How to edit your photos on Instagram – What do all those sliders do?

We all like to make our photos look even better than we made them. Editing them on our smartphones and computers to give that little extra oomph! When you open your app, like Instagram for example, you see a lot of faders and editing possibilities, but what do all these sliders actually do?


This is the most used and at the same time most misunderstood slider. People often confuse this one with exposure, but it’s nothing like that. While exposure affects all your shades and tones, brightness only affects the centre ones. This means that your darkest points will still be dark, even after putting the brightness-fader all the way up. Likewise for the lightest points in your photo.

The extreme tones will remain, but by using this fader you can affect the overall feel of the photo. turning it up gives your photo a highkey look. Turning it down gives it a lowkey feel.


Adding contrast to your photos can be done in many ways. The most popular one is with the contrast-slider in editing-apps. What this sliders does seems simple, but it’s a good thing to understand how it does it. The slider adds contrast by shifting the darker and lighter tones to their extremes. It usually does not affect the midtones. That’s where you use the brightness for, remember? 😉


This is a combination slider of contrast and sharpen. What it does is add more contrast and sharpness to details. A slider I suggest to use in small portions, as it can easily blow up your photo by adding a surreal amount of details.

I often find bad photos on Instagram that could easily be fixed by toning down the structure.


This slider adds more blue or red tones to your photo. The result of this is a warmer or colder feel to it. This can be perfect to use if you want to showcase the warm weather you have on holiday. Or the cold feeling of an abstract architectural shoot. This one is completely depended on your creativity, so go nuts!


A fun slider that simply adds more or less colour to your photos. I usually don’t boost this one too much, but it’s all about personal taste. My tip is to slide the fader around and look at all the different outcomes before you decide which one to choose.


Adding an extra tone to your photo can really make a difference. If you want your own distinct look and feel, I think this might be the easiest way to separate your photos from the rest. What this function does it add a colour of your choosing to your highlights and shadows.

Often it’s better to choose contrasting colours, like my favourites blue and yellow. But what colours you pick, is all up to you.


In this digital photography world, we seem to yearn to the good old days of film. We love the look and feel of them, without actually having to develop the films. This function gets you that look. It ‘fades’ the black tones up to make them a bit softer. It looks like your photo has less contrast and is more old-timey.


This darkens or brightens the brightest tones in your photo. If it’s a landscape, it’s usually the sky and the clouds. With portraits it might be a light or flare in someones glasses. I usually bring this fader down to add more details in the photo, but again, it’s an as you please slider.


The oppositie of the highlights slider. This brightens or darkens your darker parts. Think about eye-sockets, the shadows beneath a tree, … . I usually turn this one up, opposite to the highlights, to bring in more details.


Giving your photo a nice darker edge can give it a nice extra touch. I used to be a huge fan of vignetting, but I decided to quit that habit. It’s okay to use though, but I felt I wasn’t using it responsibly, whatever that might mean.

Tilt shift

A slider to artificially achieve that much sought bokeh effect. It helps you get a lower depth of field on your photos in a circular or linear way. It does not work well on all photos as it is a rather limited slider. But it worth a try to test in on your photos.


This little slider gives your photos extra sharpness, which is something that is almost always useful. It it best to be careful with the amount you use though. Sliding the fader all the way up might cause your photos to look very unrealistic. But adding a bit of extra never hurts.

Top: if you want to achieve a dreamy feel, you can try and turn this fader down.

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