Site Talk forum: Thumbnails and aspect ratio

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Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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William
Dec 7, 2015 11:29 AM CST
The square crop of the thumbnails work well to represent images with centered compositions, but I feel that they aren't always ideal, as sometimes the main subject ends up cut or on the edge if you compose your images for instance according to the rule of thirds. So I wonder if there is any possibility to have thumbnails with the correct aspect ratio?
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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dave
Dec 7, 2015 11:31 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

If I do that, then some thumbnail are tall and some are wide. It looks really bad to have all these differently shaped thumbnails all over the place. Uniformity of size sure looks nice when viewing a bunch of thumbnails side by side.
Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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William
Dec 7, 2015 11:47 AM CST
I understand and that is a good point, but... if one added white space padding on the sides or top and bottom, the thumbnails could still be uniform and square in size, but the image would be more correctly represented. Look for instance on how 1x represents their images. I doesn't look messy at all, IMHO https://1x.com/photos/latest/macro
Name: Asa

Bee Lover Garden Photography Region: Utah Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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evermorelawnless
Dec 7, 2015 11:56 AM CST
So you lose data (pixels) to whitespace (brownspace) or lose data to the crop (while keeping the shape). The question is which is is the best play for this site.

All things equal, I think the shrink is better for broader data preservation (i.e. the thumbnail being an actual representation of the picture) than the cut.
I share this blog with the unwashed cetacean - have a look! - http://garden.org/blogs/view/evermoredorphins
Name: Asa

Bee Lover Garden Photography Region: Utah Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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evermorelawnless
Dec 7, 2015 12:18 PM CST
Further, tho I didn't shoot much this year apart from some bees, I did spend a good bit of time helping dirtdorphins select her entries for the photo contest. And one criterion for that (given the nature of the site and the contest itself) was how the shot looked as a thumbnail. The question being, does this thumbnail make someone want to click on it so that they might eventually vote for it?

With that in mind, here's one that we rejected because it makes a disastrous, lopsided thumbnail that doesn't come close to describing what the picture is or what it's about:
Thumb of 2015-12-07/evermorelawnless/d9694a

This, however, might have drawn some clicks (were it not bracketed by the frame, especially, like on the site William linked):
Thumb of 2015-12-07/evermorelawnless/87d88a

I'm not saying that picture was a winner. Only pointing out that it was summarily rejected given the thumbnail that the site created for it. For the contest and perhaps even the database (in my mind, at least), those that are not cropped square with the subject in the direct center are essentially out of play.

YMMV, of course.

I share this blog with the unwashed cetacean - have a look! - http://garden.org/blogs/view/evermoredorphins
[Last edited by evermorelawnless - Dec 7, 2015 12:37 PM (+)]
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Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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William
Dec 7, 2015 1:50 PM CST
Good illustration and you described the problem much better and in more detail than I did, Asa, but I share your views completely.

I don't want to be negative about centered compositions, they have their place, but I doubt that making them the standard to aim for is beneficial in the long run for the photographer. How are photographers going to learn about other ways to compose images - to grow - if they are encouraged to essentially post the same centered composition over and over again, only with a different plant? For sure they will learn to perfect symmetry, but unfortunately it may very well stop there.

I do personally really appreciate variety and I was somewhat heartbroken to read what criteria you and dirt used to choose the best possible entries for the contest. Unfortunately what you two did makes sense. I know I looked at every image full screen before deciding which to vote for, but realistically not every person will do that.

That said this isn't a pure photography site, so if some photos aren't well represented it's not a disaster and web design is of course very, very important as well.
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Horntoad
Dec 7, 2015 9:59 PM CST
Well if had to choose one over the other I would be more likely open the first one. All that white space detracts from the image and makes it less interesting.But since you are talking about the photo contest, I open every picture. I think it is the only fair way to judge. No matter which version of that pic was shown neither is fairly representative, so it would need to be opened to judge properly.
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Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Dec 7, 2015 10:08 PM CST
I guess I was a lazy judge - I just grazed through the pics, checked those that caught my eye, then went back for the final vote. I don't think I opened any of them full size. Bad on me...

I do see the point that Dirt and Lawn bring up though.
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Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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William
Dec 7, 2015 11:41 PM CST
Bonehead said:I guess I was a lazy judge - I just grazed through the pics, checked those that caught my eye, then went back for the final vote. I don't think I opened any of them full size. Bad on me...

I do see the point that Dirt and Lawn bring up though.


No, I don't think you was a lazy judge, rather you are an excellent representative for how one usually browses a web page Smiling

Anyway, this isn't about the photo contest, this is about the aspect ratio of the thumbnails and how that affects all parts of the site.

Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses
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zuzu
Dec 8, 2015 12:17 AM CST

Plants Admin

I think people are more inclined than you think they are to enlarge the thumbnails on a regular basis. When I look at the new photos added each day, I enlarge almost all of them because so much detail can be lost otherwise. I'm sure many others do the same.

I just want to go on record to say that I don't see the need for change. I like the thumbnails just the way they are, and I can't be the only one. I appreciate their symmetry. I don't want them to be different sizes or the same size with white margins. Neither of those "fixes" appeals to me aesthetically.
Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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William
Dec 8, 2015 1:55 AM CST
I have no doubt some will enlarge every photo @zuzu, but alas us mere mortals need some sleep sometimes and may fail to do so at times! The same can be true for those with slower Internet connections.
We all have different tastes and we are all different, but out of curiosity I wonder if you had a look at 1x to see how this can look when viewed as a whole, not just a single thumbnail with an (unfortunate) frame around it: https://1x.com/photos/latest/macro .
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses
Clematis Irises Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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zuzu
Dec 8, 2015 2:07 AM CST

Plants Admin

Yes, William, I did look at that link. I don't care for the different sizes. I prefer the uniformity of our thumbnails. I am not a photographer or an artist, however. I was over 60 when I bought my first camera, and I take photographs of my plants strictly for the purpose of adding them to our database. I don't follow the rule of thirds. I center my subject, snap a photo of it, and add it to the database.
Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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William
Dec 8, 2015 2:38 AM CST
As I said, nothing wrong with a centered composition and the thumbnails are perfect for that Smiling I do really appreciate your comment as it made me better understand why people would view this subject very differently. It's natural that when viewing photos you look for different things. Personally I do tend to look at composition first and I especially appreciate when the photographer manages to take an image of a common subject that I seen a hundred times before and still make it stand out of the crowd.
Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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William
Dec 8, 2015 5:18 AM CST
Okay, so I have been thinking about this and based on the preferences in the comments I have two suggestions that wouldn't disrupt the layout of the website, nor introduce any whitespace, but still represent all images more fairly and correctly and that also would give the user/image-uploader more freedom.

1. After upload there could be a possibility to choose the location and also perhaps size(within reason) of the square crop. This isn't ideal for all compositions, but it could at least avoid cropping the main subject out of the frame or slicing it in half, which at least for my tastes destroys the image. Because who wants to see half a flower? After all you wouldn't have much success selling half a car when the guy next to you has a whole nice one to sell. Seeing is believing. This would also benefit centered compositions as it would be possible to create a more in your face look for those that so desire, cropping more tightly to the subject, so one can see better at a glance if this is something interesting, yet upon opening, all of the original image could be enjoyed.

2. If this would be troublesome to program, one could instead have the option to upload a pre-made thumbnail. This would be bit more cumbersome for the user, but still okay as it would be completely optional.

What do you think, @dave and others? Would this work?

Name: Asa

Bee Lover Garden Photography Region: Utah Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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evermorelawnless
Dec 8, 2015 5:44 AM CST
The other thing to consider, MAYBE, is the database itself. A database is a bucket in which you toss info. And while that shot of the daffodils above is compelling in its own way, perhaps, given the purpose of a database, the database would be much better served with a mugshot of a single blossom or broader mugshot of the clumps.

I appreciate the art more and try to compose my pictures well. But the police take mugshots of criminals for a reason (think database here). And who has an arty passport pic?

I still like the notion of the whole shot in play (or the customized crops as William suggested), but thinking on it...it may be that I should shoot and crop to center (and square) for database entries...which would render the notion of change to the thumbnails less compelling.
I share this blog with the unwashed cetacean - have a look! - http://garden.org/blogs/view/evermoredorphins
[Last edited by evermorelawnless - Dec 8, 2015 6:17 AM (+)]
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Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
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Dutchlady1
Dec 8, 2015 7:08 AM CST
I see your point but I think that is why we have unlimited photos in the database for any entry - so people can see many 'faces' of the same plant/flower.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
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sooby
Dec 8, 2015 12:10 PM CST
FWIW, I initially looked at this thread on my iPod Touch, so basically a phone-less iPhone. The top narcissus thumbnail was easy to see, the lower one was too teeny to show clearly on the small device. So for anyone using a smartphone the existing thumbnails work better IMHO. I understand the concern because I once or twice posted a picture to illustrate something and the salient part of the image was off to one side and thus omitted from the thumbnail. Just something I figured I'd have to work around in future. Now with everyone using different devices from large desktop monitors to smartphones, it means we don't all have the same perspective.
Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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William
Dec 8, 2015 12:52 PM CST
That is a good point, Sue, but that thumbnail is a rather extreme panoramic crop so most thumbnails would actually be a lot larger. And if a photographer posts a pano crop, hasn't he or she then already made an informed choice on how to represent the image? Why should a computer algorithm arbitrarily cut the center of that image out and make a square crop against the photographers wishes? If you like your images square, you will probably cut them that way in the first place?

Wouldn't it then be better to atleast let the photographer choose which square of the image to use as I suggested? Wouldn't it also be easier to see on a small screen as the main subject would have a greater chance to show within the boundaries of said square?

I'm not a programmer, but I think there also are many ways to adapt a layout according to the screen size or device used, but of course this takes some additional effort so is unfortunately time consuming. One could even have an option in preferences to let the viewer select if they want to see square thumbnails or prefer the images as shot. It's not impossible and actually many photo sites manages to show thumbnails very well without cropping the photographers images to a square. This is another and of course very, very well known example of how it can look without adding extra padding around images: https://www.flickr.com/explore

[Last edited by William - Dec 8, 2015 12:53 PM (+)]
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Dec 8, 2015 1:20 PM CST
I'm likely getting out of my depth here, if I wasn't already Hilarious! but the examples show pictures-only layouts. If we're talking about forums as well, where text has to be fitted in, then perhaps (Dave would know the answer) variable thumbnail sizes would mess up the rendering? I do remember from when I worked on web pages more than I do now that the page loads better and faster if the image sizes are pre-defined in the code because then the browser knows how much space to allot and starts rendering the page before the images completely load (which makes a difference especially on a slow connection).

I know what you're saying, and I've used non square thumbnails myself on at least one of my own web pages, but it's not a dynamic page like those on ATP. I have no idea how difficult it would be to enable us to pick which section for a thumbnail or enable us to upload our own thumbnails or whether the majority of users would take advantage of this if it was reasonably doable.
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Dec 8, 2015 1:37 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

If this were a photo site like flickr or 1x then I would do whatever it took to make this work. But it's a gardening site that happens to have lots and lots of photos. Changing the thumbnails away from the current square default is something that is not simple or trivial to do. I have to prioritize how I spend my time and this kind of work would take me away from other tasks that I feel are much more important to the site.

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