Yahoo Studies Filters

Yahoo research scientist David Ayman Shamma participated in a talk on Jan. 10 to investigate the study of how people engage with media online and how filters change the engagement and creative expression of a photograph.

Shamma, who serves as the scientific liaison to the Flickr community, shared his findings on whether the visually appealing components of filters or the content of photos produces a larger engagement in small environments and at a web scale.

For three months since fall quarter, Shamma focused on a sample of three million public photos from Flickr across all regions. Included among the sample were Instagram photos that were uploaded to Flickr. From there on, Shamma determined whether or not the photos were filtered and what kind of filters they were, as well as what factors of a photo were favored.

“There is this idea that people like filters and filters are showing up everywhere in every single camera and apps that are out there, so how does that exactly affect our engagement? How are people attracted to various visual effects was what we started with. What do you like and what don’t you like?”  Shamma said.

“And so we’re trying to think about a very high level understanding of the practice of editing in the camera itself and how that affects the spreading of information [of the photo]. That was the goal.”

Upon his study, Shamma focused on three aspects of engagement purposes. The view count, favorites and likes, as well as number of topics created from the spread of the photo.

Ultimately, Shamma’s study concluded that personal engagement of photos involves more followers, favorites and comments. More so, a filtered photo was likely to attract engagement.

“It turns out that black and white filters have bad engagement overall. A cool filter, or a filter that makes the tone of the photo moreblue, also has bad engagement. What really did have a lot of positive engagement was if you made the photo look old timing, like make it sort of sepia tone,” Shamma said.

“If it’s a nature photo, there is a high chance of you getting no comment and favorites. If you filter the nature photo, the Flickr community disfavors it. When it comes to things, such as having lunch at In-N-Out, or a car you saw on the street, nobody cares. But if you filter it, people care more about it.”

But in the Flickr community, Shamma noticed a considerable different reaction of filtered photos. His findings suggest that Instagram photos sent to Flickr received negative feedback. So to conclude, Flickr users, more knowingly the photo enthusiasts, favored raw images of photos than the altered images from filters.

And yet, Shamma concludes that creative expression bears significantly from the online community. In large part, communication through photos involves the people, the social media sites and everyone participating and commenting ¾ this is what makes the whole picture of creative expression.

For further studies, Shamma hopes to continue his research and delve deeper to understand the purpose of filters and how it affects personal engagement locally, centrally and in geocentric regions. He also hopes understand filters ethnographically by gathering findings on a person’s motivation to add filters to specific content, and with that grasp a better understanding of the practice of photo taking.