Monday, 26 February 2018


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After years of tweaking, I like to think I've settled on a system for a beautiful, bright Instagram feed. Today I thought I'd share a little tutorial on how you can edit your photos in a similar vibe. So grab a cup of tea and get your creative cap on, it's time to edit some photos!

Back in the day, I had one rule: all Instagrams should be taken and edited on my phone. But after my good phone broke, and I was left with a 2 megapixel cameraphone, I thought it was time I started to share my DSLR photos. That's why the majority of this tutorial is in Lightroom. You can get a free trial of Lightroom here, but even if you don't use it, you can still read along to see how I edit and apply this to whichever editing app you use.

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Step 1: Basic Edits

Colour Balance

First up: the basics. Begin by getting the colour balance to where you want it. For me that's a little on the warm side, so I move the slider to the right to bring out those orangey tones. If your thing is cooler shades then feel free go for that, just remember to not over do it! This is the easiest mistake to fall into when you're starting out, I would warm up my images far too much. Less is more, if you're going for a beautiful but natural edit.


The exposure for this image was spot on, so nothing was needed there, but if it was a little on the darker side this is where I would lighten it. Brighter images tend to do better on social media, so unless you're going for a moody theme, you might want to err on the bright side.

Highlights, Shadows, and Blacks

In almost every photo I end up bringing down my highlights, as this brings back the detail in the sky. I also usually up my shadows to brighten the shaded part of my image, but lower the blacks to remove the faded feel caused by upping the shadows. Of course, it's all about playing around to find what you like, so don't take my method as gospel!


In every landscape photo I up the clarity, at least a little. It's another step that is easily pushed too far, so try not to go overboard! If you're editing a portrait, you might want to skip this step entirely, it will only bring out the subject's flaws. Or if you know your way around Lightroom, you could always boost the clarity and then rely on the adjustment brush to paint away the clarity on the face, but that's getting a little advanced for this tutorial!

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Step 2: Adding Contrast

Tone Curve

Use a slight s-curve to add in contrast. You can do this by clicking 3 extra dots into your curve (the top and bottom ones should already be there). Lower the second from the left slightly, you're deepening the blacks and shadows. Next, raise the second from the right slightly, so you have something similar to the above curve. Now you've lightened the whites and highlights and, voilà, you've added some subtle contrast into your image. You can push this even more by hopping into your red, green, and blue channels, and creating a similar s-curve.

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Step 3: Adjusting the Colours

Orange and Yellow

This step is perhaps the most subjective, since it really comes down to what colour combinations you personally go for. For me, I like my oranges and yellows on the redder side, which is why I slide the orange and yellow hue to the left. Also, since I like my images to be bright, I usually up the luminance for these colours.

Aqua and Blue

I like to take some of the magenta out of my aquas and blues, and you can do this by moving the relevant hue slider to the left. Sometimes I lower the luminance here, if the sky has been blow out by exposure edits, but this wasn't a problem in this photo so instead I actually upped it! There were no aquas in this image which is why I haven't adjusted them here

This colour combination is a trend right now, you know the one, where the sky is an unholy aqua colour and everything else is super orangey-red for some reason. I keep the effect subtle so it seems natural and doesn't look like one of those cliché images.

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Step 4: Sharping the Image

This step still amazes me to this day... I just can't get over the fact that you think an image is sharp, but then you use this tool and realise it was blurry AF. Wow, I really am an editing geek.

Anyway, enough gushing over the tool, this is how I use it: So see that square with the four lines coming out of it (in the top left corner of the adjustment section)? Tap that and then click a point in the picture that you want to see in detail. Choose a part of the picture that has a lot of detail so you can see what effect your changes are having.

Now, it's time to get to work. I usually up the amount slider by quite a lot, and up the luminance by a little. This will depend on your camera though, so take care and see what works for your image!

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Step 5: Adding Saturation

I use the Camera Calibration tool to add some saturation into the final image. Depending on the picture, I also do little adjustments to the hue. There's not much more to say about this step as I don't have a go-to method for this one. As always, just tweak until you've achieve the look you're going for!

This is the final Lightroom step, so it's time to export your image as a jpg and send that image to your phone so you can upload it to Instagram! Don't forget to save a Lightroom preset so you can easily apply this edit the next time around!

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Step 6: Adding a VSCO Filter

In case you didn't know, the VSCO app is the Instagrammer's BFF. A powerful editing tool, you can do basic adjustments and choose from some pretty filters, all from your phone.

You could easily skip this step, heck, I could probably skip this step, but habits are hard to break. By adding my favourite VSCO filter, I am certain that the image will fit in with the other images in my feed.

Personally, I bring my photo into VSCO to use the A6 filter on my already edited image. You can download A6 from the VSCO store for free. Of course, you should choose the filter that is most your style, you'll probably be using it for every post after all! Depending on the photo, I may bring the effect opacity down to around the halfway mark, or if I like it at full strength I'll leave it at that. Once I've settled on the filter opacity, I'm all set to save the image to my camera roll, and upload it to Instagram!

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Okay, okay, I know that sounds like a whole lot of work for one Instagram post. But once you've found the edit you like, you can save it as a preset, and every photo after will be a simple case of choosing your preset and making a few additional tweaks depending on the image.

I hope you found this tutorial useful, do let me know in the comments. Make sure to follow me on Instagram and Bloglovin, to hear about my follow up post on laying out a beautiful feed. Until then, adiós!

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Tuesday, 6 February 2018


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One moment I'm in the city that never sleeps, NYC, and then, sort of out of nowhere, I'm in the city of siestas, Seville. It's quite the switch, so I wanted to take a moment to explain how I got here and started living the polar opposite to my New York life. Also, if you are a reader who happens to live in the EU, there may be a way you can do the same! So, here's the low-down...

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New York took it out of me. Here on the blog I've mentioned time and time again how draining the city can be. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, I loved it over there. But if you have a chance to get away and recharge, you'd better take it. My visa came to an end, and with no exciting stateside opportunities in sight, I decided to fly home to Ireland and look for a job there.

It was a relief to be away from New York's always-on atmosphere, but it didn't take long for me to be ready for my next adventure. I'm not the rural type, I had to get to the any 'Big Smoke'. I was applying for jobs in Dublin, London, Edinburgh, anywhere more exciting than my lovely, but dull, hometown. I did not, however, expect to end up in Spain.

It was my Mum who pointed it out to me: "Paid Work Placement in Seville, Spain". A browse of the website and I knew I had to go for it: flights would be free, accommodation paid-for. Plus you would receive Spanish lessons and complete a vocational course. Sign me up! And who exactly is funding this sweet deal? Well, it's that juicy EU money, baby. If that sounds flippant, let me be sincere for a second: the EU offers incredible initiatives for citizens from all backgrounds. Opportunities are there for the taking.

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I'll tell you about one such EU opportunity, since it is the one that lead me to Seville. Erasmus+ is a cultural exchange where you are flown out to another European country, get a work placement, complete a course, and receive lessons in the country's language. The industry and course topic depends on what your country happens to offer. The one that caught my eye was the initiative focused on entrepreneurship in creative industries, perfect for me since my photography career is moving me in that direction. In Ireland there is also a community development course, if that's more your thing.

Capacity Ireland is the company that works on behalf of the EU to find individuals for this initiative. It doesn't look like they are taking applications right now, but they will surely start recruiting again soon, so bookmark and keep checking back! You can also follow me on Twitter as I will share it when it does go live. I want everyone to know about this opportunity!

For those in other EU countries, there's a different sending organisation that you'll have to find and apply through. Find out more about Erasmus+ here and search for "Erasmus+" and the name of your country to find out what's on offer where you are.

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With this opportunity in my sights, I went through the application process. Since I'd only happened upon the job posting the day before the deadline, the application process was fairly speedy. After filling out a form and doing two interviews, I found out that I had secured a place! Next thing I know I'm in Dublin doing a few days of training before flying out to Seville. And here I am! Trying my damndest to get the most out of my course and work placement (I'll have to leave these details for another post), learn Spanish, and still have enough hours in the day to explore the city.

So, I guess that's the big secret of how I managed to move to Seville, Spain! You can expect to see much more Seville here on the blog, and over on my Instagram too. Until next time, ¡hasta luego!

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