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The Ultimate Pinterest Pin, According to Science

The ultimate ideal Pinterest image is a recipe for cucumber, tomato, and onion salad. Image source:

Stop the pinning! The perfect Pinterest picture has finally been found. You can close your accounts and get back to doing whatever it was you did before Pinterest. There is nothing more to see here, folks.

Okay, okay, you can keep pinning. There is no need to pull the plug on America’s favorite bookmarking site just yet. But it’s true that some fascinating research has been done recently on what exactly makes an image popular on Pinterest.

Curalate, an east-coast startup that optimizes analytics and marketing on both Pinterest and Instagram,  took a half a million images as a sample and ran the numbers on them. From this data they were able to glean what, exactly, makes a particular pin so popular.

Armed with a list of common characteristics, they were then able to select a single Pinterest image that best embodies them. And that image is of… a salad.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a photo of a cucumber, tomato, and onion salad in a pink vintage serving container resting on a weathered wooden table alongside of a cluster of green forks takes the ultimate Pinterest prize.

And here you thought picnics weren’t much to fuss about.

The cucumber salad picture has been repinned over 300,000 times and liked over 8,000 times — but it isn’t just the stellar stats that makes it perfect. It’s because it somehow manages to cover all of the elements that Curalate identified as key crowd-pleasers:

No faces.

This one is a head-scratcher, because we’ve been told time after time in marketing tests that people identify with and are attracted to photos of other people. But Curalate CEO Apu Gupta pointed out, Pinterest has its own unique approach. “Pinterest is a network of things … and it seems like on a network of things, faces are actually a distraction.” And so on Pinterest, images without human faces get pinned 23% more often.

More red, please.

Images that are predominantly red or orange get repinned twice as many times as images that are blue. Why? Warm hues tend to make people happier.

Color variety.

But just red won’t do. People like variety, and so that’s why images with multiple strong colors get over three times the repins.

Go easy on the background.

Images on Pinterest are most successful when the foreground is maximized. Images with a minimized plain white background or a lightly textured background — such as the picnic table above — do the best.

Just the right amount of light and color.

A lesson not to overdo it (or under-do it) in Photoshop. Pictures with a moderate amount of saturation, around 50%, are repinned four times more than images with 100% saturation, and 10 times more than desaturated (black and white) images. Images with an extreme amount of brightness and contrast in either direction also fared poorly compared to those somewhere in the middle.

Portrait format preferred.

Pinterest users prefer images in a portrait (vertical) format as opposed to a landscape (horizontal) format, but this is a quirk of the system. Pinterest automatically tries to rescale images that fall outside of the 2:3 and 4:5 aspect ratios, which causes them to look bad on pinboards.

Following these tips can help you maximize your engagement with other users, but they’re not meant to be hard-and-fast rules. Not every single one of your Pinterest images needs to include bright cherry tomatoes from now on. Do what works best for your business, products, and brand!

For the Pinterest users out there: have you noticed any trends in what images get repinned the most?


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