Monday, 26 February 2018


Page Divider

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.

Page Divider Page Divider

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!

Page Divider Page Divider

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.

Page Divider Page Divider

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.

Page Divider Page Divider

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!

Page Divider Page Divider

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!

Page Divider Page Divider

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!

Page Divider Page Divider

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!

Page Divider

No comments:

Post a Comment