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(Questioning the) criteria for featuring photos?

Travel Forums Travel Photography (Questioning the) criteria for featuring photos?

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1. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4835 posts) 9y

I pondered sending this as a private message to the various photo moderators, but I think it might actually be interesting to hear what some other people have to say about it, too (maybe everyone else thinks I'm too easily bothered) :), so decided to make a thread about it.
Lately I've been noticing that the quality of featured photos has been fluctuating rather wildly. There's absolutely stunning photos like always, but there's others getting featured which are, if you'll forgive me for putting it directly like this, utter crap.
This is making me wonder if all photo moderators are on the same page with regards to the criteria on which they feature photos and if they ever communicate with each other on this subject (a second opinion might be good to have).

Please note that I have absolutely no intention of picking on the particular photographers whose photos I'm going to highlight; I'm just picking these photos because they happened to be featured today. Likewise, I feel in 95%+ of the cases, the photo moderators are doing a really good job, which I'm really grateful for; I'm just thinking that they lack communication amongst each other, and are thus individually getting more extreme in what they do or don't feature a photo on, which isn't good for the overall level of consistency/quality of the featured photos. So I'm trying to get some discussion going on why each of them features photos, and if they're still in sync with each other on what's worth featuring.

Examples, just from today would be:
Egg Rock Lighthouse: Lacks detail to the point of being downright blurry, contains visible compression artifacts, has an uninteresting composition, and is not a notable/'famous' location afaik, so I don't see why it'd be worth featuring, especially as the USA already has the largest gallery of featured photos of any country in the world.
Common Eider: Lacks any kind of detail, is an extremely common subject and basically is devoid of any merit whatsoever. (If that photo is worth featuring, why isn't... *spends two seconds searching for photos of ducks* ...this one?)

Both of these photos were uploaded at almost exactly the same time, as part of a large batch, which makes me think that the photo editor might perhaps have only featured them to feature something from that page of photos? I don't know, that's a complete guess, but if I guessed right, I'd say that's obviously not a good reason to feature them.

Three pink dolphins 1 and Three pink dolphins 2: Individually, I'd say neither photo is worth featuring; although these creatures are probably very rare and these might be the only photos of them on the site, the same goes for a host of other photos of rare animals which also didn't get featured because of lack of quality, and these photos lack detail / much of anything recognizable. However, I wouldn't have brought them up here, if it wasn't for both getting featured, hours after each other. That makes me think they're the work of two distinct photo editors, who didn't check which photos had been featured earlier (or more general: which featured photos already existed in the country's photo gallery) before doing their own featuring. Once upon a time, the featured photo gallery of a country was meant to give a complete overview of the country, without (too many) duplicates. I think that was a really good thing, as it meant that if I as a traveller was interested in maybe travelling to a country, I could get a swift overview of the country just by looking at the featured photo gallery. Now it's much more frequent that I have to watch an extra couple of pages with similar photos. (Actually the case for Peru for me, and one of the reasons I decided to speak up about this. One lama at Macchu Pichu is cool, two lamas is still okay, but three lamas are getting boring, and by the fourth lama I really get the point already.) And likewise, from that same user of the pink dolphins, also uploaded recently, I would have thought Dawn on the Amazon III was worth featuring, as that's a rather stunning photo with gorgeous colors and the Peru gallery has not nearly enough photos of the rainforest...

So... anyone else have any thoughts...?

[ Edit: Edited on Oct 17, 2007, at 8:33 AM by Sander ]

2. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 9y

Quoting Sander

Once upon a time, the featured photo gallery of a country was meant to give a complete overview of the country, without (too many) duplicates. I think that was a really good thing, as it meant that if I as a traveller was interested in maybe travelling to a country, I could get a swift overview of the country just by looking at the featured photo gallery.

I guess the prime question is what do we want the "featured" photo gallery to be. What is it's use? I must admit that I hardly ever look at a the featured photos for a place - mainly I just do it when I noticed one of my photos has been featured (I'll admit I'm vain :) ).

If the intent is to give people an overview of the country, then there needs to be some editting (i.e. unfeaturing) in a bunch of the galleries. Just running through U.K., and there is a lot of shots of Big Ben. But I'd question whether that's worthwhile. Do a lot of people even look at the featured photo galleries by country? (You guys have stats on that, right?)

If however, the intent is to provide an easy way to put a nice picture on the front page, and within the guide articles, then it's probably not a big deal, as that stuff will come up randomly.

As for the quality issue, I leave that to greater minds than I to determine, however, I will say that I should be featured more. My Mommy tells me that I am a good photographer!

Quoting Sander

maybe everyone else thinks I'm too easily bothered

Well, that's true.

3. Posted by Q' (Travel Guru 1987 posts) 9y

I've never been given any guidelines for featuring photos. So I generally use the following guidelines:

1) General guidelines of good taste (ie. no nudity, etc.)
2) Good travel photographs, which is a whole genre in itself.
3) Photographs which will attract people to Travellerspoint.com

Perhaps a policy statement from the TP Overlords might be good.

[ Edit: Edited on Oct 17, 2007, at 11:47 AM by Q' ]

4. Posted by marlis (Travel Guru 1167 posts) 9y

maybe a 'clean up"at the country gallerys?

@Sander,
sorry,can't look by every photo first if there is somewhere a better one,or discuss it first with Q' or the Lords.Please dont forgett there are every day from 300 to5-600 photos to look at.
Sometimes I feature a Photo like this with the pink dolphins and later ther comes aother one,sometimes better and I will check witch one I will take,but in this case I forgott.((by the way,it is not easy to get a good photo of this pink dolphins,the dont jump,the show mostly only there backs)
I did not featured the amazon boat photo because it is promotion.

the featured photos for the country gallerys should show different parts of the landscape,citys,villages, people and there life,flora and fauna.(my 2 cents)
Marlis

5. Posted by jl98584 (Travel Guru 114 posts) 9y

I realize you are only complaining about the 'featured photo's' page, not the individual blogs, but as the person who took the 'Egg Rock Lighthouse' and 'Common Eider' shots, I'd like to add some thoughts.

IMHO this is a travel blog where people can also use photography to show their travel's, not a blog just to show off photography. I'd often like to have better quality shots to use in my blog, but figure it's better to include a slighly imperfect shot and share that part of the trip experience then show nothing at all.

The "Egg Rock Lighthouse" is in Acadia National Park. This is the second most visited National Park in the US, so is a fairly significant location. I didn't care that much for the shot either (I liked the Quoddy Head lighthouse better), but lighthouses are very popular with some folks - they sell postcards, books, and all sorts of things lighthouse related, and it was the only lighthouse shot I had from Acadia NP. So I decided to upload this to share as part of our Acadia NP experience. The only place I could see the lighthouse was from the Park Loop Road and from my viewpoint it was very far out in the bay. Using a 12x zoom, the lighthouse was still too small to see very well (a small spec in the center of a lot of water), so instead of resizing the photo to 800 by 600, I cropped it to show the lighthouse better. I agree that it's not a great shot, but for readers of my blog it's part of the Acadia NP experience.

The 'Common Eider' shot was similar in that I had to use the 12x zoom and then crop the final shot. This was actually the best of about six that I took (wildlife is hard unless one has the time and equipment such as a serious photographer might). In spite of the name and your comments, I had never seen a duck like this before. In fact, it took me a fair amount of research to figure out what it was so I could label the picture correctly for the folks back home. Maybe they just aren't common in Washington State? We have a lot of ducks and waterfowl, but this was new to us so I wanted to share it with the folks back home who've probably never seen one either.

So it goes back to what one's objectives are. I'm on a trip and I'm trying to share the experiences of the trip with folks who can't be here. I do upload quite a few pictures, but I've also asked my readers several times for feedback and they have always said they like the current mix (which has a lot of pictures). So for my blog, I'll probably stay the course (keep doing the best I can regarding the quality, but upload shots needed to show the trip). If you want professional quality photography, I probably won't be able to contribute much of that.

6. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4835 posts) 9y

Jeanette, do absolutely keep shooting and uploading the same type of photos you take now. Primarily this site is meant to do just that, to let everyone tell their own personal tale with their own photos on their own blogs and everything. I apologize most sincerely if my words made you think that I have any issue with that, for I don't.
I also understand difficult circumstances and getting the best picture possible given the circumstances, and that when you're telling a tale, you just use what you have available. I do exactly the same on my own weblog, and I'd say some very harsh words to anyone who dared criticize that.

However, when we upload photos to this site, we also give permission to "use the photos throughout the site", and chief amongst the ways in which photos can be used outside of people's personal blogs and galleries is in the "featured gallery" of a country. There's five people on this site who look at all uploaded photos from everyone, and who have the common goal/task of picking out the absolute "best" photos (for some criteria) to go into these galleries, by "featuring" the photos. The two photos of yours I mentioned were picked for this, and I questioned their fitness for this purpose (and this purpose alone), or even more accurately (at least as far as my intent went: if I'd posted this thread yesterday I'd have picked completely different examples), if all five people who're featuring photos are having the same idea of what determines the fitness of a photo in general.

7. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4835 posts) 9y

Quoting GregW

I guess the prime question is what do we want the "featured" photo gallery to be. What is it's use? I must admit that I hardly ever look at a the featured photos for a place - mainly I just do it when I noticed one of my photos has been featured (I'll admit I'm vain :) ).

If the intent is to give people an overview of the country, then there needs to be some editting (i.e. unfeaturing) in a bunch of the galleries. Just running through U.K., and there is a lot of shots of Big Ben. But I'd question whether that's worthwhile. Do a lot of people even look at the featured photo galleries by country?

I know it's only a "sample of one", but I always look at a country's featured photo gallery when I ponder travelling there for the first time. I'm a very visually oriented person, and so in the past, I've found it a superb way to get an overview of what's there to see in a country - of quickly discovering the "must absolutely go to" locations - without needing to click through hundreds of similar shots of "the mates I partied with that one night" which just happened to have been taken in that same country, as would be the case when browsing through the regular country galleries.
(And to re-iterate, I am 100% in favour of people uploading such shots; I don't doubt their target audience loves those shots. It just isn't relevant for me personally for this purpose of learning about a country, which is why I've always been such a fan of the featuring system, and why I now care when I perceive its quality to be 'slipping'.)

Quoting Q'

I've never been given any guidelines for featuring photos.

Ah, I did not know that! I'd have thought Sam and Peter would have given at least some idea of what up to that point they themselves had been basing their featuring decisions on.

Quoting Q'

Perhaps a policy statement from the TP Overlords might be good.

Sounds like it might, indeed.

Quoting marlis

sorry,can't look by every photo first if there is somewhere a better one,or discuss it first with Q' or the Lords.

Well, of course not, and I wasn't suggesting that. I do understand the volume. (To illustrate that: I have looked at every single photo in the first 110,000 uploaded (for real: I went through the first 20,000 when I created the photo tagging system, in order to determine common subjects for the pre-defined tag names, and then just kept up with it), but the increase in daily uploads these last few months means that for the last tens of thousands I no longer do this.)
However, if every so often there's a photo that's an edge case that makes you wonder "is this worth featuring?" (or likewise: "should I delete this?"), I am suggesting that then it's a good time to touch base with your fellow photo moderators. (All moderators/editors/ops/admins/people who're exercising some kind of judgement... who work in isolation are known to suffer a "drift" in their views over time. Realigning your views with the other people who do the same work is often very important to keep that in check. Again, I know this from experience, from both sides of the fence (both providing and being provided a reality check). Hell, I just got it here at travellerspoint a couple of days ago, as I discovered I'd gotten too trigger-happy on the "spam?" button.)

Quoting marlis

by the way,it is not easy to get a good photo of this pink dolphins,the dont jump,the show mostly only there backs

*nods* I understand that. I just think that "not easy" shouldn't be an excuse to feature 'sub-par' photos anyway. But that personal opinion of mine is (imo) much less important than if your views on this are compatible with the views of the other photo moderators. (And I think they're not, because in the past I have seen a lot of "similar quality" very-hard-to-take photos not get featured. For example, the only photo on a platypus on this site happens to be one I took. It's neigh on impossible to take a good photo of them (outside of a zoo/aquarium, and even there). Yet it's a pretty blurry photo, and even though it's an Australian icon, that means it doesn't deserve to be featured.)

Quoting marlis

I did not featured the amazon boat photo because it is promotion.

Ah, I did not see that. Good catch! (See, that's why you're the photo moderator, and I'm not.) :)

[ Edit: Edited on Oct 17, 2007, at 5:57 PM by Sander ]

8. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 9y

Quoting Sander

Quoting marlis

I did not featured the amazon boat photo because it is promotion.

Ah, I did not see that. Good catch! (See, that's why you're the photo moderator, and I'm not.) :)

But we did feature the pink Dolphins. Now, I may not cruise the country featured galleries, but when I see a picture I like, I often go to see the person's profile and see where they have travelled, where they are now, and if I want to check out their posts in the forums or blogs. So, isn't the dolphin picture as much as a promotion as the boat.

I am NOT suggesting that we make DawnAmazon change his profile (though I do believe that I am pretty lax when it comes to promotion on the site), but rather if we are concerned about promotion, why is it fine to link to one picture from a profile that could be considered promotional in nature and not another?

I feel a bit bad, because it feels like we are picking here on the photo editors. So let me apoligize for that. I think the photos that are featured are usually excellent. I do believe that both Sander and I are just trying to help keeping the site getting better. I hope you forgive me for any offensive comments I might post in this thread.

9. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4835 posts) 9y

Quoting GregW

I feel a bit bad, because it feels like we are picking here on the photo editors. So let me apoligize for that. I think the photos that are featured are usually excellent. I do believe that both Sander and I are just trying to help keeping the site getting better. I hope you forgive me for any offensive comments I might post in this thread.

Ditto.

10. Posted by jl98584 (Travel Guru 114 posts) 9y

I do understand the difference between posting photo's just for our own blog vs having them selected (by a moderator?) for use on the featured pages, and yet...

...I'm trying to update my blog for today and I find myself having lots of second thoughts - 'better not use that one, it's not quite good enough', or that I'm also spending more time working on the descriptions in case it shows up somewhere else! (It's OK, I chose to flag mine as public, it just didn't occur to me that someone would actually use them!)

These aren't necessarily bad things, I keep meaning to use the tripod & filters more often, but on the other hand maybe I'm getting a little gun shy?

(On the other, other hand, maybe that's a good thing as I keep using up my upload capacity, although some of my problems are still trying to catch up from last month.)