I often wish that I hadn’t fouled my Flickr space by dumping into it every photo I take that isn’t an abject failure. I wish I had used it to showcase my best work.
When I joined Flickr a decade ago, I just wanted a reliable photo host that let me share my photos anywhere online. But who knew that I’d come to think of myself as a serious amateur photographer, that I’d build some real skills, that people would enjoy my work?
I’d love to have a single URL I could share, a digest of the photographs I think show my stuff the best.
It’s too late for me to change my Flickr space. 95% of the photos I share on this blog are hosted at Flickr. I hope Flickr never goes away or this blog is toast.
My option, then, is to start a new online space that I will curate carefully. One option is to start a second Flickr account. That appeals to me because a large community is already there. Unfortunately, my existing followers (387 at last count) don’t automatically come along!
So I’ve been trying Instagram again. Now that they don’t force you to crop your photos square, I’m uploading the photos I like best and skipping the filters. I already have 237 followers there. But even though you can go to my Instagram page and see all of my photos there, the app is really meant to be about the present moment, your latest photo. And I tend to post there only photos that look good on a phone’s small screen. Intricate details need not apply. You can see my Instagram photos here.
I’m also experimenting with Tumblr. Check it out here. It’s much better suited to being viewed on a PC, and works equally well on a mobile device. But I have few followers there. I can’t figure out exactly how many but it’s got to be about 20. At least it’s an easy URL to share.
What’s your strategy for showcasing your best work online?
When I started this blog, I found a great use for my languishing Flickr account: hosting most of the photos I share here. Flickr has been a great tool for sharing my photography everywhere on the Internet.
The other day, I uploaded my 10,000th photo to Flickr. That’s a lot of photos! It’s so many that finding one particular photo on my computer is nigh onto impossible. From the beginning, I should have used the photo organizer that came with my copy of Photoshop Elements. But I’ve let too much water pass under the bridge: years and years of photos remain unindexed in folders on my hard drive. It would be a big, unpleasant job to organize them now.
It turns out that the easiest way for me to find one of my photographs is to search for it on Flickr. I’ve left enough bread crumbs in the titles, descriptions, and tags that with a few words in Flickr’s search box I can find anything I’ve uploaded.
It also turns out that I was inadvertently leading the way. Flickr recently made some changes to the site that makes it easier than ever to store all of your photos and find any of them in an instant. I think these smart improvements reposition Flickr well in the new world of photo storage and sharing, and give it a solid chance at remaining relevant and vital.
And it’s not a moment too soon. Flickr had been geared toward people interested in photography who wanted to share and talk about their work. Many users appeared to carefully curate their photostreams, sharing only their best photos. It remained wonderful for this purpose. But in the meantime not only have digital cameras almost entirely supplanted film cameras, but camera phones have also largely supplanted dedicated digital cameras. People were taking pictures on their phones just so they could share them on Facebook and Instagram — and Flickr was getting none of that action. It was falling behind.
Flickr finally awoke from its slumber in 2013 with a new, more modern user interface, plus one terabyte of free storage — upwards of a half million photos — for anyone, for free. Flickr’s mission had shifted: please do dump all of your photos here. And then last month Flickr rolled out yet another new user interface, and has added several powerful new features meant to make the site the only photo storage and sharing site you’ll ever need:
Automatic photo uploading. Flickr can now automatically upload every photo from your computer and your phone — every past photo and every new photo you take. Flickr marks them all as private, so only you can see them, until you choose to make them public. To enable this, you have to download the new Flickr app to your phone and download a new “Uploadr” application for your computer. But after you do, you may never again lose a photograph to a crashed hard drive or to a lost or stolen phone. And if you do have such a mishap, Flickr now lets you download any or all of your photos en masse.
Image recognition and automatic tagging. Flickr now uses image-recognition technology to guess what’s in each of your photos, and adds descriptive tags to them. You’ve always been able to tag your photos manually; those tags appear with a gray background. Flickr’s automatic tags have a white background. These tags make photos easier to find in search. It’s not perfect — a photo I took of a construction site was mistakenly tagged with “seaside” and “shore.” But it works remarkably well overall, and Flickr promises that they will keep improving the technology.
Camera roll and Magic View. Flickr has introduced an iOS-style camera roll as the main way you interact with your own photos now. Flickr is criticized for stealing this concept from Apple. But they’ve gone Apple one better by adding Magic View, which organizes photos by their tags — including the automatically generated ones. It gives you astonishing views into your photos, grouping them smartly. Finally, all of my bridge photos are in one place, and I didn’t have to lift a finger!
Improved searchability. All these new tags makes Flickr even more searchable. You can find any of your photos in seconds on Flickr.
All of this makes Flickr a compelling place to store all of your photographs, and be able to easily find them. They’re stored on Yahoo! servers and are always backed up. With a couple clicks or taps, you can share them from there to most of the popular social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram (but only on your phone), and Twitter.
The best thing: You can still use Flickr for everything you could before. You can share your best photographs and have conversations about them. You can explore the beautiful photographs others have taken. You can geotag your photos and save them to albums and groups. And if you want nothing to do with Flickr’s new features, you can just ignore them.
I’m astonished by how well Flickr has shifted to its new mission without leaving legacy users behind. As someone who has made software for more than a quarter century, I can tell you: it is enormously difficult to do this.
Still, many of Flickr’s longtime users feel alienated. They’re expressing far less paint-peeling rage than they did after the 2013 changes, thank goodness, but they’re still quite upset. The leading complaint: there’s no way to opt out of automatic tagging, and no way to delete at once all the tags already generated. Longtime users who have carefully chosen their tags find Flickr’s automatic tags to be an unwelcome intrusion.
Flickr should probably address that. But first, they should congratulate themselves. They’ve done journeyman work.
For a while I thought I was missing the secret to Instagram success. Was I not using the best tags? Was I not liberal enough with my likes of other photographers’ work? Was I not following enough people?
It appears to be all about having lots of followers. When I look at the well-liked Instagrammers I follow, I find that they follow hundreds of people and have hundreds of followers in return. It also seems like Instagram is a reciprocal community – people like being liked, and like back in return. For popular Instagrammers, that must translate either to spending a huge amount of time looking at and liking photos, or simply blindly clicking Like on every photo they see. I don’t have that kind of time to give to Instagram, and I’m going to click Like only on photos I actually like. And so I will continue to toil in Instagram obscurity.
I have to admit, I scratch my head over why one of my photos gets attention and another does not. For example, I feel pretty “meh” about the two photos below. But other Instagrammers seemed to like them, at least relative to my other work.
I can usually count on photos that I tag #architecture to get some good attention. There seems to be a good-sized community of architecture photographers on Instagram.
And people seem to enjoy shadow work, such as these two photos of the same set of arches.
Detail seems to appeal to people, too. These two photos are good examples.
Amusingly, my most-liked photos are some that I took of the cameras in my collection. Maybe I should go all old cameras, all the time.
Eh, nah. I guess I’ll just stay in Instagram’s dusty corners, eking out my daily handful of likes.
I’m still having fun cropping and filtering my film photos and uploading them to Instagram. If you’d like to follow me there, I’m mobilene. Look me up! Or here’s a link to my stream: http://instagram.com/mobilene.
I really enjoy just noodling around with these images, seeing what happens when I try this filter or that. I love how I often get a completely different feel compared to the originals. The results are lo-res, most suitable for viewing on a phone or, as long as you don’t look at them at full resolution, on a computer. I’m sure they’d make terrible prints.
I tag all of my work on Instagram with #ishootfilm, among other tags. It’s also fun to see what work others are posting under that tag. Using it, I’ve found and followed a few other photographers who do interesting work.
Here are a few of my favorite photos since the last time I shared these with you. This is the covered bridge at Bridgeton, shot with my Kodak Monitor Six-20 on expired Kodacolor II film which wast misprocessed as black-and-white. The filter I chose added the yellowing effects around the edges, which makes the bridge itself pop.
This is the dragon ride at the Indiana State Fair, shot with my Olympus XA on Fujicolor Superia X-tra 800. I applied a “viewfinder” filter in BeFunky for this look.
A sculpture outside at the Indiana State Museum, shot with my Pentax Spotmatic on probably Arista Premium 400. I applied a tilt-shift filter.
A daylily, shot with my Nikon N60 on expired Kodak Gold 200. The filter I used promised a sunlight effect, which washed out the upper right corner a little.
The Methodist church in Morgantown, IN. Nikon N60 on expired Kodak Gold 200. I forget what filter I used but it really brought out the colors in the bricks.
A suburban street corner. Rollei A110, expired Fuji Superia 200 film, size 110. I applied three separate filters to get this unreal look.
Dodge Charger at the Mecum auction. Olympus XA on Arista Premium 400. The filter I used only added this blue tint.
1963 Corvette at the Mecum auction. Olympus XA on Arista Premium 400. I applied a light-leak filter that gave this purple effect, and tilted the image off center.
I’m still having fun posting some of my film photographs on Instagram. I’m still saving photos to my phone using the Flickr iPhone app, and then cropping them and applying filters. But I’ve expanded my filtering horizons by using other photo-editing apps too, ususally Aviary, but sometimes PhotoToaster or BeFunky.
This is great fun. I’m really just farting around with filters and cropping, not thinking about what I’m doing too much (which I find freeing; I tend to overthink things). I stop when the image makes me feel good. I’m starting to master hashtagging, which is helping others find my photos and me find other film photographers on Instagram. If you’d like to follow me on Instagram, here’s a link.
Here are a few of my favorite recent Instagram photos.
I feel like such an Internet curmudgeon. In my day, sonny, we used Netscape 1.0 to surf static HTML Web pages that were coded in Notepad, and we liked it!
I try all the new Internet gewgaws and gimcracks but don’t like most of them. Twitter? What’s the point? Pinterest? Wow, what a colossal waste of time! Instagram? Crappy lo-fi photography? Bah! Bah to the whole lot.
Except that I’ve been posting photos to Instagram more and more lately. Film photos, taken with old cameras from my collection. It feels so subversive! And it’s so easy now that the iPhone Flickr app lets you save your photos to your phone. I choose a film photo from my Flickr stream, save it to my phone, bring it into Instagram, crop it, apply a filter, et voilá.
And thanks to iCloud, these photos automatically show up in a folder on my PC. It was super easy to upload them from there to WordPress, where with a couple clicks I made this slideshow out of them.
Hm, I’m enjoying a lot of modern Internet technology there. Maybe I’m not as curmudgeonly as I thought.
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