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6 Best Free Instagram Apps for Editing Photos

5 Best Free Instagram Apps for Editing Photos

Today’s post isn’t directly related to fitness, but it will share tips for capturing and sharing your fitness (and other) experiences. It’s no secret that I love Instagram. I spent most of 2015 improving my feed, which has included learning how to edit images. I often get asked about my favorite editing apps, so I thought I’d share them here. I’d love to know your favorites, as well!

When you look at my Instagram feed, you’ll see photos of me (taken by a photographer) and photos of my fitness adventures (taken by me). I used to take my own photos using my iPhone, which has a great camera, until I got an Eyefi memory card for my camera. I have a Nikon 1 J1, which I bought for less than $300. I bought the Eyefi card in February to give my camera WiFi capabilities. When I take photos on my Nikon, I can connect the camera to my iPhone to upload photos. It’s like magic! When taking photos, I always use natural light and shoot from a variety of angles. I use these five apps for different purposes, but I don’t use each on every image.


6 Best Free Instagram Apps for Editing Photos

Tune Your Photo — Snapseed — This is the first app I use in my editing process. I use it to tune my image, or make the scene appear the way it does in real life. The images on my Instagram feed feature bright whites and saturated colors. To achieve this look, I increase Brightness, Ambiance, Contrast, and Highlights. I slightly decrease the Warmth (to make the image more blue). Next, I adjust specific areas of the photo using Brush and Selective. In Brush, I use the paintbrush to increase Exposure in white areas. In Selective, I click on the colors in my image to increase Saturation.

Add a Light Filter — VSCO — I tried to use VSCO sometime last year but found it very confusing. I’ve since worked it back into my editing process. I skip over the tuning features in VSCO, unless I’m increasing the Clarity, and head for the filters. I know, Instagram filters are no longer cool. However, VSCO filters can help your feed look cohesive. Aside from being bright and saturated, my feed has a cool, blue/gray filter to it. I always use the Q3/Alchemy filter to +3-6, depending on the image. When you’re done filtering, it’s interesting to tap the image to compare the edit to the original. At this point, I post to Instagram unless I want to add a decorative edit. My final edit is on the right below.


6 Best Free Instagram Apps for Editing Photos

Add a Decorative Filter — ColorStory — This is a new app by A Beautiful Mess. It allows you to do all the basics–crop, rotate, tune, etc. It also offers Essential filters that would work well for over-exposed (very white) feeds. I especially like Pop, Everyday, and Sharp. However, I was most excited by the Effects. ColorStory comes with a few free Effects, but you can purchase more. The Effects allow you to add Flare, Light Leak, Bokeh, and Color Fog. I quickly took my final edit from above and added a bright blue Color Fog. This edit doesn’t fit with my feed, but it still looks beautiful!


6 Best Free Instagram Apps for Editing Photos

Add a QuoteWordSwag — I recently started posting quotes to my Instagram feed. I plan on doing this every 7 images to keep them spaced out. You can see my first three posts here, here, and here. I take the background photo myself and achieve the blue background using the apps above. Adding the quote in WordSwag is the easiest part. After opening my photo in the app, I click on the text in the center to edit. Type your quote in the box and save. Next, you can choose your quote style and click the dice icon to see different text layouts. When you like your quote, simply save and post.

EDIT — My mistake! I forgot that I paid $3.99 for Word Swag, so it isn’t free. I think it’s worth it, but you can also check out A Beautiful Mess app for $.99!

Sample in Your — As you take your Instagram presence more seriously, it can be helpful to see what your next image will look like in your feed before posting it. Sometimes a certain color or composition won’t look right next to the neighboring images. Enter This app offers a free 30-day trial before you have to subscribe. You connect your Instagram feed to the app, so you can upload a potential image and see how it will fit into the feed. This will save you from having to delete an oddball image after it’s already receiving engagement. This app also allows you to upload an image and split it into to multiple images to create a collage. I’m still playing with this feature.

As I mentioned, I don’t use every one of these apps when editing an Instagram photo. I typically use the first two to tune and filter. The rest of the apps add fun extras. Let me know if this post was helpful to you, as well as what other Instagram or blog-related questions you have. Next month, I may talk about my experience working with a photographer to fill the other half of my Instagram feed!

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  • Reply Kelsey

    I LOVE Snapseed. Really, it’s the only photo editing app I use regularly. I’ve tried A Color Story but so far it has’t lived up to the hype for me. I think because there’s basically no built-in filters or function and a free app that offers not much unless you buy all the in-app options.

    I don’t usually add text/words to my images, but when I do, I use ABM’s other (original) eponymous app. It’s so easy, especially for creating IG quote graphics with a solid background and solid text.

    March 3, 2016 at 8:02 am
    • Reply Evann Clingan

      Snapseed is definitely the easiest of the bunch to learn! I only use Effects on A Color Story because I didn’t want to purchase extra filters. Thank you for the ABM app rec!

      March 3, 2016 at 2:59 pm
      • Reply Kelsey

        You’re welcome!

        March 8, 2016 at 7:27 am
  • Reply Kayla

    HOW HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF EYEFI! Definitely need to look into this, sounds brilliant

    March 3, 2016 at 9:58 am
    • Reply Evann Clingan

      It’s a life saver! You don’t even need to have WiFi to wirelessly transfer images. It uses a Bluetooth-like connection. I have the cheapest 8GB version.

      March 3, 2016 at 2:56 pm
  • Reply Nicole

    Very cool! I definitely don’t take enough time to edit photos and usually just use the filters on Instagram. I just downloaded that word swag one. Thanks for the recommendation!

    March 3, 2016 at 10:26 am
    • Reply Evann Clingan

      Thanks, Nicole! I don’t always use every one of these apps, but they’re definitely fun to play with. Enjoy Word Swag!

      March 3, 2016 at 2:54 pm
  • Reply Elana

    I love this post!

    March 3, 2016 at 11:30 am
    • Reply Evann Clingan

      Thank you, Elana!

      March 3, 2016 at 2:54 pm
  • Reply Krista

    Great tips, thank you! Word swag is not free though, unless I’m missing something. :'(

    March 3, 2016 at 1:21 pm
    • Reply Evann Clingan

      Ahhh! You’re right. Now I must edit. Totally forgot that I paid for this app. However, I think it’s worth it. Someone above recommended A Beautiful Mess for text, as well.

      March 3, 2016 at 2:49 pm
  • Reply coffeeslag

    I’m still confused on how to use VSCO. There’s so many different filters! I really just use it to fine tune photos. I’m kind of too scared to use some of the filters since they do make your photos look a little extreme. And there’s also so many in their shop that I don’t know what to even purchase! I also had an old account where I had purchased a bunch of filters and then lost access to it so I didn’t want to rebuy them again.


    COFFEESLAG Color Filled Spring

    March 7, 2016 at 11:48 am
    • Reply Evann Clingan

      I also find VSCO confusing. So many editing options, none of which are labeled well. Have you tried to use a filter but tone it down to a Level 1-4 (by clicking on the filter)? I use a free one now, but I’d like to explore some of the others.

      March 7, 2016 at 5:12 pm
    • Reply Kelsey

      Hey! I swear by Snapseed for this exact reason. It doesn’t have filters – it just gives you total control over fine tuning your images via brightness, contrast, temperature, shadow, ambiance and saturation. Once you open the photo just click the pencil in the lower right of the screen and click on the “tune image” option. Then drag your finger up or down on the screen to select which element you want to tune (brightness, contrast, etc.). Once you’re done fine tuning that element, drag your finger up or down to select the next element (if need be), and repeat until you’re done. Then hit the teeny checkmark in the bottom right and save to your phone!

      March 8, 2016 at 7:26 am
  • Reply Priscilla

    I need to learn Snapseed! Everyone loves & swears by it but I am still only using preferred filters in VSCO. Thanks for this post!

    May 17, 2016 at 11:27 am
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