Which of these 5 Photo Networks Is Right for You?

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Most pro and enthusiast photographers want people to see their photos, and that means promoting your work online. A wide range of options are available to photographers from branded networks like Fstoppers and National Geographic all the way to mega-networks Facebook and Twitter. There are also five social networks that have distinguished themselves with content focusing primarily on photography; 500 Pixels, Flickr, Google Plus, Instagram, and YouPic.

Unfortunately, one person cannot be in all these places. It’s probably best to do well on one or two of these networks unless you have the time to invest in a serious social media marketing campaign. That’s why you will need to select the right place for you and your content.

Here is a brief review of all five networks in alphabetical order.

500 Pixels

500px
If you followed our Kickstarter campaign for the Trioplan 50, then you know we like 500 Pixels quite a bit. This social network is filled with serious photographers, people who are committed to their craft and want to excel. Most of the photographers’ expertise levels range from professional to serious amateur.

500 Pixels has some really strong features for photographers who are just getting established. You can host your portfolio on 500 Pixels, and you can also license your photos via their site.

If you are on 500 Pixels, please follow me there.

Flickr

Flickr

The original photo sharing social network, Flickr has suffered quite a bit of criticism of late thanks to parent company Yahoo!’s missteps and woes. As a result, traffic on the social network has suffered as of late.

Still the social network has its strengths, including incredible search traffic for photographers who are seeking to be discovered via free Creative Commons licensing. The community tends to range from serious enthusiast to consumer. It also serves as a photo storage network. If you want to see the best of Flickr, check out its daily Explore feature. Also, a new owner (Verizon) may create a momentum change. We shall see.

You can follow me here on Flickr.

Google+

Google+

If you are concerned about Flickr losing traffic, then be very concerned about Google+. The network has waned in the past two years as Google reduced its commitment to the network.

With most casual users gone, this is a network that primarily serves photographers now, and there are many vibrant photography communities there still. Like Flickr, Google+ offers photo storage via its Google Photos service and that is its saving grace, in my opinion.

I am currently inactive on Google+.

Instagram

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Instagram is the largest photo social network, and competes with Facebook and Twitter. Instagram is definitely a consumer network, but there are many photographers on the network who share their images with friends, family, fellow photographers, and yes, potential clients.

This is a great social network for branding your photography business or just sharing pictures with friends. It will give you the most access to wide varieties of audiences, but offers the least control over your images as anyone can re-share your photos.

If you are on Instagram, please follow me there.

YouPic

YouPic

The newest of the photo-based social networks, YouPic offers a more gamified version of social networking. There are contests, user feedback, and levels of photography excellence. Because YouPic is newer than the others, it is easier to make a big name for yourself on the network.

It’s definitely a network of reciprocity. The more you give, the more others will remark on your photos. Of course, the design is meant to keep you engaged and posting, too. Unlike 500 Pixels and Flickr, you don’t have to pay to get access to analytics, which is nice.

I am on YouPic, but am an infrequent contributor.

What do you think of these five photography networks?

A version of this blog was originally published on the Meyer Optik Goerlitz blog, and was authored by Geoff Livingston.

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Flickr Enters Downward Spiral

Traffic for Flickr

It seems like every year or two you see a Flickr is dying post that sparks a major conversation about whether or not the photography social network will survive. Unfortunately, it seems that the time may finally be arriving for one of the longest standing social networks out there.

The most recent round of the “Flickr is dying” debate happened two months ago right around when Yahoo! announced it would stop investing in the network and sell it off. That one was sparked by Photoshelter CEO Allen Murabayashi’s Petapixel rant (I am a Photoshelter user) and sparked a strong defense by Thomas Hawk (I am an active friend of Thomas’s on several social networks).

Murabayashi’s rant seemed motivated by his competitive service offering, but in hindsight the Yahoo! public lack of support at that time may have been the network’s undoing. Things are not the same on the network with interaction and dialogue feeling slow.

flickr vs 500px

It’s more than a seasonal slump, which you would expect with warmer weather and enthusiasts running outside to use their dusty cameras. While uber photography social network 500 Pixels has experienced a small decline in traffic, too, their overall page views have declined a little more than a half a percentage point since December. Flickr has declined by more than 4 percent, and is in danger of falling out of the top 200 websites globally.

Instagram comparison

The two photography sites are not quite the same with 500 Pixels catering to “serious” photographers, many of whom are pro or semi-pro, while Flickr serves more of the photo enthusiast and consumer crowd. Yet Flickr’s decline is palpable as consumers fly away to more attractive and easier to use options like Instagram. As a result, for the first time that I can remember Flickr is not ranked as a top 10 social network.

Yahoo! Chases Away Whole Groups of Photographers

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Remember when Flickr rebranded itself as a consumer site last year? The new interface has been lacking in my mind (as I noted last May). Load times are slow and the interface was wonky. Yet, this was Marissa Mayer’s grand plan to challenge Instagram.

At first traffic increased, but the new traffic was not the traditional photography enthusiast, semi-pros and pros that made up most of the social network’s audience. It was consumer who used their smartphones as point and click cameras. Meanwhile, the people that made up the more sophisticated photographers on Flickr began to leave for other places.

You know what? That worked for Apple when it stopped catering to the Quark and Final Cut crowd. But Yahoo! is not Apple, and so when the plane crashed this winter, things began to fall apart.

Weekly photo contests suddenly stopped. Load-time issues, upload snafus, and other bugs increased. Auto-upload support for nonpaying Flickr users was taken away. And on the last note, consumers began leaving (because pro-photographers rarely upload scores of photos at a time for anyone other than a client, and when they do they use DropBox or Google Photos or Photoshelter or…).

Can you blame this new generation of Flickr photography enthusiasts? Why bother? After all, other sites are easier to use, have more interaction, and if you’re going to pay, it may as well be with a more reliable entity than a company cutting itself into pieces for an estate sale.

So who’s left after the pro and consumer exodus? Enthusiasts who like to upload nature and landscape pics, often the domain of photography hobbyists. And if that’s what you do, good news! Flickr may still be right for you.

More difficult types of photography — portraits, architecture, nightscapes, monochrome, artificial lighting, etc. — do not perform as well, though. The number of photographers that could create those works are dwindling on Flickr as they seek other networks like the 500 Pixels and YouPics of the world. The feedback is faster and more meaningful there, peer-to-peer. As my friend Richard Binhammer (an infrared photography specialist) says, “My photos seem to be getting more pop on 500 Pixels.”

And event and selfie pics? We all know Instagram is the place for those.

Can Flickr Be Saved?

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A lot depends on who buys Flickr. Doc Searls made an impassioned plea for Adobe to buy the social network, saying that Flickr was the best site for serious photographers.

I’m not sure about the latter anymore, but I do believe Flickr still has value. I’m still there and still use it to house my library. I still get occasional media inquiries to use my pics from Flickr, too. I know others like Thomas Hawk haven’t given up, either.

The question is who will buy it? If Google or Facebook buys Flickr, I will be downloading all of my photos that day and closing my account. Warren Buffett would be more encouraging. At least you know Berkshire Hathaway would invest in the network again.

Maybe the right question is, “Will the sale be in time?” Each month that passes, engagement dwindles. Resuscitating a dead social network is beyond even the brightest minds as we have seen with many attempts to restore MySpace (sorry, Justin Timberlake) and Digg.

Whatever happens, Flickr has been good to me and many other photographers for the past decade plus. If it does fade away, it will be missed.

What do you think?

Living through the Lens Challenge

Two and a half weeks ago I launched the Living through the Lens weekly challenge on Flickr. The Challenge was in response to Jeff Cutler‘s request, a weekly effort that lets people participate in whatever I may be photographing during the week. I reposted Jeff’s idea on Facebook, and many people liked the idea and wanted to participate, too.

So here we are. I have been super impressed with the incredible quality of photos that people have submitted. The first challenge was “foliage.” Here are some of the notable photos that people submitted.

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Teresa Thomas submitted the cover image “Fields of Glory” for the Foliage Gallery collection.

The next challenge was bridges. And sure enough people who participated offered some fantastic photos. Here is the gallery of notable bridge pics.

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Jane Kaye submitted the cover image for the Bridges Gallery, a piece called “The Forth Bridge.”

It’s been great seeing what people have come up with, particularly those that see the challenge, take it, and go produce their own interpretation of the subject. The world is a beautiful place. So many people can use cameras today — smartphone to medium format — to offer their own perspectives. I appreciate people sharing their views of the world with me.

This Week’s Challenge

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This Blue Hour shot was taken on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.

This week’s Living through the Lens Challenge is taking a photo during the blue hour(s), that precious period of about 45 minutes before the sunrise or after the sunset. There is a whole site with blue hour photography tips here, if you are curious. Join the fun and submit here: www.flickr.com/groups/livinglens/.

The weekly challenge ends on Thursday afternoon. At the end of the business day, I breeze through the weekly suggestions and curate my favorites in a notables gallery.

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This is a photo I took of the Charleston Market in South Carolina.

By the way, I never include my own pictures in the notables gallery. I figure as curator its not really fair to do that, plus I am biased. And on top of that, I already post my pics everywhere throughout the week. It’s time to highlight some other people’s work. Instead, I use one of my pictures to introduce the weekly challenge, for example the bridge picture that leads this post or the above pics for the blue hour.

If you are curious about the suggestions/rules. I will post the challenge in the group on Thursday evening or Friday morning, and then repost across networks. People are encouraged to post new pictures, not old ones published three years ago. It’s a photo challenge, not a recollection of past glory ;)

Folks are limited to two pics per week. So make them your best shots!

Also please comment and favorite the photos you see from your peers. Don’t be a grinch and just post and run. That’s weak!

So there is the challenge. What do you think?

Flickr 4.0: PR Hype versus Reality

Flickr 4.0 launched 11 days to much hype and fanfare in the consumer tech media. Some pubs went so far as to say that Flickr was now relevant again, ironic for a photo sharing social network that consistently ranks in the top 10 networks.

The new interface certainly is beautiful. But as well hyped as the new Flickr 4.0 is, it suffers on a few levels. For starters, the new interface seems to stifle interaction. I have noticed a 25% decline in favorites and comments on my photos.

Perhaps I am in a slump. I have been posting fewer landscapes and cityscapes, which tend to perform better for my following. But at the same time, when I have posted decent landscapes — landscapes that perform well on 500 Pixels and Instagram — they still garner quite a few less favorites and comments on Flickr than in the past.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the slump began the day the new interface launched.

As a viewer, I find it harder to favorite and comment on Flickr 4.0, too. The mobile apps are clunky. If someone publishes a series of photos, to comment you have to tap on a photo twice.

The traditional web version suffers as well. It gets stuck and fails to show you past favorites. In some cases, the responsive design prevented me from even seeing the favorite and comment icons on photos like on this image from Jan de Corte.

Responsive Fail

The new Uploadr has been wonky, timing out periodically. Flickr has acknowledged this new feature has issues and is working on repairing it.

Flickr 4.0 is not all bad. Some of the new features are great, like Camera Roll. Now I can view my photos chronologically, which is a pretty cool way to see how your work is progressing over time. It’s also a great way to get a timeline view of your life. This new feature also lets you organize your photos by type, e.g. landscape, portrait, etc.

Competitive Balance

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Flickr launched its new version to make it more competitive in the mobile era. In some ways, this makes Flickr more consumer-oriented, allowing people to store thousands of mobile photos automatically as they go.

In the context of Instagram versus Flickr, I really see Instagram as a more valuable consumer network. The land of selfies is fluid and dynamic, allowing for quick and easy feedback. Friends see how their lives are evolving in the moment. In comparison, Flickr 4.0 makes quick and easy feedback a bit harder.

As a photo storage site, it works (when the Uploadr is functioning). However, if people struggle to interact with your photos then you are publishing strictly to keep the images in the cloud.

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Similarly, 500 Pixels benefits from a strong critical group of professional and serious amateur photographers who only like the best images. While this can create homogenous photographer pool where certain images do better than others (think landscapes and pictures of models), 500 Pixels makes it very easy to like, love and comment on photos. Exploring popular images on 500 Pixels is also much easier, with segmentation by image type.

For a work-validation standpoint, I have been as reliant on Flickr as I have been on 500 Pixels to see what other photographers thought of my work. Now I am leaning towards 500 Pixels more often than not.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Flickr, always have, and won’t abandon the network. I just wonder if in its attempts to become a consumer photo network, Flickr shunned its existing power users.

In my mind, Flickr owned a niche as a photography site that catered to both pros and amateurs. The stream was good. It become a resource for many who searched for great images to fill out their stories. While adding mobility is a natural evolution, sacrificing interactivity and function to get there may become a long-term weakness compared to more specific-use oriented photo networks like Instagram and 500 Pixels.

What do you think of the new Flickr?

2 Million and Counting

My Flickr blog passed 2 million views on Saturday. Thank you to everyone who checked out my stuff, chatted with me on Flickr, and encouraged me, too.

It took almost seven years to get my first million views. It took just 10 and a half months to get the second million.

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The French Market in New Orleans.

What made the big difference? I can point to several things:

1) A commitment to quality content via the 365 Full Frame Project. I am continuing to shoot almost every day and develop my editing skills. But I think we know good or great content is not enough to succeed online these days.

2) Social interaction on Flickr and 500 Pixels has helped spread the reach of my photos. But it has done more than that. Interaction exposed me to so many good photographers, and I have learned a great deal from them.

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The Library of Congress

3) SEO: If you are not tagging photos on Flickr, shame on you. Both Google and Yahoo! index the site and offer the images as search results. If you offer a creative licensing option, people really do use them. I don’t have a Wikipedia page, but I sure as heck have quite a few photos on the site.

4) Luck: I’ve been blessed a few times and had a select few photographs like the above Library of Congress shot featured in Flickr’s daily Explore feature. Those moments exposed my photography to hundreds of new contacts. Because I engaged, they became a part of my network. For that, I am extremely grateful.

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The Boulevard of Bokeh Dreams (Nashville)

I never expected my photos would become this popular with others. For that I am grateful. More than anything, it makes me happy when I hear others tell me that the photos add a little to their social stream, that they look forward to seeing them.

Thank you. I hit two million, and but I am not looking back.