Archive | photography

how I edit iphone photos for instagram

My iphone is like an extension of my arm – it’s by my side at nearly all times of day (and night). I love it for texting and checking the weather and asking siri important questions like ‘how many days until …?’ (asked by a certain second born who is slightly excited about his upcoming birthday) and watching cute youtube videos like this one and this.

Most of all, I love it for the camera.

Admittedly, an iphone does not take the same quality of photos as a real camera, but the fact that it is always with me, easy to use and quick to capture everyday moments works out just fine for me. It is fun to practice photography with my phone – looking for interesting angles or composition or finding the right light – and sharing those photos on instagram is a favorite, too.

I almost always do some editing before posting to instagram (I like a slightly dreamy, washed out look) and thought I’d show you what that looks like.


We’ll use this photo taken yesterday of a piece of my mom’s blackberry pie (yum).

Here it is straight from the camera:


It’s a nice photo and could probably be used as is. But running it through some photo apps gives it just the right amount of artsy-ness to make it a little more visually appealing.

I use the standard camera app to take photos and then edit through Afterlight – a simple to use $.99 photo editing app.


I begin by opening Afterlight and bringing in the photo from my photo stream.


I brighten slightly, add a bit more contrast and occasionally bring the sharpening up slightly as well.


Next (here’s the most important step) I choose the guest filters and then the Russ filter to get the dreamy/washed out look I like. You can change the opacity to adjust how strongly the filter is applied. Once I like the look, click the check mark to save.

Instagram is set up as square photos, so sometimes I use the crop tool to cut the photo into a square before posting.

Sometimes a photo just looks better with it’s original rectangular proportions, so I like to add borders to get the square size without cropping the photo. To do this, I click on the borders icon, and then Original.


Next I click on the side borders and it will automatically turn the photo into a square with white margins. Click the check mark to save.

Once finished editing, I click the Done button at the top right and then save as a small image to my camera roll. I like to save a copy to my photos and post to instagram from the IG app, but you could also just click on the instagram icon from Afterlight to post. Your choice.

And here is the final edited image:


Just those few simple steps really give an average photo a fancier look!

Here are a few more before & afters to see the subtle, but pretty difference editing makes:









Hope this is helpful in making your photos more beautiful!



SnapShop iphone course (I took this course last year and it was so good! If you want help learning how to compose interesting images, play with settings, learn more about editing and fun photography tools, Ashley teaches it perfectly. Learn more about her excellent photography courses here).

See my instagram feed here.

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the number one way to make your photos better

Note: It feels strange and kinda bossy to tell you how to take good pictures coming from a girl who doesn’t even know how to shoot manually. My camera is old-ish and I only have the one lens it came with, but after four years of playing and learning and trying, my photographs have vastly improved (just look at some of the early blog posts – like this one - and you’ll notice a big difference in the quality of images). So I’m not coming to you as an photography expert, but rather someone who hacks her way through to deliver the best quality I can. Creating an attractive blog depends greatly on good images, so I do the best I can with the tools and knowledge and skills I have …

and I always follow this very important tip:


It seems so counter-intuitive -  you’d think you need as much light as possible to get a bright photo and turning on the lights makes more sense. But when taking indoor photos, the opposite is true.

When my office was photographed last year for Better Homes & Gardens, they shot in the middle of winter, with gray skies and very little natural light. And still, they turned off the lights. Every single one in the house.


(BHG stylist & photographers working with only natural light – december 2012)

I learned a lot watching the professionals work their magic and have since adopted the turn off the lights strategy for blog photos. It has made such a difference in the quality of images I post.

Here’s an example from yesterday. The sun was not out and it was actually quite dark and dreary outside:


The photo on the left was taken with overhead and task lights on. The photo on the right was taken with all lights off.

The photo with only natural light looks brighter and clearer and the colors are truer to real life. It’s still a little bit dark so that is where just a few simple photoshop edits come in.  For all of my blog post photos I use Pioneer Woman’s free photoshop actions. First I run slight lighten and then define and sharpen, adjusting the opacity as needed. Then, the photo is ready for posting:


You would never know from the photo that it was actually a gray, dark day.

Here’s another example:


This one is in our kitchen – on the left with overhead lights and lamps on, on the right with only the window as a source of light.

Again, I run the photo through the same actions and the photo turns out crisp and bright:


I’m so glad for simple tips and free tools to help us non-professionals!

A few things I’ve learned about taking photos in natural light:

:: turn off all adjacent lights

If you are taking a photo in the living room, make sure the lights are off in the entry and hallway, too (or any other adjacent rooms). It keeps the lighting consistent.

:: open curtains and blinds to allow maximum light

When I take product or tutorial photos, I sit right below a window in my office for the best light and pull the blinds all the way up.

:: take photos when your home is the brightest, with filtered indirect light

Our house gets the best light before noon and I really can’t get a good photo after 4pm. Our winters are dark and gray so there are days that taking photos is just not going to work.  Take advantage of light when you have it!

:: use a tripod

With limited light, your camera’s shutter speed will be slow and any slight movement will cause photos to be blurry. A tripod will stabilize your camera and even with a super slow shutter speed, you’ll get a clear photo.  Most of the time I do not use a tripod, but it definitely does make a difference when I do.

:: play with your camera settings

I use a canon DSLR and shoot in the AV setting. It is probably not the right way to take photos, but it is what I know and I’ve figured out the settings that work for the look I’m going for.  Someday I’ll learn how to photograph manually, but for now I just play around with the ISO and aperture numbers.

It’s pretty fun playing stylist and photographer – I hope these tips are helpful to you, too!

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enjoying the lovliness of nature

It’s instafriday on Life Rearranged and so I thought I’d link up once again.

I have had my iphone for just about two months now and I’m pretty much in love. Mostly because the camera is so. darn. good. And super easy.  It is fun to snap photos in an instant of things that catch my eye.

What catches my eye the most lately is the amazing show that the springtime in the pacific northwest is putting on for us.  I suppose this happens every year, but as I get older, I appreciate the beauty of nature so much more.

Here are some of my favorites taken this week:

{amazingly ruffled tulip}

{euphorbia – one of my favorite perenials}

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