I found myself asking the question “Is Flickr’s flame fading?” this week as I was preparing images from recent shoots. I’ve been a big fan of Flickr since I joined 5 years ago, and I’ve met so many wonderful people through Flickr as well. Flickr has been instrumental in helping me develop as a photographer. Not only have I been introduced to photographers that I admire and respect through Flickr, but I’ve had the advantage of getting feedback from them along the way. This feedback as been very helpful in my understanding of what works and what doesn’t work in an image.
But lately I’ve just not been feeling the same level of community and sharing on Flickr that I’ve enjoyed in the past. Several of the photographers that I enjoyed following are no longer active posters on Flickr. The number of comments that I receive and that I see on other photographer’s streams have dropped off. If it was just my images that were getting less attention, I would conclude that my images aren’t working or that my work has become stale. That’s valuable feedback for any photographer. But I’ve noticed that the quality of comments and the number of comments for some of the most respected members I follow have fallen off as well.
This week I posted an image that illustrated my thoughts perfectly. I didn’t post this image of Big Red with any intent other than to share it, but the results spoke volumes.
Besides Flickr, I have also been active in sharing images on Google+, 500px, Facebook , Twitter, and Pinterest. I usually will post the same image to all of these social media sites at the same time. And that’s where the light finally dawned on me about Flickr.
When I posted this image of Big Red peeking under the wing on Flickr, I got 84 views, 14 favorites and 18 comments over the course of 4 days. However, on 500px, the image scored 240 views, 36 favorites and 50+ comments in just a few hours! On Pinterest, I got several reshares within the first few minutes as well. The image was the same on all the different sites that I posted, but the response was worlds apart on each of the sites. In the past, an image like this would have scored 50+ comments on Flickr after 4 days.
Part of this is the way that 500px promotes images that are posted. They have a link to see new posts, a link to see upcoming posts and a link to see popular posts. They also have a link for Editor’s Choice. You can also follow different photographers and also have the images that these photographers comment on show up for your review. But I think it is the first three links that make the big difference in getting eyeballs on your image. I believe that many 500px users use these links throughout the day to keep up with fresh material.
There is no question that 500px displays your images better than Flickr, but they way that they promote your work is what I find most valuable. I also believe that the images posted to 500px are of a higher quality than many of the images that are posted on Flickr. That’s not to say that excellent, high quality images cannot be found on Flickr. But I believe that the better photographers are showcasing their work on 500px more frequently than they are on Flickr. If you are trying to market your work, 500px is working for you in that regard.
Another change that has happened that I think has hurt Flickr is the explosion of Facebook. In years past, many of my photographer friends would use Flickr to schedule meet ups, plan outings, share hot spots, etc. In the last year, there has been very little activity on Flickr in this regard. The discussion lists are eerily quiet. Facebook has replaced Flickr as the social media hub for personal communications. And to some extent, Facebook has replaced Flickr as a place to post your photos and get feedback on your work. Personally, I don’t like the way my images look on Facebook, but that may have more to do with how I process them before posting them. My workflow for images is designed to get images to my website, Flickr and 500px, so I think I have to make some changes to improve the quality of Facebook postings.
Flickr is also very time-consuming, and with so many other social media options, I find it burdensome on some days to post to Flickr. There is a culture on Flickr that if you don’t comment on my work, I won’t be commenting on your work. I can understand that philosophy and why you would use that to maximize your limited time for social media. To avoid this, I don’t post images on days where I won’t have time to review and comment on my contact’s work from that day.
But that same culture doesn’t exist on 500px. If you like an image, you can easily say something, add it as a favorite or simply vote for it…or do nothing at all. Voting raises the image up in the rankings which gets more eyeballs on the image, but if you don’t comment, it isn’t held against you by other members. Flickr does have their Explore, but that remains a mystery to me how images get selected for Explore.
I have no plans to leave Flickr and will continue to post there in the future. However, I won’t be posting there as often as I find myself spending more time interacting with other photographers on Facebook now. Flickr will always hold a special place for me as it was the medium that introduced me to some wonderful friends and fun times. I will always appreciate what I was able to accomplish through my interactions on Flickr. I am hopeful that Yahoo will invest some development resources into creating a platform that competes more evenly with what 500px and Facebook offer today. The Flickr user interface has changed little over the years, so it is due for a facelift and new features. If not, I’m afraid that the day will come in the not too distant future where Flickr is the America Online of the photography social media world.
Let me know what you think.