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Chris Adval's picture

Sex Sells... everything else doesn't.

I was browsing around fstoppers and noticed something a bit odd seeing great photographers who don't shoot sexy nearly or actually naked women do not shine over those photographers who shoot that. It's obvious reasons why this exists. But as a fstoppers community shouldn't we encourage and help those who dont shoot that shine more? It seems there is an automatic and unfair advantage of putting up images on fstoppers of women sexy nearly naked or actually naked. While I don't want to look at it as competition at all but wanted to see if its possible to adjust "allowed" photos formula be a little different for those who show images of naked or nearly naked women and those who don't shoot or show that on fstoppers? I have 12 or so images allowed on mine, but those who show off naked or nearly naked women have 112 images allowed. Does that sound fair? It just seems like I have to shoot and show off images of the similar type just to be allowed to show my other work I prefer showing more.

Thoughts?

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12 Comments

Adam Sparkes's picture

Chris, without being able to address this from a technical standpoint, I can assure you that this conversation has and does take place from time-to-time internally at Fstoppers. Everyone here is pretty aware of that naked ladies get a disproportionate amount of up-voting.

Patrick Hall's picture

We have a pretty robust and complicated algorithm which picks the top images. They are based in part by number of comments, number of views, overall rating, and a few other criteria (NSFW might actually hurt the image just slightly).

There really isn't a great way to police the popular images if people are heavily doing all of the above. We have banned NSFW images from displaying on the front page and we do have an admin panel on the back end where the Fstoppers staff give strong points towards images that are not naked women (do not tell anyone, it's our secret).

We are always up for suggestions on how to prevent this from happening but unfortunately most people, men and women alike, do enjoy looking at sexy women images. But yes, we are trying to broaden that range on the front of the site and keep it balanced as best as we can.

Without presuming to question your knowledge of the numbers, it would be interesting to see statistics about how many male as opposed to female photographers vote up the naked-lady pictures. As a female photographer, I have to admit it can be a little distasteful to log onto Fstoppers and see that all the photos on the front page are nearly-naked women in suggestive poses - it does not make me feel particularly welcome. I'm not suggesting that they should be eliminated (it is a recognized genre of long standing, after all) but I'd feel a lot more sanguine about it if there were something approaching a similar number of nearly-naked men. That said, I am fully aware of the fact that there is no easy way to control that. I'm glad to know that Fstoppers is at least somewhat aware that this may present a barrier to some photographers making full use of the site.

Patrick Hall's picture

I just think this is inherently built into the human mind. If you look at advertisements on the magazine shelf, most of the images are of sexy or provocative females. They may not be as sexualized as some of the photos on the community but they are still overwhelmingly feminine and sexy. If you flip through female magazines like Vouge, 17, Cosmo, etc, most every image in there is of a sexy and attractive female. If you go to the men's magazines it's exactly the same with the exception of health and muscle magazines.

Some of the most popular female photographers on the FS community like Julia Kuzmenko also only have females in their portfolios. At the end of the day, I'd love to have more variety from a genres perspective but when it comes to glamour, beauty, fashion, boudior, and weddings....almost all of those genres are heavily favored towards attractive women being the subject matter.

Just as a quibble - a minor one, but significant in terms of this discussion - "attractive" and "provocative" don't actually mean the same thing. A photo of an attractive woman is not automatically the same thing as a photo of a woman in a provocative pose. It's not question of the gender of the subject. It's not a question of the skillset or the gender of the photographer, either. It's a question of how they treat the subject in the photo.

Less of a quibble is the fact that "women are traditionally used to sell more than men" (as you say in your reply to Jennifer Kelley, below, and as you imply in your reply to me) is a weak argument. First of all, it sounds like a shrug - "this is just how it is, and what can you do?". As Lieutenant General David Morrison of the Australian Armed Forces said, "The standard you walk past is the standard you accept." Fstoppers is not Cosmo or Vogue; it is Fstoppers, and it is allowed to do things differently. Indeed, I hope it would hold itself to higher standards than a glossy package of ads loosely held together by poorly-written articles about facecream. Secondly, your phrasing is telling: "women are used". Yes, we are, and we get tired of it. Yes, the majority of the people using Fstoppers are men, and yes, that means that a certain aesthetic is always going to be present. That doesn't mean it's okay to shrug and throw up your hands when 20% of your community is potentially being alienated. Just because we don't complain much doesn't mean we aren't bothered by it. It just means that we're so used to seeing ourselves "being used" to sell things that we already know what the answer will be if we mention it. We're conditioned to accept it even when we don't like it. (Note that in my initial response I indicated that I didn't expect much to change. I've been here before.)

Nobody is proposing canning the boudoir and glamour categories. We're just wondering if it might be possible to arrange matters so that a faceful of boobs and butts is not the first thing we get when we enter the community. Surely it would be possible to have pictures show up in terms of Most Popular in Each Category as the default, instead of Most Popular Overall? That might go some way to balancing out what we see when we open up the Community page, while not making the boobs and butts totally hidden and inaccessible to the people who are more interested in them. (Frankly, I've pretty much given up on the Community page. I go straight to my account and navigate from there so that I don't have to deal all the cheesecake. It's a solution, but it does kind of defeat the purpose of the Community page.)

Chris Adval's picture

I know and understand the world prefers provocative. I think the photogs not shooting provocative feel it is slightly unfair on FS, even though its based on majority wins. I think it would be more interesting to see the non-provocative images at least for allowed photos in profiles be differently set than the provocative images. Like I saw a provocative profile on FS with 112 images allowed, great, but a non-provocative profile has to work much harder or be encouraged to follow the trend and show off provocative images to get more images allowed on FS. This would discourage the non-provocative photogs to simply not invest more time into FS or share their images, at least on their profile. I understand the alternative being groups though, which works for some, just people would value adding more images to profiles and they cant cause they do not shoot much or any provocative images.

Patrick Hall's picture

I think the problem is how do you systematically reward non provocative content without spending hours a day manually tweaking it? We do try to push interesting images to the top on the backend but at the end of the day, most of the obvious criteria used to rank a photo's popularity would still reward the more provocative content.

Trust me, I'd love for the community to be filled with awesome landscape, food, product, commercial, wedding, and advertising photography but until those photographers join the site, a lot of that content isn't going to be properly represented.

Chris Adval's picture

I agree its tough it requires manual tweaking, not sure how much time, money and effort would go into changing the algorithm. But changing the algorithm automated process slightly leaning based on tags and leaning to showing less provocative photos and the system itself pushing the non-provocative photos. I think the other photographers you mentioned are on here just discouraged by mostly seeing the provocative shots being featured and even more discouraged when they go to profiles with just provocative shots and allowed to have 100+ images on their profile vs. another photographer only allowed 10 or some more if they earned it. It will be an endless cycle.

Patrick Hall's picture

We are happy to tweak the algorithm as much as we need to; that's not the problem. The problem is WHAT do you actually tweak? Right now it's based on overall Karma, number of views, number of ratings, quality of that rating, number of comments, number of lists it is in, etc. I really don't know what qualifier to add to the system to weed out more of the provocative stuff. We do have a NSFW tag which we use as well but just being sexy isn't very easy to identify.

As for the 10+ images, anyone can gain more images simply by putting up quality work that gains a 3 star or more. That isn't very tough. Photographers like Elia Locardi, Dani Diamond, Dylan Patrick, and countless others have tons of photos in genres not having sexy girls. We are working on getting more people to rate images because I think that's the bottle neck but if you put up quality work I have no doubt you can add as many photos as you want.

Just from reading the comments, it appears Fstoppers is made up primarily of men. Does it bother me that all the popular images are scantily clad women? Somewhat. I mean, the photographers that inspire me most don't even use people as subjects. I rarely use people as subjects myself. At the same time, I joined the community to learn about techniques (I'm behind in digital photography having used film for so long) and business of photography and less for the purpose of critique. To be honest, I'm not sure that a community that has such a high affinity for nudes would be best to critique the work I do because it is drastically different.

Patrick Hall's picture

Our analytics says that our audience is 80% men to 20% females. So yes the male demographic definitely plays a part in the gender bias towards sexy images BUT as I mention above to Lis, even on the newstands where the buyers are probably split 50/50, women are traditionally used to sell more than men. Even in men's magazines where men's fashion or health is being sold, they often accompany images of men with an attractive female in the same photograph.

Bill Peppas's picture

I wouldn't objectify it to only sexy photos, plain portraits are "famous" here too.
Some people simply upvote a photo because the almost naked or fully naked lady is beautiful, others don't, including myself.
I vote by judging the photo's composition, lighting, technical aspects, etc, not on how beautiful the photographed person is.

I love and primarily focus on landscapes, it is almost a niche category here, but we can attract and show people to love and perhaps devote themselves to shooting landscape too.

It is more costly, it requires trekking, traveling, driving and lots of failures ( you can't control the weather ), but it is awesome.

On the site-side of things, what I feel is needed is a bit of incentives to make people use the photo voting system ( random photo display to vote, not just select the photos on their own ), so everybody's photos get some exposure and votes.