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How to edit bright, clean, and minimal photos for ...

How to edit bright, clean, and minimal photos for Instagram

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked on Instagram is, “How do you edit your photos to look so clean? What apps do you use? What filters or presets?”

Today, I’m going to share how I usually edit my photos for the style that I share on Instagram: clean, bright, and relatively minimal. This post is just going to cover the post processing that I do once a photo is taken. If you’re looking for tips on how to take the best photos for Instagram, check out this post or video first!

One of the things I had to make up for when I started sharing photos of Kokoro was my lack of photography skills. I wasn’t always using the right lenses and equipment, nor did I have easy access to the “clean, white walls” that I appeared to shoot in front of. Most of the look came through Photoshop magic! This is just how I’ve learned to edit my photos throughout the years, but there are definitely many other techniques for achieving a clean, minimal photography look. So… let’s get started!

Today, I’m going to share how I usually edit my photos for the style that I share on Instagram: clean, bright, and relatively minimal. This post is just going to cover the post processing that I do once a photo is taken. If you’re looking for tips on how to take the best photos for Instagram, check out this post or video first!

Hate reading? Watch our video on this topic instead!

Step 1: Clean up the setting

The first thing I do when editing photos is pull the shot into Photoshop. This is where most of the “clean up” happens on the photo. I check to make sure I like the perspective of the shot, the horizon is straight, and any distractions like leashes are taken out.

If I’ve shot against a “fake” background like a poster board, I clean everything up around it so it looks like my pup is sitting in front of a studio backdrop or wall.

With environmental shots, I typically look for places where I can mimic this technique. This is typically a clean background just around the dog or portion of a wall that’s clean that I can later extend.

Don’t be afraid to edit to tell your story! I truly believe that editing is half the magic of content creation, and I love using this technique to create a “whimsical” feel to my photos when you can’t quite tell what the setting is or how the photo was taken.

Step 2: Crop for composition

Next up is deciding exactly how you want the photo to be cropped on your feed. Is it going to be a square? Are you going for a 4×5 portrait?

Here is where you can decide just how much white space you want to have in your photo. The general rule of thumb is to use the rule of thirds. You can also go the route of centering your subject, which happens to work very well on Instagram’s square-driven platform.

Don’t be afraid to play around with perspective at this point either! Maybe the shot is more interesting if you flip it upside down?

Step 3: Adjust brightness and color in Photoshop

Once I’m happy with the crop, I adjust at a high level for settings like brightness, saturation, etc. This can happen when you pull in a raw photo file, but you can also make slight adjustments to a JPEG.

At this stage, I’m not looking to perfect the exact tones, highlights, and shadows of the photo. I’m just trying to get it to 80 – 90% before it goes off to the final step.

Step 4: Apply presets or filters

This can be done in the app of your choice, whether it be Lightroom or even a phone app like VSCO. My preference is to send the photo directly to my phone and open it in VSCO, where I apply primarily the same settings to every photo I’m about to post.

My go-to adjustments in VSCO include brightening the photos, bringing down the highlights, adding a bit of sharpness, and adjusting the colors to my taste.

The nice thing is that VSCO recently released a new feature where you can copy the edits you’ve made to other photos in your library and paste them to new ones, so it makes this step much more efficient!

Step 5: Apply an Instagram filter

This is completely optional, but I’ve found that adding a small amount of the same Instagram filter to every photo I post (even after it’s been post-processed in Photoshop AND VSCO) really gives my feed a cohesive look.

My filter of choice is Gingham, usually with a strength of around 15-20%.

An occasional Step 6 that comes into play for me is re-composing the crop of the photo. Sometimes I’ll post the photo to my test account and decide, meh, I’m not a fan of how that’s looking within the context of the other photos I’ve recently shared. So I’ll go back to Step 2 and re-crop the shot before making the final post!

A few things to watch out for:

Some common mistakes that I sometimes see on the gram include:

Over “shopping” the photo. I’ve definitely been guilty of this in the past, especially as I’ve been working on my editing skills. If a photo isn’t working out like the vision you have in your mind, don’t worry too much about over-editing it!

Blowing out the exposure. With the goal of a bright, clean aesthetic, it’s sometimes easy to go a little overboard with the whites in a photo. My personal preference is to really keep the highlights down to give the photos a more muted look.

I highly encourage everyone to get inspired, learn from others, and develop your own unique style for photography. I’m not a professional photographer or trained designer, but it’s been fun learning new techniques and slowly improving my work over the years with photos of Kokoro and Chibi. Hopefully these tips will help you on your journey to finding your own voice in photography!


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