Study: Using filters on your photos means more views.

Did you know that adding filters to your photos can result in more views and comments? Well the clever bods at Yahoo Labs have just released a very interesting study on ‘Why We Filter Our Photos and How It Impacts Engagement’ and having crunched a whole lot of numbers they found that “filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on by consumers of photographs.”

“We analyzed how filters affect a photo’s engagement (consumers’ perspective) using a corpus of 7.6 million Flickr photos. We find two groups of serious and casual photographers among filter users. The serious see filters as correction tools and prefer milder effects. Casual photographers, by contrast, use filters to significantly transform their photos with bolder effects. We also find that filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on by consumers of photographs.”

Wow! When the sheer volume of smartphone images shared online is so massive (apparently Instagram averages 60 million images uploaded a day, and the iPhone is Flickr‘s most popular camera), will a little filtering really help you get noticed amongst all those pictures?

A lack of views can leave you feeling deflated.
A lack of views can leave you feeling deflated.

There are other elements to take into account of course. The number of followers you have and having an image with a lot of views already automatically puts you high up in the social networking charts and makes sure even more people see your images. Plus, a high level of social interactivity online will also result in more views and more comments on your own work but still, that’s quite some quantitative analysis they’ve done there!

The study found two distinct groups amongst the filter-using photographers on Flickr – the serious hobbyist and the casual photographer – and according to their study the serious photographer uses a more delicate touch, preferring to use correction tools and less obvious filters while the casual photographers like a big, bold, image changing effect on their pictures. 

The serious photographers worry about the loss of artistic integrity and the devaluation of the imagery itself while the casual photographers are much more interested in sharing their pictures in a social manner. One of the serious hobbyists summed up their thinking on filters;

“My 10-year-old cousin, he takes the app. He takes the photo. He passes it through filters and it’s beautiful. You feel great and you feel a bit sad. Sad because the actual art in it is lost into the filter”

5349733577_3f9685fd3d_b
Sticking a Kandinsky cover on your phone does not make it art either.

The ‘Why we filter’ section holds no great surprises and I’m sure the reasons will seem familiar to us all with motives and examples listed as:

  • Improving aesthetics (make the clouds look distinct from the sky)
  • Adding vintage effects (give an old look to an old theatre)
  • Highlighting objects (focus the attention on the face)
  • Manipulating colors (change the saturation of food)
  • Making photos appear more fun and unique (emulate film by removing colors from a portrait of an old man)
Apparently food is meant to be super saturated, throwing a bucket load of filters at it just won't do.
Apparently food is meant to be super saturated, throwing a bucket load of filters at it just won’t do.
The ‘element of surprise’ was a strong motivator to those attempting to make their photos appear more fun and unique with the filters giving the photographer access to ideas they could not have imagined when taking the image.

“When I clicked it, I just clicked it because it was looking good that day. I came back and I tried that, displaying it within filters, and I realized that this filter looks good. It gives it a particular look that I could not have even thought of before I applied it.”

I don't even know what it is anymore but someone will think it looks pretty.
I don’t even know what it is anymore but someone will think it looks pretty.

Interestingly not just any filter will get you more views and comments however, a cool photo is less engaging while a warm photo has a very positive effect. A vintage filter can increase the views but decrease the comments while high saturation can lead to less views but more comments.

“Filters with warm temperature significantly increase number of comments and their effect on number of views is also positive. The aging effect seem to increase the views but decrease the number of comments… In color theory, warm colors such as red and yellow are known to elicit feelings of arousal and cheerfulness”

Which one would you choose?
Which one would you choose?

So if using a filter gets you more views but you want to really top the view charts, try adding a little sunshine because “filters that increase warmth, exposure and contrast boost engagement the most.”

“Although we do not claim that every image filtered will be viewed significantly more, on average filtered image seem to affect an observer’s likelihood of engagement.”

All this isn’t just about getting one up on your buddy in the social media stakes, it could also affect the design of the filters made by app developers and the types of images you see on social media apps and websites. Perhaps advertising firms will deliberately use a filter known to encourage a click through or comment? That’s interesting and scary at the same time!

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