Harnessing the Power of Flickr

Column Series Intro | Using Email to Find an Audience | Harnessing the Power of Flickr | Using Twitter to Find an Audience for Your Photos

Intro Image: Within hours after posting this image of Death Valley Star Trails on Flickr, I noticed that it had been viewed by more than one thousand people.

If I conducted a survey of what people thought was the most important social media site for photographers, I bet most people would say Facebook, or maybe Twitter. But not so fast. Flickr is far and away the most important social media site for photographers—partly because it is a community aimed squarely at photographers.

Flickr is many things to many people, and I’ll help sort that out in a minute. Backing up for a moment, in Finding an Audience for Your Photos I explained that the changes brought by the Internet era have altered the way photographers need to approach marketing their work. In the era of social marketing “Build it and they will come” makes a certain amount of sense: if a sizable audience is interested in your photography, then you can find a way to monetize that interest.

Using Flickr is an indispensable part of finding an audience; as photographer G. Dan Mitchell notes, “almost any photographer should have a presence there.” Landscape photographer Jeff Clow adds, “If you would have told me five years ago that I would have a large portfolio represented by Getty, I would have laughed out loud. But it has happened through the magic that I call Flickr magic.”

Once you accept the notion that you need a Flickr presence, then you begin to get into issues like how to craft that presence to make the best impression, how to become a true part of the Flickr community, how to measure success on Flickr, and how to translate a Flickr audience into success beyond the confines of the Flickr world. This article will address these concerns, but first things first. To begin with, I’ll explain what Flickr is—and is not. Next, I’ll cover some important points about finding an audience for one’s photos on Flickr. Finally, I’ll show you how to take success on Flickr and parlay it into robust returns in the “real” world.

Understanding Flickr

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past several years, you probably know that Flickr is a huge repository for photographic imagery. At this point, there are more than 35 million members worldwide contributing images—which probably makes Flickr the largest image library in the world today, or that has ever been in all of history. You may love Flickr, or you may hate it (as some people do), but it is a fact of life for anyone involved seriously with photos.

Of course, there are very few restrictions on what can be uploaded to Flickr, which means that the kind of content you can find on Flickr—and its quality—vary widely, and can range from personal snapshots to the work of serious photographers.

An important point is that even restricted to work of people who take photography seriously, the consensus of the Flickr community is not always a good gauge of quality. In some ways, Flickr is like the “hive mind” of photography—and the horde will acknowledge easy shots, but might not understand imagery that requires work.

Membership in Flickr is nominally free, but most photographers who seriously use Flickr will want to buy a professional membership, which costs roughly $25 a year.

Gratis versus libre

Flickr is not is a source of public domain images. Many people seem not to understand this. True, some of the images posted to Flickr can be used under a form of the Creative Commons license which allows non-commercial use with attribution. But most serious photographers who post to Flickr retain full copyright to their imagery—and this is what I recommend. A full discussion of image appropriation, prevention of unlicensed uses, consequences, and how to deal with this issue belongs in a future column—and is not something restricted to Flickr.

Flickr and Photo Buyers

If someone—such as an art director or other image buyer—is looking for an image of something specific, for example, a “Cherry Blossom,” one of the first places they’ll look is Flickr. Even if the image buyer doesn’t start by searching Flickr, a search using Google Images will often lead to Flickr—if the image has been properly “staged” to get this kind of attention, as I’ll explain later in this article. Figure 2 shows one of my images that gets a fair amount of traffic on Flickr, in large part due to click-throughs from Google Images.

Figure 2: With well over 100,000 views, “Cherry Blossom Special,” a photo of a wet cherry blossom, gets a great deal of attention on Flickr.

While I’m on the topic of art directors, let me mention that I’ve found two very divergent attitudes among professional photo buyers regarding Flickr. More and more art directors have come to regard Flickr as just another source for finding images—but there is still some prejudice against Flickr in some quarters on grounds of professionalism. It is true that you really can’t tell from an image posted on Flickr whether the photo has been properly released, or whether a high resolution version is available.

Flickr as Portfolio

One important use that you can make of Flickr is as a part of your portfolio, or even as your entire portfolio. For example, Jeff Clow notes that “My Flickr page at the site flickr.com/photos/jeffclow/ has always been my number one tool for my images being found by others.” In my own experience, I regard my blog as my primary vehicle for communication with others—supported by emails, Facebook, and Twitter. However, it is very clear that some of my most important clients have found me through my Flickr page, flickr.com/photos/harold_davis/. In point of fact, my blog and Flickr presence are highly intertwined because I add a link to my photos on Flickr when I write a blog story about them, and most of the photos on my blog are hosted by Flickr—so clicking through these photos leads a visitor from my blog to my Flickr presence.

It’s therefore important to choose a Flickr URL that makes sense and is easy to connect to your work—a variant of your name is a good idea.


One important feature on Flickr is that you can comment on photos—and other Flickr users can comment on your photos. As Jeff Clow tells it, “When I first joined Flickr six years ago, I was strictly a snapper of family photos. I had read about this new site where you could backup your photos in case you had a hard drive failure and I signed up on the spot. I didn’t even know the site had a commenting functionality until some kind soul commented on one of my photos. When I realized that others could view—and comment—on my work, I decided to become a better photographer and got my first DSLR a few months later.”

My colleague and co-teacher at Star Circle Academy, night photographer Steven Christenson notes that he gets “great feedback on my work on Flickr, often well beyond the ‘nice photo’ pleasantries.” Critiques and learning are a great reason for participating on Flickr—in addition, commenting on an image gives someone viewing your work some degree of a stake in your image, and comments and popularity beget more comments and popularity (the image shown in Figure 3 is a good example of this positive feedback loop in action).

Figure 3: Hundreds of people have taken the time to comment on “Between the Earth and Sky” on Flickr.

Steven Christenson adds that a vibrant community is one of the most important aspects of Flickr: “I get—and try to give back to the Flickr community—tips, techniques and sometimes eye popping inspiration from great photographers. What I try to give back are photos and illustrations of the things I have learned—many self-discovered which is a shorthand way of saying I learned things the hard way.” Steven particularly likes the fact that Flickr, unlike several other photo sharing venues, allows him to couple his images with tags, stories and links to articles from others or his own blog.

G. Dan Mitchell agrees. He advises, “Think of Flickr as a part of your online world, not as the whole thing nor as an isolated thing.”

The Power of Community

Don’t underestimate the power of community as manifested by Flickr. As Jeff Clow puts it, "Flickr has always been a community of strangers who became friends to me. When you know that hundreds—and sometimes thousands—of people will see a photo of yours online, you want to be sure it looks good since it is a reflection of you for that great big world out there. And Flickr gives a photographer almost instant feedback – usually within an hour or two of posting something there, I can tell if a photo is a big hit, a small hit, or a dud.

“The other side of the coin that is Flickr is the fact that I’ve viewed thousands of photos by other photographers—many of them truly world-class images. And having viewed so many, I do believe I’ve developed a better eye for what works and what doesn’t work visually, and I’m really grateful for the lessons I’ve learned by seeing so much good photo work online.”

I can add to this that through my involvement in Flickr I’ve become friends with photographers from around the globe—and my work has been exposed to many people who would otherwise never have seen it.

If you don’t participate in the community aspects of Flickr, you can’t expect as much interest in your own work. I’ll leave the last word on this topic to Jeff Clow, who notes that “Flickr requires effort – in taking decent photos and in getting them noticed by others. Both parts can be time consuming, but if you really want to get noticed on Flickr, you have to take good photos and couple them with being an active part of the community. I’m always asked how I ended up having so many people follow my work and my response is that I view and comment on other people’s photostreams regularly: I comment a lot and I participate a lot in group discussions. I had someone tell me one time that they didn’t have time to do that, and I told them that there was no other way to get lots of people to see their work if they weren’t willing to invest the time. That’s the harsh reality.”

Managing your Photostream

The user experience on Flickr can seem confusing—let’s face it, in part it is downright clunky—but there are some aspects of this software you need to understand in order to make the best use of it. This section explains some key Flickr concepts—and how you can get the most mileage out of them.

Your Flickr photostream consists of the photos you’ve added to Flickr, with the most recently uploaded photo presented first—in other words, ordered just like a blog.

Expect your most recent uploads to get the lion’s share of the attention garnered by your photostream—after all, Flickr is part of the attention-deficit generation, and things come and go very quickly with rare exceptions. The moral: you need to plan to consistently upload a sequence of interesting, high-quality images.

G Dan Mitchell has some simple advice that you can follow to help your photostream be well received:

  • Don’t post too much at once. One photo a day is about right. If you overpost—and I’ve certainly been guilty of this—many of your photos won’t receive their fair share of attention.
  • Post regularly. If you stay away too long you can lose any attention that you might have gotten on Flickr.
  • Share the backstory and context of the photos.
  • Steer clear of controversies—there is little to be gained by getting involved.
  • Be part of the Flickr community by responding to comments, starting and/or participating in some interest-based groups, and by “favoriting” and commenting on the work of others.

Steven Christenson adds, “Absolutely the best thing to do is to have a good title, a short description (or more) and a few quality groups to put your photos in.” I’ll get to the notion of the Flickr group in a moment—for now, you would be well advised to do as Steven suggests and essentially treat your photostream as if it were a blog. In other words, provide a context and a story for your photos.


In Flickr, Sets are used to organize your photos into cohesive units of subject matter. For example, I have a Waterdrops set for my photos of, you guessed it, waterdrops; and a Night set for my nocturnal photography. Collections are made up of sets. For example, both my Waterdrop and Flower sets are part of my Botanical collection.

It’s quite important to organize one’s images into sets so that your photostream seems cohesive. In addition, attractive and well-designed Flickr sets enable visitors to reverse navigate from your most recent images back to ones that you uploaded in the past by clicking through the links belonging to the Flickr set (when a photo is a member of a set, links to the entire set appear on the image’s page).

Figure 4 shows a portion of the Flickr home page for my photostream with the image I’ve uploaded most recently, Figure 5 shows some of my Flickr sets, and Figure 6 shows an interface that you can use to organize Flickr sets and collections.

Figure 4: You can access the sets (shown to the right of the lead image on my Photostream).

Figure 5: It is important to organize your photos into coherent Flickr sets.

Figure 6: Flickr provides a number of tools for organizing your sets and collections.


You can add tags to each of your Flickr photos, and it is important to do so. Tags are a succinct way to identify the contents of your photos. They make it easier for someone to find your photo as the result of a search on Flickr—and make it more likely that external search tools such as Google Images will pick up your image and rank it well.

Tagging photos for inclusion in any library—not just Flickr—is an art and craft that requires some thought. You should include variants of common words, for example, both plant and plants. If there are common and technical terms to describe something, include both. For example, Jade Tree and its botanical designation, Crassula argentea.

Flickr provides a mechanism for adding tags one by one, as well as a batch tagging interface. You can also add tags to images as you upload them using the Flickr Uploader software. But I find the most efficient approach is to add keywords to your photo’s metadata using the tools provided in Lightroom or Photoshop. These keywords are then imported as tags into Flickr.


Flickr groups show the combined work of many photographers who share a common interest. Adding your photos to groups is a good way to get it seen—and in fact essential if you are just getting started on Flickr.

Before adding a photo to a group, you need to join the group. You can search through groups to find ones that interest you, then read the group page that spells out the rules of the group, and make sure you can abide by them before joining. For example, Figure 7 shows the group page for the Star Trails group.

Figure 7: The group page for the Star Trails group.

Some groups allow you to post as many photos as you want; others have limitations about how many you can add. In many cases, a group moderator must approve your photo before it is added to the group pool.

It’s important to actively participate in groups, and to add photos appropriately. In other words, don’t be a so-called Flickr “group slut” who adds photos promiscuously to a wide variety of groups whether they make sense or not. This kind of reputation gets around, and I’m always less interested in an image I see on Flickr where it has been added to hundreds of groups. In other words, there is a balance: add to groups, by all means participate in groups, but don’t go overboard.

It’s also considered poor form to get added recognition for your older images by deleting them from a group and then adding them back in. Finally, groups that require commenting and “favoriting” other people’s photos as a condition of adding your work are less valuable than more straightforward groups. As Steven Christenson puts it, “While you can get a lot of attention from the ‘Comment 3, Invite 1’ groups, my experience is that those groups are nothing more than ego massagers.”

Interestingness and Explore

Explore is the front page of Flickr, and as such, an image that makes it into Explore gets a great deal of attention and page views. Flickr Explore can be viewed in a number of ways, and being included in Explore is not static—Explore, and the ranking within it change over time.

Figure 8: Images that make it into Flickr Explore get a great deal of extra attention.

To calculate which images make it into Explore, Flickr uses a secret formula that is called interestingness. As with Google’s PageRank algorithm, which determines the relative importance of web pages in the Google search index, the interestingness algorithm is not published, and can sometimes produce odd results. You can get a bit of a handle on interestingness and how it relates to your work by clicking You > Popular in Flickr and checking out which of your photos are supposedly the most interesting (Figure 9 shows my most interesting image of all time, according to the Flickr algorithm).

Figure 9: “Wind” is my most “interesting” image—according to Flickr’s interestingness formula.

The take-away regarding interestingness and Explore should be that popularity matters. Audience begets more audience, and there’s no doubt that interestingness—which leads to exposure in Explore and even more interestingness—increases when an image is viewed, favorited, or commented on. Smart Flickr strategy involves increasing the likelihood of these events occurring to images in your photostream.

Using Flickr Beyond Flickr

Putting together a Flickr presence like the one I’ve described obviously takes a great deal of work. What’s the payoff?

I’ve already noted that some of my best assignments and most lucrative photo licensing deals have come from art directors who found me through Flickr. Jeff Clow notes that many of his images are at the top of popular keyword searches on Flickr—because he was diligent and intelligent about tagging his photos. These searches garner him many requests that often end up resulting in a sale.

It’s worth repeating that highly-ranked Flickr images show up outside Flickr in a variety of search results—and these can lead to assignments and licensing deals with very little effort on your part.

Jeff says that “The magic that is Flickr continues to amaze me week after week, year after year. A couple of years ago out of the blue I got an email from a lady who was in charge of securing a photo portfolio on the trees of Texas for a permanent museum exhibit in downtown Dallas. She had done a search for Texas trees and found some of my photo work on Flickr. Next thing I know, she hired me to do a photo assignment on trees and several of those shots now grace the walls of the museum. All because of Flickr and the incredible reach of the Internet.”

One other aspect of Flickr is its relationship with Getty Images, a company that is a photo representative, also called a stock agency. Getty editors look for photographers and invite them to participate in representation; there are also mechanisms for showing your work to the Getty editors without receiving a specific invitation. I’ll leave for a future column the question of whether this kind of agency relationship makes sense, and whether one should work with stock agents in order to find an audience—but it is fair to say that a number of photographers approached by Getty through Flickr are very happy to be represented by Getty.


When photographers get together, sometimes there’s complaining about the impact of the Internet and digital photography. People thinking they can shoot their own weddings and amateurs selling their work for microstock prices are two of the most common plaints.

Well, the digital era taketh, and the digital era giveth. One of the most fabulous ways that it gives is with easy access to inclusion in an image repository like Flickr.

Cream rises to the top. It helps if you work the system, and put a little effort into getting your work noticed. With good work, and a consistent, respectful promotional effort on Flickr, you (and your photos) can find a broad audience from around the world, as well as specific and targeted decision makers who license photos and assign photographers.

In this column I’ve discussed:

  • Understanding how Flickr works
  • Licensing photos on Flickr
  • The relationship of photo buyers to Flickr
  • Using Flickr as a portfolio
  • Making meaningful comments on Flickr
  • The power of the Flickr community
  • Managing and organizing your Flickr photostream
  • Flickr Sets and Flickr groups
  • The importance of tagging your photos
  • Interestingness and Flickr Explore
  • Using Flickr to attract audience and clients


Harold Davis is a photographer and author. His photographs have been widely published, exhibited, and collected. Many of his fine art photography posters are well known. Harold’s images have won a Silver Award in the International Aperture Awards 2008 competition, and inclusion in the 2009 North American Nature Photography Association Expressions Showcase.

Harold is the author of The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Post-Processing (Focal), Creative Composition: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Practical Artistry: Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers (O’Reilly Digital Media) and other books. Harold gives frequent digital photography workshops, many under the auspices of the Point Reyes National Seashore Association.

Text and photos ©2011 Harold Davis.

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    • Very enjoyable article.  Do you recommend a certain image size for posting to Flickr?

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    • @Michael: In terms of image size, Flickr resizes what you give them along standardized lines. In terms of my workflow, I need to have a fairly large JPEG on file anyhow. I make sure the version I send to Flickr is profiled to sRGB. Before I understood to do this, I had all kind of shifting colors in the Flickr version. I upload this fairly large JPEG to Flickr, having set my preferences so that only the standard size is available to viewers (this is about 500X350 @ about 100dpi)---although I don't want larger versions freely available I do oftten provide a public link to the next size larger, namely 1024X680, particularly if a bigger size is necessary to really see an image. Hope this helps, and best wishes in photography, Harold

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    • Thank you for the article, Harold.  I had let my flickr pro account relapse and will now re-up.  I had an interesting incident when someone took a flickr image and used it for a brochure.  I traced it back to them through the union bug on the mailing (of which I received 3 copies) and eventually was paid for the use of the image.  I had thought that the flickr copyright note was going to prevent this from happening, but it can't be counted on.  Do you watermark your images?  Other than that, what can one do?

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    • Hi Harold,

      I am enjoying your series of articles very much.  Thank you!

      Are there any other photo-sharing sites (newer and smaller) other than Flickr that you recommend for getting your work out there?  My hesitation with Flickr is just the sheer volume of photos already on there.  Seems like the chances of your work being even seen, especially if you are new to the site, is pretty remote.

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    • @Jeff: Good point about image theft, it is not possible to completely prevent it no matter what you do, unless an image is watermarked to the point of invisibility. Good job getting paid when your image was stolen. This topic is the subject of a future column.

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    • @Jo: I highly recommend Photo.net itself as a targeted photography site of high quality. For example, the photo-of-the-month photographer gets a great deal of notice.

      That said, even though Flickr is so big, if you really have quality images and are prepared to put the effort into it as described in my article, you can get your photos noticed on Flickr.

      Good luck!

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    • Thanks a stack Harold for this piece.  You have inspired me.  I have a Flickr account now :)  Basic question: how do I create a link to anything?   Thanks and later and love, artie

      Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

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    • @Arthur: You can add a link into the description for an image or into any comment. I generally make a comment on each of my own images, I try to get there first (!) so the first comment is a link to my blog.

      You create the link using standard HTML for a hyperlink (let's see if I can do this here!) for example: Read the <a href="http://www.digitalfieldguide.com/blog">backstory on my blog</a>. The HTML will become a normal webpage link.

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    • Thank you sir.   That helps as I use HTML on my blog. 

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    • Great article!  I immediately updated my flickr site and added more keywords.  flickr claims that 7 million photographs are uploaded everyday!  That is a lot of photographs. 

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    • @Aaron: Yup, that is a great many images. It takes real quality + elbow grease to find an audience amid the throng. However, it is still the case that "cream" (quality) will always rise to the top.

      Best wishes in photography,



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    • An interesting article. Thanks.

      Two areas I wish you can shed some light on:

      - Even with copyrights, are you concerned about the images being used without permission, such as your very large files?

      - Some want to use Flickr, FaceBook etc. as links or entry points to their personal photo sites, where the bulk of their images reside. What is your opinion on such a strategy?

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    • @Robert: As I've noted previously, I will cover the issue of image theft and strategies for dealing with it in a future column.

      One bottom line: no matter what you do, any image you post to the web is vulnerable to unauthorized acquisition. Does this mean you should hide all your images in a closet? I don't think so. As I say, more on this difficult and fascinating topic later.

      For this very reason, I don't make my "original" file size available via Flickr [actually, Flickr slenderizes large files when you upload them, and at their biggest files on Flickr are only JPEGs not capable of true high resolution uses].

      I think the idea of use a Flickr stream as one of the gateways to a blog and/or image repository is a good one (it is what I do), but the same caution regarding image theft applies if you post larger size images on your own site.

      Hope this helps,



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    • Harold, thanks for the response. I look forward to your column on image theft.

      If the strategy of using Flickr as a gateway to a personal site is a good one, then I have another question. Why do so many personal sites have (prominent) links back to Flickr and FaceBook, etc.? When I get a visitor to land on my site, I would try everything to keep him there instead of sending him away.

      I think it is a worthy topic to discuss the pros, cons, intents,  strategies, correspondence and management when a photographer's work is scattered in many different sites.

      There are many good books on Flickr and FaceBook, etc. But none of them address this topic.

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    • @Robert: Another very good question (and observation). As you write, this could probably be the subject of a book, so I cannot expect to fully answer it in a paragraph. But here are a couple of observations.

      Leaving Facebook out of it, one point is that if you embed your image hosted on Flickr on your site, the Flickr TOS requires that the image links back to Flickr.

      I'd advise taking care to place a rel="nofollow" attribute into your link backs, so that at least the Google bot stays on your site rather than wandering off onto the Flickr site. Note that Flickr does the same thing in reverse: if you link to your blog from your Flickr photostream, Flickr will automatically insert rel="nofollow" into the link.

      A less technical and more general answer is that the overarching principle of new media approaches is to give potential customers what they want the way they want it. Don't decide for them. If they prefer to browse my photos on Flickr than on my blog, fine. In my personal life I am not a great fan of Facebook or Twitter, although I've come to appreciate the strengths of each. But my personal opinion doesn't really count---if customers want to find me through these media, then I need to be there for them. The trick is figuring out how to do this without expending tons of extra effort.

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    • I am wondering why shall I make a portofolio on Flickr if I have one on photo.net ? Shall I move the images there? Also, if I want a pro page on Flickr, this would double expenses. I am photo.net member since 1999 and thought that one portofolio is enough. But indeed, I found that in wikipedia photo.net is not listed as image sharing site. Which is the difference between the two? thank you Maria
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    • @Maria: If what you are doing right now works for you, there is no reason to change. As a contributing author to Photo.net, it is my job to point out creative possibilities both in making photos and in finding an audience for them. But only you can decide what is right for you.

      Many photographers do have a presence on both Flicker and Photo.net. At least on Flickr, it is probably better to think of this as a "presence" rather than a "portfolio" because (as I explained in the column) participation in the community is the best way to get your work noticed. In the grand scheme of things, if you find an audience (and are able to get licensing fees for your work) paying the reasonable membership fees of both Photo.net and Flickr Pro doesn't seem like a big issue.

      But, as I said, only you can decide for the unique you that is you.

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    • Hi Harold,

      thank you for the fast response.

      I think that if you want to get licensing fees there are other sites such as photocase.com, but there you need your works to be accepted, you cannot upload what you want. I've put a question regarding this earlier in a forum this year. I also applied for Getty, they recommended a page on flickr, but I prefered to have the most rated page from PN which is dynamic, which led to some problems regarding photos which have 10 or 11 ratings.

      I don't think that people want to pay if they find your photo on the web, in the best case they ask for permission. But I found photos of mine (via google) on websites where only the photographer was named without asking even. As I said, if you have high resolution, not very likely somebody will pay, so better the sites as photocase.com (which, however, didn't accept any photos of mine). However, I think that even a citation is good.

      I basically created the PN page back in 1999 to help my hompage with it, which had limited amount of webspace, and it is what it is useful for now as well, even if the homepage changed to the project website. I don't know why have the photos double.

      For audience facebook works for me best; unfortunately there is an issue with the rights on photos if you upload there, so for facebook I am doing indeed having photos double, but really double, I take two one after the other, one for facebook and one for PN.

      As for the fee I don't find it so low as to want to pay it twice - I could use the double pay to have a pro EMail address as well. Last year my salary was 100 euro a month, this year it is more only the first 6 months in the year; in December even the last project grant I had finished and since then I am only receiving rejections on grant applications.

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    • @Maria: As I said, different things work for different people. But for most art directors, Flickr is just another (low resolution) image catalog, and they will contact you, and pay licensing fees, if they want to use your image (this is in addition to the possible Getty connection). In addition, no reputable image buyer will use a copyrighted image without a license, and if they do so by mistake one can (and should) get redress.

      These are complex issues, many of them will be addressed in a subsequent column. Thanks, Harold

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    • One word, SmugMug. 

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    • @Janice: I like what I've seen of the Smugmug gallery features, and believe that these are easier to manage and more flexible than comparable features in Flickr. However, I don't think the community mechanisms for getting one's work seen exist in Smugmug (these are the gist of my article, which is about finding an audience).

      I'd welcome any specific information to the contrary, such as images that have been professionally licensed via Smugmug.

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    • I was getting quite frustrated that my image library was not coming up in google image searches. Following this article,  I now post tagged/titled/descripted images to flickr with a link back to my library, and have also applied some other SEO tips to my site, resulting in my images normally appearing on page one of searches in the field I work in :)


      Big thanks to you Harold for sharing this knowledge.

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    • @Rob I'm glad my article was useful, thanks for letting me know!

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    • Great article, Harold!  I have a few "nut and bolts" questions.  I'm a  rookie at marketing my photos.  Just getting started.  I just put together a web site and I also just signed up for posting my photos here on photo.net.  I've been a pro flickr member for several years, but I've always used it as "on-line storage".  Just a whole lot of sets named for month/year.  I want to market my nature/macro photos, but I also upload tons of snaps of family..vacation shots etc. to flickr.  You stress that what people will see most is my photostream.  Should I get rid of all the family related stuff?  If I don't, won't they have to sift through the photostream for nature/macro shots? Do I need a seperate flickr account for just my nature/macro photos?  Any suggestions for how to link flickr, my website and photo.net?

      Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!




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    • @Dave---It is probably best to separate family photos from professional work by using two separate photostreams. But this is a case of "do what I say, not what I do." I personally made the decision to include many of my family photos in with my professional image making.

      When my daughter Katie Rose was in the NICU after being born very prematurely I had the experience of presenting to a photo club. Before I started they all said, "By all means show us your photos, but what we really want to know is how is Katie Rose?"

      So with my work there is some interest in my family at least in the local photography community. You will have to make a personal decision as to where you draw your line on this issue because sometimes personal and family photos do have a wider interest and other times they are not appropriate at all.

      Regarding your other question about integrating images with your web presence, the key is organized and regular cross-linking. It is already part of the Flickr TOS to link back to Flickr when you use your photo on your website. You should also do this the other way round: link back from Flickr to your web presence.

      Very best wishes in photography,


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    • Thanks, Harold!  Great information!  I started only a few days ago with adding tags to photos and joined a few groups, and already I've seen improvement in the number of people commenting on my posts.

      Is there an easy and fast way to see who's commented on what?  On other critique forums there's always a place to click ie: "click here for replies to your latest posts".  If I click "recent activity", I do get my own comments and replies but also everyone else's comments.  It's a mess!

      Just curious if there's a better way to get updated on who's commented on my stuff in photostream, as well as who's commented on my pics in the different groups.

      Thanks again!


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    • @Dave: Thanks for your comments, and glad you found my article helpful.

      You can customize the Recent Activity view to just show "action" (comment, favoriting, etc) on your own photos, which helps to make it more manageable.

      Best wishes, Harold

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    • Have you looked also at National Geographic's My Shot?

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    • Harold, for one week I've been tagging, and also joined 5 groups and have been leaving comments on other people's photos.  The results have been amazing.  Yesterday, I posted a photo and within 30 minutes it had 21 views and 17 comments!!

      There sure are a lot of weird "awards" flying around!  Not sure where all this is headed, but I'm getting noticed so I'll keep at it!

      If you ever put together a training seminar or course where you charge for watching a student's progress on Flickr and give advice....sign me up!!! 

      Thanks again for such a helpful article!


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    • @Dave - Thank you very much, I'm glad my column was helpful!

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    • "Flickr requires effort – in taking decent photos and in getting them noticed by others. Both parts can be time consuming, but if you really want to get noticed on Flickr, you have to take good photos and couple them with being an active part of the community."

      In practice, Flickr fame requires that you post every one of your four thousand photographs to two dozen "post one, give out five awards" groups. You'll get, optimally, four thousand views that way, although they probably won't be views in the literally sense. They will be clicks. Click, scroll down, paste, click. That's your interaction, right there. A stranger clicks his mouse button, scrolls down, hits control-V, moves on, and someone somewhere imagines that he or she is loved.

      Quality doesn't enter into the equation, and in fact it's a hindrance because it diverts time and effort away from the work of mass posting, mass commenting, mass favouriting. Volume is the key, not quality. Every time you paste "nice capture" into a new photograph's comments box you are guaranteed one new hit. And hits are all that matters, because they're all that the other users get to see. An easily-digested number.

      See, in the years I've been on Flickr, I've stumbled upon plenty of portfolios filled with absolute unvarying drivel that has hundreds upon hundreds of comments. Years of the same basic photograph of (a) the user's pets (b) flowers (c) snails (d) garden furniture (e) awful HDR. No progression, no vision, no emotion, no art. But hundreds of hits, and hundreds of comments, which consist *entirely* of spurious group invitations. Remove the total number of reciprocal group invitations from the hit count and you get a tiny, tiny number.

      They've certainly amassed raw hits, these busy photographers, but it never leads to anything. Amongst the awful but very popular photographs they sometimes have one or two forgotten snaps which have amassed only a dozen views in the four years they have been up. Because the strangers didn't wander to the next image. That wasn't part of the bargain. The audience was not captivated. It's not even an audience, really, it's a process. The photographers continue posting their unvarying shots of snails and cats until they die - mediocrity is absolutely relentless - at which point the flow of hits dries to nothing, because without the mechanic hit-adding process the photographs appeal to no-one. The long tail instantly undergoes a quantum leap to zero, where it stays forever.

      There is an illusion of activity. An illusion of progress. A transparent, tissue-thin delusion maintained by people desperate for contact; people who do not mind lying to themselves. Desperate people enabled by desperate people, living a dream, living a lie.
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    • @Ashley: I feel your anger and frustration. There can be a great deal of dross in Flickr, but there is also quality if you look for it.

      You are perfectly right that there can be people who over-add photos to meaningless groups, and that all this activity is often not indicative of good work, and may not produce much in the way of tangible results.

      On the other hand, it is possible for a quality photostream to get noticed and find followers without doing this kind of thing.

      Like life itself, Flickr is a very mixed bag.

      Best wishes in photography,


      Edited to remove the reference to "Flickr sluts" which on consideration seems unduly harsh.

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    • As I noted in a previous post, I've only been using some of the techniques in Harold's article since mid July. 

      While I agree that there are a huge amount of nonsense awards, and "great shot" comments being thrown around I have found 5 people whose photography is superb.  I have learned one new technique to help improve my macro photography and I've received several quite thoughtful and well written critiques of my work.  For me, it's all about my contact list.  Growing this list with care, and exchanging meaningful dialog with other photographers.  

      Is it a bit like slogging through mud looking for diamonds?  Yes.  But, it only takes a few minutes out of my day.  I consider finding 5 like minded photographers with whom I can exchange ideas and critiques in a little over a month pretty good results considering the small amount of time it takes from my day.  And who knows where it will lead?

      So yes, the silly awards and all the groups can be irritating.  But from them, I have found that trolling through some photostreams and posting critiques and comments can lead to some very pleasant surprises. 

      Are all of these other people who post "great shot"  comments, who toss meaningless awards around willy-nilly, just delusional idiots living a lie?  Do they actually deserve to be labeled "Flickr sluts"?

      Who cares? They don't bother me.  Why do they bother you?


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    • @Dave: Great comment, I think you are exactly right. Best wishes, Harold

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    • My flickr account was not my favorite hang out for years, but you are right, one can't help but learn from others and be inspired, if you can manage the time to muddle through. I just don't have the time to interact, and like you, if I can't give back to the community then I shouldn't be there. Too many people don't give back.

      I have to agree with Ashley though, it does become rather meaninless at times when people are copying and pasting their 5 favorite remarks to others, because if they don't they won't be allowed in to their "honors club", which happen to be mostly overdo as well. Some people fall for that worthiness but some don't.

      Sorry if I sound cynical but after 11 years on the net, I have gone the gamut and find I can do more for my photography in other ways, like local marketing, and mingling with real people. I just hate all that phoney stuff!

      I find Flickr confusing, over populated, full of phony hype and outdated. It also can be overwhelming when realizing the humongous amount of photographers competing of that nature. That doesn't mean there aren't nice people there who are talented indeed. I have met quite a few, and been inspired by many.

      Sorry, but this is just my feelings that are based on experience. Not everyone feels this way. Some people live thru Flickr! ;) I like to live in the real world.

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    • I just found your article, although I see it is several month old, and I thought it was a great commentary in Flickr. I am not a professional, and I am not spending as much time on Flickr as I used to. I have been thinking for a while to clean up my photo stream, as it has a lot of test shots/practice shots from when I first got my dslr, etc. Recently, I got a notice from Getty that someone wanted to license one of my photos, and it dawned on me that I should really get rid of the bad shots or ones I posted out of boredom. Or maybe I will just keep them there for my sake but hide them from public view? Regardless, thanks for an interesting read!
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    • Thank you, Harold.  I have learned more from this one article about Flikr than from any other source.

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    • I have been on Flickr for 7 years and have almost 1,000,000 total views of my images there. I can confidently say this has resulted in zero work. (I am already selling through Getty with my stock agency.) 

      By contrast I have been on Facebook for less than a year and have been getting a steady trickle of work from that. Flickr is great for nice comments about your work, but IMO it doesn't make much of an impact in the real world. YMMV of course. 

      BTW - excellent article here on how Yahoo lost the plot with Flickr. 

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