Featured Photography

How to get your photos Explored on Flickr

Explore is Flickr’s Daily Artist Showcase. Every day Flickr admins choose 500 of the most interesting images determined by “interestingness”.

Being chosen as one of these elite few can mean a huge increase in your photo’s views and the number of comments and favourites you receive. Land on the front page of Explore, Flickr’s home page, and magical things happen, all of which having to do with increasing your ego, none of which actually leads to earning money as a photographer. But who cares, when you are royalty on Flickr for a day. :P

I’ll admit to feeling proud like a peacock when my mum first spotted my photo on the Explore home page. Within minutes, the comments and praise flooded in from the Flickratic. I began to pump out more quality shots and I continued getting Explored. I felt like my photography was finally reaching people. It was a great feeling, like a really perfect high-five or winning cookies. It also pushed me to try new techniques and really perfect my images before putting them up on Flickr.

A lot of people have asked me if there is any secret to getting Explored. The most obvious thing is take a great photo. But, beyond a great shot, there seems to be a definite pattern in which photos get Explored. After all, photography is art and the personal taste of the Flickr admins does impact the photos that are chosen. Using my keen intellect and the power of the internet, I have compiled a list of power tips on how to get your photos Explored and because I’ve been a lazy, good-for-nuthin’ blogger as of late, I’m going to share these with you.

Here are my top secret tips for getting your photos Explored on Flickr:

1. Mo’ Bokeh

Through the The Mist

Bokeh of street lights created with a LensBaby and the star shaped Creative Aperture disk.

By far the most popular type of bokeh photos on Flickr is that derived from taking out of focus pictures of small clusters lights, like on a Christmas tree. If you haven’t heard, the phrase Bokeh, “a photographic term referring to the appearance of point of light sources in an out-of-focus area of an image produced by a camera lens using a shallow depth of field”, then you probably haven’t been on Flickr for very long – because people are nuts about bokeh. Those little out-of-focus orbs of goodness can give a photo a magical, almost surreal quality. And the hip Flickratti are pumping it out faster than you can say, “Ashton killed twitter”. I mean… ahem. What?

How to get this shot:
Crossing your eyes is the easiest way to find cool bokeh. Snicker as you may, but seriously try it the next time you are out at night on a street with street lamps, stop lights, restaurant twinkle lights. Practice this technique in moderation and definitely not in combination with making a funny face because that would seem unprofessional and may weird people out.

Once you’ve found a cool bokeh source like a row of street lights, set your camera’s aperture wide open (>f/3.0) or >f/3.0, >f/5.6 if it’s a telephoto focal length (ie. 200mm at f/5.6) and set your lens to manual. Now pull it almost completely out-of-focus until you see nice fuzzy bits. That the good stuff. Now snap!

Shaped bokeh i.e., stars, hearts, is also really hot right now and companies like LensBaby are making it really easy to do with inexpensive Creative Aperture Kits. If you can’t afford a LensBaby ($100-$270), you can even make your own bokeh shaper lens hood with some black paperboard.

2. Lens Flare

Brisbane Eye

Lens Flare of sunlight streaming through Brisbane Eye Ferris Wheel.

I love lens flare, Michael Bay loves lens flare & so does Flickr. Go ahead. Break all the rules and point your camera at the sun. Within reason of course. Like don’t burn your eyes out or anything. Aim to head out during magic hour (1 hour before sunset) when the sun is low and golden and play with different angles of flares. Also, make sure you’ve got a UV filter so you aren’t damaging your camera’s lens.

3. Hot Chicks

Kylee Epp Promo Shot

Hot Chick & Musician, Kylee Epp. See behind the scenes shots here.

Like most people, Flickr love pictures of hot chicks. Pretty much any photograph looks better with a hot chick in it. Think about it. A nice still life shot of a bowl of fruit? Boring! A nice still life shot of a bowl of fruit with a hot chick holding a banana? Shizzam! A breathtaking image of a white sand beach? Meh. A breathtaking chick in bikini on a white sand beach? Explored!

It probably won’t surprise you that one of the most commonly explored content is pictures of hot chicks.

More often than not, they are beautiful young photographer/models AKA “modelographers” who have taken their exploration of narcissism to the next level with daily self-portraits called Flickr 365. They are blessed with looks, talent, and a passion for photography, and they are the new power elite on Flickr.

I have to give these young modelographers credit, because they produce near professional quality fashion-esque images of themselves nearly everyday and they are not afraid to try new and creative methods to light, take, and process their images, including film, toy cameras (lomo), strobe. Their photos are edgy, trendy, painful, naked, and oh so indie. They will often get a friend to do makeup or approach young designers whose clothes they or their other young hot chick friends can model. I am constantly amazed and bemused by the sheer number of beautiful images they create and the community wide adoration and respect they receive on Flickr.

How to get this shot:
If you happen to be a young hot chick with a camera, perfect your photography skills by snapping photos of your self and your friends, because the world has never been more open to the idea of a 16-year-old female fashion photographer.

If not, then take a lesson from these young photographers, go out and find someone to model for you, someone hot that looks like they could be in a fashion magazine and all of a sudden your photos go from 2 views to 2, 000 views. Need some tips on finding models I have a post on that :D

4. Cute animals

Lovely Currumbin Koala

Lovely Koala taken at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in QLD, Australia.
If you can’t get a hot chick, a cute animal is your next best bet. Everyone loves a cute animal, especially when it’s displaying seemly human characteristics. Ooh, that’s one angry squirrel! Aww look at those fuzzy ducklings. Ooh, a rare hummingbird!

How to get this shot:
Find cute animals. Pets are a good place to start. Zoos are great. Check your backyard, or the park. Go out and find cuteness. I suggest you take shots of animals at eye-level. Take different angles, use different lenses, get creative with these shots. Take a shot of your pooch’s nose close up with a wide angle. That always looks funny. Flickr loves animals in action, animals with personality, and whimsical cat/dog photos.

5. Soft Flower & Plant life Macros

abstract of a large leaf with raindrops

Leaf found in Queen Elizabeth Park on a damp Vancouver afternoon.
Flickr loves soft flower & other plant life macros like leaves and stuff. It’s as simple as that.

How to get this shot:
Find some blossom, blooms, pedals, leaves or flowery things. I am quite the botanist, can’t you tell? Choose an interesting angle, probably one where you are lying in mud. Bring a water sprayer and lightly mist the flowers do they are all dewy. Open your aperture up to f/3.5 and lower so you get some nice background bokeh and you are money.

6. Photos with interesting and tragically bohemian titles


I call this, “Oh love you have bewildered me with your absence”.

You won’t just get explored simply for a title. But, it definitely takes the artistic merit of your shot up an notch and will increase your chances of getting noticed. Even if you are not exploding with photo titling talent, anything is better than IMG_9807. Here are some tragically bohemian titles to get you started:

*broken flight*
where’s my freedom?
love is a trap
my peace is gone, my heart is heavy

Ahh, I poke fun, but you get the idea. The point is, there are types of photos that are more likely to be Explored than others, but there is no easy way in. You have to take great shots. And to take a great shot, you have to be out in the world taking shots. Take risks. If you always go on a photo walk to the beach at sunset, go in the opposite direction and take some urban landscapes. If you always snap pictures of your cat Mookie, turn the camera on yourself and do some self-portraits. Keep your work fresh and keep posting your best shots on Flickr and one of these days maybe it will be your shot on the front page of Explore!

Got any tips and tricks or great photos you’ve taken that you’d like to share? Add them in the comments!

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  • Reply
    April 19, 2009 at 12:15 PM

    I’d love to get photos on the Explore/Interesting page of Flickr.

    One day I hope, all I can do is just to keep taking photos!

  • Reply
    Apoorv Khatreja
    April 19, 2009 at 12:16 PM

    Oh you are the evil and manipulative one, aren’t you? Nice tips there, BTW. But again, why do I care if I am on the Flickr Explore again?

  • Reply
    April 19, 2009 at 12:20 PM

    You forgot to mention HDR photos… they appear to be all the rage as well.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2009 at 12:21 PM

    Having a non- piece-o’-crap camera helps, as well.

  • Reply
    Ian Livesey
    April 20, 2009 at 10:56 PM

    I got one on explore. #177 on 26/12/08. I would be prouder if i didn’t have 1,887 that weren’t.

    Keep up the good work Lisa.

  • Reply
    April 21, 2009 at 1:55 AM

    If you have a lens that can do f3, 1.8, 1.4, etc aperture setting,such as a 50mm lens, then you can make your own bokeh aperture adapter with half a sheet of black construction paper, a little scotch tape, and a steady hand. For your viewing pleasure at DIY Photography.

  • Reply
    April 21, 2009 at 6:44 AM

    I’m guessing this was more tongue and cheek than anything. My recent favorite addition to Explore is the random Arabic photo that is worse quality than a cell phone camera. Look for it the next time you’re exploring.

    There are some basic things to get photos to explore and you’re more likely to get shots up there the more you’re willing to promote your own work. Joining groups, commenting on others photos frequently, adding contacts (but contacts that will add you back, aka not mass adding contacts), and favoriting photos you truly like. It actually pays off to be honest instead of trying to game Flickr. But if you’re not a popular trendy photographer with tons of followers, it takes the interaction to work. I notice a correlation between when I stop commenting/favoriting and finding new like-minded contacts to having my photos on explore.

    Like Lisa said, not all of us are lucky enough to be our own pretty models. It takes a little work to get the results you want in Flickr. But like Lisa also said, it’s not going to pay the bills, either. :)

  • Reply
    April 21, 2009 at 1:39 PM

    Would you mind to link to the post you mentioned about how to find models ? I tried out the search function of your blog, but I was unsuccessful with different terms.

  • Reply
    Tyler McCall
    April 21, 2009 at 1:51 PM

    Thanks for the tips, Lisa. I noticed that you didn’t mention the technique that some people use, where you add your photo to every group pool in Flickr and hope that enough people will see it and give you glittery awards to get explored.

    Since I’m a Flickr newbie, I don’t know how to get your photos seen by other people. For example, if I had a photo that I thought was really good (like any of yours from above), how do I “get it out there”?

  • Reply
    April 21, 2009 at 6:22 PM

    Check out my link above to see one of the two photos I’ve taken to hit #1 on Explore. Irony works wonders!

  • Reply
    Gary Arndt
    April 21, 2009 at 11:40 PM

    Like a lot of people I started hosting images on Flickr and eventually upgraded to a Pro account. I participated in groups and did a lot of the social networking stuff on the site. I had several photos that got a large number of views.

    Eventually I gave up on Flickr because despite its social nature, it is an extremely closed system.

    I have a travel blog where I showcase my travel photography. Ideally, I’d like some people to visit my site, not just look at my images on Flickr. I found that Flickr is HORRIBLE at this because the only way people can ever know about your site is if they go to your profile which is not up top and obvious.

    Also, Flickr is the #1 spot for people to go to steal images.

    I’d rather have fewer people see my images but know they were taken by me, than have more people see them and just be known as a Flickr username.

    I totally understand why some big Flickr users like Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir have cut back or left Flickr entirely. I am currently just using it as a backup for my images as the cost of the Pro account is worth it for that purpose.

  • Reply
    April 22, 2009 at 7:22 AM

    And not to forget, that a “sexy geek blogger” has maybe a much higher chance to get explored ;-)

    But thanks for sharing your tips!

  • Reply
    April 22, 2009 at 12:16 PM

    You forgot to mention legos! Build something simple out of legos, take a picture of it, and wham-o your on Explore!

  • Reply
    Fred Hill
    April 22, 2009 at 1:50 PM

    Great post. I have been in a photo taking rut lately. This will give me a few things that I can try out and have some with. Maybe get out of the rut too. I think the first thing I will mess around with the shaped bokehs.

  • Reply
    April 22, 2009 at 2:45 PM

    Just a correction. “Flickr admins” do not select the photos for Explore, a computer program with a changing algorithm does. So basically anything is eligible except porn. Some of those 365 shots by teens come pretty close to porn in the opinion of many though. But hey, looks are king on Flickr, not quality photography. If you want real “interestingness” then Explore is not the place to look. :/

  • Reply
    April 22, 2009 at 8:51 PM

    So, I’m waiting for the ultimate Flickr photo. An HDR of a hot chick, holding a cat and a flower, accented with lens flare and bokeh, titled “I only have eleven minutes to live (inspired by my friends in the FASPG.” Please click here for large on black.

    Great sense of humor, Lisa.

  • Reply
    Johnny LeCanuck
    April 24, 2009 at 9:33 AM


    I love these photo related posts and I especially love your pure Canadianna sarcasm. Favourite tips were Bokeh and Hot Chicks! DOH why didn’t I think of that.

    Please, please, please keep writing stuff like this.

    BTW you rocked on TWiT -191-Corked. Stay edgy!

  • Reply
    Jenny Mariposa
    April 24, 2009 at 8:28 PM

    lol i love the “modelgrapher” concept…Now if only my chick friends weren’t so camera shy…Or if only my friends loved taking photos of me….i guess i could always ask my professional photographer friends. ;)

  • Reply
    April 26, 2009 at 7:41 AM

    I agree with Smith+Fritzy. Also, Flickr uses an algorithm to choose the Explore photos for each day, not an admin.
    Your photos are chosen by how many comments, favs and page views you have in a short time. This usually happen by taking a great photo or a funny photo, sending it to groups and having a lot of friends or internet friends view and comment on your photos.

    it doesn’t even have to be a great photo. I’ve seen photos in explore that look like the camera took a photo by accident get on explore. That is because the people already have a huge following of people (Internet Famous or Flickr Famous) and no matter what they put up, people will love, fave and comment.

  • Reply
    April 28, 2009 at 11:11 AM

    Excellent! Very helpful!

  • Reply
    April 28, 2009 at 1:21 PM

    Great tips and gorgeous photos!

  • Reply
    April 28, 2009 at 2:47 PM

    You know I wish you were correct but sadly, you are not. No human being chooses the explore photographs. A Computer does, as explained by a previous poster. explore is basically a marketing tool . It is not a collection of the best photographs on flickr. If anything it is a monument to successful social networking.

  • Reply
    Slim Digital Camera
    April 29, 2009 at 5:06 AM

    Thanks for sharing your tips. Gives a good insight. :)

  • Reply
    May 3, 2009 at 6:31 PM

    I posted the link to my flickr website :) add me as a friend!

    I would love to have the privilege to even get one photo explored. Thanks for the awesome tips, and hopefully it will help :) all the photo’s on this page are AMAZING :D

  • Reply
    Zoe. « photographs and the like
    May 7, 2009 at 7:19 PM

    […] that aren’t “perfect.” In addition to my personal musings, I came across this blog post about how to get images noticed on flickr. While I’m pretty sure this image won’t matter to anyone, it’s still interesting […]

  • Reply
    June 30, 2009 at 10:03 PM

    hey… a pretty guud post !!!

    din’t learn a lot about explore… but u did open my eyes to a lot of neat stuff :)))

  • Reply
    November 23, 2009 at 8:44 AM

    Your article made me laugh quite a lot, because it’s true. I don’t know much about Flickr, I don’t have many friends on it, and I don’t really care. But it’s interesting how some people are obsessed with the idea of online celebrity.

  • Reply
    January 21, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    If you want lots of views, post a link to that photo’s flickr page on bookmarking sites like Reddit, Dig and Stumbleupon. You’ll want to be sure you are in the best category at these sites or you post will be voted down very quickly. I’ve received 1000s of view in just a few hours on some of my photos. As far as I know, views don’t have much affect on “interestingness.” My most viewed photos aren’t high on my interestingness list. “Whoville?” is my most viewed with almost 3000 so far: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mully410/2681427418/

    Joining groups and commenting on everyone’s photos is another great way to get views.

    If you want to promote your blog with your Flikr account, post a link to you blog on all your photo descriptions and in the description of all your sets and collections.

  • Reply
    March 7, 2010 at 4:23 AM

    nice article, I would dearly love not to build my photographic reputation by resorting to taking pictures of hot chicks (although it would probably be fun, but self portraits are out of the question, I’m the exact opposite to a hot chick), perhaps an easy street to viewing success.

    using toy cameras (such as the holga/diana) to take photos are popular as well, redefining technically crappy photos into art ;)

  • Reply
    Jen Medina
    May 27, 2010 at 2:07 AM


    Jus asking if you get a notification once your pic gets on explore?

  • Reply
    Richard Wilson
    June 17, 2010 at 6:06 PM

    Wow i love the first picture! The lorikeet! The color is very vivid and it’s very relaxing on the eyes. Thanks for the post and also thanks for the info on how to use FLICKR. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Martine Stelluti
    June 20, 2010 at 11:52 PM

    I needed to say that it’s nice to know that someone else also brought up this as I had trouble finding the same info elsewhere. This was the first place that told me the answer.And Witten its in great detail Thanks. so much

  • Reply
    Rosie Spooner
    July 12, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    If you are interested in having your photos on Explore it is not wise to post more than one a day and if you have one that you think is particularly good post as early as possible in the day and make sure you visit other people photos and also other Explore photos. I use Flickriver because it is quicker. Because there are so many comments on Explore photos I tend to only add as a favourite and add to one of my galleries. I get to know my favourite contacts and make more constructive comments on their photos. I can be time consuming but I really enjoy looking at other people’s photos and I am retired so I have the time. If you do not enjoy it do not waste time on it.
    I currently have 16 Explore photos. I have had more since I started to post one alternate days rather than every day. Finally do not post in too many groups. View my photos here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosyrosie2009/4781527889/

  • Reply
    Rosie Spooner
    July 12, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    If you are interested in having your photos on Explore it is not wise to post more than one a day and if you have one that you think is particularly good post as early as possible in the day and make sure you visit other people photos and also other Explore photos. I use Flickriver because it is quicker. Because there are so many comments on Explore photos I tend to only add as a favourite and add to one of my galleries. I get to know my favourite contacts and make more constructive comments on their photos. I can be time consuming but I really enjoy looking at other people’s photos and I am retired so I have the time. If you do not enjoy it do not waste time on it.
    I currently have 16 Explore photos. I have had more since I started to post one alternate days rather than every day. Finally do not post in too many groups. View my photos here. Comments welcome. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosyrosie2009/4781527889/

  • Reply
    Resim Paylas
    September 21, 2010 at 1:00 AM

    I like to post this comment .It helps a lot.The one thing I do know for sure, if that day comes, is that when it’s wedding cake cutting time, I will NOT make the same mistake I witness at every wedding. I will not be serving Champagne with dessert, but rather the slightly sweet and fizzy dessert wine,..

    Thanks and Regards

  • Reply
    Sean Collins
    October 4, 2010 at 6:23 PM


    I use to think that too, but I’ve Leary that it’s more down to the lenses and the photographer taking the photograph’s skills rather than a super cool Pro-line DSLR.

  • Reply
    Imran Anwar
    November 24, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    Lisa, hello.

    I loved the post, which, both light heartedly and seriously, exposes some of the “secrets” of getting photos in Explore.

    I’ve had about 26 in there, but many times I see totally lame photos that get Explored while great ones (not just mine :-) ) do not.

    So, Explore is something to savor but if your photos don’t make it in, they are still the greatest, because they are your creative output, and your legacy of how you saw the world.



  • Reply
    December 29, 2010 at 1:09 AM

    nice article, its help to get explore fast

  • Reply
    April 21, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Hilarity adore your sense of humor, I am new to flickr like never really used it up until a few weeks ago, I would like to nominate two more to the list: unrealistic saturation and texturizing not necessarily at the same time, but helps to do both.

  • Reply
    April 27, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    The sad thing about Explore is that those whose photographs are picked by a machine think that Explore is holding them up as to be ‘Amateur Photographers who should turn Pro’

    I don’t look at explore I have seen some great stuff there but a lot more crappy photos than good.

  • Reply
    Rosie Spooner
    May 10, 2011 at 5:58 AM

    Just enjoy Flickr and take part in whatever parts of it you enjoy. I have posted here before when I was fairly new to Flickr. I have had lots of photos on Explore but the algorythm changes all the time to allow new people to get in. It can be useful to get more views to your photostream. Tag photos well especially the type of lens and camera. My views often come from sites where people want to see photos taken by a particular camera or lens. If you do not get in, try something else. Join groups and enjoy the discussion threads etc, or start your own group for something you enjoy. It should be fun if it is your hobby. If it is your job, you do not need to be reading this probably.

    Check out my photostream.
    I have an EXPLORE set. Some of my best photos are not necessarily there. Explore does not like me at present. Another month or so it will again.

    Rosie Spooner

  • Reply
    Layne Jonte
    May 24, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    I precisely needed to thank you very much yet again. I’m not certain the things I would’ve sorted out without the entire tips and hints contributed by you directly on such subject. It has been an absolute terrifying situation in my opinion, but being able to view the very skilled mode you dealt with that made me to weep with fulfillment. I’m just happier for the information and thus have high hopes you realize what a great job you’re providing training many people using your blog post. More than likely you have never encountered any of us.

  • Reply
    Ruth Cooper
    July 26, 2011 at 5:36 AM

    Great blog! now I want to try Flickr, in my research on how Flickr works is it enables you to manage your photos when sharing including image hosting and video hosting website, web services suite, and online community. Nice article.

    Sarah Kimmel Photography

  • Reply
    Meleah Reardon
    September 11, 2011 at 2:08 PM

    I’ve had two photos explored, and both involved mountains reflecting into a lake. So I would add reflections to the list :)

  • Reply
    Rick Landry
    November 20, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    I find your deconstruction of Flickr’s EXPLORE element to be very accurate, and the way you’ve composed it (albeit several years ago now), very amusing.

    However, I’m not at all bemused by Flickr’s stealthy policies surrounding EXPLORE, especially the function within EXPLORE known as DROPPING an image that was briefly ‘Explored’. I find it demeaning. The fact that a corporate entity owned by Yahoo! and valued at over $4bn creates this artificial “status” for their clients to ascribe too, then keeps Flickrites completely in the dark as to EXACTLY how that works,—i.e., what goes into the algorithims which drive the selection/deselection process, is quite frustrating to me, and managed with the same disconnected arrogance as Wall St. brokers seem to display to OWS demonstrators.

    Although I have enjoyed “meeting” and making contact with those on my Contact list who prove to be good respondents/correspondents, I really don’t believe there is any real value to being on Flickr. I am looking for a more evolved and more intelligent photographer’s site to migrate my images too. Know of any?

    Thank you, and best wishes.
    bittermonkMT (photostream on Flickr at present time)

  • Reply
    November 30, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    Yes I agree with everything you ave said. I think as well there my be an issue of consistency built into their algorithms. Post often, lots of contacts and views and comment regularly and you will probably get noticed faster. I doubt if you get 10 views a week you will ever make it to the explore page. While some people will never want to get views I think Flickr can have value for bloggers and those writing newsletters to get more subscribers.

  • Reply
    December 7, 2011 at 6:58 AM

    Hi all,

    Very interesting subject indeed… I’ve just published a set of statistics I’ve made on explored photos of the last 2 years: http://www.flickr.com/photos/franckmichel/6471458477/

    This is not a set of tricks, but an attempt to make observations on explored photos.

    Let me known what you think!

  • Reply
    December 17, 2011 at 5:12 AM

    this was hilarious and informative. thanks :)

  • Reply
    Lily Plume
    January 22, 2012 at 6:04 AM

    I don’t think you appreciate that Flickr staff do not choose photos. It’s done by a machine.

    Some of the worst photos I ever saw appear in Flickr Explore.

  • Reply
    April 3, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    I would be flattered if my photos were explored! If you like, you can check mine out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pullip_fanatic/

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