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How Instagram’s Photo Filters Are Used by Top Users


My name is Stefan, and I’m the CTO of the marketing firm Relatable. To facilitate execution of global, large-scale influencer marketing campaigns, we rely a lot on data to give us insights. Using a sample of about 2 million Instagram accounts (with a minimum of 1,000 followers) and 40 million posts, I’ve been digging deep, compiling statistics, finding insights, and just discovering some quirky facts. In this article, I’ll share some of my findings.

Instagram filters are used to enhance photos, to give them that extra edge or just set the mood. But to what extent are they used?

Using the sample of about 40 million posts we can conclude that 18% of all photos use a filter.

Filter Popularity

When looking at the distribution of filter popularity there is a clear winner. Clarendon is in the lead with 25% followed by Juno which is used 8% of the times a filter is applied.

The popularity of filters used on Instagram.

While Clarendon is the uncontested winner, the battle for second place is fierce between Juno, Gingham, and Lark. At the bottom are Willow and Perpetua.

The top four filters. Photo credit: @elepetrella for the Polaroid Eyewear campaign.

Here’s the full list:

  1. Clarendon 24.6%
  2. Juno 7.9%
  3. Gingham 7.4%
  4. Lark 7.0%
  5. Ludwig 6.1%
  6. Valencia 4.6%
  7. Aden 4.1%
  8. Lo-fi 3.7%
  9. Inkwell 2.9%
  10. X-Pro II 2.8%
  11. Slumber 2.8%
  12. Amaro 2.7%
  13. Moon 2.5%
  14. Mayfair 2.4%
  15. Hudson 2.4%
  16. Sierra 2.1%
  17. Rise 1.9%
  18. Crema 1.9%
  19. Reyes 1.8%
  20. Hefe 1.7%
  21. Nashville 1.7%
  22. Perpetua 1.0%
  23. Willow 1.0%

Who’s Using Filters?

I also wanted to find out whether filter usage would be different depending on how successful the account was, where, in this case, success is measured by the number of followers.

Let’s make a chart showing filter usage (defined as the percentage of photos using filters) of account size.

Filter usage of accounts based on accounts’ number of followers.

The trend shows that the fewer followers an account have, the more likely it is to use a filter. And the more followers, the less likely the account will use filters. A hypothesis is that a person behind an account with more followers invest more time on the content, possibly using more professional tools like Lightroom to edit photos and therefore has less need to use one of the built-in filters.

This made me think of photographers. They would surely be more likely to use a tool other than Instagram filters to touch up their photos, right? Compared to the average of 18.0% filter usage, accounts with the word “photographer” in the bio use filters on 14.6% of the photos.

Photographers tend to tag their photos with the hashtag of the camera manufacturer. Is filter usage different on photos tagged with #canon and #nikon versus #iphone?

Filter usage among photos with hashtag #canon, #nikon and #iphone

Nikon users use filters on 10.0% of their photos, Canon users 10.7% and iPhone users 18.6%.

Content and Filter Usage

I finally wondered if there is any particular content where filter usage would be much more common. I asked myself; at what time would it be most important for you to make sure the photo you post looks the best? When taking a selfie, of course!

Indeed! Way above the 18% average, #selfie posts use filters 25% of the time.

What would the other extreme be? Let’s look at content using the hashtag #nofilter.

Surprisingly, 10% of photos posted with hashtag #nofilter actually use an Instagram filter! Who would have thought…?

About the author: Stefan Pettersson is CTO and co-founder of Relatable, a marketing agency that uses data and technology to help customers like Google, Lego, Adobe, Tinder, Verizon and Spotify to do super efficient, large-scale influencer marketing campaigns. This article was also published here.