Instagram filters can be the bane of a photographer’s existence, but sometimes, it can just be fun to experiment with filters to get the end result. Today, I’m going to show an experiment I tried with layering filters. I’ve used two iPhone applications to create the image: the social networking app Instagram and photo editing app InstaCollage Pro (I’m using the free edition here for a demonstration of what you can achieve).

First, I’m going to start with this quick picture I snapped:

Working with Instagram Filters: Original Photo

I’m going to be concentrating on some of the cloud formations to create a more dramatic look. First, I’m going to open the photo using InstaCollage Pro and I’m going to crop the photo.

Working with Instagram Filters: Crop photo

Since I’m here, I’m also going to apply a Sharpen filter quickly on the image.

Working with Instagram Filters: Sharpen Photo

At this point, I have the image I want with a degree of sharpness to make it easy to work with for future filters. Now I’m going to apply InstaCollage Pro’s ‘Pink’ filter to jump up the color and make it more dynamic.

Working with Instagram Filters: Add Pink Filter

Now we’re talking! I’m going to overlay this image again with the ‘Haze’ filter to make the tones a bit richer and more vibrant.

Working with Instagram Filters: Add Haze Filter

We’re not quite there yet. Let’s add that filter one more time.

Working with Instagram Filters: Add Haze Filter (again)

Ooh, now it kind of looks like the sky is on fire, or we’re looking across a strange ocean with mountains in the background. Let’s add one last filter with InstaCollage Pro before we move over to Instagram. This one’s going to be the ‘Polaroid’ filter.

 

Working with Instagram Filters: Add Polaroid Filter

Okay, now I’m going to bring the photo over to Instagram, and start using the additional editing tools that Instagram offers. First, let’s drop the brightness a little bit. This is going to help some of the other filters and adjustments’ changes be easier to see; if it’s too bright, it’s hard to see what you’re doing.

Working with Instagram Filters: Decrease Brightness

Alright. Let’s knock down the warmth a little bit, as well. After all, this is a picture of a sunset, not a bonfire!

Working with Instagram Filters: Decrease Warmth

The next few steps deal with what is similar to Photoshop’s Levels tool; we’re going to make modifications to the highlights and shadows in the image.

Working with Instagram Filters: Increase Filters

You can see that the lightest areas in the photo (in this case, the yellow in the clouds, and a bit of the purple sky in the bottom right) are brightened up and a bit more vibrant. Our next step is to darken the shadows, which you’ll see most in the top left, and around the clouds in the centre of the image.

Working with Instagram Filters: Darken Shadows

Now I’m going to sharpen the image again. The reason why I’m choosing to sharpen the image is to make the clouds in the centre of the image more identifiable. Rather than only making a small change like I’ve done in previous steps, I’m going to sharpen the image a bit more.

Working with Instagram Filters: Sharpen Image

When you look at the image, you can see a lot of vertical lines occurring throughout the image. This is sometimes called artifacts, and it’s the result of so many filters and adjustments being applied to the same low-resolution image that was taken on a cell phone.

My next step is going to be to try and hide some of these vertical lines using Instagram’s linear tilt shift. I’m also going to zoom in and crop the image again, just to help eliminate some of the vertical lines that won’t cooperate with me.

Working with Instagram Filters: Add Linear Tilt Shift

It helps, but it’s not enough. Let’s do it one more time (with another small zoom and crop, as well).

Working with Instagram Filters: Add Linear Tilt Shift

Alright! We’re blurred enough that it doesn’t seem like there’s hideous lines going through the image again. I don’t want to blur it one more time using the linear tilt shift, in case we start losing some of that fancy cloud detail. In fact, let’s try lightening the shadows to help hide some of those artifacts.

Working with Instagram Filters: Darken the Shadows

I’m finding those highlights a little bright now. It’s distracting me from the clouds. So, let’s darken up the highlights just a little bit.

Working with Instagram Filters: Darken the highlights

The whole image seems really pink and purple, so I’m going to use Instagram’s saturation tool to desaturate the colours a bit. It’s not quite like just lightening or darkening an image, but simply fading the depth of the colours to be less intense.

Working with Instagram Filters: Decrease saturation

Well, now it looks kind of boring! Let’s make the whole thing look a little warmer, while still not being as bright, by using the warmth adjustment again. This time, we’ll increase it by about 20%.

Working with Instagram Filters: Increase warmth

Increasing the warmth made some of the detail get lost, so we’ll decrease the brightness to show more detail.

Working with Instagram Filters: Decrease brightness

Okay, final step! As if we haven’t done enough sinful things by using 19 different filters and adjustments on this image, let’s twist the knife a little deeper. We’re going to use the contrast adjustment.

Working with Instagram Filters: Increase contrast

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