Here's a faux-pas I see every now and again with small brand Instagrammers who aren't in the know. It's a small thing, but important nonetheless, as whether it's done either helps or hinders their brand. It's all about choosing the right filter.


 Remember this?

Remember this?

Instagram started back in 2010 as a platform for sharing photographs. A rehashing of founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Kriegers' idea for a check-in app called Burbn, it provided a gateway into photography for those without skills or experience through simplistic UX design, basic interaction features (commenting, liking, etc.) and, most importantly, easy ways to edit your photos. The app was launched exclusively on iOS, only reaching the Android market 18 months later, but by this time its following was massive. Android's launch saw a million downloads in one day. Everybody knew how it worked. Like New York in the 90s, everybody wanted a 'gram.

Users could easily throw a photo into their phone and achieve some sort of bespoke film photography effect with ease, using the bank of filters that Instagram has made available since the beginning. These filters as we know them are actually presets of adjustments to the colour information of whatever image is applied, but in their dedicated menu that presents itself after you select the image you're uploading, they're so handy that we rarely go to tweak the images ourselves. Most of us are happy to slap on a filter and let it be, especially when we've posted to Instagram so many times that we don't want it to be a lengthy process.

However, this ease of editing is what in part made Instagram so popular. It became trendy to use filters, and for a time we loved the look. Heavy vignettes, black distressed borders around your images, completely shifting the colour pallette of the original picture to pastures new. It was all about sepia tones and colour bleaching. So what happened to filters?

Scroll far enough into the filters menu on the app and you'll notice the 'stronger', less subtle filters have all been shifted to the back. The most popular ones are towards the beginning, and offer slight tweaks to your image rather than such drastic alterations as the ones that were popular back in the day. Look at the leading brands and you'll notice Instagram's 'let me get that for you' approach to image editing has been clipped from the pipeline in favour of actual professional photography, followed by actually editing the image in software.

 
 See how Nike's visual style on Instagram has changed between 2012 and now.

See how Nike's visual style on Instagram has changed between 2012 and now.

 

When looking to see what's in, the first place to look should be at what the brand leaders are doing - they've got the resources to find out and their already using those findings in their own marketing.  As with many others, Nike have dropped the heavy filters for the most recent style of photograph editing. It's all about those full-frame DSLRs and crushed black tones. You'll see the same with brands in travel, fashion - even restaurants are professionally shooting their food. It takes a fraction of a second to create a first impression based off an image, which is why marketers are now leaning into the highest-quality photographs they can get their hands on when advertising their brand.

Sadly, the filter fad has died. We've had our fill of the heavy aesthetic and our tastes have advanced to less on-the-nose styles of editing. So, to those who're still searching for dramatic filters when they upload to Instagram, I'd advise against it - if your content looks like it belongs on a 2012 Instagram, you'll have a feed reminiscent of Instagram's 2012 interface - it risks having people perceive your brand to be out of fashion and ill-informed.

But don't worry! If you're just using your iPhone and want to keep as up to date with the trends as possible, all you need to do is stick with the softer filters - the Larks and the Junos. I'd even suggest toning those down slightly. If you hit Amaro, you've gone too far.

 It's like when we thought the graphics on the PS1 were amazing.

It's like when we thought the graphics on the PS1 were amazing.