Instagram

SGIEW instagram challenge :: Simplicity ::

I'm thrilled to be the guest judge for the @sogoodineveryway Instagram challenge for the next 3 weeks. The theme is :: Simplicity :: and I'm offering two prints from my Etsy shop as a prize for my favourite image (the winner gets to choose which ones).

How do I join in?

Simply tag any of your new photos on Instagram that fit the theme with #sgiew_simplicity and #sgiew and make sure you follow me @zoepower, the @sogoodineveryway challenge account and lovely hosts @incredibusy @willowdaygram and @redtedart. That's it! I'll share my favourite nine images and the winner in about 3 weeks time.

If you're new to @sogoodineveryway challenges, there's a new theme to join in every 2 or 3 weeks or so, and a guest judge to keep things interesting. It's really fun, so do join in :)

It would also be lovely if you could pop over and have a browse through the hashtag #sgiew_simplicity from time to time and leave some words of encouragement for your fellow participants - it can be a great way to connect with other lovely like minded people and find new ideas and inspiration.

More about the theme :: Simplicity ::

I'll be looking for simple compositions, free from distracting details and clutter, and full of space and calm. So have a think about the type of backgrounds you are using and how much you've got in the frame. You could also try using a shallow depth of field to blur out any distractions, or use a restricted colour palette.... The subject matter can be anything you like, it's all about how it is framed and presented.

Some Inspiration

If you're looking for some inspiration to get you started, I thought I'd share some favourite images that have been tagged to my other hashtag #mybeautifulsimplicity over the last few weeks. Do click through and have a browse around these inspiring accounts - you won't be disappointed. Huge thanks to these amazing photographers for sharing their beautiful images.  NB. your image doesn't have to be a floral one - it just seems we all have a particular love for flowers :)

A post shared by Kyoko (@kyoko29kyokolily) on

A post shared by Gem (@gemblina) on

A post shared by Caroline (@pears39) on

A post shared by Cristina Colli (@c_colli) on

A post shared by Elvira (@elvirasstory) on

A post shared by Kriss MacDonald (@krissmacd) on

A post shared by @buttons49 on

A post shared by @jenny.bee13 on

A post shared by 🍃Annie (@hannie65) on

A post shared by Kayleigh (@kayleighawright) on

A post shared by Tess (@tesslovesflowers) on

A post shared by Hannah (@hannahargyle) on

A post shared by @alf.and.myrtle on

A post shared by Elizabeth (@ehpyle) on

A post shared by b e x (@rebecca.kathryn) on


Introducing #mybeautifulsimplicity

I've finally jumped on the hashtag bandwagon! I've been umming and ahhhing about this for a while, but decided it was finally time to create and curate my own Instagram hashtag to share the kind of images I love. Allow me to introduce #mybeautifulsimplicity

So what's #mybeautifulsimplicity all about?

Well, I'm looking for beautifully simple images, full of space, especially white space. They should feel calm and be free from clutter and detail. Think simple backgrounds with minimal objects - perhaps a flatlay or a still life. Or seascapes and nature images where simplicity is the focus. Using a shallow depth of field can be a great way to create simplicity and blur out any distracting details. The same goes for a limited colour palette. It's not so much the subject matter, but the way it is presented.

To get things started, I've tagged some of my images to give a feel for what the hashtag is about. But I'd LOVE to see YOUR beautifully simple images. Please do join in by adding the hashtag #mybeautifulsimplicity to any images that you think are a good fit.

I'll share some favourites every couple of weeks on my Instagram account @zoepower and some monthly round-ups over here on my blog. I think it's such a lovely way to discover new accounts and inspiration.

Please do spread the word - and get tagging!

A photo posted by Zoë Power (@zoepower) on

A photo posted by Zoë Power (@zoepower) on

A photo posted by Zoë Power (@zoepower) on

A photo posted by Zoë Power (@zoepower) on

A photo posted by Zoë Power (@zoepower) on

A photo posted by Zoë Power (@zoepower) on

Which apps I use to edit my Instagram photos

I've been meaning to write this post for a while now. I always find it fascinating to hear which apps others use to edit their photos on their phones for Instagram, so thought I'd share my preferences. There are 4 apps I use regularly (often in combination), depending on the type of photo I want to edit. I use these both for photos taken on my iPhone itself and for photos taken on my DSLR that I have transferred to my phone over wifi (brilliant for editing speed as it means I don't have to put my computer on!).

  • Snapseed - for landscapes and general use
  • VSCO - for tonal highlighting and finishing touches
  • PS Express - for flatlays and still lifes
  • A Color Story - for lightening and brightening and punchy colourful images

I'm not intending this to be a tutorial as such, but rather an overview of my process and the thinking behind my choices. I'll include some links for some more in depth tutorials in case you are interested.


Snapseed - for landscapes and general use

Snapseed is the app I've used for the longest and it therefore tends to be my default option for some initial edits. It offers a good selection of basic editing options including Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Ambiance, Highlights, Shadows, Warmth and Sharpening as well as the ability to crop, and rotate/straighten. 

I find it works particularly well for landscapes and outdoor shots where you tend to get lots of contrast and the sky is often much brighter than the land or sea. The Ambiance tool is the one I use the most in these circumstances as it simultaneously brightens the shadows and reduces the highlights, balancing out the light in the contrasting areas.

What it lacks, though, is the ability to add tonal highlights or do more creative editing, so I usually use it for an initial edit and then take my edited photo into another app for some final tweaking. It does offer filters, but they've never really been to my taste.

The photo below was taken on my iPhone in low light just after sunset and you can see that the sky is much brighter than the sea and the shore.

BEFORE - ORIGINAL IMAGE

BEFORE - ORIGINAL IMAGE

AFTER EDITING IN SNAPSEED

AFTER EDITING IN SNAPSEED

This is what I did to edit it in Snapseed:

  1. Launch Snapseed and tap Open in top left, then Open from device to browse your photostream. Select an image by tapping it and tap Use in top right.
  2. Click the pencil icon on the bottom right to open the editing tools. Then tap on Tune Image. Swipe your finger up and down the photo to see the different editing options available, e.g. Brightness, Contrast etc. and then swipe right or left to increase or decrease the setting you've selected. Once you've finished editing one setting, simply swipe up and down to choose the next setting you want to edit, and swipe left/right again to adjust. I often go back and forth between them, as editing one setting obviously has an effect on the others. Once you've finished, tap the tick icon in the bottom right. This was my recipe:
    • Brightness +65
    • Saturation +12
    • Ambiance +80
  3. Click the pencil again and then Details if you want to add any Sharpening or Structure to your image (Structure seems to work like the Clarity setting you might be familiar with in other applications). This works the same as with Tune Image, so swipe up and down to choose between Sharpening or Structure and swipe left or right to adjust the settings and then tap the tick when you're finished. This was my recipe:
    • Structure +5
    • Sharpening +10
  4. Once you've finished editing, tap SAVE top right. I usually choose the Export option as I rarely come back to re-edit in Snapseed and I like to keep the original image just in case I want to edit it in another application.

Although I'm happy with my edits, the image for me is not yet complete and I've left it purposely under-done as I know I want to edit it further. The next step is to take it into VSCO and apply a filter to add some tonal highlighting (you may have noticed I have a thing for pink highlights!). See below for what I did next.


VSCO - for tonal highlighting and finishing touches

I really like using VSCO for the creative filters it provides, and the ability to refine them. In particular I like to use filters that play with highlight and shadow tones. For me it doesn't work so well for basic editing, as I find the scale on the brightness and saturation options too harsh - I prefer to make subtler adjustments. Hence the reason I usually edit first in another app.

NB. Although VSCO comes with a few filters, most of the filter sets have to be purchased as extra. I think I've now bought most of them, but usually end up using the same old ones!

AFTER EDITING IN SNAPSEED

AFTER EDITING IN SNAPSEED

AFTER EDITING IN VSCO

AFTER EDITING IN VSCO

So let me talk you through the adjustments I made to the image above left in VSCO, that I first edited in Snapseed:

  1. From your library in VSCO, tap the + to import an image from your photostream. Once you've selected your image, tap the circle to add it.
  2. With the image you want to edit selected, tap the slider icon (2nd from left) to open the filters and editing options.
  3. Scroll along the bottom to see the filters and tap to apply one. Tap again to show the sliders that allow you to adjust the strength of the filter and tap the circle when you're done.  
    • For this image I used the C3 filter at strength 8.
  4. To refine the settings for the filter you have chosen, tap the upward facing arrow at the bottom, and then tap the slider icon (2nd from left). You can then tap any of the editing tools and then use the slider to adjust their strength. Again, click the circle when you're done editing each one. When you've finished, tap the upward facing arrow and then the circle to return to your library.
    • For this image I increased the Tint to +2 (I love the pink highlights!), the Shadows Save to +1 and the Highlights Save to +1.
  5. To save your image, tap the 3 dots on the right and then choose Save To Camera Roll and Actual Size.

If you'd like to see a more in depth tutorial for using VSCO then have look at the brilliant video from Me and Orla: Instagram Tips: A beginners guide to VSCO.


PS Express - for Flatlays and Still Lifes

Photoshop Express is another brilliant all purpose editing app. I use it for a wide range of photos, but especially for flatlays and still life shots. I have the lovely Cristina Colli to thank for introducing me to this app via her post How I edit my iPhone photos

Whilst it offers filters, I haven't found any I really like, so I use it exclusively for the individual editing tools. One of the features I really like, though, is the ability to save your edits as a custom filter that you can apply to future photos. This saves me a lot of time as I pretty much always brighten my images, so I have a few filters saved that lighten and brighten shadows and add a little tint to varying degrees.

I usually find that editing in PS Express is enough to create a finished image, but sometimes I can't resist a little further tweaking in VSCO (see above) or directly in Instagram (I'm a big fan of applying a little dash of Clarendon - but have to stop myself over editing on occasion - when is enough, enough?!!).

So let me take you through the edits I made to the following image, taken on my iPhone.

ORIGINAL IMAGE, TAKEN ON MY IPHONE

ORIGINAL IMAGE, TAKEN ON MY IPHONE

IMAGE EDITED IN PS EXPRESS

IMAGE EDITED IN PS EXPRESS

FINAL VERSION, TWEAKED IN INSTAGRAM WITH A DASH OF CLARENDON

FINAL VERSION, TWEAKED IN INSTAGRAM WITH A DASH OF CLARENDON

This is how I edited the image in PS Express:

  1. Tap Select Image From > On my iPhone and browse and select the image you want to edit by tapping on it.
  2. At the very bottom of the screen, select the icon with the sliders (third from left) to access the editing tools. You can then tap each of them in turn and adjust the slider to increase or decrease the setting. This is the recipe I used:
    • Clarity +8
    • Sharpen +5
    • Exposure +35
    • Contrast +5
    • Highlights +20
    • Tint +22
    • Vibrance +6
  3. If you want to save your edits as a custom filter to use in future, tap the filters button on the bottom far left and then MY LOOKS. Tap the + in the blue square on the far left to add your "look"/filter and give it a name. When you next edit a photo, you can then tap on the filters button to come back to your filter and even use a slider to adjust the strength you want to apply it at. You can still then click the slider button to access the editing tools for further tweaking.

A Color Story - for lightening and brightening and punchy colourful images 

A Color Story was created by the colour-loving team behind A Beautiful Mess. It's a powerful editing tool and is great for lightening and brightening and creating punchy colourful images with some cool effects. But it's also very easy to over-do it with the filters, which are very contrasty and saturated at full strength. I probably use this the least of all the apps, as I find it can be hit and miss to get the results I want, and requires a lot more fiddling than PS Express. But for some images it has produced results that none of the other apps have been able to (and of course, now I can't remember exactly which images those were!!).

A Color Story allows you to add filters, adjust the strength of them and layer other filters on top without having to save your image and reimport, as you have to do with the other apps. It also offers a range of interesting effects such as sun flare, bokeh, light leaks and colour fog (although most of these you have to buy as extras). And finally, it offers a wide range of editing tools, including Curves, which I haven't seen elsewhere (I found this rather fiddly to use with my clumsy fingers though - very easy to drag the points totally off kilter). Have a browse through the @acolorstory Instagram account to get an idea for the amazing results the app can produce. And if you want to learn more about it, there's a great video tutorial by Xanthe Berkeley and an overview on the A Color Story website.

The creators of the app recommend that you don't edit images before bringing them into the app as the filters do a lot of brightening and have been designed for images straight out of camera.

So first of all let me show you the before and after:

ORIGINAL IMAGE - TAKEN ON MY IPHONE (far too contrasty and warm - the light was too strong!)

ORIGINAL IMAGE - TAKEN ON MY IPHONE (far too contrasty and warm - the light was too strong!)

IMAGE EDITED IN A COLOR STORY

IMAGE EDITED IN A COLOR STORY

This is how I edited the image above in A Color Story:

  1. Tap Photos from the home screen to browse and select the photo you want to edit by tapping on it and then press CONTINUE.
  2. Tap FILTERS bottom left to browse the filters you want to apply. Filters are grouped in Sets. Some basic sets are free with the app and then others you have to buy. Tap the filter you want to apply and adjust the slider according to your taste and tap the tick when done. Tap Back to return to the Filters so you can apply more. I used the following:
    • Lite Bright from the Essentials set (free) at 49%
    • Chroma from the Chroma set at 52%
    • Light from the Chroma set at 31%
  3. I then tapped the TOOLS button (the spanner, 3rd from left) to access the individual editing tools. Tap the slider button called ADJUST to edit a range of options. I tweaked the Curves to brighten the shadows and increased the Brightness, Saturation, Tint, Exposure and Contrast.
  4. Finally, I tapped DONE (top right) when I was finished and then SAVE & FINISH. If you like, you can also save your edits to apply to future photos by tapping the green SAVE EDITING STEPS button.

I think the main reason I find using this app more fiddly and time consuming than the others is that there are SO many options and SO many settings you can adjust - I find I rarely get the results I desire from just the filters and then spend ages tweaking the individual settings.


So why don't I edit in Instagram itself?

I tend to use Instagram just for some final tweaks (a dash of the Clarendon filter or a tiny bit extra brightness). I think the main reason is that I prefer to edit and save my images to my photostream before I upload them, so I can compare them to other images I've taken for consistency,  and sometimes to multiple edits of the same image to see which one I like best. I also like to edit photos in advance of posting them, so I usually have a little queue of edited photos ready to post when I have time. I think the editing tools in IG have come a long way, but I'd rather save before I post!


So there you have it - the 4 main apps I use to edit my photos for Instagram. I'd love to hear which apps are your favourites and why? Do let me know if you'd like me to go into any more details with any of the apps in a future post.

How I manage my photos: a monthly process to stay on top of it all

How's your smartphone camera roll looking at the moment? Mine used to be heaving with thousands of images and it was really hard to find what I was looking for and I'm pretty sure I overlooked some lovely images as a result - not to mention hours of wasted time searching. The more photos I took, the more I dreaded downloading and sorting them all. But one rainy day I bit the bullet and started a mammoth sort out. Then I vowed I would never let it get so out of hand again....

NB. I use an iPhone and an iMac with Lightroom - but I think the same principles can apply to whichever platform you use.  

This is my process to stay on top of it all:

  • At the end of every month (or beginning of the new month), I download all the photos from my iPhone to Lightroom and then I delete them all from my phone. Yes that's right, I delete them all! I use Image Capture on my iMac to select and delete them from my phone.
  • In Lightroom, I have a folder for each year, and within that, a folder for each month, for the photos I have taken on my iPhone. This makes it much easier to find things and much easier to do the sorting.
  • I then step through all the images in Lightroom, deleting all the duds and similar shots. For the keepers, I use a colour label (green in my case) to identify all the ones I published to Instagram. This enables me to put a filter on and see my best images quickly at a glance. I then go through any shots I haven't edited and apply a preset to quickly brighten and improve them (see my photography workflow using Lightroom post for more info on creating and using presets in Lightroom). By now, I've usually reduced 500 or so images to 200 or less.
  • If there are any images I've taken that I really like, but haven't had a chance to upload to Instagram yet, then I apply another colour label to these, and export them to a folder on Dropbox. That way I can easily download them back to my phone if I need an image for a rainy day. This often happens with images I've taken towards the end of the month that I haven't had a chance to edit and publish.
  • I also like to export a few favourite images from the month to a folder on my iMac that I sync with my iPhone. That way, I don't worry about deleting everything each month and I have easy access to a lovely curated selection of my favourite images on my phone all the time.

One other big benefit of doing all this, is that it makes it so much easier when I come to put together my annual photobook, as everything is already sorted and edited. You can read a bit more about that process in my post on The modern photo album dilemma.

I also try and apply the same process to photos I've taken on my DSLR. Inevitably, I don't always manage to sort and edit them all in the same month, but I do try. I find things get on top of me really quickly otherwise and it feels like too big a job to even start. I also like sharing photos that are current, rather than spring images in summer - it just doesn't feel right.

I think the effort is in the sorting and deleting - the curating if you will - whatever platform you use. So for me, I think it is time well spent as the rewards are worth it - and it saves me time in the long run. I used to do the sorting and deleting on my iPhone, but I really struggled with it as the screen was so small and I quickly lost the will to live. I found it so much easier to do this on the big screen on my iMac.

Incidentally, I don't use Apple's Photos app or auto-sync my photos between my iPhone, iPad and iMac, as I found it stored all the things I deleted and it became even more impossible to find anything. Plus I didn't like the way it stored everything in separate folders for every date you'd taken photos. I'd be really interested to hear from anyone who has got it to work for them - it may well have moved on since I last used it.

So what do you think? Far too much effort? Or the way forward? I'd love to know what you do to stay on top of things. Any questions, let me know.