The scenes are familiar: board rooms, cafes, and cubicles. But the people inside are aliens. You can tell by their too long, too firm handshakes. They’re beyond perfect.

Stock photo of business people

Doesn’t it give you the shivers? I see too many websites relying on stock photos like this to fill the big, magazine style layouts arranged by today’s web designers. But why would you let these pod people stand in for you?

I’ve already written about how to take your own stock photos. These are pictures of your staff and facility you can use in your web design and other marketing materials. Once you’ve got those pictures, what do you do next?

Choose a Mobile Photo Editing App

Everyone’s a photographer. Not everyone is good. And that’s one good reason to hire somebody to professionally take pictures. Before you rush to the mobile app store and buy a dark room full of junk to try yourself, see if you can work with a pro to plan a photo shoot that matches your communication needs.

But the pictures you already have might be gems as well. And you can’t always have somebody lurking around the office to get that perfect candid shot. When you’ve decided to work with what you have, it’s time to pick an app to edit with.

Note: Instagram is not a photo editing app. We’re looking at stand-alone editing software here.

Snapseed is an old favorite. There’s classic controls like crop, rotate and sharpen as well as trickier tools like selective tune and lens blur. You can easily blast your pics with grunge filters too. But don’t. Snapseed is free and perfectly powerful to carefully enhance your snapshots.

VSCO Cam is my favorite camera and editing app. It’s kind of hipster. But I like the camera for its hold-and-release shutter (decreases shakiness). And I like the editing tools for their restraint. While Snapseed’s like a desk stuffed with art supplies, VSCOcam’s limited tools keep you from the pit of Instagram disasters.

The steps outlined below walk you through editing an image with VSCOcam for iOS. If you haven’t already, read my post on best practices for taking your own stock photos. We’ll start with the raw picture I took for that post and use VSCO Cam to correct and subtly enhance the image.


Sara and Leisha's unedited snapshot


Sara and Leisha's edited snapshot

The edits are simple, but make a big difference.

Import Your Picture

When you open VSCO Cam for the first time, you’re dropped off in the Library. This is the collection of all the photos you’ve taken so far with the app. That’s different from your iOS Camera Roll. If don’t have any pictures in VSCOcam yet, your Library is empty and your screen will be mostly black.

Tap the + button to open your camera roll and select pictures to import. For a step by step guide, read “Importing images and applying presets” by VSCO.

Tune Exposure

Once your picture is imported, it shows up in the Library. Tap the picture to select it. You’ll see a green border appear around selected images. You’ll also notice a row of icons appear at the bottom. Tap on the tools icon on the far left to enter Edit mode.

In VSCO cam, the paint brush represents presets. The wrench is your other editing options.

Swipe your finger up to open the tools menu. Tap the wrench icon to begin editing. We’ll start with tuning the exposure. This is the most important thing you can do to improve the final quality of your pictures. Exposure helps you compensate for images that turn out too dark or too light.

Tap exposure (the lamp/sun icon) to begin. Slide the dial down to decrease exposure and up to increase it.

If there’s a person in your picture, tune it so skin tones look normal. For a step by step guide, read “Exposure Tool” by VSCO.

Screenshot of Sara and Leisha's photo being edited

Crop and Straighten

Full disclosure: I don’t always hold the camera totally straight. On those days, I need to use Straighten to fix things. Tap the Rotate icon and slide your finger left and right to adjust it. Tap the check mark to save your changes and return to the edit menu. Tap the Crop icon to adjust your picture’s shape. For a full step by step, read “Rotate and Crop” by VSCO.

Apply Preset

VSCO Cam comes with a variety of free presets (think: filters) and a full catalog of others you can buy.

Presets let you cheat by applying ready-made style to your pictures. But don’t go crazy. The idea is to pick one that suits your brand and use your judgement to tone it down. Nobody wants to go full-Instagram on their website. I adjusted the F2 preset down to three. Four seemed “too much”.

Tap the check mark to save your preset and return to the Presets menu. Swipe up to open the tools menu. Tap the check mark to save all of your changes and return to the Library.

Screenshot of Sara and Leisha's photo being edited with a preset

Save to Camera Roll

Now that your image is tuned-up and ready to share, we need to get the image file out of VSCO Cam, on to your phone’s Camera Roll and finally, out of your phone and on to your desktop.

Start by selecting your image in the Library. Tap the up arrow icon in the options that appear. Choose Save to Camera Roll from the menu. VSCO Cam will export your image so it shows up in Camera Roll (located in the Photos app).

Send to Your Desktop

Here’s the tricky part. You may already have your own method for transferring pictures from your phone to your desktop. Whatever that is, go ahead and do it.

The easiest way might be to email yourself the picture. Open your favorite mail app and add the image as an attachment or in the body of the message. When you check mail on your desktop, download the picture from your message.

However, the simplest way might be Dropbox and Carousel. These two apps work together to sync your Camera Roll to a folder in your Dropbox account. If you do a lot of picture taking with your phone, this could be a time saver.

Share with Your Web Designer

We’ve made it so very far. Your edited picture is now on your desktop computer. People stop and admire it as they pass. But the journey isn’t complete. It’s time to do something with that picture! Use Dropbox to share with your web designer, marketing friend, graphics gal or blog post bro to make something cool. Or make something cool yourself. You can do it.

Don’t have time to read about a good visual content strategy? Watch our webinar instead.