The Mysterious Flickr Explore

The Mysterious Flickr Explore

One of the most intriguing features of Flickr is its mysterious Explore section.  Explore is a daily gallery of 500 photos deemed most interesting out of the bazillions uploaded each day.  I refer to this gallery as "mysterious" because the photos it contains are chosen by a super secret algorithm that is more closely guarded than the Colonel's secret recipe at KFC.  If you do some research on Explore you'll find that there are a lot of ideas floating around about how to crack the code and get your photos into this showcase gallery, where your photos will be in front of more eyes on the internet than ordinarily possible for mere mortals.

Personally, I've never taken Explore that seriously.  It doesn't take much browsing in the Explore gallery to figure out that good photography is not the primary criteria for admission.  That's not to say that there aren't some stunning photos out there.  However, you will also find plenty of snapshot sort of images that would be more at home in a casual posting to Facebook than a showcase gallery on one of the largest hosting sites on the web.  So, what's the secret to making Explore?  Beats me.

As of this writing, I have about 50 images that have been chosen for Explore.  A lot of the images that have made the cut have me scratching my head.  Not because they are bad images mind you. However, not every image that I post to Flickr is portfolio worthy.  Flickr for me is largely a photography centered social media outlet.  I share images that I think are interesting without a lot of thought as to whether it's an exceptional photo.  Sometimes I throw things out there that I'm unsure about and want to see what the reaction is.  I admit it; not everything I upload to Flickr is my best work.

Take the photo at the top of this blog entry.  It's a good photo I think, but not necessarily great. Pedestrians in a downtown crosswalk caught my eye as they crossed in front of the headlights of oncoming cars.  Streetlights added a nice glow to the crosswalk.  It was an interesting moment so I took a picture and shared it on Flickr.  I was surprised the following day to see that it had been chosen for Explore and had drawn over 8000 views in a single day - an exceptionally high number for me for a single photo.

Experience has taught me that selection for Explore has more to do with the number of favorites, comments, and views (weighted in that order I believe) in a certain time frame than the quality of the photo.  Some people try and "game" Explore by posting to a lot of groups in hopes of getting more attention or trading faves with a large contact base.  I do no such thing with my photos and I want to believe that when I get an increase in traffic that maybe, just maybe, there is something special there.

I analyzed the above photo with greater scrutiny and found things I liked that I hadn't noticed before. Additionally, I solicited feedback from other photographers and was given some other helpful insights that I hadn't thought of.  Perhaps there is a lot more there than what initially appeared simply as interesting light to me.  Is it a great photograph?  I don't know.  On September 6, 2013, the mysterious Flickr Explore seemed to think so.

BTW, I sometimes don't realize a photo of mine has made Explore unless I happen to notice an inordinate amount of activity or someone mentions that he or she saw it there.  Curious whether you have any photos in the ranks of Explore?  Check out this free tool from Big Huge Labs.