The Facebook formulike (27.12.2012)


Want to get the most ‘Liked’ photographs on Facebook? Then consider capturing and uploading landscape scenes rather than snapping portraits of people.  A new study from Nikon COOLPIX and the University of California at Berkeley has found that the photos which elicit the most ‘Likes’ – the currency of online public approval – are those that show beautiful landscapes, cute animals or photos of food.

The study, in which 500 people from across Europe assessed a set of 35 images with variations in subject and photographic quality, found that people portraits or group shots taken at an event attracted the fewest positive reactions.  Using their findings, the researchers have developed a formula that social networking fans can use as a guide to what photos to take and which to post, if their aim is getting the best possible reaction from friends.

The Formula

L + A + (I + H + C)

CE (correct exposure) – B (blur)

Facebook photographers should consider including a landscape (L) or an animal subject (A) in their image, and should give equal thought to conveying something inspirational (I) - a sunset for example - something with humour (H) or something cute (C) in its setup. Meanwhile, capturing the light in the most true-to-life way, or in other words getting the correct exposure (CE) whilst minimising blur (B) is also crucial.

Technical aspects are also important, with results showing that low-resolution or blurry pictures are less likely to get the thumbs up, and that a well-lit photo will always be better received than a dim or over-exposed image. Notably, the experiment also found that despite the popularity of creative filters altering colours or textures, these effects have little to no impact on the amount of likes given to an image.

“Emotion and quality are what really count, according to our study,” says Dr. Paul Piff, who led the research team. “When we asked each of our participants which photos they would give the thumbs up to on Facebook, we also assessed how they felt about each image. The strongest link to likes came from photos that inspired the viewer, and this gave the edge to landscape scenes over those with people in them, which are more likely to make people happy than inspired. Equally, poor image quality can stand in the way of emotion. If people see red eyes, badly-lit scenes, or blurred faces, the chances of them connecting with an image are considerably lower.”


To test the genetics of ‘Liked’ photos, the team from the University of California at Berkeley asked 500 people from across Europe to look at 35 randomly ordered images across five subject categories that commonly appear on social networks.

Respondents were asked to imagine that they were viewing each photo in their Facebook newsfeed and that each picture was posted by someone they know or are friends with. They were then asked whether they’d ‘like’ the photo, and comment on whether the photos were appealing and how they felt about them.

Among the 35 images were several photos of people, several of landscapes, a range of landmark events such as birthdays or weddings, various photos of animals, and a selection of food pictures. Certain images appeared in the test twice, with photographic elements altered, such as zoom, resolution, exposure and blur. The difference in responses to a zoomed in and zoomed out version of the same photo, for example, was then analysed to establish whether image quality and composition played a part in ‘Likes’.

The experiment was carried out to coincide with the recent launch of the Nikon COOLPIX S800c, which combines the imaging power of a Nikon camera with the connectivity of an Android™ smart device. A 10x optical zoom, 16-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor and anti-blur functions ensure superior photos and videos, which can be uploaded instantly to the internet via WiFi and through a multitude of apps available on Google Play™.

Nicolas Gillet, Product Manager for Consumer Products at Nikon Europe, comments: “The research has shown that you can capture a really cool moment in your photo, but if it doesn’t capture the light in the right way or has significant blur, it may not get the attention it deserves when you share it online. With the COOLPIX S800c, you no longer have to compromise between picture quality and an instant upload.”



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