5 of the most popular Instagram filters and when to use them

Late in 2013, digital marketing company TrackMaven released a study analyzing 123 Fortune 500 Instagram accounts. Among other data, they analyzed the filters used by the companies’ more than 19,000 images.

Excluding photos without a filter, Lo-Fi, X-Pro II, Valencia, Mayfair and Rise were among the most frequently used. Below, we explore the characteristics of each of these 5 popular Instagram filters as well as the best times to use them.

As an example, here’s one of my own Instagram photos without a filter.

Popular Instagram Filters - No Filter

You can compare it to the same image using each one of the 5 filters below to get a better idea of each filter’s effects.

1. Lo-Fi

Lo Fi - Popular Instagram Filters

Lo-Fi is one of the brightest filter options on Instagram. It will heighten the contrast of colors in your photos while emphasizing shadows to make your photo more vibrant.

Best times to use Lo-Fi: Lo-Fi looks especially great for close-up photos of objects with a lot of detail, or photos of multiple people. It’s a very popular option for photographing food. Really, it works well any time you want to emphasize bold colors.

Lo-Fi also looks great with nature and action photos. It can even help to darken overexposed photos by serving as a quick fix for images that were originally too bright and fuzzy.

2. X-Pro II

X Pro II-Popular Instagram Filters

X-Pro II will dramatize your photo by adding contrast to the colors towards the middle of your photo – making them stand out more – and making the edges slightly darker. This serves to further emphasize the action going on in the center of your frame, while not providing as harsh of a contrast as Lo-Fi.

X-Pro II gives photos a fairytale-like look and feel, as if pulled straight from a child’s storybook.

Best times to use X-Pro II: X-Pro II is particularly effective for photos taken outdoors, especially if they feature some element of nature. This filter is also great for photos in which your subject is in the center. By darkening the edges, it will highlight the portion of the photo you want to focus on.

3. Valencia

Valencia - Popular Instagram Filters

In contrast to Lo-Fi and X-Pro II, Valencia will dull your colors to lighten up your photo. When you use Valencia, your photos will experience a softer, warmer feel as opposed to the bright, bold colors of X-Pro II and Lo-Fi. This filter will give photos the antique look that is quite popular on Instagram – making your photo seem like a newly discovered relic from the past!

Best times to use Valencia: If you want to evoke a sense of nostalgia with your photos, Valencia is one of your best options. Valencia is especially effective for architectural photos of buildings and other man-made scenery. It also works great if your colors are too bold, and you’re going for a softer, quieter feel overall.

4. Mayfair

Mayfair - Popular Instagram Filters

Instagram debuted the Mayfair filter back in 2012, and since then, it has been rising in popularity! Not only is it one of the most used filters among Fortune 500 companies, it’s the most successful filter for these 123 brands. The TrackMaven study found that, on average, Fortune 500 companies’ photos with the Mayfair filter see an average of 23 interactions per image.

The Instagram blog describes the Mayfair filter as having “a warm pink tone, subtle vignetting that brightens the center of the photograph, and a thin black border.”

Best times to use Mayfair: Mayfair is a pretty versatile filter, and can be used effectively in almost any situation. Instagram suggests using Mayfair with “evenly and well-lit scenes.” You really can’t go wrong with Mayfair – it is flattering in almost every scenario!

5. Rise

Rise - Popular Instagram Filters

Rise is like Photoshop for Instagram – it softens the image with a yellowish-gold tint to fade out any blemishes. Perhaps named for the morning glow of the sunrise, Rise will give the appearance of increasing the exposure of any photo. This means that photos will appear brighter (and yellower).

Best times to use Rise: Rise is a great option any time you want to take the focus away from blemishes or imperfections in your photo – especially if those blemishes are on people’s skin.

Additionally, Rise will lighten up photos that are too dark or underexposed. If you have a photo that’s difficult to see, Rise will help bring out those details – it’s just like turning on a light in a dark room!

For example, look at this dark photo I took without a filter (on the left) compared to the same photo with the Rise filter:

Rise Comparison - Popular Instagram Filters

No Filter

Fortune 500 companies most often posted photos without any filter. In terms of engagement, these photos were, on average, the second most engaging types of images (Mayfair was first).

This is an important reminder that you don’t always need a filter. When your image looks great as it is, don’t be afraid to post it “naked.” Images with no filter are more realistic, and your audience will appreciate enjoying your experiences undistorted, just like you did!

What are your favorite Instagram filters, and when do you use them? Tell us in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “5 of the most popular Instagram filters and when to use them

  1. This is a fantastic article! Do you mind if I use this information in an Instagram presentation?

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