How I Edit My Bookstagram Photos

Every week, I get a handful of questions asking me how I edit my bookstagram photos. (@bethsbookshelf on Instagram)

I’m here to break down the fourth wall a little and show you mine, even though I don’t edit my photos like this anymore. 

First of all, here are a selection of my edited Instagram photos:

As you can see, I’m currently going for a rustic, warm, desaturated looks like thrives on neutrals and woods and soft florals. This will probably change in time because I tend to grow impatient with certain Instagram themes.

On the other hand, this is what my bookstagram photos look like before I’ve edited them:

How your Instagram photos look depends almost entirely on how they look unedited. In that, I mean, they must look similar to one another before you’ve edited them. How to achieve that:

  • Take your photos in the same light every single timeIf you shoot on a sunny day, then a rainy day, then a cloudy day, then an early morning, then an early evening, your photos are never ever going to match. Personally, I like to shoot on cloudy days when the sun isn’t directly looking into my windows. For me, that is usually before 10am (during this time of the year). If it’s a super cloudy day, then it can be at any point.
  • Have a predominant style of photo. Some people can magically achieve having an equal mix of flatlays, outdoor shots, windowsill shots, portraits, etc, but I find that to be very difficult. One day, I’d love to achieve that but at the early beginner stages, I find it easier to maintain a feed if you choose a predominant setup. For me, currently, that is including my white bed sheets in some way, usually as a flatlay. These kind of flatlays are the most common photo on my Instagram feed. I find this keeps my theme looking cohesive and together.
  • On the other hand, if you don’t want to do that, I strongly recommend choosing a few colours and making them the predominant tones to your images. I go for soft desaturated warm colours so you’ll rarely find blue, emerald, bright red, bright orange, purple, or bright pink on my feed. Instead, you’ll find lots of whites, browns, black, baby pink, dark natural green, soft yellow and desaturated orange. Even with that, white and browns are my predominant colours. For me, that’s easy because I mostly photograph books. I use the shades of an open book to be my starting point. If you’re stuck on choosing a colour theme, open Pinterest and type in ‘colour palette’. From there, you’ll find lots of great ideas!

Once you’ve got a good selection of unedited images, you’re ready to go!

I’m going to share my current editing theme. This works for me because of the lighting and props I work with. It might not work on your photos, and by all means, I encourage finding your own style instead of outright copying what I’m about to share. If you do feel the need to copy, giving credit is always nice 🙂 

1. Step one: VSCO

I’ve loved VSCO for years now, and it comes with some great free filters. Personally, I have a VSCO membership which is around £17 a year. It’s totally worth it for all the tools you get with it, and by any means, cheaper than using Lightroom for a PC.

In VSCO, I apply the M5 filter. A lot of bookstagrammers use this one because it’s rustic and warm and helps to desaturate every colour.


After that, I follow these steps:

  • I drop the exposure by 1 or 2 points.
  • I up the contrast just below 1 point.
  • I sharpen about 3 points.
  • I up the clarity about 2 points.
  • I put the saturation up about 1. (I know I said desaturation is good, but I’ll deal with it better later.)
  • I up the highlights about 7, and the shadows about 2.
  • I up the temperature about 1, but no higher.
  • I drop the skin tone 1 point.
  • Then I use the HSL tool (only available to members) and drop the reds a little; change the hue of the orange to high, the saturation to low, and the lightness to high; I drop the hue and saturation of yellow very low, and the lightness quite high; I leave green, blue and purple the same unless there are very vibrant green, blues and purples in my image.

This is what the image looks like now:

m5 + adds

2. Step two: VSCO (again)

Next, I save the image and reimport it to VSCO.

You might be thinking what, why?

Personally, I find M5 to be a little too strong for my taste, especially when I see all my photos side by side.

So, I reimport it and add a second filter.

This time, I use S2. I put it up to 7.5 and then that’s it! Finished, I save the image.

m5 + s2

This brightens the image, softens the tones and cleans it up a little.

3. Step three: Lightroom

I know I mentioned Lightroom is expensive, and it is, but the Lightroom mobile app is free. 

One day, I’d love a proper Lightroom subscription but for now, the app is really great.

In the app, I have created six different presets to add to my image after the VSCO process.

Depending on the original lighting of my image, I use any of these six. Right now, I’m pretty set on using one, though, which gives my final photo an extra desaturated and cleaner look.

Using Lightroom means that I can get all my photos to match really well. Plus, in VSCO, if I want to go back and do that, I have to reimport it again and again. Whereas in Lightroom, I am editing on top of an already edited image, so I can fidget around with the settings a little easier without affecting the “first draft”, if you like.

In Lightroom, I:

  • Up the exposure to .10
  • Drop the highlights to around -60. Got to get rid of any glares.
  • I bring up the whites to whatever suits, usually about 20, unless there’s a wall, I go higher.
  • Drop the blacks to -20.
  • I drop the saturation to -4.
  • I use the mix tool and drop the orange saturation to -3 and the yellows to -60. In the VSCO app alone, I can’t get my yellows to as low as I like them.

And that’s it!

646ECB0A-87D9-4295-822E-57886143D673 (2).JPG
m5 + s2 + lightroom

This might seem like a long editing process but the copy paste tool on both VSCO and Lightroom makes it really quick 🙂

Here is the process of the images:

Thank you so much for reading! This is the basics of what I do.

However, other apps I love include:

  • afterlight (for dust and glare effects)
  • snapseed (for more specific editing)
  • retouch (for getting rid of objects)
  • kuni cam (for a vintage vibe)
  • colorstory and picsart (for stickers)
  • photoshop (for… photoshopping)
  • over (for stickers and layers)

Hope that helps & can’t wait to see your pics! ❤

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