February 19, 2020

Alex West

West With What’s Next: To Filter or Not to Filter: What Does Instagram Really Want?


If you scroll to the bottom of many brands’ Instagram accounts, you may find some of the most cringe-worthy, over-filtered photos of all time. In fact, over-filtering has become a viral meme (particularly on TikTok) as users record their reactions to over-the-top images.

The Filter Phenomenon

At one time, Instagram filters changed the online game. Every personal and business account slapped on filters to cover-up imperfections in their photos. It was trendy; it was new. However, it was a low-quality fix to make images appear polished. We pretended it wasn’t, but it didn’t fool anyone.

Now, if you watch the current posting trends closely, clear and natural photos seem to be what users (and more importantly, prospective clients) are clinging to.

Unfiltered Vs. Unedited

Still, the term “unfiltered” doesn’t seem quite right for the influencer economy that we’re living in. Showing off imperfections is clearly not what the audience wants. Even in an era of “self-love” and “transparency,” we’re still not seeing “unedited” images creating ideal amounts of engagement.

Posting any quick, raw photo to a brand’s feed usually won’t cut it. So, let’s explore a few ways to edit images while avoiding the cliché and cringy effects of Instagram filters.

Four Tips for Editing Photos Before Posting to Instagram

1. Make sure your original image is of good quality.

High-resolution photos with amazing lighting are the first step to upping your Instagram game. Grainy, low-quality images will leave a bad impression. Plus, it’s easier to edit your photos if you’re starting with a clean, quality base.

2. Crop and straighten your photos.

Be mindful of the structure of your photos. When a photo has a more symmetrical look and feel, it will be more eye-catching. Pay attention to the grid-line guides when cropping and straightening images; that will help you achieve symmetry. Even small adjustments can make a huge difference.

3. Don’t be afraid to play with the contrast, highlights, and shadows.

While filters can do this for you to a degree, I recommend that you change these things on your own. It will ensure your photos won’t look like—and get lost among—the millions of those that are using Instagram filters. By changing contrast, highlights, and shadows on your own, your edits will meet the precise needs of your photos far better than a blanket filter can.

4. Venture into photo editing apps.

Apps like Facetune, VSCO, and LightRoom can help take your company’s Instagram account to the next level. While these may take a little bit of practice to perfect, in a short amount of time, you’ll get the knack and your posts will be beautiful. All of these apps have both free and paid subscriptions, and they offer an abundance of ways to warp and style your photos.

Final Notes About Instagram Filters

Instagram filters aren’t dead, but they shouldn’t be the only tricks you have up your sleeve. If you opt to use them, be sure to adjust the opacity of the filter, change a few other settings, and be sure the final results fit the overall flow and tone of your feed.

Ideally, strive to make your photos look as appealing and unedited as possible. It’s harder than you may think, but you can do it with some time, attention, practice, and patience!

Your turn! Do you have any photo editing tips or tools that have helped you make your posts stand out on Instagram?

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