Statistics: How filters are used by Instagram’s most successful users

Which filters are the most popular? Do larger accounts use them as much? And does the hashtag #nofilter actually mean no filter was used…?

To facilitate execution of global, large-scale influencer marketing campaigns at Relatable we rely a lot on data to give us insights. Using a sample of about 2 million Instagram accounts (with a minimum of 1,000 followers) and 40 million posts I’ve been digging deep compiling statistics, finding insights, or just discovering some quirky facts. I will share those findings in a number of articles.

Instagram filters are used to enhance photos, to give them that extra edge or just set the mood. But to what extent are they used?

Using the sample of about 40 million posts we can conclude that 18% of all photos use a filter.


Filter Popularity

When looking at the distribution of filter popularity there is a clear winner. Clarendon is in the lead with 25% followed by Juno which is used 8% of the times a filter is applied.

The popularity of filters used on Instagram.

While Clarendon is the uncontested winner, the battle for second place is fierce, between Juno, Gingham and Lark. At the bottom are Willow and Perpetua.

The top four filters. Photo credit: @elepetrella for the Polaroid Eyewear campaign.

The logical question is to ask, “Why does the list look like it does?”. Is it just a matter of taste or does a particular filter suit certain content better? In the next article, I will investigate this further (edit: now published).

The full list:

  1. Clarendon 24.6 %
  2. Juno 7.9 %
  3. Gingham 7.4 %
  4. Lark 7.0 %
  5. Ludwig 6.1 %
  6. Valencia 4.6 %
  7. Aden 4.1 %
  8. Lo-fi 3.7 %
  9. Inkwell 2.9 %
  10. X-Pro II 2.8 %
  11. Slumber 2.8 %
  12. Amaro 2.7 %
  13. Moon 2.5 %
  14. Mayfair 2.4 %
  15. Hudson 2.4 %
  16. Sierra 2.1 %
  17. Rise 1.9 %
  18. Crema 1.9 %
  19. Reyes 1.8 %
  20. Hefe 1.7 %
  21. Nashville 1.7 %
  22. Perpetua 1.0 %
  23. Willow 1.0 %

Who are using filters?

I also wanted to find out whether filter usage would be different depending on how successful the account was, where, in this case, success if measured by the number of followers.

Let’s make a chart showing filter usage (defined as the percentage of photos using filters) of account size.

Filter usage of accounts based on accounts’ number of followers.

The trend shows that the fewer followers an account have, the more likely it is to use a filter. A hypothesis is that a person behind an account with more followers invest more time on the content, possibly using more professional tools like Lightroom to edit photos and therefore has less need to use one of the built-in filters.

The more followers, the less likely the account will use filters.

This made me think of photographers. Those would surely be more likely to use a tool other than Instagram filters to touch up their photos? Compared to the average of 18.0% filter usage, accounts with the word “photographer” in the bio use filters on 14.6% of the photos.

Accounts with the word “photographer” in the bio used filters on 14.6% of the photos, compared to the average of 18.0%.

Photographers tend to tag their photos with the hashtag of the camera manufacturer (stay tuned for an article about Instagram hashtag usage). Is filter usage different on photos tagged with #canon, #nikon versus #iphone?

Filter usage among photos with hashtag #canon, #nikon and #iphone

Nikon users use filters on 10,0% of their photos, Canon users 10,7% and iPhone users 18,6%. Please share your thoughts on this as a comment!


Content and Filter Usage

I finally wondered if there is any particular content where filter usage would be much more common. I asked myself; at what time would it be most important for you to make sure the photo you post looks the best? When taking a selfie of course!

Indeed! Way above the 18% average, #selfie posts use filters 25% of the time.

What would the other extreme be? Let’s look at content using the hashtag #nofilter.

Surprisingly, 10% of photos posted with hashtag #nofilter actually use an Instagram filter! Who would have thought…?

10% of Instagram photos with hashtag #nofilter uses a filter.

Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts and reflections, and keep following to not miss out on more quirky insights on Instagram usage.

Fair use: Feel free to quote or use any of these findings. When doing so, attribute the author and provide a link back to the original article.


Stefan is CTO and co-founder of Relatable, a marketing agency that uses data and technology to help customers like Google, Lego, Adobe, Tinder, Verizon and Spotify to do super efficient, large-scale influencer marketing campaigns.