Friday, September 2, 2016

My Favorite Photo Editing Apps For Flatlays, Food, and More



If I'd started blogging in, say, 2014 then yeah, sure - I would have paid more attention to the quality of the photos I was posting and focused on "audience engagement" (shudder, shudder, shudder).

But I started blogging in 2010. And back then, my blog was read by approximately four people: my mom, my mom's friend, my mother-in-law, and me. So I didn't really pay that much attention to my images. Instagram was nowhere what it is today (i.e. all stylized posts and hashtags) and frankly, I didn't really know how to make my blog and photos look more glossy and polished.

Bloggers can be so reticent about sharing their knowledge. On one hand, I kind of get it: it's like, you love your mama's secret bolognese sauce so much, you don't want anyone else to know that a sprinkle of nutmeg at the very end is what gives it that gorgeous umami flavor (I totally made that up, btw. Has anyone tried nutmeg in spaghetti bolognese? Yes? No? What is umami, exactly?).

But I'm terrible at keeping secrets, so here are the two photo editing apps I use on a daily basis ...


Although I have Photoshop at home, I edit most of my photos on-the-go, which means that I depend on apps. I watched a YouTube video the other day of a fashion blogger who edits a single photo in four different apps before posting it to Instagram (I'm sure there are people out there who use more).

I have neither the time nor the patience. Sometimes, I edit a photo so much that my eyes cross and I have to ask John, "Which is better? One? Or ... [swipes to second version] two? One? Or ... two?" After a long pause he eventually offers, "They look exactly the same". Helpful.

So, for now, I mostly use two: VSCOCam and Snapseed.

I really like the HB1 and HB2 filters in VSCOCam for flatlays and food. I used to use the filter on "full strength", but now I prefer a more subtle look as these filters can sometimes zap the saturation out of an image.




I also tend to use the HB1 and HB2 filters for my #fwis photos on Instagram:


For landscapes and architecture when I'm out and about in London, I like to use Snapseed, which is Google's photo-editing app. I feel like I can really "fine-tune" my photos using the tools in this app (there are so many terrific tutorials online and on YouTube), plus some of the filters can make a photo look really sharp.

Unlike other Instagrammers and bloggers, I don't have a set filter that I use all the time. This means that my "grid" can be inconsistent, but I prefer using whatever method I think looks best in that moment.

The HDR Scape filter is a little OTT and crazy, but sometimes, I can't resist it!


We recently visited Aqua Shard for breakfast on a grey and gloomy morning. I snuck a quick pic on my way to the bathroom and, while the view was still spectacular, the tonal contrast of the buildings below looked quite flat and ugly. A few swipes later ...


A little more vibrant and softer, right?

Even sans filter, I find the tools in Snapseed really easy to use. It's the best for making photos brighter and lighter without compromising on quality or sharpness.



When I'm taking photos with my Olympus PEN (like the pic above), however, I tend to leave them alone. I have a 45mm lens that I love which produces very clear, sharp, and bright images. For these photos, I typically just push up the brightness and contrast a little when posting to Instagram.

Do you edit your photos or do you prefer an au naturel look? What are your favorite photo editing apps?

Update: Cherie, in the comments below (follow her on Instagram @delicately - she is so lovely!) just reminded me of Afterlight, which I know is super popular amongst bloggers. I've just downloaded it and love it!
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29 comments

  1. I know, I've seen tutorials of people who use 4/5/6 apps - it's absolutely manic and crazy and I ain't got time for that either! I only use one (because why bother with even opening two apps?!?!) and it's usually VSCO or Afterlight (because I paid for it lol)... I also sometimes just use instagram's own edits for pictures via my camera! It's unlikely I do much editing on it because I'm a big fan of the au naturel ;-) your photos always look great though!

    Cherie | sinonym

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    1. I forgot about Afterlight! I don't use it, but will definitely buy + download and try. Your photos are GORGEOUS>

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  2. I love VSCO but I agree that less is more when it comes to the filters for a nicer look. Lately I've been using Photoshop more and more instead of an iPhone app. I find I can get a much more natural but polished image with it - although I still take all my pics with my phone since carrying around a camera everywhere has been low on my priority list with health stuff limiting the amount I can cart around on a daily basis. (God I miss my giant everything-AND-the-kitchen-sink bags!!)

    Lovely post, as usual, sharing is caring after all. I'm with you on not keeping secrets... it's way too much work! :D

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  3. Noted. I really need to up my photo game! x

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  4. I use VSCOcam almost religiously - 06 is my favourite, but I throw in HB2 sometimes as well! I've never heard of Snapseed but you make it sound so good I'm going to go download it now. :)

    Kate | girlinthebluejacket.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Kate! Heading over to Instagram to check out your photos now! So glad to hear that you like VSCOcam too. You must try Snapseed ... I never "got" it before, but now I'm a total convert, along with Afterlight!

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    1. Me too! Which filters do you usually use? I know everyone has the "one" they like!

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  6. I think it's so nice that you're sharing your tips Jaime because as you say, it can all get a bit clique and secretive sometimes in the blogging world and it's lovely when people are just out to help and share useful info. I love Snapseed but have never tried any of these other apps, mostly becacuse my smart phone is seriously running out of memory because of how many photos I've taken and not moved across!

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    1. I love all your travel photos, Shikha - they're so beautiful; no filter needed! <3

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  7. Thank you for the tips! I've never heard of Snapseed but will definitely give it a try now - same goes for Afterlight. :) People always tell me how good VSCO cam is but I've never really gotten into it - maybe because I've just been using the free filters. Do you think it's worth paying to get more of them? x

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

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    1. Hi Laura! Thanks so much for stopping by to read this post! I'd definitely give Snapseed and Afterlight a try. VSCOcam is a great one to start out with though, because it's a little easier to use, in my opinion. But the fine tuning options aren't as good as Snapseed and Afterlight. I have paid for at least two extra sets of filters on VSCOcam and I do think it's worth it. The ones I use the most (HB1 and HB2) add just that little bit of "professional"-looking editing edge to my photos, I think! Let me know how you get on! x

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  8. tell me about it! I feel ashamed that I've created my first blog around 2008 or 2009 (don't even remember) to share funny stuff with my close group of friends and I never paid much attention to it. I wish I had! Love the look of your photos. I'm a lazy editor, so pretty much have set my own filters in Lightroom and that's what I use. Open photo > choose filter > export and done. Expect for food photos (where I don't like to use the camera) I mostly use my A6000 and forget my phone can take photos (but it's a bit rubbish at it)

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    1. Ooh - thanks for sharing your tips, MissLilly!

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  9. Amazing.. I definitely have to give some of these a go, thank you for sharing! You have such a lovely and inspiring blog here, keep up your amazing work it is paying off! x

    adelelydia.blogspot.com

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  10. Oddly relieved there are only 2 apps here!!! I feel like we're so conditioned to be like that blogger you mentioned - using 4 apps in a specific order monitoring hashtags etc - which is just stressful!

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    1. Oh man, I know. I've actually started using Afterlight a bit after the recommendation above, and also Facetune to bring out details in some of my posts, which seems so overboard and crazy. But blogging and Instagram has turned from this once-personal-ramshackle-personal-journal-thing to this glossy/polished monster. I participate in it, but I'm not sure what to make of it all. I feel so conflicted!

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  11. Oh how much I love you and your blog and your honesty! Thanks for sharing the tips, Jamie. I've had Snapseed forever and never got to using it until today, after reading your post. And I LOVE it! It transformed seemingly gloomy snap into a radiant photo! Very efficient and intuitive. Ever since I started using DSLR I slightly edit photos in Lightroom. For photos taken with my Iphone I usually just use Instagram filters because I am too lazy to bother with other apps, even though like I said I've had VSCO and Snapseed forever. I also fancy using Picfx to apply some nice bokeh layers if I feel like it. I have heard great things about Afterlight too, I guess I'll try it :) xoxo, nano

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    1. Your photos are always so beautiful and professional-looking, Nano! I know a lot of people use Lightroom or at least Photoshop Elements (which I have), but I am just so, so incredibly lazy. And impatient! But it's worth it for beautiful photos like yours. xoxo

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  12. Your nutmeg/umami comment made me laugh SO much. I was like ohhhh... is this a thing!? But you also know how much I adore your photography. It's nice to know how to enhance a photo, but you my dear, have an eye for detail and magical compositions that can't be taught. xxx

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    1. Bahahahaha. Thank you so much, Sheepa - that means a lot to me, especially coming from a talented photographer like you. xxx

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  13. Ahh these are such great tips, I really want to slowly learn more about photo editing and improve. Can I ask another question, do you take all your photos that go on Instagram with a camera or do you use your phone too? I take pretty much everything with my phone (which is an old Samsung mini and a bit pants) and think that at some point some kind of camera will need to be invested in. Thanks so much for sharing X

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    1. Happy to share, Lins! My Instagram photos are a mix of photos taken on my iPhone6 and Olympus PEN E-PL7. I think that editing apps are so good nowadays, they can really improve the look and feel of photos instantly even if you don't have a state-of-the-art camera! I used to use my husband's Canon DSLR for photos on my blog, but it took me a long time to get a good shot because it's quite difficult to control the aperture. For me, I enjoy shooting with the 45 mm lens on the Olympus the most because it gives me a great depth of field and a lot of clarity. Hope that helps! x

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    2. Thats so kind thank you! I shall do some experimenting X

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  14. I've never really used Snapseed, though my mum swears by it, I just can't get the hang of it haha! I tried afterlight too, and just wasn't too keen on that either. I love VSCO though, and use that all the time. I also tried out A Colour Story too, which I went through a phase of liking. It's good for things like colour tints and sunflares etc, so I don't use it all that much.

    xo April | April Everyday

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    1. I know so many people who use Afterlight and I just can't get into it ... but I had similar experiences with both Snapseed and VSCO, which I use all the time now! I also use Facetune occasionally to bring out details in photos.

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