How to Emulate Instagram Filters in Lightroom Classic

by Andrew S. Gibson
How to Emulate Instagram Filters in Lightroom

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The popularity of Instagram has grown immensely since its initial release in 2010. It has evolved from a camera app that successfully combined some pretty filters and a photo sharing website to a giant social network and publicity machine.

There are even professional Instagrammers now – yes, you can get paid for posting photos on Instagram, although you may have to sell your soul to a commercial giant to do so.

When I first used Instagram I was intrigued by the way that so many photos looked better when you applied a filter to them.

The only downside is that you have to run your photos through the App to apply a filter. It would be much easier if you could just use Develop Presets and make it part of the Lightroom workflow.

Well, thanks to some enterprising preset makers, now you can. Here are some reasons why you should.

  • You don’t have to take the photos with a smartphone. You can use a good quality digital camera and decide whether you’d like to apply an Instagram filter afterwards.
  • You don’t have to join Instagram’s social network, which automatically posts photos for other people to see. You have the choice – you can post to Instagram from Lightroom if you want to. Or not. It’s up to you.
  • You can apply the effects to photos you have already taken. Lightroom presets are ideal for reworking and bringing fresh life to images taken in the past.
  • You don’t have to crop to the square format, as you are encouraged to do in Instagram.
  • In Lightroom, the filter is a starting point. You can tweak it, make major changes, and get as sophisticated as you want with local adjustments and other post-processing techniques.
  • Your photos aren’t resized. If you upload a photo to a tablet or phone and use Instagram, it resizes and compresses the image, giving you a much smaller file.

Lightroom Develop Presets

Let’s explore some of these Develop Presets and see how well they work.

Before we start, please bear in mind the best way to use tools like Instagram filters or Lightroom Develop Presets is to use them to enhance good photos, not to try to make bad photos look better.

ON1 Instantastic Develop Presets

ON1 Software has created a set of Develop Presets for Lightroom that mimic the effects created by Instagram’s filters. They are part of the ON1 Signature Collection Presets Volume 2. Just click the link to go download them. These presets are not perfect, but they are free, and that makes them an excellent place to start.

There are several sets of presets in the Signature Collection, and the one you’re looking for is called OnOne Instantastic LR5. Don’t be put off by the name – they work just as well in Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC.

Install the presets (instructions are included, leave a question in the comments if you get stuck) and open Lightroom.

You’ll see a list of names similar to those used by Instagram. You’ll notice that the presets are a little limited – there are only 13 (compared to the 23+ currently available filters in the Instagram app).

It’s important to note that the Instantastic presets are several years old and are more like the filters used in the Instagram app at that time, rather than the latest set.

They are also Instagram inspired rather than intended to emulate specific Instagram filters. That means that they are not as useful as Develop Presets that emulate the latest Instagram filters (and do it more accurately), but as you can see from the examples below the presets are still quite beautiful. Considering they are free, there is not much to think about – go and get them!

Instantastic Lightroom Develop Presets
Instantastic Lightroom Develop Presets

My favorite Instantastic preset for this portrait is Daisy.

Daisy Instantastic Lightroom Develop Preset

Which looks like the Nashville Instagram preset.

Nashville Instagram filter

I used the Daisy preset as a starting point and this is what I eventually came up with. I lifted the highlights and darkened the background to emphasize the tonal contrast in the image. I’ve done this to show you how you can use these presets as a starting point in your processing.

Portrait processed using Daisy Develop Preset in Lightroom

Casey Mac Insta Vintage Develop Presets

Photographer Casey Mac has come up with a set of Insta Vintage Photo Presets that replicate the Instagram filters more closely. They are available from his website (the link above will take you there). You get 28 Lightroom Develop Presets and 28 Photoshop Actions for $6.

Before we look at the Insta Vintage Develop Presets, I want to show you some Instagram filters. These are screenshots taken from my iPhone, and will help us see just how accurate the emulation of the Insta Vintage presets are.

Instagram filters
Instagram filters

Now let’s look at the same photo processed with the Insta Vintage Develop Presets. In these examples they have been applied directly to the portrait without any further adjustments. One of the Instagram filters, Clarendon, isn’t available in the Insta Vintage presets, so I’ve left it out.

Casey Mac Insta Vintage Lightroom Develop Presets
Casey Mac Insta Vintage Lightroom Develop Presets

The comparison reveals that the Insta Vintage Develop Presets are not as close in color and tonal treatment to the original Instagram filters as they could be. Like the Instantastic presets they are best thought of as Instagram inspired, rather than a precise emulation.

There are some beautiful presets here and at $6 they are fantastic value.

Lightroom Develop Presets are really useful for processing, and if you like Instagram’s filters you should certainly consider downloading some of the presets tested in this article. If you have any questions about Instagram or Lightroom then please let us know in the comments.

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