This post is not for you if you are what I like to call a photo editing guru who never needs to rely on YouTube and miracles. But if you are an aspiring travel photographer or at least someone who wants to BOOST their Instagram then keep reading to learn how best to edit Instagram photos.
As I just passed my 1-year Blogiversary, I couldn’t help but reflect on how dumpy my early photos were and how far I’ve come this past year as a photographer. Am I still amateur? Absolutely. Do I know everything there is to know? Definitely not!
Yet, I have learned a lot and am pleased with my growth, therefore want to share my tips with anyone who is in a place of “what the hell am I doing?”
READ MORE: The Wander Year: Mishaps, Misfortunes, and Learning Lessons From My 1st Year as a Travel Blogger.
In this post, I am going to share with you how I learned to take travel photos, found my editing style, and what tools I cannot live without. I will also share a few learning lessons I’ve learned along the way.
One very important thing to remember is…
the path to amazing travel photography does not happen overnight.
At least not for the common folk. Instead, it takes lots of practice, terrible photo after terrible photo, and embarrassing moments in front of random strangers.
I am far from what you would call an Instagram success but since learning how to edit my photos this past year, I have grown my following from 400 to over 6,000 and here’s how I did it!
Table of Contents
Picking Up a DSLR
After dropping a whopping $1,400 on a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR), I was determined to turn the dial to anything BUT Automatic. I caved after the first photo though. True story.
I couldn’t help but feel intimidated by all the different knobs and buttons, and quickly realized this was a beast I knew nothing about. From that moment on, the only book I read was the owners manual and any article on travel photography tips I could find.
No joke, I even read the owners manual on the plane to New York City, on my lunch breaks, and before bed. There was just one problem with my method. I was not practicing what I was reading.
How I Practiced Travel Photography
I created homework for myself.
I created collections on Instagram and boards on Pinterest with all my favorite photos I came across. Some I replicated for the sole purpose of practicing angles and shooting techniques with my camera. It was the only way I knew how to create homework for myself, and honestly, it was very effective.
Once I got comfortable paying attention to the little details (i.e. not cutting people’s feet off), I started feeling more adventurous with my angles and the less I relied on finding material to practice with.
I took photos every weekend.
It wasn’t until June 2017 that I started getting up early every weekend to go take photos. That meant waking up at 6 am in order to get soft natural lighting. Once I got into the groove, it felt less dreadful and more exciting. I suddenly couldn’t wait for the weekends!
How I Found My Style
In a way, finding your style is also finding your brand. You want your pictures (and captions) to depict how you want to be perceived by viewers aka your brand.
For most, this part takes the longest. After all, you are trying to narrow down who you are and deliver that in a meaningful and artistic way your followers will appreciate.
If you want to be known for your dreamy beach escapes and underwater adventures, then don’t take pictures of you indoors enjoying a hot coffee. Think about it. What do you want your audience to know about you?
That very question is what helped me find my style. I wanted my audience to know three things about me: I am outgoing, I love colorful things, and specialize in city travel. From there, I only posted photos that sent the message of those three things (i.e. photos of me being silly, against colorful street art, walking around big cities). Does that make sense?
Pick a few things you want to be known for and curate your images to align with those key things.
How I Learned to Edit Instagram Photos
This by far was my greatest battle. . .
Everyone loves those bright airy photos you see all over popular Instagram accounts like Dame Traveler and Gypsylust. Well, that didn’t exactly work for me. Why do you think that is?
The reason for my failure (which didn’t occur to me for a while) was my photos were not me on top of mountains overlooking a valley with tons of negative space (i.e. airy). No, no my photos were me against colorful backgrounds in cities. Basically with lots going on around me. Can you see the problem now?
You can’t edit a busy photo to magically appear as some airy photo. It all ties back to what I mentioned before. . . your style. Seeing as I wanted my photos to be colorful I couldn’t very well edit them to appear dark and moody now, could I? The same applies to you. Knowing your photography style makes editing insanely easier. After I figured out my style this is what I did next:
I collected inspiration.
Knowing that I was predominately city travel who wanted to show bold, colorful photos, I looked for photos that had similar traits and collected photos that I liked. Then, I used those images as inspiration when editing my own photos.
I watched YouTube until my eyes were dry.
YouTube is a great learning tool. I searched for editing tips that would help me give my photos a bold look.
I practiced, compared, and practiced again.
More times than none, I would edit photos to my liking, find a new trick, then go back and re-edit them. Guess you can say I’m a bit crazy over small details. After months of practice, I can quickly edit photos I am satisfied with all because I practiced. Who knew?!
How to Give Your Instagram a Cohesive Look
Here is the best way to achieve a cohesive look on your Instagram feed:
#1 Shoot around the same time of day.
One of the easiest ways to give your photos a cohesive look is to shoot around the same time of day. If you’re going for a dark moody look then you would most likely want to shoot during blue hour (the last bit of daylight when the entire sky is a deep blue color), or say you want that washed look then midday is probably best.
I am not strong at night photography, plus it doesn’t make sense seeing as I want bright photos. It’s easier for me to shoot during sunrise than sunset because I like to keep my ISO between 100-400 or risk fuzzy images. This also allows me to keep similar settings on my camera. These are my standard settings in manual mode:
F/Stop: no higher than 7.1
#2 If your photos are shot similarly then you can edit similarly, completing a cohesive look.
Think about where/how you generally take photos (style) and when (i.e. morning, afternoon, night). What type of colors are involved? Are you beachy vibes? Then you need beach colors like blues, tans, and greens in most of your photos. Edit those colors to match as closely as possible in every photo.
Given that I go for bright and colorful photos. These are a few of my standard edits in Lightroom:
Slight increase of Blacks
P.S. If you want a crisp clear photo when uploading to Instagram, make sure to 1) Crop photo to 1×1 2) Export with a minimum of 1080 pixels
Photography Editing Tools I Cannot Live Without
Here are a few photography tools I use on the daily:
I think I’ve talked enough about my love for Lightroom and how it’s used. If you have a desktop/laptop and are willing to spend $10/mo. then give Lightroom a go.
A Color Story
This is a free app with in-app purchases available. They offer amazing filters. Perfect for those on-the-go Instagram edits.
Basically the same as A Color Story app only they allow you to store photos in the app. Say you want to edit a bunch of photos and see them side by side you can in VSCO.
Golden Hour App
A great tool for letting you know what time of day is the best for shooting photos. By far my favorite app on this list. Costs $2 and well worth it.
Since my recent entry into the travel photography world, here are a few learning lessons I have learned along the way:
It’s true what they say about Golden Hour.
Always shoot and edit with RAW images.
Practice makes perfect no matter how silly you feel.
Don’t be afraid to let your creativity run wild.
Failure means you are at least trying.
It’s ok to learn from other people until you develop your own style.
If there is anything you still have questions about please let me know in the comments below! Or, if you have any tips to add. Continuous improvement right?!