There is a middle way though. Filters can be used as shortcuts to legitimate photo corrections when you do not have time to open a photo editing program and fiddle with all the possible adjustment levers. Instagram filters are basically shortcuts or presets of a number of settings. Below are some examples:
- Color balance: Hudson, Walden, Nashville make things more blue, more cold, Hefe, Kelvin, Rise make things more yellow/green, warmer
- Contrast: X-pro II, Lo-Fi add more, Rise, Walden add less
- Brightness: Sutro, Brannan make things darker, Amaro, Rise make things lighter.
- Saturation: black and white obviously has none, Lo-Fi has lots
In most cases you need to try all of them to find a filter that offsets the imperfections of your hastily taken picture best. Used in this way filters are no longer distortions, but actually improve the look of your photo.