What’s a second worth?

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Somehow the trees, branches and general busyness of this photo help to convey the wild and natural habitat of this beautiful bear.

How long did you look at the photo above? Or any other photos for that matter?

The question arose after I read an article about a study that showed the human brain could classify photos in 13 milliseconds. That is hard to fathom!

The article got me wondering how long I look at photos? I knew it generally wasn’t very long. Of course I had to set up a quick study to track my viewing times.

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Do you spend less time on a nature scene or more?

I used my iPhone stop watch and viewed photos loaded on an internet browser. In the time-honoured tradition of incredible discoveries, I was hoping all the short-comings in my quasi-scientific methodology would cancel out. This became even more clear when I discovered that at least 0.11 of a second passed while I turned the stop watch on and off!

I knew that if looked at photos I didn’t like, my brain could reject them faster than my fingers could keep track of the time. So I chose bears, one of my favourite wildlife, for the big test. The photos ranged from moderately good to fantastic – nothing poor.

The surprising part for me was the time I spent on a bear photo that I really enjoyed. Even after determining it was a good one and consciously deciding to slow down to soak in the beauty, when I looked down at the stop watch, only about three seconds had passsed!

Here are my results:

< 1 second to reject a bear photo I didn’t particularly enjoy – it actually was too short to record so it is likely only a small part of a second

1-2.5 seconds to view good photos

>2.5 seconds to view fantastic photos

It’s all pretty sobering when I think of all the time involved in going to a place to find wildlife, waiting, taking the photo, returning home, downloading and processing it just so people will spend an extra second or two looking at it.

My conclusion? It’s all worth it!

_T6C5909, grizzly

How many seconds does this little grizzly get?

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Latest Comments

  1. Stefano says:

    What a gorgeous shot of that grizzly cub! Way to go, Lyle!

    Like

  2. hannele says:

    It’s a very interesting question. I wonder how much the context has to do with it. I think I’d look at a printed picture longer than I look at one online – but then again, that might be because I think of a large printed picture and a normal-sized online picture. Yes, I think that’s it; a picture that fills my whole screen, if it’s good, I’ll look at it longer. It’s all about the detail and the little things you don’t notice in a small photo. The normal-sized pictures online are usually smaller than a printed photo in an exhibition, for instance, and with a glance you can get the general idea of the picture, something you can’t necessarily do as easily if you’re struck by stunning detail.

    That probably didn’t make much sense to anyone but me. I really like your photos, though, and especially the second one I could stare at for many, many seconds!

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      That made sense to me. I think context matters a lot. The size of the photo makes a huge difference as you have noted, as well the place where you find it. A perfectly lit exhibition would likely get different times than a bright hallway with lots of traffic. Then again that’s where personality comes in. I am much more sensitive to my surroundings than most which is why I like the a quiet nature scene so much. There is also something about the computer and the internet that encourages quick looks and then moving on – perhaps it’s only habit or just the availability of so many options. I think there are a lot of factors that influence the viewing time and we might be surprised at some of them.

      Like

  3. Cornel A. says:

    Just in case you want to know. For the first photo less than one second, for the second less than 1.5 seconds, and for the last one more than 3 seconds (around 1s for his nose and the rest for the fur). 🙂

    Like

  4. Scott Marshall says:

    I always dwell first to decide if I like it but usually I faff about thinking about how it was constructed and would I do it that way – so its more like an academy ha ha

    Like

  5. dweezer19 says:

    Gotta love that face….

    Like

  6. FeyGirl says:

    What a sublime capture of that grizzly. What personality you’ve captured in him! I definitely spent more than a couple ‘o seconds on him. 🙂

    Like

  7. Mike Powell says:

    Your wildlife shots are spectacular, Lyle, as so many others have noted, but if your postings were merely photos, I’d spend a whole lot less time on your postings. Your writing is almost always thought-provoking and/or entertaining and I think that causes many readers to linger longer on or to look at the images multiple times. I don’t often read the comments that others post on the blogs I follow, but your blog is a notable exception, because readers feel prompted to agree or disagree with things you write–the combination of prose and photos prompts many of us to respond, which I would argue is a real measure of success..

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I really appreciate those comments and have thot about them for a few days. I think if I was going to describe what I wanted to accomplish with this blog, you have described it perfectly. I am pleased that you view it in that light.

      Like

  8. mflahertyphoto says:

    What a cutie! I looked at it twice, for well over 2 seconds each time!

    Like

  9. babsje says:

    Your bottom bear photo is superb, however did you entice it to pose so perfectly? Fascinating content in your post, too.

    Like

  10. Honie Briggs says:

    Images worth a second look, or a third, or a recurring look because they evoke an emotion time and time again, make us think, laugh, or act – those are priceless, Lyle.

    Like

  11. Phil Lanoue says:

    I tend to spend considerable time looking at photos that for a variety of reasons appeal to me. One reason is that in addition to making the immediate assessment based on the entire overall scene, I like to examine the sometimes minute details often found in the background or areas other than the main subject.
    But wow, I do drool over your bear shots! A grizz… Can it get any better?!?

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Yes the details can add a lot and it’s even better when the more you look, the more you find.

      It doesn’t get much better than a grizz. I loved watching that little guy.

      Like

  12. sagescenery says:

    Funny, i was just thinking of this the other day…Why do I go to your blog…and also Seth’s blog at:
    http://sethsnap.com/2014/02/13/cold-night-in-the-burbs/
    before I check out anyone else’s??? Because I only need those few seconds to totally “see!!” I love to read and write, too, but I take photos and view photos, because a picture is worth a thousand words…and I don’t have time in the mornings to read a thousand words! Love what you say in your photos!!

    Like

  13. Hebrew of Yhwh: stranger, sojourner, son says:

    I discovered the length of a second one day. How long is a second? To find out how long a second is I went out and watched a star move in the night sky. A second is a life time. The Scripture says that one day is as a thousand years with Yhwh. A man’s brain processes 30 Billion bits of information per second according to Mark Woodman’s you tube documentary on the the affect of TV on the brain. It is really quite amazing.

    Like

  14. Hebrew of Yhwh: stranger, sojourner, son says:

    As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t mind that picture as a desk top picture.

    Like

  15. Hebrew of Yhwh: stranger, sojourner, son says:

    I give the water picture a lot of time, I feel peaceful to look at it.

    Like

  16. vanbraman says:

    Good thoughts. I flip through pictures very fast and it bugs some of my friends. Of course, I often stop and look longer at some if they catch my eye 🙂

    Like

  17. artsifrtsy says:

    Fascinating. I wonder how much composition has to do with it? I know that leading lines can move your eyes into or around an image. I find that diagonals make me explore more. I’ve never timed it though.

    Like

  18. melodylowes says:

    Love that little grizzly – he looks just like a teddy bear, the kind you would curl up with on a couch somewhere. It’s got a really sweet expression, something that conveys the impression that if you scooped him up and took him home, he would be incredibly well-behaved and never once eat your children. 🙂 Good question – I’ve never tracked my viewing habits. I only know that scrolling through blogs takes a LOT of time and needs to be managed so that little things like showing up for work still happen on a regular basis.

    Like

  19. RobynG says:

    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  20. Deb Scally says:

    That final bear was well worth viewing… i spent about 10 seconds before I hit this comment button to you. I love his stance, expression and the wonderful detail you got on his fur. Great image. And–Interesting blog post–I never stopped to even consider such a thing before. But you are right… it’s always worth it. Cheers!

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m glad that little grizz makes friends easily. I was so excited to find him and he gave me such wonderful expressions. The photos take me back there every time. I appreciate your thots.

      Like

  21. Garden Walk Garden Talk says:

    I am different than most I think Lyle. I like to study photos as I do painted art. Much is learned from both the good and not-so-good. My own photos, I often don’t worry if they are “good” if they tell the story I am telling. Now if they were for sale… a different ball game all together.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I think it’s great that you study photos (someone else mentioned that too) – you probably absorb and learn a lot more. I would also say that if they are telling the story you want to tell then they are good.

      Like

  22. Steve Gingold says:

    I think, for the most part, that we do process images, both the actual subject and photographic, very quickly. Probably most of the photographs we look at are digested as quickly as your experiment showed. Getting someone to even look is a challenge and if we can get someone’s attention for several seconds or even a minute we have done quite well. Consider someone thought of as a photography master in your field of interest….how long would we even stare at one of those?
    But I agree 100%…it is worth it because we do it for our own satisfaction. Well, unless we get a gig with NatGeo. 🙂

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Yes and as someone pointed out earlier, the time people spend on a photo is not directly related to joy, particularly since people’s personalities and viewing habits are so different. You’re right, just getting someone’s attention is no small feat! There are so many photographs so easily available to us – there are some days I look at many photos and I know others do too.

      Like

  23. Gunta says:

    Quite a few minutes on the little guy while I ate lunch. Then again I tend to study nature shots I really like since that tends to be my thing. What with the pole near the top of your shot that doesn’t seem to belong there?

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I had a lot more minutes with the little grizz in real life and loved every minute of it. Spending more time on the things you like makes sense and studying them definitely puts you at a higher level.

      I did notice the log but decided to leave it there as part of the story. Trees often fall into the canyon or get caught along the way so its a natural part.

      Like

  24. Anarette.com says:

    Such nice photos deserve more attention than 13 milliseconds 🙂 .

    Like

  25. Mandy says:

    Maybe you shouldn’t be measuring the time, but rather the joy your photos bring to others. I enjoy it every time I get notification of a new blog post from you.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Glad to hear that my blog notifications are good news – that’s what I’m striving for. I think you’re right about joy versus time and I really do look at it from the joy perspective. I just think our brains are so amazing in the way they absorb information so quickly and people will different viewing times might also get the same amount of joy from it.

      Like

  26. Alison says:

    Interesting article. I could spend all day looking at that little grizzly. From admiring all the detail in his beautiful coat to wishing I had been the one to take the photo, it’s definitely worth a pause way longer than a second!

    Like

  27. whichwaynow101 says:

    I (almost) always prefer wildlife to nature without wildlife. Especially bears as I’ve seen so few. Particularly grizzlies as I’ve never seen one. My favorite is the last photo.

    Like

  28. coast72 says:

    Was on here for a good 45 seconds, that was just for the reading(not bad for a dutchy)..and now I will need another 2,5 seconds 😉 for the pictures
    .Pretty clever, as it is the title aswell that catches peoples eye.
    For you to get my attention on words over pictures, is worth a compliment on it’s own 😉

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I do take that as a huge compliment! It’s amazing the power that photos and words can wield, and equally amazing how quickly we skip over both unless they grab our our fleeting attention spans. I’m glad the post caught your eye.

      Like

  29. Mike Bizeau says:

    Nice post. I wonder how the media that the photo or where we are viewing it affects viewing time. Internet versus printed? Or the context like flipping through a book versus scrolling through a blog or wordpress reader? I think I would take more time with printed form but should conduct some experiments to find out. As always thanks for your thoughtful posts.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Those are great questions. I think I would spend more time with photos in a book though often the images look better on screen. Other contexts like state of mind would probably factor in – whether you sat down to enjoy photos or quickly want to get through them. Glad you enjoyed the post.

      Like

  30. nliakos says:

    What a cute grizzly!
    I subscribe to several nature photography blogs, and I have to admit I usually have time for only a cursory look at most of the pictures (but I insist that even so, I get immense pleasure out of them!). I would probably spend more time looking at a photo that was hard to figure out or something really unusual (like an elaborate ice sculpture), but that doesn’t mean I would like that photo more.
    I imagine you get at least as much pleasure out of the process (preparing, going out and finding, framing and taking the photos) as you do out of looking at them later. Is it true?

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      You raise a good point that the amount of time spent on a photo is sometimes related more to complexity than enjoyment.

      When I find wildlife and I’m able to get a good photo, every step of the process provides a lot of enjoyment. The final photo then takes me back to the time when I took the photo to enjoy it all over again.

      Like

  31. Mind Margins says:

    It’s definitely all worth it. Keep taking the great nature photos, Lyle!

    Like

  32. Mungai and the Goa Constrictor says:

    Lots of seconds for little grizzly. I can’t take my eyes off him 🙂

    Like

  33. renxkyoko says:

    I think I spend more time looking at nature scenes. A looong time….. Just like the photo you posted here. That’s an amazing place.

    Like

  34. Victor Rakmil says:

    Glad these bears survived your science!

    Like

  35. naturesnippets says:

    Several seconds and a big grin.

    Like

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