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Matthew Teetshorn's picture

Is the Fstoppers rating system hurting photographers?

I apologize for the spam, but I'm going to post this discussion in a couple of different groups, as there doesn't seem to be a group for discussing the site itself.

I ran into an interesting idea today that I hadn't heard discussed before. A little backstory:

I've posted quite a few of my personal images in my portfolio here on Fstoppers. Some, a recent photoshoot I set up with a local model, turned out well and I am very proud of them. A couple even earned me my first 4 star ratings from anyone here on the site. Overall, I hover around a 3 star rating average, which I'm proud of, as that implies that I'm averaging portfolio worthy work according to the Fstoppers system with room for improvement towards greatness, with some definitely needing improvement. Given that I have relatively few ratings, my average is subject to failry large swings every time a new member takes a look at my portfolio, as happened this afternoon, when someone found 4 of my best images and, for whatever reason, rated them 1 star. Now, I'm not here to discuss why this person rated 4, very clearly staged, lit and post-processed images as "snapshots" but to bring up a larger problem with the rating system that I had never considered.

I was talking to my girlfriend about the site and the turn of events with my portfolio and she searched me out on Google and found my portfolio. Her first response was "You should change your name on Fstoppers". I was naturally confused and here was her rather compelling response. "When I, or anyone else, searches for you on Google and clicks on this site, the first thing I see is this 3 star rating." I attempted to explain the Fstoppers system to her and she hit me with this: "I don't know anything about their system, I just know I probably wouldn't hire a '3 star' photographer".

I've been thinking about this all day and I think she's right. We live in a world where people won't hire an Uber driver with less than 4.8 out of 5 stars and yet, here on Fstoppers we have a system where the highest rating I've ever seen is 4.3 and most hover very near the 2.5-3.5 range out of 5 even with great work. While I understand the rating system, I now realize anyone I meet on the street, or any prospective clients I have who decide to search me out instead of going straight to my curated website, will not have any understanding of this system. Not only is it difficult to get higher ratings as the upper tier is so subjective, there are far more people who will vote you a 1 for an unfavored comment, an attempt to game a contest or other reason, than who will ever give you a 5 for being a nice person. It's almost impossible to obtain a rating on this site that aligns with the expectations of the everyday Google user.

I apologize in advance for the super long post, but I'd be interested to hear feedback from the community on whether this issue has ever come up and if you do anything to combat it. I notice there are a lot of profiles on this site that have no portfolio images posted and I wonder if this is part of the reason why. I think this could be an interesting and necessary discussion to have. I would never suggest that we should artificially inflate ratings, but do you think that the system is stacked against consumer expectation? I'd love to hear from you.

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Chris Sampson's picture

Matthew, I appreciate your post. There are clearly some who are posting photos that are not 1 star level getting trolled simply because someone doesn't like what they see instead of a more sophisticated critique that evaluates the image.

It is easy to leave an thoughtless criticism but requires more work to get to the core of why you don't like it. In some cases, I don't like photos on here that are very well done, I just don't like the subject matter and truth is, it wasn't made for me. Some shots that are posted on here say more about the photographer's personality in a way that I know I don't relate to, yet the composition, lighting, and subject are well considered.

That said, I don't believe someone should hire or not based on FStoppers ratings and you can make your name a success by posting quality work from your portfolio. Let the work speak for itself. If the client likes the work, they'll hire you. If they don't like it, they'll make the choice to find someone who fits their desires.

Last, I know that the FStoppers crew considered monitoring those who engage in 1 star trolling. I went over all your pictures (gave you some good stars) and didn't see a single 1 star image in your set. I did see a few that aren't as strong as others and some that are easily better in the general sense of what this demanding community seems to like.

As they say, you can't please all the people all of the time, but you can please some of the people some of the time. Cheers

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

Thanks for taking the time to write out a thoughtful response and to look over my portfolio. I am definitely still working on getting some more images in my portfolio that I have in my head and I'm constantly trying to improve. She just brought up an interesting point that not all of the people who "research" area photographers are going to understand what they see here on Fstoppers and if they think it's like "Yelp for photographers" they might get the wrong idea about the rating system.

Richard Mills's picture

The community here can be brutally harsh sometimes, I'm mostly here for the articles anymore. Because if you aren't absolutely all pro when it comes to every aspect of photography/ editing pictures on here typically you get lower ratings. It's a shame because a lot of good pictures end up with a low rating because the smallest thing is off.

Przemek Lodej's picture

Yes. The rating system on this portal is an utter and complete joke. People rate photos without any comments. People who have no photos in their portfolio score your photos extremely low just because. Some people are frustrated and get some sick satisfaction out of scoring your work low. I've experienced it personally time and time again. The fact that F-Stoppers allows people to do this again and again is a testament that either the admins don't care or....don't care. As an amateur photographer it's discouraging, but after years of dealing with human idiocy I could care less. As long as my clients are happy that's all I care about.

Richard Mills's picture

Yeah, I'm very much an amateur and I ended up taking down a lot from my portfolio on here, shots I was very proud of but everyone disliked over one minor thing or another. I decided it wasn't really worth it to try and showcase my work here.

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

I've taken a few images down, but I DO value the community feedback. Unfortunately, with everything we do online being crawled and indexed, we don't post here in a vacuum and I think we need to keep that in mind.