March 16, 2021
Phone Photography for Social Media: How to Edit Photos on Your Phone
Use these to make your photos POP.

Now that you’re snapping photos like a pro, let’s get into the nitty gritty of how to edit photos on your phone.

You may be tempted to slap a filter on a photo and call it a day, but really the best way to get a good photo is to edit each one individually (sorry!). Luckily, once you’ve done it a couple of times, you’ll start being able to look at photos and easily tell what needs to be fixed, making it much quicker to edit them.

There are tons of apps out there with great features, but my favorite one that I’ve found super easy to use (and is free!) is the A Color Story app from the A Beautiful Mess bloggers.

Design-wise, it’s user friendly AND I give it bonus points for being a very good-looking app overall. But note that I don’t claim it’s the best editing app out there — I just downloaded it years ago and have never found a reason to look elsewhere.

Though I’ll speak to specifics on A Color Story, take this overview as a general guideline for photo editing. Most of these features are ones you’ll find on any good photo editing software. I’ll go in the order that I usually edit my photos in:

  • Fix the framing
  • Adjust the light
  • Color-correct (if needed)
  • Sharpen

My secret is… there is no secret. I go in this general order slightly tweaking settings until I’ve got the image I want. But if you want to learn more about the different settings I like to use, I’m doing a deep dive here for you.

The biggest tip I can give you with editing is that less is more. Most photos only need a little touch of correction here and there to really pop!

But first things first — You can’t edit a photo if you don’t have a photo to begin with!

Start with a Good Canvas

Yes, it’s possible to edit the heck out of a bad photo, but why would you want to? It’ll…

A) Take a lot of time, and

B) Probably not turn out very great.

It’s much easier to get a final product you’re happy with if the initial photo just needs minor tweaks.

If you’re not feeling confident in your photo-taking abilities, you can go back to my previous post here. But what we’re looking for is a well-framed shot that’s focused on the subject and bright using natural light. Here are some examples of a bad initial photo and a good initial one:

Next you’ll want to fix the angles of your photo.

Adjust Your Frame

Start by cropping or repositioning your photo. If your hands are your camera’s tripod, odds are it won’t be perfectly straight. Or maybe you realize there was something in the corner of the photo you don’t want in it. Maybe you stood at a weird angle. Whatever the case, there are ways to fix this.

In A Color Story, go to the “Framing” section. Here are the options I use the most:

  • Tilt – Use for slight photo rotation left or right. Note that this also brings your subject closer, and too much tilt will crop your photo. Consider using the 90 degree rotate, Flip or Mirror options first and then tilting if you’re struggling to get it straight without cropping too much out.
  • Perspective – One of my favorite tools; this lets you twist the image horizontally or vertically. If your subject is against a flat background, this is really helpful to align the “camera” after you’ve already taken the photo.
  • Crop – I leave cropping for last. If I’ve straightened out my photo and fixed the perspective and there are still things around the edges I don’t want, I’ll use crop to cut them out.

Now, on to lighting.

Tweak Your Light

There are a couple of ways you can do this on the A Color Story app:

  • Go to the “Touch” section and select Lighten or Darken. Move the slider as high up or down as you want it to be adjusted, then swipe your finger over the parts of the photo you want to adjust.
  • Go to the “Adjust” section and select Bright. Then you can either:
    • Use the slider to adjust the brightness for the entire photo
    • Click on the plus sign that appears on the bottom left corner of the photo. Use the circle option to brighten a circular area of the photo (you can slide it around the photo and adjust the size as needed). Or use the square option to section off part of the photo you want to adjust (the line that sections off the photo can be flipped, turned, and moved around as needed).
  • Within the “Adjust” section, you also have options for Exposure (for our purposes, this is almost the same as Bright), Highlight (lowers the light on the brightest parts of your image) and Shadow (raises the light on the darkest parts of your image).

Once I’ve got the brightness right, I’ll go into the Temperature setting under “Adjust” to make the photo warmer (more yellows/reds) or cooler (more blues). Cooler temperatures generally work best with objects — You can use color correction to help make them pop against a lighter background. Warmer temperatures give your subjects more life; I like editing this way for people and animals.

Next section is a judgement call: Do you still feel like the colors are off on your photo? If so, let’s tweak. If not, skip to sharpening.

Color-Correcting

For most photos that are taken in good light on a good camera, the light adjustments outlined above are probably enough to get it where you want it. But if your colors still aren’t looking right, you’ve got some options in the “Adjust” section — Note that, as with all of the Adjust tools, these have the option to either affect the overall image, or to spot-correct a certain area by using the circle tool.

  • Saturation (Sat) / Vibrance – Both of these increase or decrease the intensity of your colors. Saturation works on the entire image, while vibrance is a smart tool that picks out muted tones on your image and only lightens/darkens those.
  • Hue Tint – To really get into the differences between these means getting deep into color theory. Suffice it to say these sliders will change the overall colors of your image; they’re good for a quick overall color correction.
  • HighMidtoneShadow Color – Again, plenty more to learn here, but for our purposes these help you adjust the amount of reds/greens/blues in different areas of your images.

Sharpen Your Image

You’ve got three options in the “Adjust” section which are pretty similar:

  • Sharpen – Use for normal sharpening, which adjusts pixels to make photo textures pop more.
  • Clarity – Affects the overall image; think of it as a big brush that adjusts contrast slightly to make the overall photo look less soft.
  • Contrast – Adjusts the relationship between the brightest and darkest tones in your photo. The higher the contrast, the more these areas will pop against each other.

Now You’re Ready to Edit Photos on Your Phone!

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to photo editing, but it is more than enough to get beautiful photos for your social media posts. For your reference, here’s that photo from earlier on. I edited it in just a few minutes with the app. You’ll notice the edits are minor, but they make the photo pop a whole lot more. That can make the difference between someone scrolling right past your photo or stopping to give it a “like”!

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