Editing photographs for Instagram

Editing photographs for Instagram

Photographing for Instagram was one of the things I wanted to improve on over the past year, so I made sure to invest time in learning how to get the best result. I know I'm not the best photographer, I don't even remember anything from my two years of A-Level photography classes, but I've had lots of people message me asking what camera I use or for tips on how to edit for Instagram. So I thought I'd do a quick blog post on how I edit for Instagram.

I used to spend so long trying to take a photo, but now I won't spend longer than 5 minutes total setting something up and taking a few shots. I'll only do it if I have an idea in mind and won't force myself to try and take the perfect photo either. I try to keep to a style thats recognisable and if its a dark, rainy day photos won't get taken. What I post on Instagram, is 9/10 something I have taken that day, with evening posts taken that afternoon and my morning photos I've probably only just shot - I should plan more shouldn't I! But anyway...

The first thing you need to start with, of course, is a good quality image. It doesn't have to be amazing, as you'll see in my photos with this post, but make sure its sharp enough to not look grainy or blurry.

I'd highly recommend investing in a good DSLR camera if you're planning on using Instagram as a marketing tool for your business. I'm a Nikon girl myself (D750), I am a bit tempted to move to Canon though - we shall see, but choose what works best for you. You don't need to spend lots of money, I bought mine second hand and it works as good as new. 

I'm actually a little scared to show you my before images, they're pretty awful, but just know that I edit ALOT. It's so easy to do though, it takes less than 5 minutes and you get an amazing result.

The first image below is the original un-edited photo, second is an edit in Camera Raw and Photoshop and the third is final tweaks using Instagram's photo editing tool (which is the best!) 

Told you it was different.. I've exposed that I'm awful now haven't I! Oh that light, but you know what, when I took the photo I actually had so much natural light in the room - well I thought I did. I've even been using one of those big circular light reflector things! But Winter in England, and well this is pretty much the best it gets. I always photograph in natural light, without the flash, curtains open.

So a quick step by step of what I do. First off, I shoot everything in RAW format, I just find it works better for editing. Plus this way I can use the Adobe Camera Raw editing software, I think you may be able to download this for free so just have a quick google. It's life changing, I love it!

Exposure is your friend. I always up the exposure to a level that still looks natural, but that could also take a tiny bit more brightness. Contrast is important too but is one to be careful with as too much as just made it look over-edited. Up the highlights a little to suit your image, sometimes I decrease it depending on the final look I want. I always, always reduce the shadow. Before I used to hate shadows in my photographs but now I love them, they create so much depth. Whites and blacks are similar to highlights and shadows, just adjust these as you see fit. If I have something dark in the image I'll decrease the black as well as shadow like in the photograph above, it gives it that rich black and not a washy grey.

Once you're finished editing your RAW file, I open to Adobe Photoshop (I use CC 2017) to tweak it a little further. Mainly just playing around with the levels (Image > Adjustments > Levels) to add more shadow or light but sometimes I don't do this step.

Save your image as .png, its a web file so saves the colours the best. I email it over to myself so I can open it up on my phone. Now for Instagram, this is the best bit! Who would have thought Instagram had some of the best photo editing tools (well I think so!)

I don't always use a filter, but in this image I have a grey wall which well doesn't look all that nice. So I use the Clarendon filter at about 50 for this one, I love the blue/grey hue it creates without looking an odd colour. I up the brightness as much as the photo can take, make sure you stop before any white areas just blur into each other though, it doesn't take a lot to make a big impact. I'll up the contrast a tiny bit and depending on the photo I'm editing it will depend on what I do with the warmth edit, as this one was a grey I downed the warmth to compliment the blue hue.

Saturation is also your friend. You don't need a lot of make a big impact, it makes everything pop but don't go overboard or it will look a little off! Shadows/highlights I'll edit if need be, and then I'll up the sharpness a tiny bit to finish it off.

And that's it! I know it sounds a lot, and seems it takes a lot of time. But once you get the hang of it I can probably edit a photograph for Instagram in under 5 minutes.

The final shot:


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