Advance your social media skills and career


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Course Introduction

Take the Hootsuite Social Marketing course and develop foundational social marketing skills to grow followers, engagement, and business results.

Video Transcript | Intro

You’ve taken the time to compose and shoot great photos for Instagram. Now, maximize the engagement these photos will get with image editing. In this video, we’ll look at getting the most out of Instagram’s suite of editing tools.

Get Started

Get started with a high-quality photo. The better the photo, the easier it will be to edit. Alternately, click Layout to make a composite image. Or select multiple images for a Carousel post. If you’re using Carousel, filters can be applied to all images, or to photos individually.


Instagram’s Filters are a quick way to introduce a certain mood. Clarendon, for example, adds contrast and makes colors stand out. Experiment with different filters to find the one that best enhances your photo. Some filters, like Inkwell, have specific uses and should be used selectively.

Tap the filter to fine-tune the intensity. This is important because the highest setting can be overpowering. If there’s a filter you use regularly, hold and drag it to the front of the list. You can add additional filters by clicking Manage.

If the filters don’t suit your style, use edits instead.


The first editing tool is Adjust. Skew an image in several directions, rotate it, or crop it. For example, use Adjust to precisely align a building’s edges or horizon, for a more professional look. 


Next is Brightness, which lightens all parts of your photo. Apply this edit with a delicate touch - too much can make the image appear washed out. And too little diminishes details and color.


Now let’s look at Contrast. Increasing contrast darkens the dark areas of your photo. At the highest setting, unnatural outlines may appear in the image, so move the slider back and forth to find the sweet spot.


Next up is Structure. Increasing this setting gives a high-definition quality. It’s most effective for scenery shots, but the effect can be less desirable on peoples’ faces.


The Warmth tool introduces warm tones when increased. Or cooler blue tones when decreased. As the slider moves higher, you can see a softer, golden-tinged light appear.

The warmth tool is useful for photos taken under ceiling lights, to decrease the yellow tones.


Another way to alter color is with Saturation. Saturation can either intensify or dull the colors in an image. At its lowest setting, the photo becomes grayscale. At its highest, the colors can look garish and even unnatural. Saturation is especially useful for enhancing colors in a bright or overexposed photo. Oversaturation is a common mistake, so use this feature gently to retain the natural look of the colors.


For a different effect, use Color. This will add a colored tint to the shadows or highlights of your image. One technique is to use a warm color like red or orange with cooler tones, to add warmth. Aim to complement the colors in your image, rather than subdue or overpower them. Adding a cool tone such as green, on top of another cool tone may detract from the image.


The Fade tool is useful for softening an overly sharp image. However, it can introduce a smokey, washed out look. It’s best to have a specific use in mind when using this tool since it can weaken a photo’s impact.


One of the most commonly used tools is Highlights. This is handy to brighten photos taken on overcast days, or in low light conditions. It makes the bright areas of your photo brighter without affecting the dark areas. If you find that colors become washed out, try adjusting the saturation to compensate. On the other hand, if your photo is already too bright, reduce highlights to darken the overexposed areas.


Highlights and Shadows balance each other out, and are often used together. Shadows only affect the dark areas of your photo. Notice the trees get darker when decreased, and lighter when increased. Applying this feature too heavily though will wash out your image.


A Vignette can be used to frame your image. Strengthening it darkens the edges of your photo drawing the viewer’s eye to the center of the shot. Use this feature to counteract an overly busy background.

Tilt Shift

Another way to draw attention to the subject of your photo is with Tilt-Shift. It does this by slightly blurring the area around your subject. Pinch, expand, drag and rotate the focus area as needed. This effect can give some photos more depth - but can be a distraction for other photos. 


Sharpen is next in line. Like Structure, Sharpen make details crisper. It has a less dramatic effect than Structure, and so is better suited for faces. Keep in mind, a high setting can make the photo look brittle.


Finally, let’s look at the Lux tool. Lux adjusts the contrast and exposure of the photo in unison. In some cases, Lux might be the only edit your photo needs!

Even the smallest edits can have a big impact on the visual appeal of an image. Keep in mind, your goal when editing should always be to subtly accentuate the qualities of your image. The best editing jobs are those that your audience doesn’t even notice.

Looking for more? Check out our blog and learn how to create a social media strategy in 8 easy steps!