just throws everything out of whack. Definitely play about with it and see what it does to your images but I tend to just stick to sharpen. I normally take my sharpen tool right to the most sharp end of the scale and see what it does. Sometimes it can make fabrics have a really weird white line around them and if that's the case I'll take it down a few notches until that's gone. 

One thing I think the Instagram app is better for than VSCO is shadows and highlights so I don't really play around with them too much. I try and fix the problem elsewhere with other functions or if they really need the slightest of adjustments I will just eek it up a bit in Instagram just before I upload. 

Finally before escaping from VSCO I will tweak the hue of the image using tint, temperature and skin tone. I find that no matter what you do, photos have either a blue tint or an orange tint to them which become more apparent once you start post editing. These three little beauties have a sliding scale so if the image is too blue you can make it warmer and if it's too orange you can make it cooler. Skin tone is also a life saver because sometimes your whole image can be perfect but your hand is bright pink in it and this function will just take the skin colour and take all the over saturation out of it. 

And that is VSCO done for me, I just save it to my camera roll 90% of the time to upload onto Insta lately and it's done. 

Normally that is me done and my images are ready to upload, however sometime I might have been a bit snap happy and when I've come to post I've realised the quality of the photo is so bad even VSCO cannot save me now. Luckily this is less often.

If this is the case and I don't have time to reshoot I'll just quickly buzz the photo over to my laptop or my computer and open it up in trusty old Photoshop. I appreciate not everybody has Photoshop nor wants to pay for it but I have it because of my business so I am well verse to it's benefits. If you do fancy using it and not paying they have free trials you can get your hands on and edit ALL the photos before the trial runs out. If I'm editing in PS I tend to mess about with the Levels the most because it's just so much better than any app I have tried for getting those black tones super black. 

Finally when all the post editing is done and it is time to upload I will finally take my photo into Instagram. Very rarely I will do a final tweak of something (like the highlights and shadows I mentioned before) or even a quick up of the brightness or sharpness again and then finally FINALLY I can press share and let it go live with all my well thought out hashtags obvs. 

So yeah, that's how I perfect my Insta grid!

Congrats if you've made it to the end of this post, it must be the wordiest 'How I edit my Insta photos' post of all time but you have made it. 

If you're reading this thinking why the fudge is she going to all that effort when she could just do XYZ then please leave me tips in the comments box below!




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