Archive for the ‘Photo Sharing’ Category

Thoughts on Google Photos

New Collections Page from Google Photos

Google launched Google Photos today.

For months now people have been talking about how Google was going to decouple photos from Google+ and create a standalone photo product and today at I/O they finally unveiled their latest effort to the world.

Last August when rumors about this new service started circulating I wrote a blog post titled 10 things Google should consider in launching a standalone photo sharing service. Here I outlined ways that Google could come up with a very competitive product in the photo sharing space. Google could have given the world something really amazing today and instead we just got something lackluster.

The new offering is fine, but in a lot of ways it is a big disappointment to me.

The biggest part of today’s announcement was that Google was going to give every user unlimited photo storage.

That sounded pretty good until I understood the catch. The catch is that the unlimited photo storage offer only applies to photos 16 megapixel or smaller.

Although it may be tempting to write this off as a “Pro” problem as most modern DSLRs today shoot over 16 megapixel, there are also a lot of new non-pro consumer cameras that shoot over 16 megapixel today too. Heck, there’s even a mobile phone out now (admittedly an outlier) shooting at 41 megapixel. So what this means is that almost every DSLR out today, along with many smaller consumer cameras, will require your Google Photos images to be downsized.

It’s not just Canon and Nikon DSLRs that produce images over 16 megapixel today, but many models of popular mirrorless and consumer cameras by Panasonic Lumix, Sony, Olympus, etc. Here is a list of currently manufactured digital cameras 15 megapixels and above which shows some models and brands this might include.

While I do understand that storing photos is not cheap, I do not understand why Yahoo’s Flickr is able/willing to give every user a full terabyte of full high res original photo storage, and Google, a company almost 10x the size of Yahoo by market cap cannot or will not. Flickr raised the bar when they offered every user a free terabyte of high res photo storage and Google’s response is to offer us unlimited downsized and compressed photos? Come on Google, you can do better than that!

The other problem is that the camera manufacturers (for better or worse) are in a war of who can raise megapixels the most. Earlier this year Canon came out with a mindblowing 50.6 megapixel 5DS. 16 megapixels is going to feel smaller and smaller as new and better camera, and even mobile phone technology is released.

If this was the year 2003 and Canon had just released the 6.3 10D, this might make sense to me — but in 2015? No way.

While you can purchase Google Drive storage for your photos over 16 megapixel at Google, 1TB of high res storage at Google would cost you $120/year — the same thing that Flickr will give you for free.

In my case I have one of the old grandfathered Flickr Pro accounts where for $24.95/year I get even more than 1 terabyte of high res storage on Flickr, I actually get unlimited (I’m currently using about 940 GB of my unlimited storage on Flickr, which is a lot).

The other main thing missing from this new offering by Google is social. While Google has had a tough time with social and I get why they are wary of it, I was hoping that there would be a social element to their new photo service. Instead, every photo you upload to Google Photos is private only for you and you then share out your photos to other platforms. One of the most exciting things about Flickr is that there are a lot of social components to the site. While photos are uploaded as private to Flickr by default (like Google), you have the option of making these photos public and sharing them with other users on the site.

While you can use Google and Flickr both as private shoeboxes for all of your photos, I like that Flickr gives you the option to turn your photos public and share them with the world. 99.99% of the photos that I upload to the web are meant to be shared publicly and so I was disappointed that Google didn’t deliver us anything here today. Google does still have Google+, or course, where you can share your photos too and be social, but that’s an entirely different site that you leave Google Photos to go use. Flickr does a much better job at combining both private and social.

Google did showcase some other features with photos today. They released a sort of timeline camera roll view and some image recognition technology. What I saw today was very similar to what I saw two weeks ago when Yahoo rolled out Flickr 4.0. I’m not saying Google copied Flickr here, but it is odd how Flickr shipped these almost identical features two weeks before Google did. Whatever the case, I’m not terribly excited by camera rolls from Google or Flickr, although I do see where they would be helpful and nice features for the broader mass market audience.

I prefer to organize my photos myself rather than have an algorithm try to do it for me. I carefully keyword each of my photos in Lightroom and when I upload them to Flickr I’m able to create smart albums (like smart playlists in iTunes) where I can organize my photos into albums by keywords. That’s something that I still can’t do at Google Photos today, at least not in the automated way that I do it with SuprSetr.

I am glad that Google is still investing time and development into photos. For a while there when they first launched Google+ it really felt like they were going to do something spectacular with photos, today, unfortunately, not as much. To me, today’s offering feels more like a step back from Google+ to Picasa circa 2004.

More Thoughts on Flickr 4.0

More Thoughts on Flickr 4.0

Having had a few weeks now to spend significant time exploring Flickr 4.0, I thought I’d write up another more detailed post about my ongoing thoughts on the recent update by Flickr.

1. Autotagging. Autotagging has received a mixed reception by the Flickr community as well as the broader press. Initially a lot of the Flickr diehards have very vocally opposed it.

On the one hand, every time Flickr makes any change whatsoever a certain segment of the community will vocally oppose it no matter what the change is. The “who moved my cheese” crowd is strong and vocal at Flickr, so it’s easy to dismiss at least some of the initial criticism from the community as typical and predictable. On the other hand, many people have spent hundreds of hours organizing their tags on their Flickr photos and have a certain sort of emotional connection around tagging as it relates to their photos, which are very personal.

Any time you try to use image recognition software to recognize things you will get false positives. This is no different at Flickr. The more sensational the press can spin a story, the more clicks they end up getting. This week you saw news outlets like the Daily Mail come out with stories highlighting that Flickr was tagging concentration camps jungle gyms and black people apes. CNN reported that “Flickr’s new auto-tags are racist and offensive.” This is bad because most of the general public make assumptions based on headlines without thinking deeper about the issues at hand and most are not intimately involved with the inner mechanics of Flickr.

We also saw Google called racist this week because the White House was associated with a search for a derogatory racial term.

Personally, I’m more optimistic about Flickr using image search technology going forward and hope that the bad PR doesn’t set their efforts back there. Flickr and Yahoo are not racist (either is Google). The people who work there are a very well meaning and forward thinking group. I’m sure they will work on their algorithm to get it more and more accurate, but part of that accuracy involves getting feedback from their community when inaccuracies arise. Longer-term I think we will all benefit from having more accurate and complete search available through Flickr.

There is also part of me that wonders if Flickr’s autotagging efforts are not part of a longer-term effort to better organize this content in order to eventually partner with their community in a more significant way with stock photography. Stock photography is a multi-billion dollar business. Flickr is probably the most potentially disruptive site out there to this industry. As Yahoo thinks about monetizing Flickr in a more meaningful way, the better organized their library the more successfully they might be able to do this.

I do think Flickr should offer a setting to opt out of autotagging and I’m guessing they probably will eventually. If autotagging is on by default 99.9% of Flick users will still be using it. By creating an setting to opt out this would be an immediate way to deflect the criticism from the vocal power users that dislike it.

2. Search. Unfortunately my initial enthusiasm for search has been fading fast the past two weeks. While search looks cleaner and I do like the new view of smaller thumbnails that allow me to browse search results quickly, I’ve lost one of the most important functions of search, which is to search by my contacts.

Over the past 10 years I’ve carefully and methodically built a very large number of contacts whose photography I like and want to see more of. When I’m interested in photos of a particular subject, location, event, etc., I always do searches filtered by my contacts. This allows me the highest quality search results and gets rid of all the noisy, watermarked, junky, inaccurate images that oftentimes come up a broader search of everybody’s photos.

With the new search functionality this filtering capability is completely broken for me. What bums me out even more is that this broken functionality for my search experience is most likely affecting only people with a large number of contacts (like me) and thus is not likely to be addressed or fixed by Flickr for a long, long time.

Search is one of the most significant ways I use Flickr and with the update it is now dramatically worse for me.

Also, although I do like the two smaller view options Flickr gives you for search (a small sized photo or a thumbnail option), I do find myself missing the old larger views at the same time. Sometimes you want to search Flickr with images small so you can go fast, but other times you want to search Flickr to more carefully examine photos and here at least a medium view option would be nice to have back.

Maybe Flickr could have three possible views, medium, small and thumbnail.

One of the new features with the new search is that you can now search by date taken in addition to date posted. While date taken and posted are somewhat similar, I do see how date taken will become more and more useful over time, especially when using Flickr to search for breaking news.

3. As far as the Camera Roll and the uploader, I’m finding that I’m not using either. This doesn’t mean they are not important though. For more casual users having a view like this makes sense as a way to try to organize their offline photos in the cloud. I think this is really important for most casual users and as a way for Flickr to appeal to a broader general audience.

Personally, I carefully keyword all of my photos in Adobe Lightroom before uploading them to Flickr and then I use Jeremy Brook’s brilliant program SuprSetr to build albums based on these keywords. The only negative with this approach is that Flickr limits my sets to 4,500 photos when using Jeremy’s SuprSetr. :(

Magic view was fun to look at once, but I probably will never use it or go back. I prefer the way that I’ve organized my photos more than Flickr’s auto-organization.

I don’t use the uploader because for me Flickr is not a personal shoebox for all of my photos. Rather, for me, Flickr is a place to present and share my photos to the world. I don’t want random photos from my hard drive cluttering up my Flickr photostream even if they are private. 99.99% of the photos I publish to Flickr are public and the current web page uploader does a good enough job getting two batches a day up for me (except not last weekend).

4. The Flickr mobile app. To me the new Flickr mobile app is slightly better than the old app but it’s still far from ideal.

My biggest criticism is that sometimes it is so slow, laggy and clunky. Again, some of these issues may affect me more adversely than others because of the way I power use Flickr, but I find that going to my notifications can take 20-60 seconds sometimes on an LTE or wifi connection and that is just too long to have to wait. Sometimes it does go faster, but typically after not using it for a period of hours it frequently is just painful to use. It comes and goes, but I don’t have a consistent, fast experience with the mobile app. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and most of all Instagram are so much responsive for me when I use them than the Flickr app.

Another problem I have with the app is that frequently I’ll want to favorite a photo and so I double tap on it to do this, but Flickr misreads my attempted double tap and thinks I want to open the photo up and see it large instead. I’m not really sure that there is a solution to that problem, but it’s one that frustrates me that I don’t have with Instagram.

I also find that if I look at my contact’s photos for more than about 10 minutes or so I run out of photos to look at and Flickr defaults “suggested” photos that I’ve already seen and favorited months ago. Sometimes I’ll be sitting on the train for more than 10 minutes, or working out, or doing something where I want to spend more than 10 minutes browsing my contact’s photos and wish that Flickr could expand the number of photos I’m allowed to see from my contacts on the mobile app.

I don’t use the camera or the camera roll on the Flickr app at all. I use my iPhone’s camera and then edit with Snapseed or Priime which offer far more robust editing capabilities.

5. The new album view. The new album view is more of a postscript to the new Flickr 4.0 than a part of the initial release. Earlier this week Flickr changed the primary album view on Flickr incorporating supersized huge photos into the album view layout. I really like this change. I think photos look sooooooo much better full-sized and large (which is one of the reasons why I enjoy Ello so much). Predictably many in the help forum hate this new view as they hate all change.

I do think the header in the new album view is too large. I also think that Flickr should only choose photos to enlarge that are high res originals and that fit the crop format of their large view. Small sized photos or mobile photos don’t look as good as DSLR photos when blown up huge. Also having a bad crop on a large view, really makes that view look bad.

In other news around Flickr’s new release, Bernardo Hernandez, who was managing Flickr resigned shortly after the new launch. I like Bernardo a lot and think that he was a very good leader for Flickr. After so many years in the wilderness with really ineffective management, I think Bernardo (and Markus Spiering before him) did a really good job promoting positive change at Flickr. I hope that whoever ends up replacing him is as strong and committed to the potential for what Flickr can become. After leaving Flickr, Bernardo did tweet that Flickr would be offering up support for RAW photos, this was the first time I’d seen this mentioned anywhere online and think that RAW support would be a huge positive for Flickr — especially given that Google is supposedly coming out with something new in the photo sharing space potentially as soon as the end of this month.

It’s been refreshing watching how serious a contender Flickr has become in the photo sharing world since Marissa Mayer took the helm at Yahoo. Along with Bernardo and Markus, she and everyone working on the Flickr team deserve a ton of credit for orchestrating such a remarkable turnaround over the course of the last several years. Flickr continues to get better and better and really is turning into something much better than I ever would have thought 4 years ago. I still can’t believe that I’ve been on Flickr over 10 years now and am definitely looking forward to the next 10.

Why the Instagram Debacle Just Taught Every Tech Company to Take Your Photos More Seriously

Why the Instagram Debacle Just Taught Every Tech Company to Take Your Photos More Seriously

“Whatever kind of victory all those protests achieved, it wasn’t one for consumer rights — if anything, Instagram is the real winner here. The company just managed to score a round of positive press for retracting an unpopular change and give itself the ability to actually use photos in ads.” — Nilay Patel, The Verge

Over at the Verge Nilay Patel makes a case that the backlash earlier this week against Instagram’s unpopular TOS update was actually a loss for consumers, not a gain. He argues that Instagram’s current TOS is broader than their more explicit proposed one and so consumers are worse off, not better off. This is because Instagram technically still holds the rights to sell your photos under their current TOS, and even more broadly — the consumer backlash was misguided and really did more harm than good.

I disagree with Nilay and actually feel that this week’s backlash was one of the more significant movements yet for photo sharing on the web.

It’s not that Facebook (whose TOS is equally broad) and Instagram couldn’t legally sell your photos on the web under their broad TOS in the past or in the future, it’s that *politically* it is now far more difficult for them to begin selling your photos out from under you on the web using their broader TOS.

Who cares what the TOS says — the message that Facebook got loud and clear this week is not to f*** with our photos. Our photos are important. We care about them. They are much more personal than Facebook may have previously considered. They have emotional importance and significance and collectively users will rise up and bash you in the face if you try to exercise terms of your TOS that your lawyers have written to allow you to screw around with our photos.

Whatever your future monetization strategies might be, they will not be based on a loss of control over OUR creative efforts — even our duckface creative efforts.

No, there is no question about it. Instagram lost this week, and they lost big. This is in no way a positive for Instagram. People trust them less now and they had to turn around and eat crow — they gained nothing.

Flickr won big at Instagram’s expense and Google+ won a little. Flickr won more, because like Instagram, their site is 100% about photography. They also just released a pretty awesome new iPhone app that is, in fact, even slickr than what Instagram currently offers.

Flickr also went out of their way last year to really drive home the ownership rights of your photos. This old forgotten post was revived with new life as a stark contrast to what it felt like Instagram was trying to pull. Kevin Systrom eventually even had to parrot back some of that “yes, we know your photos are your photos” stuff in his awkward non-apology apology.

Dan Lyons wrote a post that talked about Google+ winning some here too. Google+ smartly has a provision in their TOS that specifically limits their rights to your photos to basic operational use. Google+ is probably the most active community of photographers on the web today and are a natural beneficiary from what Lyons’ refers to as “Facebook Greedheads.”

The biggest winner of all though was you, the photographer. Whatever Instagram’s original intention was with the new language in their TOS, it backfired on them. The idea that they could/would profit off your emotionally significant photos without your consent, authorization or, most important, sharing the dough hit a nerve with photographers and likely won’t be tried again by anyone for a long time.

The thing is, this didn’t have to be such a painful learning experience for Instagram. There was/is, in fact, a HUGE opportunity for some smart social network to make a ton of money off of your photos. Instagram just went about it wrong.

As much as Flickr’s deal with Getty sucks (photographers get a miserly 20% payout) photographers on Flickr still went bonkers for it when Flickr released it. The idea that you could actually get PAID to post your photos on a social network, paid ANYTHING, had most users on Flickr clamoring to get into the program, not out of the site.

Even though Flickr/Getty’s call for artists group is now closed (due to overwhelming demand) almost 90,000 photographers joined this group hoping to get selected by Getty for the right to sell their photos for the paltry 20% payout.

The difference with Flickr’s deal though is that 1. you CHOOSE to opt in and 2. at least you get paid something.

What if, instead of Instagram saying, “hey, we might sell your photos without your consent and pay you NOTHING,” they said, “hey, do you want to sell your Instagram photos and, if we sell them for you, split the money 50/50″? Instead of losing accounts and becoming the scourge of the internet for three days, they would have had photographers rushing to sign up and begin marketing their images on Instagram.

Although there are sites out there like 500px and SmugMug that let you sell your photos now, Flickr is the only larger social network that has a selling program. Google+, Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter all have a major opportunity to become the first large social network to allow us to license our images through their service and share in the revenue with them. This is a multi-BILLION dollar industry dominated at present by Getty who is not paying creatives enough for their work. What the internet does best is get rid of middlemen when they are being unreasonable, and an 80/20 split with photographers is unreasonable.

Instead of stealing our work and paying us zero, how about using your significant reach in reputation, marketing and search to partner with us and empower us to sell our work together. I guarantee you that whoever comes up with the best program first will have some of the best photography on the web flooding their network. Even if 99% of us never sell a single photo, simply giving us the feeling that we have the *opportunity* to sell a photo would be a powerful incentive to get us active and humming on your network.

Flickr Disables Snapjoy’s Flickraft API Key

Flickr Disables Snapjoy's Flickraft API Key

Yesterday photo hosting site Snapjoy launched what they called a “tongue-in-check” promotional page called Flickraft. The promo page provided a tool that would allow users to transfer their photos from Flickr to Snapjoy directly via the Flickr API. According to Snapjoy, in two hours their users imported over 250,000 photos and then they had their API key disabled by Flickr.

In Snapjoy’s case they likely ran afoul of some of Flick’s basic API Guidelines and Terms of Use. Here it spells out what you can and can’t do with an API key. A few of the things that you *can’t* do according to the API Guidelines and TOU:

“Don’t abuse or overtax the API. This means that if you build an app that excessively strains the Flickr servers, we will expire your key per the API. Don’t Use Flickr APIs for any application that replicates or attempts to replace the essential user experience of Don’t Display more than 30 Flickr user photos per page in your application or use an unreasonable amount of bandwidth.”

Snapjoy also borrowed from the Flickr branding/logo (which is also prohibited) in crafting a clever marketing message making Flickr look like the Titanic.

I suspect that the API disable wasn’t done manually by anyone at Flickr, but that rather when they transferred over 250,000 photos that they probably tripped some sort of API limits put in place to more generically protect against abuse.

I reached out to Jaisen Mathai who used to work at Yahoo and now is working on a new initiative called Open Photo which would allow users better control over their photos and here is what he had to say:

“API rate limits are a double edged sword. From the provider (Flickr) side it’s required to curb abuse (which Yahoo! gets a crap load of, I was involved in these efforts during my employment). The other side is that things which aren’t exactly abuse often find a nice home under the “abuse” umbrella. This includes “export all of my photos to another site so I can stop using Flickr.”

Still, in the great big world of Yahoo bandwidth, should there really be a limit that prevents another site from transferring more than 250,000 or more photos from Flickr to their site. If this is the case, then many other more successful ventures in the future (like Google Photos or Mathai’s Open Photo) would effectively also end up locked out of the Flickr API.

Personally one of my concerns with regards to Flickr over the years has been functional lockin. While Flickr has given lip service over the years to data portability, in actuality, for the vast majority of flickr users, getting your photos out of the site is anything but easy.

One way to get your photos out of flickr is to use the service Backupify. But in order to use this option you can’t have more than 50GB of photos on Flickr (I have way more than this) and you have to pay them $19.99/month. You can also try some of the free apps that are out there like Bulkr or Downloadr. But these have serious flaws as well. Downloadr is PC only (I’m a Mac guy) and Bulkr limits you to 500 photos at a time (not ideal for someone with almost 68,000 photos on the site like me). I tried Bulkr a while back and found it buggy and not very easy to use. Relying on free apps designed by third party developers in their spare time hardly seems like an ideal solution.

Using the API to directly transfer photos from Flickr to other services is by far the fastest easiest way for users to get their data out of Flickr. A few weeks ago when I decided that I wanted to start selling prints of my photos I transferred about 5,000 of my 67,000 flickr photos from Flickr to SmugMug. I was *blown away* at the speed with which these photos moved over. Getting these photos transferred over to SmugMug was super easy. I used an app called SmuggLr that works as a Firefox extension. [Disclosure, SmugMug is a sponsor of our Photo Talk Plus show, tune in tonight at 8PM PST!]. It was fast, flawless and efficient. The way data portability ought to be.

SmugMug of course is a paid premium site geared more towards higher end photographers who want to sell their prints rather than simply a free photo hosting site like Snapjoy, so Flickr likely considers them less of a direct competitor and so they probably don’t consider them as “replicating or attempting to replace the essential user experience of”

As a free hosting service, sites like Snapjoy might likely be considered much more direct competitors to Flickr… but then again, so might things like Google Photos or Open Photo.

The still unanswered question is, shouldn’t we as users have the right to move our data around smoothly and freely? After all, these are OUR photos right? Personally I’ve always been a big fan of Google with regards to data portability. Not only have they come out very publicly in supporting data portability with their Data Liberation Front, they actually show you how and have built a tool to make it super easy to export your photos out of Picasa.

As far as Snapjoy the site goes, I set up an account there a few years ago. It’s interesting. They seem to be going after more of timeline sort of thing (like Facebook’s timeline) than a direct community based photo sharing thing. There really is no community or photo sharing there at all. I can’t send you a link to one of my photos as far as I know — it’s more just a personal place for me to look at my photos in archive view. I didn’t really get much out of it so I haven’t used it at all since checking it out initially. I can already look at my photos in archive view on Flickr so I didn’t really see the point.

It is probably worth noting that Snapjoy also does not appear to have an API, Mathai thought that this was their biggest mistake in terms of trying to enable a Flickr to Snapjoy exporter.

“I applaud the SnapJoy team’s effort and am always on the side of startups. Their biggest mistake was not having an API themselves,” said Mathai.

“It might not have any impact on getting their API key whitelisted or reenabled, but it would give them a leg to stand on. The marketing of “get off a sinking ship” conflicts with the fact that they don’t have an API and “coming soon” doesn’t cut it. So in reality, your photos are safer on Flickr than SnapJoy because Flickr at least provides tools (though they may cripple it by rate limiting) to get your photos out. Moving from Flickr to SnapJoy is moving from one silo to another.”

More from TechCrunch, The Next Web.

Update: Michael Dwan, co-founder of Snapjoy, just emailed me back and said that as of this morning, they have not heard back from Flickr.

As far as an explanation from his side of things he offered the following:

“We imported just over 359K photos in 3 hours by making 9,459 api calls — an average of 3,153 per hour. Unfortunately, a glitch in our system caused a spike during one of the hours which pushed it over the 3,600 per hour limit. By the time we realized the issue, they had already killed our key. We momentarily exceeded the api limit and Flickr made the decision to kill the key rather than temporarily suspend it or throttle requests.

We’re happy many people got a chance to use the importer and many more are still asking for the functionality to return. We’re also thrilled by the response from people who made it into the beta. We’re working to bring the functionality back and have rewritten the offending code so this isn’t a recurring problem (for Flickr or any other site we integrate with).”

Where is the Best Place to Share Your Photos on the Web? Survey Says… Google+

Where is the Best Place to Share Your Photos on the Web

Note! This is a very unscientific poll.

Let me repeat myself, this is a VERY UNSCIENTIFIC POLL. I understand statistics. I understand how flawed this poll is. Please do not rattle off in the comments about all the problems with this poll being unscientific.


Now that we’ve got *that* out of the way…

Earlier this morning I posted a poll at GoPollGo (it’s a cool polling site that my friend Robert Scoble turned me on to yesterday) asking people the following simple question.

“Where is the best place to share your photos on the web?”

I gave people five choices and put them in alphabetical order 500px, Facebook, Flickr, Google+ and Twitter. I really was only interested in social sharing sites so I didn’t include pay sites like SmugMug or Zenfolio, or sites that are primarily for photo hosting like Photobucket or mobile based apps like Instagram.

Next, I posted a link to the poll to each of my accounts on the five sites mentioned so that I could push the poll, at least to a degree into every site that was included. I have a large following on each of these sites.

2,514 individuals had voted in the poll as of 3:49 pm this afternoon (the poll is still open).

The answer by a wide margin?

You might be surprised, but I’m not.


Google+ took a whopping 68% of the votes in this morning’s poll. Flickr came in 2nd with 16%. Facebook was 3rd with 11%. 500px was 4th with 4%. And Twitter came in dead last with 1%.

And by Google+ I also mean its back end storage site Picasa (which should totally be rebranded as Google Photos).

A few weeks ago I blogged that Flickr was Dead and announced that it wouldn’t be long before Google+ surpassed Flickr in pages views for photo sharing. While I think that it’s going to take a while to fully see this happen, I think we’ve already begun seeing this move by many of the top photographers on Flickr away from Flickr and Facebook and over to Google+. If you are a serious social photographer on the web, you simply cannot afford NOT to have a presence on Google+.

Now think about this. Google+ is only about 2 months old. It’s still invite only and in beta. See how fast momentum can change on the web.

So why is Google+ doing so well with photo sharing with web enthusiasts?

Here is what I think.

1. The photos look GREAT. Facebook’s already tried to revamp to try to keep up with Google here, but it’s nowhere near enough. On Google+ you get great big oversized thumbnails in your stream (did you hear that Facebook? GREAT BIG OVERSIZED THUMBNAILS IN YOUR STREAM).

When you click through to a photo it instantly bursts into the best looking lightbox view on the web.

2. Photos on Google+ get way more engagement and interaction, for the photographers that put the effort in. Almost every photographer who has put the effort in at G+ has gotten way more engagement than any other site. I’ve never seen anything like the engagement photos get on G+ — new photographers and popular photographers alike.

Some people have told me that they still get more on Flickr. But keep in mind, some of these people are not really putting hardcore effort into Google+ yet and also they’ve been on Flickr for years in some cases and haven’t even been on G+ 2 months yet. Give it time though — here are some handy tips to build a bigger audience for your work on G+.

3. The photographic community on Google+ has the best positive vibe and the photo community is coming together there in the most amazing ways.

I quit all of the flickr groups where I was active over the course of the last month or so because I got tired of all the negativity, tired of the harassing anonymous trolls, tired of the pessimism. On Google+ everybody seems super friendly and positive and the photographic community is coming together in the most beautiful ways all over the world.

I love how much better I’ve gotten to know Trey Ratcliff through Google+. I knew Trey before from Flickr, but Google+ has helped us to become even closer and better friends. He stayed at my house the last time he was in town and we did a super fun Google+ hangout that night online. I love seeing photographers all over the world that seem to be coming together on Google+ and organizing photowalks, and critique clubs and things like self portrait Sundays, and all these other fun community sort of things.

I love seeing the new leaders in photography that are popping up on Google+ — people like Lotus Carroll in Austin, or Leanne Staples and Vivienne Gucwa in New York. Lisa Bettany and Catherine Hall from TWiT Photo are super active. Colby Brown‘s been a huge leader. Robert Scoble is constantly sharing so many new photographers on the site. Robert must have shared 5 new awesome kick ass photographers in his stream just yesterday including Mihailo Radičević (check him out, he’s crazy good).

I love seeing Elena Kalis and her great underwater work. I love seeing Adobe Pro Jan Kabili sharing great Lightroom and Photoshop tips with us.

Did I mention the Google+ photowalks have been awesome! (Come join us for a Dell/Google+ photowalk in Austin next week too!)

And I myself have been making so many great new local photography friends through G+, hanging out more with folks like Doug Kaye, who I knew before but hadn’t shot with, or Sly Vegas who just started out with photography six months ago and already is an up and coming superstar on G+. Or Karen Hutton or Samir Osman. I’m making so many great new local photography friends through G+

4. The Googlers. I cannot believe how different night/day Google staff is from Flickr’s staff. Google’s staff embraces you and your art as part of the community collaboratively. I’ve been so fortunate to have met so many great Googlers over the course of the past few months. Chris Chabot, Brian Rose, Vincent Mo, Dave Cohen, Natalie Villalobos, Timothy Jordan, and Ricardo Lagos. They hired my pal Louis Gray the other day. (I’ve met so many more cool Googlers and I wish there was room to name even more). And the guys running Google+, Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz are two of the most involved people in the community.

You want to hear a crazy story? The other night I was hanging out in my basement editing photos, and who invites me to a Google+ Hangout? Sergey Brin himself. The guy who co-founded Google. I felt like one of those guys who got a Steve Jobs email or something.

We chatted for a good half hour about Google+ and Google Photos and of course lots of talk about photography. We both have the same camera, the Canon 5D Mark 2 and we talked about lenses and making big prints and all sorts of great photography stuff.

Meanwhile, Carol Bartz who was fired over at Yahoo yesterday, never even had her own flickr account. I have no idea who’s even running flickr and I can’t remember the last time I actually spoke with someone who works there. It’s been years for sure.

5. Google is innovating with photos like CRAZY. It’s a wonderful perpetual beta. Sure my +1’s disappear sometimes. Who cares. Sure there are bumps. It’s beta software that’s only been out a couple of months. But every week Google is rolling out more and more improvements to the site with no sign of slowing down. Heck just a few hours ago they gave us a new improvement for locking our photo albums.

6. The Hangouts. I LOVE hangouts. They are such a better way to get to know other photographers. Last night about eight of us just got together for an hour or so and talked about all kinds of great photographic ideas.

We talked about taking a trip to go shoot Bodie at night. We talked about the economy where Helen Sotiriadis was there in Greece. We talked about how unfortunately Jonathan Goody had his 50mm 1.4 lens damaged at Burning Man when it got knocked out of his hand in a bar. We talked about light painting the inside of a submarine and the time that Jeremy Brooks and I lightpainted this great old phone booth. Hangouts are so cool that we even got my old Pal Marc Evans to actually hook up a webcam (although he did have to find the right Windows 98 drivers).

Hangouts are an awesome easy way to connect and become even better friends with your photography buddies. These blow the conversations I’ve had in flickr groups away, complete with audio and video.

A shout out too to Shirley Lo, the queen of the Google+ hangouts — and sorry I can’t name about 10,000 mind blowing insanely talented photographers on Google+. There are so, so many and it’s because of all of you why I think the numbers are trending so high for Google+ being the great new place on the web to share photos.

How to Build a Better Photo Recommendation Engine

The other day I tweeted out the number one photo on Flickr’s Explore. It was a popular tweet. Out of the millions of photos that get uploaded to Flickr every single day, this photo was the one that Flickr felt was the absolute most awesomest photo on all of Flickr.

Nothing against the photo linked above, or the photographer who captured both a puppy and a full moon at *exactly* the same time, but it wasn’t what I would have picked as the number one most interesting photo on Flickr.

Different strokes for different folks though as the saying goes.

Along with others, I’ve abandoned flickr’s Explore section as a sort of cheesy photo watermark ghetto, but it remains a popular place across the network. If Flickr cared about innovating, there are lots of ways that they could improve this area, but that’s another conversation.

What I want to talk about today is how other companies that *are* innovating like Google Photos and 500px might build a better photo recommendation engine.

I do believe that all photo sharing sites need a photo recommendation area. We all love to look at engaging photography and it’s a useful tool to find new and interesting photographers to follow as well as to see better work uploaded by people on the site.

The number one problem with most photo recommendation engines is that they are the exact same recommendations for every individual. If you go to flickr’s Explore page, it is the exact same 100 photos for everybody, everyday. It doesn’t matter what sort of photography *you* like. It doesn’t matter where you live. It doesn’t matter what you fave.

Dumb algorithms that don’t take into consideration available data for personalization are not as good as smart algorithms that do.

So what should a smarter photo recommendation search engine do?

1. Don’t show me blocked content. Any accounts that I block should not appear in the recommendation engine for me. If I’m blocking an account it’s for a reason — maybe the person is a stalker/harasser, maybe the person puts 24 point Helvetica copyright watermarks over every single picture that make me want to vomit, maybe the individual focuses on a niche that I’m not interested in — whatever. I don’t want to see it and I shouldn’t have to see it if I’ve gone through enough trouble to block somebody. Google’s new Ignore setting should also be a strong signal.

2. Analyze my fave/+1 vs. view ratio by photographer. Do I +1 100% of a certain photographer’s work? Do I see 100 photos form another photographer and not +1 a single photo? Get to know my faving/+1ing activity and show me more stuff by these photographers that I fave/+1 most. Existing percentage fave/view ratio is a good one to take into consideration.

3. Analyze the tags/keywords on what I’m faving/+1ing. Do I seem to fave/+1 tons of photos of trains? Maybe I’m really into trains. Is graffiti my thing? Do I like abandoned photography? Show me more of this stuff and less puppies and moons.

4. Are there geographical clues that can provide information? What is my fave/view ratio by geographical location? Do I live in San Francisco and fave a higher number of photos in SF? — or maybe I live in SF and I’m sick of it and fave a lower number of photos.

Maybe I dream about laying on my stomach on a glacier in Antartica and fave a much higher rate of photos taken there. Everybody’s different.

5. What can my google/flickr search activity tell you about me? Do I search for neon signs a lot? Do I search especially for “San Francisco” AND “neon”? Maybe a neon sign in San Francisco with only 5 faves should be shown to me before showing me a photo of a puppy and a photoshopped moon with 100 faves.

6. New users should be able to provide input to a recommendation engine. You’d be surprised the sort of things people will personally voluntarily tell you. Does someone like Creative Commons photos more than all rights reserved? Do they care about watermarks? Do they LOVE them? Do the HATE them? Do they prefer local photos? Or do they want more travel abroad photos? How might they rate subject matter on a slider from one to ten? If some users *want* to provide this, use this data as a jumping off point for the recommendation engine.

Do they want to see artistic nudes? (This one is big as it represents a big genre in social photo sharing). Google+ also needs to get this figured out.

7. Don’t use the engine to blacklist. Currently Flickr blacklists certain members. This is bad for community. Blacklisting certain members creates enormous ill will.

Once a smarter recommendation engine is built around photographs customized to me it should be presented to me in a prominent place.

On Google+ specifically I’d recommend adding it as a link under the section to the left of the photo’s displayed on the photos tab in G+. Right now they have “photos from your circles” “photos from your phone” “photos of you” and “your albums” there.

I think they should add a menu item and call it Awesomeness (or whatever). Obviously they can’t call it “Explore,” but they can come up with something better.

From that menu item you should be able to expand it with a little triange and then filter the recommendation engine by circle.

Overall comments and faves/+1s should still factor heavily into any algorithm — but every user should get a unique set of photos tailored to their taste and input into the system.

Google could also play around with ranking incentives.

When Flickr first launched geotagging, I suggested to Stewart Butterfield that Flickr should tell users that geotagged photos would be rated higher in Explore if that was activity that flickr wanted to encourage (and they *should*) and flickr actually did end up doing this.

Similarly Google+ may want to consider what sort of activity they want to promote with photo ranking. Certainly social activity itself should rank high. If a user is uber social maybe their photos should rank higher — they are of more value to your network perhaps than someone that just pumps in flickr photos and never engages.

Likewise, metadata should be rewarded — both keywords and geotags. This is valuable information for Google to use in other ways and for search in the future.

A side note about negative voting systems in social networks. 500px currently employs a negative voting system with their photographs. You can essentially anonymously vote down a photo. They have some tools put in place to prevent mass downvoting and other abuses of the system and seem to feel that having access to this data is helpful for serving up great photographs (and they do a good job at that).

My own advice though is to to kill it. The problem is not that negative voting systems don’t provide valuable information. The problem is not that they are being abused. The problem is not in negative votes themselves, but rather their perception and people’s reactions to them.

It’s the same thing that hurt digg in my opinion. At digg a user would submit a story, they would watch it rise up the charts, and then just before it would hit the front page it would be killed. Boom. Buried. Gone.

Because burying on digg is anonymous (like 500px) it leaves people to suspect the worst. Was there a coordinated effort by people who hate me to bury my story? Was there a coordinated effort by those that wanted to see their own content have a better chance that killed it? This speculation is a negative input for a user. It’s probably the number one complaint I’ve heard about 500px and I know it’s kept some users away. I’m not sure the value of the data and information outweighs the negative feelings it provides to some in the community.

If you *absolutely* must have a negative voting system. Take away the anonymity. Of course this would also take away 98% of the down votes as well though.

Top 10 Ways for Photographers to Get Attention on Google+

FFear of a New San Francisco -- San Francisco, CA

Another week, another Google+ post.

Last week I wrote about 5 reasons why Google+ is winning the war in photosharing. In the comments to that post were a few people who said that they did not feel like they were getting traction even though they were getting involved.

Today I thought I’d put out a post on the top 10 ways for people to get attention on Google+. Some of these will apply to non-photographers too. Keep in mind that developing a large audience on the internet can take years of work, there is no magic bullet to automatically getting attention. There are, however, some best practices that may help you find more followers and get more attention.

1. Post great photos. “Great” is totally subjective though right? Post what you feel are the strongest photos you have. They don’t have to have been taken yesterday. You should strive to reserve your very best work for Google+. If you want attention as a photographer, make working on your craft a priority.

My friend Sly Vegas has only been shooting 6 months, but he has poured himself into photography in a huge way. He’s shooting every day, he’s devouring tutorials for Canon and Adobe Lightroom. He’s trying to step up his game. If you post mediocre photos none of the rest of this will count. Make sure dust spots are cloned out. Post process your work to make it look it’s best. Find unique and interesting subject matter to shoot. All of this matters.

Even if you’re not a photographer, consider posting strong and interesting visual imagery with your post. Tom Anderson does this. His posts are all about his thoughts and words, but with almost every post he makes he posts something visual to go with it. Google+ is heavily optimized to show the visual. Posts with photos do better than posts without.

Well now that we’ve got that out of the way…

2. Reciprocation. The number one way for you to get attention on Google+ is to reciprocate. Reciprocate like crazy. This is no different than Flickr, or Facebook, or Twitter or whatever. The most basic formula for every social network has always been reciprocation. Believe it or not, +1’s are *FREE* for you to give out. They don’t cost you anything! They are unlimited. +1 like crazy.

If you like a post or photo or whatever, +1 that sexy thing.

Comments are even more valuable than +1s. Don’t be shy. Even if all you have time to say is “nice!” A comment in someone’s post puts your link there for others to discover you.

If you want to ramp up attention to your own work, spend some time giving it out first. Have a philosophy of giving out 2, 3, 4 times, hell 100 or 1000 times when you’re starting out, what you get. Give and you shall receive. Don’t be disingenuous — comment when you really feel it and of course everyone always loves those super thoughtful, funny, positive comments too.

Also don’t forget to +name someone when you respond to them in a comment. It’s hard to keep up on every single conversation on Google+. If someone asks you a question or you are directing something at someone specifically, make sure to +name them. This way they are better notified (don’t abuse this).

3. Add a bunch of interesting people to your circles. Nothing gets you a follower quite like following somebody else first (again, see reciprocation). This will take some work. You have to be willing to work. My favorite way to find new people to add? I look for people who are making interesting and engaging comments on mine and other’s streams and I add them. The lists are a place to start too, but there are tons of people who are crazy talented who aren’t on these lists yet. (btw, you can add yourself to a lot of these lists, have you done that yet?)

It’s ok to add strangers. Put them in your “I Don’t Know These People Yet But They Seem Hella Talented and I’d Like to Get to Know Them More” circle.

Don’t just blindly add people, but actively look for interesting people and add them liberally when you find them.

4. How you post matters. Are you posting photos? Post them *directly to Google+* in order to get the huge big thumbnail. You have no idea how important this thumbnail is. Don’t just post a link to a flickr photo of yours, or a photo on 500px, or a photo on your blog. Bigger is better!

If you are so tied to these other places where you post, still upload the photo to G+ but add a link (if you must) to the site that you want to link out to.

I’ve heard a lot of people say things like, well if I post my photo to Google+ then I won’t get the traffic to my blog. Fine. But this post isn’t about how to get more attention on your blog, it’s about how to get more attention on Google+. A text link to your blog or a small thumbnail to a flickr or 500px will get far less attention than a big, bright, bold thumbnail image directly on G+.

5. Don’t overpost. I post 5 photos a day. That feels about right to me. I spread them out during the day. The best way to get people to ignore you is to flood their stream with 50 photos of your recent vacation (unless you’re Trey Ratcliff and they are all from Burning Man and you are posting them to make a point about how the comment on photo spam needs to be fixed by Google). :)

Resist the urge to post about what your eating like you do on Twitter — unless what you’re eating is raw sushi off Lady Gaga’s naked body on a table at the Playboy Mansion — again joking, I so would NOT post about that if I were actually doing it, which I wouldn’t be, I mean which I probably wouldn’t be.

6. Don’t post a GIF... unless it’s a really, really, really, really good GIF that nobody’s seen before. Seeing someone’s face morph into 14 other faces was sort of cool the first time you saw it. The 20th time, not as much. Resist the urge. I love a good Caturday GIF as much as the next guy, but a lot of people see these as noise.

7. Be a great curator. Guy Kawasaki is great at this. So is Morgaine LeFaye. So is Robert Scoble. Look for the best, most unique content that you can find on the web. Use your space to showcase work by other talented people on G+. When a new person shows up who you know has talent, make a post introducing them to the rest of the community.

8. Participate in hangouts. Hangouts are a great intimate way to get to know people. Somehow when you spend a little time with someone face to face (albeit with computers between you) you get to know them a little better.

9. Cross promote your Google+ account. Is there a link to your Google+ account on your flickr profile? Why not? That’s soooo easy to do. Have you posted a kick ass photo to flickr, reminding the people that follow you there that you are now on Google+, maybe even with a link to your invites url? Why not?

Have you tweeted out your Google+ posts page? Have you posted it to Facebook? Is it on your blog? Your tumblr?

What about people in real life (IRL, don’t you just hate that? I mean the web is in fact IRL if you ask me)? I hear people say that their family are not on Google+ yet, that they are still on Facebook. Whose fault is that? Yours. Get them on there. My sister just recently joined by the way. What about your co-workers? Ask them if they’ve heard of it and offer them an invite. You’d be surprised how many people are interested in G+ right now but just need that little personal touch and push over.

Are you a celebrity? Mention your Google+ account the next time you’re on the David Letterman show (joking), but you get the idea.

10. Make sure you are posting *PUBLICLY*. Alot of people make this mistake when they first post to G+. They aren’t aware that you have to type “public” into the little box below your status update. If you only put “your circles” or “your extended circles” or you leave it to the last way you sent something as a default, or whatever, you’ll miss getting your image out to a TON of people.

Unless there is a specific reason why you need to keep a photo limited, if you want attention, you are going to want to make sure it says “PUBLIC” down at the bottom, every time you post a photo.

Bonus tip: Be nice and be *positive*. Nobody likes a hater. Nobody wants to hear that their photo sucks and that it looks like crap (unless someone is *specifically* asking for this sort of criticism). Nobody wants to see someone saying that their model looks fat. Resist the urge to bash Obama on unrelated photos of the Grand Canyon.

It’s so easy for someone to uncircle you, move you to the “Don’t pay attention to these people because they are negative haters” circle, block you, or even use the new ignore feature that Google rolled out last week (for when you really do want to block someone but it might feel socially awkward).

People are on Google+ for a lot of reasons, to find interesting content, to meet interesting people, to promote their work, to get inspiration, to social network, but most of all they are on here *TO HAVE FUN*.

You can find me on Google+ here. :)

Google+ vs. Flickr vs. Facebook vs. 500px vs. Twitter

The Hatch

Yesterday I posted a photograph of mine on 5 different sites at about the same time. The photo above, The Hatch, was posted to Google+ (Google’s much hyped new social network), Flickr, Facebook, 500px (an exciting up and coming new photo sharing service) and Twitter.

I will try to compare, the best I can, the attention that the same photograph received from each of these sites over the course of 24 hours. If as a photographer you are looking at photo sharing sites, in part, as a way to promote your work to a wider audience, the engagement your photographs receive online may be of interest. This case is very specific and of course everyone’s circumstances will differ, but this is my experience.

Before examining the attention the above photograph received in various places, I think it is worthwhile to look at some of the numbers (for me) behind each of these sites. Following are the number of “followers” roughly that I have on each of the sites mentioned, the approximate time I joined the sites, and how active I engage on them.

Google+: Google+ is a brand new social network It was opened to limited beta users last week. I’ve been on it now less than a week, but I enjoy shiny new things and so I’ve been somewhat active. At present I have 1,861 followers there.

Flickr: Flickr is the largest well organized library of images in the world. It’s the grandaddy big gorilla of photosharing. I joined Flickr in August of 2004 and have been active almost every day that I’ve been on the site. I generally upload 50 photos every day to flickr, have favorited or commented on over 100,000 photos of other users, and am active as an admin in a large and popular group. 21,125 people call me a contact on Flickr.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network. I have 3,161 friends following me on Facebook. I joined Facebook in September of 2006, pretty shortly after they allowed non-college students to join. I’ve never been impressed with Facebook and spend the least amount of time on the site of the five mentioned. I do however post daily to Facebook and occasionally engage with other people on the site.

500px is an exciting new up and coming photosharing site being built by a small innovative team out of Tornoto. 500px currently has some of the best photography being shared on the web being published there. I joined 500px a few months ago in April. 1,558 people are subscribed to my photos there.

Twitter is the world’s most popular micro blogging service — I joined shortly after it was launched in December of 2006. Twitter just started photo sharing last month with a partnership with Photobucket. I currently have 19,285 followers on Twitter.

So not all of the sites above measure views. But here are the breakdowns on the photo published.

Views: Unknown
+1’s (i.e. likes/favorites): 45
Reshares: 2
Comments: 14

Views: 102
Faves: 7
Comments: 2

Views: Unknown
Likes: 10
Comments: 3

Views: 52
Favorites: 4
Comments: 5

Views: Unknown
Faves: 0

Conclusion: My photos posted to Google+ receive far more attention than posting them to any other social network. Part of this might be due to the fact that Google+ is still a brand spanking new super shiny social network with lots of activity as people are checking it out. Part of it also may be the fact that every time someone comments on my photo there it “bumps” the photo back to the top of my followers’ activity stream.

Google+ doesn’t seem to report views on your photo, but based on the engagement on the photo I’d guess that it was viewed far more on Google+ yesterday than any of the other sites. Whether or not this sort of high activity will continue is anybody’s guess — but at least for now, if you are a photographer who wants to promote their work on the web, Google+ seems like a place that you definitely want to be sharing.

As an aside, I think how each of these sites shows your photo is important to the attention that they receive. There are two ways that people see your photo, in more limited stream view and then in better detail/lightbox view. In my opinion Google+ and 500px do the best job sharing your photos most beautifully. Both provide big oversized thumbnails that are elegantly shown to your contacts and both have really nice detail pages when you click through to a photograph.

Google+’s lightbox view, however, is over the top. It really is the best detail photo page on the web today, big giant oversized photos that load super fast and are on a black lightbox background. It is a very fast one click away from a photo in a stream and one click back, encouraging people to click through. Flickr has a lightbox view but it’s 2 steps away from your contacts looking at your photo (not one like Flickr and Facebook). Also Flickr and Facebook’s lightbox views are not as elegant as Google+.

It should also be noted that photos on various social networks generally do not get as many views on a weekend day as they do a weekday when everybody is working. It also seems that because this weekend is 4th of July weekend that there are less people around and online than usual.

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Google Plus

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Flickr

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Facebook

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on 500px

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Twitter

On Watermarks and Signatures

On Watermarks and Signatures

Earlier today I caught myself unfollowing someone on 500px because I clicked through on their photo and found this garish looking signature on their photograph. I know I’ll probably take a lot of heat for this, but I HATE watermarks and signatures on photos and many of the particularly bad borders and frames as well — so much so that more and more these days I’m not faving them or commenting on photos that I find them on and have actually started unfollowing some people who use them.

Some people will say that they put signatures on their photos to stop the “photo thieves.” But I think that’s just an excuse. It’s so easy to remove almost any signature on a photo using content aware fill or other super easy tool in most image editing software. To me the real reason why people do it is that they think that it gives them some means of promotion for their work — that and just pure ego. It’s like an advertisement for their work – except that if I’m a contact and I’m looking at your work already, it feels dumb to me that you want to continuously hammer me with this same advert on your photos over and over and over again.

To me signatures are also a pure sign of an amateur (not that there is anything wrong with amateurs). William Eggleston doesn’t use them. He has a copyright notice on his site, but on his photos on display on his site, none of them are overlayed with something that says “William Eggleston Copyright 2009, Fully Party Promotion Production BABY! Richard Avedon doesn’t use them (RIP). The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite run by Ansel’s son Michael Adams doesn’t use them. Mary Ellen Mark doesn’t use them.

Is your work so much better than these masters that it must be protected with your watermark?

Some of the best photosharing accounts that I know don’t use them. Bernie DeChant doesn’t use them. Ivan Makarov doesn’t use them. Kelly Castro doesn’t use them. WatermelonSugar doesn’t use them. Bill Storage has some remarkable work up — no signatures here either.

And yet some brand new account with some underexposed photo of a flower (not that there is anything wrong with flowers) somehow thinks that unless they have their name emblazoned across the bottom of their photo in 24pt Helvetica, that someone is going to “steal” their photograph.

For me looking at photos online is a new way of consuming art — and online photosharing sites are sort of virtual museums for me in a way. If I went to see the Richard Avedon show at the SF MOMA and every print was stamped with a garish “COPYRIGHT RICHARD AVEDON” I’d be just as put off I think. But they aren’t.

I don’t use signatures or watermarks on my own work because I care about the art. I care about how it’s presented to others. I want it to be beautiful. I want it to stand on it’s own. I trust you. I respect you. I want you to see my work the best that it can possibly be and come back and see it again and again and again in the future.

As an artist my biggest ambition is to have my work seen and appreciated, at all costs. To get it out there and distributed as broadly as possible and to make it as welcome and inviting to those who might come and visit it.

I might blame the software makers for adding this functionality into their products — but they only do this due to consumer demand and some people want this, I suppose.

The thing is that I have friends and photographers that I admire that use signatures. And some people feel super strong about them and so I’m sure some people will react badly to me saying how much I hate them. I certainly don’t mean to upset people who do use them and feel this way. It’s just an opinion. Really, don’t hate on me for hating your watermark. If you want to use it, you just go right on using it. The important thing is that YOU like it. It’s your art after all. This is just my blog and my opinion.

How to Browse Flickr Like a Pro

Important keyboard shortcuts for flickr. (Note: for a PC cmd=ctl)

cmd-click (to load a page in a tab in the background)
cmd-w (to close a window)
f (to fave a photo)
c (to comment on a photo)
cmd-option-arrow key (to move between open tabbed windows)

One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that how you browse photosharing sites matters quite a bit. Not just where you go to find great photos to see and interact with, but specifically *how* you navigate the site with maximum efficiency.

My two favorite photosharing sites at present are 500px and Flickr. In this post I’ll try to explain how I browse photos on on Flickr to find and uncover great photographs and also how to navigate the site. You can see the companion article How to Browse 500px Like a Pro here.

How to Browse Flickr Like a Pro

The first place I go to browse photos on Flickr is in my contacts/friends most recent photos. Here you can toggle between friends/contacts (I keep people I actually know or whose work I super admire in my closer circle of friends and I pretty much add anybody who adds me as a contact back in the contacts grouping).

This should probably be your starting page on Flickr for looking for new flickr photos.

One of the most important ways to increase efficiency when browsing photosharing sites is to avoid wasting time while pages load. So typically what I do first after loading this page is cmd-click on each of the paging icons at the bottom of the page — this loads me the most recent 7 pages of my friends/contacts photos in new background tabs.

Next I go through each of these thumbnail pages and cmd click every thumbnail that I want to see larger. What this does is opens up many, many tabs in my browser of choice Chrome (doing the page loading while I’m doing something else). Once I finish with a page I cmd-w the page to close the page and it automatically starts taking me to the photo pages that I’ve opened.

On a photo page I can see the photo larger and have more choices of things I can do. If I want to fave a photo, rather than use the mouse, I’ll simply press the F key. This is much faster. If I want to comment on the photo, I’ll simply press the C key. This will automatically jump my browser right into the comment field where I can start typing a comment.

Because I have Dan Pupius FittrFlickr installed, I can also easily see (very unobtrusively) the major EXIF data for a photo right beneath the photo. I also have links to different sizes (including large and original if available) that I can cmd click to load an even larger version of the photo in the background if I need a closer look.

How to Browse Flickr Like a Pro 4

After going to my contacts photo uploads page, next I’ll go to my recent activity page. This is where reciprocation on flickr takes place. Looking at the most recent activity on my photos I see who has been interacting with them – who has been active on the site recently with my work. From here I start cmd clicking on their names. This loads up their photostreams where I can see their first page of photos. From here I’ll cmd-click the photos that I want to see larger and possibly interact with.

How to Brows Flickr LIke a Pro 2

The next place I go to find great photos is to The Hot Box. The Hot Box is a group that I’m active on in Flickr where great photos are voted into a pool of winners. Here, again, I’ll cmd-click the photos that i might be interested in and then interact with them.

How to Browse Flickr Like a Pro 3

After this I might go favorite diving. Here I will look for some of the people on Flickr whose taste I admire the most, and go through their favorites and cmd-click anything that looks interesting. This is such a superior way to find new contacts and photographs vs. Flickr’s crappy Explore section which not only blacklists photographers but is full of mediocre photos by strangers with the worst signatures, watermarks and borders humanly possible.

By using the techniques described above, I can find some really amazing photos by some really amazing photographers on Flickr. By relying heavily on the cmd-click function, I can more rapidly and efficiently navigate the site, allowing load time to take place in background tabs, leaving as much time as possible for me to actually spend appreciating and interacting with a photograph.


As a bonus tip, one other thing that I’m starting to do on both Flickr and 500px is curate photographs with Pinterest. I’ve just started doing this, but if I especially like a photograph on flickr or 500px (or anywhere on the web really) I’ll pin it to a gallery on Pinterest. Here is a gallery I’ve started called “So This is America” which includes interesting and compelling photographs of America and here is another gallery that I’ve started of some of my favorite photographs by one of my greatest inspirations, American photographer William Eggleston. Pinterest is really what Flickr’s own galleries should have looked like if they hadn’t of done it so half-ass and with so many restrictions and limitations.