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A Beginner’s Guide to Shooting and Editing Photos for Instagram

A Beginner's Guide to Shooting and Editing Photos for Instagram

Enhancing your Instagram photos through proper editing can transform them into visually striking and engaging content, even if you’re working with a basic camera or smartphone.

Navigating photo editing might seem confusing and overwhelming initially, especially with numerous apps available, but practical insights can guide you through the process.

Read on to discover essential photo editing techniques and useful tips for indoor photography, allowing you to create high-quality Instagram content effortlessly.

How to edit photos for Instagram

Editing photos for Instagram can boost your visual storytelling and captivate your audience with a cohesive and engaging feed. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to edit your photos for Instagram:

Choose an editing tool

Start by selecting an editing tool or app. You can use the built-in editing tools on Instagram or opt for third-party apps like Adobe Lightroom, VSCO, or Snapseed that offer more advanced editing.

Explore the main features of the available options to find the tool that best suits your editing style and helps you create HD Instagram content.

Import your photo

Open an editing app of your choice and import the photo you want to edit. This can usually be done by tapping the “+” or “Import” button. Ensure your visual is in the highest quality possible to retain clarity and details during editing.

Crop and straighten

Cropping is one of the quickest ways to improve your pictures. It allows you to cut distracting elements from a visual, helping viewers focus on the subject better and creating a more interesting composition.

Instagram supports square (1×1 ratio or 1080×1080 pixels), portrait (vertical visuals with a 4×5 ratio or 1080×1350 pixels), and landscape (horizontal visuals with 1.91×1 ratio or 1080×566 pixels) photos, so choose the format that suits your content better.

If your photo needs straightening, use the rotation or straighten tool to align it properly.

Adjust exposure and contrast

Start by adjusting the exposure. It controls the overall brightness of the image. Increase it to brighten the photo or decrease it for a darker look.

Then, fine-tune the contrast to add depth and make colors pop. Higher contrast can create a more dynamic image.

Correct colors

First, correct the white balance to ensure your colors look natural. Adjust it until the whites in your photo appear neutral.

Second, adjust the saturation and vibrance to enhance or tone down colors as needed. Be careful not to oversaturate, which can make your photo look unrealistic.

Sharpen and enhance details

Use sharpening tools to make your photo appear clearer and more detailed; increase the sharpness to achieve a cleaner, crisper look, or decrease it to soften the visual. Be subtle with this adjustment to avoid graininess.

Then, enhance specific details if necessary. Some apps will allow you to selectively improve parts of the image, such as the eyes or background.

Apply filters and presets

Filters and presets allow you to ensure that your Instagram feed looks wholesome and harmonious—even when visuals are taken under different circumstances and different lighting.

You can pick one filter or preset for all your images, or experiment with different ones as long as the overall color scheme of your feed looks cohesive.

If you don’t know what color schemes are often used for social media or how to create the right palette for your desired aesthetics, consider looking up Instagram color scheme examples and use them as a reference to pick up the right filters.

Add some final touches

Finish your photo editing for Instagram by making final adjustments, such as removing blemishes or reducing noise.

You can also consider adding creative effects like vignettes, textures, or gradients to enhance the mood of your photo. However, be careful not to overdo it, as such effects are not used extensively nowadays.

Save, export, upload, and share

Once you’re satisfied with your edits, save the edited photo to your camera roll or gallery. Then, open the Instagram app, tap the “+” button to create a new post, and select the edited photo from your camera roll.

Write a caption, add relevant hashtags, and choose preferred posting options, such as specifying your location, tagging another person, or sharing your pictures on other social media platforms.

Popular editing apps for Instagram

Learning how to edit pictures for Instagram is just part of the creative process. Another important aspect is to pick the right tool for your needs and demands. Here are some of the most popular editing tools to consider.


VSCO is known for its variety of beautiful filters and presets that can transform photos with just a tap.

It also provides essential editing tools for exposure, color, and grain adjustments, and allows you to share your content with other community members.

VSCO runs on iOS and Android and has a free version and a subscription-based VSCO X option for additional features.


Snapseed is a user-friendly photo editing app developed by Google. It offers a wide range of editing tools, including selective adjustments, curves, and various filters.

You can save all your personal editing preferences, creating a reusable preset and making it easy to apply one editing style to multiple pictures. Snapseed runs on both iOS and Android, and is completely free.


Pixlr is an online photo editor with a user-friendly interface and a wide range of editing tools. It’s suitable for both basic and more advanced photo edits, including layers and filters.

One of the app’s notable features is a variety of pre-made templates and overlays that can add creative effects to your photos.

Pixlr is available as a web tool and app for iOS and Android devices. It offers a free version and a premium version with additional features.

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom is a professional-grade photo editing app that offers editing tools and presets, allowing users to make precise adjustments to exposure, color, and detail. You can use the desktop and mobile versions, and Adobe Creative Cloud to sync your edits across devices.

Adobe Lightroom runs on iOS and Android, with a free version and a subscription-based premium option (Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan) for enhanced features.

5 photography tips for taking high-quality Instagram pictures

Use natural light. It is the best lighting for indoor and outdoor photography, which can significantly improve the quality of your photos.

If possible, shoot during the “golden hour” (sunrise or sunset) for soft, warm lighting. If you’re at home, consider the following indoor photography tip—ensure that the room has enough natural light coming in from the windows, or that the windows are big enough to create the desired illumination level.

Pay attention to the composition. Consider using composition techniques like the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing.

Doing this helps create visually appealing and well-balanced photos. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to find the best composition for your subject.

Maintain visual consistency. Being consistent in your Instagram feed’s style and color palette can make your profile visually appealing and memorable.

Choose a theme or aesthetic that reflects your brand or personal style, and stick to it. Using similar filters or editing styles can help achieve this consistency.

Edit thoughtfully. Use photo editing apps to adjust exposure, contrast, color balance, and sharpness. However, avoid over-editing; it can make your photos look unnatural when you don’t want to achieve that effect. Strive for a balanced and pleasing look that matches your chosen aesthetic.

Engage with your followers and the Instagram community. While it isn’t directly related to picture-taking, it can help others discover your posts. In turn, you’ll receive more feedback for your visuals.

Respond to comments on your posts, like and comment on the posts of others, and use hashtags. Adding trending or relevant hashtags can help other users discover your content on social media.

To sum up

Photo editing for Instagram might sound like a complex process, but breaking it into small steps can help you make a compelling feed without any struggles.

Follow the tips for photo shooting and editing listed in this article, pick an editing app of your choice, and enjoy creating visual content for your social media.

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