the smell of my desperation has become a stench

A peek inside my playground

Yesterday after I mentioned that I like to play around with camera apps on my phone some of you asked which ones were my favorites and if I had any tips on how to use them. There are too many apps and ways to use them to include in one post, so I thought I’d start with the two apps I use to edit almost every photo I post to Instagram. The first thing I should point out is this: I rarely ever use the built-in filters in Instagram. Instead, I edit a photo with other programs and get it to look exactly like I want it to look before I ever import it. This may hurt Instagram’s feelings but I’m sure that it has a roster of therapists it can talk to about that.

For purposes of this demo I’m going to use a photo I took in Jacmel, Haiti of a building across the street from my hotel:


The photo is fine as it is, but fine is not fun.

The first app I use is called Snapseed:

First I import the photo into the app.


Many times it’s a little slanted or the line of the horizon is a little off, so I’ll use the straighten tool to level the photo. This has been one of the hugest takeaways from following so many professional photographers. A picture looks so much better when it’s precisely aligned.


Next, I either use the DRAMA or the HDR SCAPE filter, and in this instance I chose HDR SCAPE.


As you can see it really intensifies the colors and shadows and highlights, everything all at once, so you have to be careful with this one. I always tone this filter down, otherwise it makes the whole thing look alien or clownish.


Then I save it to my camera roll.

Next I use VSCOcam:

VSCOcam comes with a set of filters but I splurged on a whole bunch of other presets which are now 50% off. Hit the little white box with line in the lower lefthand corner to see the store:


Once I’ve imported the photo, I go through the presets and decide what kind of mood I’m going for. The ones I use most are: M5, T1, C3, S4, and S6.


For this photo I chose S6.


Next I sharpen the photo which goes a long way in drawing out the details and contrasts in colors.


Next, I play around with the saturation a bit.


Then I slightly tweak the temperature.


Those are the three tools I use most: sharpening, saturation, and temperature. Often I will use the “shadows” tool when certain details are too dark or the “fade” tool if somewhere along the way I got a little too carried away.

Finished photo:


Here’s another example using a shot I took in one of the beautiful, newly planted courtyards at Hôpital de Mirebalais:


First an import into Snapseed.


Next, I tilted it to the left a bit.


This time I actually used the crop tool in Snapseed to focus in on the plant and my shoes.



Once again I used the HDR SCAPE filter and toned it down a bit:


Once I saved it to my photo album I imported it into VSCOcam and applied the S3 preset:


Some saturation and sharpening:



This time I feel like I might have taken it too far so I chose to fade the whole thing a bit:


Finished photo:


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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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