10 Reasons Why Google+ Is Better for Social Photography Than Flickr


A few months back I wrote a post “Flickr is Dead.” When I wrote that post I didn’t mean dead literally, I just meant that the soul of social photo sharing was migrating away from Flickr over to Google+.

Over the past few months the tide has begun shifting even more. Photographers are moving in mass from Flickr to Google+ as their primary photo sharing network.

Just like the social crowd moved from Webshots and Fotolog to Flickr a number of years ago, the social photography crowd is now moving from Flickr to Google+.

There are a number of reasons why this is happening and in this post I’ll outline some of the key ones.

1. Google+ has momentum, energy, excitement and has captured the imagination of photographers all over the world. Social photographers want to be a part of something big, something that is growing. People feel that energy and want to be a part of it. It’s hard to actually understand this social magic, but Google+ clearly has it right now for photographers.

2. Google employees are actively engaged with the photographic community. A ton of Google employees are working both online and offline to engage the community. They post their own photos and they interact with other photographers. They use their streams to promote the work of newcomers in the community. They attend photowalks. We just did a Death Valley trip and I think 8 or so Googlers showed up for the trip. They are visible engaged evangelists promoting social photography at Google both online and in person. When was the last time you actually saw someone from Flickr show up for a photowalk?

By the way, you are coming on our Google+ San Jose photowalk on December 8th, right? 74 people have already signed up for it. 🙂

3. Google has better tools to manage your social experience. The biggest problem at flickr right now is that the tools to manage your social experience are weak. At Google when you block somebody, they are really and truly blocked. You don’t see them ANYWHERE on the site. Trolls, griefers, stalkers, harassers, etc, can be instantly zapped out of existence on the site with a touch of a button. They can’t see you (unless they log out) and you don’t see them *anywhere* on the site. They become totally invisible. It’s so perfect.

Flickr doesn’t realize it yet but they have a BIG problem with harassment. Blocking people at flickr is weak and ineffective. They still can post on your friends’ photos so that you’ll see them. They still can post in groups that you’re a member of. This is a poison that I’ve personally watched drive many of the best accounts away from Flickr.

4. You get far, far more engagement on your photos on Google+ than on Flickr. It might take a little bit of work and interaction, but once you engage on Google+ you’ll find that every possible metric to measure (number of followers, number of views, number of comments, number of +1s, quality of interaction) is far superior.

I think part of why this is so is because that in addition to photographers being on Google+ there are also a ton of non-photographers. These non-photographers never would have come to flickr in the past because, well, they’re not photographers. On Google+ they are on the site for different reasons but still end up exposed to your photography. Because of this, you reach a much larger audience in the end.

The day before yesterday +Maria Bartiromo reshared one of +Trey Ratcliff’s photos. I doubt Maria Bartoroma would ever have an account on Flickr, but she’s a top account on Google+ and as such is being exposed to great photography every single day.

5. Hangouts are like social superglue. Flickr recently launched this sort of lame feature where you can share your flickr photos with other users and text chat about them — super, super, super, super lame. Nobody wants to do this. Nobody is using this. Text chatting only is so “you’ve got mail” AOLish — it belongs to the last decade, not the next decade.

Google+ photographers are interacting in real time, live with video and audio. I hosted a hangout the other day and over 60 people showed up during it to socialize. +Trey Ratcliff is doing fun and interesting broadcasted hangouts (I’ll be on Trey’s show tomorrow night at 7pm PST btw). A bunch of the female photographers on Google+ just launched a new hangout show called “Life Through the Lens” photography from a woman’s perspective.

On Google+ I can watch +Scott Jarvie edit his photos live in real time. Jarvie generously shares with the rest of us his tips and techniques. I can learn about +Paul Roustan’s body painting photography and how he prints his work and gets it in galleries. Last night I got to hear +Michael Bonocore explain to me how he made this shot with fire and spinning wool.

Hangouts can be planned or spontaneous. When you connect with other photographers it’s connecting with them on a whole different level when it’s face to face and with audio and video. Flickr’s groups helped flickr create small intimate experiences, hangouts are like that x 1,000.

Also because people are nicer to each other when they interact face to face than via text, the whole tone of photographer interaction is enhanced by this tool on Google+.

6. Shared circles lets the community promote great photographers. I’ve shared my photography circles a few times now. People are sharing circles every day. When we share circles it massively promotes other photographers on the site — they get new followers (hence more momentum). An audience for your work can be built so much faster as people end up frequently sharing great circles of talented photographers. Here are two of my posts where I’ve shared my own circles for you to find some great photographers that I’m following too.

7. Circles are smarter contact management. At flickr you just get two buckets. Your friends/family and your contacts. And yet sometimes you need to categorize your friends differently than just those two buckets.

For example: the weekend before last 55 or so of us spent that amazing weekend shooting in Death Valley. With Google+ I was able to create a Death Valley circle and use that to broadcast updates just to that group of people. You can create circles of San Francisco Photographers, Best Friend Photographers, Neon Shooters, Night Photographers, Detroit Photographers (for when I visit Detroit in Jan), etc. The ways to organize your contacts are limitless.

8. Strong Curation and Resharing. Explore is a joke. Even though I’ve been unblacklisted from it now (thanks +Zack Shepard!), I still never go there. The photo quality is poor. You get lots of watermarked photos and sort of less interesting artistic stuff. Rather than have to look at photos supposedly selected by some hokey donkey on flickr, at Google+ if something is particularly good it gets reshared and I get to see it from the people that I follow. These people have much better taste than Flickr’s dumb algorithm.

And then there are other people like +Jarek Klimek who are curating huge sized versions of some of the best Google+ photos offsite at PhotoExtract. PhotoExtract kicks Explore’s ass so hard.

Also when something is featured on Photo Extract or reshared by your friends you don’t get all those dumb sparkly gif awards all over your photo or people begging you to add it to a bunch of dumb groups.

9. Google owns the future of search. No doubt about it. Yahoo is on the way out for search. They tried to partner up with the Bingers but everybody still uses Google. Already Google+ entries are starting to index very highly on Google. If you care about search, if you care about SEO — if you are a professional photographer especially and want to be easily found on Google.com, Google+ is your best way to try and promote your work.

10. Innovation, Innovation, Innovation. You just can’t beat it. People started using hashtags on G+ and Google stepped up and linked them. People were having a problem with trolls in some hangouts and we got a tool to block them right there from the hangout. When +Vincent Mo first built the lightbox view he forgot to give us a button to +1 photos from there. BAMM it gets fixed, as smooth as apples and steak.

(Remember +Vic Gundotra, +Vincent Mo, +Dave Cohen and +Brian Rose should all get hefty bonuses this year, plus +Ricardo Lagos even though he isn’t even on the photos team, oh wait and +Chris Chabot too, and lots of other good Googlers).

Google is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Google+ and the entire company is focused on it. Contrast this with Yahoo who spent last Christmas laying off flickr employees at twice the rate of the general company layoffs. Flickr has stagnated and is not innovating. Google is aggressively expanding and growing Google+.

37 Replies to “10 Reasons Why Google+ Is Better for Social Photography Than Flickr”

  1. Hey Thomas. I’ve been using Flickr for over 6 years, I admit I’m a fanboy, and to some extent I’ll never fully stop loving it.
    But I have to say, I started Google Plus about 2 months ago and since that time I have uploaded 3 pictures to flickr. I’ve all but given up on my contacts there, stopped participating in groups, even ones I started.
    Its sad that flickr has been let go, like a child loosing interest in a once favorite toy. A site with such potential, and yet I had a feeling as soon as Yahoo took it over that it would be run into the ground. Now that it has, I can only rejoice that we photographers have Google Plus to turn to.

    You make some good points about G+ specifically, the amount of attention Google is affording the site. I watched as a simple feature such as +1ing a photo went from nonexistence to concept to reality in mere weeks.
    Remember how long ideas were tossed around in flickr?
    Remember how unrealistic it was to think it would be implemented?
    Or remember how the crap they did implement was so disliked by the community at large that several people created groups filled with members protesting the “changes”
    I for one am so glad to be part of a new and better community that has developers that actually listen to our ideas and not only respond, but implement with such speed and flawless precision.

  2. presenetili ste me z ?udovitim obiskom DOLLY PARTON.ne vem kaj bi vam napisal saj sem ostal brez besed.ko sem bil malo mlajši sem na veliko kupoval njene gramofonske ploš?e.vam gre zahvala da sem jo ponovno spoznal.nalepša hvala vam vsem v Googlu.ne bodite jezni res sem ostal brez besed, LEPO SE VAM ZAHVALJUJE ZVONKO.

  3. I love the photos which crop up on Plus, but I wish the album interface was better – especially to be able to see the full-sized versions.

  4. Thomas,

    I just started using G+ a lot a few weeks ago. Perhaps I signed up months before that, but I didn’t pay it any attention. Right now, I’m clinically addicted to G+. I didn’t go to bed last night. I just stayed up and mostly did G+. And I still haven’t even looked at its photo features even though I’ve been a regular flickr user for years (~4,000 uploaded; > 10,000 favorited; > 300 galleries). Thanks for this article! I’m going to check out some some of the photographers you linked to, and look into what G+ has so far for photos.

    Now, sorry to be off-topic, but I can’t help it with this one:

    I love google’s stuff. I use their search (‘natch!), gmail, their calendar, translator, Chrome as default, … , and I saw stuff on one of their Labs pages yesterday that I just have to get back to and try out.

    But, boy, if zvonko’s writing is in Slovenian (as Google Translate [GT] believes), then GT a long way to go with Slovenian. Somehow, zvonko’s writing looks Eastern European to me, so I tried about 15-20 languages from that area in GT, but got essentially the same result (Slovenian -> English below). I could easily be wrong about it being E. European. I wonder if GT doing that statistical method of translation. If so, then it needs to be fed a lot more more Slovenian + translations.

    GT’s Slovenian to English gave :
    “presenetili you from me ?udovitim obiskom DOLLY PARTON.ne Take kaj bi wrote you suck here stayed here brez besed.ko beat mlajši be bought here in Veliko njene gramofonske ploš?e.vam gre zahvala da yo here ponovno spoznal.nalepša Hvala all of you on Google. not bodite jezni res stayed here brez discussions, LEPO SE lets ZAHVALJUJE outside.”

  5. Google still needs to fix its system so it will accept IPTC metadata (Adobe Bridge tags, captions, etc.) It is a pain in the next to have to import my photos into iPhoto and use the uploader there so it will recognize my tags, and even then I have to delete the title and put it in the caption, or else it doesn’t work right.

    And I’d like to see a photo stream and smart sets. Why should I have to upload a photo twice or more to have it in different albums?

  6. “””
    10. Innovation, Innovation, Innovation. You just can’t beat it. People started using hashtags on G+ and Google stepped up and linked them. People were having a problem with trolls in some hangouts and we got a tool to block them right there from the hangout. When +Vincent Mo first built the lightbox view he forgot to give us a button to +1 photos from there. BAMM it gets fixed, as smooth as apples and steak.

    There are some innovative things about Google+ (circles, hangouts), but these are hardly examples of innovating. Twitter and others made the idea of hashtags popular. Google just responding to what users expected from a social network. Which is great, but more so part of #2.

  7. I really haven’t gotten into google+ yet, noticed people adding me into circles. But I use instagram a lot and wonder if somehow sending my IG photos to google +

  8. +Thomas Hawk any chance you could use your pull with Google to sort out the issue I have with Google+ where people I add to circles disappear after a few days. Very frustrating. I’ve added two of your circles you shared and now they are both empty. Thanks.

  9. Cedric, I’m not sure about that problem. I know Billy Wilson was having some trouble like that and I think they largely fixed that for him right now. I’d try making a post about it and +Brian Rose in the body of the post. Hopefully someone can get that straightened out for you.

  10. although google+ is pretty good, i still think theres a lot of features that are lacking. for example, image views, the abililty to move images around in albums, and tags.

  11. Pretty rah-rah take on G+ but for a lot of us they just arrived too late. With over 80 full photo albums put up in Facebook and nearly 10,000 photos on my blog, unless they sophisticate an import system that will take my existing photo albums, am not about to either manually transfer or start new collections on G+ when my audience is elsewhere, vircles are filling at snail pace. Never had a serious use for flickr, there with the basic free, you’re right, it’s lame.

  12. +Thomas Hawk
    Thanks for this article, really. I have been a Pro user in flickr for many moons, since Sept 2005. Before it was just a sort of bucket where I was just uploading pictures not to lose them, with no particular interest in photography. Since 3 years ago I have been more passionate about taking pictures, and I am really enjoying it. Only thing is that flickr is back at 2005, when I joined! I joined the Flickr Ideas group hoping to wake up some minds but how things are done I deeply think that flickr won’t see growth at all, it’s just a big ship sinking. It takes long to sink because it’s big, but it will sink eventually. Any idea posted in that group is always shot down by… by users! Always the same group of 6 or 7 users who spend their life saying “no” to any newcomer posting new and fresh ideas. And actual staff never interacts, they even bothered to write a post of excuses why they don’t do it, and why they will never give anticipations. Pathetic.
    Have a tour in the group, and see what I mean:
    have a look at this thread, it is long to read but actually shows the illness of flickr:

    I signed up for google+ a couple of months ago with the deliberate intention of ditching facebook, in actual fact I didn’t know about the photo-side of it. I explored it today looking at your pictures and yes, they are displayed in a much neater and more visual effective way. Attracting. I have been spending the last two hours on google+, it starts growing in me, I can really feel the enthusiasm!

  13. +Lambert Schlumpf & others reading,

    Agreement and two questions: please skip right down to the two questions if you’re not in the mood to slog thru the agreement part.

    Back ~2 years ago I got very into galleries on flickr and had fun with them. I and others kept asking for various enhancements to galleries (it wasn’t just me making bad requests), along with requests by others related many other features on flickr. We got practically nothing in response in terms of improving the site. They had a page where they’d say that they’d made 391 or 488 etc changes the previous day. But whatever they were counting was only rarely relevant (or visible) to many users. So, yeah, I got bored with flickr and hardly use it now. I still upload pics there, but that’s mostly out of inertia. I rarely spend any time there now.

    1. Which other site(s) did you switch to?
    2. How do you recommend migrating your stuff from flickr to the other site(s)?

    For #2, I’ve heard of services that will unload as much of your stuff as they can (I suppose onto DVD(s)) in a way as to make it easier to load it elsewhere. I don’t know the current state of that.

    Thanks for any recommendations,

  14. @Paul Dineen
    I read the agreement part too, exactly my feelings and experience.

    I didn’t switch to any other site yet. Unfortunately I renewed my subscription just in September as I didn’t have a clue how to back up my photostream. So I am still on for another 10 months and a half.

    I am backing up my entire photostream since 2 nights ago, 12,000 pictures… I am using downloadr as it should download everything at maximum resolution for free. I’ll see when it finishes as the destination folder is still blank. Oh, on my hard drive, no other support.

    I had a look so far at other web services and I have to admit that none of them offers the same things of flickr for the same money. Funnily enough the only one that seems nice to me is ipernity, as it is rip off of flickr but with all the good stuff only. Then today I had a look at google and it is actually blowing me away: not only the UI, but also the fact that it’s a social network too at the same moment, so if you post a comment it is very likely that whoever is tagged with the + gets a notification and replies to you almost in real time: things that in flickr are pure science fiction.

    I was earlier on Thomas’ profile in flickr, and there is his thought about all these websites. Have a look as he is definitely more experienced than me:

    I hope this helps, ask again if you need

  15. +Lambert Schlumpf,

    Thanks for the recommendations. I found that I had bookmarked downloadr and ipernity on delicious.com, but forgotten about them (easy to do when you have > 8,000 bookmarks).

    I created an ipernity account and uploaded a handful of pics to try it out. But, if it’s just a subset clone of flickr then I’ll do some looking around. I should start by searching my (tagged) bookmarks.

    Downloading from flickr is something I should do in any event. I’ll look into downloadr.

    > downloadr as it should download everything at maximum resolution for free

    12,000 full-sized pics downloaded and written to disk in one evening?
    What size range are you calling max resolution?

    Given that it took Carbonite two or three weeks to back up my stuff when I replaced my PC (different OS –> different file system locations), that’s pretty swift. (Yeah, they’re different beasts — backup programs try to not be resource hogs.) Roughly half of that was iTunes and most of the rest were photos (for each: the original ~59MB Canon raw, a Photoshop version, and a .png for upload to flickr). An increasing percentage of my photos on flickr are in the ~15-20MB size because I shoot the original in large raw. But, given your 12K in 1 evening, my 4K shouldn’t be a problem.

    > a social network too at the same moment, so if you post a comment it is very likely that whoever is tagged with the + gets a notification and replies to you almost in real time

    Yes, I like that immediate aspect of it, even though I’ve never been too interested in chats, blogs, twitter, etc.

    Anonymous > When will the incessant fan boying end? Just take pictures you sycophant.

    Dear Mr.(?) Grumpypants,

    What were you doing here when you could have been out taking pictures?

  16. @Paul Dineen

    I am downloading, still downloading and I am at half way at today’s date. 🙂 Full resolution is the resolution I shot my pictures with, that generally is the maximum one offered by the camera. Most of them they have been taken with a EOS450D so we are talking of pictures of 4-5 or even 6 Mb each, that’s why is taking so long. And the broadband in the country were I live in isn’t that quick, unfortunately.

    As for the social network side, it’s then designed in a way that if you want to use it for picture sharing only it can be a better flickr substitute, definitely. It’s not presented as a photo sharing website, but amongst the other things it does also that, and well.

  17. Thomas,

    Largely based on your recommendation I’m thinking of switching from Flickr to Google+, but one thing I’ve not been able to work out: how do I control copyright/licensing issues. Creative Commons licenses are so easy to implement in Flickr, but I can’t see equivalent controls in Google+. Unless I;m missing something very obvious (which is likely).


  18. Thomas,

    Since you commented on seeing a bunch of watermarked photos on Flickr, what is your stance on sharing photos online and watermark use? Flickr has right-click disabled to protect people from saving images unless it is allowed so watermarks aren’t necessary. Anyone can save an image on Google+ regardless of if they own it.


  19. Denzil,

    > Flickr has right-click disabled to protect people from saving images unless it is allowed so watermarks aren’t necessary

    Minor technical correction:
    Right-click is not the only way to pinch a pic. Practically everyone has one screen capture tool or another. That won’t exactly produce Large RAW quality. I’ve never tried to print a screenshot of a hi-rez photo to see how much is lost — I imagine a lot. But it’s still good enough for some misbehavior.

    Another way would be for someone familiar with HTML to pull out the reference to the original file. Despite the ostensibly obscure file names used by flickr, people, (the last I was here much, ~1.5 yr ago) knew what the naming convention was. So, even if they get the name of a small copy then they can also easily get (download) any size.

    I’m not one of the bad guys, and even I know two ways.


  20. Lambbet,

    > I am downloading, still downloading and I am at half way at today’s date.

    Wow, I sure misread your original wording. I just looked at it again and it was clear that that misunderstanding was me.

    For something that runs that long, one worries about outages (whether Internet, power, hurricane, meteor strike, …). Does the product say anything about its ability to gracefully recover from a sudden outage and not leave behind a bogus file or two?


  21. @Paul Dineen

    No, it doesn’t say anything. I can tell you that I terminated it on purpose a couple of times at the beginning of the session (3 or 4 pictures downloaded) to see whether it saved saved them on the hard drive: no, it didn’t. Also, I think the only option is complete backup, so you don’t have the chance of downloading your photostram in batches, as far as I could see. Unfortunately I can’t check better now because the program is running – I may be wrong on this point.
    But I suppose that as it is for free I don’t have much to complain, do I?

    You are absolutely right about outages: here in the Baltic states there has been till the day I started the download a huge wind storm that lasted 3 days, with winds at a speed up to 35 m/s. Frequent have been in those days the power cuts. So far nothing instead, I hope I will finish soon because I am tired of looking at the slowly moving progress bar 🙂

  22. Ok, as it may be of some interest also for other people. I just finished now the download of my entire photostream in flickr using Downloadr, it took roughly 4 whole days, luckily no power outages occured. 10732 items, all pictures of 4 to 6 or 7 Mb, ban 2 videos. In one of my previous comment I was checking checking a different folder with the same name, so I actually do not know whether you remain with some pictures of not if the program stops.
    All the tags assigned in flickr are still there and this is nice, but a very annoying thing is that all the pictures have been renamed with a 8 to 10 digit number that is the file name assigned by flickr when they have been uploaded. Flickr fault I guess.
    It doesn’t matter anyway, I am happy this way. I can always rename them with the time: the important thing is to have the whole lot back as some of the pictures got lost with the time, with 2 international moving, 3 hard disc failures, and flickr had the only full resolution copies of them.

  23. I am a bit late to the party here, but I am perplexed at Thomas’ incessant promotion of Google+ as a superior photo service to Flickr. I will grant that engagement on a photo-by-photo basis seems to be higher, and that more innovations may be coming from Google+ than from Flickr (though I would debate this) but there are still some pretty glaring omissions that haven’t been addressed since the last time I looked at switching from Flickr.

    I am currently uploading some shots to Google+ that I also uploaded to Flickr, using the Google+ in-browser uploader. (Note I have not tried using Picasa to upload).

    I still find it unreal that despite having entered all kinds of information into my IPTC / EXIF tags of my exported images in Lightroom, most of these don’t get preserved when uploading to Google+. Why do I need to enter a caption again when I have already set this in Lightroom? Why can’t I look at more than a few cursory lines of EXIF information in the photo details page? How come I can’t set Creative Commons options? And why can’t I have the option to download a scaled-down, web-sized version of my shots instead of having to suffer through painfully-slow (from the UK) full-resolution uploads?

    And once the photos are up – can I browse by tag? No. Can I automatically reorder my photos by capture time if I add more shots to an album? No. Can I see a map of my photos within Google+? Astoundingly, no.

    Most infuriatingly, is there an easy way for me to generate embed code to share a photo inside my own blog posts? No.

    All of the limitations above also limit the ability of others to discover my photos and socialise them.

    I am just as annoyed as anyone with Flickr’s stagnation and worry about its future. But, Mr Hawk, I think for you to say that Google+ is currently a superior photo sharing or discovery service stretches the bounds of credulity.

  24. I didn’t see any response to Trevor’s questions about copyright/licensing control. When G+ was launched, a friend had pointed out that Google assumes rights to your photos once uploaded. I’m just sayin’. What’s the real story ?

  25. This article was extremely interesting to me, since I’ve just spent about 4 days trying to figure out a way to store, share and preserve about 2,000 of my top photographs.

    I’m an amateur photographer and I’ve been fairly inactive with my photos as far as sharing goes. Flickr or Shutterfly seemed like obvious hosting choices, but the former only allows 300MB of free uploads a month, and the latter only accepts JPG images.

    I’m familiar with Picasa, and was overjoyed to hear that you could upload to your albums from it. It’s so simple and effective, it’s like cutting out the middle-man. Everything is organized, and at the touch of a button you can upload multiple photos while you grab some tea.

    But that’s not what caught my eye. Google+ offers free storage that’s basically unlimited if your photos are 2028 x 2028 or below in size. Now, if you’re a photographer, you know that usually photos come out of the camera at 4000 x 4000 and up. You also know that this isn’t a good resolution to be viewing online, unless you just want to show off pixels. So having a site that allows you to upload unlimited free images with a high resolution of 2000 is phenomenal.

    And guess what? There’s still more. Not only does Google+ allow you to upload in the size, they’ll also resize the photo for you if it’s too big! Or, you can choose to keep it the original size and save up to 1GB before paying for them (you only have to pay for photos above 2028 x 2028 after you reach the 1GB limit). In short, keep your photos at a nice fit resolution and you’ll never have to pay.

    Not to mention that Google is a well known company. They’re not going to scrap your photos on a whim, people would metaphorically assassinate them for removing their life’s work.

    I think I’ve found my new favorite publisher, and I’m hoping that in the future we can see more photo sites show the same prowess. It’s good marketing, good business, and tactful sating of the people’s hunger for sensible website management.

  26. I’m proficient with Facebook and Flickr, but when it comes to Google +, I have no idea how to maneuver around the photography arena. Honestly, it confuses the hell out of me!

  27. I want out of Flickr! But I am uncertain about Google’s creative commons licence. I would like to have High Resolution availed if someone would like to see it. I’ll miss the re-sizing for convenient posting on forums. And I cannot find the way to manage my albums and photoe on Google.
    But guaranteed, I am moving somewhere away from Flickr and thus cutting ties with Yahoo.


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