If you’ve had a nosy on my Instagram over the last few days then you may have noticed that I have recently changed my custom filter. After a long time spent stressing over ‘themes’, wanting my feed to look like someone else’s and generally worrying about whether or not I was good enough, I finally felt like I’d found my style in September when I created a Preset on Lightroom. I was pretty happy with it when I was busy sunning myself in the south of France, but as the days got shorter and darker (boo you Winter), making content harder to shoot, I found myself feeling a bit restless. Something about it wasn’t quite spot on; I had a clear vision in my head but I was unsure of how to actualise it in the form of a Preset. Then, this weekend, something a bit magical happened: I finally cracked it. And it wasn’t nearly as complicated as you may think…
Lightroom: is it worth your while?
There is no right or wrong way to edit your photos. You don’t have to be using an Adobe suite to be a professional, you don’t have to like VSCO filters and it’s totally cool if you just make use of the Instagram in-app options or even go totally bare #nofilter. I’ve used Lightroom for years for client photography, and at the end of last Summer I decided to start using it to edit my own photos as the VSCO method I was using at the time wasn’t really floating my boat anymore.
I know how to navigate Lightroom pretty well and after some pretty time consuming fiddling, I was quite happy with the preset I’d created. However, really to have full control over your image you need to a) shoot in raw and b) use a desktop. A very tricky predicament for a gal who wants to take iPhone snaps and edit quickly on the go.
I figured out a work around and did manage to make my Preset usable within the Lightroom app, but anyone familiar with it will know that the controls are significantly reduced and it does make adapting it to the conditions of each image quite tricky. Nevertheless, it seemed a solid option.
When I realised something still wasn’t quite right, I tried to enlist the help of a few photographers who fancied having a play, and whilst one got very close I just knew that I wouldn’t hit the spot without editing on desktop with the ability to colour correct.
And along came ‘A Color Story’…
I’d heard a few people mention the app ‘A Color Story’ on Twitter but I’d never given it much thought. I knew VSCO wasn’t quite right for me, and I’m not a big fan of Snapseed so with some time to kill at the airport on Friday I downloaded it and gave it a little whirl. Well hellooooooooooo Color Story, you big babe you, where have you been all my life?!
The app is free, or you can download purchasable filters made by others, and you’ve got all the controls as in the Lightroom app but in a much more user friendly interface. I started having a fiddle and found that within less than half an hour I’d already come up with something that resembled the look I’ve had floating about in my head amongst Friends quotes and random items I always forget off of my shopping list for months.
For me, the biggest downside is that you can’t edit multiple images at once the way you can in Lightroom, but through being able to save your edits as a custom filter and quickly apply it to image after image, it really isn’t too much of a drawback.
So, how do I edit my Instagram photos?
Well now, that would be telling. Only joking! I’m not going to run you through an absolute step-by-step mainly because that would be really boring, and because you’ll quickly find your style but these are the tools I find most helpful:
- Clarity: with most photos I’ll bring the clarity up about 5 notches or so
- Brightness: I brighten my images ever so slightly (I know I’ll under-expose them later, so this helps to counteract that. You might want to whack it right up on yours if you’re after a really bright, light look!)
- Saturation and Vibrance: I don’t have a hard and fast rule for either of these aspects of any image, I tend to look more at it case by case. Where the colours are a bit garish I’ll often up the vibrance quite a lot (bare with!) before reducing the saturation. This helps the image to retain its colour without looking either too bold or washed out.
- Temperature: My look is very warm and I achieve this through increasing the temperature alongside adaptations to the highlights and shadows
- Highlight and Shadow: I can’t really tell you how to use this tool as it will be very personal to each image, but the higher you lift the shadow for example, the less dark the image will be. A bit confusing, I know! Have a play! Getting the two in balance really helps to counteract dodgy lighting and create the tone you’re after.
- Exposure: Personally, I always under-expose my images. I like my feed on the darker side but I usually shoot in natural light so it’s a good way for me to take control
- Sharpen: Just like the clarity tool, I always sharpen my images a little, especially when they were taken on an iPhone and the quality is a little iffy
- Grain: Adding grain to your image is very, very optional and a very stylised tool to use. I don’t use it on every post, but now and then I like to add a little to give the image a moodier, more 70’s vibe
Once you’re happy with your edit, you can then name and save it as a filter that you can apply to other images in the click of a button! You can also apply the changes you made to recent images under the ‘saved’ tab.
Remember, there isn’t necessarily a one size fits all. I made a custom filter for Chelsea on the app using the same method and created multiple versions to suit the various scenarios she often shoots in: the filter for her portraits didn’t work on her interior shots, and vice versa! Personally I’m quite lucky in that the style I’m after gives me more flexibility to use the same look over and over, with minor adjustments for each.
A little look inside the app…
Saving your filter
Hint: name it something useful such as ‘ for portraits’
Applying to other images