Science Determines The "Perfect Pinterest Photo," Doesn't Care Who Shot It

A nice picture of a tasty salad has hundreds of thousands of "repins" but no byline

Pinterest Salads
Pinterest Salads

Google is already trying to pick the best photos in your Google+ account using science, so it should be no surprise that researchers are also trying to pin down exactly what makes an image successful on Pinterest. In fact, they've gone so far as to pick an image that represents the "perfect" Pinterest photo. Unfortunately, even with all the stories it's generating, no one seems to be too concerned with who actually shot the photo.

The data comes from a company called Curalate, which has been keeping tabs on Pinterest for a while, carefully tracking what kinds of photos get the most favorites and shares.

Here are the basic guidelines for pandering to Pinterest users with your photos. You can read more in-depth about them over in the Wired article.

  1. No human faces

2. Very little background

3. Multiple colors

4. The color red

5. Not too much or too little saturation

6. Portrait orientation rather than landscape

Lots of them make sense on a very fundamental level. Rules two, three, and four all make a lot of sense when you consider that browsing Pinterest is basically an endless scroll through a mob of tiny thumbnails. By making the subject large in the frame, giving it a lot of color, and focusing on red, you have a lot to help a small image stand out.

The saturation thing, I'm guessing, is more of a taste thing. The current trend of duo toning and retro washing combined with a general tendency for people to like "bright" images leaves little room for punchy contrast.

Ultimately, the research tells you pretty much what you'd expect if you know things about the way we look at images. It also leaves out more granular composition elements like balance because they're harder for a computer to quantify. There is an interesting element, though, from a photographer's perspective

For the Wired story, the researchers picked a "perfect" image. It depicts a bowl of cucumber and tomato salad on a doily with some silverware. it's a very nice image that's charming in its imperfection. The thing is, I've read several stories about it now, and have no idea who shot it.

The credits go to PaulaDeen.com, where there's a clear credit to Paula herself for coming up with the recipe. No photo credit, though. Over on pinterest, we can see that the photo has literally hundreds of thousands of "repins" which are their version of shares. Yet, even a google image search hasn't yielded the name of the person behind this "perfect" photo.

First, I should qualify this by saying I'm not at all surprised. While some photographers like Pinterest for its ability to deliver mounds of inspirational photos and save them for later, others decry the service for its status as a pretty-looking cesspool full of images that have become orphans with no bylines. In a way, both sides are right.

Paula Deen is gaining from the image because it lives on a popular page on her site, which is generating ad dollars. Pinterest is displaying it all over the place, generating traffic, so it's working well for them. For the photographer, however, it's likely doing close to nothing.

Since I don't know who shot it, I can't speak for his or her viewpoint on the matter. The shooter may not care that the images is everywhere. They might even be excited to see how successful it has been. But, now would be a great time for you to remind all your Pinterest-using friends that photos are important and it's the right thing to do to give credit where it's due.

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