A quick tutorial for how to edit food photos (or any photo!) for Instagram and social media – using FREE apps that are available for iPhone and android.
I’m back with another food photography post for you! Last time, I shared all of my favorite backgrounds for food photography. Today, it’s all about how to easily edit your cell phone photos so they look like they were taken with a professional camera.
I’m going to show you step-by-step how to go from the photo on the left to the photo on the right. The best thing is that all I used are two FREE apps.
How to Edit Food Photos for Instagram
A few things I’ll cover – using curves to edit the brightness of your photos, how to use the native Instagram app effectively to edit photos and how to level an overhead table shot using editing software. I do these simple steps for almost every photo I shoot on my cell phone. Now that I have my workflow, I can do all of them in under two minutes.
Best Free Photo Editing Apps for Instagram and Android
I start editing every photo using the A Color Story app. Their ‘Curves’ feature takes a little getting used to, but offers phenomenal control over adjusting the exposure of your photo.
- Download the A Color Story app. It’s free for Android or iPhone and has options to buy more filters and effects. For our purposes, we’ll be using only free features.
- Open your photo and select ‘Tools‘, then select ‘Curves‘.
- The curves feature has a curve (imagine that!) with three points. I start with the middle point, which brightens the photo overall. I typically drag the point slightly downwards and pull it to the left. Dragging it down prioritizes the darker parts of the photo and keeps the white plates from being completely overexposed.
- Next, I pull the top point slightly right and down. This decreases the highlights in the photo, also keeping the white surfaces and reflections from being blown out.
- Lastly, the lowest point adjusts the shadows and darkest parts of the image. I drag this to the right just a bit to make the photo richer.
- You can tap the line to add extra points, but I find that these three easy steps are all I need to improve the exposure and brightness of the photo. You can also play around with filters in A Color Story, because they are amazing!
Final Touch Ups: Editing photos in the Instagram App
I absolutely love the native Instagram app for making final touches on my photo before I post. The sliders in the app make it easy to up the brightness, saturation and richness of the photo just a tiny bit. It’s this extra step that really make your photos pop and stand out on people’s feeds. I also use the Clarendon filter on almost every photo to make the tones a little cooler and take out the yellows that you get from restaurant or even natural light.
I realize you’re probably looking at the step by step photos in this section and thinking I’m crazy. It’s hard to tell the subtle differences these steps make, but the amazing thing about the Instagram app is that if you hold your finger down on the photo you can see the before and after changes. This feedback always keeps me from overdoing it.
- Open your saved photo in the Instagram app. A little filter goes a long way, so I usually don’t do the Clarendon filter more than 10-15.
- Up the brightness, typically no more than 20, or it starts to get overexposed in places. If you need to do more than that, go back to the A Color Story app and work on the curves again.
- Up the saturation by 3 or 4 and the structure by no more than 5. This sharpens the photo and brings out the details to make it look like you took it with a fancy camera. Careful, because overdoing it makes the photo look fake.
- I finish by trying the ‘Lux’ option. This is a feature unique to the Instagram app and balances the exposure and will add contrast to make your photo pop. I find it doesn’t work for every image, but often it adds a little extra to make the photo stand out.
- Check your work! Move into the field where you write the caption and tap the photo in the upper left corner. This brings up a full screen view with a white border (instead of the grey border within the editing section) which helps me make sure the photo is exposed enough. I ended up increasing the brightness to 18 with this double-check.
Making Overhead Shots Level
One of the hardest things about taking an overhead cell phone shot is making sure your phone is completely level. Luckily, the Instagram app has an amazing feature, Adjust, that lets you ‘bend’ the photo to make it look more level. I use this all the time and it still amazes me each time. This example is pretty subtle, but I’ve had some real doozies that I’ve been able to fix this way.
All of these quick, tiny changes really add up. Here’s a look at the original photo, after using the Curves function and then with the touch ups in the Instagram app:
I case you’re wondering, the ‘Adjust’ feature crops the photo slightly, making the final image a bit smaller.
Any thoughts or questions? Let me know in the comments below. Did you find this tutorial helpful? Share it on Pinterest!
Thanks so much for reading A Side of Sweet! For more Sweet in your life, you can find me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Bloglovin‘, Snapchat (@asideofsweet), or Twitter. You can also subscribe to receive a weekly email with new posts.
P.S. – Here are some other posts about blogging and food photography that you might find helpful: