best instagram editing apps

Hey, y’all! I’ve been getting questions on how I edit my Instagram photos for a while now (you’ll find me at @LonestarSouthern) so I figured I’d put together a short and sweet post walking you through my three favorite, can’t-live-without, use-every-day photo editing apps!

I wish I could tell you there was a specific formula or pattern I follow… but every photo is different. Different lighting (like whether I take the photo in harsh lunch-time light or soft evening light), backgrounds and colors all factor into the editing process I eventually use, so no image really is the same.

BUT, there are a few tried-and-true features in the apps listed below that I usually factor in at some capacity or another.

Since I love bright, colorful and crisp images, you’ll find that a lot of these techniques really cater to that aesthetic. I encourage you to play around with these different apps, and perfect your summer Instagram filter routine! :) Read below for all the deets! I’ll be using this image to test out filters so you can get a first-hand look yourself:

blue dress (in Azure)   //   pink pom pom necklace   //   colorful tassel tote   //  strappy wedges


1. Camera +

Typically, the first app I will pull an image into is Camera+. My friend Molly McConn showed it to me my sophomore year of college, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Favorite features?

– backlit

This setting gives a soft, bright look to otherwise-dark images. I usually sharpen an image a bit after using this filter, though, as I find it tends to blur!


– iphone filters

Another reason I adore this app? It hosts all the filters you find come with your iPhone, but makes them adjustable! For example, you can add 10% Chrome to your image if you please, instead of the full-blown, pre-set filter.


2. Snapseed

Snapseed is my favorite app for getting to the nitty gritty of a photo. It does an exceptional job of isolating details and making them tweak-able! What do I mean, exactly?

– selective

Within Snapseed, you are able to choose specific portions of an image to adjust in terms of brightness, contrast and saturation. Have a dark wall you’d like to make lighter? This tool lets you select the wall without the rest of the photo (in most cases) and adjust it accordingly. I don’t know what I’d do without it!


– ambiance

Snapseed also comes with a nifty little tool called “ambiance.” In essence, I’ve found this adjustment allows you to bring out lost detail in photos in a very natural, organic looking way. This example below is a bit of an exaggeration to show you what this tool can really do…


3.  A Color Story

My absolute favorite of all editing apps, I was introduced to this magic-worker via an Instagram-ad, of all things! It makes the bright, poppy, color-lovin’ heart in me beat a little quicker. So. Good.

I went ahead and paid the eight something dollars to download the entire arsenal of filters, and have found it to be worth every penny. My absolute favorite?

– punch

This effect makes photos bright and sharp, immediately! A consistent filter, for me.


color fog

While I personally haven’t used this in many photos, I love that you’re given the option of adding a pop of color to your images! A unique setting, for sure.


There ya have it, folks. My three must-have photo editing apps! Now it’s your turn… what are your go-tos? Any Instagram tips and tricks you’ve picked up on that have changed the game for you? I’d love for you to leave your input in the comments, and collectively we can learn from each other!

Love from Texas,


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Join in on the fun!


  1. Rachel M said:

    Love these tips! I find photo editing apps very daunting so when people lay out what they *typically* adjust on photos, it helps a lot!

    Rachel /

    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  2. Wow love these effects! x

    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  3. I love A Color Story, but wasn’t sure if all the additional packages were worth it. Thanks for the encouragement to just get them all!

    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  4. I’ve only really heard of snapseed! Have you tried VSCOcam? I know a lot of other bloggers really enjoy that. Thanks for the tips!


    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  5. I need to try snapseed!!

    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  6. India H. said:

    I’m usually using VSCOcam and tweaking my photo with the Instagram settings! I’d love to try these other ones, too!

    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  7. Katie said:

    Love this! I’ll have to try these apps!


    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  8. Amy said:

    I’ve only been using VSCOcam for my photos and have been loving it so far! I am excited to try out these new apps though, especially snapseed!
    Amy | Pastel N Pink

    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  9. Thank you for these tips Kate! I LOVE Snapseed!! I use it for all of my photos as well. I’m going to try out the other apps you recommended.

    Thank you,


    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  10. Brooke said:

    I really want to try Snapseed and Camera + now! Thanks for sharing!

    XO, Brooke

    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  11. I have been meaning to download A Color Story, going to do that now! I love VSCO Cam and Afterlight for editing my photos! I should try Snapseed again!

    Laura | Laura Aime Vous

    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  12. I’ve been using PicTapGo for a long time and I really like it, it’s simple and has a lot of choices but not too many! I’m definitely gonna try out Snapseed and A Color Story!

    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  13. I used to use Camera+ but now use VSCO cam .. I love it! I haven’t heard of Color Story but want to try it out!

    How 2 Wear It []

    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  14. This is amazing. Thanks so much for sharing! Xo

    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  15. Paula said:

    This was so helpful! Thank you!


    Published 6.2.16 · Reply
  16. These apps look so helpful :) I definitely need to try some of these tips out!

    Jordan: The Teacup of Style
    Instagram: @teacupofstyle

    Published 6.3.16 · Reply
  17. Thanks for sharing! Great post!
    Mademoiselle Coconath

    Published 6.5.16 · Reply
  18. This kinds of articles are always useful!
    Fash ‘n’ fudge
    Fash ‘n’ fudge

    Published 6.7.16 · Reply
  19. Amanda said:

    This is so awesome thank you for sharing some of your fave Insta apps! I think your feed looks gorgeous so this will help me shape mine :)
    Affordable by Amanda

    Published 2.22.17 · Reply
  20. Molly said:

    I’m just now seeing this shout-out! I actually strictly use PicTapGo now just for how easy it is. Missing you!

    Published 7.19.17 · Reply
  21. lisa said:

    Mobile is not just our future it is completely related to our business and life. Mobile device are our communication tool worldwide their popularity are increasing. Great post on mobile technology.IT companies in Durban

    Published 6.14.22 · Reply