I am looking for a way to reliably recreate Instagram's "Structure" effect but can't manage to get it as beautiful as Instagram is doing it.

I read that it is mainly a combination of Contrast and Sharpen. The closest I was able to get was in Capture One with 2–3 stacked layers using "Clarity" in Neutral mode with "Structure" full blown. But even then, the Instagram effect does it so much nicer. The stacked clarity makes the image look overly sharpened.

Here is a example picture using "Structure" full blown:


My take with Capture One and one Clarity layer:


Direct comparison

Increasing Clarity further by stacking structure layers on top of each other results in a more similar effect but ruins the contrast of the entire image.

What am I missing?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Looks like imgur doesn't keep the history of the image in-tact. I am going to re-add the pictures, just a moment. \$\endgroup\$
    – patchrail
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 12:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just want to comment that this is a great example of how to ask about software "filter" effects. Rather than "what's this effect called?", the question asks "how can I replicate it?", along with examples of what was tried. Well done. \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 22:28

2 Answers 2


Its generally very hard to replicate any complicated filter exactly not knowing what exactly is being done by it, but the feel can be usually pretty closely matched. From what you have shown I believe that the "gritty look" can be replicated through a mixture of a duplicate layer with hard light overlay (with reduced opacity and slight blurring of the top layer), slight desaturation, and possibly slightly increased micro-contrast (using an unsharp mask with a large radius or maybe increased clarity). I don't have your original photo so this will not look quite right but, this is basically the look you will get (I used GIMP):

Gimp processed image

You can play around with other blending modes, opacity, curves, and saturation to get closer to the result you're after

other choices for achieving the high structure look

  1. "freaky detail" method

There is also a technique by photographer Calvin Hollywood called "freaky details" that comes even closer to the high structure look, though it takes quite a bit more work. After playing around with it I managed to come even closer to the "structure" effect, keep in mind that this would probably look much better on the original image:

enter image description here

the downside is that it requires quite a few steps:

  • duplicating the layer twice
  • inverting the top layer's values and decreasing contrast slightly
  • blurring it (for example with suface blur in photoshop or bilinear in GIMP G'MIC)
  • setting the blend mode to "vivid light" and merging the layers
  • setting the resulting layer blend mode to overlay over the original layer

to mimic the high structure look, I merged and duplicated the layer, very slightly blurred and desaturated the top layer and reduced its opacity.

  1. "false HDR" method

if you want more of an "HDR-like" effect, duplicate the layer desaturate the top one, invert the layer colors and set to overlay, finally blur the top one with a Gaussian blur. Adding an unsharp mask and slightly desaturating will bring you closer to the instagram "structure" look although this introduced quite a lot of IQ issues:

enter image description here


i think if you just duplicate the layer, change it to linear burn, then adjust the levels and opacity a bit you can get the same effect.


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