I’m a lover of beauty. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, my eyes are always scanning for beauty. Capturing it is part of my self care regimen.
It was no surprise that when I took the VIA Character Strengths survey, beauty scored very high on my list of strengths. I frustrate my husband because almost every morning we’ll be walking the dog and I will see something. I have to pull out my phone, take two steps backwards, and capture it in a photograph. Just for fun I googled “Most popular Instagram filters” and combined what the top searches said about each one. I was making up a cheat sheet for myself and then decided to post it here for you. *You may have to select some of these under your “manage” section of Instagram so they all become an option.
Clarendon – This filter adds light to lighter areas and dark to darker areas. Colors stand out, which makes it the perfect filter for sunset posts. Clarendon tops the list of most used Instagram filter. Why? Probably because it’s an all-purpose filter that brightens, highlights, and intensifies shadows for color that pops. Another potential reason for the No. 1 spot: Clarendon is typically the default filter after the Normal option in the editing. This filter will brighten the highlights found in your photos, while also making the shadows a bit bolder.
Valencia – This filter will add a yellow hue to your image, making it feel like a bright, yellow lamp is shining on your photo. If you’re a child of the eighties, this filter, with its yellow tint, will look like your childhood photographs. Colors are just slightly brightened, kind of like you flipped a switch on the scene. Valencia rounds out our top five because of its impressive knack for making even the most delicate colors more prominent, and for how it warms up the whole photograph. It is the most popular filter for nature pics. It’s best for photos with dull, fine colors, like light pinks and other pastels. Use it with an image you want to look old-school.
Rise – Rise, as in the rise of the morning sun, gives our photos a soft, warm glow. It’s best for making skin look soft and smooth, or for adding that refreshing “morning” look to your coffee art or portraits.
Amaro – This filter brightens the middle section of the image, creating an aged effect. It can make bold photos look vintage and horizon shots appear almost dreamy. Amaro hits the top three because it’s easily accessible and it gives our photos a light, airy glow. It’s best for blue-eyed selfies or any dark photo that needs to be lightened up. Amaro can give your photos an aged appearance. It works particularly well with fall photos, and street photography.
Mayfair – This filter is always there for us, ready to be just flattering enough without making it look like we’re trying too hard. Mayfair warms up the colors of your photos, placing something of a spotlight in the center of the image, with very subtle vignetting around the corners. Use with brightly lit or underexposed images.
Juno – This filter intensifies red and yellow hues in your pictures, making them stand out more than the blues. It’s the perfect filter for creating a feeling of depth. This filter is great if you’re looking to brighten shots with lots of oranges, yellows, and reds.This popular filter lends color intensity and brightens warm hues; many favor its effects for adding richness and authenticity to urban photos. The filter makes the grungy look grungier, and gives photos a rich, deep tone.
Lark – Lark is a good filter for nature shots. It brightens and intensifies colors but not red hues, keeping a cool feel but not washed out. The filter adds warmth and punches up color, which makes it ideal for a variety of applications. Use lark with your outdoor nature landscapes and outdoor portraits. It can also be good with food.
Ludwig – This filter is good for architecture as it brings light and dark to all the right places, whilst intensifying the warmest colors. Ludwig enhances light while taking away most of the colours. Use Ludwig with portraits, architecture, and geometric shapes.
Slumber – This filter de-saturates photos and makes them hazy. Slumber has a very fitting name as it really adds a retro or dream-like quality to your photos. Use this filter if you want a combination of a vintage and romantic feel. This works particularly well with street photography and nature shots.
Gingham – This filter gives a vintage effect to your images, as it works by taking some color out of the photo. It’s good for serene selfie shots. It’s a nostalgic choice with its ability to desaturate colors to add a vintage look and lets Instagram users evoke the past. Gingham will wash out your photos, giving darker shots a yellowish tinge and brighter snapshots even more exposure.
Willow – Black and white can be a little pretentious, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Willow. This monotone filter is the closest thing Instagram has to a sepia filter. It’s somewhere between black-and-white and sepia without appearing kitschy. Willow is as soft and pretty as a photo can be when it doesn’t have any colors in it. It’s best when you want to take a selfie but aren’t really camera-ready, black and white hides all flaws, and Willow in particular is very forgiving. It also works great with beach scenes and macro nature shots.
Inkwell – This is Instagram’s basic black-and-white filter. This versatile filter works well with portraits, and has an interesting effect on outdoor nature shots.
Perpetua – This filter is characterized by “a bluish, green, earthy look like of nature.” There are no guidelines on where to use Perpetua, but after fiddling around with it, we’d say it works with anything shot in daylight. Perpetua works well with outdoor shots, especially on the beach. You probably won’t want to use it with portrait shots as it gives skin a very unnatural tone.
Moon – According to one website, this filter was named after one of the Instagram team member’s dog. This black and white filter will give a more intense feel to your shadows. Think of it as a black and white version of Gingham. Moon works best with portraits.
Sierra – Sierra is really beautiful when it comes to landscape and still life, but it really washes people out. It has a darker feel than Rise, thanks to some vignetting, and a well-lit center. It’s best for making still-life photos look soft and sophisticated with a lovely glow. This is a filter that works well with outdoor nature photos and photos of objects. This is probably another hipster favorite.
X-Pro II – This is by no means a subtle filter. It bumps up the contrast, adds a strong vignette, and makes all of the colors warmer. It adds a lot of shadow and dark elements, not to mention a hefty vignette. It’s best to use this on a bright, daytime photo. The most consistent of the “bright” filters, X Pro II punches up our colors without making them too garish. Instead they look sleek and professional. It’s best for photos with pops of bright colors. (Think selfies with red hair or lips, green grass against a gray sky.) You’ll want to avoid using X-Pro II with closeup portraits because of the effect it can have on the skin, but it works really well with wider shots — city, nature, and fashion shots all look good. You’ll just want to start with an already bright image.
Lo-Fi – This filter adds shadows and increases saturation on photos. Lo-Fi is a bit of an all-rounder, but is especially good for all your food shots. Proceed with caution when it comes to Lo-Fi selfies. Works with photos with lots of trees and grass.
Hefe – This filter is similar to X Pro II and Lo-Fi it’s another bright filter. Hefe is another filter that increases color saturation, adds a bit of vignetting, and warms up your image. It’s best for fun photos with lots of color, like flowers, nature, or poolside pics.
Toaster – One website said, “Toaster is kind of odd until you pair it with the impossibly perfect #toasted tag. Suddenly, you’re looking at it in a whole new light. It’s best for anything, as long as you add the #toasted caption. This is another filter that will look familiar to a child of the eighties. The filter adds a dodged center to your photo with a strong red tint and a burnt edge. The filter, essentially, toasts your image, making images look like they were taken with instant film. Toaster works well with outdoor images, preferably during the day. Night shots taken with your phone don’t look good with Toaster.
Nashville – Nashville is the one-hit-wonder of the Instagram filter world. One website said, “That Creamsicle color is going to be perfect for one very specific photo, we just haven’t figure out what that photo is yet.” It also brightens a photo. Nashville is similar to Valencia in terms of the old-school look in your photos, but is slightly more pronounced. This is another good filter to use with any image you want to look vintage.
Brannan – Brannan is a high contrast, high exposure filter which brightens your photos and gives them a yellowish tint. One website said, “Brannan is kind of like that guy you dated in college. It’s beautiful, and you really want to like it, but man is it moody. Save only for your most emo #tbt pics.” It’s best for artsy photos of chairs or ferris wheels, or any selfie that involves you staring into the distance. If you want your portraits to look like they were taken a century ago — this is a great filter for you. Otherwise, its an image that works really well with waterscapes or nature images, giving them a wintry look.
Earlybird – This filter is of the most flattering ones in the palette (oh, what’s up instant bronzer?), it’s also one of the most popular. Use this one when your summer glow isn’t quite there yet, and your selfies need a boost. Early bird desaturates your image quite a bit, with the bright colors still coming through. It also adds a sepia tint and vignetting to your photo. This is Instagram’s original hipster, vintage filter. Just about any photo instantly feels like it was taken decades ago with the help of Earlybird.
Hudson: Hudson has the unfortunate talent of making pictures look icy, frigid, cold. This filter is best for keeping things modern. Think architecture, nature, and sleek, shiny cars.
Kelvin – This is the most popular fashion filter.
Aden – Aden is a low-contrast filter which softens your images, desaturating them slightly, and giving them a pastel effect. It also warms the cooler colors. This filter works well with portraits as it also has a skin-smoothing effect. Aden also works beautifully with fall images and photos with lens flare.
Crema – Crema makes photos look creamy and smooth. Use Crema outdoors for warming and cooling effects. Crema appears to be popular with Instagram users for food shots, but in particular for their coffee shop shots. It also works really well with outdoor nature-scapes, whether green or blue, and city shots.
Reyes – This filter desaturates your image, brightens it up, and gives it an old-time feel. Reyes is another great filter for portraits, particularly if you’re trying to hide any blemishes on your skin. If you usually use another app retouching your photos, you won’t need to do that with Reyes.
Sutro – This one adds a very noticeable vignette, darkens your image, and gives images a smoked look, with particular emphasis on purple and brown colors to achieve this effect. Use Sutro for just about anything except for portraits. (Unless you want your subjects to look like zombies. If that’s what you’re going for, then Sutro is your best bet.) Naturscapes with Sutro look more mysterious, sunsets more sinister, and cloudy skies more intense.
1977 – The aptly named 1977 gives your images a faded look, adding a red tint. hotos are instantly old-school with this filter, and if you’re a child of the seventies — this is one you will recognize and love. It looks best with outdoor beach and lake scenes, and looks particularly good with lens flare.
Kelvin – If there’s a little bit of sunlight in your image, Kelvin makes it look golden, like the photo was taken during that perfect moment in the late afternoon, when the sun is shining just right. Kelvin works with photos with a lot of natural light, or a concentrated amount of artificial light.
Walden – Walden brightens the center of your image, adding an icy blue tint to your colors. Walden is at its best when used on portraits, but also works well with any well lit images, giving them an even more vintage look.
Stinson – Stinson is a subtle filter that brightens your image, washing out the colors ever so slightly. Stinson works well with portraits and beach shots, or any image you want to brighten up a little, and give a subtle nostalgic and vintage look.
Vesper – Vesper smooths out skin tones, and also adds a yellow tint that, like with many of Instagram’s filters, it gives it a vintage feel. Use for portraits.
Maven – Maven darkens images, increases shadows, and adds a slightly yellow tint overall. Maven works well with architecture, and has an interesting effect on blue skies and green lawns. You’ll want to avoid it with portraits, in large part because of the shadows it adds to your images.
Ginza – This is another brightening filter, Ginza adds a warm glow to your photos. Outdoor photos, weather landscapes, seascapes, portraits, or city shots, look good with a bit of Ginza on them, as do fashion shots.
Skyline – Skyline is like the autocorrect of filters. It brightens colors in your image, giving them a nice pop. Use on any image you want to brighten a little.
Dogpatch – Dogpatch increases the contrast in your image, while also washing out the lighter colors. Instagram recommends using this filter if you’re going for a dramatic look. Like many Instagram filters, its better used with a brightly lit image. The filter doesn’t work well with a dark night sky.
Helena – Instagram points out that Helena adds an orange and teal vibe to your images. Helena offers Instagram users a great way to add a bit of warmth to your image. It works well with portraits and with outdoor shots.
Ashby – This filter gives images a great golden glow and a subtle vintage feel. What’s nice about this filter, compared to filters like Rise and Sierra, is that it does so without increasing shadows in the image. Portraits, or any image you want to give a very slightly vintage feel without it being very overpowering.
Charmes – Charmes is a high contrast filter, warming up colors in your image with a red tint. Busy street and city shots work well with Charmes. The filter works particularly well with dimly lit images.
Below are filters in order of popularity according to subject:
Nature filters: Valencia, Normal, Brooklyn, Amaro, Ludwig, Lark, Earlybird, Rise, Mayfair, Aden
Fashion Filter: Kelvin, Valencia, Nashville, Skyline, Normal, Slumber, Aden, Ashby, Reyes, Inkwell
Food Filter: Skyline, normal, Helena, Slumber, Aden, Brooklyn, Vesper, Sutro, Willow, Inkwell
Selfie Filter: Normal, Slumber, Skyline, Dogpatch, Aden, Valencia, Ludwig, Gingham, Hudsen, Ashby
What’s your favorite Instagram filter?
Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.
She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."