Why We Filter Our Photos and How It Impacts Engagement

There are a lot of important, societally beneficial uses for the endless terabytes of data produced by people's social-media addictions. One slightly less beneficial — but still interesting! — use of this data is to analyze which filters drive up engagement on sites like Instagram and Flickr. That's what a team of researchers from Georgia Tech and Yahoo Labs did.
Their white paper, entitled "Why We Filter Our Photos and How It Impacts Engagement," <https://tinyurl.com/kxa9dvr> consisted of qualitative and quantitative sections. In the qualitative part, they conducted in-depth interviews with 15 frequent Flickr users to find out more about their photo-filter habits. In the quantitative part, they analyzed 7.6 million Flickr photos uploaded via the mobile app, more than half of which were cross-posted from Instagram, as well as data on how frequently the photos were viewed and commented upon, to get a better sense of how filters affect engagement. The interview results weren't all that surprising, to be honest.
The numbers are a bit more exciting. Overall, controlling for things like a user's follower count and the popularity of the larger stream in which a given photo sits, "filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on" than unfiltered ones. As for which filters have which effects, the authors examined five: giving a photo a "warmer" temperature, increasing color saturation, increasing contrast, increasing exposure, and adding an age effect. The warmth filter had the largest correlation with the number of comments, while the exposure effect was tied most tightly to views. There were two negative correlations: Saturation effects were correlated with slightly lower views, and age effects with lower comments. Overall, "warm temperatures, higher contrast, and higher exposure increase chances of receiving [both] views and comments."_NYMagazine