Armchair Photoethnography

Ad planners,  researchers and other insight miners couldn't be more pleased about the democratization of digital photography and the astronomical number of pictures of the mundane that can be found online.

Looking at the pictures of people's experiences related to the brand I'm researching is a lot of fun. The way a picture is composed, the way the subject matter is centered can say a lot about what people think is important. Sometimes, we would recruit a bunch of people,  hand them cameras for a week or two, and then follow up with questions. Often, though, what we do is armchair photoethnography -- going through photos already posted somewhere and looking for patterns.

My first stop used to be Flickr, but now I often start with Ginipic, a free desktop app that searches multiple photosharing sites at once. It's probably obvious in retrospect, but it took me some time to realize that the kinds of  pictures people share on Flickr and, say, Picasa can often differ dramatically. Flickr, after all, is a forum for amateur and professional photographers who try to put their best foot forward, while Picasa is a place where you put your kids' snapshots for the grandma to see. Consider these search results, via Ginipic, for "Niagara": the first set is from Flickr, the second set is from Picasa. Pictures in the former are fancier, pictures in the latter have a lot more faces.


  1. This has some implications, right?

    My guess about the better pictures on Flickr is in the word Pro. For $25 a year, you are called a pro on Flickr. So the word Pro changes how people engage with the social network.

    It stands to reason then, if you could find a way to call your best customers pros, you might be able to change their behavior.

  2. I'm an outlier again. I use Flickr to distribute my daughter's pictures to my family (because it's directly linked to iPhoto), I use Picasa only for incoming albums from all kinds of friends, and my fancier photos I share directly with friends through social networking websites.

  3. is there a version for macs?


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