Several months ago I started to revive my Flickr profile. I culled many of my old photos and started sharing again. Now I’m adding at least one or two new photos daily, engaging in group discussions, finding new photographers to follow, and commenting on photographs. I’ve been using Facebook and Instagram less, and it feels so good to be back in the Flickr community. As a Pro subscriber I see zero ads, and that alone is a nice change. It feels like home.
Flickr was one of the first places I remember sharing my photos online. If you were a photographer ten years ago then you probably had a Flickr account. It’s where we created groups for photowalks and shared the photos, and got excited if one of our images made it to “Explore”. However, in the past several years, it’s seen somewhat of a decline. I personally hadn’t used Flickr in a while, and rarely would upload any photos. And any group I had been associated with had turned into a complete ghost town. I also recently went through my list of followers and was saddened to see how many photographers had not uploaded a photo in several years.
However, something has changed, I can feel it. It’s similar to that anticipatory sensation you get when you’re standing outside and the air shifts just before a storm. Photographers are talking about Flickr again! People are sharing photos, and replying to discussions in groups! It still has a way to go before it is really back to what it was (and hopefully even bigger and better than its glory days), but it is going to get there.
SmugMug + Flickr = ❤️
Last year things took a different turn when SmugMug acquired Flickr. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a lot of the SmugMug folks throughout the years, and even visited their HQ a few times when I lived in California. And I have full faith that SmugMug will do the right thing and to what they can to ensure that Flickr grows to its full potential.
But don’t just take my word for it. Don MacAskill, the CEO of SmugMug, did an AMA on Reddit and answered a lot of questions about the Flickr acquisition:
Doing a Reddit AMA right now (9am – 10am Pacific). Come join the party! (I'll be back again from 3pm to 4pm Pacific if that time works better for you). Spread the word. https://t.co/AIZ3jbFO8K
— Don MacAskill (@DonMacAskill) December 17, 2018
MacAskill is also very responsive on Twitter. I love seeing CEOs take an active role in their company, especially when it’s a community-based platform like Flickr:
Just subscribe to PRO and spread the word that photographers finally have a space that deeply cares about them and is investing in the long-term. We all hope our existing 16 years is just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks!
— Don MacAskill (@DonMacAskill) January 2, 2019
Overall, seeing SmugMug as the backbone of Flickr is uplifting and gives me a lot of hope for Flickr’s future.
For Photographers (not advertisers)
Social media, as a whole, is free, but it does cost us in the fact that our information is used by companies to better target us with advertising. If you are on Facebook or Instagram then you’ve definitely seen your fair share of ads, some are helpful but the majority are obnoxious and irrelevant. These social sites are built for and geared towards advertisers.
Flickr, on the other hand, is different. I’m not sure I would even consider it social media at all. While they do have a limited free account (with ads and a cut-off on how many photos you can upload), for $50/year you can go “Pro“, upload an unlimited number of photos and have a beautiful ad-free experience. There is no focus on advertising, no using your data to target you for crap you don’t need to buy, and you can upload your files at full resolution (no icky compression algorithms making your beautiful photos look awful).
I know that not all Flickr users are happy about some of the changes to the free accounts, particularly the 1000-photo cutoff (unless you subscribe to Pro). MacAskill has addressed some of this in his AMA, as well as on Twitter (btw the person he replied to deleted their original tweet):
There's no "spin". Just simple economics. Flickr loses money today. Grandfather would increase the $ loss. Money-losing businesses go out of business (they should). We love Flickr & don't want that. We believe millions of photographers around the world feel that way, too.
— Don MacAskill (@DonMacAskill) January 2, 2019
For Flickr to survive they need to get as many users as possible to subscribe to flickr.com/account/upgrade/pro, as I can only assume it would not have been sold to SmugMug had it been maintaining a sustainable and profitable business. And MacAskill even clarified some of this on his Reddit AMA:
Groups, Meetups, and Photowalks
One thing I’m the most excited about with Flickr are the groups. There are groups for just about any photography topic you can think of, and you can even start your own group if you like. We all crave community, and groups is the place to communicate with other photographers!
By the way, if you’re on Flickr, please consider joining my group: Nicolesy. It’s still somewhat fresh, but as of writing this has over 400 members (yay!). I’ve also started running monthly photo challenges as well and I check in on the group daily.
I also sorely miss my photowalking days. They still happen, I’m sure of it, but for a few solid years photowalks were a regular part of my photography life. I’ve moved around a few times since then, so my local photography community has changed, and in-person meetups and photowalks are something that I would love to make a comeback. I’m hopeful that as more users find their way back to Flickr, the more meetups and photowalks we’ll see pop up.
Things I’d love to see in the coming months/years
Here are some of the features I’d love to see updated and improved on:
I used to love Explore, and even had a few photos make it there in my early days. It was a place to become inspired, and see the “best of the best” on Flickr. In Flickr’s words, they are photos with a certain amount of interestingness. (They even have a patent application on the word.) It’s basically an algorithm that scores each photo, and then shares the top images in the Explore page. BigHugeLabs.com has an FAQ that discusses this in more detail.
However, at the time of publishing this article, Explore leaves a lot to be desired and is not what it used to be. There are some fantastic images in Explore but it’s still filled with a lot of snapshots. Fixing Explore is one thing that many Flickr users would love to see improved, and the good news is that they do know it’s a problem and will be making some changes (hopefully soon!):
We've already announced, and I've spoken publicly about it many times, that this is happening. Give us some time, not an easy problem and we're very busy, but it is a big priority.
— Don MacAskill (@DonMacAskill) January 2, 2019
I’m hopeful that groups become a really big part of Flickr again. But right now it’s extremely challenging to find a group that is active. Many of them may have photos recently added to the group’s photo pool, but if you look at the discussion many of them have not been updated in many, many years. Here are some updates I would love to see implemented:
- Remove groups with inactive discussions from the search page. Searching for an active group is challenging. Many of them are technically being used regularly, but only because photographers are adding photos to the group photo pool, but the discussion is stagnant. Several searches for different groups brought groups with discussions that had not been updated in several years to the top of the results. I’d love to see this algorithm adjusted to only include active discussions at the top of the search results.
- Give us a single “Group discussions” page that allows us to see all active discussion topics in the groups we follow. This would make it easier to stay engaged in all of the groups, instead of having to go into each group separately to see what was posted.
Meetups and Events
Getting together with other photographers in person is a wonderful way to build the community up. I would LOVE to see more photowalks and meetups, lead both by the users as well as official Flickr events. It would also be great to have an “Events” section on the Flickr page, where we could both share our own events and also search for events that are happening in our areas (and bonus points for adding a map view!).
The mobile app is good, but there are some changes I’d love to see:
- Easier access to groups. Right now you have to navigate fairly deep into the app to get to your list of groups. It would be nice to have a “Groups” section within the app to engage better on the mobile platform.
- Messaging capability. You can’t access your Flickr mail from the app; they don’t even appear in the mobile notifications tab. I’d love to see this be easier to access by adding a separate messaging/mail section.
- Hyperlinks. Right now, hyperlinks don’t work in the app. So, if you were to go to my profile on Flickr and then want to click on a link to visit my blog, you’re out of luck. The same goes for links in any group discussion.
Whatever Flickr becomes is up to us. I’d love to see it take off and become what it should have been all along: a home-base for photographers. And if you’re anything like me—feeling exhausted and creatively drained by social sites like Facebook and Instagram—then maybe it’s time for a change.
Things we can do to help ensure Flickr’s success:
- Sign up and create a new account (or log in to your existing account)
- Subscribe to Flickr Pro
- Upload photos regularly (I use the Jeffrey Freidl “Export to Flickr” Lightroom plugin, although there is a basic Flickr publishing plugin already built in to Lightroom as well)
- Fave and comment on other’s photographs you love
- Join groups with like-minded photographers and engage in discussions (like the Nicolesy group!) :)
- Spread the word!
It will … if we make it happen.
— Nicole S. Young (@nicolesy) January 1, 2019