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Time Travel with One Click: Effects of Digital Filters on Perceptions of Photographs

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Today's digital photographs are being heavily "filtered." By simple clicks on mobile apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram, users can easily apply digital filters to their pictures to create effects such as faux-vintage and light leaks. To understand the potential impacts of photo filters, we conducted an online experiment and investigated how the use of the black-and-white and film-style photo filters changed viewers' perceptions and descriptions of photographs. We found that photo filters substantially increased viewers' perceived temporal distances to photographs. Participants also tended to describe analogue-style photos more interpretively and tentatively than unfiltered ones, indicating an increase in construal levels. We suggest that the widely used photo filter is not just a tool to change aesthetics; it also adds a layer of history, meaning, and defamiliarization to photographs, allowing users to construct a mental distance in images that deviates from everyday experiences. We offer insights into the psychology of visual styles and implications for designing filter apps and photo-sharing platforms.

Full article: https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3025810

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Time Travel with One Click: Effects of Digital Filters on Perceptions of Photographs

  1. 1. Time Travel with One Click: Effects of Digital Filters on Perceptions of Photographs Yilang Peng University of Pennsylvania
  2. 2. VSCO Instagram Snapseed Hipstamatic
  3. 3. How do analogue-style digital filters change our perceptions of photographs?
  4. 4. Visual appeal Instagram (Redi & Povoa, 2014) Flickr (Bakhshi et al, 2015) 21% +views 45% +comments
  5. 5. Theoretical framework
  6. 6. Far away Now, here, me, reality Hypothetical, counterfactual, unlikely Other people Past or future Construal level theory
  7. 7. 1826/27 Nicéphore Niépce 1826/27 Dorothea Lange 1936 William Eggleston 1973 Ernst Hass 1969 Dominick Reuter 2015 Burhan Ozbilici 2016 Black-and-white Color film Digital 1960s-70s 1990s-2000s
  8. 8. Photo filters (B&W, film-style) Temporal distance Spatial distance H1 H2
  9. 9. Concrete Descriptive Detailed … Abstract Interpretative General …
  10. 10. 溪⼭清远图(局部) 夏圭 南宋 Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mountains (Part) Xia Gui, Southern Song Dynasty
  11. 11. Low construal level New York City is a large city with five boroughs and about 18 million people. High construal level New York’s lights, shimmering in the foggy sky, remind me of outer space. (Alter & Oppenheimer, 2008)
  12. 12. Defamiliarization “The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.” Art as Device, Viktor Shklovsky, 1917
  13. 13. Photo filters (B&W, film-style) Temporal distance Spatial distance Interpretation (vs. descriptions) H1 H2 H3
  14. 14. Photo filters (B&W, film-style) Temporal distance Spatial distance Interpretation (vs. descriptions) H1 H2 H3 Visual appeal RQ1
  15. 15. Photo filters (B&W, film-style) Temporal distance Spatial distance Interpretation (vs. descriptions) H1 H2 H3 Visual appeal RQ1 Age Photographic knowledge RQ2
  16. 16. Method
  17. 17. Original (N = 72) Film-style (N = 65) B&W (N = 63) … … … 200 participants 10 photos
  18. 18. Criteria of sampling images Related to a news event or a distant place. Have people with actions and a moderate amount of details.
  19. 19. Results
  20. 20. Original Film*** B&W*** Temporal distance “In which year do you think the photo was taken?” Both B&W (d = 1.31) and film- style (d = 0.86) filters increased perceived temporal distances.
  21. 21. Original Film B&W Spatial distance “How far away do you think the photo was taken from where you are now?” No effects.
  22. 22. Level of interpretation “Please describe the photo in a few sentences.” Number of tentative words used (e.g., maybe, or, perhaps) The film-style filter led participants to describe photographs more interpretatively and tentatively (d = 0.34). Original Film* B&W
  23. 23. A helicopter has just dropped of US troops in the desert. The soldiers form a circle on the ground with their guns drawn pointing outwards. Their packs besides them. Soldiers seem to be preparing for some type of battle or stand down. They all have their guns raised which means the area they are in probably holds some serious enemies.
  24. 24. A group of children smile up at the camera with their hands outstretched. A group of African children. They appear rather healthy and vibrant. It appears that they are playing a game, most likely football with a home made ball.
  25. 25. Visual appeal The use of film-style filter decreased visual appeal (d = 0.33), which was approaching statistical significance. Original Film+ B&W
  26. 26. Age Original Film B&W The effects of film-style filter on perceived temporal distance were stronger among young people. Older people particularly disliked the film-style filter.
  27. 27. Photographic knowledge Original Film B&W In B&W condition, people with less photographic knowledge became more tentative, while people with more knowledge became less tentative. Less photographically knowledgeable people disliked the film-style filter.
  28. 28. Key results B&W and film-style filters ↗ perceptions of temporal distance. Film-style filter ↗ more tentativeness and interpretation. Age and photographic knowledge moderate the effects of photo filters. Film-style filter ↘ visual appeal (particularly among older and less photographically knowledgeable people).
  29. 29. VSCO Cam, “M4” Implications
  30. 30. Design filters for different scenarios and users
  31. 31. Preview effects of photo filters
  32. 32. PicsArt Other filters Prisma
  33. 33. Yilang Peng Ph.D. candidate ypeng@asc.upenn.edu Annenberg School of Communication University of Pennsylvania Thank you