Study Finds Photo Filters Help With Exposure

  • Article by Roland Bleyer
  • May 26, 2015 at 12:11 PM

Photo filters can be fun, useful tools for creating the tone and even the “prettiness” of pictures taken on our phones. But how much of an impact do they actually have on who sees our social media posts?

The short answer is: a lot. Researchers at Yahoo Labs recently found that putting a filter on a photo makes it 21% more likely to be viewed by other people and 45% more likely to get comments.

So what filters have the biggest impact on likes and comments?

“Specifically, filters that increase warmth, exposure and contrast boost engagement the most,” the study says.

But the amount of engagement can vary significantly depending on the type of filter used and how it affects the image. While the study says that filters with “warm temperature” significantly increase both comments and views, others impact views positively and comments negatively (and vice versa).

“The aging effect seem to increase the views but decrease the number of comments,” the study notes, adding that saturation does the opposite.

“Photographically speaking, filters which auto-enhance a photo (e.g. correct for contrast and exposure) drive more engagement,” it says.

“We find the less-engaging filters exhibit transformation effects which are exaggerated and often cause photo- graphic artifacts and/or loss of highlight details. The exception being filters which make a photo look antique.”

So what does this all mean? For people using social media for marketing, and for anyone wanting to get more likes and comments on sites such as Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest (or even Twitter and Facebook), choosing filters wisely can have just as much of an impact as the actual subject in the shot.

The Yahoo Labs study also reveals the top reasons people use filters (and no, it’s not “to get attention”). According to the participants in the study, the main reasons for using filters include:

  1. Improving aesthetics,
  2. Adding vintage effects,
  3. Highlighting objects,
  4. Manipulating colours,
  5. Making photos more fun and unique.

It also says there are a lot of times when people don’t want to use filters, either because of the effort involved, or because they like the photo the way it is and don’t want to “start messing with it”.

While Yahoo Labs researchers say that there’s a need for more research to be done on mobile photos, filters and photo sharing apps, there has actually been a recent study on the most popular Instagram filters. The 2014 Arizona State University study found that the top five filter options (in this order) were: no filter, Amaro, X-Pro II, Valencia and Rise.

But with Instagram updates coming through all the time, and more research into which filters are the best for different goals, peoples choice of filter or no filter are often as subjective as the shots they take.

Images: Instagram collage of filters, source: Ragesoss/Wikimedia Commons; An example of filter use in the Yahoo Labs Study.


Yahoo Labs study shot

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