What The Top 25 Photos on Flickr For 2016 Reveal About The State Of Photography


It's That Time of Year and Flickr Has Come Up With Its Roundup of the “Top 25” Photographs for 2016

Image by Project Apollo Archive

Flickr is undoubtedly a great platform where experienced and aspiring audiences can look through works of other photographers and also learn from the EXIF data now widely available. Viewing EXIF data is actually a very interesting thing and lets photographers have a peek into what it takes to attract viewers to their images.

When looking at the photos that made it to the Top 25 on Flickr, some information comes to light, giving the audience a view of what factors are required in order for an image to hit this popular list.

Out of the 25 popular ones, EXIF data was only available for 16 of the images. So, based on the data available, here is some information that we thought will help you get an overview of the qualities that these images possess to hit the top 25.

Just How Did Flickr Judge the Top 25?

For those interested in knowing how Flickr made the decision to arrive at the top 25 images, firstly, read below to see.

In order to finalize the top 25 images, Flickr has gone through billions of images and used an algorithm that takes into account a combination of social and engagement data.

This means, the number of views and faves on the images were taken into account plus a curation by the staff at Flickr – telling us also that the images which were popular among the Flickr community have made it to the final top 25 for the year 2016.

In cases where the same member’s image appeared more than once in the algorithmic ranking, one of their top ranking images was selected.

Looking at the top 25 images:

    • The views of the images range from 248,542 to 726,497 views, and
  • The faves from 694 to 8,213 (at the time while writing this article).

What Subjects Do the Popular Photographs Show?

Surprisingly looking at this year’s images, only three have people in them and all three were shot in horizontal orientation. And with the rise of street portraits & travel photography, there isn’t one single that has made it to the top 25 for this year.

Out of the photos that have people in them, one is a picture of the US President with a guest at the White House (not technically a portrait) and the other two are street photographs of people on the streets (again not portraits).

Orientation Of Photos

Something else we noted looking through the top 25 photographs, was only one photograph was shot in Vertical orientation. This could be due to the fact that the audience responds well to landscape orientation or photographers in general choose to shoot horizontal? 

Naturally, this is a more convenient way in which usually most people hold the camera – fairly self-explanatory, I guess.

Another factor could be, when a picture is viewed full screen, a horizontal orientation picture will fill the screen with least distraction whereas a vertical orientation will just not look that great on the screen with black or white space around the photograph.

Apollo 8 Liftoff View

Apollo 8 Liftoff View – Image by Project Apollo Archive (no EXIF Data)

What Programs Are Used by Photographers For Post Processing?

With so much software available in the market for photographers these days, we thought there would be a hugely diverse range photographers would have used. Instead, Adobe has done a clean sweep this year too which could be surprising for some, but an expected one for others.

For all the photographs that had information available regarding post processing, 12 photos were processed in Adobe Lightroom, 7 photos in Adobe Photoshop and 2 in Adobe Elements.

Four photos did not have post processing information whatsoever. These results reflect that most photographers prefer using Adobe Lightroom for post processing due to its flexibility and versatility.

Other Plugins: With regards to using Nik or Topaz or other Plugins, this information was not available for any of the images

What Creative Choices Have The Photographers Used?

The choice of black and white images having been on a low side last year, this year it has gone down further to just two black and white photos on the top 25 for the year 2016. The remaining 23 were shot in color.

Considering the over-saturation trends amongst some photographers these days, only 5 among the 23 color photographs look slightly over saturated. This could again be a subjective judgment!

Also, there would appear to be no undersaturated images – with all other images having an “acceptable” level of saturation, while there are 2 images that could be classified as having a split tone effect.

Zig Zag

Zig Zag – Image by Albert Dros (Full Frame mirrorless, Shutter speed 20s, ISO 800, post processing in Adobe Lightroom)

What Are The Biggest Takeaways From Flickr’s Top 25?

From the available data, it is evident that:

    • Adobe is a clear winner when it comes to software for post processing images.
    • Color photographs are the most dominant.
    • Long exposures are on the increase with 8 shots coming under this category.
    • Panorama shots have also made their way into the top 25. One is a space-time panorama where frames shot from before to after sunset are merged from left to right to create the image. The other one is a panorama with 11 vertical images combined to create a picture of the Milky Way galaxy.
  • Portraiture and street portraits have not made it to the top 25 this year, which may suggest that one needs to be mindful of good / strong composition and post processing techniques to create an outstanding portrait.

A Popular Flickr Photograph By The Numbers:

Here's some data we've pulled off the list that we thought was worth talking about.

Total Photographs: 25

Photographs with People: 3

Outdoor: 2

Indoor: 1

Horizontal Orientation: 3

Vertical Orientation: 0

Superman & Lex Luthor

Superman & Lex Luthor – Image by Ron Anthony Bautista (No EXIF data, post processed in Adobe Lightroom)

Photographs Taken Outdoors:

Outdoor People: 2

Seascape / Waterscape: 9

Architecture: 3

Landscape: 10

Underwater: None

Animal: 2

Astrophotography: 2

Braving the cold

Braving the cold – Image by Christophe Brutel (APS-C mirrorless, f/2.8, Focal length – 34mm, Shutter speed 1/200 s, ISO 200, post processed in Adobe Lightroom)

Beyond Perception

Beyond Perception – Image by Wayne Pinkston (Panorama with a combination of 11 vertical images, f/1.4, Focal Length – 55mm, Shutter speed – 25s, ISO 6400, post processed in Adobe Photoshop

Photographs Shot in Color: 23

Oversaturation: 5

Undersaturation: 0

Realistic Saturation: 18

Black and White: 2

 Sunset - Grand Teton National Park

Sunset at Grand Teton National Park – Image by Xiang & Jie (No EXIF data)

French Senate from the other side

French Senate from the other side – Image by Fabien Rouire (Full Frame DSLR, f/3.5, Focal Length – 16mm, Shutter speed – 1/80s, ISO 800, post processed in Adobe Lightroom)

Other Categories in General:

Macro: None

HDR: None

Focus Stacking: None

Combination of more than one image: 2

Changing of the guard

Changing of the guard – Image by Pietro Faccioli , a space time panorama where frames were shot from before to after sunset and merged from left to right (Full Frame DSLR, f/16, Focal Length 28mm, Shutter Speed 1/1000s, ISO 100, post processed in Adobe Photoshop)


Out of the 17 shots that had complete EXIF data (and 1 with very limited EXIF data), 13 showed that a DSLR was used with 5 being mirrorless cameras.

11 of the cameras (of the 17 with EXIF) showed the camera was a full frame (10 DSLRs and 1 mirrorless). 4 were cameras with APS-C sensors and one was a Drone.

1 used a telephoto lens with the image taken at a focal length of 135mm.


i.get.a.kick.out.of.you – Image by Brian Day (Drone DJI FC330, f/2.8, Focal length – 20.7mm, Shutter speed – 3s, ISO 200, post processed in Adobe Lightroom)

Bringing back Autumn

Bringing back Autumn – Image by Tammy Schild (Full Frame DSLR, f/2, Focal Length – 135mm, Shutter speed 1/400s, ISO 200, post processed in Adobe Elements)


Unfortunately, the histogram details were not available for these photos


17 of the 25 shots were wide angle with focal length ranging from 9mm to 35mm


17 of the 25 approximately used the “Rule of Thirds” in their composition.

Furthermore, 22 of the 25 had an obvious “Center of Interest” while only 3 did not. 16 out of the 18 landscape / waterscape images had foreground elements while 2 did not have. 5 used “Leading Lines” and there were no compositions that included “Symmetry.”

Time of Day:

10 of the photos were taken in the “Golden Hour”, 1 at “Twilight”, 7 photos in the “Middle of the Day” and only 5 photos at “Night”,

8 of the 25 shots were “Long exposures with a shutter speed of up to 55secs.”


Infinity – Image by Niels Oberson (APS-C DSLR, f/22, Focal Length – 18mm, Shutter speed – 55s, ISO 100, post processed in Adobe Photoshop)

Mobile Phone Photographs:

According to Flickr stats, the most popular cameraphone is an iPhone and the second is Samsung. Looking at the pictures that have EXIF data, there are no pictures taken with a cell phone making it to the top 25.

Most Popular Cameras in the Flickr Community

Most Popular Cameras in the Flickr Community – Image credit Flickr


Ok, so there we have it – a breakdown of the results from Flickr's Top 25 2016. Perhaps there are some surprising outcomes to readers, especially with the lack of “portraits” in the lineup, along with no “Macro” or “HDR” shots either.

Please do let us know your thoughts on this in the comment section below. We want your say on this!

Further Resources – Flickr Top 25

Further Learning

Feeling inspired by Flickr's top 25?
Well, if not, and you’re stuck for some ideas or inspiration for your portfolio, take a peek at this Guide The Creativity Catalogue.

About Author

Dahlia is a stock photographer and full time educator at Light Stalking. You can find her on Gurushots and see some of her more popular articles at The American Society of Media Photographers. Get to know her better here.

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