Okay y’all. If you’ve been hanging out, you know that a couple days ago I posted all about how to take better iPhone photos while traveling. You can read that here and if you haven’t yet, I strongly suggest doing so before reading this post, because today we are diving into how to edit your travel photos on your phone.
At this point, you should have a perfectly lit, wonderfully composed, and an all around stunner of a photo, but it isn’t done quite yet! Now, let’s take it one step further and add the perfect edit.
Apps I use to Edit
First let’s dive into the apps you will want to download. I use 3 different apps for editing photos on my phone. Excessive? Maybe. #sorrynotsorry. In fairness, I never use all 3 on the same image. They are: Lightroom Mobile, VSCO, and Touch Retouch.
The vast majority of the images I take and post are edited in Lightroom mobile. As a photographer, I use the Lightroom desktop app, so the transition to Lightroom Mobile is seamless, but it is also great for someone who just wants an easy app to edit in!
The biggest case for Lightroom Mobile is having the ability to upload presets. Lightroom doesn’t come with a set group of filters to choose from, but instead allows their users to purchase, upload, or create their own.
All of my travel images are edited with a preset that I bought on Etsy for $2.50 + minor tweaks. You can find Lightroom Mobile presets on Etsy all day long and all of them should be pretty reasonable in price! There is no secret formula to finding a good preset: just search it on Etsy, pick one you love the looks of, and scroll through the reviews to see what others think.
Once you have your preset, you’ll need to install it. This post from BeArt Presets breaks it down step-by-step.
You can also use Lightroom Mobile without a preset and tweak exposure, adjust the tone curve, tweak the saturation and hue of specific colors and more. (We will talk about specific adjustments in a minute!) As far as I’ve found, Lightroom Mobile is the most robust iPhone editing app out there.
So if almost all of my images are edited in Lightroom Mobile, you are probably wondering why the heck I have VSCO downloaded. The 2 things I use VSCO most for are: DSCOs + color correcting video clips. (Okay, and the occasional photo edit.)
What’s a DSCO you ask?! 😉 Have you ever seen an instagram story that looks like a really fast stop motion? Yep. That’s a DSCO. You can take these in VSCO, save them, and upload them to your stories or posts!
And the biggest reason why I still use VSCO (and pay for the premium membership) is for color correcting video. Last year, VSCO rolled out the video feature, which allows you to make all the edits you could make to photos, to videos. If I take a short clip on my phone, I typically don’t want to take the time to pull it into final cut just to color correct it. Having this feature on VSCO is super handy!
Finally, for every 1 in 100 photos, I just can’t quite get my preset to work in Lightroom. In this case, I’ll pull the image into VSCO and use one of their presets. VSCO presets are perfect for beginners or when you are stuck, because they are built-in, easy to use, and pretty good for a more basic edit.
Y’all. This app. It never ceases to amaze me. It only does one thing, but boy does it do it well. The only job this app has is to remove stuff from images. Whether it be people in your background, distracting power lines, or a blemish on your skin, this app can make it disappear.
I don’t use it on every photo, but when I do, it is fast + accurate.
All you have to do is pull in your image, choose the object removal tool, brush over the object you want gone, and hit go. Sometimes I swear it’s better than Photoshop!
How to Adjust Settings in Lightroom Mobile + VSCO
Unless you use the best preset in the world, chances are you’ll need to tweak some stuff before exporting from Lightroom or VSCO. You might not want to use a preset at all. Either way, understanding specific adjustments will take you a long way when editing photos.
There are so many controls in each app that it is easy to get overwhelmed. Some of the sliders I never touch, but others I use on every photo. Let’s break down the settings I frequently adjust in both Lightroom and VSCO.
All of the adjustments are entirely dependent on the image. A photo shot in direct sun might not need any contrast, while a backlit image will need a lot of it. The easiest way to see how a slider will affect an image is to slide it all the way up or down. The key is just to learn what each one does + experiment until you get the look you want.
After applying a preset (either a purchased one in Lightroom or a pre-made one in VSCO) the first thing I do is adjust the exposure. I like my photos bright, especially for Instagram, so usually I raise it just a touch.
Highlights / Shadows / Contrast
After I have the exposure adjusted, I move onto more specific adjustments. Highlights only brightens or darkens the sections of the image that are lit. Shadows brightens or darkens the parts of the image that are in the shadows. (Makes sense, right?) Contrast adds a little punch to the image by brightening lights and darkening darks all with one slider.
The point of the white balance adjustment is to get rid of any weird color casts in your image. If your white balance is technically correct, something that was perfectly white in real life, would be perfectly white in your photo. If that’s too technical, I don’t blame ya. Normally, I just eyeball it and adjust until I think it looks good.
My friend, Jessica, uses white balance so well and so creatively by adding a touch of warmth to her images, while keeping skin tones true.
Color Mix / HSL
My personal favorite adjustment and another reason why I prefer Lightroom Mobile over VSCO is the color mix. Using this adjustment gives you the ability to adjust the hue, saturation, and luminance of a specific color in an image.
Here’s the breakdown of what that means: hue is the shade of a color, saturation is the strength of a color, and luminance is the brightness of a color.
So, when would you want to use this? Say you took a photo outside, with trees, in the spring. Sometimes those greens can end up looking neon. The solution is to open the color mix and slightly adjust the hue and saturation of the greens and yellows. The goal is for it to still look natural, but not overwhelmingly green.
More so than other settings, you can use the color mix very creatively. If you want to try it, pull in any image and just play with the HSL sliders for each color. Be careful though, drastic adjustments have a tendency to look unnatural.
You can also do this in VSCO using the HSL sliders, but it only comes with a premium subscription and it isn’t as accurate Lightroom. If I am already in VSCO for an image, I’ll use it, but it isn’t my first choice.
Whew! If you’ve made it this far in these posts, props to you! That wraps up everything I have to say about travel photography with an iPhone. If you are applying these tips, tag me or DM me your photos! I can’t wait to see! 🙂
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