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Photography Marketing: How Flickr is staging an epic come back

Two years ago, I wrote about why Flickr will ultimately fail. I’m here today, to tell you that I was wrong.

At the time, Flickr was in the middle of a stagnant period. No changes had been made, and then-parent company Yahoo! had been recently sold to Verizon. There were no rumors of improvements to the service — instead, rumors started to swirl about it being shut down or bought out.

Lucky for Flickr users, the latter happened, and SmugMug bought Flickr. I was hesitant about this at first, with Flickr announcing major changes to its structure, which in essence has pushed free members to either upgrade to Pro accounts, or leave the service entirely.

But here’s why it will succeed.

Focus on better photography

By forcing users to upgrade to Pro accounts if they want to store more than 1,000 photos on the service, Flickr can help weed out the junk photos on the service. Instead, active members (with free accounts) will have to selectively choose what photos they upload to Flickr — and I’d be willing to bet they’ll choose their best photos.

For Pro users, this is great, because you’ll ultimately start to see better photos on the service. What this means is more inspiration and less digging through the fluff.

Pro features

For Pro users, the changes that Flickr has made and has announced they’re making will ultimately help them to become more seen on the service. The advanced stats can show users what photos work, and what don’t. Pro users can promote their products, services, classes and more, and even link directly to a shopping cart to sell prints.

What’s more, Flickr Explore will be undergoing a massive change, putting more emphasis on Pro accounts. That means increased exposure.

Finally, 5K photo display options will be coming this year as well, meaning that Pro users’ photographs can be viewed in great detail, further helping to highlight their skill set.

What about Instagram?

Throughout the iteration of this column, you’ve read a lot of Instagram-specific posts. And that’s still a great platform, and one that photographers should rely on. Wedding and family photographers can thrive here, as can landscape and food photographers.

But there’s one core genre that Instagram doesn’t really work with — commercial photography.

I’ve never once been contacted through Instagram for a job. And it’s most likely due to the fact that corporate employees don’t spend a ton of time on Instagram.

How to make Flickr work for you

Flickr has some amazing organization tools that date back to its early days as a service. The ability to create albums and collections is powerful, and lets you create a large portfolio of images. This can serve as a sort of archive that you can send clients if they want to see more than what’s on your website.

It’s also a great community, meaning you can correspond and meet with other photographers. This is important as we push each other to grow in our abilities as artists. And with the push to have Pro accounts, you can bet you’ll see more Pro-level engagement.

Think of Flickr like an expanded Instagram feed. It’s a great way to showcase your images, but at a much larger scale. You’ll get different interaction on Flickr than you would Instagram, and that’s a good thing. It allows you to be more professional, grow your craft and promote your business. And isn’t that what we’re all looking to do?

For more on Photography Marketing, see my weekly column.

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