The trouble with Instagram filters on professional modelling photos.

The creative filters are one of the most popular features of Instagram - taking “normal” photos and giving them a cool style at the touch of a button makes the app more fun. But why are some photographers getting angry about an image filter?

I’ve noticed the more and more often in photographers’ forums online, posts like this are appearing:

“I provided a model with photographs, and now she’s posted them on her Instagram with a horrible filter! Can she do this? What can I do about it?”

The first question to address: Why is the photographer upset by this?

Photographer survey:

94%Hate it
6%Don't care
0%Like it
The most well-understood part of digitally editing a photograph is the cosmetic retouching - removing blemishes and so on. That part is boring, it’s just laborious, really, and not creative. The lesser-known part is the work that is done with colours and tones, to give the image a specific look. This is the part that many photographers agonise over, and it’s an important part of the creative process. Most of them spend a long time trying to get it just right.

It is much like the process of adding a filter, but a lot more technical and precise, designed to bring out or hide specific details, to maximise the professional finish of the image. Unlike an automated filter, the effect is carefully tailored specifically for the image.

When you add an automated filter to your photograph, you’re essentially destroying that creative part of the photographer’s work, which is like kicking over a sandcastle they’ve spend an hour building.

On top of that, the refinement and precision of the final colouring is something they take pride in, and when you degrade it with a filter, it actually makes the photographer look like they did a shoddy job of editing your photo, which is professionally embarrassing for them, to have an image out there with their name on it, with work they can’t be proud of.

The second question to address: But don’t I have the right to do whatever I want with the photos?

You probably do. However, depending on the circumstances of the photoshoot, for example whether it’s a commissioned shoot, something that was shot for a third-party client, or a free portfolio shoot, you may not actually have the legal right to publish a digitally-altered version of the image. Many photography contracts now specifically forbid this.

But even if you do have a legal right, it’s important to at least be aware that your photographer may well be offended. Some photographers don’t mind, some will get upset, but most of them are secretly really bothered, but don’t tell you for fear of seeming petty.

The bottom line is, imagine you created something you’re proud of, and someone else changes it in a way that you feel ruins it, and then shows it to everyone and telling them it’s your work. Not a great feeling.

The purpose of this article isn’t to tell you what you can and can’t do with your photos, just to inform you of this factor to consider when you filter a photographers’s images. It’s best to at least ask first, rather than assuming they won’t mind.