How many views and downloads do you currently have?

I’m a little over 65 million views and over 420k downloads. At my current rate I should hit that big 500k I’ve been looking for in 4-6 weeks. Can’t wait!

What made you start uploading your pictures to Unsplash?

I’ve been a huge fangirl of photography for decades. I was a fan/consumer of Unsplash from its launch. I shared a few pictures for fun back in 2018, but I didn’t really start taking and sharing images seriously until last September. It was my Covid coping method that turned into a bonafide hobby.

What do you like about shooting with smartphone the most?

I like shooting with my phone because the camera is really decent and it’s always available. I also like not spending a lot of money on professional equipment when I’m not a photographer by trade. And, to this point I’ve really liked the simplicity of it.

What apps and modes do you use for shooting?

I said “to this point” because I’ve just switched my app from the camera app that came with my Pixel 3a to ProShot which will allow me manual mode and a ton of new features. I’m accepting the challenge to learn more about photography and try to get better shots. For the pictures I’ve uploaded so far though I have used a combo of portrait mode and regular. I really like using portrait mode and natural/moody light for fabric photography. The downside of the app I’ve been using is that manual focus and auto-exposure were combined. To avoid blown out highlights I’d have to focus on the brightest part of the frame which wasn’t always ideal. I’m looking forward to trying out my new app for this reason.

Her most successful photo was viewed more than 25 million times and downloaded 30 thousand times. She uploaded it on March 25, 2021, and it was selected as “Photo of the Day” among other feature spots.

What apps do you use for editing and what do you do with them?

To this point I’ve also been VERY simple in my photo editing (using Windows Photos to edit), not relying too much on it for good photos. This isn’t because I’m high-minded, but because I’m ignorant and have been confused when trying to use fancy programs. Pawel Czerwinski has challenged me to up my game with both a better camera app and a better editing app so I’m giving it a shot. I’ll probably use Lightroom for editing since it’s so popular and seems a bit more novice-friendly.

How do you find interesting motives to shoot?

I like a challenge. That, and Covid distraction, are what usually motivate me. When I see a photo I admire and think I might be able to get a version of, I feel challenged and motivated.  I also love the Unsplash Clubs for this reason.  Some of them have been out of my league (like levitation), but others have been intriguing. The Liquid Macro Abstract currently going is something I’m really loving. There are so many challenges to this one, particularly with a phone camera. I’m enjoying overcoming them one by one.

Do you use any equipment e.g. for lighting or a tripod?

I do use equipment. I have one larger light, a full-spectrum light that I use to grow plants in the Colorado Winter, black background light absorbers, and white background for reflection. I do have one small flexible tripod, but I haven’t found tripods my friends most of the time. Recently I purchased a Magic Arm to hold my phone steady for liquid macro shots. I got tired of dropping my lens in water and oil. I also have a Xenvo Macro lens that I attach to my phone for macro shots. I don’t own anything expensive.

The level of detail Susan achieves in her photos with a Pixel 3A is fascinating.

How long do you use your Pixel 3a now? What smartphone do you think about using next?

I’ve had my Pixel 3a since the very end of 2019. I’ve really loved the camera on this phone so I’ll likely just upgrade my model at some point assuming the reviews are still good.

Is there anything you want to add?

Oh, one thing I want to add is my fascination with stats. I think Unsplash does a decent job of giving info, but there are some big holes. I’ve noted that “success” in stats often relies on exposure which relies on getting featured… usually. But it’s not just getting featured, it’s WHEN you get featured (weekday or weekend), what kind of photo gets featured (backgrounds do very well compared to others), whether or not you get featured in more than one place, and—hugely—where your photo sits in the feed. If you hit the editorial feed near the top of the page and sit there for a bit, your views go through the roof.  This seems to say more about your photo than is probably reasonable unless you have a really good download ratio to match.

9 of my top 15 downloaded images never hit the editorial feed.

On the flip-side, you can have a photo get featured (or NOT) and have a very high view to download ratio. Here’s an example with my top two photos. The first one sat at the top of the editorial feed and was featured in two other places. But the download ratio for the second photo is far superior. I find more satisfaction in the stats of the second image. 9 of my top 15 downloaded images never hit the editorial feed. I find that encouraging because it’s a little more organic. Only 2 of my top viewed images weren’t featured on the editorial page. Don’t get me wrong, it’s GREAT to get featured (It’s happened 30x for me and is always thrilling), but it’s more an affirmation of the Unsplash staff that I find exciting. The views and download stats have a larger story to tell.

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