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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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Julian Ray's picture

Matthew, you bring up several good points.
I too have been thinking about the problem of simplistic rating systems (not just in FS but in social media over all) and how they relate to a very complex and the hyper-personal art form we call photography.
Alas the busnes of social media is NOT about the content but about getting people to generate content and participate to attract more users and leveraging their participation for the sites financial gain.
As to the 5star system used here or likes or luvs or or or systems used elsewhere..... just some gimmick to get site users to engage and generate content.
Nothing more.
As with anything you do in life it all comes down to the quality of your work, the way you treat your team, clients, those around you, and hooah.
Your images speak for them selves!
I would play here but put all your seriousness into YOUR website (18echomedia.com), brand, and business.
FS is just entertainment!
Make it support your brand!
BTW.... good work Matthew. Keep it up.

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

Thanks so much Julian, it means a lot that you would take the time to write so much and take the time to read not just the post but other stuff on here as well around this debate. I love FS and treat it for what it is, but had never considered how others might view what we do here and how it potentially impacts our "online brand" at large.

Great portfolio BTW, you have a colorful, contrasty style like I do and I love your work!

Julian Ray's picture

Thanks for taking time to read my drivel and your kind words about my work.
Matthew, you are spot on that everything you do on line will impact your brand.
I've been doing this a long long time and have come to know that clients worth having will judge you on your work not on stars, hearts, thumbs, etc.
Clients you don't want will only look at your ratings.
Your work is what matters! and yours is very strong.

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

You make a great point about quality of the people doing the judging. Hadn't considered that. I've heard it in reference to pricing and the "bargain shoppers" are frequently the most demanding clients, you may be right about the people who stalk us online and judge us on hearts and stars.

Phil Wright's picture

You make a valid point actually, and although photography isn't my business as such (yet) you're right in that if people search and see my portfolio on here they 'may' get the wrong impression?

I don't even know what my rating is to be honest. I don't upload enough content to worry about it but it has made me think! Thanks for the post.