June 8, 2015

Photography: How I Make My Less-Than-Stellar Phone Photos Insta-Worthy

before and after vscocam

before and after instagram filter

before and after photo editing instagram
Scheduled on 5/22/15

The phone I have under a prepay company does a decent job, but it's by no means an iphone 6. I only take to the single-focus, 3 megapixel camera on my Samsung Galaxy Centura when I have no other option--or if I'd disturb the peace by whipping out my DSLR and climbing on a chair to compensate for the long portrait lens. 

The bland photo, however, makes the editing process that much more exciting. There's something intrinsically rewarding about recontructing a photo so that it does do that beautiful real-life scene justice.

If you, too, are an insta enthusiast without the best phone equipment, here are my editing tips:

1. Take VSCOCam for a test run

The filters on this free app feel much more natural to me--my personal favorite is F2, which brightens the photo and adds a subtle blue undertone. Now that instagram's in-app editing has updated to include fade and a whole myriad of other tools, vscocam's main advantage has become its more refined filters. Like instagram, you can control the strength of each tool by double tapping the icon and testing the values until you reach the most visually-appealing number.

2. If you're going to crop your photo, crop it in instagram

Two reasons: 

One, precision--the grid bars in instagram are thinner, and the view of the photo is larger. If you're striving to follow the rule of thirds, instagram is more conducive to an effective crop.

Two, the crop in vscocam makes your photo blurry in-app. While it becomes clear once exported, I find it maddening to work with a grainy shot, especially if I'm attempting to set just the right amount of fade.

3. Remember filters aren't always the most effective solution
In my fourth shot pictured (of the landscape), I went sans filter. Everything I tried upset the color balance--rather than restoring the image to match more closely what my eyes saw, filters made the sky an eerie shade of green, or some other unnatural color. Instead, I took to instagram's in-app editing tools, upping the brightness, setting contrast to match, and slightly increasing color saturation.

On a separate note, when I do use filters, I use them judiciously. In my opinion, heavily-filtered photos look much less clean, less professional, and less real.

And so arises my favorite existential photo-editing debate:

At what point does photo editing switch from enhancing the image to manipulating reality?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and any of your personal tips in the comments!
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Join the conversation!

  1. First off, hi Lily! I haven't spoken to you in months! It feels like years. College definitely had me in its grasp the past few months, but I'm back now and ready to blog!

    Haha, I love this post. I use photoshop express to touch my pictures up and then edit them further on Instagram. Insta is getting some nice edits, though sometimes you've just gotta use two programs in a row to up the flavor! THE IMAGE FLAVOR! HECK YEAH!

    I hope you're doing well. I have missed this blogging world!

    love love always,

  2. Great post! My phone is an HTC Desire which is REAAALLLY OLD- the photos are awful so I don't use it for photos BUT I totally get the advice on filters- I use Picmonkey for editing some of my blog photos and recently I have just relied on changing the exposure (and of course cropping) rather than any filters


    Kezzie AG

  3. ALIIIIii! I just did a little dance when I saw that you returned. I can't wait to see what you've been up to!


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