A couple of years ago I wrote a post on what apps I used to edit my photos for Instagram. It’s almost the end of 2019 and many things have changed since. In this post, I want to share my current camera and top apps that I use for Instagram, besides a few photography tips.
On a regular basis, I get asked similar questions: What camera and apps do you use for Instagram? Let me answer that here!
To begin with, I want to let you know that I still have my Nikon D300 and everything else that goes with it. I am just not that kind of person to get rid of things.
Q: What camera do you use?
Last October, for my birthday, I bought a Pentax Lumix G85 mirrorless camera and I absolutely love it! I love it because it takes such lovely photos – beautiful white balance and some awesome inexpensive lenses – and that it is super light, the body is about 1.2lb or 600grams. I did buy a 50mm equivalent lens but I rarely use it. What I use every day is the kit 12-60mm lens.
This below is a sample photo that I took with the Lumix.
When buying a camera, you need to list all the things you must have and the things that would be ok to have… or not have.
In my case, I wanted one that has an image stabiliser, weather-sealed and a variety of lenses to purchase that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
The Sony Alpha, for example, are excellent cameras but the ones that are weather-sealed are priced more than I want to pay. For my need, I wanted to buy an under $800 camera that is great, light AND I’d be ok if it gets beaten up a bit or even stolen.
My suggestion is to make a list, scour Amazon (or your favourite camera shop) for features, write down or save the ones you like and go to an actual store to get a feel of this camera.
If you like how it feels in your hand, awesome. If not, may need to mark it off your list IF the features of this camera can be found on a different one.
When I was researching, I compared the Lumix G85 with these other ones, and a couple more. At the store, after playing around with most of the ones I saved on Amazon, I decided to get the Lumix.
After however many years, I finally upgraded from the 6s to the XR. I went with the XR mostly for the cost. The XS was a bit too much and the dual camera/portrait feature I really wouldn’t use much.
Love the XR because it has quite a sharp camera; the images do look fantastic on a pixel basis. At the same time, I am not a huge fan because IMHO, the white balance is a bit off. The iPhone XR is super warm and in my eyes, the photo results weren’t normal, especially under the sun or Tungsten light (artificial light). Due to this, I struggled a bit the first few weeks of owning the phone because all my photos didn’t look right and I had a hard time editing the white balance to look the way I think it should be.
Even now I struggle with it but at least after having owned the XR for a bit, I know how to fix it.
On the left, I do like the warmth of the camera. The photo on the right though, too warm. I did edit the photo and while it looks ok, it’s not really the look I was after.
EDIT: I now use an iPhone 11
And I just love it more. It fixes all the light issues that I was having. I highly recommend it more than the XR if you’re not into super warm photos.
Q: What apps do you use to edit your Instagram photos?
I love app/software testing. It was my job before I moved to England and it’s just something I enjoy doing. While I have tried many apps, when it comes down to my Instagram, these four below are my top apps:
- Lightroom on the desktop for my camera photos and mobile for iPhone
- Unfold for my Stories
- Plann to plan my IG posts
- RNI Film to give the vintage/film and dust overlay look
What happened to Preview for planning?
I used to love using Preview to plan my Instagram feed. But sometimes last year or so, Instagram changed its API. This part is inconvenient I am sure for all software developer. With this change came a huge Preview change, at least for me.
One reason I love Preview is for its hashtag feature. I could type in a hashtag, let’s say #theprettycities and it’ll show how many photos have been using that hashtag. With the API change, this feature went away. I asked Preview and the reply I received was that the API change made them not be able to give me that feature anymore.
But then I got tired of going back and forth between Preview and Instagram when I was into trying new hashtags. So off I went to see if there’s anything else out there.
This was when I found Plann and when I saw that they have the hashtag feature that Preview used to have, I felt a bit like I got lied to.
For now, Plann gives me what I need. The only thing I don’t like is that I have to go in and out of a post to copy and paste the hashtags I saved. I suppose there is no perfect app.
I actually have a subscription for this app still and I have purchased a few of their desktop presents. But I now only use it for videos. Despite me wanting to learn video editing better, I haven’t had the time for it yet and due to this, VSCO is the tool for me to polish up my quickie videos to post on Stories.
Q: Do you use any presets?
Like I mentioned above, I do still use VSCO and I have purchased their presets, but I don’t use them much for my Instagram photos.
For my IF posts, I just edit in Lightroom manually. But, when I love a look and I try to do it over and over again by copy and pasting the settings, I would then create my own presets.
I usually create presets after a big trip and I have hundreds of photos from it or when a new season is starting. Because of this, my preset are named after countries or cities. I have an Andalucia group and in it, there is a Seville, Cordoba and Granada presets. My last group was called Portugal. I haven’t made a Bali one yet. Somehow the Portugal and Belgium preset I created looked fine on my Bali photos.
A quick Lightroom edit
Q: Any tips on getting good mobile photos?
Yes, I have a few… Before I get there, I remember sitting in my photography class at uni and on the first day my professor told us that the word photo means light in Greek. While there are many aspects of photography that one needs to master, without this most important factor, bad light will equal bad photos – and Photoshop/Lightroom can only do so much.
So, at that point, I made up my mind that photography is the art of light. The better at mastering light, the better the photo will be.
Based on my light story, my photography tips are
At every possible occasion, capture images at different times of days and under different lighting conditions.
Full-on sunny day, play with shadows, shoot during the golden hours, shoot indoors with Tungsten lights, shoot outdoors at night with whatever light is out there.
What is this golden hour? In photography, this is about an hour before sunrise and also sunset. To find out when sunrise or sunset is, you can look it up on Google, use a weather app that shows the sunrise and sunset, or purchase an app called Helios. This app will give you all you need to know about your next golden hour photo opportunity. It’s a pretty awesome app!
This tip is also good for a mirrorless or DSLR cameras but it’s more so when snapping with a phone. The reason is that a phone doesn’t have the controllers that a “real” camera does. You can’t, for example, adjust the aperture or shutter speed. There are apps to give your phone camera more capabilities and control but in my humble opinion, having the skills to be able to do a lot manually will make you a better photographer.
Recap: play with light with your phone camera!
Play with the focus.
In the example below, I have the left focusing on the glass and the right focusing on the background. If you don’t know how to do this, on your phone, tap on the glass to focus on it and then the background to focus on the background. A very subtle move that can change the story of your photo.
Play with distance and angles
Shoot the subject at different distances and also angles.
The example below of the couple, I cropped in Lightroom. While this is fine, what I want you to do is practice with your mobile camera. I just didn’t photos to illustrate this on my computer to upload here.
For food/tabletop shoots, try different points of views. From the top, the side — which side? Your side, left or right? The different angles can truly change how the drinks, food and other bits and bobs look and again: tell the story.
How does it look if you take the photo while you’re standing up? Squatting down? If you are photographing a person, which angle is more flattering and how far is too far and how close is too close?
Use the grid lines on your camera
And practice the rule of thirds.
What is this rule? This rule of thirds in the very basic photography rule. If you look at your mobile phone screen, in camera mode, you’ll see two horizontal and vertical grid lines (if you don’t see these lines, you need to go into your camera settings and turn this on).
When taking a photo, you want to make sure that whatever it is you want to focus on is on the third part of your screen. Using the couple photo again, you can see that the second photo fits this rule of thirds.
Play with lighting
On the iPhone, you tap on the screen and a yellow square will show up with a sun icon to the right of it. When you move your finger up and down, the light will adjust.
A little bit more light control when using your phone to take photos and this is where you can decide how much of the highlight/details you want to keep.
Take a few different captures with different lighting and choose the one you like best.
Q: Are there any other apps you recommend?
On occasion, I use the below. Mostly for Stories.
- Helios: an app to help me calculate when and where the magic hour will happen.
- Mojo: for Stories and you can get it for iOS and Android
- InStories: another Stories app and it’s iOS only
- Splice: to create a slideshow of my photos for Stories and it’s also just iOS. This app used to come with GoPro. Not sure what the story is but I don’t think GoPro uses this anymore.
They are all freemium apps but between Unfold and the freebies offered by the above apps, you can get away without having to pay to create stunning Instagram Stories.
Q: Any other last words?
Practice, practice, practice!
I’ve been a photographer for many years and I am always learning something new each time I pick snap and edit my photos. While editing apps and presets can be super fun to use, focusing on how you use light and capture image with a camera should be top priority in learning how to be a good photographer.
Don’t get discouraged
Whether you think your photography skills aren’t improving or Instagram isn’t giving you the positive feedback you were hoping for (not a lot of reach or likes for example).
Don’t let those thoughts and algorithms that you can’t control keep you from picking up your camera and creating images. I know it can be hard at times, been there done that, but trust me when I say pick that camera back up, download the images, edit, and post!