Exposing the #Nofilter Movement

Busbud Instagram NoFilter Study

Many Instagram users like to add filters to the photos they share – just a couple of clicks can enhance color, boost contrast, or lend vintage charm. But for some people, posting a photo unaltered is a point of pride – and adding the #nofilter hashtag lets them share that shot with a wider audience.

We wanted to get a snapshot of the #nofilter movement worldwide. First, we examined the prevalence of #nofilter posts based on the hashtag’s density, which we calculated by comparing the number of #nofilter posts per each #instagram post. We also gauged the popularity of #nofilter photos based on the number of “likes” they get. We then zoomed in to examine these #nofilter trends in Europe and North America.

Finally, we took a hard look at #nofilter Instagrammers’ honesty. Based on their very name, #nofilter photos should contain no special effects – but, in reality, more than 7% of posts tagged #nofilter actually have a filter! Surprised? So were we. Read on for more details.


Countries With Highest Density of #nofilter Posts

Countries with highest density of nofilter posts

Instagrammers appear to be passionate about capturing a wide variety of contrasting images: from icy landscapes to sun-drenched beaches, historic architecture to rugged wilderness. Case in point: The Bahamas and Iceland – two locations that virtually could not differ more – vie for top spot. From Scandinavia to the Baltic region, North America to Australia, #nofilter posts span the globe.

Density of #nofilter Posts Around the World

Nofilter prevalence around the world

The top countries for #nofilter density are the Bahamas and Iceland, followed by Finland, Croatia, and Canada.

From the Bahamas, users share impressions of a tropical paradise: turquoise waves, toes in the sand, and palm trees silhouetted against the night sky.

View of the #Bahamas on the way home today. #NoFilter for real

Une photo publiée par @pickledblueberry le

When in Iceland, Instagrammers snap photos of snow-covered peaks, icy lakes, enormous glaciers and of course the northern lights.

Most-Liked #nofilter Posts Around the World

Most-Liked #nofilter Posts Around the World

Looking past post density, when it comes to #nofilter posts’ popularity (based on number of likes received on Instagram), one destination comes out on top by a staggering margin: the Maldives. Nearly a million visitors per year check this dream destination off their bucket list, and for good reason: the 1,190 islands that comprise this paradise sit a mere five feet above sea level and may someday disappear. The dazzling reefs, lagoons, and beaches are apparently colorful enough to forgo filters when posting photos.

Lebanon is another #nofilter hub, thanks in part to limestone caves and ancient cedar trees.

Israel, home of the natural wonders such as the Dead Sea, Hula Valley, and Makhtesh Ramon (a “crater” caused by erosion), holds the third spot for most-liked Instagram images. The Bahamas – a tropical paradise composed of 700 islands – comes in fourth, while fifth-place Kazakhstan is home to deserts, vast grasslands, and underground mosques.


Density of #nofilter Posts in Europe

Density of #nofilter Posts in Europe

When it comes to density of #nofilter posts within Europe, the three top countries also make the top five list for the world – proving that Europe is a #nofilter hub. Iceland, of course, claims the top spot, followed by Finland, Croatia , Slovenia , and Norway.

Finland is known for its contrasts – dark winters and continuously sunny summers, rural landscapes and urban scenes – making it a photographer’s paradise. Croatia offers ample opportunities for snapping picturesque villages, celebrated architecture, and the crystal-clear Adriatic Sea.

Most-Liked #nofilter Posts in Europe

Most-Liked #nofilter Posts in Europe

Based on number of likes on Instagram, posts that originate from Turkey are the most popular of European countries. Why? Perhaps credit goes to the ancient architectural wonders – such as Ayasofya, Ephesus, and Topkapi Palace. Second-place Ukraine features breathtaking nature scenes such as the Carpathian Mountains, as well as diverse cities: bustling capital Kiev, sunny Odessa on the Black Sea, and seaside resort Yalta. Greece, known for its picturesque islands, history-rich cities, and impressive mountains, claims third place. In fourth place comes Belarus, characterized by primeval forests and Stalinist architecture. Russia is in fifth place, thanks to numerous breathtaking scenes, including Palace Square in St. Petersburg, historic Red Square, and fun-lover’s paradise Gorky Park in Moscow, and the onion-domed churches of the Golden Ring.


Density of #nofilter Posts in the U.S.

Density of #nofilter Posts in the U.S.

Within the U.S., #nofilter movement is active from coast to coast. Vermont has the highest density of #nofilter posts. Wyoming and Washington come next, followed by New Hampshire and Maine.

Though these five states differ from one another, each is beautiful in its own right. Top spot Vermont is known for its scenic byways filled with views of farmland vistas and charming villages. Wyoming features rugged surroundings: steep mountains, thick forests, crashing waterfalls, and plunging canyons.

Most-Liked #nofilter Posts in the U.S.

Most-Liked #nofilter Posts in the U.S.

When it comes to the popularity of American #nofilter images based on number of Instagram likes, Alaska takes the cake – from the unspoiled rivers, peaks, and tundra of Denali National Park to the icy outcroppings of Glacier View. In second-place, Virginia users are rewarded with likes when they eschew filters in favor of natural colors when posting photos of the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.

Crystal-clear water, active volcanoes, and palm trees propel Hawaii into third place, and Washington offers plenty of no-filter-required photo subjects – from rugged mountains to rainforests, the Space Needle to Pike Place Market. Next comes Nevada, with breathtaking photo opps such as the Valley of Fire, Spring Mountains, and Great Basin National Park.

Most-Liked #nofilter Posts in Canada

Most-Liked #nofilter Posts in Canada

Canada is home to a world of photographic possibilities. Featuring more than 18,000 miles of unspoiled coastline, Newfoundland and Labrador, on the most easterly edge of North America, takes top spot for the most-liked #nofilter posts in Canada. The area features craggy granite cliffs, serene meadows, and glaciers. Further east, old-world European charm paired with natural beauty land the province of Quebec in second place.

The westernmost territory in the country, the Yukon lends itself to #nofilter posts courtesy of its wild and rugged mountains, forests, and bodies of water – not to mention the Northern Lights. Next comes Ontario (home to about 40% of Canada’s population), where a variety of “wow” locations, such as Niagara Falls, the CN Tower in Toronto, and Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, are stunning even without filters. Fifth-place Alberta is home to a variety of draws: renowned parks Banff and Jasper, wild-west culture (featuring the Calgary Stampede), and the Canadian Badlands – a mecca for dinosaur lovers.


#nofilter Posts With Filters

While #nofilter posts technically should not include filters, sometimes it’s tempting for users to enhance their photos on the down-low. In fact, 7.41% of all #nofilter posts do actually include filters.

Which are the most popular? Juno claims the top spot, followed by Lark, Clarendon, Lo-Fi, and Ludwig. For the most part, these choices are fairly subtle – no eye-popping colors or transitions to black-and-white – which makes the #nofilter fib more believable.

Seek Out a #nofilter Life

Where do you want to go? Whether your travel bucket list is in your head or down on paper, it’s time to see something you’ve always wanted. If you’ve always loved nature, visit a state filled with wildlife. If you dream of crashing waves, plan a trip to the coast. If you’re an architecture devotee, save up for a trip to an ancient city overseas.

Travel can be pricey, but one way to save money and hassles is by skipping the rental car in favor of bus travel. Busbud can help you chart your course – whether you’re traveling around the state, around the country, or around the world. And once you get to your destination, don’t forget to snap some #nofilter photos.




Using the Instagram API, we looked at every geo-tagged post in 2015 with #nofilter. We ranked countries, states and provinces based on two factors:

Density refers to the number of #nofilter posts per #instagram post. It is determined by dividing the total number of #nofilter posts by the total number of #instagram posts. The hashtag #instagram was chosen as a baseline that would span the globe.

Popularity refers to the average number of likes per #nofilter post.
We only looked at countries with at least 1,000 #nofilter posts.

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