Why I Use Flickr

In a recent post we talked about how the internet helps and hinders my photography.

The pros far outweigh the cons, and this post is the first in a small series about some of the sites and services I use online, and the benefits they’ve bought me as a photographer.

First up, Flickr.

I joined Flickr in 2009 as a place to share my photograph and start to build an archive or body of work. I don’t plan to compare Flickr with any other sites, this is purely about what it does for me, and the reasons I still use it – arguably more than ever – eight years later.

To share my photographs. This is how it started with Flickr. Like most of us, it’s pretty pleasing when someone else likes one of our photographs enough to add it as a favourite, even better if they comment favourably too. In 2009 the biggest online photo community was Flickr, so that’s where I headed to start sharing.

Even though I photograph primarily for myself (and more for the experience than the final images), I still really appreciate comments from others.

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To back up my photographs. I keep a back up of my MacBook’s HD on an external drive, but also wanted the security of some kind of online archive, in case I lost everything at home.

So I see Flickr as an easy and organised way to have that. Which brings us to…

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To organise my photographs. Though I’m a really organised person generally, and my files on my computer are neatly named by date, camera, lens and film, it’s not easy to find all the photographs made with a single lens or film, or all the pictures I’ve taken of horses, or doors, for example.

By using the tags in Flickr, it becomes really easy to do this. Plus by using albums (I have albums for cameras, lenses and film) again I can see all these photographs conveniently collected together.

Though interestingly now I’m really drifting away from the need to know the exact kit I used to take photographs and just appreciating the images on their own merits. A sure sign of maturity?

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To edit my photographs. Once I have taken a batch of photographs, I flip through them in LightRoom, then process (where required) and export the best. I then sweep through again once or twice and delete any I don’t think make the grade. I then upload the best of these to Flickr (usually a 50% resized version), then finally go back and delete any of the originals that did make it to Flickr.

So then from each batch, I have a set of 50% version on Flickr as a back up, and the originals of the same photos still on my HD.

This system works well, doesn’t take too long, and on the whole means my HD doesn’t get filled up with hundreds of mediocre shots I’m never going to look at again. Efficient plus frugal, a double win in my eyes!

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To easily post photographs on 35hunter. I happily admit to using the free version of WordPress for 35hunter. With it you get a certain amount of media storage. Occasionally I need to use this when I want to share a photo of a camera or lens maybe that isn’t on Flickr.

But 99% of the time I go to Flickr, find a photograph I want to share, then use the “Add via URL” option. The auto resizing in Flickr is super handy too, meaning I don’t have to do this myself in an external app, picture by picture.

Using Flickr like this means the image displays full width in 35hunter, without being saved here and affecting my very limited storage. I’ve read of people maxing out their free WordPress storage but not wanting to move to a paid plan, then having the prospect of abandoning their blog (and its unique name and audience) because they can’t add any more images. This is a big plus, and for me would be reason enough on its own to continue using Flickr.

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To improve my photographs. From early on I started curating a collection of my favourites by other photographers on Flickr. My end goal with this is partly to have a growing set of beautiful pictures to look at, but also to have an aim for my own photostream.

One day, I would like to look at my stream, then my favourites stream, and feel the quality of both sets is the same. Yes I know I said the other day that comparing ourselves with others leads to disappointment, but I do like something to aspire to…

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To be inspired by other photographers. I don’t follow many people on Flickr and most of the ones I do follow are because I talk with them regularly rather than swoon over every image they produce.

The people whose work I’m inspired most by I usually find by accident, doing random searches like “SuperTakumar” or “Spotmatic Portrait” or “RicohGRD Mono“. Then add the images I really like to my favourites.

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To talk with other photographers. As I said above, I’ve met a handful of people on Flickr who I’ve had regular discussions with for some years. Usually they’re far more experienced in photography and far more knowledgable about cameras, so it helps me learn.

Eight years on, a large proportion of what I know about photography overall, I learned from my Flickr buddies.

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To research the cameras, lenses and film other photographers use. In the way that I fairly extensively tag my photographs and sort them into albums, many others do too. So in the past when I’ve been looking at a new camera or lens, I’ve headed to Flickr, for two reasons.

First, to see if anyone else has posted pictures of the camera or lens itself with some kind of review or thoughts. Second to see the images people have made with that particular camera or lens. If I don’t find anything I like, I usually pass on the camera/lens. If I find at least a handful of inspiring photos made by one lens or camera, I’m highly likely to seek it out myself.

Also, some of the groups on Flickr have a vast wealth of information on particular cameras, lenses, film, shooting techniques and pretty much everything else you can think of in photography. A huge resource for anyone keen to learn.

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To learn new techniques and gain new ideas. This was especially true in my earlier film days, when I was keen to learn some of the unique ways film can be used. Making redscale film, cross processing, multiple exposures and film soups were a few of the approaches I discovered and was wowed by.

As with researching cameras and lenses, this works in two ways, finding instruction on how to do it, plus samples of what can be achieved when you do.

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As you can see, Flickr has been absolutely vital to my photography journey in so many ways.

Aside from costing me money when I find yet another camera or lens I must try for myself, it’s been full of positives, and I likely would not have made a fraction of the photographs I have if it wasn’t for all the benefits and encouragement it’s given me.

How and why do you use Flickr, or indeed any alternatives? Please let us know in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

29 thoughts on “Why I Use Flickr”

      1. i dont remember exactly but they changed their interface and commenting and browsing became less nice than it was before. i dont use any online storage for the big files, only removable HD (a few) and all web size images i keep on Google Drive. not something special but fit my needs. as usual i backup my Lightroom by exporting catalogs to the external HD. great part of this – i have backups of my catalogs in specific folders with all the RAW files inside plus settings and smart previous. so i can open the catalog directly from external media with just double click and everything work as is.

      2. Victor that sounds pretty smooth how you have LightRoom set up. I have thought about using it to add tags/keywords etc, but I have only really used it pretty recently, and don’t have any desire to go back through all my old photos tagging them.

        I think a big factor in why I use Flickr is because I’ve used it for years and have a fairly large body of photos there. Changing to anything else now would involve such a large task I really wouldn’t have the time or interest!

  1. I joined Flickr in 2006 on a lark, with no idea why it would be useful to me. And then I started my blog in 2007, and could see that I’d fairly quickly fill WordPress’s granted storage. So I started uploading to Flickr anything I’d want to show on my blog. And then I started getting views and likes on Flickr itself, and so I started uploading more to it. So while Flickr remains primarily a blog image repository, I do derive pleasure from it on its own.

    1. Jim as I mentioned in the post, I think this reason alone makes Flickr worth using, as an organised image repository. You got wise to it much earlier than me, so all credit to you for being so organised for the last decade!

  2. I joined back in the early 2000s purely for the purpose of sharing and I haven’t really developed any strategy for how I should use it beyond that though I often ponder whether I should change my approach. I am regularly surprised by your approach and appreciate the organised attitude you have and how sensible you are to all things photography ;sir you are an inspiration.
    With you and Jim both being clever about using Flickr to save WordPress storage I will have to rethink my own process.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, I’m happy to inspire!

      What you say about Flickr I feel about Instagram currently – “I haven’t really developed any strategy for how I should use it” and “I often ponder whether I should change my approach”… Which will be the subject of my next post in this series!

      I think my organised approach to photography, and indeed to life in general, is borne from laziness. I just think if we’re organised from the outset, it saves so much time and repetition in the long run. I have had two sides to my personality for a long time – the logical, scientific, mathematical, organised side, then the romantic, poetic, emotional, obsessive side. Sometimes they seem to work in perfect harmony, but often they clash violently… I digress…

      1. So today I published my first post using a link to my FlickR rather than uploading an image into WordPress’ Media storage; hopefully no-one notices any major differences

  3. First I have to say that I have never been able to cull my photos as ruthlessly as you do! I’m a hoarder, and even if it means I have to scan EVERY negative from a roll (unless it’s really abysmally bad) I just do it.

    Sometimes I wish I could do it like you. I just went about rearranging my. Photos an my Mac. Off Lightroom and into Apple Photos, and I have over 15000 of them… most are crap. But I can’t get myself to kill them.

    Perhaps loading everything off to Flickr and keeping just the best on my computer…. hmm an idea perhaps?

    1. Frank I have no issue with deleting anything mediocre or worse. Even if I had a hard drive the size of a house I’d be the same. I just cannot see any value in keeping something you’re never going to use or look at again. This is a strong principle in my life overall, and so naturally filters into photography.

      Having said that, I have a couple of boxes of negatives in storage which I rarely use, and have often thought about chucking. But I haven’t yet.

      Digital files are much easier to be ruthless with though. My Flickr has over 4000 images, and I would take a guess that for every 100 photos I’ve shot, maybe 10 at most get through to Flickr. Which means I’ve probably deleted about 39000!

      And what I do have on Flickr I could probably delete 75% of now.

      I’m curious whether you’re a “hoarder” just with photographs, or other stuff too?

      1. You got me there! Hoarding software, old versions, playing with emulators to try to get Windows 3.1 running.

        And yes, I solved one thing… no more hoarding of cameras. But that was not free will. Budgetary cuts had to be made.

        I get very quickly attached to some things and find it hard to get rid of them.

        Sitting on my hated couch with plastered foot I went through my photos those last days. Most should go! I can see it but it will be hard to do. Anyways I won’t go ahead without saving them somewhere.

        Guess I’ll need a psy…

        1. I think you need to seek professional help for wanting to get any version of Windows running… : ) I’ve had Macs for around 20 years, but alas still have the delights of Bill Gates’ “software” in my day job.

          I’m curious about whether you make many prints? When you say you went through your photos, did you mean physical prints or digital files?

          1. Digital only, though I printed a lot the last days. Worked on photos I shot with my before-film gear, a Canon EOS400D. Those really don’t look bad at all. 10 megapixels is plenty! Need some work though.

            And yes, since I switched to Macs only in 2006 I never had a real problem. Never had the urge to upgrade all the time like my PCs. Those Macs work forever…. though a new one will have to be bought in the foreseeable future. That’s why I tried Windows 10 in an emulator and I was pleasantly surprised. Looks like a real OS now… mostly. But I’m too deep in the Apple framework to change.

            Too bad Apple seems to try to make more and more money… those new Macbooks are certainly not bad but the price!!!!!

            And sure, to want Windows is a sure sign of mental decay.

      2. Frank, yes as you probably recall I’ve been shooting a fair bit with a 10MP Pentax DSLR this year, and the 10MP has not negatively limited the photographs in any way whatsoever.

        I’m with you on Macs, my MacBook is a 2008 model, though an upgrade is on the horizon also.

        Two other interesting things you said –

        1. “Money going down the drain” – surely if it’s money invested in a venture you love, it’s not wasted?

        2. Number of frames a day/month. I need to think about this and how my shooting rate has changed with digital. I probably create more keepers with digital, but then I do shoot more overall. Not hundreds and hundreds each shoot, but certainly more than I did with film.

    2. I’m in the same place as you Frank, I keep all my negs and all my Raw files (except for the totally useless)

      1. Only good thing is that with film every time I press the shutter, I hear money going down the drain. Helps being very distinctive with my shots.

        I’m at an average of around 4 rolls a month, 144 frames a month. That’s what the average digital snapper has per day I guess.

  4. Interesting insight into your work flow and back up regimes. I have a Flickr account but never use I. I am far less organised, thousands of photos I’ll never look at. I do have double redundancy on hard drives. But I like the sound of how you use Flickr, and a handy tip should I ever do my own blog.

    1. Toby, I thought you had started your own blog?

      It definitely pays I think to have a plan for image storage and usage when you start a blog. And for me, Flickr makes most sense and is very accessible. Why did you open a Flickr account originally?

      I am aware I’m very reliant on it, but then I also am on WordPress from my blog, or Google for my email and so on. We can’t do these things without these platforms.

      1. Hi Dan, sorry it’s taken me a while to reply. I was am thinking about it. But at the moment I have other priorities in life pulling me away from actually taking photos. Plus I wanted to think on the subject a little while longer. I have really valued your insights into your post processing and particularly about writing. I don’t want to end up with another data filled blog with no soul. (You know the type). It’s something I will probably do in the future but for now life needs to be a little more settled. I have particularly found your recent articles regarding eliminating post processing very interesting. I feel there is a lot of RAW snobbery out there, and that most of the time if it’s just for ones own pleasure (not commercial) then jpg is fine. Then it becomes a question of setting up ones camera to produce what is pleasing straight out of camera. Shoot a Sony and like I think you found, I find the colour a little flat? Playing with the settings I have managed to eradicate that from my Pentax lenses. I now have a kind of profile when shooting them, the greatest help came from white balance adjustment. My only wish is that I could tweak each colour channel in camera as reds seem to blow out sometimes.
        Anyway keep up the writing, love the new minimalist lay out.
        Oh and Happy New Year.
        Toby

      2. Toby, happy new year to you too!

        I think that two biggest reasons photo blogs don’t work or aren’t as “successful” as the author hopes, are that the posts aren’t regular, and the posts don’t have anything different to say, like you describe, the all data and no soul types.

        Hopefully I try to avoid both of these with 35hunter!

        Yeh I agree about the RAW snobbery. I was quite happy with JPEGs for years, then a photographer friend explained how they compress the data, and how there’s no such thing as a true “straight out of camera” image with JPEG, as the camera’s JPEG engine always makes some kind of decisions and adjustments.

        For a while this put me off JPEGs and I went RAW. But in time I didn’t like the extra processing. If I can get a photo almost (or entirely) how I want it straight out of the camera, with no post processing, I’m delighted. With RAW you have to make some kind export anyway, as I understand it, before you can have a print made, upload online and so on. So why not skip that step, if you can results you like with JPEG? Which is what I’m doing now. Plus the smaller files mean quicker write and upload times.

        With my Sony NEX I always shot RAW. Sometimes I did a simple export to JPEG in LightRoom, sometimes a more radical preset was applied. I liked some, but looking back yes a lot seem sort of flat and dull. Especially compared with the images the Pentax CCD cameras (ironically, these are Sony sensors!) and Pentax lenses (M42 and PK mount) give, with next to no processing.

        I never touched the JPEG settings on the NEX, but if I had it still I might experiment now, to see if I could get closer to more pleasing colours than I was getting before. It wouldn’t have changed the other things I ultimately didn’t like about it – no VF and it never feeling like a camera but a device stuck on the back of a lens.

        Oh thanks re the layout, I did switch themes for something even simpler. I’ve noticed in lots of areas I’m drawn back to minimalism, which I really got into maybe seven or eight years ago. I never went crazy with anything in the meantime (aside from cameras!) but I just need to get back to keeping things stripped down, simple, and meaningful. Which is why online now I’m really only on blogs (my own and a few others) and Flickr. I’ve withdrawn from everything else. I feel very energised and focused about 35hunter.

        Always good to have your input, thanks Toby.

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