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For some, the past several years on Instagram have meant putting the effort in to make sure a theme in photo aesthetics is maintained, as well as a general new flow of creativity in making posts unique. Whether this has been through lighting flares, collages or background doodles– the time for originality in your Instagram posts is most certainly here, and these are the top ten apps to help you get started.

An iphone (in the screen you can see the app of instagram open) next to a plant
Photo by Laura Chouette from Unsplash

Adobe Lightroom

Ever wonder how influencers get that perfectly matching, aesthetically pleasing instagram theme? They’re probably using Adobe Lightroom, a free mobile version of the desktop application all photo editors know and love! With an easy to use platform, Adobe Lightroom allows you a lot of creative freedom in editing your photos. From sharpening tools to precision light, color, effect, detail and optic editing, you really can’t go wrong with this app. The best part of it all? You can download presets that’ll do all the hard work editing FOR you! I’ve recently started using this preset pack by Allison Bickerstaff, and it’s yet to do me dirty. Most packs offer several preset filter options for you to choose from, all catering to different the different lighting, etc. that each photo you take might have. If I had to keep only one photo editing app on my phone at all times, it’d be Adobe Lightroom with zero second thoughts– it’s just that good.

VSCO

There’s a reason VSCO is as popular as it is– it’s a bomb photo editing app, with what feels like hundreds of filters and the ability to customize them based upon your own tastes. Recently, I’ve started using this app less thanks to my Lightroom presets, but for an entire two years before, I was a paying member with all the extra exclusive tools and features. Even without purchasing, though– you’re still allowed so many different kinds of filters, as well as the ability to plan your feed, if you’re more of a lowkey kinda person. Honestly, this app is probably the closest you’ll come to Adobe Lightroom, and is perhaps a bit easier to use just because of how familiar it is to most people.

Snapseed

The hidden gem of the group! This app is probably one of the most detailed in terms of enhancing and editing photos. With tools like image tuning, healing, multiple different brushes, tonal contrast, lens blur and filtering options like vintage, drama, grain, grunge and noir, this app is perfect for if you’re going for a preset-esque kind of editing job, without paying a pretty penny for it. My favorite tool is definitely the drama filters, as they’re customized based on the lighting of your photo, and can be paired together by editing the strength of whichever you choose.

Unfold

Instagram stories have been having their moment recently, and I couldn’t be happier! For those of you wondering how people get those collage-esque, beautifully edited story posts, this is the app for you. There’s a huge array of different, simpler templates for you to choose from, with multiple fonts and text styles to go along with them. To me, the best part is the ability to add videos to collages, as well as different stickers and background options. With Unfold, Instagram story editing has never been easier.

Storyluxe

Of course, I can’t forget Storyluxe! This app sort of has the same vibe as Unfold, it’s just a bit more unique and artistic. On Storyluxe, templates will range from polaroid and film styles, to premade collages and floral overlays to fit your photos into. This app allows for some divergence to the common, geometric look, and has plenty of purchasable options to allow for some range as well.

Plotaverse

If you’re anything like me, you probably love the occasional landscape photo of buildings, landmarks, forestry, waterfalls, etc. As an avid Disney World traveller, I’ve had my fair share of posts involving Cinderella’s Castle, the iconic Epcot ball, and other amazing spots like that. Recently, I’ve seen a lot of still photos posted with small motion animations bringing them to life. If you’re not a Photoshop expert, I’ve found that Plotaverse is the app for this! It’s extremely simple to use, and allows you to create unique motions that will add motion to particular aspects of your photos. For instance– altering a waterfall to make it look like its flowing, adding motion to clouds to make it look like they’re floating. This app is so much fun if you’re looking for a bit of variety in your feed, and is certainly becoming one of my new favorites.

Phonto

One of the simpler apps on this list, Phonto allows you to add text in a variety of different fonts, as well as the ability to download fonts from websites like Google Fonts and DaFont to really take personalization to the next level. I find this app more useful for story editing, however it’s certainly useful if you’re looking to add text to collage posts, inspirational daily reminders, and other fun posts different from the average selfie or group photo.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Light leaks, bokeh camera effects, and a surplus of other textures to add to your photos. Adobe Photoshop Express has them ALL, and the best part is: it’s Light leaks, bokeh camera effects, and a surplus of other textures to add to your photos. Adobe Photoshop Express has them ALL, and the best part is: it’s FREE. Unlike it’s desktop counterpart, this app is mobile, extremely simple to use, and allows a creative flair that most apps just don’t give you. While there’s still the usual brightness and contrast editing, and all that goes along with that, there’s the added plus of HSL photo editing (Which essentially allows you to change the hue of the photo. It’s cooler than it sounds, trust me.), and other healing options that you typically need multiple apps for.. Unlike it’s desktop counterpart, this app is mobile, extremely simple to use, and allows a creative flair that most apps just don’t give you. While there’s still the usual brightness and contrast editing, and all that goes along with that, there’s the added plus of HSL photo editing (Which essentially allows you to change the hue of the photo. It’s cooler than it sounds, trust me.), and other healing options that you typically need multiple apps for.

Union

Finally, the easiest app for layering and combining multiple photos into one! If you’re not keen on the price of desktop Photoshop, but still want to give your photos different backgrounds or foregrounds, Union will help you for free. This app is super cool if you want to change things up in your feed, as it allows you to add backgrounds of your choice– my favorite thing to do is add sparkly, starry or floral backgrounds to my photos, and it’s never been easier with the help of Union!

Preview

Now that you’ve edited your photos and it’s finally time to post them, you’re probably wondering how your photos will look with the rest of your theme. Planning out feeds has surely become a bit of a trend in recent years, and Preview is here to help! Not only does the app allow you to upload your Insta photos privately before you post them, but the app gives you real time analytics and allows you to schedule posts ahead of time. This app has been my personal life saver, as I used to keep a separate, private Instagram account meant for planning my feed. It was always such a hassle switching between accounts, deleting and reposting to see what would work and not really having the freedom that an app like Preview gives you. With a single swipe of your finger, you can reorganize posts in your planned feed, ensuring everything is up to perfection before you finally post on your Instagram account.

iPhone showing instagram on a table with a plant next to it
Photo by Alex Bracken from Unsplash

And with that… Aesthetic: achieved!

Christina Papadopoulos is a student at Drexel University pursuing her B.A. and M.S. in Communication. She is a freelance writer with a passion for all things film, tv, classic rock, video games, comic books, and fashion.