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How to use filters to improve your Instagram photos

If you want to get the most out of Instagram, it pays to improve your photos with a bit of technical magic before you post them. Serious photographers do this by using digital tools to adjust everything from color balance to sharpness to saturation.

The Instagram app includes easy-to-use filters and editing tools that can make your photos and videos more visually appealing.

Step by step with the help of Instagram editing tools

Consider this photo that I took in a city park in Austin. Not bad, maybe, but what if I could increase the visual appeal before I share it on Instagram? Here’s how you do it.

First upload the photo to the Instagram app with the + button on the home screen. Then choose the desired image from the photo library of your phone and click on “Next”. (You can use the built-in camera from Instagram to take the photo, but it’s usually easier to use the camera app from your phone, so you can take as many photos as needed to get the best results.)

Although Instagram makes photos square by default, you can also use the button in the lower right corner to resize the photo to its original dimensions.

If you stay in the square format, leave your fingertip on the photo to move it and get exactly the desired crop; the grid lines that appear help you to balance the visual composition. (It’s no coincidence that the grid is 3×3; it helps you get the classic ‘third-party rule. “)

As soon as you click on “Next”, the app takes you to the filter screen. When you tap one of the filter thumbnails at the bottom – for example, the “Clarendon” filter here, the app immediately applies that filter to your photo. (This process works the same way as when you post a video.)

If you tap the same filter thumbnail a second time, you can set the intensity of the filter with Instagram to get a more subdued look. If you are using an iPhone, you can also tap the small square icon to add a simple frame.

Here are some other examples with the “Amaro”, “X-Pro II” and “Lo-Fi” filters. Note the range of effects with which you can experiment in just a few minutes of playing with different filters.

Before you click ‘Next’, you can also tap ‘Edit’ at the bottom of the screen to make other simple adjustments to the alignment, contrast, brightness, texture, warmth, saturation, color and various other categories of your photo. Again, these use simple linear sliders or buttons to achieve different effects.

Once you have everything the way you want, click “Done” and then “Next” to go to the message page where you can enter details for your message, such as a caption, hashtags, people tags, location tags, and share with other social media platforms.

As you gain more experience with the use of filters, you will likely develop favorites that you keep returning to. By scrolling all the way to the right on the filter page, you can choose “Manage” to go to a new menu that allows you to rearrange the order of the filters by using the three-line button on the left and dragging it into place. You can also hide filters by tapping the checkmark. That way your favorite filters are displayed first and you don’t have to wade through the filters you never use.

You can also achieve this without using the menu. On the filter page, simply press and hold a few filter thumbnails for a few seconds. The thumbnail becomes slightly larger, which means that it is ready to be moved. You can then drag it to the left or right to change the position in the setup or drag it up to the “Drag to Hide” area that appears temporarily instead of the photo being edited.

Here are the final results for the shot from Onion Creek in Austin.

The photo of the author of Onion Creek before (left) and after (right) editing on Instagram.

The published version transforms a pretty good original photo into something that will give more spice as users scroll through their Instagram feeds on their phones. Keep experimenting with filters and you make your Instagram photos and videos more attractive to your followers.

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