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Have you ever wanted to get featured on Flickr Explore? Here are some tips on how to get featured on the highly popular photography stream.

What is Explore on Flickr?

Flickr is a hugely popular photo sharing platform built for professional and photography enthusiasts. The focus is more on the art of photography compared to Instagram which is more suited for connecting with friends or social advertising.
Anyone who uses Flickr will be aware of the Explore feature. This is a daily stream of quality photography viewed by thousands of people each day. The selection process is composed of a closely guarded algorithm by Flickr engineers. Nobody really knows exactly how it works but it’s based on a formula involving favourites, comments and views in a relatively short time.
Morning sun and shadow in Amsterdam

Sun Lamp

It may seem that there isn’t really any rhyme or reason on how to get on featured on Flickr Explore. But there factors that I perceive to be ways to make onto Explore. Here are my tips to make the list.

Tip #1: Post quality photographs

First and foremost, you need have a quality, eye-catching photograph. What does that mean exactly? Well, your photo has to look like it wasn’t shot with the camera on your phone. Perusing through the stream, you can see that all photographs are sharp, generally have a beautiful aperture, perfect exposure and are well composed.

Tip #2: Post in groups, but not too many

When adding your photo to a group, be selective and choose established groups that give you a good return of comments and views. But don’t add your photo into too many groups, it will decrease your “interesting” score. I generally add a photo to about a dozen groups. Some of photos that made it onto Explore do have more, though this is usually a result of accepting an invite to a group after the fact. Limit the group count to no more than 20.

Tip #3: Use Tags

Flickr loves it when you use tags. Unlike with groups, there is no limit to adding tags to your photos. For example, if you have a picture of a sunset, there are plenty of tags one could use such as “sun, light, clouds, dusk, etc.” Examine your photo, and ask yourself, what is the story? What words come to mind? Tags help answer these questions, so take a little time and be thorough and descriptive with your tags.

Tip #4: Find the right time to post

If you really want to get featured on Flickr Explore, finding the right time to post can help. Saturdays are the quietest day so naturally you will have less competition. Also post in the morning because Explore will add 500 photos per calendar day, thus increasing your chances.
Orange and white fixie bike


vintage Batavus bicycle detail

King Batavus

Suggestions that don’t really matter

I’ve read suggestions that being sociable helps in getting onto Explore. Making comments, favourting photos, following others are all suggestions that have been made that will increase your chances. But I’ve been pretty anti-social on Flickr for the past few years and it doesn’t seem to make one iota of difference. 

How often you post apparently doesn’t have any importance either. I’ve uploaded a dozen photos in a day with no result. In contrast, I added just one photo over a course of several weeks and then BAM! It gets featured on Explore.

It’s important to note that Flickr likely changes its algorithm every once in awhile, so things can change and perhaps being more social or posting more often may have influence in the future.

What does it mean to get featured on Flickr Explore

Many users aspire for a high level recognition within the Flickr community. Being featured on Explore will do just that. The first instance that your photo made the cut is that there will be a huge spike in views and favourites, followed by a surge of new contacts. This massive exposure leads to a sense of satisfaction since you are finally receiving validation for all your hard work.
Many of us fall into the illusion that more is better. Some people tend to follow social accounts that have large followings simply because they want to be a part of the crowd. Others hope that they will return the favour. But the problem is that the number of views and favourites does not directly correlate with any meaningful measure of value.

Why it shouldn’t matter to you

What became clear to me is that most of the comments and favourites as a result of being featured on Explore were pretty superficial. When viewing their account, it was evident that some users had an exorbitantly high number of views and favourites even though and in my opinion, took poorly composed, badly edited photographs of nothing.
Nor was there any suggestion that they have an interest in my subject matter. This made it glaringly obvious that if someone wants recognition, all they need to do is frantically comment and like everything without any discretion.

Why trying to get featured can be a disadvantage

There is a real pitfall in trying to get featured on Flickr Explore because you mentally construct a yardstick to measure how good you are as a photographer. It will no longer matter what photographs resonate with you, but rather what your audience wants.

What will follow is your self-esteem will take a beating when you begin to compare yourself to others in a numbers game, be it on Flickr, Instagram or any other platform. This will lead to wasting time and energy on how to acquire more likes, views, favourites, and followers instead of focusing on creating work that matters to you.

How to get featured on Flickr Explore


Old Lepper bicycle saddle

Spring Loaded Lepper

Pedersen bicycle fiets

The Pedersen

Hotel bikes in Amsterdam


Toscana bicycle


Lots of bells on a bicycle

The Starting Lineup

Busted bent bicycle

The Contortionist

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • I read your list of tips and all I could do is laugh. Quality, Groups, Tags, and time of day are the qualifiers? Quality helps, but I don’t think that’s a determining factor. I’ve seen some crappy images in Explore with thousands of views and likes and wonder why?. Matter of fact, I was featured in Explore once, years ago (been on flickr off and on since 2007), and it was a nothing image. Not one I would have expected to be included. Yet it got tens of thousands of views, a few likes and the obligatory comments. You know, the “Nice Shot”, “Great capture”, etc. As for Groups and Tags, I’ve seen Explore images not included in a single Group. Same with Tags. No groups or tags, and yet still find their way on Explore. You mentioned mornings as the best time of day for submission. Are you referring to the morning hours in the West or the Middle East, or…? Now, your tips may or may not help get consideration, but I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason to flickr’s methods. I’ll bet the flickr team couldn’t explain how the algorithm works. It’s a holdover from when Yahoo owned the platform. It didn’t make sense then either. I shoot for myself. Although it would be nice to be appreciated for some of my work.

    On a side note, I used to live in Amsterdam with my family back in the 1960’s. We lived just a few doors down from the Royal Theater Carré. My mother was born in Amsterdam and at the time we lived with Maxim Hamel, a well known dutch actor and family friend.

    Thanks for listening

    • Gus says:

      Hello Michelle, thanks for stopping by and sharing your comment. You bring up some interesting points and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with them. Trying to get featured on Flickr Explore is something people have dug into for quite some time now. I’m certain that the algorithm has changed, reverted, evolved over the years. Granted, this post is also 5 years old.

      These tips are based on some of my observations over the years. I ignored tags for a time, added photos to dozens of groups, then when I leveled out a bit, getting onto Explore seem to follow. My subject matter didn’t change, nor did the quality of my photos for the most part.

      Take it with a grain of salt, because if I really knew than so would everyone else. Though there was a time where I was getting images featured on Flickr Explore somewhat consistently. All of the ones in this post are on Explore and I could add several others to the list. I really do wonder though how a photo of a dilapidated bike saddle could get featured.

      Good point about the mornings, I would maybe leave the time of day out these days.

      Hey that’s pretty cool you used to live in Amsterdam a ways back. I hope some of that stuff here brings back a bit of nostalgia for you. Cheers.

  • Bloomsbury Birder says:

    I like this post. I know professional photographers who never been on explore (I asked) In fact if I had not put a widget of Flickr on my new phone I wouldn’t even have heard of Explore (how ignorant is that?) – no idea how images are chosen – it could be that flickr had a spy in the camp and anything they like it likes. Hahaha!

    Happy cycling!

  • Hey Gus,
    I was thinking about writing a post about getting on Flickr Explore myself, but it seems pointless now that I’ve read your article. I agree with almost all of your assumptions (low number of groups, quality photos, …), but I will add a few more thoughts.
    The time of day doesn’t seem important anymore, because lately it seems to take a little while until an image is in explore. Let’s say you upload your image on Monday at noon, it might get explored Tuesday or on Wednesday (more likely on Wednesday). This happened to my quite often lately (it seems the algorithm takes its time before choosing an image).
    I’ve noticed that the community likes colorful images. I like my images colorful too, but only to a degree where it still looks believably natural (unlike many others). For me this means: if I have a few candidates for posting and that I hope to get explored, I tend to choose the more colorful images.
    I think interestingness must have something to do with the amount of initial favourites per view (before being explored), somewhere in the 10% area (or more), and it should. In order to get there, maybe it’s not so bad being antisocial. I admit that I’ve not behaved very socially either. I only have few contacts that I really follow (and vice versa). I usually get between 10 and 20 favs per image. This may actually be helpful, because the contacts I have, really are interested in my work and tend to fav a good photo, making the fav/view score relatively high. Someone with thousands of contacts will probably draw lots of views and also favourites, but with a lower percentage, like it happens after being explored.
    One more word on high quality images: There are plenty of mediocre and even some meaningless images featured on explore (amidst many great ones too). This makes me think, that Explore also is a reward program of some sort. Some of the spots are given to regular users once in a while, even if they don’t qualify by posting an image that stands out. Obviously we all crave for attention. This helps Flickr to keep its users.

    Let me know what you think.

    • Gus says:

      I agree on several points you made. I don’t think time of day really matters anymore either. Lately, my photos that make it to Explore are also getting added a day or two later.

      I also agree that Interestingness likely plays a part. I think there has to be some sort of engagement, adding a photo to a few groups, perhaps even adding photos to your own albums, the use of tags and receiving a few favorites from active users in return.

      How social you are would seem be another factor, but like you, I’ve been terribly anti-social on Flickr. I’ve maybe made a handful of comments in the past two years and have favored even less during that time. Yet I still get photos added to Explore so I don’t think there is much weight to being social on other active accounts.

      I would also agree that Flickr likely uses a reward program of sorts. As a business model, this would make sense though I’m not certain how they would go about it. I think what I mentioned earlier in terms of engagement would play a role. I wouldn’t be surprised by the more features/tools you use on Flickr, helps in someway. Such as creating albums, filling out a profile, among others. Just guessing here.

      Hey thanks for stopping by and sharing your comment. Also, nice work on your blog as well!

      • Jamie says:

        Interesting post. I’m new to Flickr and wasn’t aware of what explore was until I got loads of people congratulating me on a picture I had posted. I’ve posted a total of 3 pictures since joining, each picture weeks apart but the last two of these pictures got explored. I posted these two pictures to around 5 groups. I’d say initially I got a round 100 views and around 10 favourite and one or two comments before getting explored. I don’t follow, never favourite any other pics or commented yet. My pictures are only black and white. I always tag them. I’d say they are technically good. It’s definitely given me a confidence boost when it comes to my photography.

        • Gus says:

          Hey Jamie, thanks for sharing your input. It’s interesting to know that you don’t follow others, nor have favorited any pics or made comments. Yet you got explored on two photos out of your first three? And they’re black and white! Congratulations!

          Thanks for stopping by and sharing your input. Happy New Year!

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