Photography

How does Flickr’s new limit of 1,000 photos for non-paying users affect you?

Photo-sharing site Flickr is back to making controversial decisions about how its service runs.

Flickr-LogoFor years, Flickr has had free and paid tiers. Since 2013, the free tier gave an astonishing 1 terabyte of storage, but showed users advertising. The paid tier offered unlimited storage but removed the ads.

New owner SmugMug has announced that they will soon limit free accounts to 1,000 photos. They want to change their business model to drive less revenue from advertising and more from subscriptions.

They say that this is also about encouraging Flickr to be a stronger photo community. I’m not sure how this does that, but it’s a nice idea. Flickr’s community used to be so rich, and it’d be great if that could come back somehow.

I work in the software industry and know how hard it is to come up with a viable revenue model and the corporate and product strategies that support it. I never understood how Flickr could make money offering a terabyte of storage to everyone.

Flickr’s blog post about this change says, “The overwhelming majority of Pros have more than 1,000 photos on Flickr, and more than 97% of Free members have fewer than 1,000. We believe we’ve landed on a fair and generous place to draw the line.”

Yet in the photo forums I follow, many photographers are upset about this change. Perhaps it’s hobbyist photographers like us who make up that 3% of Free users who’ve uploaded more than 1,000 photos.

I’ve been a Flickr Pro user for years now with 15,863 photos uploaded as of today. (See my Flickr stream here.) I’ve found my Flickr Pro subscription to be worth every penny just for my ability to share my work anywhere I want to on the Internet, including and especially on this blog. I’m grandfathered at the old $25/year rate, but even if they bump me to the current $50/year rate I’ll pay it and keep on Flickring.

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40 thoughts on “How does Flickr’s new limit of 1,000 photos for non-paying users affect you?

    • If you go to Flickr today the main page will tell you all about it. I think they’re trying to shake off casual users, and users who use it as a photo backup service.

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  1. It would be good to see the community aspects of Flickr return more strongly, it’s been a bit of a wasteland the last couple of years or more. If you look back to perhaps five years ago, the amount of useful content in the forums is astonishing, especially for film users. I know I learned masses there when I was starting out with film photography in 2012.

    Let’s hope some of the more dedicated and talkative photographers return and move away from the more (in my opinion) superficial and surface skimming sites like Instagram.

    Like you Jim I’ve been Pro for years so it doesn’t really impact me. For unlimited storage and the ease of using any of a multitude of different sizes of your photos (for example in one’s blog) I feel it’s great value.

    The best news is the plan to get rid of the need to sign in via Yahoo! I only ever got a Yahoo account for this purpose and never use it for anything else. Let’s hope they use a dedicated Flickr sign in, and options to sign in via other profiles like Google. I expect the majority of Yahoo email accounts will almost disappear overnight when this is implemented!

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    • I really like Flickr. I almost said love, but its herky-jerky nature over the last few years has me stopping short of that. I’m happy its future is relatively secured and that the new owners are figuring out a business model and making product decisions that line up with it. I’d love it if the community aspect returned, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jon campo says:

    I’m not happy about it, especially since they botched my payment for this year. They charged my card and never upgraded my status to pro.Threatening to delete ones photos seems like blackmail, and I doubt it will do a lot to improve good feelings among users. I do enjoy it, but I am downsizing in preparation for a big move next year and closely looking at all my expenses, not sure if that will make the cut. I use Instagram and can live with the adds. It seems like most people have migrated there already. I do wish them luck, I hope it works.

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    • Sounds like you want Flickr for the social aspect of it, rather than the lossless file storage aspect of it. I like and value both, which is why I’m happy to pony up. But that’s just crap that they took your money and won’t upgrade you. Crap.

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  3. I believe it will be a big win for Flickr in the long run when the requirement to have a yahoo email account goes away next year. Many people dislike yahoo email (not me) and swear by Gmail. If you only use Gmail or some other service then you couldn’t have a Flickr account under the present system. I’m not thrilled with the $49.99 annual cost (another fee) but since I don’t do Facebook, Instagram and the others my only other cost is my annual WordPress account. Flickr has generated some sales for me directly and I use it to drive customers and visitors to my blog https://www.yashicasailorboy.com and my Etsy shop https://www.ccstudio2380.com

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    • Completely agree about the Yahoo sign in. If I log out by accident or haven’t been on Flickr for a while I have to retrieve the password every time! No idea what might be in my Yahoo email inbox, I haven’t looked in it in about a decade! Changing this is a major plus, but something they should have done years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. BTW Jim, thanks for the heads-up… I was totally in the dark about the changes as I never noticed the proposals from Flickr. I only have just a little over 2100 images on Flickr now after 4 years but it would have been painful to lose my pics when they cut it down to the 1000 limit “for free”.

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  5. I have 589 photos on Flickr, uploaded over the past ten years. I’ve increased my upload rate considerably in the last year, but a free account is probably still viable for me for a couple more years.
    I really like Flickr Albums as they are a big help to me in evaluating and organizing my work.
    I’m also a fan of the film discussion groups and am sorry and a bit mystified as to why the use of them dropped so precipitously over the past five years or so. I suppose the contraction of the discussion groups has something to do with the rise of other photo sharing and social networking platforms, but I have seen no real explanations along that line, or any documentation. It seems to me that none of the other photo sharing sites offer the possibilities for networking about film photography that Flickr provides.
    I took over running the New Mexico Film Photographers group on Flickr about seven months ago. At the same time I started a local meetup group for film photographers in Albuquerque and I thought the two projects would be mutually supporting. The meetup group is doing well, but the members have not made use of the Flickr group to stay in touch between our monthly meetings, though several have active Flickr accounts.

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    • I’ve never seen any other site/app with the equivalent depth of threads and discussion as Flickr had/has. Maybe Facebook has photography groups and that’s where people have gone? I don’t know I’m not on it. Stuff like Instagram and Twitter and Pinterest are all about skimming, there’s no capacity for depth of conversation there, in my disappointing experiences.

      So I’d love to see Flickr groups rise up again.

      And yes photo albums and tags in Flickr help me also sort through my photos far more easily and quickly than just by date as they’re saved on my HDs, this is another major plus of using Flickr.

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    • I think the discussion group is going the way of the dodo. Everybody’s on Facebook now. The most active photo discussion I know of is on Facebook, in some of their groups. That’s not to say it’s great, only that it’s active.

      I don’t fully understand it. I remember when forums, and before that dial-up BBSes, were great fun. You could have conversation about any topic at any level (frivolous to deep); you’d always find someone willing somewhere. But today the good, serious, helpful conversations are nowhere to be found. It’s all Like-gathering and look-at-me stuff.

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      • “But today the good, serious, helpful conversations are nowhere to be found” – yeh they are, they’re on blogs like yours Jim! This is why I find blogs more valuable than ever, it’s where the more intelligent and useful communities are still forming and growing. : )

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        • True, but I control the conversation starts here, unlike a forum. But perhaps networked together all of our blogs are like one big old-style forum.

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  6. Heide says:

    I was momentarily outraged when I read the news, but the more I thought about it the more it seemed like a fair compromise. After Facebook’s data-skimming and -selling shenanigans, I’m more inclined to pay for a service I value than to get it for “free” with all sorts of hidden catches. But that’s just me … I can also understand the folks who have been uploading photos for years might feel like their content is now being “held hostage.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have no real insight into what’s going on inside Flickr/SmugMug but from here it looks like just what they say: moving to a subscription-fueled rather than ad-fueled revenue model. I applaud that, even though I feel some sadness for photographers who get great value from Flickr but for whom $50 is a lot of money.

      Liked by 1 person

    • There are other photography storage options like Google Photos, iCloud and Amazon but they all have a fee too, and in my experience with first two there’s nothing like the potential for organising and accessing your images, or interaction with others. You pay for money and take your choice. Or go with a free app like Facebook and get plastered with ads and risk your data being used in ways you’re not aware of. My money will continue to go into Flickr, with Google Photos as a very useful tool also for editing and processing my photos in conjunction with my Android phone and Snapseed, which all syncs together beautifully.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think Flickr is moving away from photo storage as a business, and toward photo community or something like it. Which I applaud. But you’re right, Flickr’s tools for finding an image in your archive are unparalleled.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m on board with it. I’ve been a Flickr user since 2004, and was a pro user up until 2013 when they let people have the free tarabyte. I am going to become a pro user again. I am happily willing to pay for something that has served me so well, as Flickr has. There has been this business model of the user providing content for websites so that the website can make money from advertisers (who are the real customers). This business model has proved to be evil beyond belief and I am ready to move on. I applaud Smugmug for making the move in this direction. It tells me that the users of their site are the customers, as it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. SilverFox says:

    I am just shy of 1000 photos on my Flickr so will hit the Pro level soon I expect. I am on FB but don’t really use it for anything other than keeping track of family plus the odd announcement. I only put my favourite shots of Flickr (opting for local storage of my archive) hence why I don’t have thousands on there. I use IG a fair bit I guess but I see that as a more throwaway platform for fun.
    So debating what I will do. I guess I will go Pro though I am one of those cheap people who doesn’t pay for online photo sharing so this will be a serious step for me. If the community is going to rise up and support this platform with a renewed enthusiasm I am all for it.

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  9. Well, darnit. I joined Flickr because my storage on WordPress was getting eaten up pretty quickly, and I knew I could link my flickr images to my blog. I’m a relatively new Flickr user and still trying to understand it… I already pay for cloud storage, and WordPress, and all sorts of other things. I’ve got to rethink, I guess. Glad I read your post because I hadn’t noticed it on Flickr.

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    • Flickr has really soft-announced this thing. Today when I go to the site there’s a banner on the bottom. They didn’t even send an announcement to the email address I have registered with them.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve been paying for Flickr Pro for a few years while my photos sat idle there, and only recently returned to using the site more actively, updating some old photos and adding new ones. I was surprised by the price increase at first, then realized it’s been many years since the Pro price went up. Most of the new Pro benefits aren’t that compelling, but I plan to renew at the Pro level for now and see what happens.

    So in that sense, the change doesn’t really affect me, but it does bother me that they’re going to delete photos from account holders that don’t convert from free to Pro. Flickr users are complaining about the loss of historical data — likes, comments, and photos that have been included in galleries and groups — and the challenges they’ll face if they’ve linked to their Flickr photos from other sites, and those photos are deleted. I think those concerns are justified; while I don’t know what the economics would look like if the new owners developed a better transition plan, deleting photos based on the arbitrary 1,000 photo limit by oldest dates — in February 2019! — seems very heavy handed. It also makes me uncomfortable about what the future might look like given that the new owners think deleting content is a good idea. A better approach might have been to limit users by storage space used rather than quantity, and let them sort out their own photos within these limits, on a longer time frame. So while I’m generally on board with the price increase and limitations on free accounts, I don’t think they’ve chosen the best approach (or messaging) for the Flickr community members that have spent time and energy uploading photos under suddenly obsolete parameters. Demonstrating greater empathy for those users, in my opinion, would have been a more impressive business strategy.

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    • Every free user with more than 1,000 photos who wants to stay free would be well served to delete down to 1,000 photos before Flickr does it for them. I agree, it would be better if Flickr gave more time to do that. I do think that it’s only a fraction of free users who are faced with this dilemma, however, given that by their own reporting 97% of free users already have fewer than 1000 photos on the site.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for pointing this out. I didn’t know. But I agree it might be a good thing – I only wish I had paid for the pro membership earlier though to get it at the old price too. I’ve lost interest in Instagram – if I’m keen to search to see what others have done with the same cameras and lenses I have (or ones I have considered buying) Flickr is the first place I look. As for Facebook, frankly it’s exhausting. I don’t want to see advertisement after advertisement and people sharing quiz results just so that I can participate in some of the photography groups. And besides… photos are badly presented on Facebook. I’ve never been happy with it. Time to interact more with nice photographers on Flickr and see if I can work out how to get event invites from a couple of Facebook groups via email so I don’t have to log on very often but still don’t miss the good things.

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    • I agree 100% about Facebook, and if it weren’t for a few key friends I keep up with thanks to it, I’d cancel my account. It was fun five years ago but now every aspect of it is trying to sell you something.

      Instagram remains fun for me as long as I remember it’s about the cheap rush of getting those little hearts.

      I’m trying to step up my game in interacting on Flickr, starring more photos and leaving more comments. It will only be a vibrant community again if we all make it that way!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Jim, welcome back! And thanks for explaining what the new Flickr changes mean to us. As someone who has not used Flickr in such a long time, I am unqualified to comment on the changes but all I can say is people usually complain because they’re afraid of change even though the new guidelines seem very fair to most. Personally for me, I’m not surprised Flickr was bought out by Smugmug. I’m actually surprised such an old school photo sharing site like Smugmug still exists! I remember them well in the early years, even had an account! :-)

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