As anyone who uses Instagram already knows, it's absolutely amazing what a filter can do for a photo. I snapped this shot on my walk home earlier this summer and was pretty proud of what I'd captured: An iconic silhouette against an eerily lit sky.
Pre-filter... Photography by Brett Walther.But the application of a simple Instagram filter ramps up the drama considerably. Rich with fiery gold tones, it almost reminds me of one of those gorgeous sunset mattes used in 'Gone With the Wind':
...And Instagrammed! Photography by Brett Walther.Instagram is one of the most basic photo manipulation apps on the market, but it isn't necessarily the best tool if you're interested in editing with a mind to printing. Other online resources and downloadable apps are better suited to manipulating your favourite amateur snapshots for eventual framing (for a potential DIY gallery wall, perhaps?), and best of all, many of them are free! I asked the digital imaging experts in Canadian Living's editorial and art departments to share their fave FREE photo editing tools (online or app-based), and these five were at the top of their list: 1) PIXLR: A great introduction to digital editing, Pixlr's Photo Editor is extremely easy to use, and packs a surprising number of tools for a free online resource. Besides the usual filters, it comes with a variety of pre-set "effects" and allows you to fine-tune things like exposure, balance and saturation. When I first started blogging back in the day (and couldn't afford the Adobe Photoshop licence), this was my go-to site for all my photo formatting needs. Highly recommended for the photo editing newbie. 2) Snapseed: This free downloadable app won an App of the Year distinction in 2012, and is a personal fave of Canadian Living's Assistant Art Director Aimee Nishitoba. It offers a bevvy of automatic editing tools that make adjustments a total breeze, including depth of field and selective brightening, which is a fantastic fix for an image that's marred by a pesky shadow. There's also a great selection of nifty filters and frames on offer, too. 3) PicMonkey: Just the ticket if you're going to be printing up a family photo for your Christmas cards this year, PicMonkey delivers super-cute seasonal effects like frost and snowfall. Although some of the more elaborate effects like overlays are only accessible with a paid membership, there are more than enough bells and whistles (including a good selection of filters and frames) to get the job done, while not reducing file size below print resolution. And if you tend to tinker with your selfies, you've simply GOT to check out the assortment of instant "face fixes," including teeth whitening, spray-tan (yikes!) and eye shadow. A total scream! What's your go-to image editing program? I'd love to hear from you in the Comments below! Follow me on Twitter!