OK so let’s talk about photographing on a white surface and a few tips to help perfect you with editing whites for Instagram. I love white, when edited well it is clean and clear and shows off whatever colour or item you are using brilliantly – this is why many retailers use it for their product shots – it focuses the eye on the objects rather than the background.
I don’t have access to a studio. I don’t have a lightbox. What I have is a white tabletop (and a few other backdrops) which I position carefully to get the light right, and a piece of white mount-board which I sometimes use as a reflector, though not always, and I find that this replicates a studio closely enough for me. I will show you the setup in a while, but first lets talk about editing your photos to get the whites right.
As with my previous photo editing post, lets start with one ‘off the camera’ photo. In this case it is one I took on my Canon 7d mkII. In my house the light is absolutely best and easiest to work with on a day with light cloud cover and not direct sunlight. This I took on a rainy day with heavy cloud with my surface sitting next to the tall patio doors in my dining room. Although I do alter the settings on my camera I find it easier to edit a slightly under-exposed photo than to fix the blur that is more likely on a dull day when photographing with a slower shutter speed. I hold my camera by hand rather than using a tripod almost always. If you want to know what I use as a white guide it would be the blank page. Either on a blank document on your computer or what I actually use is the instagram posting function. When you get to the stage of writing a caption tap the photo so it fills the screen and see how the white looks next to the page behind it. Yep, honestly, that’s what I do! It shows the tint/tone really well… If anything I tend to slightly over expose my photos, again this is personal choice and it’s up to you how you edit yours. The following is to show that it doesn’t matter which app you use as even this small selection produce similar results.
Editing whites for Instagram, 4 ways with apps
I posted this photo recently on Instagram. The one I posted was edited in the full version of Lightroom on my MacBook, it looked a little like this…
Lightroom mobile app
This edit goes temperature – 4 / tint -6 / exposure +79 / whites +10 / clarity +2 / vibrance -4 / saturation -4 / I love Lightroom. I know I’ve said so before but I really do, it works for perfectly for my style of editing! Actually I think if I’d turned up the exposure a notch or two more this edit would pretty much match the full Lightroom version so thats a bit of a result!
Ok lets use the Instagram tools here, the following edit goes brightness +40 / contrast +12 / warmth -21 / saturation -7 / highlights +15 / a pretty good result here too. I don’t know if I’m really picky but I think it’s a tiny bit pink… Maybe. It’s a pretty good white though so I’d happily post it.
This app has happily proved my tint point by making the white look a little more pink than the other apps I’ve used here. The below edit goes (again pretending the numberless slider runs from 1-10) lights on +7 / auto colour +3 / contrast +2 /
The filter has muted the colours and made the tone a little grey. My edit is F2 preset +4 / sharpen +1 / exposure +2 / contrast +1 / although not my style currently I do love the VSco effect on a photo…
Just to show the subtle differences in tone I have put the four edited images together below. All of them are fine, they aren’t remarkably dissimilar to each other but there are subtle differences. One of the keys to a cohesive gallery is using a single editing ‘style’, if VSco is your app of choice, great. It might be worth narrowing down your choice of filters to just a couple or, if you really want consistency, just one. Then use it for all your photos as the overall effect on a gallery full of photos is noticeable. The same applies to any app, find an editing technique that you like and then use it with little tweaks along the way – such as more/less brightness depending on the exposure of the photo etc.
As I mentioned above, you can achieve roughly the same finished photo in many different apps, there is no right or wrong, each app has it’s ups and downs. I really believe that choosing a style (any style) is more important than which app you choose. The apps I have demonstrated are simply the ones still on my phone but it doesn’t necessarily make one better than another. I like Lightroom. That’s my favourite. If you scroll through my gallery you will see that my whites are really variable and often quite different from each other yet the editing holds them together. You can choose ANY of the numerous apps that you can find and learn to use it your way but be consistent.
OK so here is the setup, it’s nothing special but it works for me… Different flowers, same position. That’s a piece of mount board propped up against a stool → that’s me on a chair ↓ there are the lovely big doors ← that’s it. Secrets out. I wonder how many of us use a similar setup as a home studio…? If this is new to you, you may need to move around the house to find the best light and again it depends a little on what you are looking for. I do like my photos to have shadows as it makes them more alive, without shadows a photo can be flat. As I mentioned earlier I don’t always use my make-shift reflector at all, choosing instead to use the shadows cast by the items I am photographing. You can completely alter the mood of a photograph by moving closer to or further from the light source – i.e. the window – though a small distance can make a big difference so test it out as you go.
I hope this is helpful when editing whites for Instagram, I hope it also makes my photos seem a little less ‘perfect’ because they aren’t really, I just edit them carefully to suit my style.