In Defense of Flickr

People like to say flip things like “Flickr is dead” just like they’ve been saying “Apple is dead” for decades. It’s true that Flickr’s heyday has passed, but there are still hundreds of thousands (millions?) of photographers posting there daily. Interaction is lively, there’s an interest group for every photography niche you can think of, and users are really supportive with the compliments and CC. Flickr still has upwards of 75 million accounts, and can receive up to 25 million photo uploads on a good day (stats).

Scientia, pulchritudo, lux

Flickr dominated the online photo sharing scene for around 15 years. But as Facebook’s popularity rose, FB became the world’s dominant photo sharing platform, eclipsing Flickr’s numbers (which were already astounding). After a recent brush with financial ruin, Flickr was purchased by SmugMug, and they’ve been great stewards of the platform so far, with improvements being released on the regular.

Sunset at Berkeley Marina

Somewhere in there, along came Instagram to soak up much of the remaining photographic juice in the room. Everyone is on it, so you’d be nuts not to use it, right? I use it too.

So why not just use Facebook and Instagram and call it a day? A bunch of reasons!:

  • Instagram images are tiny postage stamp versions of the images you’ve put so much work into. It’s almost an insult to your photos to display them so small with no full-size web option. But we all do it because we have to (and it’s fun).
  • Instagram has hashtags, but no real “groups” – no organized photo communities.
  • Facebook does full-screen, but they still compress and rewrite your images on upload, even if you enable the HD mobile setting.
  • Not everyone is on Facebook. Millions of people won’t use it for either personal or political reasons (I’m sure we’ve all seen numerous friends leave the platform in the past couple of years). People without FB accounts simply can’t see your work here. Out of bounds. Walled gardens have their place, but I don’t want my photos in one.
  • What if you decide to leave Facebook in a couple of years? What happens to all the work you posted here? Or will the fact that your photos are on FB prevent you from leaving the service even if you want to for other reasons? You’re “locked in.” Putting your images on Flickr instead means your images are decoupled from your social network, which gives you freedom.
  • Both Facebook and Instagram strip out all of your EXIF data, while Flickr does not. I really enjoy studying the EXIF data for other people’s images, or reminding myself of settings that were used on my own.
  • Only Flickr provides full and detailed statistics — not just of likes, but for all views, since the beginning of time (just realized my account is coming up on one million total views since I started there in 2005, wow!)

On Flickr, your images are available in super high resolution, with a wide variety of copyright options. There’s a huge number of interest groups, and detailed statistics. The challenge of getting an image into “Explore” (Flickr’s homepage featuring the best images on the service, changing constantly) is ongoing, and so rewarding when it happens. Discovering great new photographers daily is inspirational. Flickr is photo paradise to this day, IMHO.

Protester returning home, El Cerrito

All of which makes me wonder why so many photographers I meet aren’t using it. It seems like the best of all the options (yes there are other options, but they don’t compete with Flickr IMO, except maybe SmugMug (I’m curious about the features and community there too, honestly – promising).

Tower of Power

Are you on Flickr? And if not, why not?

FWIW #1: I usually post the same image to Instagram and Flickr at the same time, but only share the URL of the Flickr version, since it’s high-res. I only post images on Facebook occasionally, and just for the audience of my friends, rather than for the photo community.

FWIW #2: No I’m not a Flickr employee! Just a long-time user who never fell out of love.

FWIW #3: I’m shacker on Flickr and would love to follow you if you’re there too.

COVID-19 shopper at Trader Joe’s

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