Until a few months ago, I felt like Flickr was dead. Or dying. Then I happened to stumble upon a group I forgot I joined that was still very lively, with active users posting pictures and commenting on the message board. And one of my fellow members found my blog as a result!
While it's true that some of the groups I joined have suffered from attrition, others have benefited from it. As the Photoshop filter freaks found Instagram and the aspiring food photographers discovered Pinterest, it left room for the more serious artists and photographers of Flickr to thrive. I started seeing more pictures that my contacts had taken for their photography portfolios, as opposed to vacation and party photos, or snapshots of their families. After all, that's what Facebook is for. So even though there may not be as many active users on Flickr as there once were, the decrease in quantity has simultaneously produced an increase in quality. And that's why I'm still a fan of Flickr.
As an artist, I think that Flickr is the best social media platform I have joined. Not only does it host my images for a reasonable annual fee, but it also allows me to connect with other artists. The groups I mentioned before are often a great source of information. You can post questions on group message boards and get answers about photography or painting techniques, or even doll collecting. Another useful feature is the camera directory. Flickr takes the EXIF data from the cameras used for each photo and posts it. If you click on the camera's model number, you can see other photos taken with the same camera, a useful tool if you want to see what the camera of your dreams is capable of in real life before you buy it. Doing a camera search can also be a source of inspiration. Many times I realized how much of my camera's potential I still haven't taken advantage of when I see the photos others have taken with the same model.
Another valuable feature of Flickr is that the images you upload and mark as public are indexed by Google. You never know, someone might find your art and ask you to use it in an article. It's happened to me before. You can set up varying levels of copyright, from all rights reserved to creative commons licenses, as well as allow your work to be used by Getty Images.
It's also a very flexible platform. Unlike some social media sites that are stingy with their APIs, (Twitter, I'm looking at you!) Flickr generously allows developers to design applications for their service. If you're a code expert, this opens up a world of possibilities. Or if you're like me and would rather save time by implementing other people's widgets, you can take advantage of the wealth of free additions to your website. For example, I use Pictobrowser on my website, and if you scroll to the bottom of this blog, you'll notice the Flickriver badge that displays thumbnails of my favorite images posted by other people on Flickr. I call it my digital mood board.
Another nice thing about Flickr is that it organizes your photos into RSS feeds, providing yet another way to share and organize your artwork. RSS is a great tool for websites, and people who like to susbscribe to RSS feeds can subscribe to your Flickr portfolio using the services of their choice.
Pinterest is designed for sharing the content of others. In fact, as I understand it, in its early days, posting pictures of your own art and products was frowned upon. It's an engine for aspirational consumption, a public, visual wish list where often the same images get "re-pinned" over and over. But Flickr encourages you to upload your own pictures. Instagram seems to revolve around sharing photos of more intimate, personal details of your life while filtering them with a faux-nostalgic haziness and fading. Flickr photos range from the personal to the commercial, and while Instagram and Hipstamatic photos are welcome there, high definition and high dynamic range photos are valued for their clarity and professionalism.
So if you are an artist looking for a place where you can share your work with an engaged community that will inspire and challenge you, give Flickr a try. See some of the Flickr groups I have featured in the past in the posts labeled Friday Featured Flickr Group.