Instagram is like the Regina George of social media platforms right now.
Everyone wants to know it and be in the club of “getting” it. And like Gretchen Wiener’s hair…it’s full of secrets.
I’ve seen everything from “how to go from 0 to 50,000 followers in a week” articles (Hint: it’s not that simple) to people claiming that just following a bunch of people and then later unfollowing them is a “strategy” that will get them to follow you back (Hint: that’s not a strategy – that’s just spammy). At the end of the day, if you focus on creating a beautiful profile, that’s going to give you a leg up on everyone else.
There’s a whole lotta stuff to be said about Instagram, but that’ll likely get said to this brand spankin’ new email list (it’s my biz + blog-related list, so it’s different from the weekly inspirational newsbreak!). (; So I’m keeping this post focused on one specific thing: editing your photos to be Insta-ready. I’ve got a whole buncha random apps on my phone, but there are five that I’m partial to. And within those five, each one serves a specific purpose for me to get my pictures exactly as I want before hitting “publish.”
So without further adieu, here are my five favorite apps to improve your Instagram game.
I don’t really do much editing in the Instagram app itself anymore – I just use Afterlight. Afterlight is my own personal fave editing app, and the slider icon and cropping icon at the bottom of the editing page are my two favorite editing categories to work within. The farthest left icon in the first category looks like a magic wand, because it’s straight-up magical. It’s “Clarify,” and it makes everything stand out a bit more with added depth to your photo. The next icon icon over looks like a sun – that’s “Brightness” – and then a black-and-white circle – that’s “Contrast”. These two are my favorite for fixing any lighting issues, which undoubtedly arise whenever you’re not shooting a picture in natural sunlight. Lastly, I use the red dropper icon to up any Saturation as need be, to make colors pop. My own Instagram is pretty bright and colorful, just the way I like it. I like making sure my colors are at their best, because I’m all about living a life in color.
This app has changed my entire Instagame. Because the #1 thing I recommend to grow your Instagram is plan. ahead. Think about it for a hot sec:you want a lot of followers…that’s a big audience. Would you walk on stage in an auditorium full of people without knowing what you were going to say or do? Heck no. Because what you say or do in that moment influences the opinion of every single person that sees you on stage, and they’ll make a snap judgment in that moment whether or not they like you. Simple as that. If you’re using Instagram as a tool of influence or a place to connect with brands and do some biz (versus using Instagram as a platform to simply connect with friends and share memories in that way), you’ve gotta make it a well-branded, cohesive experience for all. When it comes to creating an Instagram “theme,” you’re really creating your BRAND online. Branding is *NOT* simply your logo, social media profiles, and color palette (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise)! A graphic designer is not necessarily a branding expert. BRAND is a whole experience, and it includes the emotions that someone feels the second they click on your Instagram profile. Are they feeling instantly inspired and uplifted? Moody? Contemplative? Girly? VSCO has a “Library” feature that is my BFF in planning ahead for Instagram, because it allows you to put photos in a feed similar to Instagram’s profile grid to see what works best alongside what. This has been a gamechanger for me, because I lovelovelove being able to see a bird’s eye view of what’s to come. Not only can you ensure that colors work cohesively throughout your profile, but you can check balance, space, and overall content. Do you have three posts in a row that are very busy and up-close, then two that are farther away with more white space? Maybe you’ll want to add more balance in there to give your audience a more cohesive experience
VSCO’s “Library” feature is an option on the left sidebar. From there, you can begin organizing your future posts! There is no app out there right now (as far as I know, so someone let me know if I’m wrong!) that allows you to schedule your Instagram posts completely. There are applications that let you schedule everything out and get a reminder when it’s time to post, BUT you have to still manually go into the main Instagram app to hit “publish.” VSCO allows you see what your Instagram future holds, and it’s great when you’re working with brands and know there are certain things you’ll need to post at certain times.
VSCO is probably best known for its editing capabilities. Buuuuuuut, here’s a secret: I don’t like VSCO for editing. I much prefer Afterlight, so I just stick to VSCO for the library!
WANT MORE ALREADY? Check out How to Theme your Instagram, + grab the FREE growth guide inside!
Snapseed has got a full editing suite + filter options, but again – I don’t use the entire app. I use Snapsheed for the “Selective” tool.
Selective lets you choose specific colors in your photo to edit differently. I’m honestly not 100% fluent in the whole app yet, but I use the tool to brighten (or darken) specific areas. When you click on the “Selective” tool and tap on your photo, a circle like the one below appears on your screen indicating exactly which color you’ve selected. If you shift it around at all, you’ll see the outer color rim change accordingly. The “B” below it stands for Brightness! Once you’ve hovered over the exact color you want to edit, moving your finger from left to right on your screen will brighten or darken any pieces in your photo that register as being the exact same color as you’ve selected. Crazy, right???
Now let’s make this practical fo’ youuuu. Say you’ve got a photo that turned out to be a bit too dark in most places. But, if you just brighten the entire image, you risk overexposing the main subject of the photo, making them look all washed out, too-white, and ghostly. SO, Snapseed is a perfect solution for that! I recently posted the photo below to Instagram, and I had edited it with Snapseed ahead of time to brighten the wall. Lighting had it lookin’ pretty yellow instead of a nice light cream color, so I brightened the wall to make the entire photo pop more, and to make the picture blend with the rest of my feed better.
Layout allows you to create different types of collages, depending on how many photos you’re trying to get into one final image. I use this app, for example, when I want to showcase a closer-up, detailed shot alongside a full outfit shot. It aligns the two together without any seam or line, and you can select which photo you want on which side and how much space you want allotted for each, too.
I use Facetune primarily if I’ve got a breakout on the loose. If Mother Nature was workin’ against me on a day when I needed to shoot close-up photography for something, Facetune comes to the rescue! The “Smooth” button is where. it’s. at. BUT, you can’t get too smooth-happy with this one, or you’ll 100% end up looking like you photoshopped your face. If you’re going to smooth something over, I definitely recommend going *lightly* with it, just to get that one pimple that’s driving you nuts.
And voila! My Instagram arsenal. Dude, the gram game is so intense. I’d love to hear your own methods and what works for you in a comment below! If you also have any questions or if any of my explanations were unclear, please ask away. This was all written in the BC era – before coffee!
What are you favorite apps to improve your Instagram?
And if you lovelovelove Insta as much as I do, come join my party. You’re invited, and I’ll even bring the champagne. (;
RELATED POST: How to Theme your Instagram + a FREE growth guide!