If you want to become a world-famous Instagram photographer, or at least boost your follower and like counts, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. There are seven highly effective habits of popular Instagram users, and none of them has to do with Instagram. (OK, one.)
Photographers, video personalities, fashion bloggers, and famous foodies use these seven apps to take their Instagrams to the next level, and you'd never even know it. Instagram's own filters go a long way toward making your lattes look far richer than they do in person, and a recent update added a slew of editing tools. But the popular photo-sharing app doesn't want to overload you with options, which is why its latest time-lapse feature is an entirely separate product.
But six other Instagram accessory apps have been making other users' photos look like pages from a magazines — and videos look like film clips — for quite some time. Here are the seven best ways to make your Instagrams stand out from the pack. (It almost goes without saying, but all of these apps make sharing photos to Instagram super simple.)
So you think Instagram's filters and editing tools have grown up? You haven't yet met Afterlight. This photo-editing app has 59 adjustable filters, 66 textures, and 128 frames to fit every mood or season.
You can spend an hour tweaking the settings on one photo until you've transformed a photo of trees into a muddy watercolor, so you'll have to exercise some restraint. But Afterlight has options Instagram can only dream of, which make your photos infinitely more beautiful than your trusty Valencia/Lux combo can.
Let's get this out of the way: VSCO Cam is the app that professionals prefer. VSCO makes top-notch photo-editing software, and its app brings that level of gloss to your amateur iPhone and Android shots. Like Instagram, VSCO Cam offers filters and strengthening sliders for everything from saturation to warmth. But (sorry, Instagram) VSCO Cam's presets are above and beyond Kelvin and Nashville — plus, you can buy themed filter packs to round out your options. The collections are artistic instead of cheesy: See "Analog Classic" or "Faded & Moody." If you want your photos to look ripped straight out of a back issue of National Geographic (or Vogue), VSCO Cam is your best bet.
To make your photos look especially cinematic, you need Whitagram. The app adds a white letterbox to your landscape and portrait photos. It sounds almost stupidly simple, but if you've ever watched a classic movie and appreciated the detail you see in frames with proper ratios, you know how much better letterboxed images can look. The same goes for Instagram: When you choose your square crop, you lose a chunk of your image. Whitagram makes your photo square by filling in the background with white, so you don't lose a thing. It's a basic service, but a necessary one.
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