Instagram Tips: “Flying High” with high contrast

Do you find yourself looking at a photos on Instagram and wondering, “How the heck did they do that?”

One of the great things about ‘IG’ is that the built-in filters give you a quick and easy way to add some post-processing flair to your pics. It’s fun to thumb back-and-forth between “Earlybird” and “Gotham” to see how different the results can be. But if you’re taking a lot of photos, you’ll soon find yourself wanting to do more.

For example, how do you go…

1. Camera+

If my iPhone was stuck on a desert island, the one application it would choose to augment IG would be Camera+. This app has a number of great features and is easy to use.  While I generally prefer the native iPhone camera app for taking shots (it’s faster), I almost always open shots in Camera+ afterwards just to crop square and see how lighting changes and filters might help improve the effect I’m after.

The original photo above is a fairly average shot from the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, California. But rather than post as-is, there are some aspects I’d like to emphasize. For example:

  1. the lines of the chains connecting the swings to the main carousel
  2. the details on the underside of the carousel.

So let’s fire this pic up in Camera+ and see if we can tease these out a bit:

Opening my photo in Camera+

2. Camera+ Filter: “Ansel”

First, I’m going to apply Camera+’s most contrast-intensive black-white filter, known as “Ansel”. This will make the lines pop out a bit and help me concentrate on increasing the contrast even more.

Applying the Ansel filter in Camera+

3. Camera+ : Cropping for IG

My next step is to crop the image to square so that I know the composition is going to work in Instagram. I generally do this early in the process so that I know I’m not editing something that won’t work when I get ready to finally post.

Cropping my photo in Camera+

4. Camera+: Clarity scene

Once my image is cropped, I’m ready to see if I can coax out some of the detail from the underside of the carousel that is completely under-exposed. The “Clarity” effect under “Scenes” is a wonderful one-step process for applying an HDR-esque effect without having multiple versions of the original to work with. The effect can sometimes be overpowering, but in this pic, it gives me nice details that  would otherwise be hidden:

Applying the "Clarity" scene to my photo in Camera+

5. Noir: More contrast!

I like how this is beginning to look, but the clouds are still a bit distracting. So, my next step is to save the Camera+ edits to my photo album and then open the latest version of the pic in “Noir“.  Noir — as the name implies — let’s you control the contrast, as well as the exposure inside and outside a circle that you can define as you pinch and tap on your screen. In this case, I’ve cranked the dials in opposite directions to gain the maximum over-exposure, without blowing out the fine lines of the chains:

Using the iPhone app "Noir" to bring out more contrast

6. Ready to post!

After saving from Noir to my album library, I’m ready to post.  I apply IG’s native “Gotham” filter to help zap some more of the remaining clouds to get a result that is ultra-contrasty with a lot of fine detail exposed.

And there you have it. Total editing time was about 5 minutes.

Is there  a photographer on IG that you’d like to learn more about? A photo edit you’d like to see broken down? Drop us a line and let us know! (support ( at ) keepsy (dot) com


5 Comments on “Instagram Tips: “Flying High” with high contrast”

  1. Cheryl says:

    Nice! I see you now like the “Gotham” filter. :)

  2. Blake says:

    @cheryl Yes! I didn’t used to use it that much, but lately it’s one of the only built-in filters I like.

  3. Too bad the Gotham filter is gone in Instagram 2.0 :-( At least we still have the Ansel filter in camera+

    • Blake says:

      Yes, what a drag! True, there is still Ansel and Noir to play with. The most perplexing thing is why they cut Gotham but not Nashville or Lord Kelvin, which are filters I almost never see used, and honestly have never used myself…


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