How I Edit My Photos Without Using Photoshop

Hi friends! How is everyone doing today?! I’m actually blogging from Louisville, Kentucky (my hometown!) because I’m back for the holidays! The company I work for actually opened an office here last summer, so I’m fortunate enough to have an office to work from here which is AWESOME because let’s be honest I just can’t focus when I work from home.



The very FIRST thing I want to do is announce my GIVEAWAY WINNER!!! So…

Congratulations to Chelsea (@crlutz_)!!!

Chelsea’s New Year’s Resolution is to complete a Whole 30 this January which is freakin’ AWESOME! And run a 5K!! So you go, Glen Coco I hope you enjoy all the fun snacks!

But now.

I have a gift for the rest of you.

Because I’m going to share something that I don’t think I’ve seen many – if any – bloggers share.

Yes…. I’m going to share how I edit my pics.

(Insert shocked face emoji here)

(Please sense my sarcasm here)

I used to think that bloggers were full of crap when they would say “SO many people asked me…” so maybe I’ve finally made it as a “blogger” or maybe you guys are just really curious but either way, legitimately a lot of people have asked me about how I edit my photos!

So let’s just start by me saying I’m going to be 100% honest on how I edit my photos. I’m going to explain the apps I use, why I don’t use Photoshop even though everybody says I should use Photoshop, and the exact equipment I use.

This is a LONG one so bear with me.

What I Use

Let’s start with WHAT I use to take photos. Because I’m going to be honest – no matter how freakin’ good you are on your iPhone, DSLR photos are going to look sharper and more professional than pics from a phone. Don’t get me wrong, though – I’m definitely NOT saying a DSLR is necessary at all… especially if you aren’t a blogger (sorry bloggers, I think you might need one!). But keep in mind that how you take and edit your photos is going to have the biggest impact on how they look over what you take them with – and I’ll get way more into both of these topics later in this post.

If you’re just not into learning how to use a DSLR, or you’re looking for a phone that takes amazing pictures, the iPhone 7 Plus has a feature called “Portrait” that mimics the blurry background from a DSLR. The photo below was taken with an iPhone 7 Plus. I edited the photo, so keep that in mind, but you can see it looks more like a DSLR photo because of the bokeh (blurry background) that the portrait mode gives.

Personally, I don’t use my iPhone for my blog (I have an iPhone 6S and the camera quality just isn’t as good). But I do use my iPhone sometimes. I prefer my iPhone for pictures of cityscapes over my DSLR because it tends to pick up the “scene” better, whereas my DSLR is better for detail shots and close-ups. This photo below was taken with my iPhone. But it just goes to show that no matter what you use, as long as you know how to edit it right and use the right lighting, you can still take amazing pics!

(Not that I’m calling this amazing or anything, lol *brushes hair off shoulder*)

So I just wanted to prove by showing those photos that a DSLR is NOT (in my opinion) necessary, especially if you don’t blog. And honestly, if you’re just taking pictures of your friends and your dog (NOTHING wrong with this btw!!) a DSLR might be a little overkill. It’s not like you’re going to whip this out at the club or a dog park… you might look a little extreme.


Maybe you are a blogger or want to take better pictures or even become a photographer eventually. I would by lying if I said my DSLR doesn’t make SUCH a huge difference. So let me explain what I use.

The body of my camera is a Canon Rebel T5. And I’m going to be completely honest and tell you I got this camera because it was cheap. But after a lot of use (and a ton of research) it’s one of your best options for a DSLR beginner. Plus, the lens itself is going to make the biggest difference in your photos, so you can always start with an inexpensive camera body and invest a little extra in your lens.

I started off by using the lens that came with my camera kit, and it wasn’t bad per se. It was good to use while I was learning how to use my camera. But I could still see a big difference between my pictures and other bloggers’. That’s when I started really researching lenses and learned that the camera kit lenses are basically crap. So I invested in a Canon EF 35mm f2 IS and you guys… it’s SO good. And it honestly makes a huge difference in my picture quality.

One of the biggest issues I had when I first purchased my DSLR was that all of my editing apps were on my phone, so it was SUCH a process to edit my photos. I would upload the pictures to my computer, then send them to myself via email, then edit them on my phone, send them BACK to myself via email, and then upload them to WordPress from my computer. Yes, I realize this is slightly insane.

(P.S. if you are curious about how to start a blog or what WordPress is, read this post from back in the day where I explained how to create a blog!)

Anyway, I looked into how to make this easier, and I purchased this adapter from Apple that allows me to upload my DSLR photos straight to my phone, basically saving my life. (Also, PSA to WordPress users: you can access your blog dashboard from your iPhone, and you can upload media straight from your phone, it’s a HUGE timesaver.)

Ok so now that you know what I use to take my photos… Let’s talk about how.

Natural Light is Your New BFF

You guys. I can’t stress this enough. If you want to step up your picture game, turn your flash off and keep it off. Natural light is going to be your BEST FRIEND. I promise. I know everyone is addicted to the flash but once I get into how to brighten your pictures and add some contrast, you won’t even miss it.

The best times to take pictures outdoors are during the “golden hours” or an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. This creates an actual glow in your photos that can’t be recreated through any app.

Morning golden hour:

Evening golden hour:

If you have to shoot during the day, cloudy days will be best. Too much sun and your photos will look overexposed.

Let’s look at an example.

Too much light:

Just right:

Worst-case scenario, find a spot under a shadow to keep the photo from looking overexposed.

Now For The Juicy Part… How I Edit Them!

There are 3 apps I swear by to edit my pics.

  • Snapseed
  • Facetune
  • VSCO

Sidenote: these are all available on the app store, I apologize I’m not tech-savvy enough to create a link compatible with your phones but just search the name and it’ll pop right up!

And before you judge me for using Facetune, I want to remind you that I’m just being 100% honest. Lol.

So now I’m going to walk you through editing this photo from beginning to end using these 3 apps:

But let’s start with Facetune since we’re already talking about it.

Facetune is the first app I use when I edit photos because I want to make sure I make these edits on the original photo BEFORE I apply any filters so that when I do add filters on top, the edits look more natural.

DISCLAIMER: If you download this, please do NOT go crazy with the smoothing feature on your face. It makes the photo look too over-edited and unnatural. Please. I beg you. We can all tell.

The best feature on this app (in my opinion) is definitely the Details feature. Any time I work with a brand and want to make sure their name sticks out on the product, I use the details feature overtop of the print to make it stick out more. But I mostly just use this feature to make an object stand out, like my champagne glass below, for example or details on fabric if it’s a style photo.

It can even be used on eyes to bring out the brightness and make them really pop. Again, use this sparingly. Just a touch in the inner corners of the eyes will bring out the natural details. Any more than that and it’ll look unnatural.

And I won’t lie… I’ll use the teeth whitening tool and VERY small amounts (like, one touch) of the smoother on any unflattering wrinkle areas (like in between my brows!). The Patch feature is also amazing to cover up pimples. Here’s where I used the whitening on our teeth and a little smoothness between my brows:

Ok so once I highlight any details I want (and cough whiten my teeth cough), I move to Snapseed.

Snapseed is the absolute best out of these apps for brightening your photo (or increasing the exposure) because it brightens the foreground of the picture, whereas the exposure on VSCO tends to brighten the background. I use Snapseed for exposure, contrast, and sometimes I throw a little “Ambiance” on there.

Snapseed also has a new feature called White Balance, which helps take that orange glow out of photos that are taken indoors, if you’re not around any natural light. This is MAJOR for indoor photos! I highly recommend. See how big of a difference it makes in this indoor pic?! It just takes out that unflattering orangey tone.

So now. Drumroll. For the best app basically EVER.


If you only want to download ONE of the apps, or you think all of this is just way too intense for your needs, VSCO is 100% my recommendation. They have hands-down the BEST filters (I never, ever use Instagram filters). So I’m going to get into a LOT of detail here.

A lot of the time (like, 75% of the time) I don’t use Facetune & Snapseed first. Those I mostly use for the ONE photo I’m going to Instagram, because I want those to look super good. But most of the time, I skip straight to VSCO. I just honestly don’t have time for all of that editing for every single pic.

Once I import the picture(s) I want to edit, I click on the two lines at the bottom to get to the editing tools. This is going to open up your filter options. I always put the filter on FIRST because it has a pretty big effect on how the photos look.

Ok. So now. Filters. This could be its own section but I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible.

The basic filters that come with VSCO are good, but the best filters, in my opinion, are the packages for purchase. You can find them in the VSCO store in the app. They’re pretty cheap (like, $2-3 and you have them forever) and they make a huge difference. Most of the packages have different “moods,” so depending on what you want, they probably have a series that fits the mood you’re looking for. My hands-down favorites are The Aesthetic Series (A4-A6) and The Minimalist Collection (A7-A10) because they are clean, crisp, and keep the picture true to itself so it doesn’t look overly “filtered.” Plus they’re versatile. I can use the same filter on a style post as I can a food post (and I’ll talk about why this is important later).

And you guys. A6 is my bae.

Yeah, I can’t believe I just said that either.


I use A6 on the majority of my photos so I can keep my aesthetic consistent. I’m not saying it’s the best filter or anything like that, but it’s true to my style, which I love. Here’s a little before & after the A6 filter is applied.

It’s SO important to note that your filter should only enhance the photo and not overpower it. Kind of like good makeup.

So now that I can actually see the filtered photo, I go back into the tools to edit it a little more. Honestly, this just takes practice and playing around with your pictures until you find the right “mix.”

I like to use exposure, contrast, sharpening, saturation, shadow save, and temperature. I know it sounds like a lot but once you play around with it, you’ll see that you can make a big difference in the feel of the picture. Also – be careful with the saturation. I only use it to remove saturation, not to add it. It looks too intense. Stay far away from Clarity, too, because even though it can look cool in some cases, it mostly makes your photos look over-edited.

For this one below, I increased the exposure, decreased the saturation, and decreased the temperature. It gives off that cool, natural-light look which is super difficult to achieve with indoor photos.

FUN FACT: You can press down on your photo to see the “before” and “after” on this app!

Now. For cropping and repositioning. This is SO important.

I always wait to crop the photo until I see the final edit. I typically try to keep my photos in a square (Insta-Worthy, duh) but some photos just won’t work this way. It’s important to keep things centered OR purposely off-centered in two-thirds of the frame. It’s just more visually appealing this way.

Let’s get back to our example photo. I could crop it purposely off-center for Instagram:

Or I can crop it centered, but I will have to use a different ratio size:

I’m going to go ahead and crop this for Instagram as an example.

So now I would save this to my feed – and I would consider this one DONE!

But back to VSCO for JUST a second… There are a couple of more tools I want to talk about.

A personal pet-peeve of mine is also crooked photos. Using the Straighten feature on VSCO, you can manipulate the horizontal positioning of the photo. This was super important for my pics against this printed wall, because if the lines were crooked, it just doesn’t look as good or professional. Straightening your photos just make them more appealing.

Before it was straightened
And now after. WAY more visually appealing.

Likewise, sometimes you have to alter the perspective to get a better angle. This worked well for my picture in Heritage (which, by the way, was an iPhone pic!) because I was able to “move” the perspective like I was facing the door straight-on, and make it a more appealing picture. Again, this is one of the tools in the VSCO app.

Before I manipulated the perspective

So this is just how I edit my photos in VSCO, but the options are literally endless. I just recommend playing around with it, honestly, to figure out which style you like and which filters fit your aesthetic the best.

How To Get a Pretty Feed

Ok. So now you have pretty pictures. YAY!! But now what?

If you want to take your blog or Instagram to that next level, the next place you need to look is your feed. Because those first six photos are going to tell your story. I like to manipulate the perspective of the photo (like a photo from over top to a straight-on photo) and how close-up the photo is. For example, I wouldn’t do three overtop photos of food in a row and then a picture of me standing in front of a door. I like to switch back and forth so it’s more visually appealing.

It’s also important to use the same (or similar) filters on the photos so it looks consistent. That’s why I love the A6 filter because I post a little bit of everything, so it works for food photos, portraits, and everything in between.

So yeah. Consistency is key to create a pretty feed! I’m still working on it, and it takes some time! But it’s just important to find your style and stick with it.

Here are a few examples of other bloggers with a super consistent aesthetic:

By the way… if you really care about your feed aesthetic, VSCO is also awesome for this. I like to keep my VSCO feed the same as my Instagram, so I can see before I post whether or not a picture would look good with the rest.

For example, in my feed above, I wouldn’t want to post another picture of me in front of a red door above the last red door pic. That just wouldn’t look right. Yes, I know it seems a little extreme, but I have definitely not posted a picture because it would mess up my feed or seems a little repetitive.

Ok. So there you have it.

That’s honestly how I edit my photos.

Simple, right? LOL!

I promise once you figure out a flow, you can pick up the speed on editing. Oh – and about Photoshop – every blog site says you basically have to use Photoshop and/or Lightroom to succeed in life, so I realize this is something I will eventually have to learn, but it just seems so complicated and time-consuming. So if you know of any tutorials for Photoshop or Lightroom that are easy to follow, please share!


So tell me… did this help you learn how to edit your photos? Have you ever used these apps before? Do you have a favorite filter you just HAVE to use? Tell me everything! I’ll be back on Thursday with a new coffee talk, and then next week I have a lot of fun topics to cover, and I’m even planning on sharing some Whole 30 meal ideas for the new year! I’ll see you soon! Xo.



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