Top Instagram Photo Editing Trends In 2023


The one thing they don't tell us portrait and commercial photographers is that we need to spend a whole lot of time monitoring Instagram to know what's going on in the visual world. Nevertheless, certain trends simply won't sync with my style.

I know people are craving retro flash portraiture with harsh shadows, but despite that, it doesn't align with what I do. Being aware of these trends could steer you into knowing how they could potentially influence your photographic career.

The following list includes the most common trends I've spotted during my endless-scrolling IG runs. Here you'll find emerging talent, storytelling-street, commercial, abstract and experimental edits!

1. The Retro Aesthetic

retro aesthetic
Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris

This retro-inspired visual trend is usually achieved by using editing techniques that are somewhat related to color management. Mastering a good understanding of how chromatic temperature affects the story one is trying to convey is one of the many skills that could lead you to become a successful photographer. Retro is all about mimicking the texture of paper-based photographs, especially optical artefacts such as grain or vignettes. I love the colors that replicate the Kodachrome 64 aesthetic.

Mobile applications excel at delivering presets, but developing personal recipes is a must if you're open to enjoying the whole creative process of becoming Instafamous! Creative freedom is more fun when we tweak our shots in the way we want them to be. In my experience, Lightroom mobile is one of the few apps delivering such a fine level of creative freedom.

2. The Dark And Moody Look

dark and moody look
Photo by Pawel Szvmanski

Have you ever been interested in replicating that dramatic vibe present in Flemish paintings? From Rembrandt to Vermeer, all these great masters had something in common, they all used light in a very peculiar way; a dark and moody atmospheric fashion to be more precise. This style is a safe decision if you want to convey mystery, sadness, or melancholy with your photographs. No matter if it's a portrait or a still-life, this vibe makes everything become instantly dramatic.

Are you interested in achieving something like this you say? Well, the first thing you need to take into account is sub-exposing with your camera or phone. Long gone are the days in which mobile devices were limited to boring auto exposure; thankfully of course! After that, a subtle vignette and you are ready to start your own creative decisions.

3. AI-Powered Editing

AI powered editing
Photo by Deep Mind

Oh boy, here we go 🙄 Yes, we can't ignore AI, and we should be taking advantage to come up with better and newer ideas for expressing ourselves in a more democratised way, just like photography began doing 200 years ago!

Although, everything is evolving too fast for any of us to keep track of the changes. Investing in professional feedback ain't a luxury everyone can afford, but there are decent solutions thanks to AI for receiving some aid. Certain algorithms can read images and can suggest improvements based on their normalized data. You'll get some suggestions — yes — but at the end of the day, they are good suggestions for anyone starting in.

But if you aren't that DIY of a person, then you can also try AI-powered photo editing solutions like Instagram's portrait mode, which allegedly uses algorithms to tweak the background of an image and make it blurry for a more face-focused kind of shot. Also, we've been told about Lensa, which is something like having a personal graphic designer in your pocket working impressive selfies for you.

4. Very Strict Minimalism

strict minimalism
Photo by Milad Fakurian

The reason we think minimalism is still a big trend in the photographic world is how challenging it is to achieve properly. Minimalism is all about leaving the essence of the scene exposed to the camera and nothing more! “Less is more they say”, but what they don't say is how difficult it is to reach such a level of synthesis and concretion.

Some suggest using a precise color palette to remove visual clutter, some prefer tight crops like the ones achieved with a 135mm telephoto lens, and some others are just talented at composing with an incredibly minimal eye.

5. Bold Colors

bold colors
Photo by Ryan Stone

Of course, not everything has to be muted and dull. Some expressive masters ruling the ephemeral waters of Instagram also enjoy using bold colors to stand out from the crowd. Vivid colors are good for effectively grabbing people's attention.

If you dig deeper into the nuts and bolts of Instagram you'll find several built-in editing tools which can be used to adjust the colors via saturation and vibrance slides. Also, you can skim the myriad of third-party photo editing apps in both Android and Apple stores. However, we recommend you always use editing apps with a clear goal in mind. What are you trying to communicate with your Insta shots?

6. Storytelling With Consistent Color Schemes

Photo by Girl With Red Hat

If you are only willing to try one, then this trend is for you. Storytelling is what made my photographs take off, and using a consistent color scheme throughout the whole body of work makes it easier to recognize as such. Stories need a certain order, otherwise, they end up feeling like something written by that guy from the 2016 “Split” movie; which curiously, was inspired by a real-life case.

When deciding on a color palette, you should always consider the overall atmosphere you are trying to convey. Purples, greens, greys, and blues are considered cool tones, which can be bright or moody depending on your vision. The same applies to warm tones like reds, oranges, and yellows of course.


Instagram photo editing trends change over time, but there are also consistent approaches that seem to be here to stay, such as minimalism and nostalgic retro style. I'm eager to see what 2023 will come up with! My feelings are that AI would affect our lives in surprising ways. Please share with us your thoughts on IG photo editing trends in the comment section below!

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About Author

Federico has a decade of experience in documentary photography, and is a University Professor in photography and research methodology. He's a scientist studying the social uses of photography in contemporary culture who writes about photography and develops documentary projects. Other activities Federico is involved in photography are curation, critique, education, mentoring, outreach and reviews. Get to know him better here.

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