Is Flickr past its best before date? I think so. And this makes me sad. Flickr is where I learned and where my love for photography grew. I first opened an account on Flickr ten years ago. This was the very first photograph I posted.
In those early days I would spend hours trawling through the images on the platform and questioning how did people build followings. How did you get people to come to look at your images? How did you get people to comment? It appeared a mystery at first. Then, with time, I realised it was a reciprocal thing. Go comment on the photos of others and they in turn will come and comment on yours. With this I began to become part of a community. And it was a vibrant one. Looking back at images I posted around 2009/2010, I see that comments on images usually outnumbered the faves. This has now changed, meaning there is less engagement. Then it was great. Conversations evolved and built relationships. Friendships formed and I even met some of the people I had as contacts in real life. Some good people.
Flickr’s big thing was its Explore page. Each day 500 photographs were chosen according to their interestingness. If you hit Explore, your views rocketted. Back in the day your image could also hit Flickr Front Page . Your image, along with about 10 others, would be showcased on the main page of Flickr and also on Yahoo pages. This was the jackpot. I remember actually jumping with joy when one of my photos hit the Front Page. This was Flickr box office. Over a period of about 15 months my images would with regularity hit Explore and every few weeks or so one of them would be picked up for Front Page. I was addicted. I was posting every day. This meant I was shooting every day. Shooting with my first DSLR – a Nikon D40 – a great little camera. I was also consuming large volumes of photography and learning at an accelerated pace in a great community atmosphere.
Then an Explore ban came in. I was blacklisted and no matter what I did or how good my images were I could not make Explore. This was tough. I loved Explore. It also made me laugh when others would say they didn’t care about Explore – bit like those who say they don’t care about Instagram numbers – we all do! But this ban resulted in me becoming more serious about photography. I stopped trying to get images that might be to the style of Explore and began to shoot the things that interested me. I had been shooting a lot of blur – but very little of it hit Explore. Appears the interestingness algorithm did not dig the blur. But I did and with the freedom of not trying to chase Explore hits I began to throw myself fully in that direction. Had I continued to make Explore maybe I would not have made shots like this.
You might think that my interest in Flickr would have waned with an Explore ban but the opposite happened. I created Flickr groups: Superosity, The Superness of Superosity and my favourite Blur Will Save the World (BWSTW). To this day I keep them active. BWSTW is my favourite. There are some really quality images on there. Go check it out.
In 2011 I set up my first Instagram account and with it started another Flickr account. I did things a little differently. For me, Instagram was a camera app, a way to post images shot with my iPhone onto Flickr. I loved it. In 2012, we went on a family trip to Asia. We had this planned for a long time, but the thing with plans is that life gets in the way. My brother fell ill and had to have surgery while we were away. I felt terrible. So far away when he was in hospital. The way I kept in touch was by shooting images on the phone and sending them back home to him. It allowed us to stay in contact. Not knowing it I was on the start of an amazing, life-changing journey with the iPhone.
When I got home to Ireland I had hundreds of images shot on the iPhone. I was hooked. I had loved how I could capture moments on the street with the iPhone that would have been hard with the bulky DSLR.
I began to post iPhone shots on a daily basis. I began to shoot much much more with the iPhone. All this practice meant one thing – improvement. I was actively looking for photographs. I was thinking and seeing photographically and I was pushing the limits of the iPhone and creating imagery similar to what I was doing on the DSLR and all the while it was on Flickr where I was sharing them.
With the DSLR I was on a path with my bokeh heads series. Again sharing it on Flickr was so important. The reaction from friends was very inspiring to continue with this project; a project yet unfinished.
Then in 2014 a Flickr post changed everything. I posted this image used a hashtag – iPhone 6 – and to my complete amazement it ended up on billboards all around the world as part of Apple’s Shot on iPhone 6 campaign. Again, all from Flickr.
In reality, while this was my true Flickr moment, it probably caused me to stop posting so much on there. Gradually, my daily posts lost their regularity. Following the herd, I began to post more on Instagram. When I did return and post to Flickr I noticed a drop off in engagement. There was a period when they kept trying to redesign the platform. At one point I was thrown onto a beta test version and it was hell.
So, back to my lead in question: Has Flickr passed its best before date? Definitely for me. Over the past two years I have gone from a situation where I would regularly post daily to my two accounts to now probably posting a handful of shots in the year. Why? Because the interaction stopped when it copied Instagram and allowed people to view a thumbnail of an image and click fave on it. This had the immediate impact that people stopped opening up images and engaging with them. I still try to get on to see the shots of friends and if I post I will spend time reviewing, faving and commenting on their photos. But it has lost its charm. Instagram was a mammoth it was not prepared for. Flickr was slow to react and reacted poorly. It has been left behind.
Can it return to its glory days? Not a hope. The world has moved on. But what it can return to is its community environment. I feel people are disenchanted with the format of Instagram. There is not a community aspect. It is solely about the numbers. It is a commercial platform all about viewing; sharing. Flickr can be about sharing. can be about the love of photography. It just needs someone with vision and passion to reinvent it, not try to copy Instagram.
With that, I am going to stay loyal and head over now and post a couple of shots. See you on Flickr!