This one has been a long time coming and is a topic I get DM-ed on Instagram for and emailed about frequently!
While I do most of my writing on my Macbook, I actually do the majority of my photo editing with my iPhone.
Want to learn about the major differences between VSCO and Lightroom CC? Find them here!
I started my photo editing and Instagram journey using Snapseed and VSCO but later on discovered the incredible powers Adobe Lightroom CC harnesses for editing my photos in a professional and timely manner! With plans to expand into stock photography this year, and as a busy mom of a toddler, I definitely need all of the time saving tools I can get these days!
Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and as a member of the Adobe Affiliate program, I earn a small commission on eligible purchases. This article was written long before I became a member of this program and my recommendation is based on my experience with Adobe’s product lineup not potential commissions.
Adobe Lightroom CC does offer a free version but the real magic comes when you signup for the Creative Cloud Photography Subscription Plan, that includes access to both mobile and desktop photography apps (a must for professional photographers and those looking to run a digital photography business), and starts at $9.99 USD a month.
The free version of Adobe Lightroom CC includes:
- Access to all Capture, Organization, and Sharing features
- Access to some editing features including the basics like Light, Color, Effects, Detail, and Presets
The subscription version of the Creative Cloud Photography plan however, will give you:
- The ability to edit RAW files
- Access to the Selective edits tool (in Lightroom CC)
- The ability to sync photos you’ve upload to Lightroom to all of your Creative Cloud Photography devices
- Access to Photoshop CC
- Access to photos you’ve upload in Lightroom in other Adobe mobile apps including: Adobe Spark Page, Adobe Spark Video, Photoshop Mix, and Photoshop Fix
- A customized photo website powered by Adobe Portfolio
If you are looking to start out with a budget friendly photo editing app though, Snapseed, developed by Google, is a fantastic free option and includes:
- 29 Tools, including: White Balance, Brush, HDR, Perspective, Crop, Rotate, Selective, Healing, Vignette
- 11 Filters, including 4 black and white options
- The ability to open files in both RAW and JPG file formats
- Access to the Insights feature that includes tips and tricks for using the Snapseed app
To really bring a next level professional appearance to your photos though, I would highly recommended complementing Snapseed with VSCO; like Lightroom CC, VSCO has both a free version and a membership option that runs at a reasonable cost of $19.99 US a year.
The free version of VSCO offers:
- Use of 10 VSCO presets
- Basic editing tools including Contrast, Saturation, and Grain
- Use of the Discover feature
- The ability to share photos for a chance at being featured by VSCO
The VSCO Mobile Membership includes all of the free versions features plus:
- Use of ALL 170+ VSCO preset
- Use of Film X (for recreating vintage film looks by Fuji, Kodak, and others)
- Advanced editing tools including Video Editing, HSL, and Borders
I’ll post a link here for a tutorial on using Snapseed and VSCO to edit your photos once I’ve finished writing that article!
But in the meantime, if you’ve made up your mind and you’re ready to start your journey using Lightroom CC on your mobile to edit your photos for Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, I’ll show you how to get started right now 🙂
Note: I am by no means a professional photographer or editor. I use Lightroom CC and the Creative Cloud Photography suite to edit my photos for my blog and social media including Instagram, Pinterest, and my Facebook page.
I absolutely adore this technology and the world of digital media as a whole and have written this basic guide after a few requests from my followers to do so. This step by step walkthrough is intended as a beginners guide for social media lovers and influencers.
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Before continuing to the tutorial, be sure to download Adobe Lightroom CC on your desktop and your mobile and choose a photo that you’d like to experiment on 🙂 I always find that I learn better when the activity is hands on! Maybe you do too.
Download the Creative Cloud plan above first to get all-inclusive access to Lightroom’s full array of editing options, and then search Adobe Lightroom CC on your mobile device’s App Store and download it here as well.
On my iPhone, the app runs at a size of 148.8 MB and was downloaded in less than a minute. If you have subscribed to the Creative Cloud Photography plan and are downloading all components to both your mobile device and desktop now though, expect to wait up to an hour to get your desktop programs going (totally worth the wait).
Open Lightroom CC
Once your download has completed, open Lightroom CC from either the App Store or your main navigation menu.
Choose A Photo To Start Editing
Click on the photograph button with the plus sign at the bottom right of your screen to open a new photo now. Choose From Camera Roll, From All Photos, or From Files.
Note: by default, Lightroom CC will open to the All Photos folder but for this portion of the tutorial, I have used a folder designated Instagram to better illustrate my walkthrough.
I have chosen the From Camera Roll option, which shows me an overview of every photo I have available on my phone.
I’ll show you how I like to edit with Lightroom CC using the photo below as an example.
Here’s a comparison of what it looked like before and after editing (don’t mind the missing PopSocket, haha)!
For my Instagram Feed, I’m all about true, brilliant whites (See How To Maintain a White & Bright Instagram Feed for more on how I do this), so I tend to crank the Saturation right down and remove a lot of Shadows!
Even though the gloomy, blue, overcast Vancouver sky is natural here (brutal for taking photos), once the image is cropped, your focus goes to M and I and the background remains just that as an afterthought. Depending on the vibe you are going for with your Instagram page, you can choose to do this or not.
Personally, if this window was any larger, I would have probably chosen to just dim the blue a bit and left it looking more natural. On another note, Gosh, I can’t wait to renovate the front entrance, haha!
Start Editing Your Photo
Choose from an Auto adjustment or other tools to make adjustments including:
- Light: Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks
- Color: White Balance, Temp, Tint, Vibrance, and Saturation
- Effects: Clarity, Dehaze, Vignette, Midpoint, Feather, Roundness, Highlights, Grain, Size, and Roughness
- Detail: Sharpening, Radius, Detail, Masking, Noise Reduction Contrast, Color Noise Reduction, Smoothness
- Optics: Remove Chromatic Aberration, Enable Lens Corrections
- Geometry: Distortion, Vertical, Horizontal, Rotate, Aspect, Scale, X Offset, Y Offset
- Presets: Choose from filters created by Adobe including Color, Creative, B&W, Curve, Grain, Sharpening, Vignetting or User Presets that you can either create on your own or download through Etsy or Creative Market
The Lightroom CC Auto adjustment feature will do the work for you and is a fantastic option if you’re unsure as to how to start editing your shot; it’s also a great way to see how the controls work and what tools make what sort of adjustments for those who are brand new to photo editing.
Above is a comparison of the adjustments Lightroom automatically made for this photo versus the original. Not much of a difference here!
Understanding Photoshop CC’s Editing Tools
Here’s a basic breakdown of how some of the most commonly used Lightroom CC tools work:
Exposure: Adjusts how light or dark you’d like your image to appear
Contrast: Adjusts for differences in the mid-tones of your image
Highlights: Recovers details in overexposed highlight areas
Shadows: Recovers details in underexposed shadow areas
Whites: Adjust white points in your image
Blacks: Adjust black points in your image
Temp: Adjusts colour temperature of your image
Tint: Adjusts for green or magenta colour in your image
Vibrance: Adjusts the intensity muted colours without affecting already-saturated colours
Saturation: Adjust your image’s vividness
Clarity: Adjusts your image’s depth – how textures appear
Dehaze: Adjusts your image’s existing haze
Vignette: Reduces your image’s brightness and saturation at its edges
Sharpening: adjusts the contrast between different pixel tones
A lot of Instagram users are big fans of these but I’ve found that creating my own and continuing to make adjustments was the best solution for getting my Instagram feed to look the way I want.
It’s very tricky to find a nice preset that both makes your whites whiter without making skin tones orange beyond repair, for my style of photography.
I used to use a combination of A6 and/or S2 on VSCO but this was only after having finished my edit on Snapseed.
If you are a fan and enjoy using them, the more power to you! Presets can save you hours of time with your photo editing.
Editing For Bright White Images
Make Light Adjustments
This is the natural first step for photo editing!
Normally, the most dramatic difference of all will be a result of your Exposure adjustment.
In overcast Vancouver, where I’m from, lighting is a constant battle! And while I use artificial lighting to brighten my atmosphere (Check out How To Take Amazing Photos For Instagram to see how I upped my photography game with a few equipment upgrades, downloads, and accessory purchases – plus how it catapulted me from Average Instagram User to Influencer), often times, I still need to make some serious adjustments the the exposure.
Now, we’re getting somewhere! It’s incredible how just adjusting the exposure makes it look like a different photo sometimes.
Next, we can adjust the Contrast, Shadows, and Highlights (I decided to adjusted Shadows before Highlights due to the excessive over my face in the original photo but you can edit in whatever order you find it easiest to work in).
Make Colour Adjustments
Side note: I’m sure you’ve already noticed by now, but I use the word Colour in both alternative spellings throughout this article!
While Lightroom uses the US spelling for Color in its menu, I’m from Canada and normally spell it with the additional U! So, when I’m referring to the menu, I’ll use the US spelling but refer to the concept of colour as I would normally write it.
Tap Color (did you love that side note like I did? Haha!) to start editing the Temperature, Tint, Vibrance, and Saturation of your image.
To get the background looking super white and bright, we’ll do some Selective Editing later on! We’ll also do some selective editing on the two of us girls to get our skin tones looking nice and natural.
Make Selective Edits
The Selective feature is hands down my absolute favourite tool when it comes to photo editing! It gives you complete control over every little detail of your image. To start the tool up, click on the Selective Tool in the main menu. Then press the Plus Sign to see your options. Choose the Brush Tool and paint over the area you’d like to edit.
In my case, I like to use the Selective Brush tool to paint over the Focus (whether it be an item or a person) and Background components of my photo to make them separate entities. Now, instead of tuning the image as whole, you can adjust each piece separately to keep skin tones and other essential items looking more natural!
Notice I’ve broken down my Selective Edits into three components here: The backdrop, the window, and the girls!
While tuning the entire image is always the way I start my photo editing process, sometimes people and objects can get far too washed out if you don’t separate them.
This is especially important if you’re working with brands to promote products they have sent you! You certainly don’t want to change the appearance of the time so much that it is unrecognizable when the brand sees your promo shot or your audience receives the product when they purchase it based on your recommendation!
Think clothing, makeup, home decor, and other items where true colour is crucial!
I would have never been able to achieve such a bright white background in the above image without the Selective Brush tool! The diamonds shown in the images above represent each Selective Edit I made to that image (the blue diamonds represent the “active” red painted sections that accompany that particular edit while the grey diamonds show additional selective edits).
Notice that the window I was talking about earlier also has its own selective edit; I used the Selective Brush to do this in case I changed my mind about whether or not to make it look more natural.
In this instance, I found that the blue background behind my head was distracting and takes away from the overall look of the photo in my Instagram feed. But, it’s nice to have options 🙂
I start my selective editing by adjusting the Color feature on my Background components.
Yep, I took the saturation right down for a nice and true clean white! Not a drop of that yucky yellow tinge or evidence of those retro-coloured windows left. Phew! Then, I’ll adjust the Light Tool settings a bit, if need be. And as you can see, they were super minimal for this one!
If need be, I’ll add more Selective Edits to the background, which you can see I did in the images below. The yucky green and blue in our 1970’s style windows just wouldn’t go away without a bit more desaturating and brightening!
Then, after I’m happy with the way the background looks, I’ll move onto editing the Focus Point of the photo. In this case, my little girl and I!
Note: Be sure to hit the Check Mark button button at the bottom right-hand corner of your screen to save your work every time you make a Selective Edit!
Clicking the x will discard any changes!
After I’ve finished making Light adjustments, I move onto the Color Tool and desaturate our skin tones slightly to get rid of that orange tinge. I love Ambiance in my photos but sometimes near the end, I’ll need to make a subtle adjustment.
Now, is that blue discolouration on the edge of Marina’s skirt driving you crazy like its driving me crazy? Let’s get rid of it!
We’ll create another Selective Edit by clicking on the Selective Tool and then tapping on the Plus sign at the top of the left hand side of our screen. Then, we’ll choose the Brush Tool from the available options in the blue menu at the top of the screen.
If you’d like to, you can adjust the Size, Feather, and Flow using the respective three circles at the lefthand mid-section of your screen, just above the Trash Can.
To remove any Selective Edits you are unhappy with, simply tap the Trash Can after selecting the corresponding diamond you’d like to delete. If you’d like to go back a step, tap the Back Arrow at the top right-hand side of your screen.
Use your finger to paint over the section you’d like to change.
Adjust your Exposure by going to the Light Tool.
Then adjust the colour by going to the Color Tool. In this case, it was a bit more complicated than just moving up or down the Saturation!
Once you play with photo editing enough, you’ll find that cranking the Saturation up or down on your whites either leads you to more blue (caused by desaturating) or yellow tones (caused by saturating). Since we’re trying to counter a blue undertone, we thus want to counter it with the polar opposite by choosing yellow tone from our Color Bar. Then, we’ll adjust the Saturation a touch to get the right shade.
Ah, thank Goodness! That’s so much better, isn’t it?
Once you’re happy with the image, click the Square with the Arrow coming out of it at the top right-hand corner of your screen next to the Back Arrow we talked about earlier.
Choose from the options listed above and either Share, Save to Camera Roll, Save to Files, Open In, Edit In, or Export Original. If choosing Save to Camera, maintain the best resolution by selecting Maximum available from the Image Size options listed above.
And there you have it, we’ve just finished editing our first photo for Instagram using Lightroom CC!
Have any questions about the tools available in Lightroom CC? How was your first experience using this photo editing app? Have you opted for the Creative Cloud Photography plan? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Happy editing, friends!
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