The best must-have apps to edit your Instagram pictures.

by Tobias van Schneider
first appeared
on my private email list.

After so many people asked me this question, I wanted to take some time and walk you through my process of editing pictures for Instagram.

There are a lot of reasons why I edit my pictures on the iPhone, but for some reason it has a therapeutic effect on me. Sitting on the couch, on the train or in the restaurant or wherever I want and editing my pictures always calms me down.

I’m a huge fan of Instagram and it serves as some sort of visual travel diary for myself. But to my own surprise, I actually never use Instagram to edit my pictures. I only use Instagram to either browse through other peoples work, or post my own pictures.

With this short article I like to walk you through the apps I use to edit my pictures that you see on my Instagram account.

First of all, most of my pictures are taken with the following cameras:

  • iPhone 6 (because it’s always with me)
  • Fujifilm X100t (fixed 23mm lens)
  • Sony A7Rii
  • Phantom 4 Drone (fixed 20mm lens)

Luckily all cameras I listed above have integrated Wifi, which makes it easy for me to transfer the images straight to my iPhone 6 on the go.

All images are edited directly on the iPhone 6 with the following apps.

Step 1: Cortex Cam

First of all, we start with taking the picture. In case I shoot my pictures on the iPhone, I usually have two options.

  • If I’m in a rush, I just use the default camera feature from the lock screen.
  • If I have time and the picture is taken in low light (or even at night) I use Cortex Cam.

You will notice a significant difference in sharpness and especially less noise if you take your pictures with Cortex Cam.

Little tip: Cortex Cam takes about 2–3 seconds to take the picture. The more steady the camera is, the better. Cortex Cam doesn’t do a long exposure, but rather takes a couple dozen pictures to then calculate the final one.

Step 2: SKRWT

In the second step we make sure to fix all the basics. SKRWT helps me to correct the perspective or fix the lens distortion. Especially of you’re taking pictures on your iPhone or any other wide lens, you will always struggle with lens distortion. So before even I go into editing the colors, I make sure to fix these things.

The reason I do it with SKRWT and not any other app is because SKRWT has not only way more options, but is also the only app that let’s me fix distortion or the perspective without losing too much image quality.

Also, one of the most important aspects for me is cropping and rotating an image in the right way. This usually also happens within the SKRWT app.

Step 3: VSCO

Now that we fixed up all the basics, let’s get into the editing.

I’m sure you know VSCO already, but if not, get it immediately! VSCO is a pain in the ass to use, but the photograph presets (filters) that come with VSCO are totally worth it. I use VSCO mostly for enhancing colors and applying image effects. I’ve purchased all available presents, so I can’t even tell you which are my favorite ones.

But generally, if it’s nature I usually work within the A, C or E filters. If it’s clean architecture & urban environments I usually navigate more towards the Q or S presets. I personally just like to have a little bit more of a cooler light/tone on my images. But then again, there is no right way to do it.

But one thing I can tell you for sure: I rarely use a filter at a 100%. I always tone it down to around 50–70% and then increase the overall contrast by just a tiny bit.

Step 4: Snapseed

After we’ve nailed down the look of our image, we can go and fix up some details.

I mostly use Snapseed for more specific image editing such as selective editing where I want to enhance just a certain color, or retouch something small with the “Healing tool”.

For example see below, I want just the green in the tree to pop a bit more, so I select the color and enhance it with a bit more saturation. Snapseed gives you editing tools on your iPhone that you usually only have on your computer with bigger tools such as Lightroom.

Another app that is similar is Filterstorm Neue (a little more pricey). These tools just give you way more advanced image editing features. I’m personally totally fine with Snapseed and use Filterstorm almost never.

Step 5: Lens Distortions

Our picture should be already perfect, but sometimes you want to add a little bit of extra to it. The app Lens Distortions gives me a range of effects such as additional fog, light shimmers or lens blur effects.

For example in the image above, I just wanted a little more fog on the right side. You have to be careful to not overdo it with lens flares or other effects, but if you already have these effects in your image and you just want to slightly improve them, Lens Distortions is perfect.

Step 6: DONE!

This is pretty much my full work flow, and it all happens on the iPhone. In some cases if the image I’ve taken is already perfect enough, I only use VSCO and I’m done.

Only in some edge cases I take portraits then I use an app called FaceTune which helps me to correct skin tones and other little details if needed.

Any apps you think I missed or questions you have? Let me know on Twitter @vanschneider and I’d love to answer your questions. And of course, follow me on Instagram!

Happy editing,

PS: I usually send out these articles via my personal email list right here. You can sign up anytime, I won’t spam, promise.

Thanks for hitting the 💚 if you enjoyed this article. This will tell me to write more of it!

Tobias is a Designer & Maker + Co-Founder of Semplice, a new portfolio platform for designers. Also host of the show NTMY — Previously Art Director & Design Lead at Spotify & Board of Directors AIGA New York.