My Photo Editing Tell-All

If you've been on Instagram for a little while, you probably know well how frustrating it is to figure out the best way to create a consistent, beautiful feed with quality photography. I've had a lot of people message me over the last year or so to ask about how I edit my photos, and in the past I have held my answers a little bit close to the chest. But recently, I realized how very silly that is! Who cares if other people edit their photos the same way I do, as long as they are taking their own photographs?

So I decided it might be nice to post a comprehensive guide to how I edit my photos on here, for anyone who wants to try out my techniques! This is obviously far from a complete look at all the photo editing tools at your disposal (there are too many to count), but it is a complete look at the apps and techniques I personally use on a regular basis. So without further ado, here are the answers to my most-asked questions about photography!

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iPhone vs. DSLR

For most of my photos, I use my iPhone (which is a 7, and unfortunately does not have that fun "portrait mode" thing). This has always been my preferred method of shooting flat lays and the like. Natural light is key, of course, but there's really nothing fancy going on behind these photos. Both of the above photos were taken with just my iPhone.

For more detailed pictures, particularly those of my pins and progress keepers, I will occasionally whip out my DSLR. I shoot with a Nikon D3300. It's not a particularly fancy camera; it's a great beginner DSLR, in fact. I also have a single-length lens, which I recommend, especially if you're working with smaller products. Here is a link to my 35mm f/1.8 lens. For anyone wanting to use DSLRs, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the mechanics of manual mode. Manually adjusting the f-stop is key to getting good photos, especially when you're dealing with low light or looking to get that nice bokeh effect (the blurry background thing). Both of the below photos were taken using my Nikon.

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Photo editing + Filters

Now for the fun part. I know there are tons and tons of photo editing apps out there, but I am pretty averse to bringing my photos through a million steps on a bunch of different apps – mainly because, really, who's got the time? My tried and true app is VSCO Cam. Occasionally I will use Snapseed for touch-ups, but VSCO is where it's at. I use both of these apps for photos taken on my phone, and those taken on my DSLR. I know that Lightroom is great for editing DSLR photos on the computer, but to be honest, I know very little about how to use it well. So I just dump my DSLR photos into my phone, and edit there. Phones are magic these days, and they can handle large photo sizes (although you do lose some quality, so if you're editing photos for, say, print magazines, don't follow in my footsteps).

Since I make sure my photos are all taken in natural light, most of my editing just involves cropping and straightening the photo, giving it a nice filter, and adjusting the lighting a tad. I know a lot of people are anti-filter, but I think they are really key to creating a consistent feed. Nicely packaged filters geared toward photographers can be really beautiful, and most of the time, they do not threaten your photo with that terrible over-processed look (think early Instagram filters).

Here is an example of one photo being brought through the filtering process:

 Step 1: Apply E3 filter at 5.1, save photo.

Step 1: Apply E3 filter at 5.1, save photo.

 Step 2: Apply A6 filter at 5.7 to saved photo.

Step 2: Apply A6 filter at 5.7 to saved photo.

 Before any edits.

Before any edits.

 After two filters + a tiny bit of highlight adjustment!

After two filters + a tiny bit of highlight adjustment!

So let's walk through my process together. Within VSCO, I first crop and straighten the photo, and then it's time for filters. I tend to use the E3 filter most, and will often overlay it with a bit of A6. You can combine two filters by adding a filter to a photo, saving it to your phone as a new photo, and then applying the second filter to that photo. In both cases, I don't apply the filter fully, but will adjust it to a place that looks good and not over-processed. You can double-click on a filter to adjust how heavily it's applied, with a max of 12. Usually I land somewhere around 5-6 for the first go around with E3 (for the photo above, I applied E3 at 5.1), and will add A6 at 3-6, depending on my mood (for the photo above, A6 is applied at 5.7). You can always play with it to see what works for you. Next, I load the picture into Instagram, and up the highlights a bit (to 20 or so, depending on how bright and contrasty the photo already is). That's it!

For some photos (very rarely) I will pop into Snapseed and use the Brush tool to up the exposure in some shadowy corners. I also sometimes mess with the highlights there if I am working on a photo that won't go directly into Instagram. But other than that, the vast majority of my editing is done in VSCO.

That's it!

See? Photo editing really isn't very difficult, especially these days, when most everyone has an amazing camera and photo editing software right there in their phones. I highly recommend messing around with some VSCO filters and editing tools (or playing with similar apps like Color Story, which is another popular option) and seeing which combination feels most like you. Remember, there's no right or wrong way to prep your photos for listings or Instagram. Lots of people have beautiful feeds who heavily filter their photos; many barely edit at all; some use cameras, some hire photographers, some create flat lays, some don't. Do what feels comfortable for you!

 Before...

Before...

 After!

After!

Leave me a note in the comments if you end up using these techniques too! I'd love to know if this helps demystify some of the editing process for you guys. I'd also love to hear about other editing tools if you have favorites that I didn't mention here!