I often get asked how I edit my photos on Instagram. Which is super flattering, because sometimes I’m spending hours editing shots on my computer, sometimes I’m just throwing on a filter and having a bit of a play, and then other times I’ve edited and re-edited a shot so many times that I forget what I’ve done, which is really annoying because then I can’t always replicate it.

It’s not hard to see that the game on Instagram has changed. The effort that goes into the imagery you see, not only on big brand accounts or Insta-celebs who do this for a living, and put a heap of resources and money into their shoots, but also just generally – every day people, small businesses, small time bloggers, there is so much more time, effort and care being put into styling, photography and editing. It’s a huge leap from the days when we were all hitting up ‘Hefe’ to give our shots a whimsical, antique feel (my personal favourite was Lo-fi just FYI).

Looking back over some of my older photos, I realised that I have learned a few tricks along the way. Some from trial and error, and some from other people sharing their hot tips. Aimee Song’s book Capture Your Style shares a wealth of knowledge from a true professional, and I’ve seen many other amaze Insta-legends share their tips recently as well, so it seems keeping your editing tricks a secret is no longer the done thing – everyone is loud and proud about what they do to get that perfect shot, and how they get those feeds looking absolute fire.

So, in the spirit of sharing my two cents worth on the matter, here are my standard go-to tricks as to how I edit my shots and *try* to keep my Insta feed consistent…

1. Everyone always says this but it’s legit true. Try to take your photo in good, natural light. It’s hard to make a really dark photo look light and still keep its sharpness and correct colour tone. Sometimes I’m guilty of this, and you can always tell the photos i’ve tried to brighten too much… #guilty

2. Filters can be friends. Sometimes I use one, and sometimes I don’t. For me it depends on the photo. I do have a few VSCO filters that I like to use on occasion, to add a certain tone to my shot when I think the photo needs it. My favs are A9, H1, H2, S2, & F1. Which one I use depends on the photo, but i’ll usually try one of these to see if it works, and if it doesn’t i’ll just go sans filter and alter the settings to get my desired effect.


3. Tweak tweak tweak. It’s rare that i’ll just pop a filter on a shot and post it as is. Usually I also tweak the settings on the photo in Instagram before posting. Typically i’ll up the contrast, brightness, warmth (slightly if needed), sharpness and sometimes bring down the saturation, warmth (again, slightly and only if needed) of the shot in Instagram before I post it. I don’t have exact settings for this, I usually just do this by eye until I like how it looks, but rarely do I go over 50% on any one setting. (Often I do this with my phone in flight mode first, so that the photo doesn’t actually post to my feed, but still saves on my phone. That way I can re-do it if I’m not completely happy, or do a few options and pick my fav.) I also tend to edit each shot in more than one app, so I might start out putting a filter on a photo in VSCO and then import it to Lightroom for further tweaking, before uploading and making some final edits in Instagram.


4. Lightroom is magical. Lightroom is easy to use. Lightroom has completely changed my editing game. You don’t need to be a graphic designer to decipher it. And the brush tool will be your bestie. I use this when I want to brighten or desaturate a specific area in a shot. Like, if I want my bed sheets to look whiter, but want my flat lay items to retain their true colour. Or if I want to whiten a wall behind me to keep it looking crisp amongst my feed. It takes a little bit of practise and I think i’m still figuring it out, but it’s a lot easier to use than Photoshop when you are just editing shots for Instagram.

5. Snapseed is magical. Snapseed is easy to use. Snapseed has completely changed my editing game. It’s like Lightroom on the go. Perfect for when I want to edit a shot but don’t have a computer handy (i.e. awesome when travelling). Again, I mainly use the brush tool to brighten/desaturate white areas of my photos, or the healing tool to remove any little things in a shot I want to remove – a mark on the wall, a stain on my shirt…


This last one isn’t about editing photos, it’s about your overall Insta feed…

6. Pre-plan that feed. Shock horror, we don’t all post in the moment as the moment happens! This one might not be for everyone, but let me explain…

I used to feel the need to post ‘live’, and sometimes I still do, but I found that by ensuring I was always posting live meant I was also always getting distracted by what I was going to post next, constantly stressing about getting the right shot, and then once I had the shot, spending too much time at breakfast or whilst out and about editing the photo before posting. To be honest I think I stopped enjoying the whole Instagram thing because of the pressure I had put on myself. I became worried I would end up missing out on the more important parts of life, because I was too busy trying to filter them, and ultimately I think I stopped being really present in those moments that mean most to me.

Now, I still post photos of what I’m doing and what i’m up to, but i’ll post them later on, after I’ve had time to edit them away from the moment. So I still get to eat my pancakes while they’re hot, and I still get to have real conversations with my friends and family when I’m out because my mind isn’t distracted by making sure those white tones are clean and the shot fits in my feed nicely.

Some might say this stops your Instagram from being authentic, because it’s too planned. But I think it’s just up to you as to what you place importance on. My feed is still made up of photos of my life, photos of my favourite things, photos of what I’m up to (the aesthetically pleasing portions of it at least) but I post them in a way that doesn’t take away from me living a more authentic life. Which is what I find more important. So that one’s up to you I guess – post when and how you see fit. You do you boo. As my little planning rant has suggested, I find pre-planning helps me live a happier life outside of the ‘gram. It doesn’t stop me posting live when I can or want to, but it does take a little bit of (self inflicted) pressure off generally, so, to plan my feed (which I often plan a few posts at a time so I’m usually a couple of days ahead), I just use the VSCO app. I’ve heard of others using a private Instagram account (which is a great idea and I sometimes wish I did that), or download specific planning apps which I’m sure are great. I’ve just always done it in VSCO where I can re-save the image if I need to, and reorder the images as I please.

VSCO Layout Planning

At the end of the day, no one rule applies when it comes to filters, brightness and contrast. Finding an editing style that works for you can take some trial and error, but the good news is: it’s just instagram guys. The real good shit happens outside of insta, IN the moments that your photos are of, not in the filter you put over it. #deep

So there you have it, some of my not-so-secret tricks as to how I edit my photos, and plan my Instagram feed. I hope you found it somewhat helpful, or at least slightly insightful as to how I manage my little Insta account! Just doin’ it for the ‘gram.