My Guide To 2018’s Best Apps + Tools For Photo Editing

Happy weekend, friends! Life is wild in the Lage household thanks to our upcoming move to Tampa — I’m currently staring at all of the boxes in our living room and promising myself this move will be our last! I want to keep my blogging consistent even though life is all over the place right now, and I am super excited about today’s post. About 90 percent of you said you wanted me to write about this topic on my Insta stories poll, so let’s do it!

I am a perfectionist when it comes to photo editing, although I’m nowhere near an expert. When I first decided to take better pictures for Instagram and my web content, I was super disappointed with most of the apps people recommended. Finding photo editing apps for Instagram that work with Black and brown people and people with dark skin was so hard for me! It’s been a couple of years since I really looked, but I’ve finally created a process that I’m really happy with. But first, I’m going to give some photo tips/answer a couple of common questions, since the less editing you have to do after you take the picture, the better!


My sweet husband has zero interest in photography, but he’s learned a ton about framing/lighting/etc. just because I needed his help when I started blogging a few months ago! I usually use a Canon 60D with a 50 mm f/1.8 lens, which is basically a beginner’s portrait lens. Once we move to Tampa, y’all will see more professional-quality photography on my blog because I’ll be partnering with local photographers, which I’m so excited about! I’m sure Vagner is excited to get a break, too 😉

If I’m not shooting on my Canon, I’m using my iPhone 8+, which can take some pretty impressive pictures in the right lighting. If I’m out and about without Vagner, I’ll legit ask a stranger to take my picture. I usually look for someone who’s young and seems nice, and I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone say no in all the years I’ve been asking!


I’ve learned the hard way that it’s much easier to edit a picture that’s taken well. Here are my tips!

  1. Take pictures near sunset for beautiful, flattering light that isn’t too harsh.
  2. Always make sure you’re facing toward the sun — if the sun is shining on your back, you’ll get weird shadows
  3. Take a bunch of shots with a variety of poses, because even if you love it on the camera you may not love it once you’re actually looking!
  4. Frame your picture as best as you can — try to avoid people in the background, distracting signs or buildings, etc.
  5. Find a fun location! Explore your neighborhood to find an area with low foot traffic that looks unique –– we live in the most suburban area ever and rarely drive more than five minutes to find a photo spot.

If you don’t see your favorite app here, please don’t feel offended! This isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing, and I tried out some apps that everyone LOVED like Snapseed and A Color Story that just didn’t work well for me! These are my go-to choices, but everyone is different. 🙂

Adobe Lightroom CC

Lightroom is really the GOAT when it comes to photo editing. It’s about $10 a month for a Creative Cloud subscription, but it’s great for heavy-duty editing, and if you buy existing presets, it’s actually super efficient. The wind was not on my side this day, so I used Lightroom’s clone/heal tools to make my hair look like it wasn’t being destroyed by the wind! I used a preset pack from Etsy that has over 400 to choose from –– it’s honestly so overwhelming that I can’t remember which preset I used, but here’s a link to the set. Here’s what my edit panels look like, to give you an idea of the process.

Lightroom is honestly trial and error for me, and it does have a bit of a learning curve. If you have a certain aesthetic in mind, investing in presets can be a huge help. Famous bloggers like Jaci Marie and Aspyn Ovard have presets for sale that they use on every picture, which makes their feeds look super cohesive. I’m all over the place, so I like to play around with each individual picture.

Here’s another look with before and afters to help y’all get an idea of the editing process! I used a free preset from Jordan Brittley Photography, but I plan to buy her full suite because I love it so much. This preset is probably my favorite one I’ve encountered, and of course it was free after I spent $50 buying others. You live and you learn. 🙂


If you’re reading this and thinking, “Cool story, Ayana, but I don’t have to edit on a computer and adjust all those dang sliders,” I feel you. I’m not always in the mood to edit in Lightroom, which is why I adore VSCO. If you’ve tried VSCO and hate it, I seriously recommend paying for the yearly subscription. I didn’t get why everyone raved about the app until I upgraded and unlocked all of the features and filters. Here are some of my favorite VSCO before-and-afters –– unlike Lightroom, VSCO is super intuitive, so you don’t need much experience to use it.

DeI have so many different favorite filters, it’s impossible to pick. It all depends on where the photo was taken and how much adjusting it needs! But VSCO is a must for anyone who edits on mobile, especially if you don’t want to commit to Lightroom. Even if I edit a picture in Lightroom, I’ll sometimes run it through VSCO just to make sure there aren’t any easy fixes I missed.


So these apps get a bad reputation, mostly because some people overuse them or use them to manipulate their pictures in wild ways. It can be so tempting to make your legs/torso skinnier because they make it SO easy, but anytime I’ve done it just to see what it looks like, I’ve realized I don’t want to present a dishonest version of myself online, so I’m not about to look 20 pounds lighter on Instagram.

Here’s what I use them for: 

– Removing stray hairs/messed up lipstick/etc.

– Defocusing the background of a picture taken on iPhone

– Whitening a photo (I don’t think there’s anything wrong with teeth whitening in editing, but I usually whiten the entire picture to make it match my #aesthetic)

– Adjusting skin tone to better match what my skin looks like IRL

Photo editing is fun and allows you a chance to be creative, which is why I love it so much! It can be hard not to go overboard, but these apps have helped me develop a more cohesive feed. What’s your favorite app to use?!

Leave a Comment


  1. Julie wrote:

    Ayana, maybe because I’m older and my eyes need the size of a computer screen, Lightroom is my go-to photo editing. I haven’t been using g it long. You see, I bought the program years ago. It hit list on my house and only resurfaced recently. If I’d known just what I time saver it was, I’d have put forth more effort to find it. But with the hours I was working, I felt like I’d never have time to learn to use it. I ended up having the basics down in about an hour! I just edited a small wedding in a night, where before I was opening 100 files at s time in Photoshop and attacking them that way. It would take weeks! Note: I have some presents I’d bought for Photoshop that also had Lightroom presents included. Ha don’t even touched those yet. I’m just so happy I can so easily choose several files at once to white balance them.

    Posted 3.18.18 Reply
    • Ayana Lage wrote:

      Love this, Julie! I definitely need to work with Lightroom more.

      Posted 3.21.18 Reply