Here's a painful sitch: what do you do when you're riding a pink unicorn carousel, you need the whole world to know, but you don't quite know how to edit your Instagram photos to their maximum potential?

We checked out Refinery 29's interactive "Turn It Into Art" exhibit at 29Rooms, a showcase of amazing art installations that are meant to focus on the healing and community-building power of creativity. With a heavy focus on involvement, we naturally had a very therapeutic time playing in an island snowstorm, drinking Dunkin Donuts coffee, and wearing a variety of paint-covered jackets. And obviously, we needed the receipts.

But after all was said and done our pictures were definitely not awesome enough for the gram, just plagued with common problems like blurriness, faded shots, and darkened faces. So we played around hard with the edit tools to properly liven up the art, to make this already Instagrammable adventure, well, more Instagrammable. And this is how, step by step, we did it.

How to Photograph a Pink Unicorn Carousel

unicorn carousel

This is a thing of beauty, truly. In a collaboration with Ulta, an old carousel was repainted, repurposed, and ready for riding. The lighting wasn't amazing for photos, but um, but I'm not going to NOT get a shot of me on a pink unicorn carousel. No effing way. I deleted Twitter to make room for this. My priorities are questionable recently.

Anyway, here's how I altered it.

1) I adjusted the color and made the highlights yellow at +70, so the lights would burn brighter.
2) I amped the brightness up to +50.
3) I set the filter on Hudson +90, because I like blue-ifying my photo and it still lightened up my face.
4) Added +5 to warmth.
5) And used sharpen +30 so it's a bit less blurry.

For this, the ultimate goal was to make sure that people knew that it was, in fact, me riding that pink unicorn carousel, in case the mini-dress, Doc Martens, and unwashed hair wasn't a giveaway. Did you see?

How to Photograph Yourself Partying in a Juicy Couture Snowglobe

art instagram snowglobe

Spoiler alert: I ran into my friend Rich later and he commented on how I was covered head to toe in confetti. It was all in my boots. It's all in my everywhere. We took a lot of shots, but ultimately I wanted to look a bit less hazy in the middle of this tropical blizzard.

1) First we did some re-sizing
2) Then we brightened the image +10
3) Used a bit of contrast +5
4) Pushed the brightness to +10
5) Coffee break
6) Added structure +30 because I really wanted more definition
7) Used +20 Claredon filter because that filter is my jam
8) Scrapped all of it and just used a blue-tinted boomerang

The moral of this story is that when you have the opportunity to show movement, show movement. There are reasons these apps exist.

How to Photograph Yourself as a Living Art Installation

art instagram human portrait

Pro Tip: it always helps to enlist someone with a creative eye to do your shots, and artist Alexa Meade helped me by taking really fun pics. Alexa turns people into portraits, transforming something static into something moving, breathing, feeling. Her work epitomizes vibrancy, and I really loved how she took the time to pose and dress me.

Unfortunately, my iPhone camera is bad.

Really I wanted to make the pictures a bit more color-rich like it was IRL, and the lazy move for that is to go hard on saturation. The thing is, when you use the saturation tool and are naturally tan, it deepens your skintone and makes you look full Oompa-Loompa. I wan to not do that, so this is what I did instead.

1) I wanted to make the black pop up a bit more against the colors, so I added +25 to the shadows.
2) I sharpened it +30.
3) And I added the Hefe filter +50 just to get it a bit more yellow.

How to Photograph Yourself as a Living Art Installation but in a Boss Rainbow Coat

alexa meade art wall

Honestly, if you are given the opportunity to shoot multiple pictures in a cool environment take it. Never feel shame about having a full blown photo shoot for social media, but feel free to change up your look, as I did with this jacket (it's Alexa's favorite). As far as the photo itself goes, all I wanted to do was make the rainbow effects stronger, so I…

1) Sharpened it +20
2) Brightened it +10
3) Contrasted it +10
4) Shadows +20, because, again, wanted to deepen the dark against the colors.
5) And applied a bit of LoFi, just +20, because while it deepened the shadows too much in the previous photos, it intensified the colors nicely here.

Overall, counteracting lighting, clarity, and color issues means tampering with tools that bring out certain small problematic elements, and trying not to go overboard with anything. But my biggest bit of advice? Take time to live in the moment versus worrying about social media appearances…but once that moment's over, definitely see what the Claredon filter can do for you.


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