One of the most rewarding things about blogging, I’m finding, is the capacity to share what you learn along the way. One thing I get asked often is how I get bright, colourful pics of our family for the blog and our social channels, hence this post “The Best FREE Photo Editing Apps for Family Pics + Social Media” Before I delve into my favourite FREE apps and resources, check out my post on why I take lots of snaps of our family, and encourage you to do the same HERE.
I’m not going to hit on every social channel, but do want to chat about Instagram – quickly becoming the most used social media app and probably the most important social channel for family businesses to communicate a message with visual appeal. I often use Instagram to “insta-blog” in lieu of a web-based post. While I’m a bit of an Insta-misfit, and don’t obsess so much about my feed being perfectly consistent, I do go for a bright theme with lighter images. I still have so much to learn, but here are some simple tips for capturing shots for Instagram:
1) Take symmetrical shots by using your phone’s grid feature to centre and angle your shot. Turn this feature “ON” in your Camera Settings. Instagram images are square, so off-side or lop-sided images will look awkward.
2) Take images outside, or in a well-lit room indoors. Bright light photos are more appealing to the scrolling eye. But be careful not to over-expose the image. Darker is always better and possible to edit later. Over-exposed images are not. More about photography tips and getting amazing shots can be found HERE.
3) Keep shots as uncluttered as possible. Allow lots of space around the subject, and avoid having too many people in the background.
I am by no means a pro photog, but do have resources and apps I love that help me create better quality photos for our family prints, posts and social channels. All the apps below are FREE, are available for both iPhone & Android phones (except one). While I love the quality achieved with my DSLR (I use a simple NIKON D5200…time to upgrade!), I personally use my Android for 50+% of my images.
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1) Pic Monkey
PicMonkey was one of my favourite FREE online editing apps at the start of my blogging journey, with tons of filters, graphic design and editing tools even beginners will find easy to navigate and utilize. A 7 day trial of more advanced techniques is also offered, before upgrading to a paid advanced version. My favourite thing about Pic Monkey is the hub feature – any images saved from your PC can be stored here and retrieved from the mobile version on your iPhone or Android (and vice versa). My favourite ways to use Pic Monkey are the “CROP” setting, where you can resize images for various projects/platforms (Facebook cover, Pinterest image, etc.), the Exposure setting (changing the brightness & contrast of images), and Effects, for applying different filters. My favourite filters are Film Stock, Burst, Soften, Orton and Fancy Focus. I also love all the tutorials PicMonkey provides to make editing a breeze.
One of my favourite mobile apps for Instagram posts given it’s ease-of-use. My favourite editing tools are White balance (to rid a pic of yellowish lighting), the Drama filter (for the “bright” variations), and Tune Image (to adjust brightness, saturation, contrast, etc.).
Similar to SnapSeed, albeit a little trickier to navigate for beginners to photography editing. I like the quality of the finished photo when I use a combo of the Exposure, Contrast and Sharpen features on VSCO. Fans of filters and a consistent aesthetic on their feeds will love array of options on this app, especially the free & paid versions of photography “presets” that remove the need for several editing steps with their simple application.
4) Adobe Lightroom CC
While Adobe Lightroom is one of the most popular desktop photo editing platforms (with a fee), I LOVE the Adobe Lightroom CC app for mobile (FREE to download for both iPhone & Android, with a subscription fee to access premium features like selective adjustments & perspective correction).
If you’re familiar with editing your photos on a computer using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, you’ll feel right at home with this app, but it’s also a good one for beginners.
I also love playing around with custom “presets” you can buy from Etsy and download into the Lightroom CC app and apply to raw images. What are presets? Essentially, pre-made filters you download from the internet and can apply to your photos using an editing program such as Adobe Lightroom CC – usually made for desktop or mobile-only use. Presets can make even the most amateur photo editor look like a semi-pro and save LOADS of time!
When time is not on my side, and a shot was taken in good light already but may need just a bit of tweaking, I use the combo of brightness and contrast features built into the editing section of Insta. I usually set my brightness first, followed by a dash of contrast so as to not wash out too much detail in the image from higher exposure. I also use the “Adjust” feature when an image needs to be straightened out to look right on the square frame. I very rarely use any of the Instagram filters.
An incredible FREE application for photo editing, design and resizing to make your photos suitable for various social platforms – think Photoshop without the expense or need for design expertise! My favourite thing about Canva is the “magic resize” tool that allows you to take one image and resize it in multiple formats in one step! Canva is available for desktop, iPhone, and NOW Android! There are so many amazing ways to use Canva beyond resizing, and you can find out more through their WORKSHOPS. The free version of the platform offers so many features, but there is also a Canva for Work small business owners, including bloggers, may want to upgrade to.
7) Desktop Default Editor
Yep! I confess – I do not use a fancy editor on my desktop. With semi-decent photos that don’t need much tweaking, I simply open my raw images in my default photo editor and do basic adjustments to “Exposure”, “Clarity”, “Contrast” and “Colour”. If they need a bit more POP, I email them to myself and adust using one of the FREE apps listed above. Lately, it’s been mainly Adobe Lightroom CC or VSCO with basic adjustments to “Brightness” and “Sharpen”.
There are amazing tutorials on Pinterest for every type of photo technique and I often pin resources for my own use. Check out our Family Photography Board for some inspo from some of my favourite Photographers + Bloggers!
I use these apps for both my DSLR and mobile shots. I still do things the hard way by emailing photos to myself and then uploading the shot to the app I want to use. There are easier ways like using wireless mobile apps & wifi gadgets you can attach to your camera I’m exploring with now.
These FREE apps and resources can really improve your photo editing game, but for parents wanting to learn from the pros on how to take better photos of their family for personal projects and beyond, check out Shoot Along. This is an affordable, online photography course tailored specifically to parents wanting to learn photo techniques using any DSLR, offered in 8 week or year-long sessions. My full review of the course HERE.
I hope you found these suggestions useful and you have fun trying them out! What are your favourite apps/resources to enhance your photos?