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Photography Matters: Over-index with People

Today, photography matters. The importance of amazing photography is being discussed everywhere in regards to visual success in articles, websites, blogs, and social media. Everyone want’s to create credible, successful, and even viral content. It’s been studied that the right use of photography can play a big role in getting your work to be shared and engaged with in some way.  This goes for the use of stock photography and custom commissioned imagery.

In this blog post, I wonder why some photos or profiles gain far more attention than others? What’s happening when you love 2 photos, but don’t understand why one is liked far more than the other?

Recently, I heard a story of a guy that ran 2 Instagram accounts. He was a little frustrated because one account had a lot more followers but was seeing less actual engagement from them, compared to the other account.

The difference? People. Human Element.

The account with more followers but less engagement was sharing more landscape type imagery with an absence of people. Apparently, the engaging account was sharing more imagery with the element of people in some way. Unfortunately, I don’t have the actual accounts to provide a direct example, but it’s totally believable. I’ve seen this with my own stock photography that I share freely and it’s encouraged me to incorporate at least one person in the scene with my own architectural photography. Since this article was published, I’ve written more about that: Why I include people in architectural photography

Architectural Photography of St Patricks Catholic School
Architecture photo with a human element

Are people in your photographs really that big of a deal? It depends.

As beautiful as landscape and architectural photography can be, these images alone don’t always garner the best responses from viewers. A great photo to compare and illustrate the point comes from photographing a scene with people and another without.

Over-Index with People on the Bus

Let’s use Unsplash photos by Matthew Wiebe for a pretty good comparison of over-indexing with people in a similar scene.

The scene without people by photographer Matthew Wiebe
The scene without people. Photo by Matthew Wiebe.
The scene with people by photographer Matthew Wiebe
The scene with people. Photo by Matthew Wiebe.

While an empty scene, like the bus, can definitely hit on emotions we feel and tell part of a story, we long for connection. The empty bus would definitely be relevant to some topics and be the better choice; however, we desire community and the serendipitous chance of connecting with someone else. This is something deep within our DNA.

The photo with people is over-indexed, but don’t take my word for it. The overall statistics speak for them self:

Over-Index with People Comparison Statistics

People in my own photography

Another reason I feel confident that you’ll over-index with people in your photography is that of my own most popular photos on Unsplash. While some of my favourite photos are of architecture, the images that have risen to the top are photos with people in imagery from my past photography.

Top 10 photos to show people in photography matters

In my case, my architectural images on Unsplash have been available for a longer period of time; however, only 2 are able to surface in the top 10 of my +140 images. They’ve had longer to build up more views and downloads from people yet it’s my images with people that over-index.

Try it out

I don’t want you to get the idea that photos without people are not engaging or beautiful. I’m not calling for an all or nothing scenario here. My aim has been to show you a couple of pretty clear examples that promote exploration of using photos with a human element in them somewhere and possibly increasing engagement with your photography, articles, or social media content.

For instance, if you’re like the dude with 2 accounts wondering why your website/account/posts are not getting the attention you think they deserve, try out some relevant imagery including people. I’m sure you can find something for free on Unsplash to do some testing.

As I mentioned, this is something that I am experimenting with related to my architectural photography already and I’m going to be exploring this with my pineapple images this summer. And oddly enough, as a London Ontario architectural photographer too, I find the need to document objects and details to help tell the story.

Let me know what you think and how it goes if you experiment!

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