I try to think of my photography as a daily practice. Even if I don’t make a photograph every day, I still do some action involved with the art.
One of those practices is to upload a photo (or two) to Flickr every weekday. Just one will do, although Flickr shows at least five of your recent uploads in the People section. One photo says, this is a thing I do every day.
To keep track of my daily Flickr photo, I have a bucket of photos to upload in Aperture (and eventually, a Lightroom catalog). Each morning, I select one of those pictures, and send it off to Flickr. After the upload, I pick an album, and then add it to a few relevant groups. If I missed any keywords, I’ll add those in Flickr, too.
After doing this for a few years, a few trends pop up.
For one, the best photos seem to get uploaded the soonest. Maybe I’m excited to share them, or maybe the photo follows a theme. Then, the not-so-good photos drop to bottom of the Flickr bucket. Maybe I’m less excited about sharing those. The system is self filtering: eventually, all those photos at the bottom of the bucket get purged.
Two, to keep it interesting for myself, sometimes I’ll assign theme days to my upload. Monday can be for film photos, Friday is for iPhone photos, etc.
And three, while it’s not an end goal, making Flickr’s “Explore” listing is a fun accomplishment. You can learn how to game the system, but for me, earning an “Explore” requires a great photo shared with the right groups. That’s it. Before I upload a photo, sometimes I’ll think, “This is an ‘Explore’ photo,” but it doesn’t make the listing. Other days, a photo I paid little attention to earns “Explore.” Some of it’s luck, but a lot of it is the quality of the photo.
I still love Flickr, and I’ve made it a daily ritual to support the site and share my work. My system keeps it easy for me to keep the daily practice.
This is not a rage quit. It’s the product of a lot of small, quiet frustrations that leave me thinking I can spend my time doing other things.
It’s not a new revelation, and Lord knows I’m not the first to discover social media is a waste of time. But as I get older, and I have friends and family, and projects to do around the house, and little patience for the increasing amount of (mostly irrelevant) ads blinking in my face, the less appealing all these “What are you up to?” platforms become.
I still enjoy my quiet little corner of Twitter, with my Mac nerds and fellow photographers. And I still dig the work people post on Flickr. I’ve set up my social media accounts to show me mostly stuff and people I’m interested in. It’s just that more and more on those other platforms, advertising and “features” are intruding. To what benefit?
As Jörg Colberg writes, “If you’re happy with being a passenger and with having to change vehicles usually the moment you’ve become a bit comfortable, then stick with Silicon Valley’s boom-and-bust cycle. If that’s not what you want, going back to blogging is likely to give you a lot more agency.”
So here I am, with a relaunched blog, away from Tumblr.
Another problem is that marketers and brands have gotten a hold of these sites and used them for marketing. I think a lot of the marketing world is waking up to the realization that social media isn’t the be-all, end-all marketing channel for the modern consumer. If anything, people switch social media platforms to escape the ads and intrusiveness. I should know: I’m one of those people using social media to “engage” with customers and visitors – but I don’t do it with a clear conscience, because I hate seeing all that “engagement” crap, too.
It’s tough feeling like you can’t get your stuff out there to be seen without social media, and yet being uncomfortable with the idea of using social media at all. I’m a pretty private person, and I feel weird every time I try to promote something on Facebook, Twitter, etc. As a photographer, it’s a Catch 22.
I don’t have any answers right now. The trick is finding the mix that works, and that’s a work in progress.
With an impending sale of Yahoo!, there’s a lot of hand-wringing about what’s going to happen to Flickr.
I’m worried about Flickr, too, for the same reasons Jim Nix is worried – namely, that if someone buys Flickr and messes it up, where can we photographers go? Especially those of us that have dumped most (in my case) or all (in other photographers’ cases) of our photos onto the site.
I, like Nix, enjoy Flickr’s organization tools, the Groups, the social aspects, and the ease of use. Flickr can be used in all kind of ways, whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional, and a lot of us pay the annual fee to keep the premium features. To me, it’s always been worth the $25 a year.
In recent years, Flickr has tried to Instagram itself by becoming more mobile and more in-the-moment. But what if it just stuck to being a photography enthusiast’s site?
“Growth” and “scaling” make you money, over time, but don’t memberships and providing value make money too?
I’d pay $5 more every year to make Flickr stay healthy, stick to what it does best, and listen to its customers. It’s an important tool in my photography tool belt.
I can’t worry too much, because I don’t have any control over who buys Flickr and what happens to it in the long haul. But I do have a wish list, and at the top of that is that Flickr sticks around and keeps chugging along, even if it’s not in the Who’s Who of social media/photography platforms.
Most days I post three or four photos that I’ve worked on, and I carefully cultivate my tags. I tend to upload from Aperture, because I like its uploading interface better (even if it does have an issue with multi-word keywords/tags) than Lightroom’s.
Once in a while I’ll post an entire set all at once, just to get it out of the way. A lot of those photos will never be seen because of Flickr’s you-only-see-five-photos-at-once-on-the-following-page rule. But some of my sets would take forever to upload at five photos a day.
I keep a folder in Aperture of stuff to upload, and every day I grab a random five images and post those to Flickr. When I add new photos to my Aperture library, I’ll grab a few and queue them for uploading, too.
On and on it goes.
Tags. Sets. Galleries. Tons of ways to organize images on Flickr. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. I feel like I don’t have my own digital asset management house in order at home, and that often translates into sloppy organization on the Flickr end of things.
But thankfully Flickr makes it easy to correct all that. In the Organize tab, I often grab a batch of images and add more metadata to them.
For Sets, too often I feel like I could have a million variations based on location, color, style, subject, etc. Some photographers do a great job, but I tend to stick to a smaller number of sets until I find an image that doesn’t fit into a category.
Is it a vacation spot? Is it a specific project? Does it fit into a set that already exists? Do I want this group of photos to stand out on their own?
I know myself well enough to know that my lazy organization habits will opt for tucking photos into a group that already exists, so I try to make them as broad as ever. Sometimes, I’ll go back through and add photos to new sets I’ve developed, like my new season-based sets.
Every photo I post here to the blog is actually a link back to the Flickr image. That way I don’t have to worry about uploading images, or people grabbing them willy-nilly. Photos live in one place. Period.
And every Friday I do a #FlickrFriday post on Twitter with a link back to (you guessed it) an image on my Flickr account.
The one exception is Facebook. There, I do upload specific albums of family and friends photos that might not be appropriate for Flickr. But often there’s some cross-posting to both, especially in the case of vacation photos.
Also, Flickr’s Group system is a great way to share like-minded photos. I don’t always remember to do so, but there are a few active groups I dip in and out of, adding my images to the mix.
To be honest, I still use Flickr as a backup mechanism.
I’m grandfathered in under the old membership rules and am exempt from the terabyte limit (although I only use, according to Flickr, “0.025 TB of unlimited”). It’s nice not to worry about archive space like I am at home – I can upload to my heart’s content.
It’s peace of mind knowing that most of my best photos are archived up there at Yahoo! HQ. I’m not super clear on if Flickr compresses the photos after you upload them (like Facebook shamefully does), but something is better than nothing.
LEARNING FROM OTHERS
You know what’s super helpful? EXIF data.
I’m appreciative of the photographers who include it in their photos, because it’s a great educational tool. Not to copy, but to simply learn.
I’m also a big believer in absorbing good photography so you know what to look for in your own images. “If you can see it, you can do it,” my college professor said. Meaning: if you can see the logic and skill applied in making good art, you can apply similar strategies.
So, like 500px, Flickr is a great learning space – for what’s new, for techniques, for upcoming styles, and sometimes for what not to do. Especially for when you find good photographers to follow on Flickr. With “Following,” you always have a good stream of quality stuff coming through.
So I’ll stick with Flickr for the foreseeable future, past the changes and updates and whatnot, until something happens that’s unforgivable. I get a lot of use out of it. I enjoy using it. The $25/year for a Pro membership has always been worth it.
I prefer not to have a camera app store each photo in the app itself. The iPhone photo gallery is usually my go-to place. But sometimes the app doesn’t allow for this kind of photo storage.
I like VSCO cam because the shutter is fast (however, it does have a tendency to corrupt photo files).
KitCam (above) is great because you get a preview of what the film/lens combo will look like before you snap the photo. I tend to like the Brooklyn film and Accent lens presets. But you can have a lot of fun (and get a lot of flexibility) out of various combinations, à la Hipstamatic (another camera app I enjoy using).
And Camera + is a good, all-around camera app to use.
When it comes to editing iPhone photos, my number one editing app is PicFX (shown above). The combination of editing styles and filters – plus the ability to layer effects on top of each other – makes it a killer app.
As shown above, I tend to stick to straightforward filters. The vintage film effects, the PFX 15/150 filters, and the greenish Meadow and Creek filters are my favorites.
PicFX is nice because it crops photos in the square format, too, making it easy to share with Instagram when you’re done editing. In fact, sharing your edited photo with Instagram is as easy as hitting the Share button.
For “problem” photos (like the one above, where it’s a bit underexposed), I try Camera+’s “Clarity” scene preset. It tends to lighten the shadows a bit – although sometimes (as with the photo above) you get a glossy HDR effect. I’m not a fan of this look, so I usually try some of the other scene modes to see what looks appropriate.
Camera+ offers some nice filters as well. I try to avoid the obnoxious ones. The black and white whites tend to be good on certain photos.
My newest editor is VSCO Cam. You can import photos from your default gallery into VSCO, or take the photo from the app, and turn its film-style effects loose on your image. I’m a big fan of VSCO film packs for Lightroom, and you get a bit of that old-school look with this app – especially that faded, grainy look that’s so popular now. A nice, subtle vignette is easy to do with VSCO cam, too.
Finishing and Posting
After editing, I save the finished photo in a photo album called “Instagrammable.” Rarely do I post a photo immediately after snapping it – I usually save it in the album until a certain mood catches me.
My Instagram album is full of photos. I’ll dip in and grab a photo that fits whatever I’m thinking about that day, or fits a song lyric I like, or is weather-appropriate. There’s no hard and fast philosophy.
Often, I’ll take a photo and re-edit it if I find a filter I really like. Also, rarely do I use the standard Instagram filters anymore. Not that they’re bad. I just like a unique look, and I find the third party editing apps do a better job of creating the look I like.
For posting, I do two Instagram posts a day: one in the morning that’s shared with other social networks (Facebook, Twitter, sometimes Flickr). The other one gets posted at night, usually before bed. The evening photo is exclusive to Instagram. It’s also where I play around with styles, and get creative trying out different looks.
Find me on Instagram to see what I’m up to, where I’ve been, and what I find beautiful or interesting in the world.
Sometimes, just walking out your front door and snapping a few shots around the neighborhood is enough. Get outside and get something done – it’s often plenty.
Mr. Saddoris was right: I don’t have to have some big project in mind in order to take photos. Sometimes I’ll get lucky and find stuff, as with the shot above.
I guess that’s my goal this year. I don’t have to have some overarching message to communicate (although I do have an idea for one – more on that later). Instead, I can lug my camera to more places and find beauty in the everyday. I feel like I already do that with my iPhone (and Instagram).
You know what’s really helped? Seeing more activity in my Flickr feed. Some days just one post by a contact can spark my creativity enough to say, “You know what, I can share something today.” Even if it’s a photo that’s been sitting in my to-edit queue for months, the drive to post something can be enough to finally finish the thing.
I still like the big photo projects, the big weekend adventures, the hours spent in Lightroom culling the good from the meh – but it doesn’t have to be all that. Maybe a photo a day will seem like less work. More fun.
A photo a day. A mini project. Surely that’s doable.
Flickr is not dead. It is very much alive. It’s just not the creature everyone wants it to be. Fortunately there are other places for personal snapshots of daily life. Flickr is where I will continue to go for everything else.
I’m in agreement. I use Flickr as an archive, as a way to discover great photos, and as a way to share photos with friends. I’m also using it for work: we’re switching to Flickr for our website photo galleries. It’s so much easier than using Joomla! tools, it’s not even funny.
If you search through enough Flickr photos, you start to learn how great photos are made. The composition and editing are the artistic parts, where philosophy and style come into play. But in the numbers, you can learn a little bit about how to make cool pictures.