photography & instagram

photo editing with apps


Photo editing with apps is easily done and accessible to anyone with a smartphone at little to no cost, so I thought I’d share a few apps and tips for editing your photos before sharing on Instagram (or indeed any social media). In fact Instagram itself has some pretty useful editing tools and, since there is where your photos go, perhaps there is where we should start…

photo editing with apps | humphrey and grace

The photo I am using for this post I snapped on my iPhone 6, each of the below edits begin with the straight off the camera version. I aim for a natural looking photo keeping my edits simple, not highly tweaked or enhanced, as this is what I prefer though how you edit is entirely your choice! The following are merely to show that a similar overall edit can be achieved several different ways.

photo editing with apps


Instagram have a range of filters, most of which I am going to advise you to steer clear of! The only exceptions for me are the black and white filters ‘moon’ and ‘inkwell’, occasionally just a touch of ‘gingham’. Although honestly – at the moment – I don’t use any of their filters (and might gently suggest that you run for the hills before experimenting with the yellow joy of ‘rise’ or ‘valencia’. And almost all of the others…) So for the sake of this edit we are going to ignore all of the filters and simply use the editing tools. This edit goes brightness +40 / warmth -25 / saturation -7 / sharpen +15. It’s still maybe a little yellow for my liking though.

Lightroom mobile app

My favourite app for editing is Lightroom. Having started to use the full version of Lightroom on my MacBook for editing DSLR images last year – I wrote a little about it here – I love the flexibility it gives. You can fix tone, remove or add grain and haze, crop, straighten, brighten, darken, adjust colours, highlight, shadow and many things besides. It gives the user absolute control of elements that adding filters in apps will not. For the sake of comparison I also edited the image at the top of this post in the full version of Lightroom on my computer. The advantages there are numerous, I removed the yellow tone (I haven’t found a way to do this in the app), sharpened and masked then used the luminance function to remove grain. Fine tuning your photographs in Lightroom can become addictive! Some of the features in the app are perhaps tricky to find, though once you know where they are that’s irrelevant…The image below I edited in the Lightroom app as follows. Temperature -10 / tint -5 / exposure +60 / highlights +5 / blacks -14 / clarity +4 / vibrance -5 / noise reduction 1 (low). Even though fine tuning is not quite as achievable in the app I’m happy with the tone of this edit.


(pronounced viss-co) is such a popular app now and one I downloaded maybe 2 years ago. In my experience it can put a colour or tone to photos which is great if that’s what you’re after though I tend to prefer my whites to be really white. I find a lot of the filters are pink/blue/yellow. If this doesn’t offend you then their filters are lovely, they soften photos and often make them look ‘vintage’ for want of a better word. Muted maybe? This was one of my first photo editing apps of choice and for a while it was all I used. My favourite filter is F2, which is where I started here. The edit goes F2 +6 / exposure +2 / sharpen +2 / temperature -1 / saturation -1. Can you see what I mean by muted? Compared to the first two edits this has a much flatter feel, the contrast has been cleaned up by the filter even at half strength.


PicTapGo is the other app I used over a period of time before downloading Lightroom. It is a great next best to Lightroom in my opinion with a range of filters and effects that are mostly pretty subtle. You can enhance your photo, improve the light, straighten and crop, adjust the intensity of each filter and layer them (or undo the layering) with ease. It’s impossible to give you a precise edit here so the following is a ‘best guess’ as the strength of each filter is simply a slider rather than numerical. For arguments sake let’s pretend it runs from 0-10. The below edit is something like lights on +7 / bleached +4 / cool it down +4 / bright side +2. Another slightly flat edit and theres a bit of a pink tone… But overall all four edits are ok for me, it depends on what you’re looking for doesn’t it?

There are so many apps and so many ways to edit within each that really the best advice I can give you is to find one that suits your style, the ones I have used here are the ones I used over the last 3 years, therefore the ones I know best.

Try to find a formula that works for you and tweak it as and where needed for each unedited image, you may have found it already in which case hooray! If not then experiment. Have fun! What’s the worst that could happen hey? If you have a favourite Instagram style or a particular gallery that you love the appearance of, ask the owner how they edit or at the very least which app or program they use.

I’d also love to know if you have a favourite editing tool or tip? What is your app of choice…?

Julia x

photo editing for Instagram | humphrey & grace


28 comments on “photo editing with apps”

  1. Ah I always love reading how other bloggers edit things, you just learn so much! I usually use vsco on the phone, then on the comp a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop, I find that’s the best comBo for me. Thanks for share Julia!

  2. Hi Julia, I love the colour/tint of your photos! I use Lightroom for edting my DSLR pics, but I’m not so good at developing my own presets (too much fiddling :-) ). I tried out the LR settings you mention above, and they make such a difference.
    Unfortunately, my Windows phone doesn’t have a good camera, and most of the photo/editing apps are only available for iPhone and Android, which doesn’t leave many alternatives to using DSLR pics on Instagram…

    1. Hi Kiki, I’m so happy to hear you tried out a few of my tips, I do think Lightroom is the best editing software I have used. It’s a shame apps aren’t available for Windows phones, do you ever use the Instagram editing tools? They’re pretty good for a basic edit on a phone photo. Or just use you camera hey, I use mine a lot xx

      1. Actually, even the instagram edititing tools are different on a Windows phone as we only get Instagram as a “Beta” app… You can only click brightness and saturation and it will correct automatically, without any sliders or controls :-( Which is why I use mainly LR, and sometimes the Low-Fi or Hudson filter in Instagram.

        1. I didn’t know that, I’d be lost without editing on my phone!! I wonder if that will ever change, whether they are developing apps for windows or if it will never happen…

  3. What a great blog post! So great to see the differences between each app. I love Lightroom too and often use it in my Mac for my DSLR images, but there’s something about vsco that I love and so 9 times out of 10 my Instagram photos are my vsco edit. It’s so fun to play around though, I think I enjoy the editing just as much as taking the photos!

    1. Thanks so much Rachael! I love how our editing styles also become uniquely ‘us’ don’t you? VSco is brilliant and so popular, I guess it feels nostalgic or homely maybe? I love it too x

  4. Great post! Love the before and afters, and the way you’ve given specifics. My favourite is the photoshop app (premium one). If my image needs a bit more than IG editing can offer, this is my only go to, I love it!


    1. Thanks Emma! I have the photoshop app too but haven’t really played with it yet, I’d love to know how it compares to Lightroom as I find the full Photoshop program baffling! Is the app simpler to use?

      1. It’s funny what you get used to isn’t it, I have the Lightroom but haven’t played with it much. The photoshop app is great, I think once anyone has had a good play it really is easy. I love the premium feature of noise reduction, and the brightness, sharpening and shadow tools are a notch above. I’ll go and have another play with Lightroom, see if I can get to grips with it x

        1. Maybe I’ll have to have a play with the photoshop app too! Lightroom has the same functions as those you mention, the noise reduction is set at levels 1-3 so not entirel flexible but good enough for an app… Interesting stuff x

  5. I use VSco, but on occasions it doesn’t do what I need it to- or look like how I imagine it could. Will take a look at the others you’ve mentioned thanks!

    1. Thanks Sue! VSco is a brilliant app but it does have its limits, I’d really recommend Lightroom for fine tuning, though layering VSco and then Instagram for finer tuning with their editing tools could well be a compromise? Happy experimenting xx

  6. Your whites are always so white, Julia. I can never quite get that look when I edit. Must keep practising! I’ve just download A Color Story which was created by A Beautiful Mess. It’s quite fun but I don’t know that it can do anything more than the apps you’ve mentioned. I’ve been in the Insta doldrums lately so keep switching up my apps and consequently my feed is all over the place! I’ve got to pick one and stick with it! I must try the Lightroom app again x

    1. Thanks Bex, I’m a little obsessed with getting my whites right! I have used a beautiful mess in the past and seen a colour story around on Instagram, I quite like the look of edits with that one, they’re cheerful in tone aren’t they? Your mojo will come back, have you tried having a few days off? As in don’t even look at Instagram? It does wonders for me when I do that xx

    1. Thanks Jules! I’ve spent hours and hours learning to edit my photos, Lightroom is the best I’ve tried and I have tried a lot of apps along the way… It’s worth the perseverance as it takes a bit of leaning xx

  7. Great tips, I was talking about Lightroom the other night with a photographer friend who was recommending it so it looks like I need to take a look at it.

    1. Thanks Kizzy, I would absolutely recommend Lightroom if you are considering it, I can’t imagine anything else measuring up now! Filters you create can be saved and new ones can be added, you can purchase sets from numerous companies. It’s the most flexible tool and the app if brilliant for more flexibility than I’ve found in other apps… x

  8. Such a brilliant post, I love seeing the before and afters next to each for each app. It shows really clearly what you can do with them all, and the differences between them. Well done! x

    1. Thanks Emma! I have a little series of these posts lined up, it’s always interesting to see how others edit their photos isn’t it? xx

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