I spend a lot of time on Instagram.
And I spent a lot of time admiring/critiquing/noticing other calligraphers' work.
It's my personal social media philosophy to only follow accounts that I love. I won't follow accounts to get more followers or likes. I only want to see content that I will really and truly enjoy.
But, in all honesty, what makes certain users' content so much more appealing than others?
It's the quality and style of the photos.
Here are a few of my favourite Instagrammers who nail it on the daily:
- Amanda Arneill
- Chrystal Elizabeth
- Isabel Dusmann
- Little North Company
- Upper Left Co.
- Huff House Design Co.
What do you they all have in common?
- Their photos are amazing.
- Their profiles are themed, and the amazing photos create the theme.
When I post photos on Instagram, the first thing I always ask myself is: is this something that I, myself, would "like" or enjoy?
That, my friends, is only the tip of the iceberg.
So. Today, I want to talk about photo editing.
How do you make those whites whiter? How do you make the brights brighter?
I'm going to show you some of my tips and tricks for editing photos. I'm no expert, but I think I've found an "editing formula" that works for me and for my feed.
Let's start with what I use to take my photos:
- My iPhone 7 - but you don't need the latest and greatest phone to take good photos. I only upgraded my my phone about a month ago. For a long time I was taking photos with my trusty iPhone 5.
- Good lighting - this is super important. You can't edit a photo if it hasn't been taken in good light. It's like baking with rotten eggs; no matter what you do, it just won't turn out. I will write another blog post on my photo taking set up soon.
- Snapseed - this app is created by Nik (somehow related to Google) and it's basically all I use for photo editing.
The first thing you need to identify is what your editing goals are. I know it sounds corny, but it's important.
Do you want your whites brighter? Do you want your dark colours darker? Do you want your colours more saturated? Do you need your photo to be brighter, in general? How will it fit in your feed?
My feed has a bright theme: light whites, saturated colours. I like simple backgrounds with pops of colour. So, my goals are to make my whites brighter and my colours more saturated. I want my lettering to stand out and not be inhibited by my backgrounds!
Here is a photo I took in the morning.
It's the raw, original take.
I took the photo...
- At about 9am (in late June, in British Columbia - the sun is coming up around 5:45am right now).
- With my iPhone 7.
- Right beside a bright window with the blinds closed (we get morning sun, and direct sunlight is a huuuuge NO because of the shadows it creates).
- On a piece of dollar store foam core, with another propped up beside it to reflect the light.
As you can see, the photo is fine. It's already fairly light, I've styled it well enough, and the colours are bright.
But, it's not great, and it's definitely not as good as it could be. If I put it in my Instagram feed, it would look too dark compared to my other photos.
So, what should I do?? I should edit it!
Let's pull up Snapseed.
I've tried a bunch of different editing apps and this is my favourite. It's user-friendly, it works well, and it has all the functions I need. It also has a couple functions (white balance, healing, selective - see below) that I haven't found anywhere else.
My only complaint is that it doesn't edit videos...
Hey Snapseed - are ya hearing me??
To the right is what it looks like when you open it. It's pretty simple!
The first thing you need to do is import your photo. Next up is clicking on the little pencil on the bottom right of the screen. This will bring up the "Tools" selection. This section has all sorts of goodies. Here are a few of my favourites:
- Tune Image - this allows you to add brightness, contrast, edit the shadows and highlights, saturation, etc.
- Crop - if you forgot to take your photo as a the Insta-friendly square, or if you accidentally caught your cat's tail in the photo, you can crop it out!
- Brush - this has a great exposure and saturation brush. There are others, but I use these ones the most. You basically just swipe your finger across the screen wherever you need more colour or more brightness. I'll use these tools when I show you how I edit one of my photos!
- Healing - an awesome tool if you had a slip of the pen, or some cat hair in the photo that you want out of there.
- Rotate - obviously.
- White Balance - this is great for fixing the whites of your photo.
- Selective - this allows you to brighten certain parts of your photo. Snapseed is really good at finding areas near the one you select that has like colours.
The first thing I always do when I'm editing a new photo is use the brush tool. I always brush over the photo with the exposure option. In this case, the photo was fairly bright, so I toned it down to +0.3 then applied the brush.
You do this by simply pushing the little down arrow on the middle-bottom of the screen, and then swiping your finger back and forth over the photo.
If the photo is a bit darker, you may want to use the +0.7 (the default). It also may work with brighter photos, depending on your colour scheme. In this case, the +0.7 just washed out the colours in my photo, which I definitely did not want.
The next thing I do is adjust the white balance, using - you guessed it - the white balance tool.
This tool gives you an automatic option, which works fine, but the beauty of Snapseed is that you can pick the area of the photo that's supposed to be white - and then match the rest of the photo's whites to it.
You just tell it which part of the photo should be white, and it will adjust the temperature of that region to make it more white balanced.
This is one of those cool functions I've only seen on Snapseed, which is a huge reason for me choosing to use this app.
To use the white balance, all you have to do is click on the little magnifying glass on the bottom and drag the big magnifying glass that pops up. Simply put the red cross on the area that should be white and hit the checkmark in the bottom right-hand corner.
This next tool is pretty cool, and - as far as I know - is unique to Snapseed.
It allows you to select certain parts of your photo that aren't quite bright enough, and make only those sections brighter.
Below, I caution users of Snapseed away from using the brightness option in the tune image tool, but this tool is different, even though it does adjust brightness. It only affects certain areas. And if it isn't quite perfect, or if it washes your photo out, you have the option of moving the section buttons that you've brightened, or you can just tone down the brightness.
Does that make sense?
You can see in the photo to the right that a Snapseed user can add brightness buttons to different parts of the photo. I added quite a few.
All you do is push the little + button in the middle-left of the bottom, and place the button wherever you want it on the photo. Then, you slide your finger to the right, and it will bump the brightness up. You can see at the top of the photo, I bumped up the blue highlighted button (bottom left of the photo) to +45 brightness.
Using this tool, you can adjust different parts of your photo to different brightnesses!
Before I changed the highlights and contrast of my photo, which I would normally do next, I decided to go back to the brush tool. I wanted to make sure that when I added contrast, it didn't wash out the colours in my photo, which often happens.
Contrast makes the brights brighter and the darks darker. In this case, it would have made my blue blacker while it made the background whiter. I didn't want to lose my blue in exchange for my white. Why choose when you can have your cake and eat it too??
Anyways, I ended up going back to the brush tool. I chose the saturation option, bumped it down to +5, and brushed over the coloured tops of my brush pens and the "live happy" saying.
This ensured that my blues stayed blue!
Next up is the tune image tool.
As mentioned above, this has general photo editing tools. These are the most common when editing.
I generally use highlights and contrast, but you have to be careful with both.
I used to use brightness a lot, but I found that it washed out a lot of my photos, so I would caution you away from using that specific tool.
The first thing I did with this photo was bump up the highlights. This ups the bright spots in your photo, and makes them brighter. Yay for whiter whites!
You select your tool by simply clicking the icon in the middle left (the three lines) and then selecting your tool. The default tool is brightness, so make sure you select which one you want.
I will add that with this app, there is an automatic function as well. I have found that with this app (and others that I've tried), the automatic function isn't quite as good as I can do it manually. I recommend staying away from the automatic functions, but if you're experimenting, the little magic wand in the middle right will automatically adjust all the functions in the tune image toolkit to what it thinks is best.
Next, I bumped up the contrast.
As mentioned above, this makes the lights brighter and the darks darker.
Because I had added some saturation to my colours, it didn't wash out my colours, and the end result looked pretty good.
But - it's still not perfect! I'm picky, and in my mind, the whites are not quite bright enough!
As my final edit, I went back to the selective tool.
I could see, after making all the other edits, that certain parts of my photo were still too dark. I ended up adding a couple more selective buttons, and bumped up the brightness of certain sections a little more.
When I was certain I was happy with the whites, I clicked the little checkmark on the bottom right.
Once you're happy with your photo, go back to the home page and hit the "save" option on the top right-hand corner.
Snapseed gives you three great options for saving your photo. You can save with changes you can undo, save a copy (which keeps your original), or you can export the photo, which saves the photo with changes that can't be undone.
I usually select the first option, just in case, even though I always prefer my edited version.
Then, all you have to do is upload your final product to Instagram!
Ultimately, editing is all about experimentation. Sometimes you need to use these tips and tricks in a different order, and sometimes you won't use some of them at all. Play around with it and see what works for you!
Have any other editing tips? Leave me more suggestions in the comments below! Happy editing!