How to Search for and Use Camera Filters and Effects on Instagram

Use Camera Effects Instagram Featured

Like Snapchat, Instagram lets you create images using augmented reality filters (or effects) that can alter your appearance and environment in fun and interesting ways. You can then post these results as Stories, Reels or regular posts on your profile. If you’re not sure how to access these camera filters, you’ve landed in the right place. This tutorial details how to get started and find the best ones.

Note: you can only use camera filters through the Instagram mobile app (Android | iOS), not the desktop version.

How to Quickly Access Default Camera Effects on Instagram

Snapping a quick picture using one of the default Instagram camera filters is easy. Follow the directions below.

  1. Open the Instagram app on your phone and swipe left from the main feed to go to Instagram’s camera screen.
  2. Select the content type you want to produce: Post, Story, Reel or Live.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Select Post Type
  1. Notice the series of colored bubbles above this row. These are the various camera filters you can choose from. Swipe your finger left or right to see all of your options.
  2. Tap on a filter you like to see a preview of what it can do.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Filter Selection
  1. Press the large circular button to use the filter to take a photo or start filming.

Note: some camera filters work only in selfie mode.

The filters you see here are a mix of popular filters (including some from the people you follow). However, if you’re not satisfied with the options presented to you, you can always look for more.

How to Find Instagram’s Camera Effect Library

Instagram features a large camera filter library. Follow the steps below to find it and start using additional filters.

  1. Swipe left through all of the filter bubbles from Instagram’s camera screen until you reach the last one. (It may take quite a bit of swiping, so don’t give up.)
  2. Tap on the filter bubble (the one with the magnifying glass) when you find it to open the “Effect gallery.”
Use Camera Effects Instagram Search More
  1. Choose from the effect options available.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Browse Library
  1. Select an effect and check the preview of what the effect can do.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Try It Button
  1. Tap the “Try it” button if you want to use the effect.

Note: some effects offer multiple variations of the main theme, while others require you to add a song to get the full effect.

  1. Tap the “Add” button in the lower-right corner to “favorite” this particular effect for easier access.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Save To Insta Camera
  1. The effect appears in the bubble row when you open your Instagram camera again.

How to Find Instagram Camera Effects by Creator

You can discover even more filters by identifying the creator and checking their profile to see more of their designs. Instagram lets anyone create their own filters – all you need is a bit of creativity and tech skills. There are various ways to find creator profiles.

  1. If you found a cool effect via the Effect Library (which you learned to access in the previous section) and want to see if its creator has more cool stuff to offer, tap on their name at the bottom after you’ve pressed “Try it.”
Use Camera Effects Instagram Effect Creator
  1. Select “View Effect Page.”
Use Camera Effects Instagram View Page
  1. Take a look at their other effects and perhaps try other options.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Multiple Filters Creator

Alternatively, try to identify creator profiles by visiting random users’ profile pages. An example of a creator profile is Instagram’s official page on the app.

  1. Check for a toolbar underneath Highlights or just above the photo grid on a profile. Then, tap on the Effects icon (the one that looks like three little stars).
Use Camera Effects Instagram Creator Profile View Glance
  1. Browse through the available options and tap once you see something you want to try.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Creator View Effects Browse
  1. Press the “See details” button if the preview looks interesting.
Use Camera Effects Instagram See Details Filter
  1. Select “Try it.”
Use Camera Effects Instagram Directly Try Now

Open Instagram’s Effect Library (as we showed you above) if you want to discover which people you follow are effect creators.

Use Camera Effects Instagram Follower Effects

Tap on the “Following” tab at the top to see a list of effects from the people you follow.

Use Camera Effects Instagram Followers Library

How to Try Filters From Others

This works only in the case of Reels. If you’ve noticed an interesting clip with a particularly cool filter and would like to try it yourself, it’s very easy to do.

  1. Open a Reel.
  2. Tap on the three little stars above the person’s username on the left side of the display to see all of the Reels that use the same effect. The name of the filter (if they used one) appears next to these stars.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Tap Effect Name Reel
  1. Press on “Use effect” at the bottom to start using the filter.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Use Reel Effect
  1. Start recording your creation when you’re on the Camera screen.

Note: while browsing Reels, you may also notice the “Use template” prompt, which allows you to create a more intricate video made up of several smaller parts (videos) that you can upload.

Use Camera Effects Instagram Use Effect Reel

How to Use Camera Effects on Standard Posts

Camera effects aren’t the same for Stories and Reels, so even if you’ve found a nice Story effect, it might not be available for Reels and vice versa. You can get around this apparent limitation by using a trick. While you can’t technically apply camera filters directly from the Camera screen on your posts, you can still create posts that take advantage of a particular camera effect. To post a picture with an applied camera effect on Instagram, follow the steps below:

  1. Open the Camera on Instagram, then select “Story” from the options at the bottom.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Create Story
  1. Tap the filter you want to use, either by selecting one of the available options in your Camera or searching the library.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Select Effect Story
  1. Snap the image or shoot a quick video using the filter by pressing the large circular button in the middle.
  2. Instead of pressing the “Your Story” button to post your Instagram story, tap on the three dots in the upper-right corner of the display and select “Save.”
Use Camera Effects Instagram Save Story
  1. Find the picture or video in your phone’s Gallery.
  2. Go back to Instagram and use the image you’ve created through the Story maker to create a standard post that gets displayed in your profile grid.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Post Story As

This method is also handy if you want to use a Stories-specific filter on a Reel. Knowing that, you can shoot your video in Story maker, apply the filter, save it to your Gallery, then go to the Reels uploading section and use that specific video from your Gallery as your Reel.

To apply the opposite – using a Reel-specific filter for a Story – shoot your video with the desired effect, save it to your phone, then take a screenshot while you’re playing it. Crop out the parts of the images you don’t want to be visible and post this image as a Story (or even a regular post).

How to Save Effects for Later Use

Found an effect that seems promising but have no inspiration to take a photo right now? Don’t worry, you can save it and use it later by following these steps:

  1. Tap on the “Try it” button once you’ve identified a filter you like via one of the avenues detailed in this article.
  2. Tap on the effect’s name and author on the preview screen.
  3. Select “Save effect.”
Use Camera Effects Instagram Save Effect
  1. Send the Effect to someone via the “Send to” button. This ensures that the effect is saved via your inbox.
Use Camera Effects Instagram Send In Direct
  1. Go back to the Effects Library and tap on the “Saved” tab to view your Saved effects.
Use Camera Effects Instagram View Saved

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use camera filters on photos you’ve already taken (from your Gallery)?

Unfortunately, you can’t. If you use preexisting photos, you can use only “static” filters that play with the color dynamics of your image. Camera effects are reserved for images and videos you snap or record using the Instagram camera. The same applies to preexisting videos that are imported from your device to Instagram.

How can I make my own camera effects on Instagram?

You need to download and install a program called Spark AR Studio. While the software is quite complex, you can easily learn how to make a basic camera effect within minutes by following our step-by-step tutorial.

Can I use camera effects during a video call?

Yes. Press the three-star icon on the left screen once you start a video call, then proceed to select your favorite camera effect from the bottom to apply it to your image in real time.

Image credit: pawel szvmanski via Unsplash All screenshots by Alexandra Arici

Alexandra Arici
Alexandra Arici

Alexandra is passionate about mobile tech and can be often found fiddling with a smartphone from some obscure company. She kick-started her career in tech journalism in 2013, after working a few years as a middle-school teacher. Constantly driven by curiosity, Alexandra likes to know how things work and to share that knowledge with everyone.

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