Many of my favourite Instagram photographers use mainly an iPhone to capture and edit their images. I find it fascinating that so many people can be given exactly the same tools, and produce such varying results and individual styles. Of course we all have a different eye and we will be drawn to different colours and compositions, but also we all edit slightly differently. Editing is a great way to set yourself apart from other photographers, and I believe the most successful Instagram galleries have a consistent and recognisable editing style.
It’s important to remember there is absolutely no right or wrong with editing. It’s all down to personal taste, but I do think finding your style is one of the most important things you can do as a photographer. Whether it is in order to build your Instagram following, or as a professional lifestyle and portrait photographer – if your work is consistent in style people will know what to expect, whatever the subject matter you are shooting. As I discussed in my last post, with so many of us capturing the same well known spots over and over, its an interesting way to compare people’s editing styles. A great example of this is the beautiful Warren Mews in London. Take a look at the location tag here, and you’ll notice how many different shades of black have been produced by the way different people have chosen to edit the same building.
It’s only around 4 years since I learnt that you could even edit a photograph. I slowly realised Instagram filters and borders weren’t the only way to make your photos look “better”, and I began to download and play about with various editing apps. I’m completely self taught, but fiddling around with mobile apps, and learning what each part of the process actually does to an image, has given me the building blocks of knowledge which eventually I expanded to using the more professional desktop editing suites, Lightroom and Photoshop.
So I thought it was about time I addressed editing a bit more on my blog. I’m going to start at the beginning, with mobile photography, and I will try to explain what terms such as contrast, clarity, and curves are, and I will show you how I edit my own pictures. I still take around half the images in my Instagram gallery with my iPhone, including almost all of my still lifes and flat lays. All these pictures are edited on my phone too, so in this first post I’m going to tell you my favourite apps to use and what it is I love about them.
There are a huge amount of apps out there, and I’ve tried heaps of them over the last few years. My advise would be to find your favourites and delete the others. This will help you to streamline your editing and begin to create a signature style of your own in apps that you know very well and are comfortable with the visuals and the layout.
Like with anything else, editing styles come and go from fashion to an extent. We are all constantly influenced by what we see and like, and of course it’s a good thing to hone your style and move with the trends, but try to remain recognisably YOU. I go through stages of slightly brighter exposures, and slightly deeper shadows, but on the whole I hope my style has been consistent over the last few years.
Recommended Editing Apps
The vast majority of my editing is done on the Lightroom mobile app. I love Lightroom full stop, as you probably know, so the app is a great extension for me of what I do on my computer. However there are a few reasons why I would recommend it, whether you use the desktop version or not.
The sliders are very sensitive, so it gives you a lot of control over the final image. There are also nifty things like tone curves and local adjustments, which I will get into another time. The main reason though is that it is the only mobile app I have found where you can alter individual colours, by hue, saturation and luminance. This was one of the best things I discovered for my editing when I learnt how to use Lightroom on my computer, so I was delighted to find it in the mobile app too, and without it my pictures would look very different!
The next app I would suggest is VSCO. Yes, I do use a filter, on most of my iPhone images. There is an enormous and slightly baffling selection of VSCO filters, so to make life easier I’ll reveal a few of my favourites in the next post. VSCO has improved massively over the last couple of years, the editing tools are much more sensitive now, whereas they used to be clunky and moved in relatively large increments. I also love that the filters can be reduced in strength, and I rarely ever use a filter at more than 3.5.
I use these two apps on almost every iPhone shot I edit (first my own edit in Lightroom, and then a light filter in VSCO), however there are a few more apps besides these that are useful to have in your armoury. PSExpress, SKRWT, and Retouch. Using a combination of these apps I can achieve a lot of what I’d be able to do using the computer versions of Lightroom and Photoshop.
Photoshop Express is a nice app which has similar capabilities to the Lightroom app. The additional feature which makes this app worth having is it’s ability to reduce noise, and it’s the only app I know off that does this (it is an in-app purchase, but worth getting). I used to use it on every picture when I had an iPhone 6S, and it makes a significant difference. These days however I find I don’t need it as often as the camera on my iPhone 7plus is much better.
If you do decide to use it, go gently with it. It gives images a nice smooth appearance, but you don’t want things to look plasticky and fake. Alternatively embrace the grain, a lot of photographers like it and add it in to images. It’s all down to personal taste.
Not the snappiest of names, but an ingenious app for cropping, straightening and fixing perspectives. Other apps (including the Instagram editing tools) have horizontal and vertical perspective fixers, but none are as refined as in SKRWT. It is also the only one I know of where you can fix lens distortions, overlay a variety of grids to check your angles, and you can even stretch your image to make it a bit taller or wider. You can see a full tutorial I did on fixing perspectives here.
One final thing to say on fixing perspectives, is that is it really really worth doing. A facade shot that is bang on straight, is so much more effective that one that tapers at the top. The same goes for lines on table tops and table edges that slope away from you – they are an unnecessary distraction to the eye. I find it helpful to turn on the grid function in my phone camera and try to get things right as I take the shot, but a few tweaks in SKRWT are always worthwhile.
This is the final piece of my mobile photography tool kit that allows me almost all of the editing capabilities of the full version of Lightroom. I don’t retouch very much in my images, but occasionally a nail hole in the wall, or a crisp packet on the street detracts the eye a little too much for my liking. This is a very quick and easy app to use to deal with these things. I usually select “quick repair”, and simply move my finger over the offending object and the app will remove it.
Like I say, with editing everything is personal taste. There may well be apps you prefer to use, but these are the ones I have found give me the most control over my editing and fine tuning my images. They are definitely all well worth a try! Please feel free to comment below and I’ll answer any questions if I can!
In a next part of this mobile photography series I will show you exactly how I edit some of my pictures. Thanks for reading,
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