how to edit your phone photos / by Shelby Robinson

Everyone can take quality photos with their phone these days. No, you don't need a DSLR or fancy lens or expensive equipment, you just need two hands and a smart phone.

One of the most fun parts of sharing the photos though, is the editing process: tweaking the photo to make it look a little bit better than before, adding filters and acquiring a certain style that speaks to you.

Over the years, I have tried various editing apps and techniques and slowly ~ through a process of trial and error ~ discovered the ones that I like best. I've spent some time reflecting on the things I've learned and wanted to share a few tips on how to polish your photos and find your own unique style.

1. Download VSCOcam and Snapseed.

Really? Yea. Snapseed is like a mini Photoshop at your fingertips. In Snapseed, you can tweak the colors, play with dodging and burning, and use both spot repair and selective brightness. I usually open my photo in Snapseed first, tune the image as needed and then save it to my gallery. Then, I open it up in VSCO to add my filter and share from there.

Tip: In Snapseed, don't save the photo as a copy. It will just take up space on your phone. Instead, select the *save* option and your phone will modify the original for you.

2. Adjust the photo before adding a filter.

The contrast, saturation, exposure and ambiance should all be adjusted and saved before you apply the filter. This makes sure that the filter's tones aren't getting in the way and affecting the colors that your eyes are seeing. If you're not familiar with editing and tweaking photos, a simple auto-adjust will help.

Tip: Try upping the contrast and lowering the saturation for a more natural effect.

3. Play!

Play around with an image for awhile ~ adjust each differently, save them to your gallery and open up the different edits in VSCO to play some more. Apply different filters, adjust the warmth, contrast, brightness. Editing should be like a mini experiment while training your eye to see what looks and feels best. You're the artist here and there are no rules ~ just play!

Ehhh actually, I lied. There is one rule I always try and abide by: don't overdo it. Never apply more than one filter and don't go overboard on the contrast and clarity tools. That's a quick way to make something look too over-processed. The more natural the better.

Tip: I don't even like to apply the entire filter in VSCO. Try toning it down to +8 rather than the full +12.

4. Stay consistent.

Once you've experimented and discovered a style you like, stick with one or two filters (preferably of the same family). For example, I always use the F2 (mellow) filter in VSCO. However, when I first started editing and sharing my photos, I'd use three or four filters... and my Instagram feed looked like a jumbled mess. Stay consistent and your feed will look clean and mindful.

Tip: But on the real, don't be too hard on yourself. You're learning. Your style and eye will change over time (as it should). And honestly, even the most famous photographers / Instagrammers still have no idea what they're doing.

Mostly, have fun with it. It's so good to sit and play with your photos and it feels great when you have a beautiful finished project that you're proud of. Keep exploring and experimenting!