Let’s talk: Is Ravelry a photography competition?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m slightly obsessed with the rankings (as in: number of hearts) of my projects on Ravelry. I like to see where my project stands in relation to other projects made for the same pattern (don’t you love the advanced project search option?), as well as where my projects stand in relation to each other (my projects page is set to order projects according to number of favourites).

Little Sister – 52 hearts

Obviously, there’s a bit of a competitive streak in that, and I won’t deny it makes me proud to see a project of mine, say, among the top 25 of more than a thousand projects from the same pattern (I think that’s happened once so far, and I’m still over the moon). And we all like to get confirmation from others that we’ve done a good job and that we’ve made something other people like.

Honey – 41 hearts

But here’s what I’ve been noticing. Looking at my projects page, my four most popular projects by far are not necessarily my best, or most complex, or prettiest, or whatever else projects. They are the projects with the best photos. (Notably, I had semi-professionals do the photography for the four I am talking about.) Which made me think – is it knitterly skill, talent for combining colours, inovativeness in modifying designs… or good photography that we reward when choosing our favourites on Ravelry?

Swan – 35 hearts

Obviously, sometimes it’s hard to tell if the project involved skill, talent and inovativeness if the photograph itself isn’t good enough to show it off. It’s hard to get around that fact that photographs are the best medium we have available to us at the moment to share our knitterly (I do like to use my invented words a lot, don’t I?) accomplishments. But I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve favourited a good amount of projects because they had good photos, even if the project itself was, while not “bad”, not particularly different or “better” than others.

Veyla mittens – 27 hearts

So, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. I’m not sure if it’s a good (encourages us to be better photographers) or bad (moves away from the actual point of sharing projects) thing, and I don’t even think it needs to be decided in favour of either of those. But, I’d like us to talk about it. :)

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About fridica

I started knitting completely by accident, when I was visiting my parents for a holiday in 2008. On a boring Sunday afternoon, I decided to dig through their stash of books to see if there was anything interesting to take back to my apartment. A knitting manual happened to be one of the books I found. I got curious, my mom immediately dug out her old needles and yarn stash (which she hadn’t used in a decade at least), and in a few minutes we were both casting on - she by memory, I by following the instructions from the book… :) Since I normally prefer learning from books, this was ideal.. I took the book home with me, and very very soon - I was an addict.

39 thoughts on “Let’s talk: Is Ravelry a photography competition?

  1. I think it is a combination of factors so of them knitting-related, some not.

    I think photography is one of them. Also: attractive yarn choice, pretty young slender model, interesting take on the pattern, newness of pattern, freeness of pattern…. And probably other factors.

  2. I found that since starting my blog, I pay particular attention to the photographs I share with the world. Because my pictures are there to aid in the story-telling process, if I’m showing photos of yarn, projects, places or whatever; I want readers to get a true sense of colour, texture, ‘ambience’… and I strive for this. Personally I don’t see any conflict between being a better photographer and successfully delivering the point through an image. Come to think of it, I believe they go hand in hand.

    Another way to look at your projects, would be that those that successfully convey ‘a mood’ have the highest ratings. I’d like to add that the above 4 pics are very ‘on trend’ in set-up. Perhaps another reason they’re so popular. (funny how these things translate without us being aware of them). The bottom line is that they are well taken.

    Now I’m off to look at my Ravelry ratings! hoping this doesn’t replace the blog stats obsession I finally succeeded in getting over :)

  3. Very interesting! And lovely projects too :D

    I mostly add things to my favorites because I like the photos or the colors. I love looking at pretty pictures, but I also like clear pictures that show the actual knitting, good notes or comments, interesting modifications, etc.

    However, I do also think that there are projects that have a ridiculous number of hearts and it’s just because of the artistic pictures, which don’t show a lot of the project and that bothers me a little. It’s the difference between showing off the knitting with good pictures and just showing off the pictures. There are some amazing knitters out there but sometimes it feels like it’s more important to just have a good camera. I like project photos like yours, they’re very pretty but they also show the projects and the knitting details :)

  4. Sadly, I don’t have very many hearts, but I think it has something to do with how active I am on Ravelry. (I hope my projects don’t suck that much!)

    I agree with the whole photo thing. I know that I’m mainly draw to a project if it looks good in the picture. And the hearts from me are because something is pretty!

  5. I think I only have a few…and I know some of my pictures suck…I don’t have an apartment condusive to picture taking (dark) I try to take most of my pictures on my front porch, which I think has some character….I also don’t take a great deal with me as the model…..so many are unmodeled shots or shots with my bear modeling…so not the best…

    I have hearted some, but usually has to do with pattern and for me, yarn and color…color will always attract me first..

  6. Most of the time when I favorite a project, it’s not because of the photography. I tend to favorite projects that are either cool mods, or have styled a FO in a way that make me think it would fit into my wardrobe when the pattern photo doesn’t. I also favorite cute/funny/cool projects, but the majority of those are mods or original designs otherwise I’d favorite the pattern.

    I might be more inclined to add someone as my friend if they have gorgeous FO photos and I definitely enjoy them, but I wouldn’t add them to my Favs for that alone.

    My two most hearted projects are original designs that have been around for months without patterns. I don’t think they feature my best photos. I think people like the designs and favorite them so they can keep track of when the pattern gets released. My most hearted project from a pattern has some errata and mod notes so I imagine that is a large part of its popularity.

  7. I love everyone’s thoughts on this terrific question. I should probably favorite more projects but I like to reserve that for objects I find either really challenging or so simple that they should be knitted! Photography does entice me, I have to admit, but I try to look beyond that when I can. Hearts are huge smile-maker, though!

  8. I’m inclined to think it’s the photos, for sure. I’m not generally swayed by the person modelling it, but I prefer knits to be modelled on real live people, not laying flat or on a mannequin. But it’s not good photography alone- it’s the subject of the photos. I like to be able to see how it looks on the person from different angels, and I like to see the fabric close up. And, let’s face it, yarn choice. I am very interested in how yarns I haven’t used are performing for other people. My reasons for favouriting something has evolved over the few years I’ve been on Ravelry- at the beginning, it was any old project that I liked, but then I found going back to look through my favourites to be a huge task, so I find I’m a lot more picky now. The trouble with great photos is that it often speaks more to how expensive one’s camera and lens is, rather than the actual knit itself. So there is definitely a bias towards those who have the money (or have friends with the money) for an expensive camera. The other factor I found with photos is lighting- knits taken with indoors with a flash just don’t look as good as one taken outside on a slightly overcast day. I personally would like to see my FO photos get better, but it involves saving up for a more expensive lens to get those professional looking shots.

  9. I had to look at my favorites to see how I chose them. I found that I am more likely to favorite something with an interesting technique, or a particular cut that I am interested in.
    I disagree that a more expensive camera automatically creates better photos. Until just recently, I was working with a five year old point and shoot. (I wore it out once before the warranty was up, and a second time after after the warranty was up) I did convert to a more expensive camera, but it only made getting good photos easier. With a point and shoot, you just have to work harder to get a certain effect. There will be a few things that a point and shoot cannot do, but to take a good photo of knits, all you need is a blank background and diffused lighting. Unless you need to take images that can be printed at a poster size, a DSLR isn’t critical to taking a good image.
    So maybe people are attracted to better photos on Ravelry, but it might just be that they are attracted to something they wish to recreate. It might be a mood, a particular look, or a lighting situation.

    Thanks for the thought provoking question!

  10. I feel like for some people that is definitely the case. It’s all about what you consider important and attractive though. I tend to favourite patterns more than I favourite individual projects (in a ratio of about 5:2), and the projects I favourite are the ones that show off all the item’s pertinent details. How it hangs on a person, from different angles, fabric characteristic etc. Good photos tend to help bring that across, so yeah, it plays a role. But it isn’t everything.

  11. Your photos are brilliant. The composition is excellent as well as the colour and style. All of your projects look great especially the veyla gloves. It would be good to see a few of your pictures that you think are not so good. This is a great topic for discussion. Thanks for bringing it up.

  12. I’m more drawn to the actual pattern more than the photo but a great photo can really help. I like to see a variety of angles, the details and close-ups which is something lacking in my two patterns.

    Knowing how to use one’s camera means more than the cost of it. Lighting, camera angle, color, contrast, and composition play a huge part. A photo missing those things isn’t going to show the object well.

    Wonderful topic!

  13. I like this discussion! I also take a lot of pride in the little hearts that appear on my Ravelry projects! I’ve improved my photography skills a lot since I’m blogging. I do think that our projects deserve good presentation. At the same time, I admit that I’m a lot more enclined to like a project if the picture is good! Very often I find that nicely executed knits have a tendency to be proportionally nicely photographed as well, no? Anyways… I don’t Fav many projects. Instead, I use the feature to remember a special yarn or color of a project I like or want to follow closely (although I’d also put such a project on my queue)…

  14. Great discussion topic! I think that there are two main reasons to heart a project:

    1. Compelling idea or design
    2. Great photograph (colors, model, fit, etc)

    Of course, there may be other reasons that people heart something, but they can pretty much fit into these two categories. I include the first reason from my personal experience – my most hearted project (203!), is a granny square afghan made out of remnant yarn. It’s not terribly attractive, and the photograph is average, but it is a GREAT idea (if I do say so myself). Remnant yarn is something that all knitters/crocheters have and need to use up, so it would make sense to “bookmark” that project with a heart!

    Now, when it comes to projects knit from designs that are already out there, I think it is definitely a beauty contest. The prettiest colors, picture, lady!

  15. In short – yes. I think I’m more inclined to favorite something that has a nice photo, rather than something with a crappy photo but great shaping, stitch choice or whatnot. I’m all about the pretty pictures and I sometimes actually choose patterns based solely on the pattern photo.
    I try to implement this philosophy on my blog and God knows I do try to take pretty pictures, but somehow they all come out either too dark or too bright. It takes a lot of effort. So, if I see a nice knitted project, that has a clear, pretty photo, I guess I automatically think ‘This knitter is a master of all things, I must worship her/him.’ And then they get a heart from me :)

  16. Hmmm, I think subconsciously a good photo will win over a good pattern badly photographed – if you get my gist. I don’t have many hearts but maybe that is because my choice of project is a bit dull/ am not a good photographer. (or knitter for that matter) I am inordinately excited when I get one, though.

  17. Volim da pravim, a i gledam lepe slike :)
    Ali mislim da se dodavanje “srca” na Ravelry-ju ipak povecava ako stalno dajes drugima isto … to dodje kao i komentari na blogu, ako ti nikom ne dajes, mozda niko nece ni tebi…..

    Kad vidim neku foto rada, volim da vidim i da je lepo slikano (sto obicno znaci bez blica, molim). A rad mi se radi vise ako je foto ok, ali i ako je boja prediva, i sam izbor dobar. Nekad, tesko je reci da li bih plela nesto ako mi se ne svidja na slici ….

  18. Oh great, another thing I can be neurotic over! I think the photos are a huge part of the equation. Blogging/Rav have definitely pushed me to be a better photographer, which is a good thing. But I have noticed that I get by far the most *hearts* on the knitting patterns I’ve written–like Katie said, I’m assuming people are using it as a sort of ‘bookmark’ so they can come back to it later.

    But most things in life are about marketing over quality (not to say at all that you can’t have both)!

  19. I think that when I favorite a project it is because I love THAT project out of all the others. I very rarely favorite a project because I want the pattern to come up in my favorites when I am doing searches. If a particular project photos shows a much clearer and crisper image of fit or pattern then I am much more likely to favorite as a project. It’s not so much the beauty of the photograph but the clarity of it and the great photos tend to be the clearest and crispest, with the correct focus and exposure. This is why I’m trying to improve my photography, I want to show my project in the most accurate way.

  20. Interesting thoughts. All other things being equal I’m probably more likely to favorite a project with a good picture. However in general I choose favorites usually based on color combination. Looking at my most-hearted projects, that seems to have to do with color also. Two of my higher-rated projects are super-common, super simple patterns (Divine Hat & Tirimisu Blanket) that both happen to be made with a really bright blue yarn & fuscia trim. My most-hearted (68) is a clutch made with Knit Picks Chroma in Prism. I have a crappy camera and no eye for composition, so I know it isn’t about my photos.

  21. Interesting topic Ivana. I don’t dedicate anywhere near enough time to Raverly, and didn’t even realize the implications of hearts. Photos, and images are taking over the impact and meaning of good content and ideas in many sectors – if you have a look at school books these days, you’ll see that they’re all about catching the students attention with a cartoonish like pictures, more than with the words they have to read and study. So, yes, I’m sure it’s just the same with Ravelry. Having said that, I love your mittens, and I’m going to heart them, even if they’re knitted, BECAUSE I LOVE THE PHOTO :)
    Happy Easter.

    • I did – all the photos linked back to the respective projects, though I probably should’ve made that clear somewhere in the text :) I’m glad you like the photos! :)

  22. photos will always sway the awarding of hearts after all we do privilege the visual before any other sense – so photography wins i think

  23. Now I understand why I don’t get that many hearts ;) Of course I like it when somebody has “hearted” my projects, but the most important thing for me with Rav is to get inspiration ( and I get loads every day ).
    Oh well… I think you are right, the better quality of a picture ( not the quality of the the actual knitted piece ), the better chance that people like it.

  24. This is such an interesting post! I usually fave everything I find beautiful. It may be the project itself, as well as the picture.

    Personally, I love knitting and taking photos: shooting my finished project is the final touch to the knitting process, and it’s my pleasure. :)

    • I very much see it as a final touch too, I don’t even mark my projects as finished on Ravelry until I get the photos done :) It’s so nice to have a record of knitted items, especially if you give them away…

  25. I have been wondering the same thing and I have come to the conclusion that it is usually down to the photo. Arty photos that convey a mood seem to get lots of “hearts”. Also, cuteness can boost the “hearts” you get – a cute baby or animal can help.
    I have seen a rather horrendous photo of a woman who photographed herself wearing a shawl but then didn’t crop the bottom half of herself – she only had on a rather unflattering and shabby looking pair of granny knickers!

  26. Gorgeous projects! I think good pictures, and striking colours, just ‘pop’ out amongst the masses of wonderful projects out on Ravelry. I too have projects that I am particulary pleased with that don’t rank as well as others that have better pics or brighter colours. But I’ve also found that in real life too – I’ve gifted things that I’ve thought have been pretty special and have taken a lot of effort, and they somehow seem to get as much love as those that were easy to whip out and less of an accomplishment (there’s a lesson in there for me! ;o)

  27. What an interesting topic for discussion! I love it. At least in my own case, I think quality of photography does have a lot to do with it. I feel like that sounds somewhat superficial when I see that statement in writing, but I’m not really sure what would be wrong with that. The main issue I have with poorly photographed knits is that oftentimes as a result of the crappy picture it can be really hard to tell what the thing looks like – to varying degrees depending on how bad the picture might be, of course. That said, for the purposes of blogging/raveling I definitely do not think you need a fancy camera to take a decent photo of a knit item. I’ve seen plenty of pictures that clearly display the detail of the knit in an appropriate and attractive setting, that were taken on cheap cameras. So I think a lot of this has to do with the skill of the photographer rather than the quality of the equipment.

  28. This is a super-interesting discussion — thanks to Lauren for pointing me toward it! In addition to photography (which might not be *entirely* determined by how expensive your camera is, but I can def say from my own experience that a fancy camera or portrait lens makes up for my lack of photog skillz), it seems like STYLING is a factor here. So if things are styled according to certain “tastes” — on cute models, in hip locations, with color combinations that are currently in fashion — they seem to get more <3s?

  29. I personally do think it is a photo competition. My home and backyard is like a wasteland, not conducive to photos. I am also not a model often. The weather here is harsh, and it is difficult to go outside to take photos. Also, my camera pixel resolution is not the best. So my pics are not as artful or as detailed as the others, and I think it hurts my ratings without a doubt. I am drawn to pics with beautiful detail and color saturation. I won’t lie.

  30. I have only “hearted” 5 projects…but of the five, two were for a Danish tie wrap shawl (because I NEED to make one of those) and one was for a chart for fornicating deer. I wonder what that says about me?!?!?!?

    Before I heart a project, I go through all the other pictures from the other knitters who have made the item. It’s really interesting to see that something that looks like “that on her;” looks like “THAT on HER.” And then I realize, yes, it may just be the photo…

  31. Howdy just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let
    you know a few of the images aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure
    why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome.

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