Blue images, duck face and other secrets for getting more Instagram likes [Study]

by Brendan Lowry on Nov 25, 2013
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instagramInstagram has solidified itself as a serious social network, fully driven by the power of images. As marketers continue to flock to the platform and business features, like new Instagram ads, solidify, the importance of understanding what images work is more important than ever.

For brands on Instagram, Likes don’t just represent engagement, they represent permission.

Consumers who are liking an image that a brand produces are, in essence, inviting the brand into their life and acknowledging the brand’s creativity.

Ultimately, this helps to create a more emotional connection. In effect, your brand is now in a screen along with consumers’ best friends.

Given the power of the “double-tap” on Instagram, Curalate was interested in discovering which types of image characteristics may drive more likes. In order to do so, we looked at a range of image features across 8,000,000 Instagram photos — including lightness, color, texture and background ratio — and found a few interesting results (see below).

And although our data says what and not necessarily why, we have a strong hypothesis on the reasoning behind some of the results…

Small details mean a lot

For instance, we found that images with a single dominant hue performed best. This is probably due to the fact that when you’re viewing an image just mere inches from your face, the absence of chaos can help you focus.

Additionally, the fact that textured images generated more engagement could mean that various ridges and shadows grab eyeballs and cause a user to stop and take a harder look at a photo.

Regardless of our findings, if you’re a creative director, have no fear! It’s important to note that creativity will still trump the science and there is no formula for a “perfect” Instagram photo.

However, this data certainly hints that brands and marketers should think about social platforms natively and understand that different platforms call for different types of content (especially given a similar study we conducted earlier this year to determine image features that spark sharing and engagement on Pinterest).

Have a look at some of the most interesting findings in the infographic below and let us know how you’re taking advantage of the data by posting a link to your Instagram or Pinterest account in the comments!

Instagram Infographic

Originally published on the Curalate blog.


Post Author

Founding team at Curalate, the leading marketing and analytics suite for Pinterest and Instagram. Focused on marketing & product. Previously, launched Skillshare in Philadelphia. Always learning....

  • This is really great info, Brendan. I’d recently read something about the color blue and thought it was fascinating. Will definitely have to keep all this top of mind when creating content.

    Hey – I’ve been on the hunt for some sort of data around what’s a “good” amount of engagement for a brand to have with its Instagram audience. E.g., 5% engagement is average, above average, etc. Have you ever seen anything around this, or do you have any insight?

  • James Scherer

    Brendan, great article. The saturation and texture statistics are crazy! I recently wrote an article on the psychology of color in successful Facebook ads (one of the most interesting articles I’ve ever written), and was amazed at how influential color can be. Apparently the color red is subconsciously intimidating (think of getting a red-penned test back in middle school), while blue is calming and across-the-board people’s favorite color.
    I’d be curious if your instagram best practices hold true for brands – and the stats on user-generated vs brand-generated images. Thanks for the infographic!

  • Great question. Hoping to ask a few folks we know about this one and see what we can find out Ashely.

  • Got a link for the Facebook ad color articles James? Would love to check it out.

  • I also would like to see some more definite figures as to what encompasses “optimal” Instagram engagement.

  • Thanks, Jason! I’ve talked to some folks who feel 1-2% is good, but would love some more feedback.

  • Brendan Lowry

    Ashley, great question! We haven’t yet done a full report regarding that type of data, but I certainly understand why you’re curious.

    We were able to pull some information on average engagement… Of the 8,000,000 images analyzed, 65% images garnered between 0 and 10 likes [1]. Hopefully that’s helpful. Shoot me an email at and I’ll make sure to add you to our list in case we do a report with further details.

    Thanks for engaging. I’m always so impressed with the SocialFresh community.

    [1] Source:

  • Brendan Lowry

    @jamesscherer:disqus I’d also love to see that article. Could you share? Thanks.

  • James Scherer
  • treb072410

    Thanks for sharing the info Brendan.. I really had a great read..

  • Great analysis, would love to see a similar approach taken with brand/marketing messages. Forever 21 is great at adding great photos that still have a call to action:

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