How To Brighten Up Your Travel Photos With Instagram Filters

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My poor iPhone. It tries so hard. And, yet, despite its best efforts, it sometimes has trouble balancing light in the photos I snap.

I recently moved to Madrid, Spain, so I’m relying on my iPhone more than ever to capture what I see, and capture it on a whim. When you’re living or traveling aboard and exposed to so many picture-perfect shots, you want to make sure your photos (especially the ones you share with those back home!) come out sublime.

As I taxied into the city on my first morning here, I whipped my phone out to snap a photo of the Puerta de Alcalá. The impressive monument, commissioned by King Carlos III in 1746, is considered the gate to the city. Its grey archways and intricate details pop against the bed of pink and white flowers below.

Or, at least, they should.

Here’s what I ended up with:

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While my picture is okay, it’s nothing special (especially because the car’s dashboard made a cameo). Luckily, I had a secret trick up my sleeve to brighten the image in all of the right places without uploading it to my computer and playing with contrast, exposure, and tone. (Well, maybe not so secret.)

Instagram filters.

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The right filter on this photo draws the focus right where it should be: at the top of the Puerta’s middle archway. This subtle light shift also darkens the pavement in the lower part of the photo, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve. As an added bonus, the filter added a bluish hue to the sky, making the morning fog look a little bit more picturesque than it really was.

It’s easy to brighten up your travel photos with Instagram filters – all it takes is a swipe of the finger to find the one that brightens your photo as you would with Photoshop or other photo-editing applications.

Here are two more examples of how Instagram has enhanced some of my on-the-street travel photos. (Spoiler alert: I got more than 20 likes for both of these pictures. They look that good!)


Example 2:

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The sun was extremely bright on the Sunday afternoon that I snapped this image of the Palacio de Cristal, a former botanical museum in the heart of Madrid’s well-traversed public green space called the Parque del Gran Retiro. I wished that the building could’ve been brighter when I looked down at my iPhone screen after snapping the picture, but then I remembered Instagram’s Rise filter.

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Voila. The brighter, warmer hue not only highlights the glass building, but the pond and grass in the foreground as well. And thanks to the square-shaped crop, the crookedly growing tree looks interesting, rather than out of place.


Example 3:

I have a confession to make: I don’t know what this building is. It’s just around the corner from my new Spanish apartment, but, beyond that, I don’t know its purpose. It is beautiful, though, especially when the clouds and sun are out in full force behind it. Sadly, my iPhone got too distracted by nature to highlight the gorgeous building in front.

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Not to worry, though; I knew how to fix this one. I am almost positive that I relied on the Rise filter to fix this one, too. I think this is my favorite shot of the bunch.

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The building almost glows now, and, with such intricate detailing along the windows and roofline, it kind of deserves to.

From what I’ve read, some of the best Instagram filters for brightening photos are Amaro, Rise, Walden and 1977. How has an Instagram filter improved your photos? Let us know in the comments section below!

If your Instagram-filtered travel photos have led to masterpieces worthy of wall art, why not get them mailed to your loved ones back home? Just go to to ship your delightful travel mementos to your family or friends in the US!

Andrea graduated from the University of North Carolina, where she studied journalism and once saw Michael Jordan at a bar. She's currently teaching English in Spain, writing about her experiences, and snapping as many photos of her travels as she possibly can.

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