Stock photo of woman with pink smartphone.

These days, everyone is a self-appointed photographer/curator of some sort, thanks to the accessibility smartphones give us with photo apps and software. All of these techie tips and tricks are available right on your mobile device, making it even easier to acquire some photo-editing skills on the go. Of course, it doesn’t replace committing time and education to a skill that you’d like to develop, but we should start to consider these kinds of photo apps and tools as first steps toward those pro-level goals.

The app Afterlight, in particular, let’s anyone snap a pic, use basic photo-editing techniques to perfect their image, and then share that freshly-edited image with their followers. 

Below are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when acquainting yourself – and using – Afterlight. I’ll discuss different filters, overlay, and other cool elements of the app to help you bring your smartphone images to a whole new level. Let’s go.




It’s easy to apply filters to any photo, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply different editing tools to get exactly the look you want.

In Afterlight, one of the first tabs on the bottom editing bar is for editing your photo. It has all the standard tools – including Brightness, Exposure, Contrast, and others – and it also gives you the option to edit the highlight tones, midtones, and shadow tones.

Each of those options has three colors attached to it: red, blue, and green. You can adjust each level based on how much or how little of each color you’d like to highlight in your photo. 

The selection of filters in Afterlight is one of the greatest qualities of the app. There are five different groups of filters, all of which contain some sort of theme.

  • Original. Contains classic filters, including a range of black, white, and slightly mellower tones with names like emberolive, and chestnut.
  • Guest. Contains filters that have slightly edgier tones, with higher contrasts and more options for sepia-esque colorations.
  • Seasons and Wander. These presets both have a distinct feel, giving your photos a look that is very much edited, but yields classy results. Wander is a personal favorite of mine, with its dramatic contrasts and ghostly colors. I use it for photos that I don’t necessarily want to look realistic, to give them a striking look. 
  • Fusion. The most fun preset of the group, in my opinion. Fusion combines different filters of your choosing – together. You can record your process for combining filters, and in doing so, create a whole new filter. (Example: chestnut + finn = a new filter that you get to name yourself.)



You have the option to apply certain light leaks and film aesthetics to your photo, all within different groups that you can choose from. These achieve a vintage aesthetic for the most part. If you want to apply a dusty lens to your photo and give it an older feel, you can choose from 13 different looks.

You also have 31 choices for light leaks. Light leaks insert a colored glare on the sides of your photo and range in appearance from minimal to major, presence-wise.

  • Instant Film goes for the film photo aesthetic and provides you with 22 different framed choices. 
  • Wander is the most eclectic of the bunch, sort of combining all aspects of the aforementioned into one cohesive look. 



If you want to resize or switch the orientation of your image, you have the option to do so here. They’re all relatively standard options, so if you’d like your photo to be slightly tilted, you can adjust it by selecting the diagonal rectangle.

The last option in this group, right after the tilted rectangle, is overlay. You have a lot of freedom here when selecting the image you’d like to overlay. A good rule of thumb when working with image overlay is to use one image that is contoured, and one image that is textured. You’ll have the option to edit the photo with different presets that will lighten or darken your image. 

  Photo taken from Afterlight Instagram  
Photo taken from Afterlight Instagram  



Afterlight’s abundant selection of frames is what really sets it apart from other photo-editing apps. But, if you want to upload horizontal photos to Instagram, here’s a quick and easy hack: In the set of Original frames, can use the two white bar frame which will maintain your horizontal photo and place the white frame along the top and bottom. (Instagram naturally crops photos to fit their own square, so you can apply the same technique to a vertical photo, and the white frame will run on the the left and right sides of the photo.) 

You also have options to use Silhouettes, Type, Scripts, and Instant Film frames. Once you’ve chosen your frame, you’ll also have the option of changing the frame from white to any other color you’d prefer, and you can even implement a wallpaper instead of colors. (The colors of the wallpapers are somewhat muted and can be adjusted once applied, so that they don’t overshadow your actual photo.)

Be sure to take your time with Afterlight, and you’ll be a pro in no time. Have fun! 



Posted by: