While filters might be all the rage on social media, you might not realize that some of those dreamy, saturated filters can actually heighten viewer engagement too.

Filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on, according to researchers at Georgia Tech and Yahoo Labs. But what’s really fascinating is that only certain types of filters increase the level of engagement: Ones that boost warmth, exposure, and contrast drive the most views and comments. Why does this happen?

Increasing Warmth

Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow are considered high-arousal colors; they stimulate and excite the senses. Because these colors convey warmth (think heat, fire, and sunshine), they also tend to make you cheerful and happy.

For example, take a look at this photo of grapefruits and oranges by contributor Ekaterina Pokrovsky:

stock photo of grapefruits and oranges

photo filters and effects

When a warm filter is applied, the pink, yellow, and orange tones in the fruits are enhanced with extra glow. The filtered image feels cheerful, and the fruits look sweeter and juicier, creating a much more inviting image.

Increasing Exposure

Exposure refers to the amount of light captured by the camera sensor when you take a photo. Too little light makes images dark and difficult to see, but too much light makes the brighter parts of images “blown out” with white highlights.

Let’s look at this image of a buoy in the sea by contributor DiversityStudio.

stock photo of buoy floating in water

increase exposure photo filter effect

Using a filter that increases exposure and adds a bit more light, the image becomes brighter and more captivating. Colors that appeared muted and dark are now vibrant. The added light enhances the lively red-orange shade of the buoy, making it a stronger focal point.

Increasing Contrast

In photography, contrast means the difference between light and dark. Filters that increase contrast will darken shadows and brighten highlights. Our brains are wired to notice these differences, meaning high-contrast images are more visually engaging.

Take a look below at the image of a frog resting on a leaf by contributor Dikky Oesin.

stock photo of frog on leafincreased contrast photo filter effect

In low contrast images, colors appear muted because there isn’t enough difference between lights and darks. High-contrast images contain vibrant colors—the lights are more luminous and the darks are more saturated.

For example, it’s hard to ignore the bold yellow of the frog’s underbelly, or the cheerful tangerine on its feet. The water droplets stand out more with a darkened shadow, adding detail and visual interest.

If you’re looking to easily enhance your imagery, try Shutterstock Editor, which comes with 10 versatile filters. Each of the images in this post was enhanced using the Tungsten, Zinc, or Nickel filter from Shutterstock Editor. And for more information on filters, check this post out!

Top image: a fair ride shot with a long exposure at dusk toned with a retro vintage instagram filter effect app or action by Annette Shaff