Some photographers want to buy equipment. This is what I want to buy

I do not suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing photographic I lust after.

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Beadwork
No, it’s not beads I want to buy. This is just a pic of gratuitous colour from my Flickr stream to brighten what would otherwise be a very dull blog post. There’s another gratuitous picture a bit further down, but it has a much better caption.

Flickr is for sale, according to this PetaPixel article. I want to buy it. I don’t have the money. If you, or anyone you know, has a spare few million US dollars lying around, (or some shiny, colourful beads that will impress the sellers) please let me know in the comments section below.

Or, if you are a banker or (ad)venture capitalist who could be interested in this little project,  you can also leave a note in the comments section.

Just for the record, Yahoo acquired Flickr in 2005 for a measly $25 000 000 (a paltry sum considering they paid a whopping $1 billion dollars for Tumblr in 2013! Tumblr is also in need of a major overhaul to regain its lost lustre, but at one time it was the fastest growing site on the Internet!)

I’m quite serious about this. Unless I can get my hands on the best photo-sharing site on the ‘Web, someone else will get their grubby little paws on it and they’ll just screw it up because they don’t understand what makes Flickr great. Eventually, it will just wither and die.

What Flickr needs at the helm is someone who not only loves photography, but also loves the Internet in general, social networking in particular, and Flickr most of all. I’m all of those. I have loads of ideas to make Flickr even better than it is right now. Not the kind of things people hate, the kind of things Flickr users have already said they want, and some things that will make it the world-beating photo site it should be.

Actually, if I was Marissa Mayer I’d keep Flickr and just appoint me as CEO. Why sell something that, with me as head honcho, will become a massive money-spinner without making users pay any more than they do right now? To paraphrase a controversial political campaign of recent weeks, I want to “Make Flickr Great Again.”

A workshop
With a bit of tinkering, Flickr will regain its once-preeminent status as the BEST place for your photos on the web. The secret lies in knowing what to fix and what to leave alone. Oh, and good marketing, too.

Actually, Flickr has been improving by leaps and bounds in the last couple years, but marketing for the service has been lacklustre, to say the least. Good marketing is vital for the success of any business, it’s not just something one tacks on to the product and hope it works. I’m no marketing slouch, but I also have access to some of the finest marketing brains on the planet, men and women who would love nothing better than to get involved in an exciting project like this because it’s a reputation-maker of note.

(If Yahoo wants to throw Tumblr into the deal as well and make me CEO of that,  I’ll fix both sites for the price of one. I cannot be any fairer than that!)

If you want to see some more of my gratuitous photography…

Where else would I be?

PetaPixel Continues their Anti-Flickr Tirade

Three anti-Flickr articles in the space of two days! (One from Wired)
It’s keeping me quite busy I tell you.

Urgent Update!

Since publishing this post, I note that PetaPixel has now published a counter viewpoint. Here’s a link to the article, written by Thomas Hawk: In defense of Flickr: 8 Reasons I’m Sticking Around My thanks go to Thomas Hawk for writing the piece, and also to PetaPixel for publishing it, restoring somewhat my faith in the site. I’m not in any way suggesting that my criticism of the two most recent PetaPixel anti-Flickr posts has influenced their decision to post the Thomas Hawk  rebuttal – in all likelihood they probably don’t even know my little blog exists.

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Below is my own response to the Allen Murabayashi piece that appeared earlier today, written before I saw the Thomas Hawk piece on the same subject.

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PetaPixel is on the warpath. Their target is Flickr.

Wielding the hatchet this time is Allen Murabayashi, chairman and co-founder of the online portfolio site, PhotoShelter, in an article entitled: Flickr’d Out: The Rise and Fall of a Photo Sharing Service.

Given Murabayashi’s background, it’s hardly surprising, though unfortunate, he’d want to trash Flickr (or any opposition photo site, for that matter), even though both sites appeal to very different market niches.

photoshelter home screen
A portion of the PhotoShelter home page. Obviously, focused as it is on the professional market, the site appeals to a very different demographic than that of Flickr, so why chairman and co-founder Allen Murabayashi feels the need to denigrate the long-standing photo-sharing site is something of mystery…but perhaps not.

My gripe is not really with Murabayashi, it’s with PetaPixel, who publish nonsense like this uncritically and with no counterpoint or alternative view.

Obviously, I don’t have any say in PetaPixel’s editorial policy, but I feel that a site that claims to promote photography in general, should be a little more circumspect in their attempted demolition of a venerable and much-loved photo-sharing site like Flickr.

Flickr has been around since 2004, making it one of the oldest social networks on the Web. Many loyal Flickr users have been with the site almost since inception. I’ve had an account with the service since early 2007, and a paid account (called Pro) since 2008.

Nevertheless, the site has had its share of problems over the years, particularly since the Yahoo buy-out in 2005.

The World Wide Web is a strange place. A “darling” site one week is excoriated the next. Yahoo was once one of those “darling” sites. Then it wasn’t. Google came along and swept all before it.

Since then, one feels, Yahoo has struggled to find a relevant place for itself.

Flickr was largely left to fend for itself and the site no doubt suffered from a lack of development, particularly as newer sites with better interfaces and slicker layouts gained traction. But Flickr underwent a major revamp in 2014, a process that is continuing as we speak.

As part of this revamp, Flickr announced a huge one terabyte of storage space to all free account holders, and unlimited space to paid account holders.

One-freakin-terabyte! Do you have any idea how big that is? Let me illustrate. According to Flickr, I have 20 619 photos loaded on the site. Admittedly, most of these pics are produced with older equipment that doesn’t produce the pixel-chomping image size of current cameras. Others are scans from low-end scanners that also produce images in an easy-to-digest size. Even so, you would expect over 20-thousand images to take up a sizeable chunk of server space. And it does. 48.46 GB to be precise – less than 10% of the 1 TB allotted space at my disposal if I had a free account!

This alone makes Flickr the absolute best bargain, photographically speaking, on the entire Internet.

Even if you never make any of your pictures available for public viewing on the site, even if you never participate in any Flickr community activities, even if you aren’t interested in any of the social aspects of the site, Flickr is a place you need to be. If just for that cloud storage.

So what do you get for free at Murabayashi’s PhotoShelter site? A 14-day trial, that’s what. When your 14-day trial runs out you start coughing up. (In the interests of openness and fairness, I’ve just signed up for a free PhotoShelter trial account, to learn a little more about the service.)

Also, contrary to what you may be thinking, I’m not opposed to PhotoShelter either. I firmly believe there’s a place for everyone on the ‘Net. It really comes down to defining your audience and going after it. PhotoShelter is very squarely and unequivocally aimed at professional photographers.

“Experience more than 100+ features specifically developed for professional photographers” and “Exceptional tools that simplify how you take care of business, from upload to sales.” are just two of the come-ons displayed in boldface headlines on the site.

The basic PhotoShelter package will set you back US$96 (billed annually) or US$119.98 per year (billed monthly @ $9.99). This buys you a grand total of 4GB cloud storage. Given today’s large camera chips it ain’t gonna take you long to use up all that space (especially if you upload RAW), and then you’ll no doubt want to upgrade your account accordingly.

If so, there are two options open to you; the mid-price range at $25 – 30  p/m (100GB cloud storage), and the “Unlimited” package at $45 – 50 p/m (unlimited cloud storage.) By contrast, unlimited cloud storage at Flickr will set you back US$39 per year, (or a measly $3,25 p/m).

Of course, storage space shouldn’t be the sole determinant of where you place your pictures on the ‘Web. There are many other things to consider, especially if your livelihood depends on your pictures. And I’m sure PhotoShelter’s 80 000 users (according to their homepage) are delighted with the service. The portfolio design options look pretty good, and there are some big name photographers there, like Joe McNally. But, it turns out, Mr. McNally also maintains a Flickr account! He hasn’t made any photographs available for public viewing yet, so he’s either using it purely for storage, or maybe it’s just for family snaps, or maybe someone else set up the site for nefarious purposes.

But regardless of who does or doesn’t maintain an account on PhotoShelter, there’s really no good reason for the chairman and co-founder to post a petty, whining, “obituary” about his possibly-longed-for demise of a competitor(?) site.

Ironically, Murabayashi does praise two other sites in his article: Google + Photos and Picasa. The problem, as he himself notes, is that they are both defunct. For a site that’s currently alive and kicking he recommends the “swell consumer tool named Google Photos”. That’s fine and good. I also recommend Google Photos, particularly if you want your pictures to show up in Google image search results (although obviously you will still have to optimise your pictures manually to get results – SEO doesn’t happen automatically no matter what site you use.) But in recommending Google Photos, I don’t trash other photo sharing and/or storage sites.

And just what kind of file storage do you get with Google Photos? Here’s what Google tells me:

High quality (free unlimited storage) Great visual quality at reduced file size.

Yep. “Unlimited” storage, but your pictures are compressed. Of course, if you don’t want your images compressed, you can always buy more storage. For instance, 1 TB will cost you US$10 per month, or $120 p/a if my maths is correct. Compared to 1 TB free? Looks like Flickr is still the better deal.

As I’ve said before, there’s a place for everyone’s pictures on the ‘Web, even on [gasp!] Facebook (often trashed by photographers, but properly understood and used by others).

As I have also said in this post, it’s understandable for Murabayashi to hold the views he does with regard to Flickr. But publishing those views on a popular, public,  photo reportage site is just plain bad marketing. Marketing 101 suggests you don’t knock your competitors. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth of potential customers who actually appreciate the slated competitor.

But PetaPixel  is simply without excuse. If  they are just chasing clicks with articles like this, they should perhaps consider the wider ramifications of what they publish. Do they really want to see a site like Flickr vanish into cyberspace never to be heard from again? Regardless of their answer to that question, they should at least give Flickr the right of reply, or, failing that, publish blog posts like this that provide a counter opinion.

Finally, I think Flickr could quite happily say, in agreement with Mark Twain, “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

DISCLAIMER: I am not employed by, nor derive any income from, Yahoo, Flickr or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates. But obviously,

I hope to see you there soon!

Oh, and you’ll find Thomas Hawk’s brilliant Flickr page right here.

Hey, PetaPixel, what’s with the Flickr-bashing?

Now PetaPixel joins Wired magazine to gang up on Flickr.

flickr home page
The best place on the Internet for your photographs.

Geez! Hardly has the virtual ink on my previous post dried when this shrill, Flickr-bashing post from Peta Pixel comes along to add to the noise.

The piece, from people who are supposedly photography lovers and who really should know better, also bemoans the the fact, like the Wired article I mentioned in my previous post, that the Flickr Uploadr app for desktop and mobile devices is now being made available only to paid Flickr members.

Is this the end of the world? Hardly. Flickr users with a free account still get a pretty nifty in-site upload interface that offers both drag-and-drop and file-search options, with multiple file upload capabilities. In other words, if you haven’t been making use of the Uploadr app, you won’t notice any difference in getting your pictures onto the site.

upload interface
Uploading photos to Flickr is as easy as it ever was.

One of the things that really irritates me about the Peta Pixel piece is the headline:

“Don’t Trust ‘Free’ Photo Hosting Sites, or: The Problem with Flickr”.

Peta Pixel is being somewhat disingenuous in singling out Flickr in this way. In reality, Flickr has never been an entirely free service. Sure, there has always been a free component to it, but everyone knows you derive maximum benefit by actually paying for it – just like many other services on the web, including the paid services mentioned in the Peta Pixel hatchet job. What’s more, Flickr is much more generous to its free subscribers than any other photo hosting service I know of.

Another contentious statement in the piece is this bit of nonsense:

“Right now it almost feels like nobody really uses Flickr much anymore (it was probably as popular as Instagram around 5-10 years ago). Most people use Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat.”

Does the writer of the piece actually live on Planet Earth? Flickr has millions of active members with a database of billions of photographs. While Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat may well have their places, they serve different needs. They don’t do, nor can they do, what Flickr does so well.

In all fairness, Flickr did appear to be losing relevancy a few years ago. Facebook’s improved photo display interface, the great photo handling capabilities of G+, the arrival of Instagram and, to a much lesser extent, 500px all seemed to be stealing Flickr’s thunder.

But in 2014 Flickr received a major overhaul. As result, far from “Nobody really uses Flickr any more”, I’ve noticed a definite surge of newer accounts springing up in my contacts list, as well as many returning members who I haven’t seen in awhile.

One can possibly understand some petulant geeks at Wired magazine throwing a bit of a tantrum at the loss of a previously-free Flickr feature (even if they never used it – we just don’t know).

But Peta Pixel is a freakin’ photography site and should know better.

Instead of trying to drive prospective members away from Flickr, they should be encouraging them to join! Ye gads! Peta Pixel even runs its own Flickr group (which I’ve just joined 🙂 ). That’s right. It’s been running since 2009 and there are currently 106 342 photos posted there, although that number is set increase slightly as soon as I’m done working on this post.

Oh, and here’s a cool little piece of info I found on the group’s main page:

“Quick tip – Photographs added to our group pool are displayed on PetaPixel.com!”

So if you want your Flickr pictures to get a little more of that good ol’ Interwebs luurve, you know what to do.

Finally if you want to sign up for a free (or a paid) Flickr account, you can do so here. If you want to share your pictures with the world at large, you simply cannot do better than Flickr, regardless of what Wired, Peta Pixel, or any other petty naysayers may tell you.

DISCLAIMER: I am not employed by Flickr, Yahoo or any of their affiliates, nor do I have any financial interest in any of their companies.
<p style="text-align:center;"Naturally, it goes without saying…

You should be, too.

Is it Really Time to “Give Up” on Flickr? Not so Fast, Wired…

Wired magazine is telling you to get your pics off Flickr pronto…are they correct?

According to an article that appeared in Wired magazine’s online edition today, Flickr is dead.

This came as a bit of a shock to me as I was busy (coincidentally) preparing a different article to this one, a post extolling the many benefits of the long-standing photo-sharing site.

Just so that you are absolutely clear, I want to say upfront that I am a big, big, fan of Flickr. I first signed up for a free account in 2007, and about a year later I upgraded to a paid (what Flickr calls “Pro”) account. Flickr is the only online photo service I pay for, although I have free accounts with a couple of other photo networks (I like to check things out, okay?).

Flickr does a better job than any of them. So what’s got Wired so riled up about the service. Well, Flickr has just announced a couple of changes to its service. One of these means the Flickr uploader app is now only available to paid subscribers.

camera roll sample
Pictures from yesterday and today automatically uploaded from my phone. They appear in the new Camera Roll section from where they are easily accessible. The eye symbol on the top left image indicates that the picture can be publicly viewed, while the lock symbol on the other pics indicates they are “Private”, i.e., they cannot be publicly viewed until I change the setting.

The uploader scans whatever device its installed on for photographs and automatically uploads them to your Flickr account. These pictures are hidden from public view until you decide otherwise. I’ve had it installed on my desktop almost since it was launched about a year ago and it’s uploaded close to 20 000 pictures from my hard drive and another external USB drive. It also automatically uploads pictures from my phone without me having to do anything.

Eventually I had to deactivate the desktop uploader because of bandwith issues. But fibre is coming to our neighbourhood (hopefully next month) and then it’ll be all-systems-go again until every last picture is safely stored in the cloud!

With a free account you get 1 terrabyte of storage! That’s far, far more than any other photo hosting platform gives you. But, with a paid account I get unlimited storage. Not that I’ll ever need it. Right now, with those 20 000+ photos I’m still only using about 48 GB of space.

flickr storage used graphic

But Flicker is much more than just a storage service. It’s also a great social network and photo sharing site. After all, that’s why it was started in the first place. Regardless of your particular photographic affinity, you’ll find a group (or groups) where you can not only display photographs, but engage in lively debate as well. Flickr’s dynamic group dynamics is one of the things that keeps legions of Flickr-ites hooked to the site.

One of the things that surprised me about the Wired article was the number of Flickr fans who immediately sprang to its defense. This was a real joy to behold because, usually, when Flickr announces any changes the forums are full of people predicting its immanent demise. I guess it’s a case of “hometown syndrome” – I can say what I like about where I live, but woe betide any outsider who bad-mouths the neighbourhood.

To make matters worse, Wired ran another article titled How to Get Your Photos Off Flickr (and Where to Put Them)! I can think of a few places I’d like to put the article.

So, should you follow Wired’s ill-considered advice and ditch Flickr? On the contrary, there’s never been a better time to enjoy it. If you love your photography but you’ve never had a Flickr account, do yourself a huge favour and go get one a.s.a.p. If you are a member but haven’t checked it out for awhile, it’s definitely time to re-acquaint yourself with the site.

Obviously

ADVICE FOR PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS…FROM AN AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER

Arteries, veins, capillaries
The picture above is by far my most viewed picture on Flickr. I’m not saying it’s a particularly good picture, or that it’s my best picture. There’s a little story as to how it became my most viewed picture, and if you’re a photographer, professional or amateur, who wants to get a few more views of  your shots by having them show up in search engines more often, then this article may offer you some useful information.

Firstly, a disclaimer; I’m not presenting myself here as some sort of SEO “guru”. I’m interested in SEO from a marketing perspective and, as a copywriter, I’ve spend some time learning about it. This post is not a comprehensive discussion of the subject. It just highlights some things I’ve learned over the years and noticed through looking at my Flickr stats, which are available to anyone who has what Flickr calls a “Pro” account, i.e. a paid account.

Secondly, I’m not affiliated to Flickr in any manner or form, so if I advise you to get a “Pro” account with the photo sharing site, I do  not stand to benefit in any way.

Thirdly, you may get better results from other photo services – in this article I’m talking about Flickr because it’s my photo website of choice. Apart from this WordPress blog, I have accounts at other sites such as 500px.com,  jpgmag.com, tumblr.com and Google+, but Flickr is what I use 99% of the time. Google+ is also getting good reports from photographers and I’m sure that from an SEO perspective, the fact that its a part of Google won’t do any harm.

Okay, with that background info let’s dive right in. The story of the picture above is that shortly after I posted it to Flickr it started getting hits from search results. At first it was just one or two a month, but eventually it became almost daily and often several hits in one day. I also noticed  there was another picture on Flickr, of a similar subject and similarly titled, that consistently showed up higher in those same results. This made me curious about what the other poster had done to “optimise” her photograph. When I checked I didn’t notice anything obvious that should have resulted in her picture coming in higher in the rankings; her picture didn’t even have a description, just a title.

As a bit of fun, really, and also to just see if I could affect the results, I made a small change to the title of my picture and repeated  the title in the flow of copy in the description. It wasn’t long before my picture regularly appeared above hers in the search results and, eventually, I stopped seeing her picture at all.

However there is another element in the SEO of this picture that I think help it get a few hits, at least in the normal search results. Obviously, in an image search people can actually see the picture, so this technique won’t have as great an effect as it does in normal organic search. The little trick is in the picture description.

Here is the page title and description for this picture as they appear in a search result:

picture of arteries veins and capularies - Bing

“For some reason I looked up and thought this could be a page in a medical textbook discussing arteries, veins, and capillaries…”  The link, on its own, appears to be just another link to a picture of arteries, veins and capillaries, among many other links to similar info and pictures available. But the description makes the link different to the others. “What did he see when he looked up?” “Why does it look like a page in medical textbook?” These are questions a curious surfer may want answered so they’ll risk a quick diversion from their real search to get answers. The phrase “Dunno if you agree.” is another encouragement to look at the picture.

Anyone stumbling upon this link in the search results knows full well they will not be seeing an actual picture of the subject matter they are searching for. But they are prepared to risk a couple of minutes of their time to satisfy the curiosity the description arouses.

Photography is not my living, so I don’t spend a lot of time figuring out how to optimise each and every picture I upload, but I do it give it some thought whenever I post pictures. The exercise I conducted on this picture was more for fun than anything else. Nevertheless, here are a few pointers that may help you

Firstly –  if I were a professional photographer I’d learn everything I could about SEO. These days it’s absolutely essential to have a web presence, but I see many professional photographer sites that don’t make the most of that presence. Images are not enough for SEO, you need text. In fact, for SEO purposes, the text on your site is far more important than the images.

Secondly – if you upload images to web services other than your own website, you should give them captions and titles that’ll help search engines and potential clients find you. Don’t just assume people will find you just by your name…there are many potential clients who don’t know your name – probably they don’t even know you exist – but if they saw your work they just might be more inclined to work with you.

Thirdly – spread yourself far and wide across the web. Instead of just one or other platform, use as many as you can. Every picture you post is another opportunity for someone to find you.

I hope this post helps you land a few more clients whatever your field of photography, be it landscape, portraiture, weddings, travel, photojournalism, or anything else.

UPDATE: Since I started working on this post one of my pictures was selected for the Flickr blog, and that particular picture has now surpassed this tree shot as my most viewed picture, but that’s another story entirely.

© 2013. All images copyright Grahame Hall and may not be used without written permission of the copyright owner. Please respect the rights of others.

A MILDLY AMUSING SEO LESSON FROM FLICKR

Early Naturists

When I first got  a Flickr account back in 2007, I used the handle “Finepixtrip” as the account name and began to upload pictures. Later, with the Yahoo takeover of Flickr there were some account settings that needed changing. I can’t remember all the ins and outs of the procedure but I obviously messed it up and somehow or other I lost access to the account. “No matter,” I thought, “as it’s only been going a few months and there aren’t too many pictures yet, I’ll just open a new Flickr account from scratch,” which I did, using the slightly different “finepixtrix” as my monicker.

Yesterday I decided to check on the old account just to see what, if anything, was happening with it. I was looking through the photos and came across this pic of a display at Maropeng, the Cradle of Humankind centre about 30 kms outside of Johannesburg in the Kromdraai district.

When I looked at the stats for the picture I was gobsmacked to see that to date it’s had  7070 views! I thought: “Zowie! Has this old account been doing amazingly better than my “proper” Flickr account – the one I use regularly? How can that be, I haven’t added any pictures to it for over five years and I have absolutely no interaction with anyone with this account!?”

I quickly looked at the numbers for several other pictures but they weren’t nearly as impressive. The next most viewed picture, strangely enough also of Maropeng – but just an exterior view of the visitor’s centre – comes in at a measly 223 views. Most of the pictures have less than 50 views. So what gives? Why has this particular picture scored 7,000+  views?

Then it dawned on me. It’s the  title and caption. The title, “Early Naturists”, is ideally optimised for people who are searching for pictures of naturists, which, as we know, is another term for nudists. Some people are probably a bit shy when searching for nude pictures and don’t want to tell Google that that’s what they’re really after, so they use less “incriminating” words – like “naturists”.  And of course there are those who are genuinely curious about the naturist lifestyle and want to learn more about it, and probably some actual naturists who want to learn about the activities of like-minded people in other parts of the world. But none of this was going through my mind when I titled the picture.

Next, there’s the caption under the title. It contains the word “nudes” and “gorgeous bodies”, so that’s a cinch for the search engines! At the time I just thought it was a slightly humorous caption to go with these strange looking, imaginary creatures. I  haven’t done a search myself for these terms so I don’t know how high the picture ranks in the results pages, but I bet more than a few surfers are a tad disappointed after they click on the link and see the picture on Flickr, especially if they aren’t using the image search facility and just see the title and description in the results. Searches for “cradle of humankind”, “maropeng”, “kromdraai” and similar terms probably bring a trickle of visitors, too.

Despite the massive number (for any of my pictures, anyway) of views, the picture has only generated one comment, from someone who goes by the name of KJ49, who said: “dat’s crazy”.

By way of contrast, the most popular picture on my “proper” Flickr page has a mere 3,025 views as of today. It’s not a great shot but just for fun I did a bit of purposeful SEO on the title and caption of this picture a couple of years ago and it shows up quite high and often in the search results pages. But that’s another story.

You can see the old Finepixtrip Flickr page here.

My “proper” Flickr page is here.

© 2012. All images copyright Grahame Hall and may not be used without written permission of the copyright owner. Please respect the rights of others.