Since starting with Instagram back in 2010, I’ve learned a lot.

Not only about hashtags, interaction, and quality content, but I’ve also learned a few things about quick phone photo editing. Aesthetics is super important if you want to instantly catch a potential new follower’s eye!

I’ve used Snapseed (iPhone/Android) since the very beginning, and there’s really only a few settings I’ve stuck with for the best “looks” for my photos. They’ve since been acquired by Google, so if that doesn’t tell you they’re good, I don’t know what does! ha!

Of course, everyone’s taste is different, but I like to stick to a clean white look, bright colors and defined lines.

Snapseed really is a do-it-all tool & they’re STILL constantly updating with new effects. They’ve just updated with filters (like VSCO is known for), but I can attest that I have no other phone editing app, and don’t ever really see the need to have another one!

Ask Yourself

When you look at your picture, ask yourself: What do I need to improve through the editing process? I always take my pictures on a white background, so I can keep a consistent look.

With the picture below (and with most of my journal pictures), I want to fix a few things:

  1. Brighten and “whiten” the photo all around
  2. Remove the white line that separates my background & table
  3. Make the colors brighter
  4. Decrease or remove the bleed from the previous page

The Process

Keep in mind, this is my typical process, but each and every picture I take is not edited the same. I DO, however, stick with the same adjustment settings: Tune Image, Selective, Brush, Healing, & Tune Image (again).

After doing it enough, you’ll see what adjustments you like and dislike, and hopefully you’ll discover some new adjustments and your own favorite look!

This is my exact process, step by step. Keep in mind, you can come back to change or delete any settings at the end if you’re unhappy with the result.

  1. Open picture. Rotate if needed.
  2. Click pencil & go to “Tune Image
    (Slide your finger up and down to switch between settings. Be conservative here. We will come back to these settings at the end. If it looks bad when you adjust, bring it back to center & start again.)
    Adjust the following:

    • Brightness – I bump this up about 10-30%
    • Contrast – Increase about 10-30%
    • Saturation – Do nothing yet!
    • Ambiance – It depends on what I’m looking for, sometimes I bump it down, sometimes up.
    • Highlights – Increase until not too high (balance this with brightness)
    • Shadows – I usually decrease this a little bit
    • Warmth – I never touch this


  3. Save by clicking the bottom right check-mark.
  4. Open “Selective” – this is a tool that will select certain spots of your image that are all the same color. I use this to adjust the color of my journal (from off-white pages to make a more white look).
      • In this selective dot, increase brightness (about 25% or so to where it still looks ok, but not blown out)
      • Decrease saturation ALL the way (-100%)
      • (Optional) Increase contrast a little if it looks ok.
      • You will notice that this does not help the whole photo, only the selective parts. You can click on this dot, and select “Copy” to apply these edits in more spots on your picture.
      • Copy/paste this spot to ALL spots you want to be whiter. Adjust each accordingly so they look ok. We will brighten edges next. See the pic below to see what I’m talking about. Save.

5. Click pencil & click Brush. The “Brush” pen allows you to brush over certain parts of your image to “whiten” them. I use the Exposure setting, but there’s also a Saturation brush to enhance color!

  • Click to the “Exposure”selection.
  • Adjust to +1.0 and whiten the entire edge of the picture. (All of my backgrounds are white. If black, adjust with the -1.0.) Here, don’t worry about brightening too much — I typically brush over the entire image, then work my way in. Zooming in helps a ton with the brushing process. Zoom by double-tapping or expanding your fingers. 
  • Adjust the exposure to +0.7 and brush the outside edges of my notebook, then +0.3 for the rest of the middle of the notebook. Save.

TIP: There are no “Undo’s” here, if you would like to change something that is too bright, adjust Exposure brush back down to “Eraser” and color over it.

6. Go back to Tune Image and adjust to your liking. This is where I increase the saturation, and I will adjust contrast, brightness, highlights, and shadows if needed. 

7.  If there are any spots on your picture that you’d like to get rid of, use the Healing setting! This helps me remove background corners, dog hair, and accidental pen spots on my images. You simply brush over the spot with your finger, and Snapseed tries to adjust the pic to blend the spot into whatever is around it. It works very well when you are zoomed in editing!

8. Crop if needed.

TIP: If I’m editing a lot of similar pictures taken at the same time — after opening the second picture I’m editing, you can click the icon in the top right with the stacked squares and backwards arrow — then click Apply Last Edits, and work from there. This will NOT apply the same selective edits, but will apply your tuned image edits, and exposure brushes (I always have to delete the Exposure layer if I do it this way).

9. Save by clicking Export, then Save. I always just click “Save.” This will change the picture in your photo album, but anytime you open the same picture in Snapseed, you can still change past edits.

See My Process

Final Thoughts

All of my pictures are taken under the same lights and with the same white background, but they all differ when I’m editing on Snapseed.

This could have to do with the time of day I take the pictures, whether I use color on my spreads, the angle of my phone and more, but these are my general guidelines.

TIP: If you’re wanting to change ANY setting after you think the picture should be done — no worries — you can change OR DELETE any editing layer you just made! Find the button in the top right corner (looks like a stack of two papers and a backwards arrow), and navigate down to “View Edits.” This will show the list of edits you just made, and if you’d like to delete or adjust any of these settings, click which one you want to edit and adjust or delete as necessary!

As always, find out what technique works best for you — Snapseed is your friend once you can understand the basic settings!

Successful Instagram feeds typically have a consistent feel to them (and know how to use hashtags), and most users are editing their pictures in some way to create a consistent look to attract new followers.

👇Let me know your suggestions, Snapseed secrets, and favorite Instagrammers in the comment section below!👇

And come say hello to ME on IG (@lifebywhitney).

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