Before & After: My Editing Process for iPhone Instagram Photos

After so many requests… Just kidding! No one requested this, but I thought I would take some time and walk you through my process of editing pictures for Instagram using only a couple of apps on your iPhone.

Instagram is growing exponentially, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. With over 300+ million users worldwide — roughly the population of the entire United States. It became an essential part of our everyday lives.

I’m a huge fan of Instagram because it serves as a great platform to share my memories, experiences, and work. It allowed me to connect with great people and opened up great business opportunities.

You are probably following some of Instagram’s super-heroes; the ones with millions of followers and who always seem to look better and live more photogenic lives than the rest of us. And you’re wondering if you can do the same. Well, you can. All you need is a good eye, an iPhone, and some practice.

In this article, I’ll walk you through a simple way on how I edit my photos on the-go.

For this tutorial, I’m using the below image I took at Yosemite. You can download it here.

Before and After
Before & After

Step 1: Apps

First, we’re going to use Lightroom and VSCO. I’ll list all the apps and resources used throughout the steps.


Step 2: Lightroom Adjustment

After loading the image up in Lightroom, we can start the editing process. There are many different ways to edit a picture and trying to choose the right tone and feel to the photo can sometimes be overwhelming. To avoid the dilemma, I like to visualize the outcome of the picture before I start the editing process and reverse engineer it from there to achieve the result I have in mind.

For this picture, I want to give it warm colors and fall tones (cyan and orange hues.)

Light Settings

To give it a gloomier, winter effect, we’re reducing the contrast and the highlights. It’s easier to mix tonal colors without it being highly contrasted/vibrant.Think of it as a painted canvas, the fewer colors you got on it, the more freedom you have to manipulate colors without being constrained to few combinations.

After opening the image, click the Light tab and insert the settings above. Feel free to adjust it to your taste accordingly.


The next step is to adjust the tonal curves. The curve tool is essential to every photographer. It allows you to change the tone inputs of an image by stretching or compressing the RGB tones using anchor points.

Curves Settings

While having the Light tab expanded, click on the color wheel on the top right of the lightbox to select the Curve tool.

For this exercise, we’re only changing the RGB and Blue channel. You can tap at any part in the graph to anchor a point.


After we’re satisfied with the lighting of the photo, now we can move to manipulating the colors. This is my favorite part as you can free your imagination and set up any color combination. This will determine the “feel” of the photo.

Color Settings

Since the original picture had too much blue hue, I wanted to give it some yellow to bring out the fall colors of the trees and grass. To do that, we’re only increasing the Temperature while decreasing the Vibrance to give it a fall/winter desaturated feel.

Color Mixer

Just like we’ve done Curves with lighting, we’re going to use the Color Mixer in Colors to change the hues of the image. Remember, always keep the image of the desired outcome in your head to be able to mix the colors accordingly, this will allow you stick to your vision without randomly changing the color values.

To access the Color Mixer, tap on the color wheel on the top right hand of the Color lightbox.

Color Mixer AColor Mixer B

Selective Edits

Selective Edits allows you to select a portion of an image using radial and graduated filters to make lighting and color adjustments. This tool is highly powerful, and most of the photographers rely on it to achieve the looks they want.

For this example, we’re going to brighten up the lake and mix cyan to give it a clear, and cold look.

Selective Editor

To select this tool, scroll the bottom menu to the left, select the radial selection from the middle left of the screen and draw a selection over the lake. You can adjust the size using the anchor points on the sides, hold the line stroke and spin to rotate and adjust the feather (bleed) using the top black circle.

Step 3: VSCO

After adjusting the lighting and colors in Lightroom, it’s time to move on to the next step and add filters using VSCO.

Think of the work we’ve done in Lightroom as the base layer and VSCO is the final coat of paint we need to apply.

There are other great apps you can use such as Priime for this step. But I prefer using VSCO since I have a great selection of filters and custom settings in there.


The options are endless for this step. Remember, for this example, we’re working toward a fall colored image.

I tried different filters to test out the outcome. After taking a moment, I decided to go with option C below since it matches the same colors I had in mind.

VSCO Different Filters

When working with VSCO, I try to avoid using filters in their full intensity. I usually adjust the strength to 60%-70%. Otherwise, it will override the original colors of the image and will look like your editing process only consists of applying a VSCO filter — not good.

Step 4: Final Touches

At this point, you should be all set to post your picture and wow your friends. But as a “professional photographer,” the beauty is in the details.

This step is optional, and you should feel free to skip or add your own final touches. For me, I used Snapseed to clean out the seaweed from the lake, giving it a clearer, and calmer look.

This step reduces the noise in the picture and it’s easier on the eye to digest its elements.

Final Touches

Step 5: DONE!

This is pretty much my full workflow of editing for my Instagram using only my iPhone. In some cases, If the photos I’ve taken are in a perfect condition, I skip Lightroom and just play with some VSCO filters to get the results I want.

Again, this is just one way out of endless ways to edit your pictures. Don’t be limited to my method. Practice, explore, and create your own.

I hope you find this article helpful. Share your results in the comments or tag me on social media (@ali93a) to let me know what you think. I would love to see what you’re going to create!

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.