One of my most asked questions is how I take and edit my planner photos for Instagram. I’m here to tell you all my inside secrets and also to show how I achieve the same bright look to my photos whether I’m using studio lights OR just natural daylight!
It’s all about the lighting.
I’m a firm believer that a beautifully edited photo really comes down to one key thing and that’s lighting. It’s important!
For the first several years I posted planner photos I relied solely on natural daylight. That’s right, it’s possible to take beautiful planner photos with no studio lighting! You may need to test out all the windows in your home at different points in the day until you find the perfect one that matches the look and feel you’re going for with your photos, but let me tell you, it’s so worth it when you find the perfect window and the perfect time for the lighting to be just the way you like it.
Personally, I like bright photos so I gravitate towards the windows that get the brightest (but not direct sunshine in) windows. I have two favorite spots – one window that works best in the morning and one that works best in the afternoon. I enjoy having a couple options so based on what I’m doing for the day, I have an option in the morning or afternoon to take some photos. Don’t forget with the changing of the seasons and where the sun is, you may have to switch up your favorite photo spots throughout the year.
While I’ve since started using studio lights, that really is just due to the lack of natural daylight in the evenings during the fall and winter seasons. Add in also working a full-time job, the studio lights help make it so much easier to take photos or film videos in the evening instead of needing to wait for the weekend every time I’m in the mood to get creative.
Another tip to help brighten your photos a bit more naturally is to use white poster board. I have two that I use for photo sessions – one that my planner lays on and serves as a background and a second one to reflect light and help minimize shadows.
Here’s what my photo set up looks like when I’m taking my photos in natural daylight by a window:
When I take my photos in front of a window with natural daylight, my set up consists of one of my white poster boards serving as the background and the other is propped up directly across from my window. This second white board really helps to reflect light back to my photo area as well as minimize shadows. It’s actually incredible how adding a second white poster board actually brightens your photos WITHOUT any editing at all.
Here’s what my photo set up looks like when I’m taking photos with my studio lights:
When I use my studio lights, I really do have the luxury to take photos in whatever room I want since they’re bright enough, no window is needed. These are perfect for those evening photo sessions in the winter when it’s already dark when I get out of work.
The studio lights I have are from Amazon and they’re called the ESDDI Softbox Photography Lighting Kit. I love these because they’re easy to set up, take down and they also come with a storage case that makes storing these lights pretty easy when I’m not using them.
I tend to not use the second white board when I’m using my studio lights, because I really don’t feel like it’s needed, but you totally could if you find you need a bit more brightness.
Camera equipment? I just use my iPhone XS!
Cameras on smartphones are amazing and for me, at least, it’s the only camera I have to take photos. For awhile, I thought about picking up an actual camera, but it’s just so much easier to take photos on my phone since I also do all my photo editing on my phone as well. I don’t want to have to transfer photos over to my phone just to edit and post them, when I feel the camera on my iPhone works great.
My go to editing apps
Playing around with various editing styles and apps can be time-consuming and frustrating at times, but it’s SO worth it when you find YOUR style and, believe me, it’s one of the most exciting things when you find a method that works consistently for you! Because I take all my photos basically in the same spot, it means my editing can be done super fast now because the base photo is practically the same. There are some days that require different tweaks or I may skip a step depending on if it was sunny or cloudy when I took the photo, but either way, it’s become super easy to edit my photos.
For every photo, I go through the following apps in this order:
- VSCO – I edit with Contrast, Sharpen, Saturation and White Balance
- Facetune – I add the Lighter filter from the Lighting category
- Instagram photo editor – I add just a bit of Brightness and possibly edit the Saturation if needed
I can usually come pretty close with my photo editing whether I take my photos with natural daylight or my studio lights, so that’s been wonderful!
Here is another before and after of a photo taken in natural daylight:
Want to actually see how I edit my photos?
Check out the video below! I’m sharing how I use the three apps above to achieve the look I like for my Instagram photos. And I edit the same photo using both natural lighting and my studio lights and how I achieve basically the same look no matter what original way I took the photo.
I hope you found this post helpful and maybe found a tip or two to try when you’re editing your photos. Even though it took me awhile to find exactly what I liked and what worked for the lighting I have, it was so rewarding (and actually fun) to find my own photo editing style.
What editing apps are your favorite?