Instagram Picture Play In Snapseed

I get questions from time to time about how I edit my photos, both my DSLR ones (more coming soon!) AND the ones I post in Instagram that I edit on my phone.

Thought I’d take a few minutes today to walk you through the latter.

To start, I do 90% of my photo editing in Snapseed. It’s a free photo editing app, and I love it for how simple it is, but also for how much you can do with it.

Occasionally, I’ll use Edit.lab to add some fun light effects, and I dabble with VSCO, but I mostly keep it pretty simple and clean, and rarely apply the built in IG filters.

The image I’ll start with is one I snapped yesterday (with the native camera on my iPhone 5) of Lowell on the floor next to his sister who was going through her Easter candy from her preschool egg hunt. I loved the story it told, how you could see Leyna in the shot, and the open egg on the floor. I also loved how he’s naturally framed within the table.


I took it into Snapseed and opened the “Tune Image” controls (icon of a yellow wrench). From there I started by increasing the brightness by about 30. I always start with focusing on my main subject when I work these controls. The goal is to get the subject exposed properly first. I’ll show you how I fix the rest of the picture in a bit.


Then I increased the shadows by about 20 to lighten the picture up even more. This also tends to flatten the image, so use it sparingly.


I bumped up the Ambiance a bit. I like to say the Ambiance gives an extra pop of color and clarity and contrast all in one. I doubt that’s the technical description, but it’s what I keep in mind when I use it. Because of this, I rarely ever use it beyond about +30 because it makes my pictures really unnatural looking.

In the future, I’ll try to show a picture play of using it to decrease the ambiance, which lends to softer, darker, more moody look.


I love playing with the white balance. It can greatly affect the mood of an image, and really helps skin tones. Always keep a close eye on skin. I never want my human subjects to look blue or like they have a sunburn or jaundice. Upping it just by about 10 here gives the image a cheerful, sunbathed feel.


I’m a fan of adding some contrast to pictures. Again, this is one of those you have to use sparingly or it will make your subject look scary. I gave it just enough contrast juice to bring out the pinks and blues and those gold shoes. Do you see? Also liking the definition in his face against that white island here and how it’s darkened that table frame.


Once I’ve made it through most of the Tune Image controls (I rarely adjust the saturation, and it wasn’t appropriate in this case), I move to the “Details” control. The icon looks like a blue razor blade. I use the sharpening control to sharpen the picture just a touch.


Now for my favorite part of Snapseed- the “Center Focus” control. It’s between “Grunge” and “Tilt Shift” and has bokeh spots for it’s icon. For this picture, I placed the focus dot over my subject and increased the size of the circle to cover his body (it was hard to screen shoot this while I was doing it, I moved that circle over to the right and up some more).

I took the blur all the way down to zero because I wanted the details of Leyna’s legs and the table to be crisp. Then I increased the inner brightness on Lowell just about +20, and decreased the outer brightness by about -70. That gave me this nice vignette that makes my subject pop even more, and enhances that natural frame effect of the table.


What I LOVE about this feature is you can move it anywhere, so you don’t get a true vignette all the time. Notice that the top of this picture isn’t nearly as dark as the bottom. It doesn’t look like a circle of shadow all the way around him. That’s because the center focus ring I created reached up to the top of the picture more. I love putting CF circles over subjects to the left or right of images, and darkening the other half of the image, too.

And you can also use it for the opposite effect, increasing brightness outside the circle, decreasing inside. I’ll show that another time.


Finally, I wanted to bring a little light and contrast back to Leyna’s foot that and leg that was darkened with the Center Focus. For this, I clicked on the “Selective Adjust” controls. They are the 2nd set of controls, a blue circle icon with a small b in the center.

First, click that + in a circle at the bottom, then tap on the picture where you want to place the selective adjustments. I tapped near her shoe. Then pinch or zoom to decrease or increase the area that will be affected. There’s this great red light that shows you what you’ve selected. I decreased it even more than what you see here and moved it over to where it was really just affecting her shoe and her leg.

Then I bumped the brightness and the contrast up just enough (I think about +10 each) to bring that part of the picture out and away from the darkness of the rest of the edge.


Finally, I cropped it, using the “Crop” control- it’s icon is a purple crop square. I brought it in just enough to really frame the bottom and left side with the table.

Since Instagram only allows you to upload images in a 1:1 format (or a square), I used Instasize app to create a white border around it, then sent it to Instagram from there. I did this because cropping this image to a square would lose that natural frame of the table and/or cut out Leyna’s legs and the egg, which are telling the story.

And this is what I wind up with on Instagram…

A photo posted by Jill Krause (@babyrabies) on

I hope this was easy to understand! Please feel free to leave questions or your own tips for editing in Snapseed in the comments.

ALSO!! If you’re already on Instagram, you should totally head over to THIS picture and enter to win 2 $500 Amex cards! One for you, one for a friend. So super easy to enter, and I adore the 9 other bloggers involved. If you’re considering trying out Instagram, you should totally sign up and enter.


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  1. At first, I wondered, too, if it might not be a band-aid, but then I thought it must be an oblique ray of an after-four-o’clock sun, partly hitting the lower portion of the raised yellow collar, just in front of the “curita”.

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