We have been receiving a lot of requests on Instagram in the past few months:

What app do you use to edit your photos?

What filter do you use?

How do you make your pics so clean?

So we decided to share with you on how we usually edit photos for Instagram, in a simple manner on iPhone. 

stick with your style

To create a beautiful Instagram, the rule of thumb is to pick a visual style and go with it. We like @JUSTINCYWONG as much as @RVSTAPLETON, although they have distinctively different styles. The key is to create a gallery with consistent aesthetics, whether it's vivid and vibrant, or clean and minimal. 

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We personally admire the minimalism, so we gear our composition and editing towards a clean, quiet mood. If you like @LE_SYCOMORE, you may also like @CEREALMAG, @JESS_HANNAH and @URBANXKOI, all beautiful galleries with great content and consistent theme

Edit Photos with Le Sycomore

take good pictures

The good old quote from marketing still makes sense: "Content is the king." Keep an eye for the spontaneous beautiful moment in everyday life, and practice makes perfect.

S.J., the angle hunter

S.J., the angle hunter

  • Wait for or create the perfect lighting. Place your objects in the open space that lets in sufficient light. If the light is significantly lacking, surround your objects with white card boards to reflect and focus light on the scene. External lighting equipment could be used if needed, or if you want to create a more theatrical result.
  • Make sure the composition is balanced. Creative Director of Cereal Magazine, Rich Stapleton once said in an interview that he always uses negative space to maintain his style. So it would not hurt to try different composition for the best result for single pictures as well as the consistent theme for your gallery. No surprise, it takes practice and multiple tries to get the perfect #FlatLay photo.
Outcome of S.J.'s iPhone shoot

Outcome of S.J.'s iPhone shoot

Photo shoot for our previous post   Washington Mews

Photo shoot for our previous post Washington Mews

  • Find the best angle. When taking picture of figures, try to bow to the waist line of that person, so as to capture the best body proportion.

iPhone editing tool: vscocam

Now that we have great photos, let's get down to the nitty-gritty.

There are hundreds of photo editing apps out there, with even more filters. Most of them works similarly, as long as there are adjustments of exposure/brightness, saturation/vibrance, clarity/sharpness, temperature/cast. We group the two aspects together ("/"), meaning that they could achieve similar effect. Our most commonly used tool on iPhone is VSCOcam, which could reach pretty much every above-mentioned goal.

We will demonstrate how we edited photos that are seen in one of our most popular posts: The Apartment by The Line

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Here is an original, unedited photo taken by iPhone 6. We imported it into VSCOcam.



First of all, filter is a no-brainer tool to make photo better instantly. In VSCOcam, we usually us F2, N1, A6, as they are comparatively clean and subtle. If you are using Instagram to edit photos, most of its in-house filters are dramatic, making your photo look "obviously filtered." To ameliorate this result, tune down the filter from 100% to a lower number.  Do remember that, although filters are powerful and instant, they do not change your photo completely. The composition and originality are still the most important factors. And as you move forward, you may want to apply each adjustment individually. This manual process gives you more liberty to explore (and more fun).

We applied N1 filter to the original photo, but only to 1/3 of its extent. As you can see, the dot is at "+4", as we feel that setting the filter at its max "+12" would overkill. Once again, you need to try multiple ways to find the best.

Edit Photos with Le Sycomore
Edit Photos with Le Sycomore
Edit Photos with Le Sycomore

The lighting was still dark, so we overexposed the photo. 



Photo taken on iPhone is not as sharp as those taken by DSLR, so we tend to increase the contrast. This process not only compensates for the lack of definition, but also work particularly well for small screen viewing. 



Temperature is about the balance between warm and cool colors. Most photographers adjust it at first to set the ambience and mood.

We usually adjust our photos towards neutral tone. (In this example, we tuned the temperature slightly cooler.) The benefit of consistent tone is that photos would look better together, which is the key to a beautiful Instagram gallery.



Lowering the saturation usually make photos looks more calm and elegant, less disturbing. Think the two different reds of Pret-A-Manger vs McDonald's, which one looks more expensive?

Edit Photos with Le Sycomore
Edit Photos with Le Sycomore
Edit Photos with Le Sycomore


For the last step, we like to sharpen the picture a little bit, for clearer information as well as stronger visual impact on smart phone screens.

TADA! Here is the final result. Pretty amazing changes, isn't it?

Edit Photos with Le Sycomore

Each photo is unique, and should be edited differently. However don't forget to stick to one style. Otherwise you may have good photos, but may not have a good gallery.

Below is the editing process of another photo from the Apartment by The Line. Same idea: raise exposure, increase contrast, reduce saturation, and tone down temperature.

Edit photos with Le Sycomore



Another trick while using VSCOcam is that you can get a preview on how your photos would look all together, a sanity check of consistency in temperature, saturation, etc, before you post on Instagram.

Edit Photo with Le Sycomore

Hope our two cents could be somewhat beneficial to your Instagram building process and spark some inspiration for your creativity in photo editing. If you have any bright ideas or any comments, we would love to hear from you!