When I first starting taking decent photos with my iPhone, I was editing in the default photo editor (gasp.) It was easy to brighten and crop the photos, and post to Instagram. I knew nothing about things like saturation, sharpening and white balance. But when I started seeing other moms’ photos that I loved, I knew I had to take it to the next level. So, I Googled photo editing apps and quickly learned these were what moms were using to create stunning photos.

So, I’m going to share how I edit my photos to take a good photo to a more eye-catching one—specifically for Instagram.

The most popular photo editing apps are Lightroom, VSCO and Snapseed. There is of course a desktop version of Lightroom. But the app is super user friendly and easy to save edited photos on your phone to post to social media.

Let’s take this photo for example:

How do you get from this photo…

To this one?

There is no perfect way to edit photos. The secret to getting a certain look is more than editing. The elements in the photo and the quality of lens should be your foundation. Editing should be the icing on the cake.

I use all three apps every time I edit. They all essentially do the same thing, but I prefer unique features in each. For example, Lightroom lifts the quality of lighting. VSCO has great filters for a cohesive Instagram feed. Snapseed has great exposure, portrait and lens blur features. Figure out what works for you, and stick with it to create a flow in your Instagram feed.

Here’s a step by step example of how I edit my photos:

Step 1: Lightroom

The first thing I do in Lightroom is crop and straighten/adjust. In this example, the photo looks a bit angled, so I’ll straighten it with the Crop feature.

Can you tell the difference? It’s subtle, but you will notice it more when it’s brighter.

Then, I increase the Light. The app adds a nice, crisp brightness to the photo. It literally looks like you turned on a light switch when you’re done!

I usually tap Auto to get me started. Then I adjust the settings from there. I adjusted the Exposure and Contrast in this example.

Now, I will adjust the Color, specifically the saturation and temperature, so the photo will look less red, orange and more neutral.

Lastly, I’ll do a lens correction under Optics and move on to VSCO.

Step 2: VSCO

I do most of the editing in VSCO. It’s packed with so many features, I don’t even use them all yet.

Once I save the edits from Lightroom to my phone, I’lll open the photo in VSCO. Then, I’ll increase the Exposure even more.

I’ll increase the contrast a bit more too.

Take a moment to scroll back up and see the progress we’ve made!

I may notice the photo needs more color adjusting, so I’ll decrease the saturation and temperature.

Now, I will add a filter (called Presets in VSCO) if I plan to post the photo to social media. When I’m editing photos for Instagram, I use the same filter every time. More on that in another blog post!

There are tons of presets you can purchase, or you could create your own. I’m using the S2 filter for a bright look. I don’t want the photo to look to filtered, so I turn it down to less than half.

Then, I Sharpen the photo and move on to Snapseed for the final edits!

Step 3: Snapseed

Now, I’ll save the new edits to my phone and open the photo in Snapseed.

At this point, I’m doing any final clean up. I’ll slightly increase the brightness (tap Tune Image for this feature). I also use the Portrait feature for a more even skin tone. When you tap on Portrait, it will automatically adjust the faces in the photo. You can also choose a few options based on what you want to accentuate. I chose the Smooth 2 option. You can adjust the intensity of this feature if you want it to look more natural by moving the sliders to your liking.

I will then sharpen and done! I also use the Lens Blur feature for more depth, but I’m not using it in this photo.

Tap Export and Save and all done!

Remember, the way you edit your photos could be very different. You may not want your photo to look as bright or as sharp. This is just an example of how I edit them for Instagram. Take some time to play around with the apps. You may only want to edit in Lightroom or just in VSCO. When I first started editing my iPhone photos, I only used Snapseed. Do what works for you!

Have any questions? Leave them in the comments!