How I Edit My Instagram Photos + Apps I Use for Editing Photos

by - May 31, 2019

If you've been following my Instagram account for a long time, you must have noticed a transition between my editing style. From using Instagram built-in filters to editing photos on my Windows PC and from overly dramatic HDR photos to finally adding a magical touch to each photo, you can notice the pattern. As of now, a photo goes through many edits before I upload it on Instagram because I consider each photo special and concentrate a lot on post-production. During the actual photoshoot, even if the photo doesn't turn out to be very good, I am still satisfied most of the times because I believe I can improvise it during post-production.

The aspect I concentrate the most while editing is the colour. I love my photographs to be colourful and vibrant. They should emit a good vibe, I feel. The photo should look dramatic yet not have heavy HDR filters or unnecessary saturation. Also, I don't like highlights in my photos and I prefer increasing the shadows. 

In this post, I shall share my step-by-step guide of editing Instagram photos along with the apps I use. I hope you find this post useful and if you do, please comment below so that I write more such posts in future. I have many other blogging tips and Instagram tricks written on the blog. You can check them out later! 


Most of the times, it does not matter how an image is clicked. I ask my photographers to just bring out the angle I need and then irrespective of the lighting, the highlights, the colours, the shadows, etc., I still give the image a green signal.

The first image in the above collage is completely raw and is shot on my iPhone 8 Plus phone without the HDR filter. Since the image was shot against the light, I am in complete darkness. One drawback of iPhone images are the extra highlights, which you can see on the trees and houses in the background. To tackle this problem and to bring out some colours, I follow these steps.


Step 1: Increasing the vividity of the colours
I generally do all sorts of colour and light grading using Snapseed mobile app. After loading the image on the app, the first thing I do is increase the 'Ambience' under 'Tools' - 'Tune Image'. I usually increase it to its max or if the image naturally has a lot of colours, I stop before that. It all depends on how much colour you want. 

Step 2: Decreasing the highlights and increasing the shadows
I prefer the blacks to be really black so I usually reduce the 'Highlights'. To make it more dramatic, I take the 'Shadows' to subzero (again depending whether I want -40 or something else). Both the highlights and shadows can be found under 'Tools' - 'Tune Image'.

Step 3: Cropping the image
About 9/10 times, the aspect ratio I use while cropping is 4:3 or 3:4. Sometimes, if the object is spread out or if the background is vast and I want to keep it as is, I skip cropping and let Instagram handle its dimensions then while uploading.

Step 4: Correcting the lights - using selective editing
The thing I love most of Snapseed is its ability to correct the image selectively. Under 'Tools', select the 'Brush' option and according to the image, use the brushes. These brushes let you edit freely. For example, if your white t-shirt appears off white, use the 'Dodge & Burn' brush and rub it across the t-shirt to make it white. If the trees in the background are faded or overly highlighted, use the 'Exposure', take it to subzero, and rub it across the trees. If the skies are light blue and you want to make them more vivid, take the 'Saturation' brush and rub it across the sky. Similarly, you can use it for the flowers, the trees, or any colourful object you want to make vivid. 

In the above collage, notice the trees and the houses in the background. Compare the first two images and you'll notice the difference. 


Next, I save the image and open it in the BeautyPlus mobile app. I use this app for adding a depth of field and some filters to the image. 

Step 5: Making the background blurry to add DSLR effect
After opening the image on BeautyPlus app, the first thing I do is add the 'Bokeh' effect under the 'Edit' option. I choose the 'Manual' option as I can freely defocus whatever I want in the image. If you don't own a DSLR or if your mobile phone does not have the portrait mode option, then this feature is truly a blessing. I use this feature to make all my photos look professional. 

In the above collage, take a look at the third image. See how the background has turned blurry. The trick here is to not make the background fully blurry but just a little to make it look real. 

Step 6: Adding filters
Next, under 'Filter' option, I play with the filters. In the above collage, I have used the filter 'Sunsoak'. A few other filters I love are 'Moonlight', 'Embolden', Ivory'. Sometimes I even use a combination of two filters. 


Step 7: Adding sun flares (optional)
And then, if I want to further make the image beautiful, I use the MIX mobile app to add sun flares. I use this option only when the background is too bland. I add a sun flare to bring some colours to the frame. 

Below are a few more before and after editing photos:

Notice how in the above collage, the first image appears dull. It was shot on an old model of GoPro, hence the bad image quality. My main goal here was to bring the colours to life. Firstly, using the 'Brush' tool of Snapseed app, I reduced the exposure of the mountains (especially those in the left). Later, I increased the 'Ambience' as always and cropped the trees on the left. I wanted both the left and the right mountains so I did not crop as much. Further using 'Saturation' brush, I added more colour to my pink backpack as it is a nice contrast to the green background. I even increased the saturation of the blue sky and the red house you see in the middle. Further, I reduced the sharpness of the whole image using the 'Tools' - 'Details' - 'Structure' option. I simply reduced the structure to subzero. 

Later, though it was not really needed, I prepped the picture more using the BeautyPlus app. I simply added the 'Bokeh' effect to make the background a little blurry. Also, I added one of its filters. 

For editing this image, the main focus was to reduce the sharpness and bring down the exposure. Also, I really liked how certain colours apart from the green are contrasting so I thought of bringing them forth. 

For this, firstly, I increased the 'Ambience', decreased the 'Highlights' and took 'Shadows' to subzero in the Snapseed mobile app. Later, using the 'Brush' tool, I reduced the exposure of the overexposed parts such as the trees above the white house. Then using the same tool and selecting 'Dodge & Burn' brush, I whitened the white house further. I brushed over to increase the saturation of my red t-shirt, my pink bag, my blue shoes, the red flowers, and the colourful part of the white house. Also, notice towards the left-hand side, near the green net, there's a girl in red? Using the 'Healing' tool found under 'Tools', I erased her out. Then, I cropped the image keeping the 4:3 ratio. And lastly, I reduced the sharpness by using the 'Tools' - 'Details' - 'Structure' option. 

Next, I opened the image in BeautyPlus app and though there was no real need, I had to give a slight filter plus soften a few parts of the image. So I added the 'Embolden' filter. Next, by using the 'Bokeh' tool, I blurred a few random parts of the photo to add a magical effect. 

This final image was shot in somebody's phone camera hence the dull image. For this image, I had to bring out the greens and most importantly, bring out the waterfall. For this, I opened the image in Snapseed and firstly, increased the 'Ambience' as always. Additionally, I decreased the 'Highlights' and took the 'Shadows' to subzero. Using the 'Brush' tool, I reduced the exposure of the trees above the waterfall. Along with that, I added more darkness under the cliff towards the right-hand side of the image along with other black parts such as my pants and the rock I'm leaning on. Using the same 'Exposure' brush tool, I increased the whiteness of the waterfall. I always add more exposure to the waterfall to make it pop out the frame. Along with that, I even brushed it over my white t-shirt to make it more white. And then, I cropped the image keeping the 4:3 ratio. 

Then after saving, I opened the image in BeautyPlus app and added a filter along with some natural 'Bokeh' effect. 

This photo was already good to upload, however, I wanted to add a few touches here and there. Though the first and the last image look somewhat similar, if you look closely, there are a few changes. Firstly, I cropped the original landscape image to make it a portrait in Snapseed app. Later, by using the 'Brush' tool, I decreased the exposure of the mountains in the background. Later, using the same 'Saturation' brush tool, I increased the vividness of my scarf and the lake in the background. 

Next, I opened the image in BeautyPlus app and blurred the background using 'Bokeh' tool. Later, I added the 'Sunsoak' filter. 

Again, this photo was beautiful before, however, it required some touch-ups. Using the Snapseed app, I added colours on the boat with the help of the 'Saturation' brush tool. I even decreased 'Exposure' there. 

Later, I added Sunsoak filter in the BeautyPlus app. Also, can you notice a blur near the second boat in the background? That is done using the 'Bokeh' effect. 

This photo was hopeless yet I wanted to make it uploadable only because of its concept. I was impressed with this balcony view and how I could get a photo from another balcony. I wanted such shot since a long time but the photo turned out highly exposed and extremely bright. 

To make things good, I had to decrease the overexposure by using the 'Highlights' and the 'Shadows' tool in Snapseed app. I cropped the image keeping the 4:3 ratio as I did not want the floor to be visible in the photo. Next, using the 'Exposure' brush tool, I added darkness to the already dark parts. I even used it on the bricked wall behind me. I did not like the sharpness of the leaves, so I reduced it using the 'Tools' - 'Details' - 'Structure' option. 

Later, I added the 'Embolden' filter mildly in the BeautyPlus app along with a mild 'Bokeh' effect (check out the sharpness on the leaves towards the right in the second and the third image).

I purposely wanted to share this before and after. This one's from the photoshoot for a lunchbox. The major issue here was the colour of the mango pulp (aamras) and the blemishes on my face. I shot this one without any makeup. Heck! I had not even washed my face and had just brushed my hair for it. When it comes to photoshoot, I usually do it with bare face. However, this closeup shot enhanced the blemishes and I regretted not putting any makeup. 

Anyway, I worked on post production to make it proper. As always, I opened the image in Snapseed app and reduced the exposure of the mango pulp by using the 'Exposure' brush tool. I added a slight 'Saturation' to it again by using the 'Brush' tool. Next, I reduced the exposure of my t-shirt. 

Next, I opened BeautyPlus app and erased the acne marks. I added eyebrows, lipstick, and blush in mild quantity. Finally, I added the 'Embolden' filter. 

To check out all my photos, go through my Instagram feed and you'll get an idea. 

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  1. Very useful article specially for those who want to learn how to use images properly.


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