The Best Way To Use Instagram Filters To Get More Likes, According To Science

05/22/2015 11:04 am ET | Updated May 22, 2015

Overwhelmed by all the choices on Instagram? You're not alone. With 27 filters and endless ways to customize your photos, it's hard to decide how best to edit your pictures to get the most satisfying results. Thankfully, science is here to help.

Researchers from Yahoo Labs and Georgia Tech have figured out which filters and edits tend to result in the most views and comments.

It might be trendy to tag your photos "#nofilter," but filters can actually help an Instagram photo's performance, the research shows. Filtered photos are 21 percent more likely to be seen and 45 percent more likely to receive comments, according to this new paper.

More specifically, higher contrast, exposure and warmth tend to correlate to more comments and views. Adding an aged effect has a positive impact on the photo's views and a negative effect on how many comments it gets. The opposite is true for higher saturation, which has a negative effect on views and a positive effect on comments. ("Views" here means views on the Flickr mobile app, where some people post their Instagram pics after editing them.)

best instagram filter

Here's how the researchers figured it out: They interviewed 15 people -- all regular users of Instagram and Flickr -- about their filtering and editing habits. They also analyzed 7.6 million photos on Flickr that were uploaded through either the Flickr app or Instagram.

The researchers found that the people they interviewed enjoyed editing and filtering their photos, even though the tweaks took some time. "Many of our participants mentioned that ... changing their photos through filters makes those photos more special and fun," the paper reads.

Perhaps, the researchers suggest, that's why people are engaging with filtered and edited photos -- because those pics feel special.

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