What does a first date look like through an Earlybird filter? Engagement ring with false focal blur? An “I love you” note hashtagged with #instatwee? Instagram is a great social network for keeping track of friends but some people are using it to find lovers. We found a real life Insta-love story and talked to the man behind the Instagram’s answer to “Hot or Not.” Finally, we ask the experts how an Instagram user can find love.

First comes Insta-love, then comes Insta-marriage

Salt Lake City-based photographer Courtney "Ceebee" Dahl met her now-husband Jared Dahl on Instagram in May of 2011. She was randomly browsing through a friend’s followers when she came across Jared’s page. She was immediately attracted to his cute self-shots and photos of everyday observations, so she followed and started liking his photos. Days went by and Jared followed her back and started liking her photos.

“I said to a friend, ‘how many likesis it going to take before we actually like each other?’” Courtney revealed in our recent interview.

 Courtney "Ceebee" Dahl found insta-love through the Instagram app.

Later that night, Courtney got a notification that Jared had left a comment on one of her photos. It said “you sure are pretty, I have an insta-crush on you.”

“I was literally jumping up and down,” said Courtney. “I was so happy to find he had a crush on me too.”

Courtney mulled over the comment, trying to figure out what to say next. Eventually, she responded, "that makes two of us, I'm insta-blushing!" They exchanged numbers and went out a few days later.

While online dating is nothing new, Instagram may give a better insight into a person’s life than the question and answer portion of a dating site. You get to see how the Instragramer spends time, what kind of food they enjoy, and what they find to be interesting or funny.

“I got to know him pretty well through his pictures he had posted,” Courtney said. “Instagram made it so I could actually get a glimpse of what Jared likes to do, and get a current update on what was going on in his life. Other social networks can do the same, but aren't updated daily like Instagram is.

“It's the perfect way to get to know someone's personality, and for someone to be able to express themselves,” she said.

The couple was married less than a year after meeting through Instagram.

Courtney and Jared got engaged in December of 2011 and married on April 28, 2012, and Instagram has played a major role throughout their relationship. The first thing they did after the proposal was post a photo to Instagram, and during their wedding, they had their friends use a special hashtag so they could document their day.

“We just can't believe we found each other out of the million Instagram users,” said Courtney. “We thank the Instagram founder every day.”

A special hashtag helped the couple find all Instagramed photos of their wedding day.

Sealed with a Kisstagram.

One way that Instagram users can find an insta-crush is by browsing photos Kisstagram.com. It’s just like the Hot or Not site of the early 2000’s but with 80% less hair gel and 100% less puka shell necklaces. Kisstagram pits female users’ photos next to each other and asks the viewer to choose which person they would like to kiss.

Kisstagram asks you to rate users' selfies submitted via the #kisstagram hashtag using Instagram.

So far, Kisstagram has 36,426 weekly unique visitors and 6,085 photos have been uploaded since its launch in June of this year. Users have given over 1.2 million "kisses" to the photos.

"There was a point that most photos on Kisstagram were of girls doing that famous "duck face" look,” Kisstagram founder Pedro Duarte told us in a recent interview. “Now it's varied.”

Kisstagram keeps track of the most kissable photos on their leaderboard and lets you know what percentage of Kisstagram users liked the photos. When you see a photo that you really like, you can find out the username and look at other photos by clicking on the shot. Here, you can follow the person’s Instagram feed or “like” the photo after logging into your Instagram account on the Kisstagram website.

Users enter their photos by hashtagging their photos #kisstagram. Kisstagram’s rules state that you have to be 18 and may only enter photos of your own face. Users will be banned if they post naked photos or post more than 10 photos. Kisstagram regularly moderates the entries to enforce the rules and removes unwanted photos from the pool.

Kisstagram does not market itself as a dating website, but it hopes to add more features to help users get to know each other better.

“Kisstagram works in a very different way from a traditional dating website,” said Duarte. “The main aim of Kisstagram wasn't to make a new type of dating website, but simply to allow users to have fun and choose who they would kiss.” 

In the future, Kisstagram plans to add a location search to the results, so you can see any kissers who are near you. 

Duarte wasn’t aware of any relationships spawned by Kisstagram, but added, “I wouldn't be surprised if it has happened.”

For men looking to find other men, Kisstagram launched a gay-specific version of the site, Gaystagram, a couple weeks after Kisstagram. There are already over 10,000 photos uploaded on the website and hundreds of thousands of  recorded "kisses." 

How can you find Insta-love?

You too can turn "likes" to love via the Instagram app.

The #instalove hashtag returns more than 8 million results on Instagram, but finding the real thing may take some work.

Look for someone in your area.

Follow hashtags for your city so you can find someone nearby. If you live in San Francisco, search the obligatory #SanFrancisco, but also look at the less common, but still popularly used #onlyinsf. Once you find a user that you like, check out their photomap to see if they actually live in your area or if they are just visiting. If they check out, give them a follow and like a few photos to get their attention. Who knows, they may like you back.

Strut your stuff.

On Kisstagram, Duarte has noticed a definite trend in the most popular photos.

“If you're showing a bit of skin and, let's say, [look] quite seductive, your chances of being on the leaderboard are higher,” Duarte said.

Don’t be afraid to “like” someone.

Courtney and Jared would have never gotten hitched it Courtney didn’t have the guts to follow a stranger on Instagram. Don’t be nervous about following someone new. Instagram is a social network like any other, people join it to share images from their life and it is always flattering to get a new follower to your feed.

Be yourself.

When pressed to give advice about finding Instalove, Courtney Dahl only had one thing to say.

“Just be you,” says Courtney Dahl. “Put your personality into your pictures so if someone comes across your photos, they can see exactly who you are.”

Share your stories of Insta-love with us: Follow us on Instagram @dprconnect and use the hashtag #dprinstalove. 

 Lauren Crabbe, @lcrabbe, is a freelance technology writer and photographer, specializing in photography applications for iOS and Mac. Her love of photography brought her to San Francisco to study photojournalism at San Francisco State University where she learned to combine her photographic skills with her passion for storytelling. She has traveled the world with her camera--studying journalism in Denmark, visiting in-laws in Ireland, and sourcing coffee in Guatemala. You can find her biking around San Francisco, drinking a lot of coffee, and capturing her daily observations with her iPhone on whatever app she is testing that day.