I recently read an interesting article on the use of photo filters that one of my students had come across. Bakhshi et al (2015) discuss the use of filters on photo sharing applications, Flickr and Instagram, in their paper why we filter photos and how it impacts engagement published via the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence this year. In their research, they identify two types of user, the “serious hobbyist” and “casual photographer”, both of whom use filters for different purposes; serious hobbyists, for example, using these to make technical improvements to the photo whereas casual photographers being more concerned with prettifying their photos to make these stand out.
I definitely fall under the latter category and have a certain style in mind when I edit a photo, where I most often will try and position the object on a white or neutral background and I favour daylight and bright colour. When I look back at my Instagram my use of filters has massively decreased (where I quite often don’t use these at all)… Perhaps because many of my photos are of my daughter (and I don’t like to filter these). This is in line with Bakhshi et al’s research where they find that “there is some concern that pre made filters reduce the value of the art present in the imagery”and people prefer not to filter “photos that have special people or subjects in them”.
Or maybe, for me, the novelty of the photo filter has simply worn off… When I first started using Instagram (in 2012), I used this entirely to edit my photos, sometimes even deleting these as soon as I’d posted them – as I hadn’t really wanted to share them with an audience. Instagram filters have become very recognisable and I think I quite liked that people might not guess my photo had been filtered; there’s a certain degree of arrogance there for me I guess, where perhaps I wish to be viewed as what Bakhshi et al class as the “serious hobbyist” rather than a mere “casual photographer”…
The research also uncovers that filtered photos are more likely to engage followers (21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to receive comments), where “warm temperature, high exposure [and] high contrast” filters are most successful. It’s all very interesting and well worth a read!