June 13, 2018 Last updated on August 19th, 2020
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Ah, Instagram filters…Where do you even start?

While this might sound somewhat trivial (I see your eyeballs rolling), Instagram filters can actually make or break your post. Choose the perfect filter, and your pic can blow up Instagram. Choose the wrong filter, and your once beautiful photo with so much potential becomes a flop.

Everybody edits their photos on Instagram. If somebody tells you they don’t, they’re liars. Trust me. When Instagram influencers edit their Instagram photos, they put a filter on top of another filter, and then spice it up with yet another filter — this is how it works. None of these people are experts in photography. And yet, with a bit of filtering, they’re able to take their photos from zero to hero, paving the way to a beautiful and, what’s even more important, consistent Instagram feed.

There are over 40 native Instagram filters, but what are the most used Instagram filters IN THE WORLD?

To find out, keep reading this post, which will look at the hottest Instagram filters based on a database of 790,000 Instagram users.

Top 10 Instagram Filters (According to the Iconosquare Study)

Before we start, let’s take a look at the brief history of native Instagram filters. 

A Brief History of Native Instagram Filters

Earlier this year, in our Instagram Marketing 2018 Study, we found out that native Instagram filters are used only 10.5% of the time. There’s a reason behind it. The truth is, Instagram was initiated as a photo-sharing app, not a photo-editing app. Filters came a bit later, somewhat as an afterthought.

You might not have heard the name Cole Rise before, but he actually played a huge role in defining what Instagram is now. He was the 75th user on the platform (his prediction, “This is going to be f*** huge”, eventually came true, as we see now); he helped design the icon of the app; and, most importantly, he also created some of the first built-in filters on Instagram, including, for example, Sierra, Mayfair, Sutro, Amaro, and Willow.

Instagram filters became kinda big, kinda fast. But the truth is, there were only a few. And suddenly, everybody started using them — which means, everybody’s pictures started to look the same. At the time, you couldn’t slide your filters all the way down to make them look a bit more subtle. Hence the emergence of VSCO, Snapseed, A Color Story, and other editing apps, which were different to native IG filters. These apps allowed more creative freedom and offered a point of difference to those who wanted to stand out from the crowd (at that time, of course).

So it’s not like Instagram filters were BAD. People just didn’t use them sparingly. As Rise says himself, “I have a rule when I edit a photo, I slide everything down to 50% and see how it looks. I try and bring it back as close to the original as possible and build up from there to find that middle ground.”

In other words, don’t overdo it.

So, now that you’re briefly acquainted with the nature of an Instagram filter, let’s take a look at the 10 most used filters on the platform!

10 Most Used Instagram Filters
(According to the Iconosquare Study)

Instagram filter #1: Normal

That’s right, the most used filter is, in fact, the “Normal” filter, where no effect is applied to the image at all. Not actually a filter, I know. “Normal” was the most popular Instagram filter last year, used in 89.5% of cases. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re all naturals at taking stunning #NoFilter photos. In most cases, people still pre-filter their pics on other editing apps before uploading them to Insta, so have no need to use IG’s native filters anymore and opt for “Normal”, i.e. no edit at all.

Instagram filter #2: Clarendon

Second place goes to Clarendon, the filter that adds light to lighter areas and dark to darker areas. In a nutshell, what Clarendon does is to “cool down” your photo, as it slightly increases saturation and contrast, but then adds a cyan tint in pure highlight areas and cools down shadows and highlights. Its mid-tones, however, are relatively warm, which allows skin on portrait photos to look natural, despite being cooled down.

Good for: Selfies

clarendon filter on instagram

Instagram filter #3: Juno

Juno is not just a great movie, but also a great filter. It’s quite simple and doesn’t do much more than to slightly manipulate the contrast and vividness of the photo. It also intensifies the reds and yellows in your picture, making these colors stand out a bit more than the blues.

Good for: Making your picture pop

Juno filter on Instagram

Instagram filter #4: Ludwig

I have a riddle for you: If Beethoven was on Instagram, which filter would he use?

You answered correctly: Ludwig.

Now, jokes aside, this filter was actually named after an architect with the ironically long name, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who coined the famous minimalist mantra “less is more”.

This filter reduces saturation and luminance for yellows, greens, cyans, blues, and magentas, with the exception of the color red, which actually becomes more saturated. Topped with a very slight contrast decrease, Ludwig really brings out the vibrance of the reds.

Good for: Portraits, geometric shapes, architecture

Ludwig is one of the top 10 most used filters on Instagram

Instagram filter #5: Lark

When you need to brighten your photo, keep a cool feel, and make it look just slightly washed out, Lark is your best friend. It increases exposure, which makes your picture brighter, decreases vibrance a bit, which makes it more “calmed down”, decreases the saturation of reds, purples, and magentas, and increases the saturation of the blues and the greens.

Good for: Nature shots

Lark Instagram filter

Instagram filter #6: Gingham

Gingham gives a vintage effect to your images, as it works by taking some color out of the photo. Gingham reduces highlights (by about 48%), reduces saturation (by about 31%), and applies a white vignette to the image. This creates a slight haze and gives a subtle warm atmosphere to the picture.

Good for: Hipsters

Gingham filter on instagram

Instagram filter #7: Lo-fi

For years and years, Lo-fi has been a strong player in the Instagram filters game. When this filter’s on, everything just becomes more intense, as it adds shadows and increases saturation, creating this super dramatic look any mascara model would be proud of. It’s pretty 90s, if you ask me.

Good for: The 90’s kids

Lo-fi filter on instagram

Instagram filter #8: Aden

Aden is famous for its retro, pastel-y look, which works great if you need to soften harsh lights. It can make bold photos look a bit more subtle, when needed, making them appear almost dreamy.

Good for: Autumn shots

Aden filter on instagram

Instagram filter #9. Valencia

Also making the list is good old Valencia. This filter will add a yellow hue to your image, instantly warming up the whole photo, as if there’s a night lamp shining on it (pretty cool, huh?)

Good for: Photos with light pinks and pastels

Valencia filter on instagram

Instagram filter #10: X-Pro II

Last but not least, X-Pro II. This filter is the most high-contrast and probably the least discreet on the list: it adds a LOAD of shadow and darkness, not to mention a hefty vignette, which shades away the edges of the photo. X-PRO II is based on a photo-developing technique called “cross-processing”, where photos are processed in a chemical solution for different types of film. This is one of Instagram’s oldest filters, and was intended to be used to correct the below-average camera phones of 2010, when Instagram had just launched. Surprisingly, it is still one of the most popular filters on the platform 🤷

Good for: Turning normal photos into very intense ones

X-Pro II filter on instagram

And that’s the thing about applying filters: what’s popular now might not be popular in 50 years time. Instagram filters CAN be great if you know how to use them.

Pro Tip: Don’t think you’re totally restricted to using Instagram’s filters, either. Utilizing them as an overlay on previously edited photos is another way to add a new dimension to your posts. You can use a separate app—Instasize, for example—to place a color filter or tweak the photo’s saturation with sliders, and then import the result into Instagram. You might be surprised by the results you can get from mixing different filters together!

Don’t go crazy, using them to the max — tone them down! Use them sparingly  and mix it up between different filters. And don’t forget to tap to compare the applied filter to the original photo. After all, the function of an Instagram filter is the same one as of make-up: it’s supposed to enhance your features, not change your whole face.

Over to you! Are you using Instagram filters?

About the author
Olga Rabo

Olga Rabo

Olga is a LeadGen manager at Iconosquare, based in Berlin. She’s all about creating strategies, increasing clickthrough rates, and sharing her in-depth knowledge of content and social media marketing. She’s a big travel addict, a huge Katherine Ryan fan, and her favorite time of the day is brunch.

More posts by Olga Rabo

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