Michael Lopp takes us inside his editing process to get photos up on Instagram. There are some good tips here if you want to emulate his high-contrast style, but his best piece of advice is this:
A good picture tells a complete story. There is a beginning, a middle and an end. Unlike an actual written story, the words are captured in objects, color, light and arrangement. But the combination of each of these aspects is only half the story. The other half is provided by the viewer. It’s the story they tell themselves as they process the image in a way that is entirely unique to them.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have noticed that, more than having a specific aesthetic, I try to tell a short story in each photo. It’s not always (read: usually) successful, but whether it’s a lovely autumn day, a rainy wintry day, or an oppressive interior, there’s something there that I like. That’s really important: being intrigued by the scene yourself, and trying to impart that sense to your viewer.
Since Lopp shared his software of choice, I figure I should; in the spirit of open-ness, and all. I usually shoot with the standard camera, and import into one of Snapseed, Afterglow, or PictureShow (that last one can be a bit of a pain sometimes). I aim for a lower-contrast look, with a certain depth to the tonal quality. Once I’m finished bouncing the photo between those apps, I finish it up in VSCOcam.
By the way, the above are affiliate links. I’m recommending the apps genuinely (they’re all good), but I do get a small kickback if you buy one of them.