How Flickr got its groove back

Some thoughts on the "new" Flickr

I’m going to go ahead and say it - I like Flickr.  I don’t think everyone else does anymore, but I still do.  And I’m liking it a lot more these days.  

A quick little bit of history...

Like everyone else, when I started sharing my photos online, Flickr was the first place I went.  That’s where everyone went, partly because it was just about the only good choice at the time.  It was certainly the largest and best known (and still is, it seems) and that drew us in. You sorta “had” to be there.  And I believe to a certain extent that we were all dependent on it.

Then, we all progressed in our skill levels, and it started to get old.  We grew weary of the silly “Post 1, Comment 2” crap that the Groups there required.  We probably all tried that in some form or fashion, because we thought it was something we “had to do” as part of the community.  And frankly, we wanted the views.  It made us feel good.  I freely admit that I did all that, in the vain hope of getting views. But boy was it hard to keep up, and I think many of us started scratching our heads and wondering if it was really worth it.  After all, getting views doesn’t really mean anything, does it?

And we all realized that hey, these are mostly just other photographers on Flickr.  They’re never going to actually buy my work, are they?

About that same time, a lot of us also started a blog or website, and at some point realized it made more sense to drive traffic there than it did to Flickr, so we slowed down our engagement on Flickr and backed away from all that craziness.  Some of us left for good, and others just quit uploading photos there.

I’m not engaged there - but I am active.  There’s a difference.

It has been a few years since I was highly engaged on Flickr.  Now, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been posting there - quite the opposite in fact.  I have continued to post there, sharing all my blog images on Flickr and recently many of my iPhone photos too.  In fact, I have probably accelerated the amount and type of photos that I upload to Flickr.  It’s just that my pattern has changed, and my self-created pressure to “get my image out there” is gone.  (Besides, the key images I add to the blog, and that’s my focus.)

Admittedly, I never wanted to leave Flickr, even though I have tried alternatives such as 500px, but haven’t found something that I feel does as good of a job (and you can read my thoughts on that here).  Once you have spent years building up a collection of shots which are well-organized and searchable, and you have a decent number of views on them - who wants to start over?  Who has the time?

And yes, I do find that I get traffic from Flickr over to my blog, which is what I want.  I think that many folks who are searching for images for a project know to look on Flickr, whereas other sites aren’t as well known and certainly don’t have the volume of images as Flickr does.  Size matters, in this case.

Not being dependent is good...

I now post my blog images there when I find the time to do so, and I don’t feel like I have to put something out there everyday.  If I am traveling, I don’t worry about getting the shot up on Flickr the same day the blog image goes live.  I don’t hurry, and I don’t care.  I will get it up there, even if it’s two weeks later and it goes up alongside 10 other blog images.

In other words - I am no longer dependent on Flickr.  That’s a good feeling.  It’s tough being bound to some site besides your own.  Yes, I am totally bound to my own blog here, but that’s different in my opinion since it is mine.  I can do things here that I can’t possibly do on Flickr, and I can customize it all I want.  It’s my little business, and I can do what I want with it.  That’s why I started it, after all.

And they’re back...

Flickr bumped around for a few years with almost zero updates and honestly, it felt really stagnant.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep sharing images there, and I have spoken to several photographers who felt the same, and let it drop.  I stayed because I really like the organization there (Sets & Collections), and liked the idea of having all my shots out there for search purposes.  I get some traffic from Flickr, and always have.

And I have to give kuddos to Flickr - over the last year or so, they have really taken their game to a completely new level.  It seems like they have come back from the dead, and are back with a vengeance.  I always felt like it was a gem in the Yahoo crown, and am glad to see that it has been reinvigorated.

I have now found myself more drawn to Flickr than I have been in a really long time, and am glad that I never dropped it.  And while I am not spending lots of free time there like I did when I first got started on this journey, I do engage more than I have in years and it’s because of all these great updates and changes they have made.

This is how Flickr got better:

Larger, crisper, better-looking images

It was probably Google+ that got Flickr back on track, in a couple of ways.  I think they saw all the goodness happening on G+ with larger and better-looking photos and thought they better either get busy or just hang it up.  And of course their CEO came from Google, which probably didn’t hurt.  But whatever the cause, pictures look great on Flickr now.  Bigger, prettier, crisper...isn’t that what a photo site should offer?

Also, I love that when someone views my photo like below they also get a Preview of other shots in my photostream.  I think that drives even more overall views and engagement which is good.  Also, below the comments a viewer can click on one of three choices: a letter "i" with a circle around it, which gives them the EXIF info from the photo; the little square which will show them other photos in your photostream as well as a Preview of photos in the same sets as that photo; and the little tag symbol, which of course shows them what tags are applied.  I find all this incredibly useful, and believe it is helping drive much more interaction with our shots.

Much-improved landing page

The old landing page had tiny thumbnail images from a few of your contacts, and it was ugly.  It was also populated with what I consider a bunch of junk (photos from various groups, etc).  Then you had to click through for more images, which I never did.  Even worse, it looked that way for YEARS.  It never changed.  It was stagnant and boring.  

But now there are large images which look great, and you can scroll and scroll and keep seeing more images from your contacts.  MUCH BETTER.  MUCH EASIER.  MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL!

Easier to Comment

Another key change is that you can now Fave, Comment and Share straight from the landing page as you scroll through.  That means I don’t have to click through to someone’s photostream and comment on the image there, then back up to the landing page and start over.  I used to never leave comments, because it took too long.  Now, I can just comment right from the front page of Flickr as soon as I scroll by.  I never leave the landing page.  I don’t have to.  

That makes it much easier, and I find myself commenting more and getting more comments too.  And by the way, images that you have previously commented on continue to percolate up to the top of your landing page feed, as they get more comments and when others interact with them.  It’s working based on social engagement - the more interaction a photo gets, the more often it bumps up to the top of the heap.  They are trying to drive engagement, and it’s working!

iPhone app

I love the Flickr iPhone app and use it all the time.  While I skip using the built-in filters (I prefer Snapseed, ProHDR and Camera+), the app is great for getting me into the heart of what I use the app for: uploading my mobile shots.  That’s right, I upload iPhone photos there all the time, and they get lots of views (and yes, I know views aren’t important by themselves, but I believe it helps with search purposes).  

 

I’ve had an iPhone set on Flickr for a very long time, but never really used it much.  It was difficult.  I would have to email the photo to myself and then upload it, but that’s a pain.  Now, I can take it and adjust it on the fly, then upload when I am anywhere with a free couple of minutes.  It’s awesome, easy, quick, and fun.  In other words, it’s exactly what mobile photography ought to be, in my opinion.

 

And though I am finally on Instagram (yep, a little slow joining that site) I still upload my mobile images to Flickr.  I just like the idea of having a lot of content out there.

 

It’s a social network, dummy

It’s taken me a while to realize this, but Flickr has essentially become a social network dedicated to photography, and I think that is a really cool thing.  They really are in a unique position relative to all the other big sites, and I am glad that they are starting to take advantage of it.  Competition is good, and since photography is a big part of social networking (regardless of the site you are on), it just makes great sense to continue to innovate here.

Although this isn’t new per se, I believe it is different now.  In the past I think it was just a photographic dumping ground for a lot of people.  But with all these changes, they are driving more usage and more engagement, and that translates to more social interaction there and more time on the site.  So this is a big improvement, because let’s be honest: we have a plethora of social media choices.  

Summary

I really feel like Flickr has combined some of the best elements of photo-sharing sites, along with social media capability and a pretty slick iPhone app - and put it all into one place.  Will they take over from Instagram for mobile users?  I don’t think so.  Will they draw users away from Facebook or Google+?  I doubt that as well.

But they are doing a great job of getting all the elements in place to cause people to upload more photos and spend more time on their site.  I think it’s working, and can’t wait to see what’s next for them.

What's your experience with Flickr?  Are you enjoying the site nowadays?

Is there more that Flickr can do?  Of course, and I suspect there are some smart people working on some cool things as we speak.  But I have to say that I am impressed with how far they have come in the past year, and I am looking forward to seeing what they do next!  See you out there!

(And BTW, feel free to leave a link to your Flickr site in the Comments Section below)