How to edit your photos like Instagram's elite and make your colours pop!

Post by
Ruth Stephensen
How to edit your photos like Instagram's elite and make your colours pop!

Have you ever wondered what exactly it is that makes certain photos grab your attention and stop you mid-scroll? I have noticed a particular photo editing trend gaining momentum with a lot of popular accounts on Instagram and it's a super simple effect that has a whole lot of impact. Once I have drawn your attention to this technique you are going to notice it absolutely everywhere. Luckily for you I'm not just going to tell you about it, I'm going to show you how you can get the same effect right from your mobile!

Let's get started

Take a look at these images below from three different well known Instagram accounts and, aside from the similar composition and subject matter, see if you can tell what they have in common:

Examples of Instagram photos with desaturated backdrops

The colours look great right? ? Yes, they have carefully curated and highlighted key colours within the image but there is one more thing they have in common.

They completely desaturate the background.

This means they remove all the colour from the underlying elements and layers of the image to make the background completely (or almost) black and white.

Laptop and paint palette on the bed with a half grapefruit
This image is desaturated but still retains some muted colours in the background. Instagram photo credit: @meohmygirl

This technique does does two things:

It doesn't just work for flatlays and still life photography either. Take a look at how this technique has been used to remove the colour in the background of these photos using people as the subject.

See how well the skin tone stands out against the black and white?

Examples of Instagram models with desaturated backdrops

It all seems really obvious now doesn't it? The only catch is, that to achieve this level of colour-popping detail in your edits takes a certain amount of Photoshop expertise using masks and layers.

Obviously not everyone has access to Photoshop, or wants to spend an hour editing a photo, so let's skip straight to how you can achieve this look right from your mobile phone. Be warned - achieving this effect can be a little fiddly and if you aren't familiar with using Snapseed you may need to experiment with how to use the tools correctly.


How to replicate the desaturated background effect on your mobile phone in two simple steps:

unedited flatlay composition with colour casts
Original unedited photo

Start with your image

Before you start, open up the image into Snapseed and give the image a quick overall edit to brighten it up. This image is straight from my camera, as you can see there are about three different coloured 'whites' present so it is a good candidate to remove the background colour to even up those tones.

I'll be walking you through using just two of the editing tools in Snapseed - Selective and Brush so if you are new to this app you may want to have an explore and experiment with how to use the finger gestures to apply the effects.

Saturation adjustment in mobile phone app Snapseed

Step 1: Selective Edit

performing a selective edit in mobile phone app snapseed

Step 2: Brush Edit

This is where it gets a bit fiddly but you will have greater control over which areas of your image you edit.

zooming in to use the brush to edit image in snapseed
Zoom right in on your image before you start to paint this effect on with your fingertip

Painting on the selective edit effect in mobile app snapseed
Hit the eye icon on the bottom left to see what areas you are colouring and it will show up in red.

The finishing touches

Well that was quite easy wasn't it? Once you have the desired effect you can finesse your edit or apply the filter of your choice. What do you think about this effect? Do you like it and will you be using this technique on your photos in the future?

Before and after - how much better do those white tones look now?

before image with original unedited photo and after edit in snapseed

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