You snapped the perfect photo to share on Instagram, and only one thing can make it even better: the perfect filter.
There are dozens to choose from, each brimming with possibility: With the swipe of your finger, you can boost contrast, inject vintage flavor, or simply enhance the overall effect. The bonus? Along with transforming an ordinary snapshot into a photographic work of art, applying a filter can increase the number of views and comments your post receives.
We analyzed the world of Instagram filters, both in the U.S. and around the globe. Which filters do people use most? Which ones draw the most likes from fellow Instagrammers? We mapped and ranked every filter, from Aden to X-Pro II, to get a snapshot of who’s using each. Read on for the intriguing insights.
Here’s a surprise: Clarendon tops the list of most used Instagram filters in every single state. Why? Probably because it’s an all-purpose filter that brightens, highlights, and intensifies shadows for color that pops. Another potential reason for the No. 1 spot: Clarendon is typically the default filter after the Normal option in the editing.
The second-favorite filter in 16 states – including the Pacific Northwest, much of the Midwest, and a few states on the East Coast – is Gingham. It’s a nostalgic choice. Once reserved for videos, this vintage-inspired photo filter lets Instagram users evoke the past. Next, Juno dominates much of the West, South, and Northeast. This popular filter lends color intensity and brightens warm hues; many favor its effects for adding richness and authenticity to urban photos.
Which states’ filter preferences stand out? Though every state favors Clarendon, Montana alone opts for Mayfair as a second choice; Nebraska prefers Walden; and Arkansas turns to Sierra.
When it comes to third-favorite filters in the U.S., Juno and Lark both lead the pack in 12 states respectively, including the West Coast (plus Alaska), Texas, and much of the Midwest. The filter adds warmth and punches up color, which makes it ideal for a variety of applications. Gingham comes next (predominantly in the West) thanks to its ability to desaturate colors to add a vintage look.
Which states march to their own beats? Nebraska and Delaware appreciate the Sierra filter; and California and Kentucky like Ludwig.
Next, we zoomed out to look at Instagram filters around the world.
Unsurprisingly, Instagram users in 119 countries (the vast majority of the world) filter most of their photos with Clarendon. Also the favorite filter in every U.S. state, Clarendon is beloved among Instagrammers for its ability to instantly take a photo from bland to dazzling. Who loves Clarendon? Virtually all of North and South America, Europe, Russia, Asia, and Australia, as well as much of Africa.
Second-place Juno (preferred in four countries) is also a general-purpose filter; it imbues rich tones and makes reds, oranges, and yellows pop. Third-place Valencia and Sierra – popular in Bosnia and Serbia, as well as Kyrgyzstan – injects warmth, a yellowish tint, and a subtle fade for old-school flair.
Familiar filters dominate the list of the world’s second-favorites: Juno (in 38 countries), Valencia (in 29), and Gingham (in 20). Valencia, which boosts exposure and heightens colors, takes second billing, when it comes to second favorites, in 29 countries – including much of South America and central Europe, as well as Iceland, Russia, and Kazakhstan. Users in 20 countries opt for vintage-inspired Gingham.
The list of third-favorite filters across the globe features familiar options, including Gingham, Valencia, and Lark. The X-Pro II filter – often compared to a Photoshop technique – boasts users in 11 countries using it third-most frequently. This brash filter adds a dose of drama by boosting contrast, warming colors, and adding a vignette effect.
From trees dripping with moss to waves lapping at a sandy shore, the natural world is a breathtaking subject for Instagram photos. Your best bet for drawing likes from fellow nature lovers? Valencia. With an average of 121 likes per post, this favored filter ups exposure and warmth and intensifies dull colors.
Interestingly, #nature photos with no filter (Normal) come in second for likes, averaging 91 per post. One theory? The #nofilter movement – especially popular among Instagrammers who photograph nature and forgo filters as a point of pride – may help fuel Normal’s popularity. Third on our list, the Brooklyn filter garners an average of 87 likes per #nature post; purportedly inspired by New York, it imbues warmth. The Amaro filter (averaging 83 likes) brightens #nature photos.
For many Instagrammers, #fashion photos are where it’s at – and the app is as good as a ticket to an invite-only runway show. But simply sharing photos of the latest styles may not be enough to guarantee likes on Instagram. Forgoing a filter garners a #fashion post an average of 87 likes, putting Normal in fifth place.
Want to really make a statement when you post pics of your new outfit (and those gorgeous boots)? #fashion photos filtered with Kelvin average 162 likes – not too shabby! Though Kelvin gets a bad rap for being less than flattering, fashion-forward Instagrammers apparently embrace it for its unique radiant-meets-retro effect: Kelvin adds warmth, boosts saturation, and lends an ethereal golden glow.
In second place with an average of 118 likes, Valencia puts a fresh spin on #fashion snaps thanks to a boost of exposure and color as well as a slightly antique appearance. Nashville (in third place, averaging 116 likes per post) pairs warmth and exposure with quiet contrast for a retro, romantic effect – ideal for that flirty dress.
Pasta smothered in sauce and cheese. Caramel-drizzled cheesecake. A perfectly ripe strawberry. Many foodies love sharing snapshots before they dig in. But as food magazine staffers have known for years, sometimes even the most mouthwatering meals can benefit from a visual touch-up. Enter the Skyline filter: With an average of 91 likes per #food photo it’s applied to, Skyline takes images to the next level by intensifying colors – ideal for anyone trying to eat (and share) the rainbow.
In second place, #food photos with no filter (Normal) draw an average of 86 likes – not necessarily surprising, given that subtlety is key when it comes to producing an appetizing #food pic. (Ever over-filtered a bowl of soup into a puddle of unrecognizable slop?) In fact, natural light, a creative angle, and a careful crop can be every bit as important as any filter. Images filtered with third-place Helena – which imbues contrast in color and temperature – garner 63 likes on average.
When it comes to Instagram photos, the #selfie is in a class of its own – no big deal if someone doesn’t love your leggings, cheeseburger, or artfully arranged flowers, but you want them to like your face. What purpose should a #selfie filter serve? Ideally, it should increase warmth and contrast and enhance color – in other words, make you look “gorg.” The right filter can even out your skin tone, make your eyes pop, and disguise dark circles.
In general, photos that feature people’s faces tend to receive a respectable number of likes and comments. Surprisingly, the most liked filter for selfies is none at all: Selfies with no filter (Normal) draw an average of 78 likes. Score one for natural beauty! (And chalk up another win for #nofilter fans.)
Slumber comes in second, with an average of 69 likes. This subtle filter is a flattering choice for faces, as it softens images and subtly shifts hues. Averaging 67 likes per post, third-place Skyline isn’t just for jazzing up cityscapes: The popular filter gives colors an extra kick, leading to bright eyes and pretty lips in a #selfie.
Instagram users turn to filters for a variety of purposes – from punching up colors to highlighting a key feature, adding vintage appeal to simply boosting a photo’s fun quotient. Clarendon rules the world, as well as the U.S. Juno, Valencia, and Gingham are favorites as well.
When you’re choosing a filter, consider your subject – as our results reveal, you probably want to choose a different filter for that colorful salad than you used for the shot of your toes in the sand. After all, your Instagram cred may depend on it!
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We looked at the filters and geolocation data of more than 1 million recent Instagram photos from around the world for the hashtags #nature, #fashion, #food, and #selfie.
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