Instagram Filters and Laziness

I always believed that Instagram filters are what made Instagram such a big hit. Otherwise Instagram was just another photo sharing app. When I started using Instagram, I used to try many filters before settling on one and sharing my picture. Over the period of time, I started sharing pictures without any filters — also known as a “Normal” filter because of my laziness. Recently I wondered whether my behavior was peculiar or many other people were also using Normal filter while sharing pictures on Instagram. Accordingly, I did a quick and dirty analysis using pictures collected from Orchard Road area in Singapore. Why Orchard? Well, let’s just say because Orchard is one of the most frequented tourists spots in Singapore, which makes my analysis more representative.

I carried out analysis on the pictures collected in January-February months of 2014, 2015, and 2016. This makes comparison easier and more uniform. As the filters offered by Instagram changed over the 2 years period, I am not plotting all the filter counts for 3 years on the same graph. Instead I show you 3 separate graphs — one for each year. Also, I show bars on the graph only for filters which were used more than 500 times in the 2 months period. This is arbitrary but it helps me depict a meaningful bar graphs. All the filters with <= 500 pictures were combined and labeled “Other”, which will show up in the graphs.

Without further ado, here are the three graphs:

orchard2014orchard2015orchard2016

Well, I am not an outlier! It turns out that at least from 2014, people have been using Normal filter (basically no filter) more than any other filter. The percentages of pictures with Normal filter were 59% in 2014, 73% in 2015, and 65% in 2016.

It’s tough to say why people selected the filters they did. My hypothesis is that people are lazy and so they will go with the default. “Normal” filter is the default so it’s picked up the most often. Now Instagram has been changing the filters so I don’t know how they were arranged in 2014 or 2015. But for 2016, the ordering was as follows:

FullSizeRender 01FullSizeRender 02FullSizeRender 03FullSizeRender 04FullSizeRender 05FullSizeRender 06

Clarendon and Gingham are the next two filters shown by Instagram after Normal, which are also the next two most commonly used filters in Orchard area! After that, the filter ranking in the graph loses correlation with the Instagram’s  default ordering of filters. Perhaps, this indicates that non-lazy people actually hunt down the filter that gives them the best looking result. Still Juno and Lark, which are 5th and 6th on my 2016 graph, appear on 7th and 5th position in the Instagram ordering. Hudson, Sierra, and X-Pro II which are at the end on my bar graph, also appear in Instagram ordering towards the end. It seems that there is some support for the “lazy” hypothesis!

If you have more to add, please share your insights in the comments.