Photo tips

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.

Photo tips: capturing autumn / fall colour

Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year to photograph - the landscape turns red and gold, leaves sparkle like jewels in the autumn sunshine, changing colour almost before your eyes. Is there anything more beautiful than watching a swirl of golden leaves spin and float gently down to rest on a scarlet carpet? There is magic everywhere - look up, look down, look all around.

Yet this autumnal magic can be surprisingly hard to capture on camera, so I thought I would share a few tips that have helped me. I should say that I am not about traditional shots or wide vistas of lots of trees. I hate HDR (High Dynamic Range) shots with a passion. My photography is all about softness and simplicity and my macro lens is my autumn lens of choice. So read on if you are interested in capturing autumn the beautiful simplicity way.

Photos tips: capturing autumn / fall colour

1. Position yourself to best catch the light

This is probably the single most important thing you can do. Observe which direction the sun is shining (even when there's lots of cloud cover) and walk around the tree you are photographing to see where the leaves are best illuminated. Sometimes, this means standing underneath the tree to get to the underside of the leaves (but obviously taking great care not to damage it). You will usually find that in one direction the leaves look flat, dull and lifeless, but from the opposite side they are beautifully lit, with strong vivid colours.

If you're lucky enough to have a day with some sunshine, it's worth waiting for the sun to come out and illuminate your shot - it's amazing what a bit of patience can do.

And make sure your flash is turned off - you won't capture that autumn magic with artificial light.


2. Use other trees for background colour

The joy of autumn for me is the beautiful medley of rich colours - definitely a case where the sum is greater than the parts. To take advantage of this, position yourself so that a brightly coloured tree is in the background of your shot, ideally one that is a contrast to the leaf or tree you are focussing on. Sometimes it's the background that makes the shot.


3. Don't shoot against the sky

The sky is usually much brighter than the landscape. If you are trying to focus on some leaves or a tree with lots of sky visible behind them, your camera will struggle to get the exposure right - you'll find your shot will either be far too light (exposed for the leaves) or far too dark (exposed for the sky). Even with lots of post-processing, it's hard to get pleasing results. You would be better to change your angle of view so that you have other trees/leaves in the background instead of the sky.

Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. If the sun is behind you and the sky is bright blue, you might find your exposure is nicely balanced. And sometimes shooting directly into the sun provides some interesting sunflare - but it can be very hit and miss. As always, the key is to experiment, and check your results.


4. Look for fallen leaves & small details

As well as photographing the leaves whilst they are on the trees, don't forget to look around for other details as well. There is so much richness of colour and texture in the autumn landscape. A few ideas to try:

  • Fallen leaves, perhaps on a branch with some interesting moss, or floating in a stream.

  • Water droplets.

  • Reflections in a puddle or lake.

  • Ask a friend to hold a collection of autumn finds in their hands, or hide behind a leaf bouquet, or make a leaf headdress.

  • Find some colourful leaves for a backdrop for some portraits. Action shots can be fun too - try jumping off a tree stump or throwing some leaves in the air (put your camera into continuous shooting mode for this one, so you can capture as many frames as possible - hopefully one of them will be "the one").

  • Look down at your feet - the autumn carpet can be pretty special.

  • Bring some props out with you to photograph, such as mini pumpkins/gourds, or in my case, dolls :)

  • Collect some fallen leaves to take home with you and arrange them on a simple background (but work quickly, before they dry and curl).

Don't be afraid to move things around either - I will often collect together some of the most beautiful fallen leaves and place them on a branch or a tree stump and arrange them to look as if they had fallen there. I'll also remove anything that looks dead or diseased from the shot (always without causing damage to anything - always respect your environment).


5. WHICH GEAR TO USE AND WHICH SETTINGS

As I mentioned above, my absolute favourite lens to use for autumn photography is my 100mm f2.8 macro lens. This is because I love to shoot small details, with softness and simplicity. I find you need a longer lens as the trees are often very tall, so it's the only way to get close enough to the leaves. I usually shoot somewhere between f2.8 - f4, trying to find the balance between shallow depth of field and sufficient sharpness of the subject I'm focussing on.

Another lens I like to use is my 24-105mm f4 zoom lens. I will mostly use this fully extended at 105mm with an aperture of f4 to get as much background blur as possible. It's also nice to be able to capture a few wider shots as well.

I also enjoy using my 50mm f1.4 lens. However, you need to be able to get reasonably close to your subject to produce the tight compositions and blurry backgrounds I love, so this has its limitations.

Finally, you might find a monopod or tripod helpful. The light can often be very low at this time of year with shutter speeds quite slow, so having something to steady your camera can be helpful. I have to say, though, that personally I prefer to shoot unencumbered - I'm forever moving around trying to find the perfect angle/light/background, going down low, shooting high. If I had to keep adjusting my tripod, I would be there forever!

Instead, I usually make sure my ISO is set to auto, so my camera can use higher ISO settings if the light is very low. I will most often shoot in Aperture Priority mode, as aperture is the setting I like to adjust most often. My camera will then adjust the shutter speed and ISO automatically, in accordance with the light reading.


6. Beware very shallow depth of field

Whilst I absolutely love shooting with the shallowest depth of field my lens will allow for maximum background blur, you do need to be careful if you are using a macro lens.  Shooting at 100mm focal length with an aperture of f2.8 gives you an extremely small range where your shot will be in focus (just a centimetre or two), if you are standing close to your subject. 

As the light is often low, it can be hard for your camera to focus and you can't be certain exactly where the focus point always is, unless you are shooting with manual focus (something my eyesight doesn't allow). I've come home and reviewed my photos after many an autumn photography session to find that most of them are blurry or the focus point is not in the right place and too much of the shot is out of focus (there's soft and there's blurry). 

I would suggest that you vary your aperture and experiment a bit with different settings, rather than using the absolute shallowest depth of field possible for ALL your shots (I typically work with a range of f2.8-f4, sometimes up to f5.6, if I'm using my 100mm macro lens).

The shot below was taken at f2.8 and I just about get away with it, but if you look closely, very little of the shot is in focus. This would have benefitted from increasing the aperture to f4. As the background is quite a distance away, this would still have allowed plenty of background blur.


For more information about aperture and depth of field, and the relationship to focal length and the distance from your subject/background, please see my How to get background blur in your photographs post.


7. Review often

This point goes hand in hand with the one above. To avoid disappointment, make sure you sit down at some point and review the photographs you have taken. Zoom in and check to see if they are sharp and if the focus point is where you want it. Is the exposure looking OK? You then still have time to re-shoot and correct any problems and try any other shots you want. It's also the perfect opportunity for a nice cup of tea :)


So there you have my top tips for capturing autumn colour, the beautiful simplicity way. If you'd like to see more photos, have a look at my Autumn Glory album on Flickr - I've amassed rather a lot of shots over the years!

Let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to help. What are your top tips? 


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Photos tips: capturing autumn / fall colour

5 ways to improve your photography by forward planning and intention setting

How many times have you grabbed your camera on the way out of the door and spent the day snapping what's in front of you? I'm certainly guilty as charged. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with doing that, in fact it can be hugely pleasurable to wander along with no specific plan, observing and reacting to your surroundings. However, I've come home on many an occasion very disappointed with the photos I've taken - they're just not "me" or not particularly creative.

So, if you can relate to the above or feel like your photographic mojo has taken a little wander, why not try a little planning in advance and intention setting before you head out with some of the tips below and see if this helps? 

5 ways to improve your photography by forward planning and intention setting

1. Time of day / weather / tide / Location research

If you are planning on doing some outdoors photography, have a think about what time of day would be best for the light you want to capture: do you want to avoid mid-day shadows? Are you after the golden-hour glow? Do you want to capture a scene when it is busy or empty?

Similarly, check the weather forecast before you go. Cloud cover might be perfect for some portraiture or macro photography, but it might not make for interesting landscape shots. Don't necessarily rule out rainy days - very changeable weather can provide a lot of drama in the skies and interesting light.

And if you are intending to photograph coastal areas, check the tide times! I can't tell you how many times I've turned up at a beach to find it's high tide and there's no beach to be seen - or it's a super low tide and the sea is miles away.

Finally, doing some location research in advance can be very helpful. I like to search on Flickr or 500px and Pinterest for photos of a particular place I'm going to shoot (that's how we tend to plan our holidays!). I look for interesting landmarks such as rocks or pretty walls or beach huts, and information on where exactly they are so I can find them, and where I can park.

When the right time, weather, tide and location come together, it can make for some magical photography. The shot below was taken just after sunset as the tide was coming in and washing over some striking rocks (providing a focal point), with just enough clouds to add interest to the sky. I used a tripod and some filters to slow the exposure down so I could capture the movement of the water.

I definitely need to get out and do more sunrise and sunset photography!


2. Choose a Style and mood

Have a think about what style of photos you would like to capture and what kind of mood you want to convey. Light and airy with shallow depth of field? Dark and gritty with moody light? Happy? Angry? Tender? Lots of detail? Then plan the lenses and settings you want to experiment with to achieve your mood and style.

For example, my style is all about beautiful simplicity (the clue is in the name of my blog!), which to me means light, bright, airy, pretty, soft. I therefore like to shoot with lenses that have a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field, and a blurred, softer background (see my How to get background blur in your photographs post for more information about aperture and depth of field).

Sometimes it can help to take a look through your favourite photos or create a moodboard on Pinterest, and spend some time thinking what it is about the photo(s) that most appeals to you. This can really help you to develop your own style. Capturing the same style of photos can really help to unify diverse subject matter and provide a cohesive feel to your photostream or galleries.

If you're not sure what settings you need to use on your camera to achieve the style of images you love, it can help to take a look at the meta data behind the photographs. Flickr now displays some key settings information underneath each photo (although not all photographers permit this to be displayed). The meta data on the right is for the image below and shows what camera and lens I used, along with the aperture (f-stop), shutter speed, focal length and ISO.

Now keep your intended style/mood firmly in mind as you go out and shoot. Maybe even write it down and carry a notebook around with you.


3. Try using a prime lens of fixed focal length

If I'm stuck in a bit of a rut, I find it can be really helpful to leave my zoom lens behind and go out and shoot with one of my prime lenses. The only zooming you can do is with your feet, so it forces you to focus on your composition. By stripping away the distraction of zooming, you are less tempted to feel you have to capture everything about a scene and can stick to the intention you went out with.

For example, the bluebell photo below was taken on my 85mm f1.8 lens. I wanted to capture softness and a dreamy quality, with a very shallow depth of field, and avoid too much detail.


4. Pick a Subject or theme: tell a story

Sometimes it can help to set out with a specific subject or theme in mind. This can help your photographs relate to each other and collectively tell a story, and stop you getting distracted by everything else. For example:

  • patterns or shapes

  • a specific object

  • reflections

  • shadows

  • a colour

  • abstract

  • long exposure

  • movement

  • seasons

  • take a prop out with you to photograph, e.g. a mirror or a balloon

The possibilities are quite literally endless, so choose something that you are excited by. If you are stuck for ideas, you could follow along with the themes/challenges suggested by various Instagram accounts such as @its_my_week or follow the main @instagram account for the weekend hashtag projects. It's fascinating to see how diversely other people interpret the theme.

Recently I went out with the intention of shooting images that are suitable for text, for me to use as part of a new series of inspirational quotes/words that I'm working on. This caused me to shoot in a very different way, as the images I was capturing needed to be secondary, more about colour and mood, with the focus very much to the side, to leave plenty of space for text. It's definitely still a work in progress. 


5. Mid point review

It's really worth stopping during your photography session to review what you've captured. It's best to do this inside, away from glare. It's the ideal time to stop for a cup of tea or coffee and revisit your list of intentions. Have you captured what you set out to? Has something not worked? Do you need to go out and shoot it again, in a slightly different way? There's nothing worse then getting home and downloading your photos only to realise that something's not sharp or the shot that was most important to you hasn't worked.


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5 ways to improve your photography by forward planning and intention setting

So what do you think? Do you forward plan - or prefer to wing it? What are your favourite ways to get out of a photo rut?

My tips for taking better photos on Bibelot Magazine

Hello lovelies! Hope you've all had a smashing Easter break. I'm just popping in to let you know that I've shared some tips for taking better photos over on the Bibelot Magazine blog. They are all just as applicable to iPhone / mobile photography as to DSLR photography (and I've shared my favourite iPhone photo editing tools too). So hop on over if you fancy a read - and while you're at it, why not have a browse round the rest of the site - there are lots of interesting interviews, tutorials, recipes and other thoughts to inspire.

Florabella's Photoshop Actions and Textures

It's Friiiiday! Hope you all have some lovely weekend plans - we've got some friends visiting, so are going to swap the DIY for some much needed fresh sea air - hurrah!

Today I thought I'd share one of my photo editing secrets. I often hear comments like "my photos never look like that!" - well, neither do mine until I edit them. Sure it's good to get as much right as possible in camera, but in my humble opinion, every photo can be improved with some editing. For images taken on my Canon DSLR (I have the Canon 6D and I love it!) I use Lightroom to organise my images and do the majority of my editing, and Photoshop for more selective, creative edits.

In Photoshop, you can use Actions to speed up the editing process and get a more consistent look and feel across a bunch of images. An Action is a bit like a Macro in Microsoft Word or Excel - it's essentially a pre-recorded series of edits, and when you press play on the Action, it whizzes through and completes every edit in turn. Once it's finished, you can then usually adjust each of the individual edits, giving you plenty of control. My absolute favourite Actions are designed by Florabella, who also takes the most divine, dreamy images.

Below are some before and afters of my images. The before shows the RAW image, straight out of camera, and the after, with all my Lightroom and Photoshop edits, using Florabella's Classic Workflow Actions (plus the odd texture or too). RAW files are like undeveloped negatives and always need some work; I prefer shooting RAW rather than JPEG as the files allow you to make more adjustments. I often do some basic editing in Lightroom to get the exposure correct and apply lens profile corrections before I take the image into Photoshop (I usually do this by applying a Preset I have created in Lightroom as I import my photos - but more of this another time).

My favourite Actions of Florabella's are her Classic Workflow - I come back to them time and time again. I think they work especially well with skin tones (or plastic doll tones in my case!!). Florabella also provides some video tutorials showing how to use her Actions - well worth a look.

As well as Photoshop Actions, Florabella also creates a beautiful range of textures. Textures are an additional image that you overlay to create some creative effects - often with scratches for an aged look, vignetting, different tones, light flares, the list goes on and on. I often like to add a texture or two to my floral images for some added interest and a more painterly feel (you can layer as many as you like, and adjust the opacity and blending mode of each - you can easily lose hours experimenting and adjusting!). You can be as subtle or as bold as you like. One of my favourites has to be 'Cream Canvas" from the Florabella Textures III Collection. See below for some examples of my photos I've applied textures to. You can see more photos in my Textured Album on Flickr.

Another favourite set of Actions that Florabella offers are her Color Matte Actions. These allow you to add bars of colour to the left, right, above or below your images, and to optionally overlay some patterns and textures. I love them! They come in handy for making a portrait image square, which works better on a blog. And I love the colour picker that allows you to choose a colour for the bar from your image for complete co-ordination. See below for some examples of how I have used them - you can tell I'm rather fond of the damask pattern! You can view a greater selection in my Florabella Color Matte Actions Album on Flickr. And of course, see more in Florabella's beautiful gallery.

I hope this has been helpful. NB this isn't a sponsored post - I'm just sharing some of the things I love and have found helpful. Florabella does regular giveaways via her Facebook page, so worth following along if you are interested.

A little bit obsessed...with Florabella's Color Matte Actions

Anyone who's been following my Flickr stream of late will have noticed lots of square images pop up with pretty colour blocks, textures and patterns. Since I bought Florabella's delicious Color Matte Actions and Design Kit, I can't help myself - everything has to be square and pretty! If you like what you see, do go and check out the Florabella Collection - her Classic Workflow Photoshop Actions are truly fabulous and a staple of mine (great for producing dreamy, soft, pastel, vintage effects) and she has lots and lots of pretty textures and frames. I thought the square format would be perfect for blogging! So here are a few recent favourites:

Purple linen
Possible exhibition photo *6*
Sofia explores the Botanic Garden
Sofia in the Botanic Garden
Bunny girl
Charlie girl
Miss Sally Rice
60s twins with a damask twist