What qualities drive “likability” of an image?

This is the question that Curalate, a Philadelphia-based visual analytics and marketing firm was interested in figuring out. They looked at a range of image features across 8,000,000 Instagram photos including lightness, colour, texture and background and found some intriguing results. Although their data says what but not why, they have some reasoning behind the results. According to their research they found that images had more likability with the following characteristics:

  • Images with less amount of colours have 17% more likability than images with multiple colours.
  • More textured images have 79% more likability than images with less texture.
  • High lightness have 24% more likability than low lightness images. Essentially brighter the better.
  • More negative space have 29% more likability than cluttered backgrounds. (nothing new here)
  • blueish toned images have 24% more likability than red “warmer” tones. (yeah, I knew this was the case!)
  • Single colour scheme images have 17% more likability than multiple coloured images.
  • Desaturated images have 18% more likability than saturated ones.

Is there a single word that can encompass this “look and feel”? Yes; these are all characteristics of the extremely popular vintage look (which is the look of old lenses and film stock combinations) and it’s what apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic are all about. What these qualities of lightness, desaturation, monochromatic, etc., do is provide the image with more “emotion” and gives the images something that “feels” a lot nicer to look at. Well, at least in my opinion it does, and apparently, so do the findings of Curalate’s research. So, I looked back at some of my own photos to see how often I used these techniques and low and behold I employed them quite often.

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