It’s nice to get paid for an image but if you can’t get paid for an image, you can at least get praised for it. Through social media, that’s easy. Build a following, put up a great picture and watch those likes, shares, views and comments flood in.
Of course, for some photographers, accounts and timelines that’s easier than for others. These are some of the most popular images that were passed around on social media. Expect to see some quality, some surprises… and a few groans.
Photography: Graham McGeorge
Like many social media platforms, Facebook doesn’t make it easy to track down the most shared or viewed images uploaded to the site. Although the company’s billion-plus users upload around 350 million photos every day, there’s no way to pull out the picture that did the best. And the site also uses a range of different stats to measure popularity: likes, comments and shares all indicate that people appreciated the shot.
This image of a camouflaged owl by Graham McGeorge wins in all categories. Placed on the National Geographic timeline in July, it’s since picked up more than 212,000 likes, around 60,000 shares and over 10,000 comments.
Those stats though were probably boosted by the post that came with it. National Geographic invited followers to help them to caption the photo, a bit of audience participation that is likely to have helped bring in comments and distribute the image around the site.
Graham McGeorge is a professional photographer, but you don’t have to be a professional to win those kinds of plaudits on Facebook, even on National Geographic.
Photography: Gunjan Sinha
This image of a shelf cloud in the Canadian prairies was photographed by Gunjan Sinha. It generated more than 175,000 likes, over 51,000 shares and more than 6,200 comments. It was submitted as part of National Geographic’s Your Shot program.
Move away from Facebook towards Twitter and the most popular images get a bit more celebrity. Not all of them though are poor quality. This shot of Lea Michele and Cory Monteith posted shortly after his death received nearly 400,000 retweets and favorites.
Photo from Lea Michele
It could be a selfie but judging by the reflection in Lea Michele’s sunglasses, it appears to have been taken by someone else. And judging by the quality of the portrait, that someone knew what he was doing.
That isn’t true of the most popular image on Instagram. The shot that won the popularity prize on Facebook’s billion-dollar picture property in 2013 was… a picture of Justin Bieber with “Uncle” Will Smith. More than 1.5 million people liked that picture. Fewer, surely, liked the hat.
A long way behind but shot by a professional — a professional Instagram photographer no less — is this nature shot by Michael O’Neal. A former art director, O’Neal has more than half a million followers on Instagram and is a member of Tinker Mobile, a collective of Instagrammers used by brands to promote their products.
His shot of trees and mist picked up more than 17,000 likes. Not Justin Bieber, but not bad.
Photography: Michael O’Neal
According to research from Curulate, pictures that do best on Pinterest have multiple colors, particularly reds, little white space and if they include people, they shouldn’t show faces. Those are the kinds of images that are most likely to appeal to the women who use the site and share pictures of fashion, accessories and home décor.
But those aren’t the only photos to win popularity on Pinterest. This image of The Caves Resort in Jamaica outdid many of the most popular fashion images to win nearly 6,000 pins and 540 likes.
Pinned from escapenormal.com.
500px is thankfully free of celebrities and while few of its users are professionals, many of the images they produce are professional quality. This shot by Laszlo Folgerts of pedestrians crossing a damp road is reminiscent of Cartier-Bresson… or would be if Cartier-Bresson had picked up about 11,500 views on 500px.
Identifying the most popular images on Flickr isn’t easy either but this landscape photograph by Mark Littlejohn, a landscape photographer in Scotland, has to be one of the most successful. It’s picked up more than 6,600 views and over 300 likes.
Success on social media can be seen in the numbers but those figures are never just about the quality of the image. They also show the quality of the photographer’s networking. That may sound unfair but what’s true on social media is also true in business.