Simple Editing Hacks That Will Make Even Your Worst Travel Photo Insta-Worthy

Editing photos for Instagram can be a slippery slope. There are the obvious "don'ts" — don't mess with someone's skin or body — as well as some unspoken rules, such as not making your photo look overdone or fake. But an edit that's done well can have major pluses.
"At the end of the day, the reason we take photos is because we're trying to share something," Josh Haftel, mobile product manager for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, says. "Going in and editing your photo enables you to have that much more ability to tell your story."
Haftel believes that editing is a major element in today's digital photography space. That's because cameras, regardless of whether you're using an iPhone or a DSLR, aren't the only tools for a creating a meaningful photo. Editing allows you to bring out the colors that struck you most as you try to recreate the in-the-moment experience you had on that cliff or beach at sunset.
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While on an Adobe photography trip to Cuba last week, I sat down with professional photographer and filmmaker Renan Ozturk, who walked me through a ten-step process of turning what I thought was one of my worst travel photos into one of my best.
Click through to see how some simple tweaks can turn an image into Insta-gold.
Ed. Note: Adobe paid for travel expenses and provided a Lightroom membership for the purposes of writing this story.
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At first glance, I didn't think this photo was salvageable. While the sky looks appropriately moody, it's hard to make out the rest of the dark photo. But Ozturk assured me that the darkness was a good thing — had I overexposed the photo while shooting in an attempted to brighten up the greenery below, the sky would have come out too bright otherwise. You can pull details out from the darkness, but it's very hard to add details back in to an overly bright white scene.
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Step 1: Focus on the sky

The first step in fixing the photo was to open it in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Because this photo is evenly split between the sky and the landscape below, Ozturk told me to break my edits into two pieces, working on the sky first.

To do so, tap selective > the "plus" icon in the upper lefthand corner > the square gradient icon on the far right. Drag the gradient so that it covers the sky. The red just shows you which part of the photo your selective edits will apply to.

Note: While many of Lightroom's editing tools are free, some premium features, including selective edits are only available to members, for $9.99 per month.
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Step 2: Darken the sky

Select "light" in the bottom toolbar and lower the exposure slightly, bringing out some of the darkness in the clouds.
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Step 3: Make the sky pop

Select "effects" in the bottom toolbar and raise the "dehaze" effect. You'll notice that the sky becomes clearer.
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Step 4: Focus on the landscape

Add another gradient to the bottom half of the photo. Tap "selective" > the "plus" icon in the upper left-hand corner > the square gradient icon on the far right. Drag the gradient over the bottom half of the photo.
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Step 5: Brighten the overall landscape

Here's where the magic really takes place. Tap "light" and raise the exposure. You'll see details that were previously hidden in darkness appear, adding an entirely new element to the photo.
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Step 6: See more detail

To make the shrubbery stand out, tap "effects" and raise the clarity.
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Step 7: Focus on the flowers

Brightening the landscape worked wonders, and you can stop there but it's also possible to make the red flowers pop even more. Tap "selective" > the "plus" icon in the left-hand corner > the circular icon. Drag a circular radiant over the flowers until they're completely.
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Step 8: Brighten the flowers

Tap "light" and raise the exposure.
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Step 9: Get rid of the pink roof

You could end your editing with the above step, but Ozturk and I went one step further, editing out the distracting pink roof in the lower lefthand corner. To do so, we went into Photoshop Fix (to go directly from Lightroom to Fix, tap the export icon in the upper righthand corner, select "open in", and choose "maximum available" for the image size).

Once in Fix, tap "healing."
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Step 10: Target the roof

Finger paint with the in-app brush over the roof. The roof will disappear, replaced by more shrubbery.
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And voilà! A photo that wasn't even good enough to text to one friend, let alone share on Instagram, is now ready to earn likes galore.
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