Instagram Likes for Architectural Photos Can Be Predicted by Quantitative Balance Measures and Curvature

Front Psychol. 2018 Jun 22;9:1050. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01050. eCollection 2018.


"3,058 people like this." In the digital age, people very commonly indicate their preferences by clicking a Like button. The data generated on the photo-sharing platform Instagram potentially represents a vast, freely accessible resource for research in the field of visual experimental aesthetics. Therefore, we compiled a photo database using images of five different Instagram accounts that fullfil several criteria (e.g., large followership, consistent content). The final database consists of about 700 architectural photographs with the corresponding liking data generated by the Instagram community. First, we aimed at validating Instagram Likes as a potential measure of aesthetic appeal. Second, we checked whether previously studied low-level features of "good" image composition also account for the number of Instagram Likes that architectural photographs received. We considered two measures of visual balance and the preference for curvature over angularity. In addition, differences between images with "2D" vs. "3D" appearance became obvious. Our findings show that visual balance predicts Instagram Likes in more complex "3D" photographs, with more balance meaning more Likes. In the less complex "2D" photographs the relation is reversed, more balance led to fewer Likes. Moreover, there was a general preference for curvature in the Instagram database. Together, our study illustrates the potential of using Instagram Likes as a measure of aesthetic appeal and provides a fruitful methodological basis for future research.

Keywords: Instagram Likes; aesthetic appeal; architectural photography; computational aesthetics; curvature; image composition; visual aesthetics; visual balance.