Why Flickr is a diamond in the rough, and how to make it awesome again

Feb 15, 2020

Ole Henrik Skjelstad

Ole Henrik Skjelstad is a Norwegian math teacher and landscape photographer. He fell in love with photography in 2013 when he got a camera as a birthday present. You can follow his work on 500px, IG, and Flickr, and get his tutorials here.

Why Flickr is a diamond in the rough, and how to make it awesome again

Feb 15, 2020

Ole Henrik Skjelstad

Ole Henrik Skjelstad is a Norwegian math teacher and landscape photographer. He fell in love with photography in 2013 when he got a camera as a birthday present. You can follow his work on 500px, IG, and Flickr, and get his tutorials here.

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How does this photo relate to Flickr? Read all the way though…

It was back in 2014 that I set up an account on Flickr. I posted a few images and forgot about the platform. Two years later I returned with a sensation of that this time it would be for good. Flickr is cozy —  it feels like a small town where everyone knows each other. I would love to see that small town grow into a bustling city. Why? Because I have grown fond of the platform, and because I believe it has a ton of potential.

What is already great about Flickr and what can be improved? I have a few thoughts.

What is positive about Flickr?

Flickr has the best image compressing and sharpening algorithm, and it is a joy to view images on that platform. A dark frame is standard and that certainly benefits the images. In addition, you can enlarge the images and even zoom into them. The latter is a very neat feature.

The Replace function is brilliant. I have lost count of how many times I have uploaded a photo to an image sharing platform only to exasperate in despair. It is as if my mistakes are leering at me. I face two choices; delete the image or let it run its course. It feels like choosing between pest and cholera. With Flickr, this is a different story altogether. Fix the mistakes and replace the original image with the newest version.

I know many photographers love Groups and Discussions on Flickr. I haven’t engaged in any of these, but those arenas are well worth keeping.

Two years ago, I suddenly discovered that it is possible to write Testimonials. That is such a lovely feature! Photographers can pen down a few words of encouragement to a colleague. If you have a bad day just head over to the Testimonials at your personal About page and be edified.

Printing is back, and DIYP has tested the feature.

Flickr works well as a hosting service for images at a reasonable price. You, the photographer, decides whether the images you upload are public or private. The maximum file size for a jpg photo is 200mb. You can store individual videos at a maximum file size of 1gb and 10min in length per clip.

The platform is way more responsive after Flickr moved their hosting to Amazon, and it has less downtime than 500px. To reply to comments, however, is still a little slow at times.

What can be improved:

To me, the “Following feed” is a tad untidy. Why not create two columns? One for the photographers we follow, and one for the groups to which we belong or follow.

The comments section really needs an update. As of now, it is way too cumbersome to reply to comments. The problem is solved if Flickr adds a reply button under each received comment in the fashion of Instagram and 500px.

In Explore has the potential to become a place where photographers and non-photographers gravitate daily for inspiration. When SmugMug acquired Flickr they promised that if you became a Pro-member, your images would be prioritized when it came to In Explore features. The opposite is true for me. After I paid for a Pro subscription I haven’t had a single Explore feature. Flickr says, though, that currently, 60% of the In Explore images are from Pro members.

An algorithm governs In Explore. It either needs a significant overhaul, or it can be trashed. I rarely visit In Explore anymore. The Explore images I see in my feed rarely prompts me to further explore the page.

My suggestion is to either curate In Explore, or showcase the most popular images. Curation is perhaps not feasible because it is very labor-intensive. Showcasing the most popular images has quite a bit of challenge too. There must be a time limit for each image. I believe the biggest issue will be the inrush of bots.

Instagram is a bot nightmare. 500px has had its share of bot-driven accounts. It looks like when fame is within reach honesty and integrity are surprisingly often thrown aboard. It is possible to curb this activity, though. On 500px, for example, you a bot can’t leave the same comment twice.

A feature In Explore equals a huge boost in image views. While a “regular” image averages at around 5,000 views, a featured image may pull off more than 100,000 views. As an added bonus, some of those viewers will follow you. I would also like to mention that Flickr is working on a new iteration of Explore. Hopefully, it will offer a better Explore experience for everyone.

Community is vital for the Flickr team when they envision the future for the platform. The team also sees the importance of engagement, and explains: “Views, comments, faves, shares, and even your photo being added to another member’s Gallery are all quantifiable measures of engagement, and we’re aiming to increase them in aggregate on public photos.

I would also suggest an Editors Choice section where Flickr daily selects a few images. These nudges of recognition are very valuable for many photographers. They usually share the accomplishment on social media. This means increased traffic to Flickr, and it adds prestige to the platform.

Feel free to give the platform a chance if you do not have an account or haven’t been active in a while. You need patience, though. Engagement will be slow in the beginning as with all platforms. You will find as time passes a warm, welcoming and encouraging community. Remember to say yes to all group invitations. That will speed up things for you. I found the standardized group comments a bit annoying in the beginning. I am these days, however, impressed by the commitment these folks have to Flickr.

What would you like to see in Flickr? Are you willing to give it a second chance? Let us know in the comments.

Since we need a photo here, I put the my most viewed image on Flickr to date on the top ;)

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Ole Henrik Skjelstad

Ole Henrik Skjelstad

Ole Henrik Skjelstad is a Norwegian math teacher and landscape photographer. He fell in love with photography in 2013 when he got a camera as a birthday present. You can follow his work on 500px, IG, and Flickr, and get his tutorials here.

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18 responses to “Why Flickr is a diamond in the rough, and how to make it awesome again”

  1. Tj Ó Seamállaigh Avatar
    Tj Ó Seamállaigh

    Some points to consider indeed.
    The thing is, though, I personally feel that it is a hype that has just disappeared like any other hype. Back in 2012 when I created my account there and the few years before, everyone here were talking about it and even some people were asking me “How come you are a photographer and don’t have a Flickr?” – Sometimes after 2012, probably around 2013-2014, the hype moved to 500px and some of these people that I’ve known started to say (after recommending Flickr to me before) “You should move to 500px, some professional photos are posted there far better than what people post on Flickr”. It didn’t make a difference to me, but it was apparent that it’s a hype. People remember one thing one time and then forget about it when something new shows up. With the advance of smartphones, Instagram occupied the scene with an easy to use app (despite the annoying square format). Moreover it became even a base of businesses and an open platform for all kinds of people, photographers or not, which made it even more popular. Now THIS last line, to me, adds advantage to Flickr because I want to see real photos and real photographers and not a bunch of teenagers with a feed full of selfies.
    The points in this article are true indeed and make one drool to go back to Flickr, but one cannot be sure of the future coming ahead for this website, and I’m personally not sure how long I would or can afford paying an annual subscription – there are times for me when every penny counts. Because it should be something like an investment. I’m paying for a subscription, but what I’m getting in return?

    The talk about the groups, well, is another story as well. I loved to participate in some of them but after they’ve changed the old design, surfing through the groups and checking the new posts and messages became kind of a time consuming process and sooner I got detached from all my groups activities, and even checking new posts from users I’ve been following.

    1. Ole Henrik Skjelstad Avatar
      Ole Henrik Skjelstad

      A huge huge thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful, constructive and generous comment! And I can relate to almost everything you have penned down. Again, thanks!

      1. Tj Ó Seamállaigh Avatar
        Tj Ó Seamállaigh

        Just a hunch, they might want to consider focusing more on the smartphone industry and systems.

  2. Nick Avatar

    I have been a Flickr user since 2009 and it has really gotten more expensive (prices go up next renewal) i have never had any of 2000+images in explore. (I guess my images don’t have enough lego in them.). Most groups are now dead. (No administrators or moderators are active) a lot of my followers are no longer on Flickr, my images average around 200 likes 50 comments and 2 – 3,000 views some go as high as 20,000 but that is rare. I only publish my best work and never more than one image a day. It takes a lot of work. I really love the platform but i find the operators of flickr couldn’t care less about my images they just want the money now. I struggle to find other engaged users who honestly comment and encourage others as they used to. I would gladly pay more if they served the real photography community but it seems as though they aren’t willing to improve anything At this point. Here is hoping! Great article though and very thought provoking. I onlh hope someone from smugmug reads and acts upon your suggestions.

    1. Ole Henrik Skjelstad Avatar
      Ole Henrik Skjelstad

      Thanks so very much! I believe that the Smugmug team has plenty of ideas for Flickr, but it is most likely a question about economy in order to appy these improvements. It costs to run a site like Flickr – probably a lot of money. If I had acquired that site having the finances in a sort of balance would have been first priority. Yeah, a lot of people have migrated to other platforms and rarely visit Flickr. Also sorry to hear that groups are no longer what they used to be. I am on 500px and IG also, and really thoughtful comments are not the rule on either of the two. Again, thanks for posting a very thoughtful comment!

  3. Dunja0712 Avatar

    Great article, Ole.
    I made my account 11 years ago, tried all other platforms, and stuck only with Flickr for regular posting of images.
    Like Nick pointed out, many groups have died and many old members are inactive. I think that Tj made a great point: the hype disappeared.
    Still, I feel that Flickr has a lot of potential, and SmugMug is doing a lot to bring it back on its feet. Maybe old users (like myself) should find new and more active groups, new photographers to follow etc. It takes time though, but it’s not impossible.
    Personally, I don’t have a platform I like better than Flickr, so all I can say is : I sure hope it will jump back. :)

    1. Ole Henrik Skjelstad Avatar
      Ole Henrik Skjelstad

      Thanks a lot, Dunja! It seems to me that there is ‘hard core’ of users who stick to the platform, love the platform and who keep it alive. Kudos to all of them, inlcuding you. I find the community on Flickr very friendly and it is a way more relaxing platform experience compared to for example 500px and IG. In particular those who grew a decent following during the hey days feel the impact of the migration to other platforms.
      No, not impossible. Like you, I hope Smugmug will succeed in its efforts to give Flickr back some of its former glory :)

  4. Ian Browne Avatar
    Ian Browne

    Apparently I joined flickr in 2012 and that was likely after google started killing off their photo sharing site — forgotten the actual name lol — G+ or Google plus ?? .
    At the time I considered G+ a great site ; far better than Flickr and I had something a 1000 followers without asking them to follow me . That never happened on Flickr.
    So perhaps Flickr needs to look at whatever the earlier G+ was doing and copy/improve on that . Apart from that I’m not sure what Flickr could do to get me (more) interested in the platform again. Perhaps I could share more or just better photos LOL.

    A bit off topic : I have worked out if someone wants to be an online photography hero they just need to post photos of the pretty (like sunsets), the cute (babies), and the cuddly . More photos the better and photography ability not important. If fact; generally good photography will be overlook by the masses .

    1. Ole Henrik Skjelstad Avatar
      Ole Henrik Skjelstad

      I believe it was G+…don’t quite remember either. Also found that appealing with G+.

      I see that every day – extremely talented photographers are overlooked by the masses. Sad but true.

    2. John B Avatar
      John B

      I did the same… I got more active on Flickr after G+ started to fade.

  5. Sue Thompson Avatar
    Sue Thompson

    I’ve been on Flickr since 2006 and seen a few takeovers. Smugmug has not come to the plate yet. As far as Flickr dying…well it’s not really. I still belong to all the groups I did way back when and some are just as active as they were in the early years. Those who get caught up in Explore can be heartbroken. Explore isn’t now or ever has been about quality of a photo. It’s being at the right place at the right time. It all depends on where you are when the bot is choosing and if you’ve met the bots criteria for that day.
    The price increase is primarily what will kill Flickr. They have not offered enough new changes to justify the cost so far. I predict that the greed of Smugmug will be Flickr’s demise. Let’s hope I am wrong it’s a wonderful place to have a ton of fun in challenges and daily groups.

    1. Ole Henrik Skjelstad Avatar
      Ole Henrik Skjelstad

      Yeah, you are right about Explore. It is about being picked at the right place at the right time. Agree, lets hope Flickr will continue to be a good place to post images.

  6. Jurgen Lobert Avatar
    Jurgen Lobert

    Ole, I agree with most of what you say, it lost its luster and the increasing pricing is not justified given the very slow improvements. Flickr has been abandoned for a long time and the updates are too slow and too few to bring back any excitement.

    However, there is a REPLY function on every comment, you just need to hover your mouse over the upper right corner. That is in a browser, not sure about mobile.

    1. Ole Henrik Skjelstad Avatar
      Ole Henrik Skjelstad

      I wish also that SmugMug would increase the speed in terms of improvements. Flickr has a ton of potential.
      I reply to comments on both my laptop and my cell. When there are many comments it would be so convenient if the reply box appeared just below the comment you are replying to. That’s what I meant, but expressed myself a bit clumsy in the article.

  7. FrogLuvR Avatar

    I’m giving up on Flickr this May, when I will go to the free account. But, the good part since SmugMug took over, the help feature has got better, with an actual human responding. Before that, I always hated dealing with the “member help groups”, since they were populated by arrogant jerks. But the big Flickr killer for me has been the doubling of the membership fee to $49.99 year – it’s just not worth it for me. And too bad the functionality is not better. There should be a way to get to your friends Flickr streams. When sign on, I always wonder who are all this people and their photos. And then a friend will ask me if I saw there postings. I always have to look for a comment on one of my photos to go to their Flickr stream. Last of all, I have found the community feeling of people dropping by to comment has gone bye bye. Too many people have left and gone on to other photo sites. But I sure hope SmugMug does work on Flickr, to make it a great photo site to rejoin.

    1. Ole Henrik Skjelstad Avatar
      Ole Henrik Skjelstad

      I hope so also!

  8. Don Smith Avatar
    Don Smith

    I joined Flickr in 2011. Back then I heard about how great the community was on there. I never saw it. I heard about how much commenting was done. I never saw it. I still do not see it. I am paying for it, but I do not see the stuff that was promised back then. I still see it as the best platform for sharing high quality photos, but for the rest it needs a lot of change.

  9. John B Avatar
    John B

    I’m late to this party so I will be brief and to the point… I’ve been on Flickr since February 2008 and I’ve been PRO for a few years now. I’ve had about 11 million views of my photos, and I’ve had a several photos make Explore, more so over the past year or so.

    Groups, for the most part, are dead. I was an admin of 3 group, with membership from a few hundred to almost 30,000 but I finally gave it up… it was almost impossible to get others to participate in any way. Most folks just dump and run. They fail to understand that if everyone does this, NO ONE will ever see your photo in the group. I’ve run some tests on various groups, where I share photos to a group(s) but did not make the photo public, and that way only the group sees it, and not my normal followers. I’ve that sharing to groups has little to no effect on viewership or favs of a photo. Of course, there are exceptions, but I am talk in general terms.

    I’m still very active on Flickr and have no intention of jumping ship… I’ve put too much time and effort into it. There has been a fairly large exodus of people, abandoned accounts and as well as groups admins… but I’ve also see a lot of new blood coming into Flickr, which is encouraging. I’ll give you an example of the size of the exodus… I started cleaning house regarding those that I follow… if they had not uploaded a photo in 6 months, I stopped following them… although this is a work in process, I’ve already eliminated 1000 people. I’m thinking to squeeze that range down to 3 months without an upload. In the end, I want to follow and actively comment and fav photos of folks that follow me and are also active on Flickr. I’m not after huge numbers, I am after building relationships with like-minded folks (ie people that love photography and enjoy talking about it).

    Well I wrote a lot more than I intended… thank you for the article Ole Henrik and I hope Flickr is listening because I have pink and blue spinning balls in my blood!

    Saludos from Chile!
    Find me at https://www.flickr.com/people/jax_chile/