Hurrah! Smug Mug have bought Flickr. Which, I think, is great news. It’s time to get out the bunting and celebrate. I’m pretty invested in Flickr. I’ve been paying my annual Pro subscription since August 2006, but I originally signed up some time before that. I get unlimited storage for my $25 a year, which I am trying hard to fill up. I’m beginning to think I’ll never succeed, but so far the 17,008 photos that I’ve added have consumed 67.74 gb of disc space. Needless to say, changing to another photo host would be a bother.
Flickr reinvented itself recently. I’ve posted about the large scale changes that occured. Some of them I liked. Some I didn’t like so much. My biggest bug bear? The Windows 95esque top banner and white text that’s scrawled all over it. Hideous. I’ve tried a few things to mitigate it. I’ve given it time, to see if it would grow on me. Or if I would at the very least get used to it.
No, it’s still utterly hideous and is quite frankly ruining my Flickr experience. My latest effort at beautifying (or making less ugly) that banner was to upload a fairly common bokeh wallpaper. Someone else’s work. On my Flickrstream. Urgh. And people are complimenting my work and favouriting it. Which makes me feel worse still about it.
So I should move. I should dump Flickr and take my collection elsewhere. After all, it’s one of the best things I own. If someone came and took all your photos out of their beautiful leather bound albums and chucked them willy nilly into plastic sleeves with go faster stripes and bling all over them, you’d move them to, right? Oh, and Flickr are rolling this out too. UK accounts seem to be unaffiliated with this disease so far, but I suspect it is contagious enough that it will reach these shores before too long.
And yet, it isn’t as easy as that. The new place has to boast three features. Firstly, it has to be an aesthetically pleasing site. Like Flickr used to be. It must look nice! Secondly, it has to be reasonably priced. I pay $25 a year for Flickr. I’d move to $50 a year if the destination was good enough. Thirdly, it has to have the facility to import nearly 12,000 photos from Flickr without losing the sets, tags and titles. This needs to a be a one or two click facility. I don’t have time to manually upload my hundreds of sets.
It turns out that there’s not much competition to Flickr on the market place that does all three. Google+ isn’t pretty enough. SmugMug and Zenfolio are a little pricey, but manageable. They both do Flickr imports. But they are both pretty ugly themselves. True, they are also highly customiseable. But I’m looking for a natural beauty. Not one which needs a ton of makeup. SlickPic? Less ugly, but with silly prices. They do a $25 option, I hear you say. Yes, they do. But they’ll shrink your photos into the bargain. Strictly for those on the bottom rung of the amateur ladder.
There’s one site that is beautiful out of the box. And priced right – $20 a year. That option is 500px. I’m already a paid up subscriber. But it too has a drawback. It’ll import photos from Flickr, but it’ll not handle the sets. 500px also houses some of the most beautiful photography on the internet. I would almost feel guilty about uploading my entire collection there.
Still, I may well use 500px as my showcase going forward. Perhaps not for my back collection, until there is a decent import option. Or until there is a new kid on the block who meets my criteria. What does this mean for my Flickr account? I’m still going to use it as a storage silo. I’m unlikely to give them any more money. I’ll downgrade to the free option and live off the free terabyte of space they offer.
WordPress has some beautiful themes with superb galleries. I don’t know why no company has come out with a simplified photo sharing site option to utilise some of those themes, without the hassle of the hosting package etc. But Flickr should be on notice. If I find a company who wants my business and gives me the tools to transfer, then my Flickr account has a delete button, and I wouldn’t be afraid to use it…
I have, after a long period of nagging, convinced a friend to join up with Flickr. Why Flickr? There are plenty of alternatives. Photobucket for one. Although that, frankly is an awful service that I use only to host the occasional temporary image for my blogs. Zooomr once showed promise, but is now like a lame street dog, awaiting a vet to do the kind thing and put it out of its misery.
There’s also Google’s Picasa service, which has plenty of features but is hindered by two serious failings. Firstly, while it’s free to start with, the space you’re allowed is quite limited, and you have to buy extra space as your collection grows. It can become a more expensive option. Secondly, it, like most Google products, is pig ugly. Facebook is, I believe, the biggest photo sharing app now on the web, and while it is a great way to share photos with your friends, it’s also pig ugly, and limited. It also reproduces your photos with nasty colours.
There are two perfectly viable alternatives to Flickr though. SmugMug is about the most professional photo sharing service out there. It’s incredibly customisable, has domain mapping and plenty more. But it costs an arm and a leg, comparatively speaking, to access the cool features. It also doesn’t have much of a community, and because it’s geared toward the serious photographer, it’s a little more complicated to use.
Then there is Windows Live. Along with your Hotmail account (which was recently overhauled and now the best webmail product on the market in my opinion) you get a Live Profile, other goodies and a Photo Gallery with 25 gigs of free space. That’s an awful lot of free space. I couldn’t get it half full at the moment if I tried, and I have ten years worth of photos – nearly 8,000 images in all. If free is your thing, Windows Live is the one.
But I chose Flickr, and am happy to pay the annual $25 sub to get the unlimited space on offer and to have access to the most active and interesting community going. There are features I’d like to see that don’t appear to be forthcoming. Such as the ability to add a custom banner, blog style. But it does what it does well, and it is affordable.
I also have some tips for any new Flickrites, including my amigo. Firstly, I’d think carefully about whether or not to name images or to leave the image file name as it is. The former looks nicer, which is why I do it. But it takes a while to rename lots of images, and in hindsight, if I could go back to the beginning, I’d probably leave the original file name as it was. But I like consistency, so now I’m stuck with my chosen path.
It’s also hard to think of witty or non repetitive titles, so I end up naming them all sorts of silly things. And every now and again, I do get asked what exactly I meant by a particular title for a photo of a friend. They never seem convinced that really it means nothing at all.
I do recommend tagging images though. It makes them easier to find later, especially if you are seeking photos of a particular person. The more tags you add that are relevant, the more likely other people will be to find your images too. Which brings me on to my final point.
The license you choose. Personally I can’t help but think if you are using a public photo sharing site, it’s because you want your photos seen. And why not? Photos by their very definition are supposed to be seen. Flickr offers a variety of licenses, from All Rights Reserved down to a more friendly Creative Commons license which allows other people to do what they wish with your snaps. And plenty of options in between. I’ve written about this recently though, so I’ll let you read that post.