Before reading this article, please acknowledge the fact that there is NO fast and easy way to get explored on Flickr. Having your picture Explored will require time and effort. On that note, I also can not guarantee that the techniques I am about to share with you will work. Getting explored is a combination of having a stellar picture and dedicating time to Flickr. Lets begin:
First and foremost your picture should be generally eye-pleasing. Your picture doesn’t necessarily have to be amazing in order to get explored, but the better your picture looks the more your chances of getting explored go up. I don’t claim to be an expert, in fact I have only ever had two of my pictures explored, ever, but I want to share some strategies I have used.
Having taken your picture, you must find what kind of picture it is (macro, landscape, portrait, etc.), and how the subject of the picture can relate to other Flickr members. For instance, my second explored picture was an ultra-macro of a jumping spider, shown here:
Knowing that many people have a fear of spiders, I only posted this picture in groups dealing with arachnids and macro photography. On the subject of Flickr groups, NEVER post your picture into more than five groups. Why?
The way getting explored works is through an algorithm. This algorithm tracks every single statistic about your picture. If you put your picture in too many groups, the algorithm realizes that your picture has more exposure and as a result any comments and favorites you receive will have a lower impact on your interestingness. Your interestingness is Flickr’s secret point value that determines how interesting your picture really is. Interestingness is a part of the algorithm that helps you get explored. Getting explored merely means obtaining an interestingness value high enough in one day, to put you in the top 500 out of all of the pictures uploaded to Flickr on that specific day. If this sounds complicated, it is. No one except Flickr employees know how the algorithm works, or for that matter, what it is. What makes it even worse, is that the algorithm is bound to change every now and then in order to give new Flickr members a chance to get explored.
So, this so called algorithm tracks everything about your picture, what does that mean for you though? It means you have to be careful in how you present and share the picture with the world. Limit the number of groups your picture appears in. My personal recommendation would be to limit yourself to five groups. Limit the number of tags you put on your picture. A total of 30 tags should be sufficient enough to fully describe your picture. Also make sure to put interesting tags on your picture. Generic tags such as ‘Canon’ or ‘Nikon’ won’t help your goal of getting explored.
A big part of getting explored is obtaining comments and favorites on your picture. It’s often hard for newcomers to get any comments and favorites because their photostream is so ‘unexplored’ — no pun intended. This is often the most time consuming part of the entire process. As most logic would state, in order to receive comments and favorites, you must first GIVE comments and favorites. Start striking up conversations with people, and add them as contacts. Consistently comment on their pictures (without looking like a stalker or appearing desperate) making sure to give your honest opinion. Too often, people give generic comments without offering any real criticism. Don’t be too harsh, but make sure the person who took the picture can distinguish your comment from all of the other comments on their picture (if there are any). If you want, you can even critique their picture and invite them to take a look at yours for their opinion on it. Here’s a personal example – since my picture was of a jumping spider, when I saw another jumping spider picture in the ‘Arachnids’ group I commented on it. I told the guy — after my critique — I had actually found a jumping spider today as well. The person was more than happy to take a look at my picture and comment on it. In fact, I actually found out he keeps his jumping spider as a pet! Flickr is essentially a social networking site for photographers, and you must always remember that. Unless your picture catches the eyes of thousands, you’re going to need to communicate with others and make these so called contacts. Many people find this annoying and too time consuming, but in my opinion, they’re being rude. How so? Well, if you want to get explored without commenting and communicating with others, you must think your picture is just that good that it deserves other people to dedicate their time to comment on it, without you so much as even giving a damn. I understand that it is often hard to find the time, but once you have made acquaintances it becomes much easier. You eventually build yourself a solid list of contacts that will see any new uploads from you on their Flickr page. And assuming you have kept in touch over time, they will always give your picture a look. Not only is communicating with other photographers a good way of obtaining comments and favorites, it essentially also helps you grow as a photographer. PMing another user and sharing your photographic anecdotes and lessons learned, helps spread photographic tips and tricks around to help others. An easy way to get involved with conversations is to look at a group’s message boards. There are always topics to talk about with others in every group.
While the algorithm created by Flickr employees tries to give everyone an equal chance at getting explored, one does start to see a few patterns appearing on the explored page. Here are just a few subjects that tend to be more popular with Flickr members: pictures of women, bokeh, antique effects, and minimalistic scenes. That doesn’t mean you should change the subject matter of your picture, but keep this bias in mind when competing for the spotlight.
Some of the groups you come across might require you to post certain HTML tags onto other people’s pictures when you comment. They call these HTML tags ‘awards’. Don’t put your pictures in these groups. Flickr has a part of its algorithm dedicated to scouting groups in order to find out if they force members to give sweeper awards. While sweeper awards don’t put you out of the running to get explored, they lower the amount of interestingness points gained when you receive comments and favorites.
Besides keeping track of comments, favorites, tags, and groups, Flickr keeps track of a few other things as well. Notes. If people leave notes on your picture, your picture’s interestingness goes up. The often overlooked way of raising your interestingness, however, is outside referrals. Flickr keeps track of where people come from to view your picture. Having your picture posted on blogs or Facebook can raise your interestingness. That doesn’t mean you should post your picture on your wall, that won’t do. Outside referrals can bring in views, but yet another part of the algorithm keeps track of your views vs. comments vs. favorites ratio. All of this information might seem like a bit too much to remember, but don’t worry, you don’t have to constantly keep every detail in mind. The best thing you could possibly do, as stated before, is simply to comment and communicate.
Since no one actually knows what the algorithm is, all of this information is purely speculation. For all anyone knows, this could all be wrong. Don’t be disheartened if you can’t get explored.
I wrote this article to help people understand how getting explored even begins to work (since no one actually knows for sure). I don’t claim to have amazing pictures, and I hope I didn’t impress that upon you. I was completely shocked, but also ecstatic, when I got my first explore. I didn’t just write all of this information based off of assumptions that this is how I got explored. No. I did some research and seemed to have found a consistent pattern that people have stated they noticed.