The Most Photographed City on Flickr

I like photography. I also like charts. Put them together, and you get charts about photography. Regular Flickr users will know that they display a page of their most popular tags. In essence, this is a evolving list of their most popular subject matter. For example, there are currently 7068 photos tagged ‘thegates’–I doubt that will be a popular tag in six months or a year.

I got to wondering which city had the most photos. There’s 13 on the popular tags page (excluding ‘washington’, as it’s a state and a city–not to mention a president). I made a chart that shows the number of photos on Flickr for a given city, and that city’s population in thousands of people.

Click for a larger version

Then I wondered which city had the most photos per capita. [more]

Vancouver – 7.94
Amsterdam – 4.69
Las Vegas – 4.03
Seattle – 3.80
San Francisco – 3.16
London – 2.76
Barcelona – 1.99
Sydney – 1.83
Toronto – 1.32
Chicago – 1.31
New York – 1.13
Los Angeles – 0.62
Tokyo – 0.43

That’s expressed as photos per thousand people. Vancouver has nearly twice the number of photos than the next city. This, of course, is largely explained by the fact that Ludicorp, the company behind Flickr, is located in Vancouver. In fact, given Seattle’s presence (and Oregon on the popular tags page), the whole Pacific Northwest is heavily documented.

Notably, the top two cities on the list are renowned for their excellent and easily-available marijuana. Is there a connection between pot and photography that I’ve missed? Mind you, they’re also picturesque (as are most of the cities on the list, even Las Vegas, in its own peculiar way).

Conclusions? None, really, except that I’m overly fond of numbers and charts despite never having taken a post-secondary class in mathematics or statistical analysis. I suppose Ludicorp could view this as some coarse market evaluation, but they’ve probably done this months ago.


  1. So…I recently took a bunch of those pictures in Amsterdam. But I live in Vancouver. Darren, what does this mean?! Am I inadvertently messing with the numbers here?

  2. No, Darren’s tag chat is, I think, just based on what the photos are tagged, not on where the photographer says he or she is from. The Vancouver tag was even more dominant a year ago, if you can believe it.

    One thing that amuses me is the number of year tags — 2004, 2005, 2003, etc. Uploaded photos automatically get a date assigned to them, so why do so many feel the need to tag them with the year?

  3. I wondered the same thing about the year tag. I asked a friend about it, who also uses year tags. He said he likes to have collections he can get to for a particular year. Of course, I reminded him that the EXIF data has that information in it, so anything that can read it can categorize by it as well; Flickr included. Alas, there’s just no getting through to him.

  4. If you leave out the 7416 pictures that Roland has uploaded, because – sorry Roland – they are mostly terrible and of sub-phonecam quality, then the figures would look a bit different – 5.0 pix per capita by my reckoning.

    (It was Kris Krug who mentioned Roland’s prodigious contribution first, but I’m not sure he realizes just how much that one overworked 7610 is skewing the numbers.)

  5. Hey, a photos a photo–don’t be dissing Roland. Plus, I just checked, and he’s only got 3341 photos tagged ‘Vancouver’.

  6. My bad, but that still means that Roland counts for around 20% of all photos tagged “vancouver”. And most of them are like this . While I will agree that those are technically “photos” in that there is a lens, a subject and a “film”, nearly all photos produced since the late 1800s have been of much higher resolution than the ones Roland is taking.

  7. Well, I’m not making any value judgements on the photos–there could be some Japanese dude like Roland taken blurry photos in Tokyo and ratcheting up their numbers, right?

  8. Did you include “NYC,” “New York,” and “New York City” in your numbers or was it just one? Quite the neat chart btw.

  9. Let me be clear: I am not making artistic judgements on Roland’s pictures – this is purely about technical quality. I think it is perfectly reasonable to make value judgements on that basis. If you do follow Roland’s blog, you will realize that his pictures are uniquely crippled because of the software he is using to capture the pictures, which results in pictures of far lower quality than his phonecam is oridinarily capable of. I respect the fact that he is trying to push the limits of the technology, but given that it is clearly not ready for primetime you could argue that it is unfair of him to “pollute” a public space like Flickr with the results. (I should probably be making this comment on either my blog or Roland’s, but, hey, it ended up here.)

  10. Cole: I just stuck with “newyork”, so as to not muddy the results. Not scientific, but simpler, certainly.

    Mark: Notably, I didn’t say “artistic judgement”, I said “value judgement”. Technical quality is a value. What’s your acceptable minimum technical quality?

  11. hey mark and for those who don’t know me:

    blurry camerphone pictures are tagged YVR not Vancouver

    i use 2 cameras for vancouver photos:

    1. canon s400 – doesn’t take blurry photos (well rarely) but there’s no realtime upload to flickr, all of my vancouver photos with the s400 are tagged with “vancouver”

    2. Nokia 7610 –

    i) takes decent 1 megapixel pics with the built-in camera app but very painful to upload to flickr (email is painful), these are tagged with cameraphone 7610 and sometimes vancouver

    ii) takes blurry 640×480 pixelated photos with an experimental app that uploads to flickr in realtime
    the app is called HuginAndMugin
    these photos are NOT tagged with Vancouver by default
    they are tagged with YVR

    So most of my photos tagged with Vancouver ARE not blurry

    it’s the HuginAndMugin photos that are blurry and tagged YVR by default and not tagged with Vancouver

  12. Higher than Roland’s. For the sake of argument, let’s say 320×240 actual pixels (not 160×120 upsampled to 640×480.)

    I am well aware that Flickr makes no such requirement, and that Roland is in no way in breach of any terms and conditions. So he is within his rights. But I am also within mine to say that I don’t like what he’s doing.

  13. OK Roland, I am going to concede defeat on this one: the 17000 pictures from Vancouver are not skewed by your blurry phonecam pictures as I originally suggested. I would as you to reconsider your experiment with HuginAndMugin, but it’s your bandwidth.

  14. i like that cool blurry bus shot you linked to mark… and used it on a little web graphic today for our intranet. thx for going though all those for me! 🙂

  15. About the year tags: good for you if all your images have EXIF. My phone doesn’t do EXIF and neither does my scanner.

    Hence they get tagged with the date of the image, the date of uploading (by flickr), and (if scanned) the date of scanning.

    Suggestions for tagging a photo taken in 1954, scanned in 2001, and uploaded to flickr in 2005 gratefully received because I have about 500 more of these to do.

  16. rjp – tag ’em with 1954 — that’s much more relevant to the content, and more interesting than time of scan or upload.

    There’s nothing wrong with blurry photos — this chart is about most photographed city. Just numbers.

    Another opbservation about the chart — the number of photos is not determined just by population. A city like London (which is at the top position) has about a population of about 7 million. It also has 30 million tourists a year who will probably contribute a large proportion of “London” tagged photos.

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