Behind Flickr’s Most Popular Photograph

One of the most widely known ways to get your work out there is through Flickr, a photo-sharing website. So to boast 102,000 views is quite an achievement for Alex Bell, whose photograph ‘Holding On‘ is the most popular photograph on the site. Here are some things he shared in an interview last year.

How the photo came to be

I used to read and talk to some elderly people, including my mother in her 90′s. I took my camera with me in case there was a photo opportunity, but was quickly told not to take any recognizable photos of the people there — i.e. photos of faces. I decided that hands were not individually “recognizable” and began to choose to sit and read by a window. The window light provided the lighting for the portrait of the hands that has become well known. At first, it was difficult to balance the book and the camera, and I clicked off many dozens of out of focus and camera shaken snaps. But with the Minolta A1′s auto focus and anti shake, I began to be able to take some pictures that seemed to be good enough for Flickr, where I uploaded them small.

His background in photography

What experience or training do you have in photography?

I’ve enjoyed playing with cameras for 70 years. I took and displayed photos of the children in schools where I was teaching. I believed that if the pupils liked the image of themselves that I showed, it must be a boost to their morale.

Most of my learning has been trial and lots and lots of errors. I wish I had attended some courses. Looking at millions of photos is surely important, but not necessarily an adequate substitute.

A day without shooting does not feel complete — but is very dependent on the quality of light.

He uses  minimal post-processing

After taking the photo, I did only a minimal amount of post-processing. I don’t enjoy Photoshop. I would rather use the time with a camera. Hence, I am not very good at the computer, although I have tried several editing programs. Usually I fiddle with one of the “Levels” type tools to try to get a full range of tones, and maybe brighten up colours. (Apart from cropping, resizing, and removing objects, of course. Lately I have used Topaz Detail, but don’t know if that has improved my photos).

What he wishes he had done

I now wish I had read  more books — and taken more snaps.

I can’t help liking it [the picture] for that reason [its popularity], but there are many things that could be better about it. I think I prefer other versions that I have done of the same photo, such as this one. I’m surprised that I don’t seem to have posted a B&W version of it. And there are other pictures that I like better, and I think are better photographs.

Tips for photographers on Flickr

I joined Flickr at a time when I was largely confined to bed. After I got the laptop organized to type comfortably, I found plenty of time to admire the great photos, and tell the photographers how terrific I thought they were. I soon found that my comments and Faves were reciprocated. I always have felt that this had a greater effect than the quality of the photos. This seems to be confirmed by the reduction of Faves and comments now that I don’t have such ample time.

Read the full interview at Improve Photography.

There you have it – the key to Flickr, in addition to uploading great work, is to be as active and supportive to the community as you can. We think that’s a great strategy for Talenthouse success as well!

What do you think are the best ways to get your photos seen on the net?

Photo credit: Alex Bell