Today's digital photographs are being heavily "filtered." By simple clicks on mobile apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram, users can easily apply digital filters to their pictures to create effects such as faux-vintage and light leaks. To understand the potential impacts of photo filters, we conducted an online experiment and investigated how the use of the black-and-white and film-style photo filters changed viewers' perceptions and descriptions of photographs. We found that photo filters substantially increased viewers' perceived temporal distances to photographs. Participants also tended to describe analogue-style photos more interpretively and tentatively than unfiltered ones, indicating an increase in construal levels. We suggest that the widely used photo filter is not just a tool to change aesthetics; it also adds a layer of history, meaning, and defamiliarization to photographs, allowing users to construct a mental distance in images that deviates from everyday experiences. We offer insights into the psychology of visual styles and implications for designing filter apps and photo-sharing platforms.
Full article: https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3025810
Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mountains (Part)
Xia Gui, Southern Song Dynasty
Low construal level
New York City is a large city
with five boroughs and about
18 million people.
High construal level
New York’s lights,
shimmering in the foggy sky,
remind me of outer space.
(Alter & Oppenheimer, 2008)
“The technique of art is to
make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to
make forms difficult, to
increase the difficulty and
length of perception
because the process of
perception is an aesthetic
end in itself and must be
Art as Device, Viktor
“In which year do you think the
photo was taken?”
Both B&W (d = 1.31) and film-
style (d = 0.86) filters increased
perceived temporal distances.
“How far away do you think
the photo was taken from
where you are now?”
Level of interpretation
“Please describe the photo in a
Number of tentative words used
(e.g., maybe, or, perhaps)
The film-style filter led
participants to describe
interpretatively and tentatively
(d = 0.34).
A helicopter has just dropped of US
troops in the desert. The soldiers
form a circle on the ground with
their guns drawn pointing outwards.
Their packs besides them.
Soldiers seem to be preparing for
some type of battle or stand down.
They all have their guns raised
which means the area they are in
probably holds some serious
A group of children smile up at the
camera with their hands
A group of African children. They
appear rather healthy and vibrant.
It appears that they are playing a
game, most likely football with a
home made ball.
The use of film-style filter
decreased visual appeal (d
= 0.33), which was
The effects of film-style filter on
perceived temporal distance were
stronger among young people.
Older people particularly
disliked the film-style filter.
In B&W condition, people with less
photographic knowledge became
more tentative, while people with
more knowledge became less
disliked the film-style filter.
B&W and film-style filters ↗ perceptions of temporal distance.
Film-style filter ↗ more tentativeness and interpretation.
Age and photographic knowledge moderate the effects of photo
Film-style filter ↘ visual appeal (particularly among older and
less photographically knowledgeable people).