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When it comes to photo sharing, Flickr is without a doubt, the ten ton gorilla in the room. Millions of photos are uploaded to the site on a daily basis from all around the world and of every subject you could possibly think to photograph. For millions of budding photographers, it’s a place to freely share their photos with friends, family and categorized communities of other camera wielders around the world.
Flickr is a great digital tool that has been responsible for the curation of images from the ultra mundane to the graphic masterpiece, the pornographic to the iconic and the out of focus to the nationally archived. It’s likely where a lot of you share your images on the web. But if you have aspirations of growing in your photographic career, you may want to consider your continued use of this or any other photo sharing behemoth.
I’ll caveat the remainder of this post with the reminder that this is an opinion. Take it with a grain of salt, but also carefully think on it before either following my advice or disregarding it. So agree or disagree, here are my personal thoughts on why you should (or shouldn’t) abandon your Flickr account.
In terms of its ability to share images across the web, Flickr takes the cake. In fact, many of you use Flickr to then repost your images right here on Digital Photography School. We love that you share with us too! Flickr allows its millions of users to link a single image, or group of images, almost anywhere across the web with imported metadata and other subject identifying tags. Individual images can be neatly grouped into categories such as landscapes, animals, people, still life or even My Summer Trip 2010.
If the primary purpose of your photography is to share nearly each and every snap out of your camera, then you definitely shouldn’t abandon your Flickr account (or perhaps you should even go sign up for one). No where else will allow you to so easily group, store and share with different photographic groups.
As you become a better photographer, you realize that photos you once thought were great are actually not that good at all. Even photographers who have been professionally shooting for over ten years are progressing and growing their eye every day, and finding out some (or much) of their old work is just not up to par. It’s all part of refining your vision as a photographer.
Unfortunately, with Flickr, many of those types of photos remain on your page far past when they should, bringing down the overall impact of your imagery. It’s easy to post everything, because it doesn’t require you to think about why you like a particular image. Trimming down what you show people is an exercise in learning what you want to shoot and why certain photos appeal to you. You’re only as good as your worst image. Eventually you may realize that while you’ve got some good ones, others are pretty bad. You don’t want a potential client to have to wade through the bad ones. All they should see is your best.
Part of refining your vision is also realizing what you want to shoot as a photographer. Do you have aspirations of wedding photography, landscapes, food, macro, portraiture, lifestyle, fashion, etc? The days of the photographer as a generalist are pretty much dead. Very few companies hire the same photographer anymore to shoot their landscape, automobile, fashion editorial, portrait or wildlife photo. Today, it’s all about personal style. While you can and certainly should apply it to everything you shoot, most will specialize in a few distinct fields. What I often see with users on Flickr is posts for anything and everything. That’s ok if you haven’t found your style yet, but recognize at some point it’s time to hone down on what you want to shoot and get rid of the excess fluff.
As an html site that allows you to tag, categorize and keyword each photo, Flickr is fantastic for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In fact, many photographers often post photos with the very intention of grabbing the top image search of specific Google keywords or phrases and then linking their professional website in their Flickr comment section. For a wedding photographer in a small market, being able to have one of your images come up first when someone searches for “Kansas Wedding Photographer” can be a great way your work is found by potential clients. It may even make up the bulk of your marketing efforts and source of clients. SEO is definitely a reason to think about keeping Flickr.
As you refine your vision and begin creating your own unique style, you’ll want to package your work in a website and other branded elements that present your images best. Flickr is not that. In the effort to make images uploaded on the site easy to categorize and user friendly, every photographer is molded into the very same packaging. It’s categorical, not stylistic.
In a global market that demands individualized style you can’t afford to look like just anybody else. Own your space. With Flickr, you’re just another face in the crowd. Only a personal website can deliver you a place to control every element of your brand. Do you really want sparkly dragon fly comments or other group awards/invites influencing someone’s perception of your work?
The last harsh reality is that Flickr is associated with amateurs. While some professional photographers do post to the site, the overwhelming majority of users are amateurs. That’s the perception and no getting around it. If you’re trying to coax a few thousand dollars out of a client while earning their trust that you can deliver the images as requested; the last thing you want to look like is an amateur. If you tell someone to check out your galleries on Flickr, you automatically create the perception of being an amateur, often no matter how good your work really is.
Flickr is a great photo sharing tool and the web “home” of many camera wielders around the world. If your goal with your camera is nothing more than sharing fun snaps you find day to day this is definitely a nice place to share your pictures. However, if you have aspirations of entering the world of professional photography, there will come a point in your photographic journey where it’s time to abandon your Flickr page, present a refined body of work and show yourself as a professional from presentation to product. In today’s competitive market you can’t afford to do any less.
Update: since posting this article we’ve asked our facebook network whether they use Flickr more or less than previously – stop by to read the conversation and have your say here.