Well it's been a long time coming, but after 12 years I've decided to stop sharing photos on Flickr.
Flickr has so much potential, but it's been mismanaged for a few years now, and finds itself a little lost in a world which has moved on around it. During the time I've been an active user on Flickr, Facebook has appeared and defined mainstream social media, Twitter exploded to feed our short-term attention spans, and Instagram is now so ubiquitous it renders Flickr - largely unchanged since the mid-noughties - a little redundant.
It's somewhat of a paradox that an introvert should feel compelled to share their photos with the big wide world at all, but this must be a dichotomy common among photographers. It seems a shame to take photos and never share them anywhere. And if nothing else, my friends and family must wonder what I'm up to with all my time! In addition, I like to think that a little nature and wildlife appearing in our social media streams can only be a good thing. When I share photos online I hope it catches someone's eye and perks them up a little, if only for a short while. That's my reaction to a splash of nature in my day anyway.
What I liked about Flickr is their focus on the photos. There's no room for politics or current affairs; I want an escape from that. It's purely about the images. And there's no reason why Flickr couldn't have been, or couldn't still be more dominant than Instagram, but so far there's little sign of that happening.
Putting aside a lack of features and updates in that time, for my part at least, interactions have been dwindling for quite a while, and it feels increasingly like sharing to a vacuum. I've been questioning the value of sharing there for some time. Perhaps that's down to me, as I've certainly had my head turned by Instagram, which is much more lively. But I still check Flickr most days to see what contacts are shooting and sharing, and I've been sharing on Flickr a couple of times a week, despite the lack of meaningful engagement I see there. Then came the recent announcements...
This autumn Flickr announced that 'Pro' account membership fees would be doubling in price. And what new features would I get for that? Nothing. They haven't improved the Pro account at all, they've just crippled the free accounts; reducing the number of photos allowed from infinite to 1000, in an attempt to coerce people into paying for Pro. My feeling is that this will deter the majority of users, and further shrink the user base, until what's left is a small band of paying photography enthusiasts. That's fine as a business model for SmugMug (Flickr's latest owners), but the further exclusion of the mainstream takes Flickr in the opposite direction from where I want to be.
I enjoy following other photographers on social media, and I hope (at least, it looks like) there are a few photographers out there who enjoy following my work. But despite the algorithms, there's more to social media than getting bogged down in a feedback loop of like-minded people. By contrast, on Instagram it's possible to share to people who aren't necessarily into photography themselves. My photos might be just one tiny aspect of their interest, but they like seeing the odd landscape or animal photo. I've always wanted to share my photos with a mainstream audience, and I think these changes take Flickr yet another step away from that demographic.
So I chose not to renew my Pro membership in December, and on January 8th they'll be deleting over half of my back-catalogue. It gets quite time consuming sharing photos on multiple platforms, so having one less to post to will be a welcome change. I'm certainly not going to delete my account, or close the door permanently. I'll keep an eye on how things go, but I'm not going to be posting new photos there. My Flickr account will be in a state of long-term hibernation. If things turn around, I'll join in again, but for now, there seems little point.
This reads like a particularly self-indulgent post, but I just wanted the space to explain why I'm dropping a platform which I've enjoyed using for over a decade, and to voice my concern for Flickr's future.
I'm really interested to hear what other photographers are doing though. Are you paying for Pro? Using the free version? Or migrating to Instagram? Let me know in the comments below, or elsewhere on social media.
If you follow me on Flickr and want to stay in touch, find me on one of these other platforms and say hello. I'll be pleased to hear from you.
For what it's worth, the best way to follow my photography is by joining my mailing list, where you get my photos and a little contextual information around them sent straight into your inbox.
Post by George Wheelhouse, 2018.