Photo editing trends move fast on Instagram. Remember when the feed was full of heavily-filtered, square-cropped photos?
That was only a couple of years ago, but in 2020 that style looks so dated that you might as well be posting a daguerreotype.
What seemed like an interesting and original photo composition can quickly become a tired cliche.
Your average Instagram user spends almost half an hour each day on the app, which means photos that looked fresh a year ago have already lost some of their sparkle. To hold their attention, you want to keep up with the latest Instagram photo editing trends.
Below, we’ve rounded up the top X styles for 2020!
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10 top Instagram photo editing trends
“No edit” editing
Instagram used to be the spot for flawless, curated images: pristine brunch plates, airbrushed beach photos, and glossy interiors. But that aesthetic is over.
In 2020, users prefer photos that look real. Images with a little texture are more interesting than flawlessly edited landscapes or portraits.
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.
The throwback selfie
Not to be a downer, but the early months of 2020 have been characterized by isolation. Almost everyone is at home, many without an Instagram husband to shoot their looks.
That makes it tough to seek out an attention-grabbing backdrop and stage the perfect photoshoot.
As a result, the humble mirror selfie is on the rise again. These images feel a little more intimate and natural than staged photos, and as a bonus, you can shoot them without a tripod.
Even retail brands are turning to self-portraits for a fresh angle. The spring campaigns by fashion brand Aritzia feature models at home taking selfies on their phones, resulting in some charmingly lo-fi looks.
To maintain the throwback appeal of this format, consider enhancing the graininess in a tool like Adobe Lightroom to add the kind of texture that’s characteristic of film. Or use Afterlight to add subtle dust and light leak effects to photos.
The maximalist food photo
For a long time, food images on Instagram were tidy and refined: a square of avocado toast on a pastel plate, an artful cappuccino, a perfect Momofuku cake.
Now, that aesthetic feels a bit stale, like a day-old doughnut. Instead, viewers are craving food that looks vibrant and messy.
Instead of being perfectly plated, these food shots are dynamic or close-up, and — excuse the pun — look good enough to eat.
To achieve this look, you want to edit your photos for high contrast and saturation, to achieve a crisp, vivid look.
The photo editing tool VSCO is great for food photos, with a ton of filters that enhance your images. Use a filter like G3 to add vibrance, or A3 for clean, bright tones.
The imperfect beauty portrait
Running parallel to the “no edit” trend is the widespread embrace of imperfect beauty portraits.
This trend celebrates diversity and authenticity, showing real faces and bodies in all their glory. Instead of removing wrinkles, blemishes and other “flaws”, those details are emphasized.
This trend is great for brands that want to build their reputation for honesty and trustworthiness. Gillette Venus has done an awesome job of sharing unretouched images of women that include stretch marks or body hair with their #MyHairMyWay campaign.
Other skincare, beauty and self-care brands are also leaning into this trend, perhaps realizing that models with perfect skin probably do not resonate with customers looking for acne treatments or eye creams.
These photos often look unedited, but they’re usually still refined for Instagram. Often that means increasing brightness and contrast to reveal more of that imperfect texture that makes them so interesting.
The “G” series of filters in VSCO is great for subtly enhancing your portraits, gently flattering all skin tones while keeping things natural.
The vertical shot
We’ve come a long way since Instagram launched in 2010, baby. Remember when the platform only allowed square photos?
Even after Instagram loosened restrictions to allow other image formats, it was a long time before vertical photos took off. Now, they’re finally having a turn in the spotlight.
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. And for serious photographers who hated cropping their images to fit in a square format, they’re a gift.
This long format is particularly well-suited to nature photography, where you want to give a sense of scale and majesty.
It’s also great for fashion shots, allowing you to share plenty of details without awkwardly cropping your model.
Before posting, make sure that the square version of your image that appears on your grid still looks good! Even in a full-length photo, the center of the image should be compelling.
Vertical photos should have an aspect ratio of 4:5, ideally 1080 x 1350 pixels. Find a complete guide to Instagram image sizes here.
The monochrome photo
Images that stick to a single color family look clean and crisp on the feed, standing out like towering Rothkos in a crowded art gallery.
This monochrome look is dramatic and interesting, giving a straightforward product photo an editorial feel
And pops of bold color or a bright background stands out in the Instagram feed, which is exactly what you want to do.
Different colors evoke specific moods and emotions: red is energetic, orange is happy, purple is creative, pink is romantic. Choose a color that reflects how you want your audience to feel about your brand.
To enhance your images, clean up distractions like dirt or shadows from your backdrop with an app like Touch Retouch. It helps you remove unwanted objects from your photos while retaining a natural look.
A more multipurpose tool like Adobe Photoshop Express can also help you dial up the saturation of your featured tones while keeping your photo balanced and beautiful. Or try Darkroom, another feature-heavy photo app for adjusting the colors in your photos.
The neon edit
Another trend with a retro kick is neon, glowing brightly all over Instagram. Also known by a sexier nickname, it seems like everyone is bathed in neon light these days.
Projecting an active and energetic mood, It’s a good fit for cinematic shots, dramatic portraits, or fitness brands.
You can achieve this sultry vibe through your photo set-up, by positioning pink and blue lights on either side of your subject. But an even easier method is through the aptly-named Neon app, full of colorful filters.
The artful still life
Not every photo on your Instagram feed needs to be a product shot, or even directly related to your brand. You can build your following and engage your audience through beautiful photos and videos that create a mood, develop your aesthetic, or offer visual inspiration.
Glossier built an enormous following even before they launched their first product by treating their Instagram account like a mood board, posting over 125 photos of dreamy landscapes and objects in their signature pink palette. They still excel at the art of the still life:
In 2020, stunning your audience with arresting images is a way to cut through the noise. Instagram users are overloaded by content; a dreamy photo is a great palate cleanser. If you can make your product shots look like art, all the better:
Good lighting is the foundation of an artful still life. But skillful editing takes it to the next level. Pixlr is an easy photo-editing app with a ton of pre-sets and tools like Color Splash, which enhance the featured colors in your photo to striking effect.
Apollo is another great photo editing app for tweaking the lighting of your images, to create dramatic shadows or compensate for limited natural light.
Or try an app like AfterFocus, which lets you gently blur the background of your shot to emphasize your subject.
Creativity pays off here—download a few new tools and play around!
The colorful collage
You can always count on Gen Z to put a twist on an Instagram trend, and 2020 is no different. This year, teens have taken up a wholesome hobby: creating collages to celebrate high school graduation and sharing virtual yearbooks on Instagram.
Collages started popping up on Instagram over the past few years, and this trend shows no signs of disappearing.
Combining photos, illustrations and text, collages bring a friendly, casual vibe to your Instagram posts. They’re a great way to add variety to your feed, enhance word-based images, and add fun and creativity to your account.
There are a ton of apps for creating fun collages. Canva is one of our favorites: it’s easy to use and has a fantastic free version, though you can pay for expanded options. Unfold is another popular option, with plenty of gorgeous templates. Or try out Adobe Spark, which is simple, clean and optimized for social.
The flash-on photo
After testing out hiding the number of likes on posts, Instagram is moving to make likes private across the platform as part of their strategy to make the platform a more connected, community-driven place.
Without each post displaying its relative popularity, many influencers and brands feel freer to experiment with their posts, sharing content that’s interesting and genuine rather than what they think will perform best.
If you want to show off your authentic and experimental side, try playing with flash effects. They’re crisp and high-focus, but not polished. Instead, they tend to look a bit gritty and raw, with lots of grain and texture. They make portraits more interesting, and lend a sharp editorial vibe to product shots.
To achieve this effect without any extra equipment, try David’s Disposable, an app that lets you emulate the disposable camera flash effect with your smartphone. For more precision, 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 you can always use a real DSLR and upload your images to Instagram from there. (We won’t tell anyone!)
Ready to bring your photos into the next decade? Remember, trends are supposed to be fun— if you enjoy the content you’re creating, chances are your audience will too.
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