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So, you’ve heard that photos are the way to game Facebook Edgerank and that’s not enough for you. Now you want to know which photos are the best? So did a bunch of researchers. And they found out.
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to make a professional Facebook page more interesting, a Facebook group popular or improve your Facebook presence. If you’re going to go through the effort of putting a photo on Facebook, you want people to see it. And pictures with more likes get seen more, then get more likes, and sometimes even go viral. So it’s important to choose the very best picture you possibly can. What are the best pictures? The answer is stranger than you may have thought.
The Science Of Photos
Aditya Khosla and his team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ran 2.3 million Flickr photos through their experiment to determine which photos got the most views. The test is expected to be applicable to any image shared on the Internet, be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr or some other site.
They took into consideration things like the amount of tags, friends, and how long the user had been with the service. After accounting for all this, they got down to analysing the nitty gritty of the actual image, including colours, content, etc.
In a Huffington Post report, Khosla said “Some people have 10 friends, some have a thousand. Despite all these differences, it is interesting to see that the content of the image itself can be used to predict how popular an image is going to be.”
You may have done your own experiments with photos, only to become completely frustrated. It seems like it’s all a bit hit and miss. Is there a formula for photos the Internet likes?
“While some images get millions of views, others go completely unnoticed. This variation is noticed even among images uploaded by the same user, or images in the same genre.” – Aditya Khosla and team in the paper “What Makes An Image Popular” [PDF]
So what makes a photos successful?
The Object Of Your Photos
Apparently, the most common objects in the photo set tested were “seashore, lakeside, sandbar, valley and volcano”. But these do not correlate with the most popular photos. For that, you need to take photos with the following objects: “miniskirt, maillot, bikini, cup, brassiere, perfume, revolver”.
The medium impact photos included the objects: “cheetah, giant panda, basketball, llama, plow, ladybug”. Whatever you do, don’t post photos of spatulas, plungers and golfcarts and expect them to be well received.
The Colour Of Your Photos
There was a lot said in the study about the intensity of colour and the colours used, but the gist of the results is that greenish/blueish colours should be avoided and you should aim for photos with more red tones. That’s a pretty vague description to apply to a complicated result, though, so take a look at the colour chart yourself.
Predict Your Image’s Popularity
Khosla and the team didn’t stop at writing a paper. They also built a tool to let you gauge how popular your image might be. You can either upload an image or plug in the URL to get your results. In no time you’ll know which of your preferred photos is likely to be the best received.
Tweak Your Headshots
Khosla has also written a paper on how to tweak your headshots to make them even better and avoid awful selfies. Titled “Modifying the Memorability of Face Photographs” [PDF], you too can learn how to take the best ever picture of yourself.
More Ideas For Photos
One of the most interesting things in the study was that the researchers suggested it may be possible to design a tool that made suggestions to photographers about how their photos could be modified for more broad appeal. This could be simultaneously fantastic and disastrous, considering that genuinely great photography may get sidelined for popular pictures. What do you think?