How to edit Instagram Photos like a Pro

I don’t think I’d be alone if I said that Instagram was my favourite Social Media platform. I currently run two accounts at the moment, one for the blog and one for my adorable doggy so I’ve spent a lot of time reading and learning about Instagram and one thing has stood out consistently: you won’t attract followers if your photos are sub-par so I’m sharing a few hints and tips on how to edit Instagram photos like a pro which will hopefully not only help you attract followers, but create a cohesive, fun and fresh look across your grid.

First things first, tips for taking the best photos

I alternate between taking photos on my phone and my camera. I have a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, which has one of the best mobile phone cameras on the market at this time and I have the Olympus Pen E-PL8 which is a micro four-thirds camera with interchangeable lenses. Both cameras have the ability to shoot in full manual mode and in RAW format.

I have a box full of props and a few large pieces of white foam-board which I picked up from Kmart, which I set up right next to the window in which ever room I’m working in. My house has some great sunny spots, but it definitely depends what time of the day it is as to where I shoot in my house. I like to make sure I shoot by a window with the maximum amount of natural light, because darker photos tend to be harder to edit and often have a strange colour cast.

I’ll snap away with either my phone or my camera using manual mode, usually setting my aperture anywhere between f/2 and f/5.6 and an ISO of 200. I do tend to let the camera work out the shutter speed on it’s own, but as I’m handheld, I will always make sure it’s no slower than 1/200 of a second and readjust the other settings if required.

I am planning on writing a complete series on manual photography at some stage but if you’re new to photography and you’d like to read some more about it, I highly recommend Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.

How to Edit Instagram Photos like a pro using VSCO

When I’m done taking photos, if I am using my camera rather than my phone, I will use the Olympus App to import my photos on to my phone, otherwise, I just fire up VSCO and import all of the photos I’ve just taken. VSCO is my favourite editing app, I’ve tried a lot of other apps but this one is a) easy to use and b) creates a lovely edit so I’ve always ended up going back to VSCO.

Android: Download from Play Store
Apple: Download from App Store

Once the images have imported, I’ll choose one image and use this as my “master”. As I’m editing a batch of photos taken in the same lighting conditions and generally with the same colour scheme, I can edit this image and copy and paste the edits across the entire batch to speed up my process and ensure consistency in my photos.

I will then apply my chosen pre-set first, which is usually one of the S or A pre-sets and adjust the level of the pre-set. For this particular photo, I didn’t reduce the level of the pre-set at all, but generally, I will reduce it to anywhere between levels 6 and 8.

I will then make a number of adjustments to the photo to brighten and enhance the look of the picture. The S series does bump up the brightness quite a lot and whilst I like a very light and bright picture, it can sometimes lead to a loss of detail, so I like to tidy that up in the adjustments panel.

Three things I will always adjust straight away will be the exposure and contrast - which I edit to suit the picture as this is quite subjective, I’d suggest having a play around until you think it looks good - and the crop and straighten - always to 1×1 square and to straighten up any crooked angles.

Unless the image has a lot of dark shadows and an unusual colour cast, I don’t tend to edit any further in VSCO and if I do, it’s very small adjustments.

Other Apps to Suggest

Occasionally, no matter how I edit in VSCO, my white background just won’t look good. This is usually when I shoot in lower light or have a light on in the room and don’t realise. To fix this up, I’ll use the Selective Tool in Snapseed, a free app by Google and increase the brightness and reduce the saturation in select areas which should brighten and whiten the background.

Android: Download from Play Store
Apple: Download from App Store

Another app that I like for whitening is FaceTune. I have tried the smoothing filters before and I must say that I looked like a very unappealing alien but for whitening my teeth in selfies and big patches of white backgrounds, it comes in very handy. This app isn’t free though, and I’ve now bought it on both iOS and Android.

Android: Download from Play Store
Apple: Download from App Store

So if you thought it was hard to get bright, white edits, think again! Once you get a favourite look, you’ll be flying through the process and you’ll know almost straight away what’s going to work and what’s not. But, as always I’m always around to answer any questions you might have in the comments!

Do you use VSCO for photo editing? What’s your process? Care to share some of your own hints or tips on how to edit Instagram photos like a pro in the comments?

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  • Reply
    September 14, 2017 at 6:29 am

    I tend to use Photoshop when it comes to editing photos. But I am yet to master the white whites that facetune can achieve. Great post Jade.

    Lubz ||

    • Reply
      September 14, 2017 at 7:03 am

      Hi Lubz, thanks for your comment. I think you can use the dodge tool in Photoshop to whiten whites or otherwise a mask over the white area and upping the exposure and desaturating can help!

  • Reply
    Ingrid @ Fabulous and Fun Life
    September 14, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    This is so useful! Most of the time I’ve just been using Instagram to edit my photos!


    • Reply
      September 15, 2017 at 7:09 am

      I’m really glad it was helpful for you Ingrid!

  • Reply
    September 15, 2017 at 7:17 am

    I love using VSCO to edit my photos as well, as I find their presets to work the best yet still look natural. I’ve recently started taking all my Instagram photos with my DSLR, so I actually edit them in Photoshop first before sending them over to my phone.

    Jenny | Geeky Posh

  • Reply
    September 15, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    I love this guide! VSCO is one of my favourite apps x

    Billie |

  • Reply
    Deniz komurcu
    September 15, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    This is a very useful post for me . I have been using VSCO and Facetune for a long time but I did not snapseed before thank you 😊

  • Reply
    September 16, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    The article is really interesting 🙂 I usually prefer to edit photo using FaceTune but I will give a try to VSCO:)

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