the amateur's guide to editing iPhone photos

31 March 2014

There she goes again. Writing tutorialesque like posts about things she has no business writing tutorialesque like posts about. No business.

It's true! I'm still learning the treacherous ropes of editing photos on my phone and I'm not an expert. And I know there are hundreds of better tutorials out there but ... what the wild? I'll throw mine in the haystack.

I use photos from my phone to use in blog posts FAR too often. I wish I had a third arm solely for the purpose of lugging my camera around along with some knowledge about how to properly use said camera but ... some dreams are better left untouched, I suppose. So, for now ... camera phone + paltry editing skillage it is. Hear me whisper-roar and making Perry proud.
Come along, this will be fun.

+ clean your screen.
All the time. It's really crazy how a little smudge can ruin picture after picture and I'll be honest and admit I just use my finger to wipe the phone clean but I'm sure a dust free cloth meant for cleaning glasses would be ideal. As much as I LOVE the LifeProof case because I can rest easy knowing that if Sebastian or Theo decide take my phone for a toilet dip (again) ... it will be fine for about an hour (crazy) but the front (aka selfie) camera lens is total crap because I don't know why but it's tough to keep it stuck to the phone and so dust builds up in .04 seconds flat and so ... limited selfies from Grace. It's awful. But I do take the case off every week or so and clean it really well so as not to deprive the masses of the vapid.

+ tap tap tap. An easy way to avoid getting super dark (and grainy) photos is to tap around on the screen and the phone will adjust the lighting accordingly. Tap faces to focus on faces. Obviously trying to get a great snap in a dark room is not going to work unless you use the flash (and I hate using the flash so I just don't) but our living room is pretty poorly lit and tapping around can shed some serious light on a photo. Editing can brighten photos up significantly ...

... but to avoid the grainy ... tap, tap, tap until the light is right.

+ take a million photos. I won't pretend to know anything about anything when it comes to composition but it helps to take several photos of the same situation ... especially when it comes to little kids and their reluctant smiles etc. I probably overdo this ...

this is actually two different photos and the only slightly noticeable difference is Sebastian's face tilt so I could've cooled my snappy jets here but ... it's easy to delete photos in batches so .... no foul here.



I use Afterlight to edit my photos and I know there are some diehard vscocam and Snapseed fans but Afterlight comes the easiest to me and so ... I stick with it through good times and in bad.

My favorite actions are these:
      +clarify - I usually stick with 50% or less ... any more and it looks ... what's the technical term? weird. it looks weird.
      +brighten  - Again with the 50% but you can always do more ... brighter is usually better in my novice opinion.
      +contrast - not always necessary but a tiny bit of contrast can go a long way.
+ Russ - under guest filters is my favorite filter and I usually bring it down to about 40% but ... there are tons of filters. I might be stuck in a bit of a rut.
+ fade - sometimes I'll throw a little fade on a photo to soften it a bit but I think it can look a little bit like a dusty windshield so ... fade cautiously.
+ black & white - if you took a photo that you love but the lighting is pretty bleh ... you can always go the sneaky sneak black and white route ... I generally use the Ash filter (under original filters) and then clarify that puppy. It's magical ... just watch.
+ light leak - (this is the film strip icon) and leak #3 is my favorite ... but leak carefully lest you look like a big fake (and maybe I do) ...

And a few more just for fun ...

+ it's all about the gram - not really but I read a post the other day and the author claimed to spend five (cinco!!) minutes editing every one of her photos that she posts to Instagram. That crazy. You can upload photos straight from Afterlight to Instagram which cuts down on time and you can use Afterlight's camera directly (but I don't because, like I confessed, I like to take millions!!).
+ fitting a photo (that you don't want to crop into a square) into a gram - Afterlight can do that but I tend to use the Squareready App because old dogs and new tricks. Using one of these apps will make the photo white and snazzy on the sides instead of black and not snazzy. Example here.
+ Squareready - can also make photo collages. I guess you didn't need to know that. But it can!

Question? Concern? Conundrum? Tell me and I'll address it. I promise.

And if you have any tips for me ... I'm all ears!


  1. remember we had that discussion on twitter about how vsco5 and russ are like the same and i was like NO. but you were right all along.

  2. you totally win amateur hour! This was great, I haven't tried out Afterlight....but I shall now.

  3. It's like you read my mind...I've been willing you to write this post. I'm newish to the iPhone and totally lost in a sea of apps right now - love all your photos!!

    1. oh, good!! You might like snapseed or vsco cam better but I think Afterlight is the most intuitive once you get it down!!

  4. Afterlight was my favorite before I switched over to a windows phone (which supposedly has a better camera).

  5. Love this!! There are so many photo editing apps, so rather than take a chance and be disappointed I've been editing on the laptop and then going to Instagram. This will be far easier. And let's be honest, your Gram pics are awesome!

    1. haha that's a process!! I love Afterlight - I hope you like it too!!

  6. Thanks for sharing! I do a lot of the same things, especially the taking a MILLION. Serious clicker-obsessed-picture-taker here. :)

  7. THANK you! My iPad pics always look super grainy and it drives me crazy! What is the point of instant camera if it sucks?! I will check out the apps and hope it helps!

    1. definitely check and make sure the lens is clean - esp if you have a case on it - that is generally always the problem for me :)

    2. Hmm. Methinks I might need to clean my lens. After all, if the screen is mucked up with yogurt, I'm sure the lens might have a smudge or two.

  8. If you have a newer iphone you can also use burst mode. It will continuously take photos until you release the button. Then you can pick your favorites.

  9. this is probably theee stupidest question, but HOW do you get text on your photos? (Like the "before" and "after" text in the post)--I probably need to d/l the apps you mentioned and it will be readily apparent to me....

  10. just got afterlight & sqauready - thanks lady!

    1. I promise I can spell. Squaready, not sqauready.

  11. Unreleated, but Theo? Cutest little guy ever.

  12. Loved these tips! If it makes you feel better I have a degree in art and I took 2 full years of photography classes and I pretty much do exactly the same steps you listed above! I love VSCO and Picfx...I need to check out Afterlight!

  13. You've got me converted to Afterlight. I always had trouble with the slow download time with VSCO.

    My question - are you good at keeping your phone not full of photos? My camera is always freezing when I try to take photos and/or always saying that "Storage is almost full" because I am so bad clearing out my phone. I need to get better at that!

  14. This was the most fun/entertaining photo tutorial I've read to date! This is all new to me too. I didn't even know about tapping the screen. See-you're totally an expert! I can relate to being stuck in a filter rut-for me it's Line Camera (app) "sunrise." Anyway, thanks for all the tips!

  15. I'm loving this.

    Also, I am fighting the urge to post a million Animal Face pics on Insta. Love that app.

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