How I Edit my Instagram Photos

How I Edit My Instagram Photos( @stormywheather )

I often get asked how exactly I edit my Instagram photos… and while I do believe the magic lies within the composition of each photo unto itself, edits can and do help convey certain moods and vibes. I made this post to serve as a little overview of how I edit my own photos and hopefully inspire you when it comes to editing your own!

So without further ado, let’s take a look into my tips to creating a unified and consistent Instagram feed before I get into specific edits and filters. I also compiled a list of what all VSCO settings really do and how you can use them to maximize the potential of every photo you take without using a filter if you so choose!

Quality Over Quantity

I will always value quality photos in the feed over having a large amount of mediocre photos. I always say that when people visit my Instagram, I’d rather them think,”Oh my god, goals!” than “These photos were clearly taken to fill space.”

Niche

I’ve noticed that picking a specific niche can help with gaining an initial following, especially if you are taking quality photos but are having trouble gaining followers. A niche is a certain category your Instagram can fall into, based on both content and stylistic editing choice. Some examples of different niches are:

  • Architecture
  • Beauty
  • Fashion
  • Food
  • Fitness
  • Lifestyle
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Urban/Street

While picking a niche may help with gaining followers, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to always stick to a certain niche when it comes to the photos you post! Instagram is a platform for personal expression, and I always emphasize authenticity in conjunction with choosing a particular style or area of interest. If you only want to appear athletic but don’t actually care about living a healthy lifestyle– don’t make a fitness Instagram. Pretty straightforward, yeah?

I’ve found that I’m personally the happiest when my feed ebbs somewhere between a portrait and lifestyle crossover, as I love being both the photographer and subject! With Instagram it’s important to stay true to yourself and post what you like as well as what interests you and pleases your aesthetic eye!

Color Scheme

Color scheme and filter choice is also important when it comes to maintaining a unified Instagram feed. I would recommend using no more than two or three similarly styled filters and refrain from straying too far from a certain color palette. For example, if you use the same filter with photos that have a similar color palette (i.e. mostly ocean and nature photos), your photos will look great when compiled together in a feed.

With my own feed, I prefer to keep it simple with either a vivid, all-white color palette… or channel dark and moody with faded reds, browns, and blue tones like so:

@stormywheather_( @stormywheather )

I would recommend downloading VSCOCAM for the versatile filters and photo adjustment options! It also makes it really easy to copy and paste edits from one photo to another as well as stick to one or two color schemes. If you don’t have it, DOWNLOAD IT NOW! Your Instagram profile will thank you!

Planning

Lastly an integral key to a unified feed is simple planning and making sure your photos look good next to one another in a grid! To accomplish this I use the app UNUM which makes it easy to hide photos, move them around as they would appear in your actual Instagram feed, and re-order with the flick of a finger. UNUM is also useful for keeping track of the best times to post photos in order to maximize likes.

How I Edit My Instagram Photos( @stormywheather )

*** This step and each of the subsequent steps in the post require VSCOCAM. I would recommend downloading it before proceeding so you may be able to follow more easily along.

As everyone knows when you upload a photo to VSCO, a set of options come up including brightness, shadows, highlights, and more. This list is to help you understand what each adjustment does and how each one affects how a photo looks. Since VSCO has many options, here are the major ones you need to know (in my personal opinion).

Brightness

This is pretty self explanatory, but if you would like to make a photo brighter or there are a lot of shadows, you can either increase the brightness OR decrease the shadow setting. However when decreasing shadows, it is important to increase the contrast to balance out the composition of the photo.

Contrast

Contrast increases or decreases the contrast between the photo highlights (the light parts of the photo) vs the shadows (the dark parts). Usually when you increase the brightness, you should also increase the contrast.

Rotation

This tool is helpful for either rotating a photo 90 degrees or straightening a slightly lopsided or tilted photo. For architectural or landscape shots, the straighten feature is a must!

Clarity

I love the clarity feature because it is much more subtle than sharpen but does well at making photos look clearer without sharpening any grain that may also be in the photo.

Saturation

Simple tip: increasing saturation increases the pigment in colors, decreasing saturation gives photos more of that pale look that is popular on beauty, lifestyle, and style Instagrams (including my own). If you want to achieve a more pale composition, decrease the saturation. I usually do this for every photo as filters can be a bit much with full on saturation.

Temperature

An increase in temperature increases the warmth (or the yellowness) of photos, and decreasing it increases the coolness of a photo (adding a blue tint). As a rule of thumb, if you’re looking to make a photo more pure white, decrease the temperature + saturation, and increase the contrast.

Highlights

Increasing the highlight slider is useful for making bright-white sections of photos look matte, and for matte-fying skin tones.

Grain

Grain gives photos that film-y, nostalgic, vintage look that many film photographers covet. Increasing the grain increases the noise in a photo, making it look more filmy and weathered.

Fade

Fade gives that aforementioned vintage look minus the grain, but subdues colors by making the photo more opaque. To give a photo ultimate film-vibes, increase both the fade and the grain. If you’re looking to achieve a more subtle vintage feel, I would suggest only increasing the fade.

How I Edit My Instagram Photos

( @stormywheather )

The most important part of the Stormywheather_-Instagram experience: how exactly do I edit my photos? 

Well I don’t really have one specific filter or method I use 100% the time. I will disclaim that each photo I post often needs edits (i.e. brightness, contrast, and temperature adjustments) specific to each photo’s needs. However, if you are not as savvy with VSCOCAM, the filters I’ve listed below (with the adjustments included) require minimal tinkering-with otherwise.

I also purposely left out grain and fade adjustments as they are often specific to each person’s preference. 

So this is, hands down, my favorite filter to use if I’m photographing architecture, high fashion, or anything with sharp details and bright whites. This filter ultimately looks best if the photo requires minimal color correction and already has pure white (instead of cream, off white, ivory, or yellow) tones. Photos with this filter also look best intermingled with the dark and moody shots I listed below. How I Edit My Instagram Photos How I Edit My Instagram Photos( @stormywheather )

This filter is my primary go-to and I’ve found that it rarely looks bad, especially if the photo mainly has darker or moodier tones. The only time it doesn’t look great is for selfies as it can cast a weird tint on skin tones. I mostly use this filter for food, nature, portraits, and moody ‘grams 😂

How I Edit My Instagram Photos How I Edit My Instagram Photos( @stormywheather )

S2 is my favorite filter to use when I want a completely white feed without it being blindingly white or overpowering, and I usually use this filter with beauty, selfie, and style shots. It’s a great filter to use if you want to achieve an all-white feed, and allows the colors in a photo to dazzle without desaturating them too much (as shown above). This filter also does great with shots that need color correction. Lastly, I use this as my primary selfie filter because it doesn’t desaturate or tint my skin strange colors.

When used in a grid, it’s one of my favorite filters but I’d advise against using it for too many photos other than selfies if you use an entirely different filter for the others. I usually use S2 and HB2 in alternation depending on how I want my feed to look. However, S2 looks great if all of the photos in the feed are also edited with S2 like so:

How I Edit My Instagram Photos( @stormywheather )

So I hope this was helpful! I don’t want to bore you guys or ramble too much about the minutia of Instagram! Really, I’d say my biggest piece of advice is to just edit your photos how you like, vibe with what you feel looks best, and trust your artistic instinct. Thanks so much for stopping by!

I hope this little guide was helpful and inspired you to get creative with your own Instagram feed! If you have any questions or further inquiries, feel free to ask in the comments below!

♡ Questions for Y-O-U ♡

Out of curiosity, what apps and filters do you guys usually use to edit your own photos? Or do you prefer to go au natural? I’m all ears!

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74 Comments

  1. December 30, 2016 / 4:48 pm

    Your Insta feed is just stunning. I haven’t had much luck with VSCO personally so I’ve been using subtle Instagram filters like Lark turned down to about 60. However, this is such a helpful guide that I think I might give VSCO another go! I like that you’ve given the settings as well, and not just the filters! x

    • December 30, 2016 / 5:07 pm

      Thank you so much! I am a major proponent of VSCOCAM and couldn’t imagine life without it. However, I totally get that if you didn’t start using it around its origination, all the little symbols can be a pain in the butt to use and decipher. I personally just like the flexibility that comes with VSCO’s filters and I’ve found that the adjustments are equally as important as the filters you choose to use. If you have any further questions about it, feel free to drop me a message or comment! 🙂

      • December 30, 2016 / 6:25 pm

        It does seem like the one with the most flexibility and options out of all the free photo apps out there so I can see its appeal, definitely! I think I was just unsure of how to create the look I wanted with the filters and settings there so it’s probably a case of sitting down and experimenting a little before achieving that look! Aww thank you so much, that’s really sweet of you! ☺️ xxx

        • December 30, 2016 / 6:31 pm

          You’re welcome! It really comes down to playing with color and adjusting temperature and saturation will really help you achieve that! Good luck! 🙂

  2. December 30, 2016 / 5:15 pm

    I love this! I don’t put enough effort into IG at the moment to care about a themed feed, but I love that you’re provided VSCO formulas here. Maybe I’ll step up my game in 2017.

    • December 30, 2016 / 5:37 pm

      I mean it’s not super essential but for those who really want their Instagram feed to look a certain way, I figured this would be a helpful start! Best of luck in your Instagram journey for 2017! 🙂

  3. Jasmin N
    December 30, 2016 / 8:11 pm

    I usually edit my IG pictures in the IG app 😀 nothing special though, just to set the brightness and contrast.

    • December 31, 2016 / 11:12 pm

      Nothing wrong with that at all if it comes out the way you want! 🙂

  4. December 30, 2016 / 8:54 pm

    Great tips! I really think that it’s important to focus on the quality of your IG photos! 🙂

    TheNormcoreRebel

    • December 31, 2016 / 11:13 pm

      Couldn’t agree more! Your feed would lack expression if it were just a random mush of half-assed photos! haha

  5. Roxie Watt
    December 30, 2016 / 10:42 pm

    This is such an informative post thank you so much for sharing all your know-how. Your feed really is beautiful,

    Roxie | The Beautiful Bluebird

    • December 31, 2016 / 11:14 pm

      I’m glad it could have been of some use! Thanks so much! <3

  6. December 30, 2016 / 11:47 pm

    Your feed is actually goals girl! You should try out VSCO X if you can, it gives you every single filter and it’s so fun to play with haha!

    • December 31, 2016 / 11:15 pm

      Oh my goodness gracious! It sounds marvelous… except I already jumped the gun and bought every filter a couple of years ago for like $32 haha. Leave it to me right? But I agree, I love experimenting with different filters to really get the most out of every shot!

    • December 31, 2016 / 11:16 pm

      I hope it helped! Best of luck babe! xx

  7. December 31, 2016 / 12:45 pm

    great tips,your feed is beautiful. i don’t do much to my insta feed just like to keep it simple =^.^=

    • December 31, 2016 / 11:12 pm

      Understandably! Thanks for the kind words babe! 🙂

    • December 31, 2016 / 11:12 pm

      I used to be a big fan of the A6 before I switched to HB2 actually! 🙂

  8. December 31, 2016 / 3:27 pm

    So many details! First of all, your feed is perfect! You clearly mastered everything you say! I’m trying my best but I still can’t find my niche 🙁 I also never knew how exactly I want to edit my pics so it looks the same but one day I just looked at my feed and found out that I do it without intetion anyway 🙂

    • December 31, 2016 / 11:18 pm

      Thank you so much! I’d say my biggest tip if you lack a niche is to latch on more to a central theme, feeling, or color scheme and this will define the way your feed looks in a way that accurately represents you without feeling forced or limiting you too much… and honestly, my own feed changes back and forth from dark and moody to bright and white… it really just depends on my current state of mind. It all comes with practice and an intuitive feeling for what you think looks best, and everything else will fall into place. Just trust your instinct!

  9. December 31, 2016 / 4:54 pm

    This is very helpful, great tips! Instagram is my favorite social media outlet

    • December 31, 2016 / 11:18 pm

      I totally agree! I love how expressive it is.

  10. January 1, 2017 / 8:48 pm

    Really fantastic tips, thank you so much for sharing them. Your Instagram feed looks stunning, i like your color Scheme. I am going to check vsco right away. 🙂

    • January 1, 2017 / 10:59 pm

      Thanks so much! I’m happy this post could be of some help! 🙂

  11. January 2, 2017 / 5:23 am

    Thanks for sharing your tips. Your insta feed is gorgeous. *_* I never use any app other than the insta filter itself but will keep your points from te next time. 🙂 Happy new year.

    beforbeauty.com

    • January 2, 2017 / 2:13 pm

      I’m so glad they could be of some help! Happy new year to you too babe!

  12. January 2, 2017 / 1:28 pm

    Thank you SO much for these tips. I’m always looking for ways to make my Instagram photos better. I’ll keep these in mind for sure.

    • January 2, 2017 / 2:14 pm

      You’re welcome! Instagram is so much fun to me and I always hear people saying they hate feeling like they need to compare themselves to others, especially when it comes to their social media accounts… so I figured I’d give a little helping hand! 🙂

  13. January 2, 2017 / 2:58 pm

    Okay, so this has been bookmarked because this year will be the year I FIX my instagram! These are some genuinely great tips 😀 x

    • January 2, 2017 / 3:02 pm

      Yay! So glad it helped inspire you! Best of luck with the new year and your ‘gram 😉

  14. January 2, 2017 / 5:08 pm

    Excellent tips here. I like that you remind people it’s about personal expression . I need to work hard on my instagram this year. I need a better camera on my phone.

    • January 2, 2017 / 5:22 pm

      It really is about what you feel is best and what you enjoy posting at the end of the day– that’s what brings it all together! I’m glad this was helpful! xox

  15. Anosa
    January 2, 2017 / 7:03 pm

    I must confess I hardly ever filter my pictures as I like sharing the original pictures

    • January 2, 2017 / 7:42 pm

      That works too! Whatever you like is fine!

  16. January 2, 2017 / 7:31 pm

    Such an interesting read! Your Instagram feed is beautiful ♥

    Amy // snippetsofamy.co.uk

  17. January 2, 2017 / 8:09 pm

    This is a very informative post! Thanks for sharing how you edit your Instagram pictures, I have to work on my color scheme and layout. Thanks for sharing.

    • January 2, 2017 / 10:26 pm

      Thanks so much for giving it a look! I clearly take Instagram way more seriously than I should, but at least it proves to be helpful in some senses! Best of luck, you’re welcome babe! xx

  18. January 2, 2017 / 8:29 pm

    This was super helpful and right on time! I’m in the process of revamping my IG and I definitely needed these tips! Thank you!

    • January 2, 2017 / 10:19 pm

      Yay! New year, new Instagram, new everything! So glad this was able to be of some help!

  19. January 2, 2017 / 8:43 pm

    I haven’t really concentrate that much on my Instagram account but that’s on my to do list. You have give me some fabulous information I just pin it.

    • January 2, 2017 / 10:25 pm

      Thanks so much for the kind words and the read! Happy New Year to you too! 🙂

  20. Hannah Will
    January 2, 2017 / 10:59 pm

    Your feed is absolutely gorgeous! I was just thinking to myself that I want to start theming my Instagram in 2017 (as of right now it isn’t particularly themed). Thanks for all your tips and I’ll definitely be putting them to use in 2017! Happy new year girl!!

    xo Hannah | http://www.thedailydelicacy.com

    • January 2, 2017 / 11:07 pm

      Thanks so much! I mostly just like it because it makes me really jazzed to use Instagram and connect with other creatives! Happy new year to you too babe!

  21. January 2, 2017 / 11:07 pm

    Great post! My photography is always all over the place. I really feel like I need to invest in better equipment especially in winter. Lighting is everything for my photos and sometimes you just can’t fake it, but these tips are invaluable. Fab, informative post, thank you so much for sharing! Love your blog, and your ig is spectacular xxx

    ALittleKiran | Bloglovin

    • January 2, 2017 / 11:18 pm

      I got a lowlight lens and it really changed the entire game when it comes to my photography. I think the equipment part comes when you’re 100% ready to throw yourself into photography and learning how to use a really high end camera and lens. I definitely agree, I always take photos next to a window or during sunset / sunrise for the most beautiful lighting possible. Thanks so much! The kind sentiments are so appreciated <3 Happy new years!

    • January 3, 2017 / 2:39 am

      Aw thank you so much! Haha I put a lot of work into it and it makes me really happy when it’s noticed! <3

  22. DogVills
    January 2, 2017 / 11:48 pm

    Having VSCO app was really fun! I enjoyed every time I need to edit a photo to post on IG. Love your tips.

    • January 3, 2017 / 2:40 am

      VSCO just makes it easy to put a really creative, fun, and unique twist to photos so that’s the main reason I love using it myself. Glad we’re in agreement! 🙂

    • January 3, 2017 / 2:40 am

      You’re welcome! I’m glad it could be of some help! Really once you get the hang of it, it’s quite simple and easy to do!

  23. January 3, 2017 / 1:42 am

    I don’t really edit or filter my Instagram pictures. I know – I’m a terrible millenial. I just feel like it takes so much time and effort and, for me, I want to remember the pictures just as they were, how they happened!

    • January 3, 2017 / 2:41 am

      Haha honestly it’s all to each their own! Whatever works for you is what you should roll with! 🙂

  24. January 3, 2017 / 2:58 am

    I always love strolling through all the images across the IG world. There’s so much variety not just with content but with the professional eye versus the novice and the subjects be it a person or place. I havent seen to many bad ones but I have seen some that definitely convey more work has been involved.

    • January 3, 2017 / 3:54 am

      I totally agree! I love all the different editing styles, subjects, and themes that you can find scattered throughout Instagram! It really is my favorite social media platform because I love seeing the personal touch that goes into every single account!

  25. Lakisha
    January 3, 2017 / 3:31 am

    I’m working on building my Instagram following and I’ve always felt like I needed to stay in my niche. Thanks for the tips! I’ll be putting them to use ASAP!

    • January 3, 2017 / 3:53 am

      I totally understand how that feels! Always keep in mind there are ways to stay within a certain aesthetic that don’t require staying in a niche! Hope this little guide helped! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  26. Shane
    January 3, 2017 / 1:18 pm

    I love your perfectly curated feed! I need to get more mindful about keeping a cohesive brand in the new year

    • January 3, 2017 / 11:09 pm

      Thank you! I’ve found that a cohesive brand really does a great job at attracting an audience and promoting engagement! Best of luck to you in your social media endeavors babe! <3

  27. Chante Burkett
    January 3, 2017 / 2:06 pm

    such a great post I’m def changing up my Instagram for the new year so this post was very helpful

    • January 3, 2017 / 11:05 pm

      Yay! Glad to hear it and good luck! I’m sure it’ll look killer babe!

  28. Georgia
    January 8, 2017 / 8:58 pm

    This is one of the most useful posts I’ve read for a while. Love reading about how people do technical things like this, and I feel like you’ve given a real insider insight 🙂

    //teandtwosugars.blogspot.com xx

    • January 8, 2017 / 9:00 pm

      Thanks a bunch! Glad you found the post interesting! 🙂

    • January 11, 2017 / 8:25 pm

      I’m not sure what else I’d include in a part two but if there was ever demand, possibly haha

  29. January 12, 2017 / 6:24 am

    I loveee VSCO cam but still feel like I have such a long long way to go till I master it and get that unified insta feed I’m lustin for! Your instagram is amaaazing and these tips have helped soooo much though, thank you so much!! x

    Tash | natashatodd.blogspot.co.uk

    • January 12, 2017 / 11:27 pm

      Honestly learning it just comes with time and feeling things out! Everyone has an editing style that’s unique to them, so it’s just a matter of finding what filter and niche you fall into! Best of luck love! You can do anything you set your mind to! 🙂

  30. February 10, 2017 / 11:58 am

    This is a really great post! All the things I’ve been wishing I could do with my Instagram feed, you’ve just told me how to make it possible <3 Your feed is very impressive, hope mine will be too one day!

    • February 10, 2017 / 12:08 pm

      Aw so glad this post helped! That was the goal! Best of luck babe, I can’t wait to see what you create! 🙂

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