For photographers, the last decade has been a very exciting time. Between the rise of the DSLR, Photoshop, affordable HD camcorders, and other technologies, the tools of the trade have seen dramatic changes. But one of the most important innovations has been Flickr.com, which hasn’t changed how pictures are taken, but how they’re stored and shared.
Flickr is an online photo management service and social network, which has become the service of choice for professional and amateur photographers to share their work and discuss their trade. Its open API has allowed the community to develop hundreds of third party apps and add-ons to enhance its otherwise minimal interface. Because we know that many of our readers are into the art and tech of photography, we’ve compiled the 20 essential tips and tricks that we think every Flickr user should know. And even if you aren't a photographer or don't have a Flickr account, we have cool tricks for searching and browsing through Flickr's incredible database of photos.
Read on to find out how to get the most of Flickr!
We’ve already shown you how to do quick, batch uploads to Flickr, but wouldn’t be nice if you could just select a folder, and have to the contents of that folder automatically uploaded to Flickr, a la Dropbox? Well, as it turns out, you can, using a program called Flickr Foldr Monitr. As the name implies, the program monitrs—err, monitors a folder, and uploads any pictures dropped into that folder to Flickr.
Here’s how you set it up.
1) Download Flickr Foldr Monitr
2) Install the program. It’s a small program, so this is quick.
3) Select the folder you want to monitor. We chose C:/Photos, and checked the Include Subfolders box.
4) Click on Options.
5) We selected to upload photos to sets based on directory name. This makes organization easy, but remember that users with free accounts are limited to three sets, so choose your directories wisely. We also chose to have the Monitr start syncing and minimize itself when run, so it behaves like Dropbox.
6) Click on Authenticate, and you’ll be taken to the standard Flickr app authentication page. When you’re finished, click on the Finish Authentication button.
7) Click Go. Now the Foldr Monitr is active, and any pictures you put in the folder will be uploaded.
Among the new features in Windows 7 is Search Federation, which allows third-party services, such as Flickr, to integrate seamlessly with the explorer’s search bar. This means that you can select “Flickr” the same way as you would select a normal library in Windows 7, then type a query into the search bar in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Photos will show up in the explorer, as though they were on your local computer even though they’re actually on Flickr’s servers.
The enable Flickr search, do the following:
2) Scroll down to where it says “Get the Flickr Search Connectr.”
3) Select whether you want to search results from all of Flickr or from a certain user (such as yourself) and how you want to sort the results.
4) Click Download the connector.
5) Now simply double click the flickr.osdx file that was downloaded to your computer, and Flickr search will be added to the Windows 7 explorer.
Earlier this year, Flickr opened up video hosting for Pro and Free members. Free account holders can share 2 videos a month, uploading them using the web or Desktop Uploadr utility. The rules for videos are simple: they must be safe or moderate content, and you can only upload videos you’ve created yourself – no YouTube-style hosting of TV show clips. Videos show up in normal search results, but only play when you click through to the video’s permalink page. You can also filter searches to only display video results.
Since Flickr considers videos a “long photo,” they’ve instituted a time limit of 90 seconds for each clip. If you upload a file that’s longer than 90 seconds, Flickr will NOT split up the video into separate clips – only the first minute and a half will play. High-definition video (720p) uploads are possible, but only Pro members can share those clips (check out this HD gallery).
A Free account member can still upload an HD clip, but Flickr will downsize it to 500 pixels wide (500x281 for widescreen videos, 500x375 for 4:3 content). The service will store the full resolution version until a Free user upgrades their account. There’s also a file size cap of 150MB per video (500MB if you’re a Pro user uploading an HD clip).
Finally, here are the file container formats that Flickr accepts for video uploads: AVI, WMV, MOV, MPEG 4, 3PG. As for codecs, Flickr doesn’t have an official list of supported types -- H.264 works, but and DivX and Xvid do not.
Flickr uses the popular Creative Commons licenses to allow you to choose how the photos you post can be used. If you choose to apply one of these licenses to your photos, you’re granting the public the right to distribute those photos, with one or more conditions. Here are the four common conditions of Creative Commons licenses, and what they mean:
Attribution: If a person wishes to distribute this photo, they must credit the photographer. Though originally an option, this condition is now included by default in all valid Creative Commons licenses—you cannot select a license without Attribution on Flickr.
NonCommercial: Any use, distribution, or derivation of this photo can only be used for non-commercial purposes. In other words, your picture cannot be used in advertisements, on for-profit websites, in magazines, or for any other money-making purpose.
NoDerivs: Anyone who wishes to distribute your pictures must distribute them exactly as you posted them—they cannot make derivative works.
ShareAlike: Any derivative works made from your photo must be shared under the same Creative Commons license as the photo itself. This condition is obviously mutually exclusive to the NoDerivs condition above.
You also, of course, can leave your photos “All Rights Reserved,” which is the default setting. This means that others cannot distribute your work at all.
So which should you use? Generally, the most lenient license that you’re comfortable with. If you want others to see your photography, then the more freedom you give people, the more likely they are to distribute your photo for you, raising your profile. If you use Flickr for purely personal photos, then of course you’ll want to keep all rights reserved.
When someone uses Flickr to host a photo on their blog, the hotlinked image actually contains information that can lead you back to that user’s Flickr page so you can browse the rest of the photos from that set. Decoding the status photo URL is pretty easy. For example, let’s take a look at a cool photo from user SlimJim:
The part of the URL we care about is the first part of the filename – in this case, 4112962396. Copy this photo ID number and paste it at the end of this address: “http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=”. This will take you to the Flickr photo page, where you can see the username of the photo’s owner and click through to their photostream.
Quick Tip: You can input a Flickr photostream address (ie. http://www.flickr.com/photos/username) to http://idgettr.com/ to get that account’s Flickr user ID number. This id number can then be used with a variety of Flickr API tools to set up slideshows, galleries, or RSS feeds.
If you’re looking for something to customize the way you interact Flickr, without going as far as to install a FireFox add-on, consider Greasemonkey scripts. These snippets of code can be loaded into the Firefox GreaseMonkey plugin, and apply subtle enhancements to the Flickr UI. You can find a giant listing of Flickr GreaseMonkey Scripts here, but we’ve collected five of our favorites for you below:
Multi Group Sender: A simple script that changes the behavior of the normal “Send to group “ button to allow you to send to multiple groups at once. Excellent for getting your photos some exposure.
Flickr AllSizes+: Adds a convenient “All Sizes” button to photo pages, which allows you to quickly access any size version of the photo.
flickrPM: Adds extra icons next to user photos in discussion forums and photo pages, making it easier to get more information about other Flickr users, and to get in contact with them.
Greased Lightbox: Not just for Flickr, this script opens thumbnail images from services like Flickr and Google images in a popout “lightbox” without actually having to load a new page.
Flickr Auto Page: Don’t worry about hitting the end of the page with Auto Page, which automatically loads new images as you scroll down.
Now that the Flickrleech website has gone offline, where do you turn to batch download images from a single user or group? Flickr Downloadr is an open-source desktop application that lets you preview images based on keyword search, specific user id, or group name. You can sort your results to filter out ones copyrighted with a Creative Commons license, and then batch download any chosen images to a local disk. The interface is designed to look integrated with Windows Vista and 7, but the newest version also works with XP.
In this article, you’ve seen how Flickr can be augmented with extensions, plugins, bookmarklets, mobile apps and more. But truthfully, what we’ve shown you is just a fraction of the huge collection of applications and webapps written with the Flickr API, which allow you to interact with Flickr in all sorts of new ways. Flickr collects all these apps for you in an app-store-esque-but-free service called the “App Garden.” Just point your browser to www.flickr.com/services/ and start browsing apps. The app garden’s pretty crowded, though, so we’ll call out some of our favorite featured apps.
Picnik: This webapp is essentially photoshop-lite in a browser window. It’s got the tools you need for most any basic photo manipulation, and it’s free. Best of all, it integrates with Flickr, letting you edit your photos directly, without any extra uploading or downloading.
Color Hunter: For all you designers out there, Flickr can be an excellent source of inspiration, with its never-ending stream of professional quality photographs. Color Hunter lets you take a photo that inspires you, and extract a color pallet from it. Further, you can tell Color Hunter a tag to search for, such as “Ocean” and it will search Flickr for photos with that tag and show you a list of pictures, with pallets.
Flogr: For any aspiring photographer, a photoblog is pretty much a necessity these days. Fortunately, there are webapps like Flogr, which handles a lot of the coding for you, easily turning your Flickr photostream into a photoblog.
Flickr Schedulr: Once you’ve set your photo blog up with Flogr, or developed a following on Flickr, you need to start making sure you keep uploading a steady stream of photos to keep people’s attention. Flickr Schedulr allows you to schedule uploads, meaning that you don’t have to log on to upload a photo once or twice a day—instead, you just queue a bunch up in advance, and let Flickr Schedulr take care of the rest.
Fd’s Flickr Toys: After all that talk of running a photoblog, it’s time for a little fun and games. That’s what fd’s Flickr Toys are for—having fun with (or at the expense of) your Flickr photos. The Flickr Toys let you make jigsaw puzzles, fake magazine covers, motivational pictures, Warhol-esque pop portraits, and more.
Flickr offers several different RSS feeds to serve photos from individual accounts, groups, pools, and even photo comments. Each feed has parameter options that let you filter specific users, photo sizes, languages, and friends. The user ID parameter can be acquired from sites like http://idgettr.com. Here are some basic feeds you can tap for your blog or RSS reader:
Public photos: http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne
Friends’ photostreams: http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_friends.gne (user_id parameter required)
Public favorites: http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_faves.gne (user_id parameter required)
Group pools: http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/groups_pool.gne (id parameter required)
Only recent activity: http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/activity.gne (user_id parameter required)
Recent Forum Discussion topics: http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/forums.gne
So, if you want to create a feed that just shows the photos of your friends, the feed would be:
http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_friends.gne?user_id=XXXXXXXX?friends=1. Check the Flickr feeds page for specific parameter syntax.
You can also use a Flickr RSS feed to create a dynamic Windows 7 wallpaper. Go to C:\Windows\Resources\Themes, and make a copy of one of the themes (we picked aero.theme) to your Desktop. Open it in Notepad and add the following code to the file:
RssFeed= (your RSS feed goes here)
Then save it, and double-click to install your theme (You may need to right click and open with Windows Shell Common Dll). Only RSS feeds that include images as enclosure items will work. With Flickr, that means you’ll need to add the “?format=atom_1” extension to the end of the base feed.
If you’re a pro user, Flickr’s Stats page can tell you a lot about how popular your photos are. Here’s a quick breakdown of the kind of information you can find on the picture stats and user stats pages:
If you click on the Photo Stats link in the Additional Information section of a photo page, you’ll see the number of views, favorites and comments the photo has received recently, and in total. If you have a pro account, you can click Account stats at the top of the photo stats page to see a listing of your most popular photos, and their stats.
You can also see a list of top referrers, both for individual photos and on an account-wide level. This is an excellent tool for uncovering the cause of a sudden spike in popularity for a photo, as it will help you identify if it’s been linked to by a popular blog or other website.
If one of your referrers is a search engine (and it almost certainly will be) you can click on that referrer to see a list of the search terms that brought people to your photo.
Though this feature was originally set up for users to upload photos from their web-enabled camera phones, email is a really quick way to get your photos up on your Flickr account. The way this works is that Flickr gives you a secret email address (which you can set up here), and you just send your photo as an attachment to that address to upload the photo to your account. The subject line of the email becomes the title of the photo, and any email body text becomes the photo description. The email address is supposed to be private, but you can give it with your friends and family if you want to create a shared pool of photos.
You can also add tags to these emailed photos by adding the “tags:” at the end of the subject line or on any new line of the body text. For example, if you wanted to tag an image ‘comic-con’ and ‘costume’, you would append “tags: comic-con costume” to the end of the subject line. Put tags in quotes if they are longer than a single word. Tip: turn off the auto-signature on your phone (ie. “Sent from my iPhone”) before sending photos to Flickr, or else it’ll appear in your image description.
Additionally, you can set the privacy settings for each email upload but appending a little bit of text to the secret email address. If your secret email is email@example.com, for example, use firstname.lastname@example.org to only make the photo visible to users on your friends list. Other options include:
secretemail +email@example.com - Visible to family
secretemail +firstname.lastname@example.org - Visible to friends and family
secretemail +email@example.com - Only visible to you
secretemail +firstname.lastname@example.org - Visible to everyone
Along with emailing photos to your Flickr account, you can also get Flickr to post that photo to your Twitter feed. This requires linking and authorizing Flickr to modify your Twitter account. Go to the Add Twitter page, and click the “Head over to Twitter now” button. Once authorized, emailing a photo attachment to your secret Flickr2Twitter email address (which is separate from your normal secret Flickr upload email) will post a tweet with a shortened Flickr link (http://flic.kr) to your Twitter stream. The subject line of that email will be the title of the image and also the tweet (max 116 characters).
Flickr is a great tool for managing your photos online, but there’s still something to be said for the power and speed offered by a dedicated desktop photo-management or photo-manipulation program. Fortunately, plugins have been written for all of the most popular photo apps using Flickr’s API, which allow you to upload to Flickr directly from within those programs. Here are some examples:
Picasa is an excellent photo management program available for free from Google. It’s able to tag and organize photos, and it’s available for free here. Picasa is made to work with Google’s Picasa Web Albums service, but it’s also possible to upload directly to Flickr using a plugin called picasa2flickr which can be found here.
If you’re seriously into photography, chances are good you use Adobe Lightroom, which allows you to organize and process your photographs. If you use Lightroom, and you want to show off your photo’s on Flickr, you can download the Export-to-Flickr plugin here. This plugin is “donationware” which means that after a trial period, you must make a donation of at least 1 cent to keep using it. A bit of a pain, but a very handy plugin nonetheless.
If you’d like to try out a full version of Lightroom for free for a couple of months, check out the public beta of Lightroom 3, which is going on right now.
For those not willing to shell out $200 for Lightroom or $700 for Photoshop, the $80 Photoshop Elements is a strong choice, with all the photo editing tools needed by the vast majority of users. Unlike the previous two programs, you don’t even need a plugin to upload to Flickr from Photoshop elements, the functionality is built-in. To access it, look in the Online Album menu, under More Options.
Here are three easy ways to Geotag photos:
Using a bookmarklet called loc.alize.this you can geotag your Flickr photos from inside your browser. Simply go to the bookmarklet’s homepage and save the bookmarklet to your bookmarks list or quickbar. Then, visit the photo page for one of your photos, and click on the bookmarklet. It’ll inject the geotagging code right into the page, without having to reload.
Picasa has an excellent geotagging interface, complete with integrated Google map. Simply download the program[picasa.google.com], use it to tag your images (the tags will be saved into the images EXIF data) and then use the Picasa2Flickr plugin listed above to upload the photos to Flickr.
For the fastest tagging experience, you’ll want to go with a dedicated tagging program, such as GeoSetter. Being entirely devoted to geotagging, Geosetter has the most complete list of features as is the fastest way to automatically or manually tag photos. Plus, like Picasa, tagging your photos before uploading to Flickr means that the geo information is stored both locally and in the cloud.
To see all of the geotagged photos on Flickr displayed on a map, just hit up http://www.flickr.com/map/, navigate to part of the world map, and click Search the map.
Flickr employs its own URL shortening service, Flic.kr, for linking to images in tweets, but you can also use it to link you images without using a third-party service like tinyURL or Bit.ly. The only tricky thing is that Flic.kr doesn’t have a landing page to shorten URLS, and photo id numbers are shortened using a complicated base58 system. Fortunately, the user-created http://urlkr.com/ site will let you generate a Flic.kr URL from a full-length address. If you want to link people to your main Flickr photostream page, you can also use the address http://flic.kr/username, which is shorter than http://flickr.com/username by three characters.
Flickr is more than just a photo sharing site; it’s a community. That means that you can link your account to friends and family, and that there are thousands of user groups, where people share photos and carry on discussions. Many of these are very topical (“Live Music”) for instance, but there are others that can be very educational for the up-and-coming photographer. Here are some examples:
Beginners Digital Photography: General purpose discussion for those new to digital photography.
Nikon Digital Learning Center: An educational group sponsored by Nikon, and focusing on Nikon gear.
Canon DSLR User Group: The flip side of the coin—A group focusing on digital photography with Canon cameras.
Photoshop Support Group: A forum for photographers to talk about Photoshop
Adobe Lightroom: Similar to the above, but focusing on Adobe’s Lightroom product.
And that’s just a small sample of the educational groups on Flickr. If there’s something you’re interested in or have questions about, just do a group search[http://www.flickr.com/groups/] and chances are good that you’ll find just what you’re looking for.
Even if you’re not a professional photographer or active Flickr contributor, you can still have fun browsing the millions of photos uploaded by other users. In fact, you don’t even have to register a Flickr account to enjoy other people’s photographs. Flickr’s native search and Explore feature are decent for casual browsing, but here are some cool sites that let you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Multicolr: You may have heard of Flickr Color Picker, a site that lets you search Flickr photos based on color palette, but Multicolr does the task better. Not only can you choose from 120 starting colors, you can add up to 10 colors to the mix to find an interesting image that incorporates those tones.
Spell with Flickr: This search site lets you find photos that feature specific letters, so you can spell out words or phrases with random user photos. Handy for writing ransom notes!
Findr: Tags are useful for identifying pictures, but search results can be difficult to navigate. This site lets you filter searches with related tags, narrowing down results until you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Retrievr: Retrievr lets you pick a color and draw a picture in a window, after which it’ll try to find Flickr results that match the shape of drawing. The technology behind this site is still experimental so it doesn’t work 100% of the time. But when it does, the results are very cool. Alternatively, you can upload an image for the site to process and find similar-looking photos.
You don’t take your photos sitting at your desk, so why should you only be able to access Flickr there? You’re not, of course, thanks to the wealth of Flickr-API-powered smartphone apps, available on all the major platforms. There are lots of offerings, but here are our favorites for each service:
The iPhone has the honor of being the only smartphone platform which currently has an official Flickr app. When you consider that the app is free, fast, and as feature-packed as any of the competition, it’s hard to recommend anything else. Did we mention that it’s free?
There’s no official Flickr app for Android, but there is Pixelpipe[http://pixelpipe.com/], a multi-platform program for uploading content from mobile devices to more than 100 different online services, including Flickr. The app’s not quite as slick as the iPhone’s, but the huge number of supported services, and the low price point (a dollar for the full version, free light version) makes this an easy recommend.
Ok, so you’re using a WinMo phone. We feel for you. Fortunately, no matter what platform smartphone you use, you can access Flickr’s mobile site, m.flickr.com. And actually, you’re not missing out on too much; Flickr’s mobile site is a fantastic example of how a mobile site should be made, giving you quick access to your photos, as well as those of your contacts, the day’s most interesting photos, and those taken nearby. Unfortunately, you can’t upload photos with the website, but you can still use the upload-by-email function.
There are dozens, if not hundreds of Firefox plug-ins that integrate Flickr with the browser. But as is the case with most Firefox Add-ons, installing too many can bog the browser down. Here are our picks for the five most essential ones that are worth installing.
FireUploader: This extension is an all-inclusive file manager that lets you upload and download to a variety of file sharing and social networking sites, including Flickr. You just have to log in and authorize the add-on with Flickr to use its simple file browser window to manage batch photo uploads.
Cooliris: Formerly known as PicLens, this add-on lets you browse Flickr images on an infinite 3D wall (as well as images from other image sites). It’s a really cool way to browse large galleries and view image searches. Alternatively, you can also visit picturesandbox.com to get a similar photo landscape for searches.
Uploadr: Don’t confuse this with Flickr’s official Uploadr desktop app. This independently developed Firefox add-on lets you right-click to upload images you find on other websites directly to your Flickr account. Think of it as using Flickr for image bookmarking.
Better Flickr: Like Better Gmail, this is Lifehacker’s custom compilation of Greasemonkey scripts for Flickr, packaged in a Firefox add-on. It adds convenient interface features like a photo magnifier and thumbnails enhancer to make the Flickr homepage easier to use.
Flickr Original: If you like to archive photos, this lightweight extension is for you. It lets you view and download the original size file for any Flickr photo, granted the user is sharing it with the public. Sure, you can replicate its functionality by browsing the Flickr website, but this will save you a few clicks.
Have any essential Flickr tips we didn't mention? Post them in the comments section below!