Photo Editing Goes Mobile

How I Edit Photos for Instagram


I spend a lot of my day editing photos on my phone, whether those are photos I’ve captured with my camera or those snapped on my phone. At this point, I’ve gotten my technique down to a science, sometimes even editing entire photoshoots on my phone.  Here’s a quick overview of how I edit using my two favorite editing apps.

1 / VSCO (iPhone, Android)

This is always the first step of my editing process. Although I don’t use VSCO’s in-app camera, I import most of my favorites from my photo library to the app. I typically choose one of my favorite filters (in order of frequency of use: SE3, A6, KK1, M5, E4) depending on the look I’m going for and then turn that filter strength down a bit.

Tip: If you’re trying to keep a consistent look to your photos, pick a filter and use that for most of your images.

After applying my filter, I typically play around with the following tools and settings until it feels right:

  • Exposure (+/- 1)
  • Sharpen (+9)
  • Saturation (-2)
  • Temperature (-1)


2 / SNAPSEED (iPhone, Android)

Snapseed is a pretty powerful app that gives me a lot of control and freedom to land the exact look I want for a photo. I use it often to bring out details in objects or clothing (using Tonal Contrast) or to whiten areas that are too warm (using Selective tool).

For example, in the photo of me above – I used VSCO to add more warmth to the photo (using filter KK1) but I didn’t want the background to be as warm as my skin and clothing. This is where the Selective tool in Snapseed comes in. I was able to use it to increase the exposure and desaturate the background to bring it closer to a true white. You can also do this by using “Tune Image” and then selecting the parts of the photos you want the edits to apply to.

Tip: I always try to make my whites as close to true white and blacks as close to true black. This seems like such strange concept, but the more you pay attention to the tones of these colors, the more consistent your editing will be.

Other adjustments and tools in Snapseed I often utilize are:

  • Tune Image
    • Brightness
    • Ambiance
    • Saturation
    • Highlights
    • Shadows
    • Warmth
  • Details
    • Sharpen
  • Selective
  • Tonal Contrast
  • Brush

And then it’s off to Instagram! If needed I’ll make last minute tweaks in the app, typically just playing with highlights and shadows or bumping up sharpness (again).  Hope this was helpful!