Science Just Determined Which Instagram Filters Everyone Should Use


Rise is the best Instagram filter, hands down. No, wait, actually, maybe Amaro takes the top spot. Then again, Hudson really does seem to get the most likes...

As ridiculous as it may seem, this inner monologue is something that has run through the head of virtually every Instagram user. Luckily for us, science has finally figured it out. Researchers at Yahoo Labs and the Georgia Institute of Technology examined 7.6 million photos uploaded from mobile to Flickr. Using a quantitative analysis of the number of views and comments, the team determined which photo-editing tools are the most effective.

The results: In terms of engagement, photos that use filters are much more successful than photos that do not. In fact, an audience is 21% more likely to look at a filtered photo and 45% more likely to comment on it. 

Specifically, filters that increase warmth, contrast and exposure correlate with a higher incidence of engagement. In Instagram-specific terms, that means filters like Mayfair, Valencia and Nashville do well. On the other end of the spectrum, filters that have an overly exaggerated effect — think X-Pro II or Kelvin — don't have as big of an impact, often because they look artificial and can lead to a loss of detail.

Yahoo Labs/Georgia Institute of Technology

The types of people who use filters: The researchers also interviewed Flickr mobile users, who further confirmed the fact that most people enjoy using and seeing filters. The difference, however, came from the types of photographers the researchers spoke with — professionals or nonprofessionals. 

The professionals — "serious photography hobbyists who own professional cameras aside from their mobile devices" and "have knowledge of photo post-processing outside of mobile" — are most likely to use filters to fix photo errors, for enhancement or to emphasize colors or specific objects. 

Nonprofessionals, on the other hand, use filters more recreationally. "The casual photographers like to give cool and unique [looks] to their photos by applying filters. Filters help them make their photos appear cooler and sometimes more fun," the researchers reported.

So, all those snobby friends who accuse you of using Instagram to make yourself look cooler? They may be correct in that assumption. On the other hand, your filtered photos are likely getting much more love than their boring, nonfiltered photos, so who really wins out in the end? (Hint: you.)

Keep on using those filters. Your Instagram followers will thank you.