For years professional stock photography has been a go-to for many businesses. It offered an easy way to get high-quality photos, and with just the click of a button, marketers could find just about any image they could imagine. Now, modern technology allows just about anyone to capture a decent photograph. As mobile phones are released with better cameras, photo filtering apps like Prisma and Instagram became the norm.
A recent trend in stock photography is to make photos look more Instagram-y. For those who aren’t familiar with the popular photo sharing app, Instagram allows users to add a filter to their photos before sharing the images with friends and family. The filters on the images add an old world vibe, making them look like vintage polaroids. Stock photography has started following this trend of adding filters over images, and many businesses have made filtered photography a part of their branding guide. But why? Well, simply put, user behavior is driving the kinds of stock photos we see.
Filters seem authentic
It might seem weird that a photo with an added filter appears more authentic than the original image, but hear us out. Stock photos are known for looking posed, smiley, and crisp. Ideally, you don’t want your customers to know that you’re using a stock photo at all. You want them to think your imagery is as authentic as your company. That’s where filters come in.
The public is now much more comfortable with the filtered images of Instagram than the crisp and sharp images of traditional stock photography. Just about everyone has a high-quality phone residing in their pocket, and apps like Snapchat have made visual communication the norm. Because highly imperfect photos are seen on the regular, stock photos look just a little too perfect to be real. Add a filter, though, and all of a sudden your imagery seems like something that could pop up in your customers’ social media feed.
Filters add warmth
A filter takes a stark image that would otherwise seem cold and warms it up with little effort. It erases harsh edges, brings out specific colors, and overall helps your image stand out. You want your brand to be warm and inviting, and a filter can help your images create that feel. This might be because consumers are more used to filtered media, and a sense of familiarity helps create warmth. However, warmer-toned filters performed better in this Yahoo Study, which tested instagram images to see which ones had the best rates of engagement.
Below, see two sets of images that have been warmed up with a filter. The images on the left are originals, while the ones on the right are filtered. See how much more familiar the right images look. They aren’t harsh--they’re inviting.
Filters aren’t vintage
Although filters on images my feel like they’re from 1977, they aren’t. In fact, the widespread use of filters wasn’t common until Instagram use increased, which makes them more modern than ever. Now, filters are added to digital photos to give them the same vintage feel you would get from a low-quality, instant photo in the seventies. Filters add a gritty quality that is appealing in photos. It seems like the photo has been “found.” And, that’s not the only reason they’re popular: all things vintage are popular once again. Vinyl is in again, with pop artists like Lady Gaga and Kanye West releasing their albums on vinyls in addition to MP3s. Mainstream fashion borrows from past decades, and vintage-inspired fashion is no longer a niche market. Companies like ModCloth that borrow retro designs are thriving in this new market.
Even if filtering images doesn’t align with your company’s brand guide, you might be able to still use filters in some media campaigns. You also can think about the different buyer personas you have, and target filtered images towards younger groups that are more likely to respond to it. Think about whether your brand could benefit from using filtered images. Does it fit in your branding guide? Do you have a rustic or vintage feel to your business? Could filters help you build relationships with customers? All these questions will help you decide if being on-trend and filtering your images is best for your company