6 Smart Photoshop Tricks to Create Kill-It Instagram Photos (for Photoshop amateurs)

Photoshop Tricks to Create Kill-It Instagram Photos

Do you want to know how to create Instagram photos that look amazing both on a big monitor’s screen and on a tiny phone screen? Already frustrated with all the dull and pale looking Instagram images which catch almost no eye?

Thanks to Adobe’s Photoshop, anyone can create Instagram photos that attract people with almost every taste.

Here is our step-by-step tutorial to professionally improve an average looking photo to nail it on Instagram.

Before we dive in!

Before going through our six smart Photoshop tricks, let’s choose a photo and open it in Photoshop.

We picked the following image, for it is very dark and pale, it was taken by an ordinary phone’s camera, and most importantly it has the necessary qualifications to be an Instagram photo.

Right-click the image and select “open with,” and then open the version of Photoshop installed in your computer.

Now let’s begin.

Step 1: Get ready for Instagram photos compression

Instagram compresses all images uploaded to it for the sake of space and speed optimization.

Compression might cause quality issues to images that were not optimized for the Instagram algorithm.

To prepare the Instagram photo for compression, we need to make sure that the images are sRGB, 8-bit channel.

At the bottom of Photoshop there is an arrow. Click the arrow and select “Document Profile” from the list.

Photoshop RGB Photo
Click the document profile to display the color channel of the image.

Obviously, our image is RGB and not sRGB. If an RGB photo gets uploaded on Instagram, the quality and colors will change.

To convert the image to sRGB, click Edit->Convert to Profile. Open the Profile section and from the dropping list select sRGB, and hit “OK.”

Convert photo to sRGB
Make sure to do this first step before doing any other thing to the image.

Now to see if it is a photo of 8-bit channel, choose the Image tab, then Mode, and there choose 8-bit.


Now that we are ready for photo compression on Instagram, lets got to step 2.

Step 2: Adjust brightness and contrast

The background and UI color of Instagram are always white.

So before adjusting the brightness and contrast of our Instagram photos, we need to convert the background in Photoshop to white.

To do this, right-click the background (a.k.a. canvas) and click “select custom color.” Then slide the color to white corner and click “OK.”

Change background color in Photoshop

Here see how Instagram photos look like with white background:

White background

With a black background, pictures will look vibrant and fantastic, but as Instagram is white, our image will look a little bit pale and dull.

See how the same photo changes with two different background color:

Different backgrounds

To adjust photo colors, at the right bottom of Photoshop panel, click the adjustment layer icon, and select “Curves”:

adjustment layers Photoshop

Here move the arrows left and right to reach your desired adjustment.

Contrast and adjustment

This creates a contrast in Instagram photos and makes them more vibrant.

Here is the difference:

before and after light adjustment
Before (right) and after (left) light adjustment

Step 3: Add a little warmth

First of all, download and save warms filter, so that we can give a little warmth to our photo:

Now, to make photos pop on Instagram, and draw more attention, let’s make some color adjustment to our photo.

To adjust the color of Instagram photos, select adjustment layer again, and “color look-up.”

color lookup Instagram photos Photoshop
Adjust the color of Instagram photos

When the panel opens, click on “3DLUT file” and load the file just downloaded from the link above.

Note that you need to set the file type at “3DL” when opening it:

set file type in Photoshop
Before you can see the file, set the format on 3DL.

Note: to make the warmth work, choose the main layer before loading the file.

Now see how the Instagram photo changed to a warm hue:

Instagram photo with warmth and without warmth
Before (left) and after (right) applying the warmth filter

You can also change the warmth capacity by choosing the color lookup layer and adjusting it the way you want:

adjust warmth capacity
Adjust the warmth capacity to have pleasant Instagram photos.

To add more vibrancy to this Instagram image, we can play a little bit with a selective color adjustment layer.

Open adjustment layers->selective color, in the panel that opens play with the arrow to reach your desired result.

Step 4: crop and resize Instagram photos

According to Instagram, the aspect ratio for Instagram images is between 1.91:1 and 4:5. Now, we want to crop Instagram photos with a suitable aspect ratio. I choose 1:1 for this photo:

 1:1 aspect ratio Instagram photo
1:1 aspect ratio will give us an entirely square Instagram image

Now let’s resize our photo. Instagram says that the width of Instagram photos must be 1080 pixels.

On Image tap, select “Image Size”. Chose set measurement on pixels and type in 1080. Then click ok.

Now let’s go through step number five, which is sharpening.

Instagram photos width
Instagram photos have a width of 1080 pixels.

Step 5: Sharpen the photo

In order to sharpen the Instagram photo, we need to create a new layer, and merge all the changes and layers we have made into one.

To create this merged layer press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E, and the layer is formed above all of the other layers.

Rename this layer to whatever you wish. I name it “sharpen.”

Merged layer
This layer is a merged one of all the other layers and changed made.

Now in “Filter” tab, select “convert for smart filters” to convert the new layer to a smart object.

Again go to filter->other->high pass.

Decrease the Radius, now increase the radius from zero to somewhere that the general photo lines are visible, without color. Then hit ok.

Sharpening Instagram photos
Increase the radius so that the details are barely noticeable.

Now change the blend mode to “overlay”:

Overlay blend mode Photoshop

Now the final step, Export.

Step 6: Export photo

To export this photo, click “File” tab, select Export->Export As, and there it is:

Export image for Instagram
Make sure all the parameters are set as shown above.

Now Export ALL, and you know how to create beat-it Instagram photos.


In 6 steps, we learned to:

  1. Get ready for Instagram photos compression
  2. Adjust brightness and contrast
  3. Add a little warmth
  4. crop and resize Instagram photos
  5. Sharpen the photo
  6. Export photo

Please share with us the Instagram photos you created, and let us know your tips and tricks.

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