Done with clickin', now time for pickin'
July 11, 2005 12:14 PM   Subscribe

This is a question about patience and photos on the web, namely - how many photos are too many?

I'm having problems editing my photos down to a reasonable number, even after setting them aside for a year (or more). I'm wondering how many photos on a website is enough to make you happy. Consider if you will, three main categories of photo viewing:

1) Photos of relatives/friends, near or far away. For example, "Here are photos of our new house/baby/dog/scars/etc!"

2) Photos you stumble into by looking for something. For example, "I love bridges and here's a site with photos of bridges!"

3) A site you follow as a cool link from someone or some site. For example, "Man, this guy takes weeeeird photos! Go look at his site!"

Naturally, not everyone is exclamation-point-excited about photography, but what would be your limits as to the number of photos before you get bored and move on.

Also, I'm just talking numbers here, so imagine the site has the perfect navigation system, no annoying music or pop-ups, different styles or categories of photos grouped into their own galleries, etc. I'm just looking for a number to help force myself to edit how many photos I'm putting out there.
posted by Moondoggie to Media & Arts (21 answers total)
Uh, isn't this a personal preference type of thing? For example, I don't know you, so I wouldn't care about your pictures of family or friends. But I might like a pretty bridge photo.

You're going to get all sorts of answers on this - everyone will have a different preference.
posted by agregoli at 12:24 PM on July 11, 2005

Actually, that's why I broke it into three categories. So the three situations would be for you personally, in situations you would run into. Namely, a relative you love sends you a link to photos of something happening to them, you're looking for photos of something you like, or someone sent you a link to somewhere they think has cool photos and it turns out you like them too. So I'm not really asking "How many photos of my cat do you want to see?" or the like. The question made much more sense in my head...

See my problem is, I like a good deal of my photos, but I know people are going to zone out on a gallery of, say, 100 photos, even if it's my parents looking at photos of our new house. I'm just looking to see what a happy medium might be out there. So it's fine that everyone has different answers for this one, so long as they're not thinking of how many of my specific photos they'd want to see.

God, now I'm even confusing myself...
posted by Moondoggie at 12:31 PM on July 11, 2005

For friends and family new babies/dogs/houses/weddings, I'd love to see more than 3, but less than 30.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:34 PM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

I think 30 or less is great, 20 or less is best. By going with a smaller number of photographs per gallery, you'll maximize the chances that someone will be interested enough to browse to the end of the stack.

If you have a hard time choosing, then pick the 20 best and rotate them out over time so that all 100 photographs end up getting some play.

Choose action photos, where your subjects are doing something interesting. Weed out multiples of group shots, pet portraits and landscapes.

Good luck!
posted by cior at 12:37 PM on July 11, 2005

I say cull by quality, rather than trying to find some arbitrary number. Put up all your best photos.

Even if I get bored and click away, I'll often come back later and go through the archives if I enjoy the photos.
posted by frykitty at 12:38 PM on July 11, 2005

I agree with frykitty.

Also, use Flickr.
posted by Jairus at 12:44 PM on July 11, 2005

put them on separate pages, with more arrows or something. I find that it's not the number of pics, but whether they're all hi-res or not that bothers me--i don't want to wait for them to load.
posted by amberglow at 12:54 PM on July 11, 2005

I go for 20-30 per set. With my own photos I have one big photo per page and the rest as small clickable thumbs.
posted by carter at 12:58 PM on July 11, 2005

imagine the site has the perfect navigation system

I'm sorry, I am hung up on this. For me, it's all about the photos, if they're good, I'd go through them one at a time and look at 20-60. If they're lousy, I'd look at one or two. It wouldn't matter to me much if the pictures were of your trip to France or close ups of insects or whathave you.

I think showing some representative amount per page, a number people are used to [Flickr shows like 8-10 per page unless you're viewing in a set, people who use Gallery tend to show like 10-16] to give them an idea of whether they want to see more is a great idea. Other than that, I'd upload as many pictures as you think are good or would be of interest to someone. So, for example, I might not want to see thirty pictures of your new baby, each one only slightly different from the rest, but a family member might love that. So, with perfect navigation [so they could see them all and I wouldn't have to] I see no reason to upload as many as possible.
posted by jessamyn at 12:58 PM on July 11, 2005

Possibly, you could cull the numbers a bit more by separating the categories further into subcategories.

For instance,

Category: Baby.
Subcategories: "Baby throwing up on relatives," "Baby peeing on relatives," "Family pictures with the baby."

And on every "page" (a custom generated page, a static directory generated page, et cetera) only display 10 photos tops.

Also, as frykitty mentioned, only pick the best quality photos. Unless this website will only be seen by people who have an interest in viewing all the photos; such as relatives. Of course, baby pictures or relatives, as aforementioned are strictly just for arguments sake.

How many photos should you put up? That's really a question of space: How many photos can you put up?

On websites I find to be the best of the web, such as Hethe Srodawa's site or Joy Ang's site, I can't get enough photos. Obviously though, both artist's only display their best work for their online portfolios. Which is as it should be. So, basically, what frykitty wrote.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 1:01 PM on July 11, 2005

I take a lot of pictures and upload them, either one at a time or in sets, to my Flickr account. My pictures are not of people or specific events, and there is absolutely no value to "complete documentation" in what I'm doing. I ask myself:

1. Is this picture OK technically?
2. Is this picture reasonably interesting? To someone else, I mean?
3. If it's a set of pix, is each one sufficiently different from each other?

I do this partly because I've been turned off by huge collections of duplicative, poorly framed, or blurry pictures, and I do not want anyone to feel that way about mine.

Also, as a data point, I would way rather see a good pet portrait than a clumsy action shot. I think that prioritizing pictures by content is not as robust an approach as going by quality and originality.
posted by caitlinb at 1:05 PM on July 11, 2005

It's very difficult. Let's say I go on vacation with some people. The pictures I would show would completely depend on the audience...

For the people I traveled with: I want as many "people pictures" as possible, because they bring back memories and are irreplaceable.

For friends/family I'm showing them to: I want a representative set of photos. I won't throw out a bad photo if it's the only one of someplace we went to. No more than 50 photos, and only one of each subject.

For random people: I want my absolute best photos. This is probably not more than five.
posted by smackfu at 1:10 PM on July 11, 2005

1) If I know the family/people/whatever - as many as you have or as many as you can post.

If it's family/friends that I know, oftentimes the interest is in the viewer. You may think that only the subject in the foreground of photo X is interesting, but in the background I see beloved, lost pet/other family member/best friend/favorite couch. Post all of them - all of them that aren't near identical copies or otherwise unviewable.

2) If I'm interested in the topic/genre/style - as many as you have or as many as you can post.

I may be looking for a specific bridge, from a specific angle, in a specific weather scenario. I may find the different views give me a better mental image of the scene and surroundings. I may be looking for ways to navigate around that exact area. I may be looking for clues for history research, and that non-descript fencepost with a few strand of barbed wire next to the non-descript rock give me all the clues I need to figure something out.

3) If the photos really are cool, weird or interesting - as many as you have or as many as you can post.


Post them all. Especially if they're well organized into subsets or galleries. If not, providing keywords and a search, or at least a usuable thumbnail gallery will do.


However, none of this applies to an actual portfolio or any online assemblege dedicated to displaying skill and professionalism. If you're building a photography portfolio, choose only the best and most exemplary shots. Avoid repetition of themes, textures, or moods - unless they are intentionally part of sequences or thematic progressions. A series of still lifes, or a series of nudes, for example.
posted by loquacious at 1:16 PM on July 11, 2005

[fixed carter's accidental double]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:31 PM on July 11, 2005

Why doesn't it surprise me that loquacious says "Post them all"?

However, I think you're better off going with everyone else's advice. I can easily look at 30 photos of my grandson; maybe a couple of dozen artistic photos or photos of things I'm interested in; in general, though, a dozen or so photos pretty much exhausts my interest in most photo sites. I suspect I'm a lot closer to your average viewer than that talkative guy.
posted by languagehat at 1:34 PM on July 11, 2005

Depends on how important to posterity each photo is. If you've got 30 pix of the new baby taken at 2-second intervals, you can probably safely cull that down to the 3-4 that are most adorable. If you've got pix from a wedding, you probably want everybody to be represented in at least one photo.

Thanks to amazing technologies like tagging, you can have the best of both worlds. Figure out your own special keyword scheme--perhaps just ***, **, and * to indicate "classic," "not bad," and "just shoveled these in for completeness' sake." Create photo sets, and you can then browse by quality (this all assumes you're using flickr or something that supports these features).

I'll frequently take 5-10 photos to get 1-2 that I like. The rest get trashed immediately.
posted by adamrice at 2:08 PM on July 11, 2005

I keep almost all my photos. But only the best ones go on the web. And yeah, the navigation system does matter, especially if you are putting up a lot of marginal photos (even if you don't think they're marginal). A good web site will let me skip them easily and get to more good stuff. A bad one will mean I'll just give up.
posted by grouse at 2:21 PM on July 11, 2005

Enough to make me happy? I've got more than 10,000 pictures up on my photo website, so clearly I have no restraint. What's your audience? You? Your friends? The world?

1. For me/friends: I take a bunch of pictures of friends at parties. I try to make sure I've got at least one shot in the collection for each person who I took a picture of, unless they're all really bad. Some people get upset when they know you've taken pictures of them and not posted any. Once I have one of each person, I delete all of the pictures that I don't think have "artistic" or "documentary" merit. This tends to lead to event galleries of 20-100 pictures. I also have a "friends" gallery, which has the single or couple best pictures I've ever taken of those people (or so I thought at the time).

1. For the world: I'll only look at pictures of people I don't know if they're really cute. If they're really cute, I'll look at lots of pictures of them.

2. Most single objects seem to be worth maybe 5 photos, but themed collections can be pretty big before I find them tedious.

3. I'll spend quite a while browsing neat photos. If they're good or interesting, put 'em up!
posted by aneel at 6:14 PM on July 11, 2005

You can find a happy medium by putting up a gallery of your best 20-30, and then putting up the rest sorted in a way that will help people find what they are interested in.

In January, I took around 450 pictures on a 10 day trip. I picked my favorites and put them in one gallery (33 total, displayed on 4 pages), then I made additional galleries with more depth on each subject -- in those, I pretty much threw in anything that wasn't horrible or completely misframed (blurry shots of people whose faces aren't even visible don't go on the web, unless that's precisely what you were trying for).

For navigation, I like something that displays one pic with thumbnails of others. Flickr does it well, but there are also various methods for doing it on your own site. When you're ready to worry about gallery interface, there are good threads here and here.
posted by jewishbuddha at 9:33 PM on July 11, 2005

On one of my sites, I have one "best of" gallery for each category. Each gallery normally has up to 25 images (presented as thumbnails). Then, there's a "view all" gallery that has as many as I took (which can be a thousand).

That way, people who might just stumble upon the gallery can look at a selection of the best; but people who are really interested can see more.

Also, if I want to show someone any of the 15,000 pictures that I took, I can just point them to a link; rather than having to first upload or mail the image.

(I wrote a script that pretty much automates this, so I don't have to hard-code gallery pages in HTML.)
posted by ckemp at 12:01 AM on July 12, 2005

Great answers all, and tough to pick a best, since it's all pretty relative so I'll dole out the bests like I'll soon dole out my photos - everywhere! All of your answers gave me a lot to think about, and made me re-think how I was thinking of what I was getting ready to put out there.
posted by Moondoggie at 3:49 PM on July 14, 2005

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