I don't think voters take the duels seriously

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I've only been a member here for a short time, but I have been a pro-photographer for over 9 years now. During my time here I have noticed something that is of concern to me; the sheer apparent randomness of the voting in the duels. If the duels are meant to weed out the less than marketable images then I have to wonder why are some of my images losing badly, even though some of the images I am submitting are actually good sellers on other stock sites, such as iStockPhoto, Dreamstime, Fotolia and CanStock. And I can tell you now that my images would not be on those sites unless they passed a rigorous scrutinization on how marketable they are, yet those same images are not doing well here.

I therefore decided to conduct an experiment. I uploaded some images just a short time ago, and included with the group is an image I am actually selling as a canvas print through American Furniture Stores. Here is the image I am referring to; http://www.pixoto.com/images-photogra...

American Furniture sells this image for me in their Arizona stores. I get a royalty check from them every month. Sometimes they sell over $1000 worth of prints each month. Yet this same image was only in 6 duels with only 2 wins and 4 losses before it was paused.

I have to ask, how can this image generate so much in the way of sales in a national company's warehouse stores, yet do so poorly in duels against images that in my mind are very novice looking in their quality.

The only reason I can think of for this kind of performance is that the people voting are not actually looking at the image quality. They may be simply picking winners at random just for the purpose racking up credits. If my speculation is correct then something needs to be done because these duels are meant to determine the visibility of an image in the site's search results, which matters a lot to me since I make my living selling my artwork.

When I vote in the duels I actually look at the competing images for at least 10 seconds or more. What I look for are the 3 C's of imagery; Composition, Color Balance and Tonal distribution, and Clarity. For me the Composition and Clarity are the two that decide which one I will pick as the winner. If the image is out of focus or has bad composition then the color or gray tones of it won't matter. If I see a duel in which both images are bad quality then I skip the duel entirely. I will not choose a winner if the quality is bad, period. In some duels I have actually commented on what needs to be improved.

I also look for signs of an image possibly being stolen or infringing on copyrights. I have actually reported several images for copyright violations.

But by the results I am getting from my own images in the duels I serious wonder if the voters are even looking at my images objectively and might even be voting totally randomly, which is not right.

Right now I am only submitting my older stock photos to the duels. Some of them are 9 years old, but are still good sellers at the stock agencies I belong to. If I continue to see this sheer randomness of voting on my images then I will not keep very many on this site.

I'm also not here to simply get "wow" type comments either. I am here to see if my images are marketable through this site, and I cannot do that if voters are not taking the duels seriously.
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DeepDesertPhoto

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Posted 4 years ago

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Kenneth Everett

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Good observations and commentary DDP. I agree with you 100%. There are several ailments Pixoto seems to suffer from today:

1) Voting can, and you have pointed out, be quite random. Several have mentioned a practice of always clicking either left or right in order to accrue the most credits in the shortest period of time. For any voters doing so it's a luck of the draw whether the truly better image wins.

2) Lazy curation. It's my impression Pixoto staff do not independently police the site for rule infraction. They seem to only be motivated by voter / user reports and then only if they follow very precisely the sequence outlined. If they were as good about policing the images as they are about maintaining a strict reporting process the reputation of the site would benefit.

3) Voters can be anyone and can be swayed by any number of technical, artistic or emotional factors to favor a photographically poor image over another which is of much better quality. I've noticed baby shots tend to win a lot, perhaps because when up against older children there is the "oh how cute" factor. A poorly done portrait of a beautiful model will usually beat a much better image of a man.

4) Inconsistent judging pool. The people voting on images during any given hour changes. Therefore judging is by the very nature of this system going to have inconsistencies.

5) Pausing images too early due to early loses. Since the judging pool is inconsistent and prone to emotional influence early loses can completely destroy the potential of a great image. I get the sense the voting pool has dwindled and they have over compensated by stalling images which lose a few early duels in order to ensure the available votes aren't spread too thinly.

6) Formula photography. In a number of categories you'll find many winning images which all follow the same basic pattern. In many cases using the same variety of flower in a single flower image from every imaginable angle. There is a certain purple flower that almost makes me cringe every time I see it now. And I either skip it or vote for the other image simply because I'm worn out by it. Pixoto even posted that they were no longer accepting images of a certain bridge because it had saturated the site.

7) If you want to earn money selling via Pixoto, you'll need to get huge volumes to make any real money. You're likely to make more via cash award than actual sales. They simply don't pay the photographer a reasonable return.
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DeepDesertPhoto

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Ken, I noticed a few photos also being repeated over and over in the duels. I've also seen some images in duels that look almost like they came from the same photographer, just different angles of the same subject. I also agree with your assessment on the pausing of duels. I think the duels should run for a period of time, say for a 24 hour period. That will reduce the wins and losses that were the result of random voters.

And I especially agree with your assessment of the "Cute Factor" for certain pictures. I've skipped some duels just for that reason.
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Jasenka, Official Rep

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Hello Deep Desert, Pixoto is not only stock site, and images that sell well on stock sites do not always pass well on Pixoto.
You can check here what is Pixoto about: http://www.pixoto.com/about
"What makes Pixoto's image ratings so special?
Pixoto is not a popularity contest. Ratings are based on what the aggregate of participants think about the quality of the images. The images that rise to the top are by definition the images that people like the best and have nothing to do with who shot them. Pixoto ratings effectively isolate image quality from other extraneous factors."
We have voting flag system in place that will find users who vote in suspicious manner and that system will prevent them for further voting.
I hope this helps.
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DeepDesertPhoto

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I'm referring to the link on each image that is in the duels. When I view a pair of images in the duels I will sometimes post a critique on the losing image to explain what needs improving. And I did notice that when I did that I would get an additional credit on top of the credit I got for voting.

I'm just saying that if it were made a requirement in order to get the credit for voting in the duel itself it might reduce the votes that are purely random picks.
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Kenneth Everett

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This assertion does not hold water: "Pixoto is not a popularity contest." In many ways you contradict it with the following sentence defining the ratings as an "aggregate of [what] participants THINK" about the images. You have no way of gauging the factors which went into their votes, nor whether they took into consideration quality, composition, etc. Your scoring system simply makes the judgments relative rather than absolute.
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I've already started practicing what I recommended. In the last several duels I voted in I gave an explanation to the winner of why I chose their image as the winner, such as stating that there composition was good or it had more vibrant colors or it was simply better than the competing photo. That way the winner knows why their photo was worthy of my vote and therefore I EARNED the credit I was given for participating.

The reason I have not critiqued the loser of the duel is because I know some people's egos are fragile and can't take criticism. It was simply safer to state why I chose the winner as my way of telling Pixoto that they could improve this voting system by requiring either an explanation of the winning vote or a critique of the loser so that the loser can improve their skills and not wonder why their photo is constantly losing duels.
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William Lee

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Hi Jasenka, please wake up. Pixoto's voting system is not working. It will just hurt Pixoto's revenue. Why? Just open your eyes and pretend you are the buyer, then search the top rated photos, eg. 800+ scored photos, then you download them and zoom into 100%. You will see some of the photos contains excessive noises which are considered low quality photos. I bet you will never come back to pixoto to download any image again.
Your database is now big enough to be a pure stock site, why not just remove the voting system and reject all the low quality photos.
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Jasenka, Official Rep

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Thank you for suggestion William.
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Shooting America

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If you're looking for serious voting on your photos, you better look somewhere else. Pixoto is a place only to be taken with a grain of salt. Or else you'll end up with a lot of emotional hurt.

Many members in Pixoto are voters that don't even have images in their profiles and most probably non-photographers. They're usually friends and relatives of members whose goal is to win and receive cash prizes.
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DeepDesertPhoto

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I'm not concerned with emotional hurt over my images. I already belong to 9 stock agencies and they are very harsh critics. They only accept images they view as marketable to advertisers and designers.

A few of the sites I belong to are so critical that they only accept half of what I send them. So I've already got a fairly thick skin in that regards. I actually have almost 150 of my images on Getty, which is a lot bigger than most other agencies. As a matter of fact I have an exclusive contract with the agency called RooM, which markets my images through Getty for me. Those images will never show up on a site like Pixoto.

I originally signed up because I was referred here by a fellow photographer I know. Of course he admitted he only does this for fun and not commercial gain. I was particularly interested in Pixoto offering images as canvas prints. Most of the stock agencies I belong to don't offer prints, only digital downloads. I figured it would be a nice way to earn extra money on images I already have on the market as stock.

I will most likely remove all of the images that did not win. That way my gallery here will be stacked only by images that have won awards.

If voters here will not give me serious critiques or at least tell me why they did not pick the photo in the duel then there is no point in keeping that particular image on the site because if it does not win then it will not get the attention it needs to make sales.
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Kenneth Everett

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Hey Deep, would you mind if I contact you directly for advice regarding stock sites you work with?
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DeepDesertPhoto

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I don't mind, Ken.
If you want, just send an email to stevenplove@gmail.com and I will reply with a url link list of the stock sites I deal with. I would put the links to them here but I don't know if they allow outside links to other sites in this forum.
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Shooting America

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Well, good luck on making sales on this site. :-)
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DeepDesertPhoto

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Don't worry. Either I will or I won't.
But I won't wait forever. It is my personal policy to close accounts at sites that do not make me money within a year. Now, if I win a few cash prices during that time then I will stay and give it more time.
I will just have to see what happens.
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DeepDesertPhoto

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Well, it looks like somebody didn't like my signature on my own work because the image I had linked in this discussion was deleted by the admins. The signature was not a watermark, nor was it typed text. It was a hand written signature embedded in the image in a very inconspicuous area in the lower right corner. I embedded it in a way so that it blended with the artwork just like the way artists normally sign their work.

I do this sometimes when I intend to sell an image as a print and not as a digital download, which is what I intended for this image if it had won an award.

But it is gone now, so I am letting you all know in case you wonder why the link goes nowhere.
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Kenneth Everett

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Did a bit of an experiment with this image: http://www.pixoto.com/images-photogra...

I submitted in City, Street & Park > City Parks and after less than 10 duels it was paused. Then I deleted the image.

I re-submitted without a category. It got 2-3 more duels before it was paused.

I then used the Resubmit option and put it in City, Street & Park > Night. It got to 27 duels before being paused.

To me this just demonstrates that pausing is influenced in large part by how lucky I am with the tastes of the early voters. I think the biggest reason why Pixoto wants to pause images as early as possible is to aggravate the submitter into paying for a Pro account to ensure 100 duels.
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DeepDesertPhoto

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Ken, I took a look at the picture and I like the composition and lighting. It should have gotten more than 27 duels.

I've decided to just delete mine if they get paused. I will not tolerate fickle or random voters. I will only leave an image in my portfolio if it wins an award. All others will be deleted.

As a result I only have 12 images in my portfolio at this time.

And I will not buy a pro-account, ever.
I did that before with Fine Art America and went 2 years without any sales. I closed that account some time ago.

So far all of my sales have come from the stock agencies I belong to, which are on that list I sent you by email, and NONE of them charge me to be on their site. They host my images for free and they make their money when they make a sale for me.
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Susan Hogan

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Unfortunately, this site is rife with folks who somehow manage to get their buddies to vote up their images and vote down the competition. Pixoto staff denies this as a possibility, yet time and again, we see images that are clearly inferior obtaining image scores that are in excess of 700 points, against much better and more deserving competition. While submissions are *supposed* to be anonymous, after a short time on this site, you begin to recognize the work of specific photographers. I recently saw an image in my usual category garner a score well over 700, and this is an image that had some much better competition. Its now in the top five for the week, and its embarrassing. IMO, the only key to success here is to keep re-submitting a worthy image, as certain times of day seem to yield unfair votes, while other times are more favorable, depending on what time of day it is in the rest of the world... Its a shame Pixoto can not find a way to fix this issue...
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DeepDesertPhoto

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When I vote in the duels I now comment on why I chose a particular image as the winner. I state how good it was compared to the competitor.

One photographer commented back saying that I did not have to do that because the duels were supposed to be anonymous, but I told him that I felt it was necessary because I did not like how a lot of voters were picking images at random with no critiquing the losers or at least giving an analysis of what was good about the winner.

I don't find comments like "Wow" or "this is a nice shot" or "this is beautiful" to be very helpful when you need to find out how good it is or if it needs improvement.

I've already suggested that in order for a voter to get the credit their vote should be accompanied by either a critique of the loser or at least an explanation of what they liked specifically about the winner.

Whether or not my suggestion can be implementing is up to Pixoto.
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Susan Hogan

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Unfortunately, it would take a lifetime like that to earn credits, and since you need credits to upload, unless you have a pro account, it would greatly diminish the entries to this site, IMO. I also don't think it would eliminate the problem of groups voting images up or down, which, whether Pixoto admits it or not, does occur. Strategic voting happens on all of these sites. The defunct site I used to belong to made it an art form, and I know that many members there are now here, and I highly doubt they have become more scrupulous. Add into the mix the potential to win actual money (and to sell images) and there is even more incentive to cheat. Of course there are plenty of random voters as well, who don't bother looking at images before they vote, but this alone can not account for inferior images scoring over 700 points. I mean, everyone would have to randomly select the same image for that to occur. I mean, have a look at this board right now... See the problem?

http://www.pixoto.com/images-photogra...
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DeepDesertPhoto

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It would not take a lifetime to earn credits. I comment while voting and easily rack up 40 to 60 credits in 15 to 20 minutes. It might limit those that want to rack up enough credits to upload 100 images a day, but it would probably be a good thing because you want good quality images that would sell and not artsy or tourist snapshot images that will languish.

Having been a professional stock photographer for over 9 years I can tell you that a lot of these cat photos on the page you linked to would not sell very well at all as stock photography. Most of them are too artsy for stock. The reason why is because most stock photo customers are advertisers or designers looking for images to use in their marketing campaigns or business logo designs. They don't want images that look like snapshots or images that are too "Fine Artish".

To give you an example, just yesterday I sold a photo of a big Utility Truck used by an electric power company. The photo is on a stock site I've belonged to for 5 years now. That same photo probably would not have made it past 10 duels before being paused on Pixoto. And a paused image will not win awards and will not get noticed in Pixoto's market place.

I only signed up after another photographer referred me and I read that Pixoto offers canvas prints. The stock agencies I belong to don't offer prints. So I decided to give Pixoto a try for that reason to see if my stock images can make me some side money as prints. But I will not tolerate my images languishing on the site because they don't win duels and are not getting noticed because of that.

I will give Pixoto one year, which is what I normally do with new sites I join. If they do not produce sales for me within that time then I will delete all my images and leave. It is as simple as that.

And I always carry out that policy of mine without hesitation. I've already closed accounts with 5 other sites over the last 2 years specifically because of their lack of performance.

When I joined sites like iStockPhoto and Getty they were very harsh critics of my photographs. They told me bluntly what would sell and what would not in their markets. That taught me a lot about stock and commercial photography. When I join a new site I bring that same attitude with me now. I have now become critical of the sites I join for the same reason my photos were critiqued by the big stock sites. It's all about marketability and sales.

And a lot of the photos I have seen on this site would never make it in the stock world. Which is why I proposed the need for honest critiquing in these duels if the goal of Pixoto is to have quality photos that will sell to top paying clients.
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Susan Hogan

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Of course, it often takes repeated uploads/resubmissions of the same image in order to get the votes it deserves, plus those images will need to be boosted, which also requires credits. When non-pro members compete against the pro members, there is a disadvantage in that pro members automatically get 100 votes per image. Not the case with non-pro members, who must boost their images in order to get the same number of votes in about the same time span. So you would gobble up 40-60 credits in no time flat.
That being said, this site isn't just about stock photography - many contributors are more interested in producing "artsy" images. And that's fine. BUT when a good image loses against one that really is in the "snap shot" category, or when that "snap shot" obtains a ridiculously high image score, you know something else is afoot.
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Shooting America

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It's good to earn some money from stock but I think many members are on this site mainly for the fun of it. Some are novices and just here to improve their photography. Many are members just to boost their egos.

And I'm a little bit of all of those! :-)
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Tim Hall

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My opinion can always end up worthless but here it is anyway...I think most of the best photos eventually make it to the top of the leader boards so lots of members must be voting in good faith.

I think what happens is folks look for the stunning images and vote for them, but if neither dueling photo is visually stunning, say 500 to 600 point range or below, they just think, "What difference does it make" and randomly vote and move on, waiting for the next stunning image to appear. this is why 300 point images beat 500 to 600 images so often, while the top quality images keep winning as they should.
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DeepDesertPhoto

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I think it would be better to just skip duels when both images are bad. That is what I do. I will not vote on an image just for the sake of voting. But when I do see an image that is visually better than its competitor I will also comment on why I felt that image was better.

I would rather critique the losing photo so that the photographer can improve their skills, but nowadays you just cannot tell how people will react to criticism. Some have such big egos that a critique crushes them or makes them very angry. So, for now I only comment on the winner telling them why I felt their photo was a winner.

The only time I have ever voted randomly is when both photos are visually good and it is hard to choose because they both have good qualities. But if both are bad I will simply skip that duel.

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