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Instagram’s ten advanced editing tools

There’s much more you can do to your Instagram uploads than aimlessly sticking a filter over the top

Until last year the words editing and Instagram didn’t go together. You either uploaded your picture with one of the app’s builtin filters or made finer edits in another app before heading to Instagram. Thankfully that’s all changed.

If you’re running the latest version of Instagram (it requires iOS 7, so no excuses) you get access to a host of editing tools guaranteed to help out any digital photographer. As you’d expect, implementing one of the tools and customising it is a straightforward affair.

With an image selected, there are three editing options to initially choose from: Filters, Lux (a leftover from old versions, which adjusts colour) and Tools, the home of Instagram’s new editing suite. This is the menu to visit to add a vignette, adjust contrast, sharpen an image and much more.


1. Adjust

The first option in the Tools menu is Adjust. This enables you to straighten wonky shots, correcting framing issues in a second. Just move the slider left or right to get it fixed. In most cases small adjustments should be all that’s necessary. Use the grid to help.


2. Brightness

Have an image that’s lacking some vibrancy? Sometimes when you take an image with your iPhone, vibrant colours don’t always translate well. Instagram provides a quick fix inside its Brightness menu, making colours more eyecatching and negating the need for a filter.


3. Shadows

Because you aren’t shooting with a DSLR, shadows can become undifferentiated black areas. This could be the look you were going for, but if it isn’t, slide the Shadows slider to the right and watch your image transform before your eyes. An impressive tool to have in your armoury.


4. Warmth

If the sun isn’t shining and the outlook is cloudy, some images look cold and depressing, through no real fault of the photographer. You can add some warmer tones to any image with Instagram’s Warmth effect, which adds more of an orange glow.


5. Shadows

Moving the Contrast slider to the right will give almost any image an instant boost, fine-tuning how colour is represented. Results are surprisingly realistic too (don’t be afraid to experiment with varying levels), meaning dull, lifeless images are a thing of the past.


6. Tilt shift

Tilt Shift is an effect that has become very popular in recent years, with plenty of copycat apps available on the App Store. Instagram’s effort is admirable, though. It works best with a picture taken from above and creates the effect that a life -sized location or subject looks like a miniature-scale model.


7. Vignette

An effect that needs no introduction, in fact you’re probably sick of seeing it. If not, the Vignette tool will result in a loss of clarity in the corners and sides of your image, giving your pictures a feeling of stepping back in time. It can be as subtle or blatant as you want.


8. Sharpen

You might be surprised to discover just how many of your photos lack sharpness. You’re shooting on an iPhone after all, not a high-end DSLR and Instagram’s Sharpen tool will add instant clarity. You’ll notice the most difference with an image that you need to zoom in on.


9. Saturation

Another editing tool that alters the colour in your image. It works best with existing bright colours because to change saturation there needs to be some colour saturation to start with. When you slide right, the contrast, brightness and sharpness will all be increased and give the image some pop.


10. Highlights

Areas of an image that are damaged due to extreme light are often described as having blown-out or flared highlights. This is often irreversible with digital images shot on an iPhone (you’d be fine with a RAW file), but you can use Instagram’s Highlights tool to see if you can save it. It might be best to move the slider left.