I get lots of questions about my editing process on Instagram, so here’s how I do it!

Finnegan-Close-upStart With the Best Quality Images:

Before we even get to Instagram editing, it’s important to have a good quality image to work with. I shoot in RAW, which allows a much bigger dynamic range of correction for highlights and shadows, exposure, etc. than you get when you shoot jpg. Even though RAW format files are much larger than jpg, I strongly recommend you shoot in this format if it is an option offered on your camera.


Use Lightroom:

Lightroom is a fantastic program for photographers. Not only can you do editing (adjusting shadows, highlights, exposure, but also colours, and cloning and healing, and much more) but it’s also a cataloguing program. I shoot a lot of images (if you follow me on Instagram you already know this!) and keeping track of what I shoot would be impossible without Lightroom! Lightroom is also great because changes can be reversed at any time, you always have your original file/image. Crop it as a square, then go back and crop it again as a landscape! The original image is always available for you to go back to, and make whatever changes you like. (You must shoot RAW to make maximum advantage of editing in Lightroom!)Grass-water-droplets

When I chose an image and I have finished editing it, I flag it/pick it, so that I can keep track of which images I have processed and exported. I export images at 1500 pixels on the long edge to have a good quality/size image to work with. Instagram always posts images at a certain pixel dimension. It’s important that your images be a higher quality than what Instagram formats them to. If they are a lower quality (smaller file size than what Instagram resizes them to) you could have serious image quality issues. 1500p is much larger than I need, however this allows for further cropping on the phone as needed (things look different on the phone than on my big computer monitor, of course!, so sometimes I feel I need to do a bit of a tighter crop once on my phone because of the smaller image size).


Getting the Images On To My iPhone:

To get my images on my phone I use DropBox. DropBox is an in the cloud storage option, and it’s FREE (2GB of space for free). This way your images are always with you, and they don’t have to take up space on your mobile device. If you click the DropBox link I’ve provided (click on blue DropBox text), I’ll get a referral bonus of more space, which I would greatly (!!!) appreciate ; )


Instagram Apps – SnapSeed:

Here’s what I usually do in SnapSeed:


1. Automatic for contrast. Sometimes it’s a bit much, makes it too dark, you can dial to adjust (sometimes I don’t even use this at all once I see what it does, if it’s too much, it depends on the image).
2. Tune-image: usually I just do the ambiance here (second one down on list), again look at your image, it can bring out some nice detail, but be careful that you don’t over do it (watch for highlighting around the subject, a sign of too much processing). You can also adjust brightness here, to brighten the entire image a bit, if you need to, and also adjust shadows. That’s basically all I ever do in the Tune-image tab.

One other handy tool in SnapSeed is Center Focus. Center Focus gives you a spot of brightness that you can move around. This can be really great if you have a dark face (animal face, maybe a backlit subject) and you want to brighten up the face a bit. This can also be used for darkening the corners/background of your image.

For example, this image of Alice peering out of the bedroom doorway, I wanted to darker up the bedroom area to make Alice stand out (and so YOU couldn’t see into my bedroom!). I used Center Focus for this. I could have also done this in Lightroom, but I didn’t think of it when I was doing my editing, so I did it with SnapSeed instead : )

NOTE: I rarely use SnapSeed anymore, but I am leaving the details of using it in this blog post, in case it is helpful.


Instagram Apps – Vscocam:

Many of you ask about the dreamy faded look, how do I get it? The answer is Vscocam! This is a great app with fantastic filters. The idea is that the filters are meant to replicate a more film photography look. It is free with a limited number of filters, but I recommend you buy the bundle of all the filters (I think it’s less than $20, maybe around $14 or so…). I like the moody filters, the faded ones, too. And you can also add some fade, or dial down the saturation a bit, too, for a more faded look.


Final Step…Instagram:

I rarely use any of the Instagram filters (they aren’t so great!), however I will often play with the contrast once more as a final step, just to see what happens, and usually I find myself dialling back the contract just a little bit (literally -2 to -5, just a little) to add a softer/faced look to the image.

That’s it!! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial of how I do things. I will update and add to this whenever I have anything new to say on the subject ; )

  • November 3, 2015 - 3:41 am

    Don Heath - This was very nice of you to post this information. I live in Toronto and Cape Breton (June toOctober). Enjoy your work.


    • November 12, 2015 - 9:25 pm

      mls0727 - Hi Don,

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you found it useful! Cape Breton sounds nice, I bet it’s beautiful there 😉ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2015 - 7:45 pm

    Shayna A - Hi,
    I follow you on Instagram and love your photography. I specifically came here to look at your editing process as your bio said it was on your site. I was wondering if you used LR and you do. :)
    I love VSCO for my phone pics and still have used it for my first few DSLR uploads, but definitely love the things I see and hear about LR.
    Well, thanks for the helpful post.

    • November 12, 2015 - 9:26 pm

      mls0727 - Hi Shayna,

      Thank you so much. I’m glad you found this info helpful. Vscocam is a great app, I use it for all of my Instagram postings 😉ReplyCancel

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