Essential Editing Apps and Tips

May 17, 2019 in - 5 min read

You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you that I have tested pretty much all the editing apps there are on the App Store and I am not even ashamed of it because in the end I found ones that work best for me so all that time and energy did not go to waste. One thing you should know is that if you want quality, you have to be willing to pay.

I once paid R40 and R75 for presets which is like a filter created from scratch by someone and the crazy thing is, I have deleted those presets now because the first one I bought was a complete rip off and the second one just didn’t feel right after a couple of days – yeah, I might have cried myself to sleep for my money. I mean, it’s understandable why presets are so expensive, it’s hard to create an aesthetically pleasing one and they have the power to completely change a picture and the environment. Having realized that, I figured I should dedicate all my days to learning how to do it myself so that I don’t have to keep buying and crying.

Today I have so much confidence when it comes to editing pictures because of all the lessons I learnt from trail-and-error and I will be sharing the apps that I use, showing you ‘before and after’ examples, giving you vital editing tips and as a bonus I will share with you the apps I use to create my Instagram stories too. Let’s get right into it…

Editing Apps

Both these apps are available for IOS and Android users


If you aren’t really keen on creating your own filter yet still want your pictures to scream, “Look at me, admire me, love me!” then this is the app for you. VSCO provides you with 10 free filters to get started with but trust me, those filters aren’t good, they work on some pictures but not all of them. If you want to have a wider range of options then you should consider joining the VSCO Membership for $19.99 a year because like I said earlier, if you are committed to having perfectly edited pictures you have to be willing to pay for some of the features on the app.

The picture below is edited using VSCO, I applied the DOG1 filter (which is one of the filters you get after joining the membership) then I adjusted the controls (exposure, clarity, saturation, etc) until I was satisfied. You can edit like this if you want a bright and positive mood on your photos.



The picture below is edited using the U3 filter which is also part of the membership and again I adjust the controls until I was satisfied. This editing style works best with city skyscrapers and night lights.



Lightroom CC

This is by far the best photo editing app you could ever come across and I don’t think there’s an app out there that could ever top Lightroom CC. If I were to describe it in a nutshell, I would say it is like Photoshop because it can completely transform the environment of the photo. Luckily with Lightroom you don’t necessarily have to pay for anything, the only challenge you will face is trying to edit your photos the way you want to. Lightroom gives you all the controls and tools you will need to change a sad, gloomy day to a bright and happy one but achieving that can be quite difficult at first. Another beautiful thing about Lightroom is that it gives you the power to change colors of individual objects in the photo and it basically takes your photo from ‘amateur’ to looking like it was taken by a professional photographer.

Below is a picture I edited using pretty much all the tools on Lightroom, it definitely takes time and patience to get what you want. If you look closely at the ‘After’ picture you will notice tiny details that either lost color, gained color or completely changed color – look carefully. See what Lightroom can do? It changed everything in the photo, even our skin color!



Here is another example of ‘change of color and mood’ (the ‘After’ is my wallpaper – and uhh yes, that is my hand)



In the example below, you see a complete change of scene, the original photo ‘Before’ is dark and has no life but after doing some heavy adjustments I managed to transform it into a picture that could be found on a photographers page and this photo was taken with my iPhone 6.



You probably expected an extensive list of apps that I use to make my pictures look the way they do but no, I only use 2 apps – VSCO and Lightroom CC.

Editing Tips

  1. When you edit a photo, decide on what mood is most appropriate for it. Not all filters/presets work on all types of photographs so edit accordingly.
  2. Do not rush through it, you are not going to get the best results if you do.
  3. On Lightroom CC take ‘Highlights’ all the way down once you start editing, it will give your photo more detail that you can work around
  4. Do not add Saturation on your photos unless you feel like it is totally necessary, rather bring the saturation down than up.
  5. On VSCO, if you want a soft vintage-like photo, apply the V8 filter, take Highlights all the way to +12, Grain to +9 and Fade to +3.5
  6. Use the A4 filter on VSCO when you want to tell a story through your photo (don’t forget to adjust until you’re happy)
  7. Lightroom – to change colors of objects in the photo, click on Color on the panel and on the right corner of the pop-up you will see the word ‘MIX’. Slide left and right on the different HSL lines to see the changes it makes on your photo.
  8. Set the temperature lower to create a strong, ‘suspense’ mood and higher to create a welcoming, joyful mood.
  9. Do not set your Contrast too high, on Lightroom +20 is way more than enough. Also consider taking your Contrast low, it has a beautiful effects on some outdoor sunny photos.
  10. Stay away from Vignette! In most cases, this is used badly and it ends up ruining a good photo.
  11. Sharpen all your photos, it makes them stand out more.
  12. Do not make editing photos a habit or hobby if you don’t genuinely enjoy editing. Do it with love.

As promised, I will close off this article by revealing the 2 apps I use to create my stories on Instagram – Canva and Unfold. These are both apps you can create photo collages with, they are both fun to play around with so you will enjoy yourself while creating beautiful content for yourself and your viewers.

That’s it for now,


  • Robert Smith August 27, 2019 at

    WOW! Absolutely amazing editing. These look gorgeous

  • Roy Lando June 1, 2019 at

    Lovely photos

  • officialosi May 17, 2019 at

    I had VSCO before, but I didn’t really like it, but that lightroom one seems like a good shout, and I’ll defo check it out, thank you!

  • Yolly May 17, 2019 at

    I’ve been meaning to ask you but you just did the damn things!! Thank you 🤩

  • astoldbyali May 17, 2019 at

    I love this!! I have the same two apps I use to edit my photos, but I’m still learning with lightroom CC definitely gonna use these tips. Thanks for sharing!! Love the pics too 🤗🤗

  • tsepotheview May 17, 2019 at

    Those pics are wonderful because you able to lighten the pics without making anything in the pics less visible but now are the free editing apps as good as those you have to purchase?

  • myexpressionofthoughtsblog May 17, 2019 at

    magnificent pictures shared

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    About Me

    Hi and welcome! My name is Mbalenhle K but everyone calls me Mbali for short (say: mm-bah-lee). I am a freelance copywriter who loves all things art, experiences and aesthetics (big time Pinterest gworl 🧚🏽)! I am the founder of Budding Regardless where I talk about mindfulness, self-development and self-nurturing for creatives. Read More

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