You’ve often heard the adage…”A photo is worth a thousand words” Eeesh, if that were only true, I could insert one of those bad boys right here and call it a day on this post eh?
But seriously, it’s a common saying because it’s actually true. When it comes to selling travel, something that is intangible at the point of sale, photos play a pivotal part in the sales process. On any social media platform, whether it’s Facebook, Pinterest and especially Instagram, having good eye-catching photo content is key.
But where do you get good content if you aren’t a natural photographer? I’ve seen a lot of travel professionals use stock images as the background for their posts. There are some great websites that I highly recommend if you want to go that route. Sites like:
Not to mention a whole host of paid image libraries as well, but paying for images can quickly add up. So unless your great Aunt Ethel left you a sizable inheritance, I probably wouldn’t go that route.
Stock photography works in a pinch. But the thing with stock photography is that, well…it looks like stock photography. Don’t get me wrong, I have used it myself from time to time on my website when I need a certain image and it just doesn’t make sense for me to jump on a plane and get it myself. But so far, I’ve never used stock images on my Instagram feed.
Some marketing experts in the travel biz warn not to use your own photography in your marketing. They say that unless you are a professional photographer your images will look inexperienced and uninviting. I disagree. With the quality of today’s phone cameras, the affordability of entry level DSLRs, AND with proper post photo editing, you can make just about any image tell a story equal to a 1000 words and more importantly, sell travel.
Plus, building an audience on social media is very much about relationship building. People connect more when they get the sense that there is a real person behind the images. Someone who has really good photos but also photos that they could see themselves taking.
I’m going to share with you my five most favourite photo editing apps. I use these almost on a daily basis. They have a relatively low learning curve and they can turn lacklustre images into something even Mr. Festerbottom, my 10th-grade photography teacher, would take credit for.
Before I go any further…
Let me preface this post with saying that I’m a bootstrapper. If you aren’t familiar with that term it simply means that I’m not someone who is quick to part ways with my money. I will research things until both a Holstein and a Jersey Cow have returned home and are sitting on my couch eating popcorn before I will spend my hard-earned money on anything. With some of the apps, I use the free versions and with some, I actually paid for the upgrade and never regretted it.
AND I am currently not getting paid any affiliate commission for giving the following apps any shout outs. Each and every app I’m about to share with you is an app that I personally use and love and, as the title of this post suggests, couldn’t live without.
A Color Story
This one is one of the most expensive apps I own coming in at a yearly subscription of 24.99 USD. You can also buy a monthly plan for 4.99 USD. There is a free basic version that comes with a few pre-sets and many of the same editing tools you can get in the paid version and then you can add on more bells and whistles as you go along. But if you are like me, you’ll find you quickly fall in love with all it has to offer, and then next thing you know, you are shelling out a buck here and then a buck there. I should have just bought the full-on annual package right from the beginning and been done with it. But because I’m so schnorrer (Yiddish for cheapskate), I didn’t want to shell out the steep yearly subscription rate. Yes, I know, $25 is not that much, but in terms of apps it sure is.
And yes, there is a 7 day free trial period too but I find you never really fully grasp what an app has to offer within 7 days. This is why I’m telling you to just take the plunge, pay the annual fee upfront, and be done with it. It has been worth every cent.
This is the one app I use on every single image I post. Even if I download an image for the website from a stock library, I’ll still throw it through my list of filters so that all my images across all my platforms have the same look and feel to them. This is super important for building brand awareness. You ideally want people to start to recognize your work as they are scrolling through their feeds without looking to see who posted it. All my photos go through the same set of pre-sets so that have a golden, warm hue to them.
And there are just so many pre-sets to choose from. If anything..there are probably too many. From “Candy Minimal” to “On the Road” to “Summer” to “Harvest Moon”! And each filter pack comes with 6 to 8 mini-filter sets within. The options are endless. Do I use all the filter packs…of course not. Again, it’s important to keep your look consistent, but before I settled on the look that felt right to me, I sure had fun playing with all the options.
A Color Story also allows you to batch edit which is an amazing feature. You can pre-set your Instagram grid in advance so you can see how your images will look in relationship to each other and then run them through the same set of filters all in one go.
And beyond the filter packs, the app comes with a very decent editing tool that allows you to play with curves, shadows, exposures, vibrancy, brightness, sharpness, clarity. It’s easy to get carried away with all that you can do – not that I recommend that either but just saying…you have options.
Put it this way…If there was a T-shirt that said I ❤️ A Color Story, I’d probably wear it.
Pixelmator is another fav in my toolbelt. On this one too, I shelled out the big bucks…a one time fee of 6.99 USD at time of writing. Boof! This app also offers a lot of features, most of which I don’t use, because I prefer A Color Story for ease and range of options. And, I find A Color story more intuitive. But what Pixelmator offers that A Color Story doesn’t is the ability to seamlessly remove objects from an image so effortlessly it almost feels like you are cheating – well you are I suppose but 🤫🤫🤫. It’s so dead easy that for this feature alone, it is more than worth that one-time fee equal to a Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks.
Pixalmator uses the concept of layering that those familiar with Photoshop will be used to. Layering allows you to create PNGs* – a very handy feature. However, using Photoshop isn’t for the faint of heart and it comes with a far heftier price tag. So if you want that gorgeous sunrise in front of Angkor Wat without the 3329 people blocking the view, each carrying a selfie-stick – this app does the trick. People are always asking me…what time did you arrive to get a shot without people…..? Ummmm, eeerrrr. A few strokes of my Peter Pointer and abracadabra, I’ve channelled my inner Houdini and made them disappear.
I’ll admit, I don’t use this one as much, so in this case, I have only the free version. It does the trick. I use it whenever I want an extra cool effect of highlighting just a couple of key elements in a photo. Note the image below. ColorPop allowed me to turn the entire image into black and white and then gave me the tools to repaint the vibrant fall leaves back into the image. Cool eh?
There is a paid version as well that removes the watermark but I do that post-editing with Pixelmator above. And the paid version also adds a few other extras, but again, I get all the extras I want and need through A Color Story so there really is no need to pay either the weekly, monthly or yearly rates. There are quite a few similar apps in the App store that essentially all do the same thing. I don’t think it really matters which one you choose, but it’s nice to add at least one to your photo editing tool kit.
Snapseed gets mentioned a lot within the Instagram world. It too is a tool that offers just a few extra features I can’t get through Pixelmator or A Color Story. I won’t necessarily put all my images through a Snapseed processing session but sometimes, when I know I have an extra special sky and I really want to create a WOW effect, Snapseed offers that added oomph that I can’t get otherwise. If you have a looming storm about to break over a field of wildflowers, Snapseed is the best app to give your photo that ominous “Winter is coming John Stark” feel.
And the best part, the free version is more than enough to accomplish this effect.
And saving the best for last…PicMonkey is the one app that kind of belongs in a category unto itself. I use it for everything, far beyond simple photo editing, although it does a great job of that too, so it makes this list. Coming in at just under $80 for an annual subscription, it is also the most expensive of the group but oh so worth every penny.
I love it so much that I will devote a full tutorial on it at a later date. I could go on for a full hour on its many features and still not scratch the surface of just how powerful this app is. I call it the Photoshop for non-techies and it’s the one tool every small business owner should own – no exaggeration.
At the risk of sounding like a complete cheeseball, if I can dream it, I can create it with PicMonkey. With a little monkeying around inside the app, I can bring any idea I have floating around in my head to life. People think I have a graphics design team living in my home office. But nope, it’s just me, my imagination and PicMonkey.
Among the many benefits of this app is that you can upload your brand colours and fonts and create templates to use for multiple occasions. Again this feature is critically important when you are trying to create a consistent feel across multiple platforms. It shouldn’t matter if someone sees something you’ve posted on Pinterest vs. Facebook vs. Instagram. All your images should have a similar look and feel so that people start to connect to your brand from just the flash of an image. Let’s face it…sometimes you only have an instant to catch someone’s attention. PicMonkey helps you standout.
It also has a background image eraser feature that you can enable with just a tap of a finger creating super handy PNGs. Plus, it has hundreds and hundreds of pre-set templates to use for any social media platform imaginable. Whether you are trying to design a Facebook ad, a Pinterest infographic, or an Instagram story…PicMonkey has you covered.
And as a special bonus that comes with the paid version, you also get access to istock by Getty Images which I’ve begun to use exclusively in those times when one of my own pics just won’t do.
There is a free version as well but the free version does not allow you to create your own brand kit so for me, the 80 USD yearly charge is a no-brainer.
So the next time you are wondering what to post and you are confronted with a library of your own so-so images that just don’t seem special enough, try any of the above apps to add some zing. With all that said, I have yet to find an app that can draw on a person’s head if you accidentally cut it off when taking a photo. I might have to tackle photo composition in another post.
Tell me what your favourite app is in the comments below. And if you want to be sure not to miss out on any of my upcoming tutorials, be sure to sign up to my weekly Thursday newsletter.