tutorial // editing photos on the iPhone

September 11, 2013

One question I get asked most frequently, I think, is this: "How do you edit your Instagram photos?"

Before and after comparison. See the part in the middle with the different coloring?

Other questions include, "Did you take this photo using a camera or your phone?," "What app do you use for editing?," "What photo-apps do you recommend?," etc. Today I'll try to answer all of them in this one post! It's been requested quite a few times that I make a tutorial anyway, so why not. A bit of warning though, because this is a photo-tutorial, it might be a bit image-heavy (and a bit rambly) below the cut.

First of all, I'd like to answer these two questions: "Did you take this photo using a camera or your phone?" and "What app do you use for editing?". For photos on Instagram, unless they're outfit photos or photos that I cross-posted on my blog, then they were taken using my phone. I use an iPhone 4S, by the way. As for what apps I use, there are only two that I use on a daily basis. One of them is VSCO Cam, which I will talk about today, and the other is LINE Camera. I mostly only use the latter for taking photos because it's more convenient for me (especially for selcas lol). I don't really use the design function much. I also have Afterlight, but I veeery rarely use it. I'll get to that later.

This is what the editor on VSCO Cam looks like! The photo I'm using today was taken using LINE Camera and imported into VSCO Cam for editing. That's how I usually do things. If you want, you can use the camera on VSCO Cam, but I prefer to do things this way.

When you first open the app, you'll be taken to the camera, but I'll get to that later. For now, just assume that you already know how to access the library. (I'm doing things backwards, sorry! Bear with me ;;) Once you open the editor, you'll immediately see the filters. What I love about the filters on VSCO Cam is that the effect you get with them look just like what you'd get with Curves or Actions on Photoshop. I found Instagram filters pretty.. overdone, so I shifted to just using these. Above you can see I used a black and white filter, B2.

Here I used one of my favorite filters, F2. (I'll explain these later as well.) Another thing I like about this app is that you can adjust the strength of the filter, just like the opacity feature on Photoshop. Because I was going for a vintage-y feel for the photo, I kept it at 12. I love that they use numbers instead of percentages, too. I'm terribly OC with anything with percentages (I usually take forever because I want them to always end in a 5 or a 0, I seriously have no idea why!), so this makes things so much easier for me.

I'm sure you've already noticed that white part with the black arrow pointing down, right? Well, if you press that, you'll get more options for editing (left). The paintbrush button takes you to the filters, while the wrench button takes you to the 'toolkit' where you can do adjustments and such on your photo. This includes: Exposure, Contrast, Temperature, Skin Tone (downloadable via the in-app store), Tint, Saturation, Fade, Shadows Save, Highlights Save, Rotate, and Crop. Really, the only thing missing is some sort of healing brush tool!

These work pretty much the same way as the filters. One huge difference that this app has though, is that even after you've done the adjustment for let's say, the Exposure, you can still go back and change it even after you've adjusted other things. Same goes for the filters.

After using that one filter, the photo looked pretty good so I didn't want to do anything more. I did want it to look a bit more 'washed' though, so I used Fade and brought it up three notches. From this point, you can go ahead and crop the photo if you'd like.

And here's a before and after side-by-side comparison. Looks nice right? (*≧艸≦)

Oh, but because the photo was taken using a different app, you won't be able to crop it once you open it on Instagram. You have to crop it manually. Which isn't such a big problem if you think about it, really!

When you're done, all you need to do is press the button with the arrow again, then press the button with the check mark. This will save the photo, then take you back to the library. With the photo highlighted, press the button with the arrow (next to the trash can / delete button), then press Instagram. One more thing! All photos edited using VSCO Cam will be saved only on VSCO Cam. They won't turn up on your Camera Roll, so if you want to post them on your blog or something, you'll have to save them manually.

After choosing Instagram, it'll ask you for confirmation, then take you directly to the app, where you can just go ahead and post it. Like I said, once you choose to upload it there, you won't be able to crop the photo, so you have to do it beforehand.

Aaand that's it! That's pretty much how I post photos on Instagram. Take photos using LINE Camera → edit on VSCO Cam → upload on Instagram. It's a bit of a hassle if you think about it, but it works. Photo-editing is serious business for me, especially since I want the quality of my Instagram photos to be almost the same as the ones on my blog, heh. If VSCO Cam had an app for videos, I'd totally use it!

I mentioned earlier that I'll be explaining a few other things about VSCO Cam as well. Before that, let me just say that I'm not being paid by VSCO Cam to do this at all, haha! I wish I were, but no. I purchased the app (before it became free to download) and bought all the filters, all on my own accord. That's how much I love it, heh. Anyway, here's a quick look at some of the other features. First, the camera.

The camera is pretty okay. I used to use it a lot, mostly because I liked the fact that you can choose two separate points for focusing and exposure. It came pretty handy especially for subjects with a lot of black or a lot of white in them, cos those usually screw up the exposure in photos. (At least, for me anyway.) After a while though, it became kind of a hassle because it took me forever to take just one photo, so I eventually switched to LINE Camera, which had a feature where you can just press anywhere on the screen and you'd get your shot.

Actually, if you press on the button with the gear on the upper left of the screen, you'll see that VSCO Cam has a similar feature. The only difference is, it doesn't focus as nicely as LINE Camera's, so most of the time I get really blurry photos because of handshake. LINE Camera has an IS feature that 'fixes' photos after you've taken the shot, so it almost never turns out blurry. After taking the shot, all photos will be stored on VSCO Cam's Library on your phone. This library can only be accessed using the app, so you won't be able to see the photos on your camera roll unless you save them manually. This also explains one of the downsides, which is that this app takes a tooon of space. Right now, it's using about 430MB on my phone. The upside though, is that any photos edited and saved on VSCO Cam can be re-edited however you like. For other photo-editing apps that I use such as Afterlight, once you save the photo, you can't go back and re-edit. Speaking in Photoshop terms, photos on VSCO Cam are saved as if they're PSDs, while on Afterlight they're saved as flattened JPEGs. Very convenient, if you ask me!

Another convenient feature is the Flagging option. You just choose photos you want to highlight, then press the button with the tiny flag on it.

The photos will then appear with a tiny red mark on the upper right corner. If you want to go back to these photos, all you have to do is press the button with the circle on top of your Library, then choose Flagged. You can now see all your highlighted photos separately. I use this a lot for whenever I use iPhone photos for a blog post or when I'm too lazy to edit stuff and want to do it later.

One more thing, see that button with the three lines on it? That's actually the Menu button. (Can't believe I'm telling you this just now, wtf. I'm such a scatterbrain, sorry!) Pressing on that button will show you a list of other features, including Discover, where VSCO regularly features different photographers who use VSCO Cam and VSCO Film, and the in-app store, where you can find all the different filters.

This new version of VSCO Cam is free and comes with nine free filters, but you can buy filters for as little as $0.99 for a bundle of three. For a limited time, they've made the whole collection of 49 presets available for just $5.99. I couldn't decide which set I liked best, so I chose to just buy the whole set, haha. No regrets though! Here's a list of available preset bundles, in order of popularity:

T - Faded & Moody
F - Mellow / Fade
G - Portraits
S - Bright + Clean and Bright + Warm
C - Vibrant Classic
K - Analog Classic
M - Mood: Underexposed and Mood: Subtle Fade
P - Instant + Cool, Instant Classic, Instant + Warm
X - Black & White Heavy Fade and Black & White Light Tone
B - Black & White Classic and Black & White Moody

There's also currently one adjustment tool (Skin Tone) and two preset bundles (Street Etiquette x VSCO and Levi's Commuter) available for download, completely free. These are only up for a limited time though. My favorites out of all of the filters are the F and S ones. I use them all the time. That doesn't mean I like the others any less though, they're all really good! It's just that those two are the ones I use the most.

So! That was long, wasn't it? Did I salestalk the crap out of this app or what? Let me just say it again, I am not being paid for this! I just sincerely love this app to death, which is why I want everyone to know about it. I've already converted Yapo long ago, actually! Heh heh. VSCO Cam is the best app for photo-editing, period. Go download it. You can thank me later. Haha! But seriously, I hope you all found this helpful. If anyone has any questions about this, feel free to comment or leave them in my ask box and I'll try to answer them. Thank you for reading! (≧∇≦)

© oh my little girl Maira Gall.