It’s no surprise that over the past couple years, Flickr has had lots of ups and downs. Back in the day, Flickr was the social site to use to view and interact with photographs. But since its sale to Yahoo!, things have gone downhill. With its drastic relaunch in 2013, shutdown of the Flickr marketplace, it’s CEO proclaiming there’s no need for “pro” photographers and continuous tweaking interface and other features, lately Flickr seems to always have one step on the wrong side of death’s door.
With Yahoo!’s impending sale to Verizon, Flickr may be on the chopping block. Rumors have been circulating for several months about the photo sharing site’s future. Whether they’re true or not, it never hurts to have options and be prepared to take your photos elsewhere.
Downloading Your Photos
Just because Flickr might be going away doesn’t mean that your photos have to. I’m not counting on Flickr offering any type of transition guide to move photos on another service, however, there are already a few options available that can help you with this. If you don’t have access to your original files, you’ll need to download them.
There are two ways to do this right within Flickr’s website. One involves your camera roll, the other involves downloading of albums. Both ways keep your titles, descriptions and tags in place as well, as it’s stored in each file’s metadata.
If you go to your camera roll page (“You > Camera Roll” once logged in), you’ll see thumbnails of all your photos organized by date. You can change this to a “Magic View” as well, which groups your photos together into categories.
As you scroll down the page, you can individually click photos or click “Select all” next to a date. You can also click and drag around a grouping of photos, making for slightly faster work. Selecting photos will bring up a white panel at the bottom of your browser window, letting you handle multiple actions with the photos you selected, including downloading them. Clicking “Download” will download a ZIP file to your computer, which you can then extract and have your photos available to you.
Downloading an Album
Personally, though, I like the non-conventional, faster approach, especially if you don’t have a bazillion photos.
If you click on “You > Organize” to go into the organizer, you can create a new album under the “Albums & Collections” tab. From there, you can select all of your photos in the filmstrip at the bottom of your browser window, and drag them into the album you just created.
If you have a lot of photos, you might want to create individual albums for this purpose. This would also allow you to easily keep your organizational structure the same when you upload the photos to a new service.
Then, go back to your “Photostream.” From there, click on “Albums” and open the album you just created. Right at the top, where it says the album title, you’ll see a down arrow with a line under it. Clicking this will let you download every photo in that album, in a ZIP file like the camera roll option.
Depending on your internet speed and the number of photos you have, this might take a while. Remember, it’s downloading the original size images to your computer, all at once. If you have a D800 like me, those 36-megapixel files are going to add up real quick!
There are several other options out there — Bulkr and Flickr Downloadr to name a few — but I found Flickr’s website to be the easiest option to work with. Every third-party tool I found was relatively outdated, and required either Adobe AIR (which is defunct) or another framework that I had never heard of.
Finding an Alternative
There are a plethora of other options out there, and I wanted to stack them up against Flickr’s current offering. What made Flickr unique from the get-go was the community aspect and interaction with other members, so that was my primary requirement in finding an alternative.
Pros: Strong community aspect
Cons: Poor image quality, news feed algorithm, not specific for photographs, no EXIF data
Facebook is probably the most obvious alternative to Flickr, primarily because everyone and their uncle has an account. It’s got a strong community, and you can post your photos into different groups you find applicable.
But what hurts Facebook in terms of a social photo sharing site is its poor image quality. Photos are compressed heavily when uploaded to Facebook, even if you follow the recommended export settings (2048 pixels on the long edge is generally recommended). In addition to this, its news feed algorithm means that some people will see your photos, but others won’t — even if they’re friends with you.
Pros: Can get a strong following quickly, good editing tools, fun filters
Cons: No community tools, limited aspect ratios, no organization, no EXIF data, feed algorithm, no native computer upload, not-so-fun filters
Instagram is another obvious choice here, but if you’re looking for a place to showcase your photos to the world, Instagram probably isn’t the choice for you. Sure, you can get a following relatively quickly, but there’s no way to make albums. Aspect ratios are limited (not just square anymore, but vertical images are still usually cropped at the top and bottom somewhat), and there’s absolutely no community tools, outside of hashtags and curated accounts.
Plus, Instagram’s website is weak. To have a great Instagram experience, you really have to go to your mobile phone and open the Instagram app, which segments a lot of users. Instagram has its place for sure, but it’s not a replacement for Flickr.
Pros: Albums, basic photo editing, unlimited photo storage
Cons: No “profile” page, have to individually share albums and photos, no built-in community tools
Remember Google Plus’ photo tools? Well, Google finally made the decision to let Photos go, turning it into its own app and website. Google Photos is pretty barebones, but it does allow you to create albums and share those albums with friends. You can also make your albums public on other social media sites, including Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter.
Once you are able to share your photos with your friends, they can comment (if they login to a Google account). But that’s really where the community interactivity stops. Consider Google Photos a younger sister of Flickr. I think if Google continues to work on this it can be something popular, but for now, I just consider it more for photo storage than anything else.
Pros: Excellent image quality, similar organizational tools, marketplace, portfolio tools
Cons: Weak community platform, small and defined audience
500px is the tool that I found to be closest to Flickr. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. While 500px has groups, most of the groups I’m in are relatively inactive.
Nature and landscape photographers will love 500px — those types of photos do very well there in terms of ratings and interaction with other members. But if you’re a portrait or street photographer, you might not get as much out of 500px. 500px even alludes to this — the 10 best photographs on the site are all landscape or nature-based.
What gives 500px a leg up on the competition, even compared to Flickr, is its portfolio tools. You can create a website with a custom domain straight from 500px. It looks professional, and it can be un-branded as well. While this isn’t available to free users, it’s nice to know that 500px is providing extra tools for photographers if they require them.
While no Flickr alternative is perfect, in my opinion, 500px clearly has the lead. If it can figure out its community platform, and learn to appreciate other types of photographers, it’s going to take the reigns from Flickr and go full speed ahead.
Bryan is also a member of the Out of Chicago team. Learn more about Bryan at bryanesler.com.