photo editing part 01.

This a comprehensive tutorial on photo editing, starting with the basics of taking photos and what apps to use on mobile.

My name is Ally, I’ve been a photographer for around 7 years. For the first time ever, I have been without a DSLR camera for over a month now. I normally shoot with a Canon 5D Mark IV, it is a beast of a camera, arguably the best camera in the industry. However, mine had an issue with the circuit board, and after talking with Canon and their stellar customer support team, they are handling it. I have needed to rely solely on my camera phone. You’ll probably be surprised to know that I use a 1st generation Google Pixel phone. This acts as a secondary to my Canon Camera when it is operational, and sometime is the first option for quick images. Why such an old phone? Because I like the simplicity in the photo-taking, it takes great. I’m a simple girl, and if I can make this work – you can make what you are using work too! I’m not familiar with all editing platforms, so I’m using Lightroom Mobile as the guide here, most of the time the settings are very similar from platform to platform.

No time to read now? Feel like sharing? Pin the image below!

photo editing is subjective. It is your own art, don’t ever let anyone take that away from you.

We all have our own personal style and sometimes, we find that on the way to trying to achieve a style that was already established by someone else. One of the questions I have received is; “Do you use presets?” Yes – but lightly. I feel like every image deserves its own editing and time dedicated to really tell the story behind the image, so I apply a preset and then I fine tune the settings from there.

I know some of those presets advertised on Instagram can set you back a few hundred dollars, but the ones I use are actually under $5 on Etsy, at one point – during the holidays, I actually picked up a few presets for around $1.50, so I got a few different ones for the upcoming seasons (I personally don’t think you can use winter presets for those warm summer days, but if you can make it work – that is great!)

Getting started;

First, you’ll want to have the fundamentals of photography down – (if you already know how to take great photos.. please skip onto the next subject) Some simple rules that I like to follow are;

Straight lines & horizons – always make sure that if you have a doorway or are level with the floor when taking a close up of you little one, that the lines are nice and straight across the image. Same goes for sunsets and landscape photos, buildings and of course, text! (in some cases this rule does not apply, feel free to break it where you don’t like a straight line)

Trash – Try to remove as much trash or background noise from your image. The common areas of my home are kept clean most days, I know it is hard with little ones, but if I can do it with my 7 – you can too! In the off-chance that the area isn’t clean, I sweep whatever I don’t want in my image out of the way, so that it doesn’t distract me or the viewers when the image is shared.

Highlights – these are the lighter areas of your photo, my rule of thumb with this is that white is not a color, therefore the light areas should always be a shade or two darker than white. Something I always tell my clients in my 1:1 mentoring is that if you take a photo darker than usual, you can almost always lift shadows, but if you take a photo too bright – you can’t always adjust the highlights to preserve the detail in the light.  You can avoid blowing out your highlights by tapping your phone’s screen in a light area of the image or moving the brightness slider down, to tell your phone’s camera to darken the image.

HDR – this is optional and depending upon your phone may or may not work for you, but I like the HDR mode in-camera on my phone, it seems to bring out more detail in the brighter areas of my images.

Flash – I have never used the flash on my phone.


Apps – I formerly used VCSO, I think this is a great app for those who are not all that familiar with the heavier programs and don’t want to purchase presets. VCSO is what I used for years, until a few months ago when I switch to…Lightroom! It’s free for phones and is what you will need if you decide to purchase presets. Lightroom has a lot of capabilities within each of the different settings to perfectly fine tune each image.

Presets – I love the presets on Etsy made by these shops;

Magic Stars Photo – Lightroom Presets

Victoria Bee Photo – Lightroom Mobile Presets

As you can see, they are all very affordable and offer a great baseline for image editing. You might notice that the presets do look like the free ones found in VCSO. They do, but the difference is that in VCSO, you have limited options, so if you save the image and then bring it over to Lightroom, you might dither the image quality, and to be honest, I have printed some of my camera phone images because they have meaning for me – so quality is key.

Fine Tuning your Images

Here is where you’ll break away from the preset and make each image your own.

I edit each of these areas of the photo using the sliders in this order;

Light – Highlights & Whites

I believe that light and shadows are what tell the story of our images. So this is a really important part to perfect when editing a photo. Luckily there are a few areas of Lightroom Mobile that allow you to work with the lighter parts of your image (highlights and whites) use the slider until you’ve edited in a way that is to your liking. If one of these doesn’t tune the image to your liking, work with the next on on the list.

Dark – Shadows, Blacks & Contrast

Like the lighter part of our image, the dark parts are equally important, they help to direct our attention to the subject of our image, and the message we’re trying to convey. You can adjust the dark parts of the image using shadows, blacks, and contrast interchangeably. Contrast also allows for you to choose whether you want a crisp image or a matte & moody one, depending upon which way you slide it!


(the little thermometer icon)

This is the area of image editing that is probably most important. You can choose to either warm or cool your image. A lot of people don’t know this, but

all devices will show colors differently.

Computers to laptops, monitor to monitor, iPhone to Google, Samsung and Motorola.. each screen shows images differently and some are warmer or cooler than others. I like to tell people about this because if you’re planning on posting a warm and sunny image, you may want to cross reference it with another display (email it to yourself and check it on the computer, send it to your partner and see what their screen shows you, etc.. just to make sure you aren’t over-warming or cooling the image before posting)

I hate to say it, but there are A LOT of orange people out there on instagram, who aren’t orange in real life

– skin tones sometimes can be lost when coloring is edited, it is important to watch all aspects of your image when selecting one of the colors.

Editing your colors – in the temperature area of Lightroom mobile, you can change the saturation and the vibrancy of your image which is helpful if you’ve lost some of it with the previous sliders. More importantly, there is a little tab called “mix” in that area, you will see circular dots of color, you can click each color and see more sliders which include titles such as; “Hue, Saturation and Luminance” these sliders will only change the color of which that is selected. I often use this area of Lightroom to perfect images with the sky included, sometimes the presets will wash-out my skies and with the luminance slider, I can bring them back and saturate them or desaturate, depending upon what I feel is best for that image.


I hope that you have found this first lesson helpful, the image above can be pinned or shared with your friends.

If this has helped you, please let me know and I’ll keep the tutorials coming. If you have a special request, shout it to me in the comments below, or on Instagram.

I am a family and lifestyle photographer located in Northern Maine, but am available for travel throughout the states.