An Independent Analysis of Flickr’s Most Popular Tags

Flickr's Most Popular Tags

Flickr has evolved over the years. As a place that used to be for serious photographers, it still is in some ways but it has evolved into something much different to also appeal to the mobile photographer enthusiast community. Explore Flickr and you’ll find what remains of a couple of very hardcore groups as well as loads of random, but very good images. Then consider the fact that the most popular cameras in the community are Apple and Samsung phones. After this, you’ll find traditional DSLRs from Canon and Nikon then come Sony mobile phones. Then add in the variable of the community’s most popular tags.

So what does this mean for the community and how it has changed?

The Top 20 Hashtags

This information is valid as of the end of August 2015.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Astropad for Apple iPad (2 of 9)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 2.8

These are some of the biggest hashtags that pop out:

– Instagramapp

– Square Format

– Nature

– iPhoneography

– Art

– California

– Canon

– London

– Beach

– Europe

– Travel

– Wedding

– Square

Of course as you see in the opening image of this post, there is a great deal of very popular tags, but these ones are the largest. And of course, there are many more as you see here.

Data and Analysis

What could this possibly mean based on inferences? Here’s a list of possibly hypothesis’ and ideas:

– The data implies that there are far more users in bigger cities/countries such as New York, California, London, Paris, China and Japan. Indeed, these areas are also hot beds for photographers and creative culture. Then again, it could also imply that lots of folks are just on vacation at these spots–which is evident in the tag “vacation.”

On the other hand, when someone goes about keywording or tagging an image, they think of the type of things associated with the image that could make it more easily searched for in the constant struggle to gain more followers. This thinking is the same that professional stock shooters do–metadata is a giant part of their work.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm 16mm f1.4 review sample images (13 of 32)ISO 2001-450 sec at f - 1.4

– Lots of Flickr users shoot flowers, landscapes, portraits, nature, weddings, and music/concerts according to the popular tags. But the fact that the Fashion tag is much smaller than the other categories implies that the fashion community has largely moved away from Flickr and onto places like 500px, Instagram and Tumblr. Indeed, the fashion tag is one of Tumblr’s most highly curated.

Apple iPhone Users

– Lots of photographers seem to use Flickr as a dumping ground. This is evident in the Instagramapp tag as well as the Square Format and Square tags. Additionally, the fact that the iPhone is the most popular camera on Flickr proves itself to be even stronger evidence. However, as you’ll see later on, there is evidence implying that this isn’t true.

– Family and friends are big and very popular tags on Instagram, but they’re also very popular here on Flickr.

– The four largest tags are Instagramapp, Square, Square format and iphoneography–which further implies that Flickr could just be a dumping ground or a mirrored location for images.

The most popular iPhones on Flickr

– Of all the iPhones, the iPhone 6 is the most popular camera at the moment. And when you look at what these people are shooting, you get the impression that they’re not shooting for Instagram.

– Lots of the images from the hashtag Instagramapp aren’t in the square format. Instagram recently announced that they’d allow their users to upload landscape and portrait images, but lots of photos are already on Flickr in this format without the square format crop. These images were also uploaded before the announcement. What you’ll also see for example in this image is that these images aren’t necessarily taken with the iPhone.

– Flickr integration is deep in OSX Photos, and so Flickr and iCloud could both just be backup areas for iPhone users. The iPhone also has very deep integration with Flickr.

– Many of the images uploaded to Flickr from the iPhone don’t have specific names or even tags. Even stranger, there aren’t even captions–implying that the platform is literally just for storage as many Instagram users add tags or text of some sort to their images. However, there are some images with proper names, captions and tags. Lots of these images are from VSCO cam, Instagram, Snapseed or other services that are all popular with iPhone users.

– Flickr’s other very popular Apple devices: the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s, also share the iPhone 6’s snapshot. However, they share a distinct difference from the iPhone 6–the users who upload their images have a higher chance of properly naming an image, tagging and adding a description. However, there are also lots that say “Edited with VSCOCam.”

Samsung Users

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung Galaxy S4 (1 of 1)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 4.0

– After Apple devices, Samsung phones are the most popular cameras on Flickr with the Galaxy S5 taking the cake.

– Images from the Galaxy S5 have an interesting combination of no name, careful naming and pretty much just the name of the phone. There aren’t many descriptions associated with the images though there are tags.

Galaxy Note 3 users seem to be a bit more careful about what they upload and how they name and tag images as compared to Galaxy S4 users.

Dedicated Camera Users

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Product photos Canon 5D Mk III (3 of 10)ISO 200

– Compare these findings to that of a search for the Canon 5D Mk III. What you’ll see is that the majority of photos have proper names, tags and descriptions. This means that the photographers who shoot with this camera care a lot more about what they upload and are probably more selective in comparison to iPhone users. The quality of the work is much more refined vs the snapshot type of work that we see from the iPhone 6. To be fair, many people use their phone just for snapshots.

– When we added in a search for the Nikon D7000–Flickr’s most popular Nikon camera–we see similar results to that from the Canon users. The images uploaded are carefully named, tagged and given descriptions. The quality of the work, like the Canon 5D Mk III is also much less of a snapshot.

– If you actually click and many of the most popular tags and go through the most interesting ones, you’ll see that they’re associated with dedicated cameras over mobile devices–implying that dedicated camera users are the ones that care more about the specifics involved with tagging.

Application to Photographers

Consider the data that we were able to pool from Flickr and we can see that mobile users seem to care much less about the type of stuff that they upload. Years ago, photographers with dedicated cameras used to upload lots of photos without caring about naming, tags, descriptions, etc. Many just simply submitted to groups. But mobile users seem to care much less and won’t refine their work as much.

So what does this tell us?

– For mobile users, Flickr is a dumping ground. It’s convenient and the fact that there is a 1TB of free storage means that mobile users can shoot and store to their heart’s content.

– For dedicated camera users, Flickr is a very highly curated source of work where the photographer can use as an alternative portfolio site.

– Flickr’s dedicated camera users are much less numerous than the mobile users–so if you specifically go about searching for work from these users, you’re bound to find some of the best work on the platform.

– Many of the largest tags marked on the Popular tags page are those commonly associated with mobile photography. But the second largest ones are more associated with dedicated camera users. Again, this solidifies the evidence that serious photographers using dedicated cameras care more about their images in the community due to the extra steps that they take.

Overall, from our analysis it seems like Flickr is mostly a service used for storage–but the serious photography community that still sticks are among the elites that offer some of the most aesthetically pleasing work.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.