How I Edit Instagram Photos

It seems every time I check my direct messages on Instagram I have a new notification. Luckily, it's nothing scandalous like something from the male nether regions. Most of the time it's a question: how do you edit your Instagram photos? I am so intrigued by how others edit photos and I catch myself watching videos or clicking on blog posts where someone explains their edit process. Over the years I have changed this up a lot. But it's time to tell you how I take and edit my Instagram photos.

First, I gotta tell you, yes editing is super important, but that's only a part of making your Instagram grow. You need great photos, yes, but you also need a committed and engaged audience, an idea of who your audience is, and a few other things that can really change the game for your Instagram. But more on that at the bottom of the post.

I'm going to break down how I take and edit my Instagram photos, what tools I use, and how you can get the most out of your photos. I'll also share tips and tricks on how to take the best photos.

I think one thing we notice on Instagram is expertly edited photos. This makes us stop scrolling and pay attention to the sharer. This means more engagement and more followers on Instagram. I love having a consistent Instagram theme on my feed, but with editing, this means I can easily change it up.

Before I actually take a picture I consider this:


Natural lighting, for me, is key to a great photo. That yellow or bluish tint that comes from indoor lighting can ruin a picture. But so can super harsh sunlight. The best time to take a picture is generally in the morning or later in the afternoon. Now, that doesn't always happen, especially while traveling, which is why editing is so key. Lighting, especially natural light, helps produce crisp, clean photos. So when you need to take a photo inside I suggest getting as close to windows as possible. It always produces a better effect.


You can move the slider back and forth to see the before and after on any of these images.

Here, I'm standing right by a window inside.


I really try to look at my surroundings. What or who is in the picture? How can I shoot this so that someone will feel like they're here? I try to find an angle without people in it. (P.S. here's a whole post on how I avoid lines and people while traveling.) I look at how much sky is in the picture, colors, and what's in the frame.

Setting up the camera

For 90% of my pictures I use a Nikon D5600. This is an old camera that was passed down to me from my little sister when she stopped taking photography class in school. I love this camera. No, it's not crazy expensive. It just takes great pictures. No, this isn't a huge camera that's a pain to lug around while traveling. I think that you only really need something of that magnitude if you're a professional photographer. Meaning, someone is paying you to take pictures. While I do make money from my blog and Instagram, my profession isn't photography, so I don't bother with that.

I also think today's cell phones are super powerful for taking pictures. I still use my iPhone and I love the images it takes. Here's a before and after with an image I took on my phone:

Before and After on My Phone

Take more than one

If you can take one shot and it's perfect, then you are lucky. Most photographers take multiple photos of the same shot or change up the angles. I take a few different photos every time. And it doesn't take too much time to just switch it up. Often I'm surprised which photos end up being the best or are my favorites.

Instagram Photo Editing

For me, editing changed the game. I took a photography course when I lived in Nashville that helped me move from from automatic to manual mode. But that was just the start. Once I got the hang of Lightroom it really help me to make my pictures come to life. I used Photoshop for years, and while it's great for many purposes such as adding text overlays and manipulating the photo, Lightroom completely changed my photos.

Why use Lightroom?

The reason why I adore Lightroom is the ability to create my own presets. Once I create an edit that I like, I can save it and use it again and again! I can also batch edit my photos. So if I take 100 pictures I can edit them all in one click. That's pretty powerful. The truth is most professional photographers use Lightroom since it's such a great tool. Because I like a warm tone and soft pink hints as well, I like to up those when editing in Lightroom. Here's a direct look inside when I edit:


Of course, there are some awesome apps that you can use as well. I love apps like Vscocam and A Color Story which are very similar to Lightroom, just on your smart phone. And I really think they can transform your photos.

How I Edit

I tend to like a warm tone, so in Lightroom or the apps, I increase the temperature slightly. I tend to like a bright, crisp feeling to my photos, so I'll adjust the vibrance, and up the shadows and black tones in the photo. I like to increase the clarity and decrease the saturation, so the photo doesn't look overly processed. I want you to feel like you're there!

This post details how to edit your photos in Lightroom desktop, while this post focuses on how to edit in Lightroom mobile.

I have free mobile (and desktop, too!) Lightroom presets! This way you can start playing around with Lightroom and find your own way to edit your Instagram photos.

Sushree Kanti Panigrahi

By reading this post I came across Vscocam and AColorStory app. I downloaded the former one and I found it great. Now I am gonna try AColorStory.
Thanks Helene.
One more thing! Those sliders are wonderful. I am crazy to know how come you did that?! #magical

I have loved using A Color Story for editing photos with my phone–and I noticed a huge difference as well when I got the new iPhone 7 plus! I’d really love to start using an actual camera sometimes, and edit on my computer–but since my laptop is ancient and I don’t have a decent camera, I’ll have to stick to my phone for now.

Helene what a fab post thank you for sharing your skills I appreciate it. I’m signed up for your course as is my VA once I told her about it.

Michelle Gil Santini

Pretty interesting post I usually use my phone camera with two of my most favorite app that is YouCam and Facetune. Maybe I should get a camera to make my photo look bit more professional.

I follow you for a while now on instagram and i’m very curious about monday, i really need to get this instagram thing down lol 😉 it’s not easy to take a good pic, i have poor lighting in my appartment and a lot of bad weather in Belgium (now it’s summer time ofcaurs ;-)), is there also a way to take a good pic without light from outside? maybe buy a lamp to shine on you or a brighter light to hang in your room like a led light?

Love this post!!!!! I’ve already implemented some of your tips and am much more pleased with my Instagram success. I can’t wait for your workshop!


This is one of the most genuinely helpful blog posts I’ve come across. Love the sliders and Light Room/mobile app recommendations.

Looking forward to your workshop!


Jade Byers-Pointer

The sliders on this post are insane! I love them!! I signed up for the workshop as soon as I heard about it 🙂 just your posts alone have helped so much with increasing my Instagram engagement and following and I can’t wait to learn even more tips and tricks from you!

Okay I love love love this post. 9 times out of 10, no one really draws me in with their “freebie” or “opt-in”. But you did such an amazing job with the post, I had to sign up. These sliders give me life

Omg this is such a genius post. So, so interesting and so helpful! Absolutely wonderful!

Katie // wordsbykatie.com

I just signed up for your Instagram workshop, Helene—I’m excited because I’m constantly reevaluating my feed on Instagram and second-guessing myself, lol. It’s the worst! ?
Can’t wait to learn something new! Also, those sliders are so insane…such a huge difference!


Hi Helene, after reading this post I signed up to Lightroom & hope to take my photo editing skills up!! Now I know how everyone is achieving the bright air photography feel on Instagram ??

i love these tips, but the sliders are the coolest thing ever!

I’m so excited for this Helene! can’t wait for it to start. I also loved this post, i’ve been using lightroom and photoshop for years but i’ve always wondered how you edited your photos!

Thank you for this post. I am new to lightroom and this “how-to” helps so much.

– Melissa | http://theanxiouscanadian.com/

This post is so timely for me. I’ve been delayed in my blogging because I bought a camera to take nice photos but became stuck when it came to editing:/ I’ll be tuned in to the course!


Patiently awaiting this post! Also – the slider… don’t mind me why I’m in awe of how cool that is

Thanks so much! Looking forward to the workshop. Also, I wanted to let you know that the links to tweet and email for the bonuses aren’t quite working right. The tweet adds in some character code and a second link for the confirmation/thank you page. The email link doesn’t open into an email. But it still lets you through to the bonuses, which I can’t wait to dive into!

Ahh thank you! I think I fixed it!

WOW, this is a great post! Can’t wait for your course!

Thank you for sharing these tips! I already signed up for yur instagram course 🙂
Have great day! Stefanie

Very helpful post Helene. I actually didn’t know about the Color Story app, since there are so many of them out there, so unless someone recommends you a good app, you don’t even know where to start….so I’ll try it out for sure.
Been using Line Camera and Afterlight for a while and it worked fine. Let’s see if Color Story is a major upgrate for my smartphone. 😉

Your photos are so gorgeous Helene! Thanks for sharing your editing insight <3

Great post! I really like that you talked about things like lighting and perspective — no amount of editing will save a bad photograph.

hiking + photography http://www.rhandthebeast.blogspot.com or follow me on Instagram @rhandthebeast

OMG YOU ARE AMAZING! It is SO cool how you will share all of your secrets with everyone just to help others improve – I have been a huge fan of your Instagram and I seriously always wonder how the heck you’re editing and I just tested it out myself on Lightroom and it works! Can’t wait for the course!

This is insanelyyyy good! Thank you for sharing your secrets. I’m starting small with trying out A Color Story, but will definitely consider Lightroom when I get a new computer that can handle it.

Wonderful post! Great tips
Signed up for the course, see you there

The photo sliders are my favorite part! This post is awesome!

HELENE!!!! YOU KILLED IT ON THIS POST. The sliders are still blowing my mind!!! And of course I signed up for the course, YOU ROCK!


Ahh thanks girl!! I really like your feed- so cool! and thanks!!

I love Lightroom for this exact reason! If you are going for a really specific look then Lightroom is best because you can isolate literally any tone, light, etc to get what you want. You had some great tips too that I will be applying from now on. Thanks!

– Katie

YES! so agree! hope to see you at the workshop!

Really great tips here. Thanks Helene

This is awesome! Count me in! Thanks Helene!

I hope you have a great Tuesday,

Would love to join the workshop but I can´t sign up! 🙁 After I give my name and e-mail and click, the connection is lost

Ahh so sorry! just fixed it 🙂

I love reading how other people edit their photos! It’s such a unique process for everyone! I actually edit ALL of my blog photos using a combination of A Color Story, Vsco, and my photo shop express app!
Thanks for sharing!


Yay! So excited for this, can’t wait to see what you have to say. You make me want to jump the photoshop train and get on Lightroom!

Can’t wait for your workshop! I’ve been struggling lately with all the IG changes.

This is awesome! One of my goals right now is to step up my Insta-game!

Quick Question – I know video 1 will be emailed on July 10. When will the other sessions be released? Also – will the videos and sessions (other than the live session) be time sensitive? I am on vacation until July 12 and and I want to make sure to see everything!


The first three will not be live, the last one will and you can watch them anytime!

Love your IG feed, thank you very much for sharing your tips!

Helene, thanks for taking us behind the scenes into your editing process! The way you edit your photos makes your life look like a fairytale! I didn’t really realize that until I looked at the before & after of them. No wonder so many people look up to you!


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