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A Beginner’s Guide to Flickr

flickr-logo.jpgFlickr changed my life. True story.

I am a relatively new Flickr convert and a full fledged Flickr evangelist and my number one message to the masses: Flickr isn’t a dumping ground for ‘pics’. It isn’t a graveyard where millions of images are laid to rest never to be seen again. It is a community where photographers share their latest conquests and view beautiful works by other artists. Of course, there are probably millions of users who merely dump and run but I think Flickr has done something rather clever to prevent too many non-users: they charge a minor yearly fee for accounts who want to upload more than a certain number of images. This might turn off a huge percentage of users who just want a free method of generating a url for their photos to put on Ebay but I think it just weeds out those who don’t intend on doing much with their subscription in the first place.

So how can I make the statement that Flickr changed my life? First I’ll lay a foundation for where I’m coming from. I firmly believe that the number one way any visual artist can become better at what they do is to view other works of art. It opens you to the possibilities, techniques, ideas and concepts you may have never entertained before. Allow me to demonstrate. Before I became engrossed in Flickr, I’d never before seen:

  1. The beauty of captured light as in R. Lily’s forest mushroom
  2. The richness of textures as in Paul Grand’s Sunflowers
  3. The gentle calm of ethereal florals as in Shana Rae’s Spring Pastels

I didn’t know about such things when I was newly into photography and having my eyes opened to not only beautiful photography but also the techniques processes that fellow photographers use to achieve such works revolutionised my skills and ability immediately. I think all photographers experience the frustration of not understanding why they haven’t achieved a look they were going for and I think that a photographer who isn’t wholly committed could easily give up after their first couple disappointments. But with the community of Flickr, you don’t have to wonder how to take beautiful photos. Users regularly share their techniques and even detailed ‘recipes’ they used in their post processing work flow. Had I not been able to access that valuable information, I would have thought that I was just a bad photographer and been discouraged. I didn’t realise that there were such things as textures and presets before being enlightened to them courtesy of the wonderful photographers on Flickr.

What about the safety of your images? Well, when you add someone as a contact, you can also specify if you want them to not only be a contact, but also a ‘friend’ or ‘family’ status. Then when you upload certain images with permission limited to family, only they can see them. Their most ingenious function, though, is that you can choose to not allow users to view your photos in their full size and Flickr will do something amazing: they layer a transparent image over your image so that if someone right-clicks to save your image, they are actually only saving the clear overlay. Genius.

I have learned a couple things about protecting yourself lately. There have been a few people found on Flickr who add other users’ photos to their stream and say that they are their own. Obviously, a HUGE no-no and one which doesn’t usually take long to catch. I put my name on all of mine. Another trick is that if you notice that quite a few of your photos have been ‘favourited’ by a particular user and you go to their profile and they have no photos of their own, only favourited ones, there’s something fishy going on. I only allow real users to keep my photos. If I notice someone favouriting my photos who has a profile of nothing but other users’ photos, I block them. Just seems to me that they may be stockpiling images for stock or other uses which aren’t above-board.

If you haven’t used it before or are new to Flickr, here are some pointers and screen shots to help guide you (there is a thumbnail gallery below if you want to click on them and see full-sized).

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1.} This is the main page to login

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2.} A 'Photostream' is the first thing Flickr takes you to when you click someone's name or login to you account. It is a steady stream of every photo you've ever shared, newest at the top. There are more convenient ways to view photos, however (below)

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3.} 'Sets' are sets of images determined by the user. Here, you see my sets such as 'vintage', 'Sue & Barry', etc. If you click 'sets' where you see I have hilighted, you will see the user's sets.

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4.} 'Collections' are a bigger folder for sets for example "portraits", "engagement & weddings", etc.

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5.} "Favourites" are photos which you have tagged as a favourite while viewing other users' photos. When viewing someone's profile, you can click to see what they have added as a favourite, too, which can lead you on a magical journey of discovery. This is how I've discovered so many of my favourite photographers.

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6.} Your profile is the place where people go to learn about you. When you click on someone's name, it doesn't take you to their profile it takes you to their photostream (Flickr is all about the photos afterall!) You have to click profile to see their profile which will show you groups they're a member of, photos they have favourited recently and loads of other tidbits.

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7.} When you are viewing your own photostream or profile, clicking the 'you' dropdown menu will give you the option of seeing all of your sets, collections, favourites, tags, etc.

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8.} This is my favourite function. Clicking 'organise' will take you to the biggest, best way to organise your photos by dragging them into groups, sets, collections, etc. You can drag a certain few photos which you want to batch edit and change something about them all at once. It's a fab tool and you'll love it!

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9.} I lied in that last one. Groups are my favourite function in Flickr! This is where all the magic happened for me. If you joined a group (for example 'Flypaper Textures' as in the photo below) you would be able to use the organise feature (explained above) and drag photos into the group. Groups such as these for different texture artists, preset artists, specific editing methods (I'm in the 'Orton' group) are limited to photos which apply to that subject. If you did a killer edit using a Flypaper Texture, add your photo to the group for other users to see. Many of them even give their post production recipes to tell you which texture they used to achieve the look. Groups also contain discussions to get into. Participating in groups is the way to get your photography seen and commented on and possibly even featured on the Flickr front page.

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10.} 'Explore' is another completely fabulous area! It is a continuously updated stream of exceptional or interesting photos to jumpstart your creativity or simply set you on your way for an evening of getting sucked deep into the world of Flickr of which I am a permanent citizen.


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Elizabeth Halford
Elizabeth Halford

is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

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