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 Radi?evi? (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. 🙂

Five Reasons Why Google is Winning the War in Photosharing

“What is more pleasant than the benevolent notice other people take of us, what is more agreeable than their compassionate empathy? What inspires us more than addressing ears flushed with excitement, what captivates us more than exercising our own power of fascination? What is more thrilling than an entire hall of expectant eyes, what more overwhelming than applause surging up to us? What, lastly, equals the enchantment sparked off by the delighted attention we receive from those who profoundly delight ourselves? – Attention by other people is the most irresistible of drugs. To receive it outshines receiving any other kind of income. This is why glory surpasses power and why wealth is overshadowed by prominence.”

Caterina Fake, 2005

Yesterday my good friend Trey Ratcliff did an experiment. Granted, this is *TOTALLY* and *COMPLETELY* unscientific. His experiment was he posted one of his photos on two sites — the identical photo at the identical time. The two sites were Google+ and Facebook. Trey was trying to measure the difference in engagement between the two. Below are his results:

Google+: 1193 +1s, 66 shares, 367 comments.
Facebook: 89 likes, ? shares, 40 comments.

Trey has more to say and mentions some interesting variables, but suffice it to say that Google+ is the *hottest* thing in the photo sharing space right now. I’ve been thinking alot about that and wanted to articulate some of the things that Google is doing right and why I feel that this is the case.

Firedancer, Barcelona Spain, by Trey Ratcliff

1. Images look great. Right out of the gate Google+ has gotten image presentation down. We get gorgeous, luscious, huge, oversized thumbnails in our streams that when you click on them almost instantaneously burst into the best looking lightbox on the web right now. Facebook by contrast gives us these tiny, stingy, little etsy weenie, microscopic thumbnails that when you click through present you with a smaller cluttered lightbox complete with all kinds of distracting material including advertisements. Flickr’s lightbox is ok, but its clunky and slow and when I click off of it it doesn’t always return me back to the photo page.

On Facebook photographs seem tolerated. On Google+ photographs seem celebrated. Our world is so visual. Google gets this in a big way.

Ferry Building, San Francisco, by Chris Chabot

2. The Google Photos team, well hell, everyone at Google is really excited, enthused and involved in the Google+ product — all day long! I’ve never quite seen anything like this. Literally *hundreds* of Googlers interacting like an army with all of us users. I think I know two people total who work for facebook and I haven’t spoken with either of them in years. I’ve traded some fun barbs with Daniel Bogan over at Flickr on Twitter, but my contact with anyone at Flickr ended years ago. (did I mention I’m permanently banned from the forum where there staff hangs out?)

I don’t think that this is an accident. I think Google is experimenting with one of the boldest experiments in customer service and evangelism of all time. I think it’s a culture thing and I think it comes from the top. In fact I know it comes from the top. Google has empowered their employees to become their PR machine.

We’re doing a great photowalk next Thursday at UC Berkeley — SIGN UP HERE. Who’s organizing it with me? Chris Chabot who works for Google — a super guy who I’ve gotten to know and consider a friend. When was the last time you saw someone from Flickr or Facebook leading a photowalk? Googlers were everywhere at Trey’s photowalk at Stanford a few weeks back.

I have never seen any company empower its employees to be so free and open with PR and communication channels. I totally credit all the individual Googlers who are making this happen, but I also credit leadership at Google for allowing this sort of a culture to thrive and flourish. It’s the exact opposite of the top secret controlled environment message ala Steve Jobs and Apple.

If My Sky Should Fall, by Lotus Carroll

3. The engagement just can’t be beat. As Trey’s experiment shows, you just get so much more engagement on every post at Google+ over what you post on Facebook and Flickr. Not just a little bit more — ALOT more.

I’ve heard some people who claim that they still get more on Facebook and Flickr, but they haven’t really engaged on Google+ yet. Everybody I’ve known who has actively engaged on Google+ agrees that you just get so much more engagement.

Yesterday in Trey’s post, Byron DL wrote “Thomas Hawk pronounced the death of Flickr. Millions of people just share photos to share them and don’t measure the stats or use them to get more followers are friends and influence. These numbers are like comparing the drawer full of polaroids at my mom’s house to another’s moms house.”

Byron may have a point. Maybe alot of the people on Flickr don’t really care about engagement (faves, comments, views, etc.), maybe photos are just a drawer full of polaroids after all — but I think he’s wrong. Even if people don’t want to admit it, they all do.

Caterina’s quote at the top of this article was the foundation of what made Flickr the success that it was.

We all want attention. Sure we want a place to just share photos with our friends and family — but the attention is the real drug, even if we’re too proud to admit it.

Before Flickr people *already* had a site to share photos with friends and family. It was called Webshots. Hell, CNET paid twice for Webshots what Yahoo paid for Flickr. Webshots is still a fine place to share photos with friends and family — the greeting card people bought the company I think. Likewise Flickr will be an ok place to share photos with friends and family too, but all the real action in photo sharing will move over to Google.

Some of My Favorites, by helen sotiriadis

4. The culture is positive. I’ve been super active in Flickr groups pretty much ever since Flickr started them. I’ve administered many. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve spent thousands of hours literally in Flickr Groups.

Yesterday I quit the last Flickr group I was active in administering. A group with about 6,000 members. Why? Mostly because of the negativity.

Flickr groups are overrun by anonymous trolls and griefers. The IRL personal harassment and stalking that has come out of Flickr groups has convinced me to stay away from them. Even the people who aren’t harassing other people are frequently petty, negative haters — so much back bitting, pessimism, jealously and stupid crap.

By contrast the culture the culture at Google+ is incredibly positive. People helping each other. Talking about photography and cameras and lenses again. It’s like night and day. In part I think this culture is framed by Googlers setting such a positive tone to the network as it’s been rolled out. But I think there are design elements too.

It seems harder for people to set up 20 troll accounts and attack. If someone misbehaves they are quickly removed from circles and marginalized. I don’t know how it’s happening exactly, but it’s a nice change.

Robert Scoble says that Google+ is working because Google has focused on the interest graph and has allowed strangers to meet around common interests. I definitely see that with photography. I’ve met so many amazing new friends in the past six weeks on Google+ around photography that I never knew from any other social network. There’s wayyyy too many to name, and I love you all, but here’s talking about you Kelli Seeger Kim. 😉

Wave Photos, by Eric Nelson

5. Photographers promoting other photographers. One of the most exciting things I see on Google+ is photographers promoting other photographers. I love it when this happens. I get to find somebody new and super cool to follow and it just makes me feel good inside.

I promote a lot of other people too. I love seeing great photographers get recognized. I can’t recognize everyone for sure, and hope I don’t offend people who I don’t recognize, but I love highlighting great work sometimes when I see it and it seems like alot of other people on Google+ do as well.

I’ve blogged a ton about Google+ over the past few weeks. Some people have said that they are tired of it — but this is what I do. I’m like a hungry seagull — when I’ve found the greatest dinner on the beach I have to squawk and squawk and squawk to get all the other seagulls to see what a great thing I’ve found. I evangelized Flickr just as hard back in the day (back when they seemed to care) and have been a big proponent of Twitter, Friendfeed, Google Buzz, and other interesting social media tech as it’s emerged.

I’ve never seen anything quite like Google+. Everyday it seems like another great Flickr/Facebook account is moving over and it makes me happy seeing more and more of my favorite friends hoping on board.

If you want to follow my work on Google+ you can circle me here. 🙂

Flickr is Dead

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Which one of these two albums looks better?

Flickr (the same view since 2004)


Google+ (with added infinite scrolling this week)

You know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s totally irrelevant. The Google one looks far better, but that’s so beside the point at this point.

Last night I realized for the first time that Flickr really was dead.

Where did this realization come from?

It had nothing to do with the fact that Google Photos is rolling out new innovation on a weekly basis while Flickr is still stuck in 2004. I realized it when I went to Trey Ratcliff’s photowalk at Stanford. There were over 200 people there. *200 people*! It was the largest photowalk I’ve ever been on and I’ve done dozens over the years. And what was everybody talking about at the photowalk?





Not only was *everyone* talking about Google, there were tons of people from Google who were there at the walk.

Google Photos Community Manager Brian Rose was there (along with his sexy moustache). The Photo Team guy who built their lightbox Vincent Mo was there. Google+ Community Manager Natalie Villalobos was there (she used to work at Yahoo). Chris Chabot was there (and he was at Wednesday night’s photowalk in SF too). Mike Wiacek was there.

And these are just some of the people at Google that I know better than others.

There were so many more Googlers there as well. Lisa Bettany and Catherine Hall from TWIT Photos were there too.

I remember back when Flickr used to feel like this. Back when Stewart Butterfield used to show up at the SF Flickr Social meetups. Even though those were smaller meetups, they were full of the same high energy and spirit. Now the SF Flickr Group is basically dead. The meetups that used to happen every month don’t happen anymore. There are only three posts to the group in the past year and one of them is about reviving the group. I haven’t seen a Flickr employee in years. I’m still banned from their help forum for two years now — thanks alot guys.

Meanwhile I visited the Google Campus last week and got to spend an entire afternoon with an excited and engaged team who are full of energy and charged up about building the next great thing in photos.

Earlier this week, the Yahoo exec who is in charge of Flickr, Blake Irving, sent out an interesting tweet. He linked to an article that talked about the tipping point. The gist of the article was that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.

While it would be easy to point to the fact that there are more photographers and photographs still on Flickr than the fledgling Google+, the fact of the matter is that the most resolved 10% have now moved on from Flickr to Google+. It will take time, maybe even a few years for the rest of them to follow, but follow they will. I’ve seen this movie before. I blogged the tipping point back in 2005 before Flickr overtook Webshots for the first time.

Webshots is still around of course, but they are entirely irrelevant at this point. Remember how excited we all were about flickr back then? Sort of like how we are about Google Photos now.

And like Flickr killed Webshots, Google+ will kill flickr.

When we look back 5 years from now at the downfall of Flickr there will probably be plenty of people to blame.

Was it simply ineffective Yahoo management? Were the execs too demoralized about underwater stock options?

Carol Bartz still doesn’t have a Flickr account. Meanwhile Sergey Brin posted shots earlier this week of some kick ass underwater photography from a trip of his to Egypt.

Was it all of the turnover, including the layoffs themselves in the flickr group and lack of any meaningful Yahoo investment?

Was it the rotating team leadership after Stewart the problem? Was it the attitude coming out of Community Management that photographers were more of a nuisance to put up with and talked down to than a community worth engaging?

Who knows.

But Flickr is very much dead in the water. It will take time to really see it happen, but they’ve lost the soul of photosharing. They’ve lost the spirit of photosharing — the zest and passion and love — and while they got away with that for a long time due to lack of competition, things have now changed with Google Photos arriving on the scene, and to a degree 500px as well.

I’m sure I’ll get a bunch of haters responding to this post. Flickr is still beloved by so many of us. Myself included. I still upload photos up there every single day. Don’t hate me for sharing this opinion. And don’t bash Google Photos for whatever features you think they lack compared to flickr — but, but, but, Google+ doesn’t have groups, blah, blah, blah.

All that’s coming.

As I mentioned before, it’s not about the features, it’s about the spirit. And with weekly innovation on their invite only beta product, Google+ is far more likely to get the final product right than Flickr is to innovate at this point.

Please keep in mind that this is just my personal observation after watching the photo sharing space very closely over a long period of years. I very well could be wrong.

Mark Twain’s famous quote “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” in fact comes to mind.

Update: This post was on hacker news this morning and as such is getting a lot of traffic.

If any of you don’t have Google+ invites and want one, I’ve got 38 of my 150 left and you can get one here. First come, first serve.

The comments on this post on Google+ itself are also worth reading.

Update #2: Peter Adams got a great group photo from last night. He was shooting with a Phase One system which is pretty awesome. Check out his group photo here — be sure to actually click on the photo to see it huge in the lightbox view.

Update #3: My Google+ invite link ran out of invites above, but Mike Wiacek sent me his invite link which should be reloaded with another 143 or so if people still need them, just click here.

Update #4: Looks like Mike and I are both out of invites now. David Miller just emailed me his invite link. You should be able to get one here if you still need one until they run out.

Update #5: TechCrunch picks up on the Flickr story here. Looks like we’re out of invites again. Instead of me posting more links in the body of this post, if you have an invite link and want to share it, post it in the comments and people can use them there if they still need an invite to sign up.

Why Google+ is Better Than Facebook for Photographers

I’m proud to say that I got on Google+ the very first day it was available for public beta (thank you again +Brian Rose). Since that day I’ve been an active user and have used it daily to publish my photography out to the the world. My Google+ workflow is pretty simple. I publish about 5 photos a day spread out over the course of the hours in a day that I’m awake. I’ve got a large archive of about 80,000 finished photos at this point so I’m posting what I feel is my stronger work there. Much of what I’m publishing on Google+ are first time photographs that I’ve never shared anywhere else. I don’t want to overwhelm people with my work, but 5 photos a day spread out over the course of a day feels about right to me. The reception has been amazing and I’m lucky to have quickly built an audience for my work.

In a little over a month I have over 38,000 people who have put me in their various circles — thank you. By contrast I have about 3,300 people who are my friends on Facebook. Despite the fact that I’ve been active on Facebook for almost 5 years, I have an audience over 10x bigger on Google+ than Facebook in a little over a month.

I believe that much of the reason why I and other photographers are having so much success on Google+ is because it is fundamentally a *better* platform than Facebook for photographs and in this blog post I’ll detail some of the key differences.

1. Google+’s photo thumbnails are MUCH bigger than the stingy microscopic photo thumbnails that Facebook gives you. I can’t overemphasize this point enough. Bigger is better when it comes to photography on the web. It boggles my mind why Facebook has insisted on holding on to their minuscule microscopic thumbnails as long as they have. They are tiny. You can’t see anything at all. Photos on Facebook are easily skipped and ignored. In contrast, Google+ gives us nice large thumbnails that invite you to interact. The photo thumbnails look sooooo better and as such they get much more attention. Super smart Google!

2. Google+ has the *best* lightbox on the web right now — by comparison Facebook’s looks cheap and dated. With Google+ when you see a bold new thumbnail by a photographer, you *want* to click through to see the large sized version — and when you do this you are rewarded by the best lightbox on the web. The photo is huge. It takes up just about the entire page except for some comments over on the right side. It’s loaded instantly — so fast. It never locks up or hangs like flickr.

Facebook by contrast, even with their revamped lightbox, only gives you a medium sized photo. The focus is not the image. Instead you see a bunch of gibberish in white under the image and even worse an advert.

3. With Google+ I can easily circle the photographers whose work I want to follow vs. Facebook’s clunky lists. Once I tried to play with Facebook’s lists to try to filter in some of my favorite photographers. It was a huge failure. I couldn’t figure it out. It was clunky. So I’m stuck with my main Facebook feed being full of non-photography related stuff. Sometimes I just want to see big bold photos instead of having to read about Aunt Edna’s latest recipe for avocado soufflé or 2nd cousin Gary’s passion for bashing the hell out of Sarah Palin 28 times a day, even after the election’s been over for 2 years now. With Google+ I can create great circles of people devoted to photography, with Facebook I can’t.

4. The Facebook/Flickr integration thing has been a huge disaster. When I first heard that you could import your Flickr photos into Facebook, I was sort of excited — but this has been one of the most poorly integrated features I’ve ever seen. Sometimes Facebook will import a thumbnail representing my Flickr photos *8* times in a row. Sometimes they won’t come in at all. When they do come in they use the worst photo for the thumbnail instead of the best (hint, last uploaded in a batch to Flickr, not first uploaded to Flickr in a batch).

And I’m not alone here: Just go to the Flickr Help forum and search “Facebook” and you’ll find post after post after post of people on Flickr complaining about how broken this process has been. Good God, there are over 1,700 posts in the Flickr Help Forum, almost all of them complaining about how broken the Facebook integration is. This has left a bad taste in my mouth re: photography on Facebook.

5. All the best photographers are showing up on Google+ and an exciting now community of photographers is blossoming. Photographers on Google+ are engaged. Every day people are sharing new lists of photographers and resharing content by their favorites. There are long discussions about techniques and methods. Photowalks are being set up. The photo community is alive and active on Google+ while it feels stale and non-existent on Facebook.

Photography is such an important part of any social network and Google+ has been optimized for photography and photographers right out of the gate. It feels central in how they’ve designed service. Google+ realizes how visual we all are and has built a far better platform for us to be visual with. Everybody loves photography right? It’s no surprise that photographers are doing so well on this exciting new platform.

If you’d like to follow my work on Google+ you can do that here.

If you haven’t signed up for Google+ yet and need an invitation you can get one from me here. (I’ve only got 129 left to hand out on this link).

You can read comments on this post over at Google+ here: https://plus.google.com/104987932455782713675/posts/8czBNGPWqEk

Top 10 Tips on Google+ for Photographers

Top 10 Tips on Google+ for Photographers

As some of you know I received an early invite to test out and participate in Google’s latest entry into the social networking world Google+. I did an early comparison piece between Google+, Facebook, Flickr, 500px and Twitter the week before last. I wanted to write and update my thoughts on Google+ for photo sharing now that I’ve gotten a few weeks under my belt, as well as share with you all my own strategy for sharing photographs going forward.

Google+ completely changes the photo sharing game. Not just a little bit — alot. This may be the most significant shift in photo sharing that we’ve seen since the introduction of Flickr. There is more engagement going on with photographs on G+, more ways to share photographs on G+, and it is growing at a rate that blows my mind away. Photos are elegantly presented as large oversized thumbnails in stream views (in contrast to Facebook’s stingy microscopic photo thumbnails that I’ve never quite understood). When you click through the photo you get the most elegant lightbox view (on black) of any photo sharing site out there today.

Here are some tips for those of you who would like to maximize your photo sharing potential on Google+

1. Post your photos directly to Google+. This is probably the number one most important thing to do to promote your work there. If you post a link to Flickr, a link to your blog, a link to some other site, you get a small little thumbnail at best. If you upload your photo *directly* to Google+ you get a massive oversized thumbnail (is that like saying jumbo shrimp?). The larger your work is presented, the more likely it is to be engaged with. Even better, photos posted to G+ don’t count towards your Picasa storage limits so Google is effectively giving you unlimited photo sharing on G+ for free. What a deal.

2. Get the balance right. You don’t want to post too little or too much to G+. Your photos posted to G+ have a limited life. In the first hour that you post your photo it will receive 50% of the attention. In the next 3 hours 25% more, in the next 6 hours 10% more. In the next 24 hours 12% more. After a day and a half your photo will likely be buried. So it’s important to regularly be adding photos to your stream. On the other hand, if you inundate people with too many photos (like 10 in a row within 10 minutes) people will drop you faster than a hot potato and you will lose visibility — there’s a fine line between sharing photos and whoring photos. Find a rate for uploads that feels right. At present I’m uploading about 5 photos a day to G+ spread out throughout the day and night. This feels about right to me.

3. Share your best work. Don’t upload *everything* you take to G+. If you want to archive all your work use Flickr or Picasa. Save G+ to showcase some of what you feel is your strongest work. This will encourage other people to share your work and promote it more.

4. Don’t use watermarks and signatures on your work. Don’t hate me for this one. I’m so tired of haters. If you want to watermark the crap out of your work, go for it. It’s your work, do WHATEVER you want with it. YOU own it. It’s YOURS. Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just saying that watermarks, sigs, logos, etc. look *especially* bad when people pull up your photos in the large lightbox view. I’ve noticed that photos that are mared up by watermarks tend to not do as well on G+.

5. Make sure you understand sharing and make your posts *public*. Alot of people make the mistake early on of only sharing their photos with their circles without even realizing that they are limiting themselves. This means that your photo goes out to *alot* less people. This would be the same as marking a photo as private on flickr so that only your friends and family could see it. These photos will get alot less attention because most people *can’t* see it due to Google’s privacy settings. When people first start using G+ if they are browsing in a circle of their contacts and they share a photo from that screen, it limits the photo to only that circle. If you want your photo to be seen, make sure when you post it that it says “public” when you are sharing it.

6. Invite people from your other social networks. Post on your Facebook Wall about your Google+ stream. Offer to send invitations to your contacts there. Tweet links out to your G+ stream. Post it on your blog or tumblr account. Most importantly, post to FLICKR your Google+ stream so that your photo sharing contacts on Flickr can add you on G+. There is no easy way to transfer flickr contacts to G+ other than by word of mouth. It’s up to you to get the word out to your other photo sharing channels and get them to follow you on your new G+ account.

7. Engage with people who engage with you. Pay attention to the +1’s (fave/like) your photos receive. Pay attention to the comments. Go check out the people that are faving and commenting on your stuff. Social networks are largely about reciprocation. If they are a talented photographer consider adding them to a circle. If you like some of their work fave and comment on it too. Don’t just post your own stuff. Engage with the community there.

8. Try some hangouts with other photographers. I’ve hosted a few hangouts so far. It was great hanging out with Scott Jarvie who is one of the top wedding photographers out there. Trey Ratcliff seems to always be hosting them. Popular ones will fill up quickly (hangouts are video chats limited to 10 people) — but keep trying to get in those or maybe even set up one of your own. Don’t be shy on a hangout. Talk about photography. This is a great opportunity for you to virtually network with some other great photographers. It’s easy. Drop in, drop out. Make sure you’ve got your clothes on though, this is not Chatroulette.

9. Write good titles and descriptions for your photos. If you enter a description in for a photo in Lightroom or whatever other photo processing tool you use and write it as the photo’s caption, it will automatically populate into Google+ when you upload it. You’ll still need to manually add a title or headline. Make your titles interesting and engaging. Don’t upload something as DSC10989. Give it a good strong title. Don’t overkill on the caption, but a nice one or two sentence caption can be nice.

10. Be early. Don’t wait to get involved with G+. Get yourself an invite and signup NOW. Photo Sharing on G+ feels alot like the earliest days of Flickr. It’s the early frontier. Many of Flickr’s most popular users are popular because they got on the site EARLY and built a following before there was as much competition. Right now there is a huge brand new audience, HUNGRY for great photography on G+. It is early still and people are figuring out who to follow. Get involved and super active early to help build your own audience there. If you wait six months, or six weeks, or heck, six days as fast as Google+ is growing, you’ll miss out on some of the strongest, fastest early growth.

Bonus Tip: check out who your other photographer friends have added to *their* circles. You will likely find alot of people you know to add by doing this.

One final note. I’ve been asked by TONS of people about what the Google TOS means for photographers. There is a lot of FUD flying around out there about that now. As a policy I no longer comment about anything copyright related, so please don’t ask about that here or on G+. I won’t answer any questions about it. I will point you to an insightful post on the topic though written last night by Vincent Mo (who works for Google) on the matter.

If you don’t have an invite to Google+ yet and want one, either email me tom(at)thomashawk.com or flickrmail me your email address and I will try and invite you. I’m doing the best I can to keep up with the invite requests, so bear with me if it takes some time to get it out to you.

Also if you are already on Google+ and want to follow my work there you can do that 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