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Silph Study: #028


Photobomb Rate Uncovered

Photobomb rate header

Please be aware, travelers! As part of the changes introduced with the Go Beyond update in December 2020, the rate for a Smeargle photobomb encounter has increased. Thus the discovered photobomb rate for Smeargle from this article is no longer correct. We believe the lack of interaction with other variables is still true.

Smeargle made its colorful debut to the world of Pokémon GO via AR “photobombs” in February 2019. After taking a snapshot of a Pokémon, travelers now have a chance of encountering Smeargle. Never passing up an opportunity to investigate a new feature, the Silph Research Group sprang into action. Channeling their artistic instincts, researchers took almost 16,000 snapshots to help estimate the probability of being photobombed by Smeargle and uncover any hidden tricks that might increase travelers’ chances of encountering this wily photobomber. Let’s take a look at what they found!


During normal gameplay, trainers may encounter one Smeargle per day.1 After choosing a Pokémon to photograph, travelers can take an unlimited number of pictures; however, Smeargle will only photobomb the first picture in the series (a copy of the original picture is also generated). If the primary goal is to capture Smeargle, only take one photo per session before returning to the world map. Travelers who diligently collect their daily photobomb know how tedious this can be. Researchers sometimes took more than 100 snapshots before being surprised by our canine painter friend. However, the average probability of being photobombed across the entire data set was a nice, round

1 in 20

with a 99% confidence interval of 1 in 18.4 to 1 in 22.0².

Researchers also recorded other parameters that could have influenced this probability. Thanks to their efforts, we were able to determine that none of the following variables appear to have any effect on the probability of being photobombed:

Variable Details Chi-squared p-value
Shiny Pokémon Sample size of 4,659 0.16
Lucky Pokémon Sample size of 4,267 0.45
Shadow/Purified Pokémon Sample size of 1,339 0.38
Mythical/Legendary Pokémon Sample size of 1,257 0.74
Pokémon Age Broken into 1-year blocks 0.95
Time of day Broken into 4-hour blocks 0.37
Time between snapshots Broken into minutes, hours, days, and weeks 0.38
AR+ vs. AR Sample size of 3,452 on AR+ 0.24
Pokémon species Based on five most photographed species 0.43


To decide if data from two or more groups is best explained by different probabilities, a chi-squared test of independence was used. The p-values here do not provide significant evidence to reject the null hypothesis that there is a single, global photobomb probability. Finding a p-value as low as 0.16 was not surprising, since we tested several variables. In other words, our data indicate that there is only one Smeargle photobomb rate.

Parting Words

Our dedicated Senior Researchers, who spent countless hours taking snapshots in the name of science, were unable to detect any hidden shortcuts that increase the odds of being photobombed by Smeargle. At an average of 15 seconds per picture, travelers can expect to spend about 16 hours taking AR snapshots before reaching the coveted gold Cameraman medal (200 photobombs) without the aid of an event. Travelers attempting to encounter this shy painter can rest assured that persistence is their only tool.

Until next time, see you on the Road, travelers!


¹Photobombs during certain events are exceptions to this rule. For example, during the Ash Hat Pikachu event in April 2019, trainers were able to receive up to five photobombs per day, with an increased chance of receiving the photobomb. Another exception was the Team GO Rocket Takeover, where up to three photobombs were guaranteed from snapshot sessions, spawning a Meowth after being photobombed by a Team GO Rocket Grunt. Photobombs were also guaranteed (up to a maximum of 100 per day) during each GO Fest, with the photobomb Pokémon depending on the trainer’s location within an event site. The Research Group only gathered data on snapshots that could result in a Smeargle photobomb, since the non-event photobomb rate is more relevant to travelers’ daily Pokémon GO experience. 

²The exact counts are 15,928 snapshots and 792 photobombs for a precise rate of 1 in 20.11.