Image: Paul Pichugin
Over a billion people use Instagram every month. Buried among the countless snaps you'll find some truly breathtaking photos.
Whether it's of a landscape so beautiful that it gives you an existential crisis or a flaky, buttery croissant that makes you want to make out with your screen a little - they make you take notice.
While we can't all make it as Instagram photographers or #influencers, there's no reason why the shots of us regular folks can't be given a little face lift.
And these apps can help.
We chatted to landscape and travel photographer Paul Pichugin about his top app tips when it comes to taking your gram game to the next level. With almost 80k followers and a a gasp-worthy grid under his belt, he knows a thing or two about getting the shot.
"Snapseed is probably the most powerful photo editing app out there, and the one I use the most. Best of all, it’s completely free to use! It’s extremely intuitive, and has nine editing tools which let you adjust things from exposure to colour temperature, in a more advanced way than Instagram.
I use Snapseed to sharpen images, straighten horizons, rotate photos or apply very basic edits. It also has some more advanced features which are accessible and easy-to-use, such as healing tools and brushes. As is the cornerstone of any Instagram photo, Snapseed offers a variety of filters where you can dramatically change the look and feel of your photo with one tap."
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC
"With cameras such as the Fujifilm X-T3, I can directly connect to my smartphone via Wi-Fi, transfer select images and process something ready for social media while on the road.
This is especially good for projects where I am on the road for a client, as I’m able to send through some proofs to make sure I'm on the right creative track. Plus, it always makes the client happy to see a 'sneak preview' of the project.
All the cameras I use shoot digital negatives (RAW/RAF/DNG files) that require processing to be converted to a usable image (JPEG), very much like the negatives captured with film cameras needed processing to become photos. I find Adobe Lightroom to be the best mobile app for doing that conversion on the go without the hassle of breaking out my laptop.
It is fairly intuitive if you are accustomed to using Adobe Lightroom on a computer, but many features are easy enough for beginners to pick up as well. You can also sync this up with Adobe Lightroom Classic for the desktop so that edits you do on the go can then be seen on your computer."
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Spent hours wandering through the Field of Light: Avenue of Honour art installation by artist Bruce Munro in Albany, Western Australia last night. This amazing installation was commissioned by the not-for-profit cultural organisation @FORMWA. @brucemunrostudio #Albany #GreatSouthernWA #FieldofLight
"VSCO is more than just a photo editing app. It operates a lot like a social media platform specifically designed for sharing your images, and discovering other works.
But, it’s also a killer editing app. One-tap filters can add any mood to your image, and classic filters can turn your image into an old film snapshot. If that’s too much, feel free to use the adjustable filter strength feature to tone it down. VSCO also allows you to purchase more filters through in-app purchases, but the app itself is completely free to download and use.
You’ve got all your standard editing tools such as exposure, colour, sharpness and cropping - but VSCO gives you greater control with them."
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I'm currently wondering if it is time to delete this Instagram account. Engagement is at an all time low, at least 50% of the comments I get are generic and automated / bots (or indistinguishable from them), I block and report all of them. I started using Instagram in 2010, back then it was awesome, people interacted, it was a real community without the garbage infighting and pettiness that seems to run rampant across the platform today. The people I have met through this app have mostly been amazing. I've also managed to get a small group of haters who have spread lies and done everything they can to sabotage any sort of progress I've made, including lying about me to my clients and potential clients. I haven't decided whether to delete this account or not just yet... but with the way things are going, I give it another 18 months before Instagram is just a bunch of bots commenting on posts made by bots if Instagram don't make some serious changes. For me, most of the community has disappeared, or is being hidden by the algorithm. I used to get 10 times the engagement when I had less than half the followers I do now. I never set out to be an "influencer"(I still hate that dumb term), or to even grow a massive audience, I just wanted to see awesome places, capture them, share them and connect with like minded people! What are your thoughts? Are getting any value out of this platform still? Will anyone actually even see this post and do they read captions?
Then we have the specialists apps, which offer a smaller range of features - but they do them very well.
"This app has easy to use features which offer airbrush effects such as smoothing and healing tools. Whiten your teeth, remove any blemishes and chisel your jawline - the options are endless. Just be warned, it’s easy to get carried away, and you might find yourself looking more like a clay statue than a person."
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Just booked a video project in my old hometown of @VisitBrisbane in @Queensland for the end of the month. Stoked to be heading back for at least a week, possibly longer. Let me know if you want to catch up while I am in town or if I can be of any help photographically or with video. #Brisbane #Queensland
"Let’s face it, we’ve all taken photos of our meals before tucking in. Well, the app Foodie is designed specifically to give you the best possible food pics. With over 24 filters to choose from which cater to specific food types (think cakes versus salad), and an intuitive alert when the app identifies your phone is perfectly angled, your next food shot will leave all your followers reaching through their screens for a taste of the meal you’ve snapped."
A Color Story
"For those people who want to buck the trend of tinting and dulling Instagram photos, A Color Story is here to brighten up and enhance bright colours in your snaps. There are over 100 brightening, bubbly filters to choose from, and you even have the ability to create your own custom filter - use it across all your posts to ensure consistency and create a beautiful scheme for your feed."
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One of those little "secrets" tucked away in the South West of Western Australia. I first spotted it from about 2kms away while out driving over 5 years ago. I knew exactly how I wanted to photograph it immediately! After searching for further information about the mill, I came up blank and couldn't even find it or get close to it. Fast forward several years of busyness and quite a few failed attemtps to get close enough to photograph it, I found out who owned the property and got permission to stop there at night to photograph it. Not giving the exact location for this one (sorry) as it is private property and I don't want to lose access to it or cause any issues for the owners. 50 second exposure at 11mm f4, ISO1600, single exposure, the mill was lit with my headlamp.
"For when your picture doesn’t speak a thousand words and needs a few more, Over is here to do just that. Over is not exactly a photo editing app, but rather an overlay app, allowing you to add custom artsy text and designs to your images.
Nailing your own Instagram feed and ideally growing a following is more than just snapping a pretty picture and hitting share. Instagram’s built-in features won’t cut it anymore, especial since there are so many third party options for editing and improving our snaps now.
It’s important to note that you don’t have to use all of the above to improve your Instagram game, as often times less is more. Rather, find your niche and use one or two apps maximum to nail it achieve consistency across your feed."