Monday, August 04, 2014

Guaranteed Delivery Photo Sharing Networks: Flickr, Instagram, Twitter

A crate originally containing blasting caps, explosive charges used to set off dynamite, sits in an abandoned house in the historic mining town of Bodie, California. 

The "handle carefully" label on the box is good advice for photographers in the fragmented world of online photography sharing world.  While other sites shelter copyright violators, invade your privacy and threaten to sell your photos without any benefit to you, Flickr remains a key place for serious photographers, arguably THE place.  But if you want to connect with friends and family on social media sites, or grow your audience with photographers who haven't found or returned to Flickr yet, you may have to spread a few of your photos around a bit.  Sites don't all connect to one another, and they have different functionality, so details can get lost from site to site, and where you share to or from can affect how well your photos are received where they end up.

Let's consider Instagram, Twitter and Flickr.  Instagram can be a receptive place for mobile phone photos, but I don't spend much time on Instagram.  I have more followers on Twitter, and Twitter is known as a place for real time updates.  But Instagram photos shared directly to Twitter don't show up with a preview image, greatly reducing the odds that anyone will see, let alone respond to, your tweet.  So if I want to make a mobile phone share to Instagram and also reach my friends who might be on Twitter, it's best to post to Instagram and Flickr at once, then from Flickr share to Twitter.  A Flickr share to Twitter does result in a photo being posted with the tweet, with a thumbnail included in the left colum, so your odds of interaction with your post are much higher.  But most importantly there's also a link back to the original photo on Flickr, a full-featured "home base" for photography.

Many sites have popped up over the years enabling sharing photos, but many of them have implemented filters preventing all of the people who have subscribed to see you photos from actually seeing them.  Flickr does not prevent other photographers from seeing your work, it does not tolerate or even facilitate copyright violators like some other sites, it hasn't had privacy issue after privacy issue, there haven't been scandals where they would allow selling of your work without your knowledge or permission, and most importantly, it remains the photography place with the strongest tagging, grouping, album, location, date and interestingness-ranking functionality, that intelligent searches can be performed on.  So when your'e going to a national park and want to get ideas on where to go and what to see at that time of year, you can perform a search and find some great images and places.  Others can similarly find your images that way.  And everyone is easily accessible, you just post a question below their photograph or send them a flickrmail, there's no weird layer of site intervention over who can "friend" whom, or which people can communicate with each other.

For this photo I took an iPhone photo and used the free Snapseed app to post-process it and post it simultaneously to Flickr and Instagram.  So technically it started here as well as there.  Then I used the Flickr to Twitter sharing function to  tweet the photo with a preview image and link back here on Flickr.  It's simple, fast, gets the photo were I need it, and lets me keep my portfolio grounded on Flickr where I can best manage it.

Where I want a more subtle and controlled edit I may wait to import my iPhone images into Lightroom and upload the edited images from my PC to Flickr.  In that case I then go to the Flickr app and I can download my Lightroom-edited photo on Flickr to my phone's camera roll storage.  Like magic, any of my photos on Flickr, even ones taken on a DSLR, can be shared to otherwise mobile-centric apps like Instagram that way.

With the strong tagging/metadata and search functionality it seems like Flickr is still one of the places editors look first to find images.  It'll be interesting to see whether the new licensing functionality announced last week can reinforce and amplify that trend.

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