Welcome instagrammers!

A warm welcome to anyone visiting from Instagram.

You can also follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/oxonwalks.

The Maggie May (or, at least, what’s left of her).

I’m a professional web developer and designer, working for Taupo Solutions Ltd, with a keen interest in photography.

I shoot with a Canon 60D, with 70-300mm, 50mm and 10-20mm lenses. I’ve just bought a set of macro extension tubes (Polaroid ones from Amazon), which are proving to be excellent, so expect a lot of closeup shots.

I find myself processing more and more images simply in Snapseed, on my iPad 3, rather than the hassle of messing about in Photoshop, which I use professionally.

The iPad is a simply stunning way of looking at, interacting with, and editing photographs, and has helped rekindle my interest in photography. Images are shot in RAW, loaded onto the iPad, via the Camera Connection Kit, then manipulated in Snapseed. I know Snapseed is only working with the embedded JPEG preview of the RAW file, but for Instagram, that’s usually more than enough.

If anyone’s interested, my Snapseed workflow is as follows.

Firstly, crop the image. I try to crop as tightly to the subject as possible, whilst maintaining both a focal point, and foreground interest (and trying not to loose any of the subject). A quick tip, for taking photographs that are going to be square cropped, is to always shoot the subject with the camera orientated in the opposite direction to what you’d expect — if you’re shooting a tall, thin subject shoot with the camera horizontal. If you’re shooting a wide subject, hold the camera vertical. This will ensure the subject will always remain visible when square cropped.

After cropping, I go either to Drama or Details, depending on the subject. Usually a little Drama helps, turning back up the saturation until it looks right.

Next up, Details. I usually crank this up between 80 and 100%. Love the effect, only doesn’t work with very soft or dreamy images. Otherwise, go for it!

Next, Tuning. Firstly, if the image has any white things in it, that you want to look soft, dreamy or glowy, crank DOWN the ambiance. This will also add dark areas, and generally make an image more moody. Good for woodland scenes, sheep, white flowers, etc. For overly dark images, or images that still have insufficient colour, increase the ambiance.

Dew Ball

‘Dew Ball’. Early morning dew completely soaking a seed head. Negative ambiance helped here, as did Details.

A good rule of thumb, for how far to push any of the sliders, is to always crank them way too far, until the image looks horrible, then dial them back until it looks good again – this will allow you to push an image to its maximum possibility, without going completely nuts.

Occasionally, I’ll increase the white balance by a few points, just to warm the image up. If you aren’t happy with the saturation, now’s the time to increase that — again, dial it back from maximum, until the ‘most horribly saturated’ bit of your image now looks good. Don’t worry if some areas are under-saturated still, we’ll fix that next.

Next up, Selective Adjustment. This is amazingly powerful, and you can create several control areas to pep up specific bits of the image. Locally increase saturation, where needed, and tweak brightness and contrast. There’s no limit to the number of control points — you can only have 5 or so at a time, but when you’ve used your allowance, simply commit changes, and go back into Selective Adjustment again, and continue until you’re happy.

Penultimate stage: I like to subtly darken the edges of pretty much all my shots. Go to Centre Focus, turn Blur and Inner Brightness to Zero, and set outer brightness to -100 (your image will look too dark, don’t worry). Now, slide your fingers in, and out, to adjust the circle size, so that only a very subtle corner area of your image is darkened – the darkening should be noticeable, but not so much that it looks like the corners are actually dark. The effect should only really be seen when you toggle preview on and off.

Finally, add a frame of your choice, or not, and save. I know you can send directly to Instagram, but I prefer to save the image first, then import later, when I’m ready to upload.

I hope you found this information useful, I’m always happy to discuss tips, techniques and secrets, so leave a comment and ask away!

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  1. grennmonster
    July 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Thank you for these tips! I’ve been using SnapSeed on my iPad for about a month, and some of these tips are new to me, very helpful.

  2. Marnie Huger
    September 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing the way you use Snapseed. Your work is my favorite on Instagram.

  3. Pam
    January 1, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    I enjoy following you on IG very much! Thanks for this great tutorial; I just got SnapSeed and was feeling a little lost!

  4. X_O_D_R
    September 11, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    I am an avid fan of yours on Ig. Thank you so much for the tip. I have been using Snapseed, too, to process my images but what I observed consistently were the loss of details and the compromise of clarity and resolution especially when photos were uploaded on Instagram and/or Facebook. In your case, your photos are ultimately clear, crisp, sharp. May you share some knowledge on how to preserve the integrity of the picture even if processed o using Snapseed on Ipad?

    Does it have anything to do with the camera and lens I am using? Do you recommend Canon 60D with 70-30 mm lens? Appreciate your advice.

    From a budding passionate photographer.

    • September 11, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      Hi! Thanks for the feedback.

      My ‘secret’ to preserving image sharpness is that I rescale the image using an App called Laminar. I’m sure there are others that can rescale images too.

      Instagram, in order to be as quick as possible, uses an inferior image re-sampling to downscale images to 612px square. From trial and error, I’ve found that rescaling first to 1224px square (exactly twice Instagram’s resolution) results in a superior result allowing Ig to do a further rescale down to its 612 (doesn’t work as well rescaling to 612 outside Ig as Ig drops the quality to much this way).

      In Laminar, you create a new document at 1224px x 1224px then import your image onto a new layer — it’s automatically rescaled to this size. You can add another layer with any watermark at this point, the. Save the image and import into Ig.

      Of course, the original image has to be good quality, though even mobile phone shots of 5 megapixels or above should stand up to a fair bit of reprocessing. Any SLR and pretty much any lens will take shots that are plenty good enough for Instagram — processing will need to be a lot more subtle for high-quality output to Flickr, etc.

      Hope this was of some help, feel free to ask questions!

  5. Skip Lombardi
    November 3, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Many thanks for sharing your workflow with us. It was particularly helpful to be because I too shoot with a Canon 60d and process with the iPad. My own Instagram workflow includes Touch/Retouch and Filterstorm Neue, but it was the Snapseed portion that has helped me elevate my images significantly.

    Prior to reading your tutorial, I did all the “usual things” with my images, like white balance, contrast, and saturation adjustments and not much else. But since reading your piece above, I’ve gotten into the Drama/Saturation and Center Focus areas of Snapseed, my images have benefited significantly. I have not only seen an increase in the number of “likes” my images get, I’ve increased the number of followers I have.

    If you were to take a look at my @skiplombardi page, I think you’d be able to see exactly the point at which I incorporated the techniques you’ve described above.

    Thank you again. This has been extremely helpful to me.

    Best regards,
    Skip Lombardi

  6. T. Houston
    July 2, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Thanks for the extremely useful instructions on using snapseed, have had the app for a couple of years, but since upgrading from iph4 to iPh5 recently, I haven’t had chance to study the latest version of it which looks quite different and more complex,on quick inspection..looking forward to trying out your suggestions!

  7. Patricia Mark
    January 26, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Is there a special connection that you use to import from the camer. I have an iPad mini and don’t see anywhere to hook up anything except the charger. Thanks, Pat Mark

    • January 26, 2016 at 5:33 pm

      Hi Patricia,
      You’ll need the ‘camera connection kit’ also called ‘lightening to usb camera adapter’ — the version depends on the iPad mini’s model — the kit provides an interface between the iPad and the digital camera. Worth doing some research to make sure your particular camera is going to be compatible though as the connection kit isn’t that cheap. They’re available direct from Apple, via their web store…

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