Building Your Brand | Lifestyle

How To Edit Instagram Photos (With No Professional Help)

September 7, 2017

By Devon Butler

I’ve written before about my lack of fancy camera, and though I’m *trying* to save up for one, paying rent in New York makes it nearly impossible. What’s frustrating is that I’ll have a creative vision for a shot, but am limited by the lack of professional equipment I have. In addition, I’ve been struggling with the pressure for Insta-perfection. Scrolling through Instagram I see beautiful, clear photos and that “blurry” background that fills me with jealousy. But, brief research revealed that it’s not just a fancy camera that achieves this look. The majority of bloggers and influencers use Photoshop, Lightroom and so much more to edit their photos. A camera, the right lens, the editing software….this all adds up. For the average instagrammer or aspiring influencer, investing in this equipment is not a reasonable option, so what does this mean for us? Well, it means we have to work a million times harder to create the best images possible.

Here is how I edit my photos, no professional equipment required.


The Right Light

Before attempting to edit your photos, you need to know the basics of taking a quality pic. It’s taken me awhile to come to terms with the fact that I can’t get great shots at night. On a sunny afternoon I might have the perfect outfit, but the pictures almost never work because the lighting is too harsh and I’m left with unflattering shadows.

My solution? Grey days are your best friend! Mornings and evenings provide the best light. The golden rule for “golden hour” is to take pictures an hour before sunrise and an hour before sunset.

Multiple Apps Needed

The most popular editing apps are VSCO, Snapseed and A Color Story. I have all three and typically use at least 2 of them to edit a photo before I post it. VSCO is great for adjusting brightness, contrast, temperature and using a preset filter. A Color Story also has great presets and fun extras and Snapseed has all these features plus, selective tools and healing brushes (demonstrated below).

Get Your Editing Rhythm

While this sounds like a lot of work, I can typically edit a photo in 5 minutes or less and often do it on the subway. The key is to know your feed and learn the rhythm of editing pictures. For example, I try to keep my Instagram feed light and bright with cool tones. Below I’ll take you through my process:

  1. I open VSCO and make the image brighter- Exposure +1.5-2
  2. Up the contrast slightly- anywhere from +.3-1
  3. Straighten and crop image as needed
  4. Sharpen (use sparingly) even just .5 makes a difference
  5. Saturation: just a few notches +.5
  6. Highlights: Eliminate overhead lighting by adjusting to 2
  7. Temperature: I like to keep cool tones so I drag this left to about -0.5
  8. Presets: I only ever use HB1, HB2, A5 or A6. Important note: you don’t have to use this preset to it’s full effect, you can easily adjust and I typically leave it somewhere around 5 or 6.

Voila! A beautiful photo is yours.

Using VSCO To Adjust
















Go The Extra Mile

You can end here (and sometimes I do) but for extra oomph I open Snapseed. Below are my favourite tools and how to use them:

Selective: Select one piece of the photo you want to emphasize-you can brighten, adjust contrast and more on one area of the photo

Healing: The healing tool uses surrounding color to replace anything unsightly, for example the streets of New York can be rather dirty so while I liked this picture I needed to do something about all those annoying black spots

Brush: Similar to the selective tool but this allows complete control over editing smaller and specific aspects of a photo.


















What are your favourite/free ways to edit photos? What apps do you use? Share in the comments below!


  1. I love the edits you made with those apps, Devon! So bright and clean! I feel like I have so much to learn when it comes to Snapseed & A Color Story haha. I’m honored you included my blog in your post – thank you so much for sharing! πŸ™‚ Hope you have a great week!

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