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How to Edit Your Photos

I absolutely love photography as a hobby, and with that comes photo editing. Over the years, the process of editing photos has become another art form for me, in addition to photography. There is so much you can do with photo editing, and I love playing around with different apps to find a style that I love. My most-used apps are the popular ones like VSCO and Adobe Lightroom, but I also have a couple more niche apps that I want to share!

Before I get started, it’s important to note that everyone has a different style of editing that they like. There’s no “right” way of editing photos! My editing style has definitely evolved over the years, and I’m sure it will continue to!

Apple Photos Editing

Some iPhone users often overlook Apple’s photo editing feature that’s in the Photos app. For minor adjustments such as turning up the brilliance or giving the photo a warmer tone, the Photos app is great. It’s quick, easy, and the subtle difference can really change a photo.

photo edits: increased brilliance, saturation, and vibrance to bring out some of the colors of the photo to reflect the colors in real life


This app is one many people’s go-to app for editing and has been one of mine for years. The VSCO app itself is free and contains the majority of the editing tools with a few free filters. I’m on the VSCO yearly membership plan ($19.99/yr), and I think it’s worth it to get access to all the filters and some more editing features.

The main reason why I switched from the free version to the paid version is because I really like to tweak certain colors of the photo without editing the rest of the image. To do this, I love to take advantage of the HSL scale (edits the hue, saturation, lightness of each color) to do specific color-grading. With HSL, I sometimes don’t even use filters because I love the “enhanced natural” look. Additionally, the yearly membership plan allows you to also edit video, which is really great for color grading!

For beginners who are just starting to dabble in photo-editing, VSCO is a great starter app because they have preset filters that you can edit with. Once you feel more comfortable, you can start to play around with the other editing tools and adjust it to your liking.

photo edits: used the E2/Essence filter, decreased the temperature (slightly), used the HSL color grading to edit the majority of the colors (especially the yellow and green hues)
photo edits: used the E2/Essence filter, increased exposure, decrease temperature (slightly), increased the tint to bring out the pinks of the houses, increased saturation, and used the HSL color grading to edit the orange hues of the photo to be more pink

Adobe Lightroom

While VSCO is great for editing iPhone photos, Lightroom is my go-to for all photos taken on DSLR or mirrorless cameras. Color grading and lighting adjustments (exposure, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks) in Lightroom are incredible! Sometimes, I’ll bring my iPhone photos into Lightroom to adjust lighting too. Other editing apps like VSCO don’t have good exposure/shadow/highlight tools to fix bad lighting because they generally lower the quality of the photo. The paid Lightroom mobile version is $5/month and the paid Lightroom desktop version is $9.99/month. Both of these have more features than the free mobile version, but the free Lightroom mobile version has been sufficient for the photography that I do.

photo edits: increased exposure, increased shadows, increased temperature (to make the photo feel warmer), increased the whites and blacks (to lighten up the photo), slightly lowered the tint to bring out the greens, used the color grading tools to tweak the colors slightly


I love using Afterlight to add dust overlays to my photos. It’s a really subtle way to elevate a basic photo! If you like to edit your film photos, this dust effect works perfectly and fits the film photo vibe.

photo edits: added the dust1 overlay to the photo

General Photo-Editing Tips

  • Increase shadows and/or lift blacks to lighten up photos

  • If your photo is overexposed, lower the highlights and play around with the colors

  • If you want a cohesive look for your Instagram/blog/etc., stick to similar editing styles for all your photos (don’t forget that different filters can still look cohesive together)

  • Create your own “editing recipes” on VSCO and presets on Adobe Lightroom so you can copy and paste settings to multiple photos

Remember, the key is to experiment until you find what you like!

- Katherine Yu

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