HDR Photography and More by Dave DiCello

It’s criminal

I know that a few posts ago I had a little rant about flickr in general and just touched on Explore quickly.  I haven’t been checking Explore that much in the past year or so because of how frustrating some of the pictures I have seen on there have been.  Yesterday I hit a bit of a breaking point though and just wanted to share some thoughts, get some opinions from some of you and maybe vent a little.

For those of you who are not familiar with Explore I’ll give you a quick overview.  Explore is a collection of the top 500 pictures on any given day on flickr, judged by the flickr “interestingness”.  Things that influence (or at least used to influence) getting into Explore were views, comments and faves in a short amount of time, not being in too many groups and not having all kinds of flashy rewards.  Certain groups were also said to hurt or aid hitting Explore.  Then in August of 2009 there was a monumental change to the algorithm that would ban certain users from getting on Explore.  Apparently some folks even got messages from flickr saying that they had been “blacklisted” and other people “needed a chance” to get on Explore.  While I never got that message, I haven’t had a photograph on Explore since then, and I used to hit it every day or so.

Now, I have a few problems with this.  First, if Explore is supposed to be the most interesting, the cream of the crop on flickr, how can you purposefully ban photographers who you previously deemed to have the most interesting photos on flickr?  It doesn’t make sense that everyone doesn’t get a fair shake at it.  Second, and this is a more philosophical question, why are the editors of flickr deciding what is “interesting”?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to get feedback from the flickr community (since flickr is a social network) to give a better overall representation of what people in flickrland find attractive in photography?  I know that everyone has different tastes (and that’s what makes photography great) and it would make sense to incorporate that into the Explore area. 

This leads into my third and, in my opinion, most important point.  Let me first say that while I used to get annoyed that I was not hitting Explore anymore, I am completely over it.  I have made some great contacts and friends on flickr that mean much more to me that having my picture be #247 in Explore.  What I find completely ridiculous are some of the pictures that are currently on Explore.  To call them interesting or some of the best is almost an embarrassment.  I have five pictures as quick examples, and although I will not be posting them on here because they all are “All Rights Reserved” images, I will post the link to them.

  • First off is Explore #4 for yesterday, March 28th.  It’s a picture of someone’s retirement cake at work.  Panda bear with green cupcakes taken with an iPhone.
  • Next is a Front Page Explore of a rock holding a sign in different positions.  Ok, fine, maybe it is remotely creative, but to be on the Front Page to say it is one of the most interesting pictures on flickr?  Really??
  • The next one is a picture of someone’s vintage cameras and their camera bag.  The cameras may be interesting if you are actually using them, but a picture of them?  And to be #4 on Explore?
  • Next up is a group shot of people in a Lightroom workshop.  Again, Front Page.  Really embarrassing.
  • Finally we have a Front Page from today that combines three pictures of someone’s eyes in a green glow.  How is this interesting?

Again, I am not saying that these are not ok shots.  Everyone has their own style and I can certainly respect that.  What I have a slight problem with is these shots being paraded as some of the best on flickr.  What I am not saying that these people are poor photographers.  I did take the time to look through all of their streams and they all have some work that I like and am interested in.  I’m also not saying that the shots above are bad shots…just curious as to why they made Explore and myself and others have not seen it for over a year and a half.  Don’t get me wrong, there are TONS of great pictures on Explore; incredible landscapes, dramatic portraits, breathtaking views and so on.  Those certainly deserve to be up there.  It’s shots like the above ones that just have me scratching my head.

I know this has been a long post, so I’ll make this quick.  Both shots from today’s post are from the Times Square Police Station in New York City.  I didn’t get a chance to photograph it the last time we were there and didn’t want to miss the opportunity again.  Both were processed with HDR Efex under the “Natural” setting.  I had to do a fair bit of masking in both of them to get rid of the people and then added a Tonal Contrast filter in Color Efex.

Big game tonight for the Pens against the Flyers.  We got this.


24 responses

  1. Kurt Miller

    What are you taking about? I would’ve favorited that panda cake 10 times if it would have let me!!!

    Great post and some real good examples of how Explore sucks. I too have had a ton of trouble getting on Explore as I’ve only had 1 photo on there… I’ll blame it on the bad algorithm 🙂

    What they really need is a scoring system that’s more than just favoriting a photo. Sometimes, and I think in a lot of these cases, people favorite a photo just to keep it around, not necessarily because they think it’s a work of art or worthy of praise. Maybe just a 1-5 scoring system. Dunno…

    Great idea with adding these pictures to the post… heh.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:24 am

    • Thanks Kurt, I appreciate your support. I like the scoring system. That would definitely help to give the people of flickr a voice. It’s just a shame that people who put so much work into editing pictures to get them right and look great and interesting end up not getting on Explore in favor of a shot of a panda cake with an iPhone!

      March 29, 2011 at 6:44 am

  2. I know you’re trying to be politically correct by saying they’re ok shots but I’m gonna be honest and say they aren’t photography… They’re not artistic or interesting and I am equally if not more frustrated about the amount of pictures like those filling up every photography website I go to. It’s become a chore to find real art =S

    March 29, 2011 at 6:52 am

    • Adrienne – I can definitely see your opinion. My view as always been that everyone has their own style, and even though it may not be professional work (because all mine certainly isn’t, hell, some may even say NONE of mine is), it is a hobby for most and they are entitled to take pictures of whatever they would like. If that’s what they like, then more power to them. I do agree that it is a bit ridiculous that flickr deems these pictures the Top 10 Interesting Photos from their repsective days. Thanks for stopping by!

      March 29, 2011 at 7:06 am

  3. Hi Dave,

    Couldn’t agree with you more on the “Explore” topic. I used to be on there quite frequently, and then nothing. In some ways that’s not so bad because now I’m completely over the whole Explore thing. I’ve discovered over time that Explore is not validity of a quality photo. It’s funny how obvious it is for some to get in there. If a pretty girl shows enough skin, that seems to be a shoo in, along with photos where people incorporate the Flickr logo or Flickr colors. It can be frustrating though. I’ve had photos that have gotten me twice my normal comments, along with lots of invitations, and faves, then- nothing. Then I’ll have a photo that garners no attention, and it ends up in Flickr. So it doesn’t appear to be about popularity, or necessarily quality.

    I like Flickr for all of the positive aspects you’ve mentioned, but I no longer take much notice of Explore.

    I really like the top post here btw. Your processing is spot on, and it makes a great subject for hdr. I hope it makes explore…

    March 29, 2011 at 7:32 am

    • Thanks Craig, I hope it does too…not holding my breath though…

      Totally agree with you on the girls showing some skin, be it a self portrait or otherwise. There is certainly some artistic value in that, but to see the same pictures up there day after day after day. I saw one guy had the #1 spot on three straight days with the SAME picture. Well, not the same, but they looked identical. Same girl, same pose, same lighting. Ridiculous.

      Guess we will just have to live with Explore until they change the algorithm. Can’t see that ever happening though.

      Appreciate you stopping by man!

      March 29, 2011 at 7:37 am

  4. Hey Dave

    I never was on the explore bandwagon, I do see people that get on there about every day, they must have a secret code,or know a secret portal, lol thats my guess. Makes no sense, that’s why I never fool with it.

    I’d say the current algorithm sucks looking at the pics above, I normally never look on explore for that reason, I get there, have a look and find myself saying WTF?

    anyhow, nice rant!
    I am seeing 48 Saturday with 30% chance of wet, maybe it will keep improving

    March 29, 2011 at 9:26 am

    • Hey Wiz – I was never really either, never checked it, but one day I did and saw that I had been on it for a few weeks in a row. You kind of get used to it! Definitely over it now though.

      Yep, Sunday looks ok…keep your fingers crossed.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:52 am

  5. I must have done something to piss Flickr off. I never really tried to get on Explore by following any of the supposed formulas. When my first shot finally appeared out there, a few more followed in fairly rapid succession. Then, nothing. Doesn’t seem to matter how many faves, comments, or views I get in a day any more, nothing ever gets in Explore any more. It’s a curious thing because I get more views and faves than I did back then and I certainly think my images have improved. Since Explore has nothing to do with image quality, I don’t really care. It is just a curiosity. Have to wonder though, was I blacklisted for some unspoken reason?

    March 29, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    • I think we all were Mike. When I look back at the images that made Explore in mine I am almost ashamed. I think my images are much better now, yet no Explore. I bet one day it will change, just not anytime soon.

      March 29, 2011 at 1:42 pm

  6. Dave, I’m down on Flickr in general, and long ago gave up on Explore. I had several shots a couple of years ago that made Explore, and absolutely nothing since. And while some might think my current work is nothing special, it’s a hell of lot better than the stuff that made Explore back then.

    I think you’re right about the gals showing skin, as there seems to always be plenty of those shots out there. And while everyone has there own style, and their own interests, I just don’t get the photos of toys, or the lousy phone photos that constantly pop up on Explore. Just more reason for me to withdraw completely from Flickr.

    I particularly like the top image on this post, btw. Nice work!

    March 29, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    • Thanks for the thoughts Van! I agree, flickr has to have a MAJOR upgrade over the next year, or I think I may be out. It’s been far too long of the same website with just an upgraded “Fave” button and View on Black option!

      March 29, 2011 at 2:46 pm

  7. I must say Dave, you must have been listen to me thoughts for a long time now. ( flickr Explore ) SUCKS now…

    That’s my opinion

    March 29, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    • I’m with you Jerry. It’s definitely not the same that it used to be…

      March 30, 2011 at 5:13 am

  8. Love this shot, bro! Especially that first shot!

    March 29, 2011 at 7:50 pm

  9. Dave, fantastic NYC photos. Certainly Explore worthy IF they consider quality, but they really don’t, not directly anyway.

    This is my pet theory so I don’t have any special insight into Flickr Explore process but after studying it a bit… I’ve figured out a few things.

    First, I think many excellent photographers are frustrated with the Explore process because they assume Explore might be a measure of quality or “goodness” of a photograph. I think it has nothing to do with this.. it’s just a measure of how much eyeballs and traffic a photo gets. Now eyeballs can be generated by a great photo but also it can be generated by other criteria which has nothing to do with quality or style.

    Second, the amount of eyeballs some photos get is relative to many things. If you are brand new to Flickr less traffic and a minimum of 2 faves can get you into Explore. The more photos, contacts, Explores etc you have the more difficult it becomes to get into Explore.

    Third, the amount of eyeballs you get relative to your photo’s potential audience also affects Explore. If you have lots of friends, put photos in lots of groups etc, it get harder to get in.

    Fourth, Flickr does change their algorithm from time to time. Partially to thwart people that figured out the system.

    So, if you conclude EXPLORE does not equal QUALITY, then the whole thing gets a lot less frustrating.

    Keep in mind Flickr is really social site that happens to have photos. It is optimized so people comment and look at each other’s photos. This whole explore “game” is for people to try to generate more comments/faves/views etc for Flickr and its members.

    My 2 cents…


    March 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    • Andy – I think that you have a pretty solid theory here. It seems like everyone gets into Explore very early on in their flickr career and then it kind of fades. I know that they are still some people who have 1,000+ photos but still make top 10 Explore on a regular basis. They must know someone on the flickr side 😉

      You make a great note that Explore does NOT equal quality. Flickr really is an enhanced social media network for photographers (though not a very robust one), and is that’s the best it can do in terms of Explore, then I guess we will have to live with it.

      Thanks for stopping by man!

      March 30, 2011 at 5:16 am

  10. LMFAO! Pandabear with green cupcakes? Hahaha! Ah, this kills me. I have not made it into explore once, and these things have always disgusted me. Yet, you’ve got some guy in a towel, taking a shot of himself, and he’s on the login page for three months straight. Well jeeze,that’s just fantastic! Furthermore, I have seen some explored photos with about three comments. Couldn’t have been too interesting. So, I, myself have always been frustrated with this. But hey, be happy you made it into explore all these times 🙂 It’s better than my batting average so far! haha.

    March 30, 2011 at 5:01 pm

  11. And BTW, Still love that photo processing above man!

    March 30, 2011 at 5:02 pm

  12. It seems Flickr has exceeded its usefulness for a lot of us Dave. I was never terribly popular there, either in general terms or Explore terms, but the bottom line is that it is a major time consumer and the only payback is views, if that. What can I do with views exactly…brag to my friends? I must say I no longer care and find it much more useful to spend my time on sites that matter and deliver results. Great shots BTW! Jim

    March 30, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    • Couldn’t have said it any better Jim! Thanks for the visit!

      March 31, 2011 at 5:34 am

  13. John Thomas

    sounds like someone is upset his horrific hdr images didn’t make explore

    here’s a suggestion, why not try to actually take a good photograph yourself and not rely on the artificial effects like hdr, perhaps not criticizing anyone’s work is the key as well

    March 31, 2011 at 10:37 am

    • I was not critical of anyone’s work. In fact, I made sure to say that I was not criticizing these photographers. I was only critical of Explore, that’s all, and that regular pictures like the ones I referenced make it. True, the Explore thing did bother me a year and a half ago, but I’m well over it.

      You are definitely overly critical of my work after telling me not to criticize.

      Thanks for all of your visits today.

      March 31, 2011 at 10:46 am

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