36 Reasons Flickr is a Photographer’s Ultimate Tool

Photo by: Jayel Aheram

Mention Flickr to some professional photographers and you might get a look that most people wear after sniffing sour milk. “It’s for amateurs,” they’ll tell you. Or “It’s all puppies, parties and sunsets,” they’ll say.

And yet it’s still the most important photo-sharing site on the Web, a place that photographers flock to for ideas and photo users surf for images. We’re not saying that Flickr is the only place you should be marketing your images, but here are 36 reasons why you should be using it to show — and sell — your photos.

1. The Networking is Unbeatable
You won’t find a larger photographic community on the Web — or anywhere else for that matter. New photographers can chat with professionals who have been shooting for decades while veterans can swap stories and see what the latest technology can do. The power of all those photographic minds together can do wonders for your skills.

2. Mindshare Beats Marketshare
When Yahoo!, which bought Flickr in 2005, shut down its own photo service, the search engine held more images than its new toy. But Yahoo! was right to go with Flickr. No one was talking about Yahoo! Images. Everyone talks about Flickr. If you want to be known, you need to be where the action is.

3. Grow Fat on the Feedback
One of the benefits of a big network is that everyone will have something to say about your photos — or at least, everyone you ask. Many of those will be helpful, letting your skills grow with some well-aimed advice.

4. It’s Easy to Get Compliments!
In practice though, invite people to comment on one of your images and most of the responses will be flattering. That’s especially true if you’ve been nice about their photos. If you’re the sort of photographer who needs the odd slap on the back to keep pushing forward, you’ll find plenty on Flickr.

5. Creative Commons Licenses Will Get you Seen
One of the biggest criticisms of Flickr is that the huge number of images published under Creative Commons (CC) licenses has harmed the photography market. In fact, most CC-licensed photos are too poor to be used. Toss in the odd well-tagged, half-decent photo then, and there’s a good chance that your shot will be spread far and wide, giving you a nice collection of tear-sheets.

6. Creative Commons Can Be Bait for Sales
But any CC-licensed image should only be “half-decent.” Flickr has plenty of users searching for free images. They can have the garbage. Once your CC-licensed photo has caught their eye, tell them they can have a better one for a price and there’s a good chance you’ll get a sale.

7. Get your Own URL
Okay, you can get a URL to promote your photos without going to Flickr, but it’s still more than you’ll get from a free stock site or even many microstock sites.

8. Stand out from the Crowd
Let’s be brutally honest… much of the competition at Flickr is pretty poor. That means it doesn’t take much to stand out and appear as an exceptional photographer — even when you’re just starting. A little creativity goes a long way when surrounded by so many clichés.

9. Build a Fan Base
One of Flickr’s most powerful tools is the ability to create contacts and build photography friendships. Those friends will come back again and again to check our your new uploads — even the images you recommend — giving you an influential and talkative fan base for your work.

10. Sell Products
Although Flickr isn’t supposed to be used for commercial purposes, plenty of people are managing to use it to promote goods. And why not? If you’ve got the photographic talent, you can turn your Flickr page into an eye-catching storefront.

11. Flickr has Friends
Flickr’s size has made it very attractive for sites like Moo, Qoop and Blurb, all of whom have partnerships with Flickr. If you want to do more with your images than show them, Flickr makes it easy.

12. Promote your own Site
Like we said, you shouldn’t just be using Flickr to promote your photography skills. But you can use Flickr to promote your other outlets too. If people are going to look at your images, tell them they can find more on your site…

13. Promote your own Microstock Portfolio
… or your microstock portfolio. And best of all, add an affiliate code to your portfolio link and you’ll get paid twice if they buy!

14. Promote your Book
These days, you don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway or Helmut Newton to have your own book. Self-publishing on demand has made turning your images into print volumes simple and cost-effective. And there are fewer better places to promote them than the place where photography-lovers hang out: Flickr.

15. Get New Ideas
Look beyond the puppies and parties, and you can find all sorts of inspiring images on Flickr. You can also get all sorts of ideas from people who comment on your photos. But it’s only polite to pay the price: if you want to see theirs, you really should show them yours.

16. Set your Own Price
For photographers hoping to make their first image sales, microstock might look an easier bet than Flickr. It could be, but microstock photographers have to take what the site pays them. Flickr sales are negotiable.

17. The Market is Huge
Flickr has over 30 million images available on CC licenses. That brings in giant flocks of image users. It’s true that not all of them care whether the images are licensed or not but many do and some of them are willing to pay. The numbers alone make putting your images in front of them worthwhile.

18. Land Commissions
Flickr members haven’t just sold images and products through their photostreams. They’ve also landed top-rank commissions from leading companies. Sound like a long shot? If you’re not there, you’re not even in the running.

19. Pimp your Photos with Gizmos
Flickr’s APIs let you do all sorts of things with your images that other sites just don’t allow. Whether that’s adding them to TiVo or delivering digital postcards, you’ll need a Flickr account to play with the extras.

20. Join the Club
Photography is fairly lonely work but it’s nice to belong to a club of people who share the same niche, enjoy taking the same sorts of images… and can teach you how to shoot them better. Flickr’s groups are a great place to fit in.

21. It’s Free!
Okay, Flickr doesn’t have to be free. You can choose to pay for pro membership if you want. But if you’re happy to do without collections and to limit your uploads, Flickr is free marketing for cash-strapped photographers.

22. Look Democratic
One of the most common reasons that top photographers give for not putting their images on Flickr is that it lets in anyone. That might be the point but they’d rather stand out by staying out. Opt in and you show that you don’t put on airs — and that you can still show exceptional images.

23. Show Flickr Users What Real Photography Looks Like
If you’re still uneasy at the thought of showing your carefully-lit images alongside blurry bar shots, then think of your Flickr membership as a chance to change the photography world. Flickr is important; you can help improve its quality too.

24. It’s Easy
Another reason that some people don’t like Flickr is that they say it’s badly organized and offers few features such as portfolio templates or print sales. The flipside of that criticism is that Flickr is very easy to use. You can’t do much with your Flickr page but you can show photos on it, and that can be effective enough.

25. It’s Comfortable
And Flickr is informal too. Being asked about your marital status might seem a little strange for a photo site, but it does help to make the whole experience more friendly and personal. And that helps to break down barriers and build relationships — the key to success on Flickr.

26. Make Big Experiments, Pay a Small Price
Your own website is where you’ll do the bulk of your marketing and try to turn browsers into buyers. You’ll have to make sure that the images you show there are your best. On Flickr, however, you can create a set for experimentation, and invite responses. Some images will work… and the others can be taken down without damaging your reputation.

27. There are Some Great People on Flickr
We’ve already said that Flickr has plenty of people who only touch a camera on birthdays but there’s also no shortage of top-level professionals on the site, open to providing feedback and dishing out advice. Put your images up and you get access.

28. Miniatures are a Whole New Genre
Flickr images tend to be shown in small sizes — a good way to protect them from image thieves. That sounds like a limitation, but in fact it’s how most images on the Web are used. Flickr is a great place to test and show photos for use on blogs and websites.

29. You Don’t Have to Show your Privates
Flickr’s filtering system lets you restrict public access to images. While that’s really meant to keep family shots within the family, it can also be a useful way to restrict access to invited potential clients. Think of it as a sort of VIP lounge for special customers.

30. Became a Leader… of a Group
Groups are the core of Flickr networking but there’s a special cachet attached to being the leader of one. Fortunately, it’s a spot that’s open to anyone. Pick your niche and brand yourself as an expert.

31. Geotag your Images
Flickr makes geotagging easy, letting you pitch your photos to buyers looking for shots of specific locations… or photographers who can reach them.

32. If your Pictures are Stolen, Someone Will Know
Become really big on Flickr and your images will become well-known. That might mean they’re also more likely to be stolen but it also means that they’ll be spotted if they are. When your images are seen on Flickr, you’ve got thousands of eyes looking out for your shots.

33. It’s Only Going to Get Bigger
Despite professional photographers’ disdain for Flickr, they’re always going to be outnumbered by fun-loving, hopeful amateurs. Flickr is only going to grow, so you may as well join the ride.

34. It’s Likely to Start Earning
Nothing frightens stock sites more than the thought that Flickr will start letting its members sell images for a fee. It could happen. Be ready when it does.

35. You Get a Sales Page
Hard sales don’t work on Flickr but the profile page is the next best thing to a piece of promotion. Keep it smart, toss in links to your sales site, and you can lead browsers to take action.

36. It Works!
People are making money on Flickr. They’re selling images, winning commissions and promoting products. If you aren’t, you’re missing out.

Additional Photography:
Books by Toni V
Flickr on camera phone by .klash
[tags] flickr photographer ultimate tool, marketing with flickr [/tags]

21 comments for this post.

  1. Brian Auer Said:

    Great stuff! I've noticed the quality of Flickr rising steadily as dSLR cameras become more mainstream and affordable. People are really getting into photography, and there are some great artists emerging at places like Flickr.

  2. quirkyalone Said:

    One thing which stops me from using flickr is the Picasaweb from Google, where I can upload pics more easily from Picasa. But the social aspect of flick is unbeatable.

  3. scott Said:

    Actually, I like Fickr precisely because there are plugins available for both iPhoto and for Aperture which allow me to upload to flickr directly from these apps. It's indispensable.

  4. Jon Said:

    Flickr can't be beaten for size of audience and if you stump up for a pro account, the unlimited uploads mean you can put all your photos on there (only making the best public of course) and it's a cheap backup to help you rest easy.
    I'm using Flickr to back up all my photos just in case the worst happens.
    I'm using a tool called Foldr Monitr (http://www.rebeleos.com/foldrmonitr) to automatically upload them as soon as I transfer them from my camera.

  5. Tyson Williams Said:

    Excellent points, thanks for sharing them with those who may still not be a big fan of Flickr. I have linked it back on blog.


  6. european_user Said:

    One reason not to use Flickr:


  7. Anthony Said:

    I agree with the european user, I take sexy photos, (NOT PORN) and I purchased a PRO account in order to show these off. someone gets offended and next thing I know you have to be logged in in order to view my images. I went from 1000 photo views a day to about 2 or 3.

    Flickr Sucks in that respect. I'm not renewing my account.

  8. Dave Said:

    flickr is not the best...
    i can say another 30 things why flickr is not the best place...starting with the Censorship...
    Flickr is for american teens...

  9. Oliver Chesler Said:

    I just wrote an article titled "Why every musician should have a flickr pro account." I go into a lot of the cool ways you can use the API to spread your photos on different websites. Check it out:

  10. esvl Said:

    I was convinced at point number 12 already. Great article.

  11. ShootHouston Said:

    Hmm, seems flickr isn't the only censor. My comment was taken off when I suggested a non-censored alternative.

  12. Thomas Auner Said:

    Which kind of pictures will be censored on Flickr? I hear it often but didn´t find some.

  13. EFUsers Said:

    A great list! I've shared it with my readers here: http://www.efusers.com/2007/10/12/use-flickr-to-promote-and-monetize-your-photography/

    Keep up the good work!


  14. FlickrFreak Said:

    Flickr is the best!! I love it!
    Since I use 8hands, I get live notifications to the desktop whenever someone marks a photo of mine as a fav, send me a msg or add me as a contact.
    Plus, I get a notification whenever a friend omine uploaded a new photo.
    So cool!

  15. MazG Said:

    Flickr will censor anything it likes, including photos of children smoking and scantily clad adults. In addition, they also censor comments that are critical of their censorship approach.

    I suggest you try Zooomr, a free alterative with no censorship.

  16. Gantico Said:

    In many cases Flickr censorships would have been avoided if the pictures with nudity were properly flagged. You can choose between 3 levels for each photo: Safe (default), Moderate and Restricted.
    I don't like censorships but at the same time I do believe that a minimum moderation should control the healthy growth of the community.

    I'm not saying that Flickr admins haven't ever made mistakes, but maybe the moderation is one of the reasons why you feel immediately a deep sense of community when you join Flickr. Accounts with pornographic or stolen content are closed immediately, spam and various misuses are almost inexistent, meaningless comments are in minority.
    Compare YouTube with Flickr and tell me if you don't notice the difference in the community...

    I think that a contemporary photographer should have a presence on Flickr, like any emerging band had it on MySpace. Period.

  17. Katie Ashdown Said:

    As I recall Flickr wasn't the one doing the censoring. It had more to do with goofy European laws. As a member of a local meet up group ( apparently "meetup" is swinger code) I can tell there are plenty of flickrites posting porn. Bad porn at that.

  18. Frankie Said:

    thank you for this post. I just started a blog on photographers and graphic designer that I discover on Flickr and I can say that there are great artist on the site. Yes Flickr its also for amateurs but who said that amateur can't do great art? Every great photographer was once an amateur, Flickr just allows us sometimes to discover them more easily.

  19. Viqi French Said:

    i love flickr, too. in fact, i spend too much time there, posting & commenting.

    however, it's a little annoying to me that they don't at least have a discreet "buy now" type of button at the bottom of every page.

    i've come across quite a few pieces i loved so much i just wanted to press a quick button and buy a print. but, not on flickr!

    there ought to be a way they can continue to keep the non-commercial feel, but still make it user-friendly for those who wish to sell and buy images.

  20. Max Said:

    Flickr is popular and has huge traffic for one reason only - It allows adult content. Yahoo has destroyed the Flickr model by not providing fair and just moderation to those who pay for pro accounts. You can be Mr Porn lover with a set of stolen smut pictures on a free account or a pro photographer with works of art, Flickr will treat both with the same arrogance.
    If you are serious about your work and dont want fake popularity from those seeking same, use Smugmug

  21. Pradeep Said:

    who uses flickr any more?

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