Wednesday, June 17, 2015

5 Steps To More Beautiful Instagram Photos

It's no secret that I love Instagram. It is definitely my favorite form of social media. It's visual, inspiring, and easy to connect with others. So in the past six months I have been working on my iPhone photo editing skills. I have been getting a lot of lovely feedback on my photos here on the blog and also on Instagram. I've also been getting requests for my method.... So here is my tutorial for editing iPhone photos. Specifically, this is compatible with Instagram, but it also is great for full sized pictures.

Here we go!

Here are my 5 Steps to More Beautiful Instagram Photos*:

1) Download the Afterlight App ($.99 in the app store)
2) Adjust the Brightness of Your Photo
3) Adjust the Contrast of Your Photo
4) Adjust the Saturation of Your Photo (overall, and in highlight, mid, and shadow tones)
5) Add Filters & Light Leaks

Step By Step Instructions:

1) Download the Afterlight App for your phone ($.99 on the app store)

This app is really good for photo editing. It is also a great way to brighten up dark, or uninteresting photos. In this example I chose a dark photo to show how much you can improve ANY picture. :)

The more you play with the app, the more you will develop your own "style" of photo editing. There are so many options, have fun with it!

Click on the photos icon (right center) to open up the photos on your phone. (I prefer not to use photo apps to actually take photos, as they tend to have a lower quality resolution).

Select the photo that you like, and click "use" in the bottom right hand corner of your app.

2) Adjust the Brightness of Your Photo

At the bottom of your screen, click on the tool button that looks like three lines. This opens up a sub menu where you will adjust both the brightness and the contrast of your picture (Step 3). 

Click on the button that looks like a sun. This opens up the brightness tool. Slide the circle to the left to decrease the brightness and to the right to increase the brightness. Usually I find that increasing the brightness helps achieve the look I want in my photos. When you are satisfied click the check mark.

3) Adjust the Contrast of Your Photo

Next click on the half black half white circle button. This will open the contrast tool. The same as you did with the brightness drag the circle to increase or decrease the contrast of your photo. I typically find that increasing the contrast helps give my photos more definition. When it looks good, click the check mark.

4) Adjust the Saturation of Your Photo

To adjust the saturation of your photo, start by clicking on the rainbow square button. Just like with Brightness and Contrast you will be able to increase or decrease the saturation. In my everyday photos I usually decrease the saturation. However, with concert photos, I find that increasing the contrast actually works better for me. Click the check mark when you are done.

Next where you clicked on the sun, black and white circle, and rainbow square, scroll that menu to the left. On the right you will start to see new buttons. The three you will use will be the red, blue, green stacks with either an H, M, or S on them. Those letters stand for Highlight Tone, Mid Tone, and Shadow Tone respectively. Open up each one, and drag the circle closer toward the middle until you like how the colors look. I usually leave it on red, but you can certainly play around with the blue and green as well. Click the check marks and adjust all three.

5) Add Filters and Light Leaks

Now comes the fun part, filters, light leaks, and other effects.

Click on the color wheel icon at the bottom of the screen. This will open up your filter menu, I typically stick the original filters. To do that click on the horse icon that says "original". 

You will then be able to scroll through all of the original filters, much like you do in Instagram. I almost always use the same ones: Coral, Captain, Bloom (sometimes), and Relic. Just as you did before you can adjust how strong you want the filter to be. 

When you like how your filters look you will select the icon at the bottom of the page that looks like a film strip, then click the button that says "light leak". 

As with the filters, I usually choose to use the same light leaks every time. My favorites are 01 (applying it twice, once on the left side and once on the right side) and 10. To apply the leak, click on it and adjust the strength of the leak as you did before. In addition to this, you can also change the color of the light leak by clicking on the square rainbow at the top (each click is a new color). You can also use the other buttons at the top to rotate the leak before clicking the check mark. 

Finishing Up:

There are also options in Afterlight to crop, add frames etc. Play around with it and have fun. But I find that these 5 steps are all it takes for me to edit my IG photos. 

Once you are completely done, click on the "done" button in the top right hand corner. I always save my photos at the Max size, so they will stay high quality when I transfer them to my computer! Then I select "Camera Roll" so it will save it to my phone. You can also choose to share it from there, but I typically edit small groups of photos at once and post them from time to time.

Ta-Da! You have gorgeous Instagram photos.

I love how this technique can beautify any photo!

For Black and White Photos:

For black and white photos I use a similar technique, but add a few more steps onto the end. Look for that tutorial soon! :) 

What is your favorite photo editing app? 

Want to be IG friends? Follow me here. :) 

I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial! 




  1. This is a great tutorial Alexandra, thank you! I LOVE instagram too and I've been trying to perfect my iPhone photo editing as well. I have afterlight and do most of these things, but I haven't played around much with the highlight/mid-/shadow tones or the light leaks, so thanks for the push to try those!

  2. These are great tips! I love afterlight!
    Melanie @

  3. Great in-depth tutorial. I def need to work on my phone pics, that's why I avoid them >.<


    Pink Wings

  4. Thanks Shea! There is a lot going on in the app. It's fun to explore, but can be pretty overwhelming from time to time! Hope you have fun trying out some new techniques. XO

  5. It's definitely my favorite photo app! XO

  6. Thanks Gina! :) It can be kind of daunting, I think that's why I love afterlight. It is fun to play with, and once you develop a set of steps you like it is so much easier and faster. :) XO

  7. bre & ree @ bumpandrunchat.comJune 18, 2015 at 9:45 AM

    These are great tips! Thanks for sharing! ~Ree

  8. Thanks Ree! It's such a fun app for editing. :) XO

  9. Such great tips. I love Afterlight, it's one of my favorite editing apps.

  10. Great tutorial! You have a beautiful Instagram account
    Dresses & Denim

  11. Thank you so much! I think it is lovely. It's so much fun to play around with all of the different tools. :) XO -Alexandra

  12. Thank you Carly! I love trying out different techniques. This app makes all the difference for me. :) XO- Alexandra

  13. great tips girl! always love your instagram photos!


Thank you for reading! I love seeing your sweet comments and visiting your lovely blogs! XO