Top 10 Ways to Find Great Photos on Flickr

top 10 ways to find great photos on flickr

Well two weeks ago I blogged about the top 10 ways to get attention on Flickr and thought in continuing with the top 10 theme that I’d do another Flickr top 10. This top 10 is the top 10 ways to find great pictures on Flickr (almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world, of course).

Although I’ve been on Flickr, heavily, for over a year, it has only been recently that I’ve picked up on some of the best ways to use the site to find truly spectacular photography. I’m on a mission of sorts to collect the very best photography that I can possibly find on Flickr. I’m not sure why I’m so obsessed with this mission but at present I have marked over 14,000 photos favorites of mine on Flickr. These are photos that I genuinely love, each and every one. Each day, from this pool of 14,000 I select a single photo that I blog at FlickrNation as the “photo of the day.” Having saved over 14,000 photos I have certainly looked at many more. I’d guess I’ve probably looked at more than 100,000 photos on Flickr in the past year and so today’s lesson will be on a lot of fun ways for you to play with Flickr and new ways of finding the very best photography on the site.

On with the list.


1. Use Scout to find the very best work of any photographer on Flickr. My favorite Flickr toy at the moment is Scout. Scout is a toy that allows you to enter your Flickr ID into a web page and then return back to you all of your photos that have appeared in Flickr’s public Explore/interestingness stream, this stream is the top 500 photos each day according to some kind of magic donkey that works down with the Flickr team. While much has been written about interestingness, and it is certainly not the end all be all for the best photography on Flickr, it is a great place to start. But beyond seeing your own photos that have made Explore, you can also see the great photos of others. The photo above, for instance, is what Scout returned back to me for all of aqui-ali’s photographs that currently appear in Flickr’s Explore section. aqui-ali is my favorite photographer (I know, I know, dad shouldn’t play favorites) on Flickr and I’d highly recommend checking out his work. But you can put any photographer’s ID into Scout and see what turns up.

I routinely use Scout to run the names through of new contacts of photographers that I find interesting to see what Flickr considers their best work at a glance. Try it yourself. Enter in your photostream and then try some of your contacts. You will be surprised at some of the great work that comes back.

View by Archive

2. View by archive. The archive view is the most under-utilized view on Flickr. Want to tear through someone’s 2,000 photo stream in about 10 minutes? Then the only way, best way, to do this is with the archive view. The archive view is a fast loading small thumbnail view of a Flickr photographer’s work that you can rapid fire run through. While you miss a lot of their work only seeing it in thumbnail, you can quickly click on any thumbnail for a full size view. If you like that view you can then fav it directly from there. Getting to the archive view is a little tricky and you kind of have to go about it in a round about way, but the image above shows the steps to follow to get to the archive view. 1. While on a photographers main page click on the archives button on the right side of the page. 2. Click on a month in their archive (by posted or taken, either will work) 2 and a half. Click on any day on the calendar. 3. Click on the “posted in” link. 4. You are now viewing by archive.

Oh, and by the way, * cate *’s got some great shots on flickr.

Tag Search

3. Search any tag search term and then rank by interestingness. One of the best features of Flickr is that you can search by tags. At the top of every Flickr page are four links, Home | Tags | Groups | People | Invite.

The tags link is the key to search at Flickr. Click on this tags link and you will be able to enter in any search term you want and Flickr will go and fetch all of those photos for you. While many people search by tags, what they don’t realize is that when you search by tags what Flickr fetches by default are the *most recent* photos tagged with your search term. Want to find super interesting photos? Rather than rely on the default most recent photos results, click on the “most interesting” link to the immediate right of the “most recent” link on the page and you will truly see some amazing work. The thumbnails above are from the “most interesting” results for the tag “sunset.”

Check out that photo by Umaru Idi-Catteau huh?

DM Gallery

4. Special groups that highlight some of the best photography on Flickr. There are many Flickr users who have attempted with the group functionality to build their own versions of what the best photography on Flickr is. If you can possibly think of a concept for a group, there probably is one based on that concept on Flickr. There are thousands of groups, literally. Many of these groups are dedicated to special criteria designed to showcase the best of what Flickr has to offer. My favorite of these groups is DM Gallery. DM Gallery is a group whereby Flickr Members from Deleteme Uncensored vote on photos for inclusion. The number of photos in the pool must remain at a static 200. What this means is that for each new photo voted in, one photo must be removed. It gets harder and harder to pick what to throw out of course as the quality of the shots gets better and better. Check it out yourself. If you have 10 minutes to kill I’d also highly recommend the slide show version (trust me, you will not be disappointed). That great photo of the cardboard figures by the way comes to use courtesy of Lawrie M.

Some other great groups are Fav/View >= 5% (where photos must be fav’d at least 5% of the time), Utata, JPG Magazine, 100 Views +10 favs, top 25 fav minimum pool, and of course the very top rated of all photos on Flickr, 1000 views + 100 favorites pool. Feel free to check out these groups, but also feel free to explore the groups on Flickr and find others on your own. You will find many groups that by their selection criteria come up with some pretty amazing photos.


5. Explore itself. Pretty basic stuff here. Flickr has a magic donkey down at Yahoo! headquarters that each day picks the 500 best photos of the day. While some might try and convince you that there is some type of algorithm method to all this, more that a few people have admitted to seeing this donkey. The algorithm works pretty well and click through to see what Flickr presents each day as the 500 most interesting photos on Flickr.

Favorite Diving

6. Favorite Diving. This is one of my favorite games to play on Flickr. Every Flickr user has the option of marking photos favorites. A lot of times I like to randomly check out other users’ favorites. By using the human intelligence of another actual human being you will be surprised at some of the great photos that they come up with. How the favorite diving game works is like this. Go to any contacts’ favorites page (you just click on their “favorites” link on their main photo page). Up will pop the most recent photos they have fav’d. Pick one from the thumbnail view that you like, fav it, and then go to that user’s favorites selection. Lather, rinse, repeat. You can just go on and on and on forever from one person’s favorite stream to another. Occasionally you get stuck when a user doesn’t have any favorites but then you just click back and you’ll find another photo to choose where the user does have favorites. Warning. This is a very addictive game and you can easily waste 6 hours straight on it (not that I would know or anything).

Photos from Family and Friends

7. Photos from your contacts and friends and family. Nothing makes Flickr more successful than the ability to mark other users as contacts and some of your contacts as friends or family. Central to the whole idea of Flickr is a sense of community. I pretty much make anyone who makes me a contact back. I figure if you want to check out my stuff then periodically I should check out yours as well. If I develop a relationship with someone over time, or know them from outside Flickr (actual family, friends, blogging contacts, etc.) I will also mark them as family or friend. I then routinely go through my contacts and view their work. Flickr gives you two choices for how to see your contacts’ photos, you can either choose 1 photo per contact or 5 photos per contact. I usually keep my settings for my friends/family at 5 and for my regular contacts (I’ve got a lot, over 2,000 now) at 1 photo each. This helps me keep up with what my contacts are publishing and if I like it I can fav it from this screen.

Flickr Memories

8. By Flickr Blogs. There are a number of blogs that regularly blog great Flickr photos. The most famous of course is the Flickr Blog itself, Flickr’s actual official corporate blog. There are a number of other great blogs blogging Flickr photos regularly as well. Nighthawks is a blog that blogs great Flickr photos at night. Here are some other ones worth checking out as well. If you like them get an RSS subscription and then you can track what they post regularly in your RSS reader: Flickrzen, Flickr Stalkr, FlickrPix Photo Magazine, Utata, and another of my personal favorites, Flickr Memories. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, each day I myself blog what I feel is one of the best photos on Flickr over at FlickrNation.

flagrant disregard

9. With Flickr Toys. I would be remiss were I not to mention in this article, the very fine work of John Watson has developed the finest collection of Flickr Toys to date. In addition to the previously mentioned Scout toy, Flagrant Disregard has a wide variety of other Flickr toys that you can use to see Flickr photos in fun and new ways. You can turn your photos into a mosaic, you can make a billboard out of your photos, a magazine cover, a captioner and many, many more. If you find yourself enjoying Flickr, definitely check John’s site out.

My Favorites

10. And finally (whew) a little self plug for my own collection of favorites. I mentioned earlier in this article that I’ve personally collected over 14,000 favorites. One of the biggest reasons that I’ve collected so many is that I’m hoping in the future that Flickr (or a partner) turns out a full screen slide show version of Flickr for view in my living room. I’d love to be able to put up a random display of my 14,000 favorites on my 43″ plasma and watch them in full glory. Although favorite diving is fun, if you want to see what I truly see as the best photography on Flickr today check out this stream of over 14,000 photos.

Ok, and one final bonus flickr tip for all of you faithful enough to read to the very end of this article. Have you ever all of a sudden seen one of your photos get a bunch of hits and you don’t know why? There’s a good chance that it was blogged somewhere. I’ve got a bunch of links in this article to people’s Flickr sites for instance. If you want to stay on top of where your flickr photos are being linked, be sure and set up a Technorati feed for your flickrstream. Here’s mine. Just copy your own flickrstream url and paste it in to Technorati like I did and you can see if any of your photos are being blogged by anyone out there. I bet some of them are. You can also get an RSS subscrip
tion to this Technorati feed so that you are notified anytime someone blogs a photo of yours.

Update: Flickr Leech Well just last week I wrote an article on the top 10 ways to find great photos on Flickr and no sooner do I run across flickrleech (because paging sucks).

Flickrleech allows you to pull up massive screenfuls of thumnails across interestingness, username, user ID, photoset, group pool, search, etc. You can keep it loaded in the background while you click through on great shots and view, fav, comment etc.


If you use Flickr. You must check this one out. This toy will easily triple my productivity in viewing shots on Flickr. Amazing.

Thanks to Marsh Gardiner and Benzadrine for pointing this one out to me.

Really blown away.


11 Replies to “Top 10 Ways to Find Great Photos on Flickr”

  1. Superb recap, Thomas – thanks for posting such a detailed approach….

    I’m planning on sharing this “10 step” process with Flickr newcomers who ask me how to get the most out of Flickr.

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