THE trick to getting fab images from your phone is… editing. Editing lets you override the camera automatic exposure and make the scene look more like how you saw it, not just how the camera saw it.

Our brains are WAY more powerful than our cameras (well, duh)… we see a white wall and know it is white. Our camera assumes we want an “average” exposure (meaning our scene has equal white and black parts) for every image it takes so it sees a white wall and makes it grey. Not what you want, right? So how do you fix it? I am going to show you step by step how to take an average drab image and make it into a FAB image.

From this → to this.

You’ll notice I haven’t just lightened the background but I have also cropped and edited out distractions to make the subject very much the focus of the image. I’ll show you the apps I have used and the step by step instructions to achieve these results.

How to get a white background in your images

Step 1 – Crop

By cropping first it means you aren’t editing parts of the image that won’t be used in the final version and also helps visualise the final composition. I had this composition (utilising negative space to enhance my story) in my head when I took the image. It’s a self-portrait I set up by strapping my phone to a light stand (with an elastic band – I’m all for the DIY as you know!) and used my Apple Watch to position myself and trigger the shutter. You can also use the 10-second self-timer which will set off a burst of images so you have time to position yourself and options of images to use. I’m facing a window to make the most of the natural light.

This crop has already improved the image (I just used the native Photo app on my phone). I look at my face in the cropped image, rather than my hair and head shape in the first.

Step 2 – Get rid of any distractions

So even though I have been able to crop out the airconditioning unit, my messy bedside table is still drawing attention away from my subject (me!). The TouchRetouch app is AMAZING for just this kind of thing. It is easy to use and works well. Simply use the brush tool to select the parts you want to remove and hit GO. Done.

Step 3 – Lighten the background

So now we want to increase the brightness so our background isn’t grey. If we increase the brightness or exposure for the whole image though the subject is going to become too bright, so we need to just select the background. You can do this in Snapseed. In the Tools menu, choose Selection. Then touch the area that you want to lighten and use 2 fingers to increase the selected area. Swipe right to increase the Brightness.


Now we have a more even background but it is still not light enough. Head back to Tools and this time select Brush. Then using the Dodge and Burn option make sure you have a positive number (+5 or +10 depending on the strength you need) and use your finger to brush over the area you want to lighten

(As an aside, Dodge and Burn were coined in the film days when photographers would limit or extend the light used to develop their image.  By “dodging” or covering up the image it would be exposed to less light and therefore be darker than the rest of the image. By “burning” they would allow a part of the image be exposed for longer, thus increasing its brightness. A little history lesson that will hopefully make this tool a little easier to understand.)

Step 4 – Finishing Touches

You could leave it here but I like it a little brighter and crisper so it’s off to one of my favourite apps A Colour Story.

The Essentials Pack is free and is always my go-to. For this image, I chose the Everyday Filter and you can reduce the strength of the filter by using the slider (you can do this in Instagram too by tapping on the filter name again!)

So, with a little bit of editing, we’ve rescued an image… taking it from one you may scroll past in your feed to one that draws your eye immediately to its subject.

If you have any questions please comment below or even just leave me a note letting me know if it was helpful. If it has, I’ll create more of these specific step by step tutorials to get you on your way to mastering your phone photography. I love to be helpful!


phone editing tutorial to get a white background