Why Photographers Don’t Want You to Use Instagram Filters

October 5, 2017

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Hi I’m Morgan! I’m a photography educator and Raleigh, NC newborn photographer and family photographer.

Meet Morgan



Instagram filters and the vast array of editing apps you can download on your phone these days are just lovely. Really, they are. I’m not an Instagram filter fan, but I definitely have my go-to apps for my iPhone photos, and they serve their purpose well. The off duty photographer side of me appreciates them.

The on duty photographer side of me, though? Eh, not so much. Why, you ask? Because I work hard – really really hard – to perfect my photos using the professional tools on my computer. I’ve spent precious time and money educating myself on how to best use these tools. I spend an embarrassing amount of time getting the colors just how I want them and stressing over the smallest details in a photo. And I do all of this so that the finished product is consistent with my work, which my client presumably hired me for. It’s something I take pride in, and it’s what makes my work just that – MINE.

Urban bride and groom photos. Photographed by Morgan Williams Photography.

I’m not necessarily an out of the ordinary photographer in this respect. This is pretty routine stuff for most of us. So you can imagine the horror we experience when we come across one of our photos – you know, the ones we worked so hard to perfect – and it has a nice little Instagram filter slapped on top of it. You might say that we die a little inside – because we do. We definitely do.

Instagram Filters and Salty Pasta

If you’re not a photographer, you may be asking why this is such a big deal. It’s still the same photo, after all, right? Wrong. Let’s think of this in terms of a different kind of art to better illustrate this point. Let’s say I’m at a restaurant with my girlfriends and the chef has prepared an exquisite dish of pasta. He prepared it just as he intended to with the perfect mix of spices and sauces.

I receive my dish, and I think it’s good, but I want to add a little somethin-somethin to it. I douse it in salt. I mean really pour it on there, you guys. I don’t finish it, so I take the leftovers home to my husband and fail to mention my salt party to him. Upon digging in, he thinks this dish could be good but it’s way too salty. He’s never been to this restaurant before, and now he’ll never take it upon himself to go, because apparently they’re really into salt and he’s not. He may actually really love the restaurant, but he’s been so disgusted by what I gave him that he can’t bare the thought of going.

You may say that I misrepresented the chef and the restaurant by handing over my doctored-up dish to my husband, and you would be correct. In the same way, throwing a filter on a photo you’ve had taken by a professional photographer or editing it in ANY way is misrepresenting their work.

Social Media and Edited Photos

Social media is a huge source of business for myself and many photographers. So when a client takes it upon themselves to edit our images and then tag us giving us photo credit, it’s a really tough pill to swallow. First of all, let me just say that we do very much appreciate you giving us credit! We love that! But when the photo isn’t a true reflection of the work we do, it makes us really sad. It makes us feel like you didn’t like the photo in the state we delivered it. It makes us feel like you think you can do our job better than we can. It makes us feel insulted, to be blunt.

And while we love that you’re sharing our work with your social media audiences, we really hate that those audiences aren’t getting to see what our work really looks like. Perhaps they’d actually love us and want to learn more. So they would click over to our profile, visit our website, browse around, fill out the contact form and book us for their wedding. Or maybe they wouldn’t be a fan of our style. Either way, we want our work to be represented accurately.

Read Your Contract and Communicate

Honestly, this happens so frequently that most photographers have a clause in their contract addressing it. I have one in mine. All of my clients sign it. Most of them abide by it even though many of them probably don’t read it. And to be completely candid, I feel like a total jerk if I have to email a client asking them to take a photo down and/or remove the finishing touches they’ve put on it. It’s not something we want to do, so please don’t make us do it.

If there’s a blemish you want removed or something specific about the photo that you’d like to see changed, TELL YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER. Yes, we want you to be happy! If there’s anything we can do to achieve client satisfaction while still staying true to our aesthetic and style, we’re probably going to do it. We would MUCH rather you reach out to us and ask than sign onto Instagram to see you’ve posted an engagement photo with a super blue filter over it. ACK.

If you want your photos to look like they have an Instagram filter on them, then by all means, hire a photographer who creates work similar to that style! There’s someone out there for everyone. But please, for the love of all that is holy, do not edit your professional photos (that you likely paid good money for) and blast them on social media. Don’t add salt to the pasta, y’all. You’re better than that.






  1. Chelsea says:

    Hey Morgan – great post with a very clear explanation of a photographer’s point of view. Do you mind sharing what your filter clause states? I’m looking to update ours and I’m having a hard time finding examples that won’t offend anyone. Thanks!

  2. Cheryl says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I couldn’t have said it any better, and will be sharing this article like crazy.

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