I’ve recently decided to move on from Flickr, and this decision, as some of you may already have guessed, was prompted by their recent announcement regarding the 1,000 photo limit for free accounts. In fact, I’ve already started culling my uploads there to meet this limit before the January 8, 2019 deadline. Many photographers have long moved on from it (including most, if not all the Phoblographer Staff) so I’m sure it’s mostly surprising why it has taken me so long to come to this decision. But I liked being on the platform for a handful of reasons, albeit nostalgic at best given all the choices we have today. So yes, these are also the things I think I’ll miss.
But first, in case you missed it, here’s this year’s Flickr’s announcement regarding the recent changes for free accounts. If you’re signing up for the first time, the 1,000 photo limit may be a good number for you to get a feel of the platform, check out the features, join groups to get inspiration and promote your work, and even consider linking some of your albums if your portfolio site also has a photo upload limit. But if you’ve been a long-time member and have thousands of photos uploaded there, there’s no other way for you to keep uploading unless you sign up for a pro account, which allows unlimited photos.
To be fair, this isn’t the only change announced since Flickr was acquired by SmugMug earlier this year. For example, they are finally getting rid of the antiquated Yahoo sign-in, and gave the Galleries a fresh look. Still, the most recent change could bear the biggest impact for existing users.
The Free 1 TB Storage
To be honest this was the main, if not the only draw of Flickr for me in the recent years. The thought that I could upload with confidence on my account kept me on the platform, even if there were more relevant and updated sites, apps, and groups already available. It encouraged me to keep most of my work there both as back-up and for sharing on Flickr groups without being conscious of upload limits.
Flickr argued that this perk for free accounts was actually counter-intuitive; that it only “largely attracted members who were drawn by the free storage, not by engagement with other lovers of photography.” They also claimed that some users didn’t like the shift because it diverted users’ attention away from community interaction and exploration of shared interests. While all of these could be true to some degree, I think it’s more that photographers started moving on from it and shifting to newer ones.
Sure, I could simply just get a Flickr Pro account at $49.99 per year to get unlimited uploads along with other features. But if I’m going to shell out extra money, I think it’s a lot better to spend it on my portfolio site.
The Flickr Groups
Long before the rise of Facebook groups and pages, Flickr Groups were my go-to platforms for checking out the photos of other film photographers and occasionally sharing my work. This was important to me especially as a film photographer because it allowed me to join groups that, while varied in scope, were all about film photography. Some of these were accounts of magazines and collectives I liked. A good number were dedicated to certain films and cameras. There were even groups that allowed me to check out (and salivate over) special films like the Kodak Aerochrome.
I’ve always thought that the best feature of Flickr groups is its simplicity. It was easy to follow topics because the Discussions are kept separate from Photo pool, but still on a single group page, so you have a choice to browse through photos or join in the discussions.
If I wanted to challenge myself with photography prompts, for example, I just check out the Flickr Friday group, with or without the intention to submit anything. It also felt great to have my submissions accepted in groups whose aesthetics and overall quality of images I really like. But, let’s face it: a lot of these publications and collectives have also moved to Facebook groups, or at least have become more active there. This is most likely why some Flickr groups I joined aren’t very active anymore.
The Photography Community
Back in the days, Flickr was among the platforms where everyone would go for photography advice, to ask for camera info, and connect with their fellow photographers. It was an effective avenue for independent publications and collectives to interact with creatives and scout for new works and talents to feature. Everyone gave helpful tips and valuable information, so it came to house one of the most popular and trusted photography communities. Those were the days when there weren’t a lot of trolls in the threads, discussions were cordial, people didn’t do and post stuff “for the ‘gram”, friendships were often forged, and most members shared only their best work. It was a simple but truly inspiring creative community; maybe it still is to some degree.
Today, there’s a myriad of websites that boast of their own photography communities being the best, the most engaging, the most interactive, and so on. Flickr simply wants to reclaim their spot as the home of a vibrant community that fosters interaction. Looks like we’ll have to see.
Will I ever go back to Flickr someday? Maybe. Will I still log in and check things out once in a while? I don’t see why I won’t. Do I share the insights of our EIC Chris Gampat on the platform? Absolutely. As he mentioned in this post, it is, after all, still a community just for photographers. The trolls have left the platform alone and populated the more trendy Instagram, so photographers have less distractions to deal with and get to see a lot of more solid work. I won’t deny that I got a lot of traction for my work on Flickr, so it was good while it lasted. But unless something really new and groundbreaking comes up from the platform (and I get the time to further cull and replace what I have there at the moment), those 1,000 photos are all I will leave my free account with.