10 Instagram Photo Editing Trends Every Marketer Should Know in 2019


If your brand is on Instagram, it’s important to keep up with the latest Instagram photo editing trends.

Instagram users post over 95 million photos each day, and spend an average of 32 minutes scrolling through posts and Stories.

With so much content, users’ tastes evolve fast. And they’re always looking for different, interesting photos to hold their attention.

That means you want to ensure your photos don’t look stale and dated. If you’re still favoring the classic Instagram aesthetic, we’re sorry to tell you that your followers are over it.

Here’s a round-up of what looks fresh on the platform these days, and how to incorporate it into your content strategy to keep those likes coming.

Take a look at these 10 Instagram editing trends below, and learn how to apply them to your own photos.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.

10 top Instagram photo editing trends

1. The #nofilter edit

Instagram users are starting to get filter fatigue. The Instagram presets that dominated influencer accounts in the past have worn out their welcome.

As this article in Shape points out, “there is a fine line between editing and altering.” Altering photos to an unrealistic degree sets up users to feel bad about themselves. Their sunset photos are never that vibrant!

And when every photo on Instagram is retouched to perfection, the polished photos begin to lose their allure.

Instead, 2019 Instagram users prefer to see more natural photos. In these, people and objects have real texture. They’re more interesting and engaging than airbrushed images.

You don’t need to abandon all editing to make this trend work for your brand. You can clean up your photos by removing blemishes or dirt with an app like TouchRetouch.

Adjusting brightness or contrast will also subtly improve your images. Learn more secrets to editing your photos while retaining their natural look.

Retaining a little imperfection, like shiny skin or a wrinkled shirt, is key. Perfect images have become so ubiquitous that a “flawed” image provides refreshing contrast.

2. The digital “film” photo

Continuing the theme of authenticity is the digital “film” photo. This is another Instagram photo editing trend dominating the platform.

If you’ve wondered whether influencers and brands are actually scanning Polaroids or uploading film images, the answer is probably no.

Instead, they’re using apps that create film-like effects for photos and videos. These include light leaks, vignettes and blurs.

Maybe the most well-known of these was Huji Cam, which NY Intelligencer called “the trendiest photo app” of 2018. But there are tons of other options, like RNI Films, VHS Cam, or Storyluxe. All give your photos that dreamy, vintage quality.

Nostalgia is a powerful force, and these apps are basically time machines to the late 90s, when disposable cameras were king.

But multitasking apps like Afterlight 2 and VSCO also have tons of tools for giving your photos that retro, analog look.

3. The photo-doodle

Yes, we let Ned Flanders name this photo trend.

In contrast to some of the other Instagram editing trends on this round-up, this one is not subtle or natural at all. Instead, it’s all about adding flair to your photos.

It’s the Instagram equivalent of decorating your textbook covers in high school. These posts include brushstrokes, stickers and text for a playful look.

A popular app for achieving these effects is A Design Kit, which comes with presets and tools for adorning your posts.

Typic is another popular app that lets you create typographic images.

This trend is fun and youthful. It’s well-suited to brands that have a vibrant, energetic aesthetic. If you don’t feel like the #noedit vibe is a fit for your brand, this trend might be more up your alley.

4. The vertical photo

Many things have changed on Instagram since it was launched way back in 2010. (Do you suddenly feel ancient?? Me too!)

For a long time, square photos were the only option. Even after the platform began allowing different dimensions, square photos reigned supreme. Posting any vertical images was considered an amateur move. But that’s finally changing!

Vertical photos are growing in popularity, as more and more people access the web on mobile. In 2019, three-quarters of all web traffic will come from mobile devices.

Instagram has always been optimized for mobile. But this photo trend is emerging there as well, with more posts that mirror the dimensions of a user’s phone screen.

Vertical photos give your images more impact, by filling the screen and eliminating distractions. They also give you new opportunities to play with composition and framing to create amazing images.

Before posting, make sure that the square version of your image that appears on your account grid still looks good! Even in a full-length photo, the center of the image should be compelling and not awkwardly cropped.

5. The collage photo carousel

Carousel images have been around on Instagram for a few years now. But it’s only recently that creative use of the format has taken off.

Increasingly, influencers and brands are posted carousels with a collage-like format. They look like scrapbook photos, inviting you to scroll and see what’s just out of view.

SCRL is an app designed for making carousel layouts. It allows you to design a seamless panorama for Instagram, making it perfect for lookbooks or visual storytelling.

6. The uncurated candid photo

A clear subject framed by plenty of white space has long been an unbeatable Instagram formula. And for good reason: it’s refreshing, clean and pleasing to the eyes.

But inevitably, users want something new and interesting. Minimalism is great for your sock drawer (ask Marie Kondo), but not so much for your feed.

Instead, Instagram users are responding more to casual, candid images. And if you’re tired of arranging every element of your photos, that will come as a relief to you!

This trend is evident in travel and portrait photography too. Photos with action in the foreground and the background, as well as multiple subjects, look more interesting and fresh.

View this post on Instagram

They call him Maradoninha. He’s 11. His family is staking its hopes on him. Maradoninha — whose real name is Leandro Gomes Feitosa — is from Palmas, Brazil, and was discovered by a soccer scout 2 years ago. His family moved 1,200 miles to help him get first-class training from the Fluminense soccer club in Xerém. “God willing,” he said, “I’ll become a big player to help my family in Palmas, my family here and those in need.” Fluminense has since let him go. Maradoninha, photographed here by @dadogaldierihilaea, was one of many young players in Brazil’s youth #soccer system, a brutal apparatus that chews up untold numbers of players for every star it mints. And still, they keep coming. A recent fire at a Brazil soccer club that killed 10 boys has raised questions about the industry. Visit the link in our profile to read more.

A post shared by The New York Times (@nytimes) on

The goal is to take a photo that doesn’t seem like it could be endlessly reproduced. Instead, you want to capture something true and specific.

It might seem like this is easy to achieve, but there’s skill to it. You might need to take a lot of photos before you find one that works.

7. The muted color palette

If you’ve been dialling up the saturation and contrast on your images, it’s time to change gears! Soft, muted tones are appealing to Instagram users in 2019.

Think white, warm beiges, and subdued colors. Similar to the resurgence of film-like photos, this palette has an appealing vintage look while staying clean and polished.

This color trend is particularly relevant for fashion and beauty brands, as it mirrors the runway trends for 2019.

The feed for vintage shop Hey Jude is another example:

Hey Jude instagram profile

When taken together, photos in this muted palette have a calm, relaxing vibe. It’s a soothing break for your overstimulated eyes.

If you like the softness of faux-film photos, but you want to keep your photos sharp and polished, this trend might work for you.

8. The real food photo

This is the edible counterpoint to the no-edit portrait photo. If you’ve been on Instagram for awhile, you’ve probably seen enough Pinterest-worthy pastries and artfully stacked pancakes for one lifetime.

Now, users are hungry for real food photos. They may not be as pretty, but they do look like they’re actually made to be eaten. In some cases, they already are! In 2019, you can do away with the rule that “the camera eats first.”

Of course, it’s still important to consider the tenets of good photography. Focus, lighting and framing your subject will still improve your photo.

For restaurant accounts and food influencers who want to share real, accessible content, this trend is a refreshing change.

9. Black-and-white photos

If your brand is refined and sleek, you may worry the 2019 Instagram photo trends for grainy, casual images aren’t a great fit.

Don’t worry: there’s another trend that might work for you. Black-and-white images look better than ever on Instagram in 2019. They provide an editorial, polished look that’s clean and minimal.

These photos feel modern and vintage at the same time. Just like the sexy 1990s Calvin Klein ads I used to cut out of magazines (and then hide from my parents).

Want to experiment with this trend? Try an app like Black or Camera Noir. These emulate the look of black-and-white film photos.

10. High-flash photo

As this article demonstrates, trends are cyclical.

They all eventually come back: it’s true of flared jeans, Backstreet Boys tours, and high-flash photos.

Those three things were all popular in the 1990s, and the stars have aligned for them once again. Of course, for some brands (like American Apparel) the high-flash look has never gone away.

Like many of the other trends on this list, it’s a little bit retro. But not in a dreamy, hazy way. These photos are sharp, saturated and intense.

The flash can be unforgiving, but with the right subject they provide crisp, vivid images.

This style of photography is cinematic but not polished. It still feels authentic and real, like a photo captured on a disposable camera, but stylish.

To achieve this effect with a smartphone, invest in an external flash unit and sync it to your iPhone camera with a device like Tric. This will give you more control and quality than just using the built-in flash on your iPhone.

Or use a real DSLR and upload your images to Instagram from there.

Ready to experiment with these Instagram editing trends? Social media will constantly evolve, and your brand needs to evolve with it. At least you can have fun with your photos as you do!

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