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Photography Marketing: What Flickr’s changes mean for photo sharing

When I first got started in photography, I was constantly on Flickr. I uploaded all my photos there, browsed tons of groups and crossed my fingers that some of my work would make it to the coveted Explore gallery.

While I’m no longer active on the service, I know several photographers — amateurs and professionals — who use Flickr on a daily basis. It’s a great method of sharing your photos and getting feedback from the photography community at-large. It can even help in terms of showing off your work to clients.

By Flickr changing its free tier to be limited to 1,000 photos, many users will be forced to either show only their best work or upgrade to a Pro plan. This change by Flickr, the world’s first photo sharing site that was heavily adopted by photographers, will ultimately cause it to become more of a niche site. What’s this mean?

Hobbyists will be pushed out

When Flickr introduced the ability to upload up to 1 TB in images a few years back, it was a major change that put the aging service back on the map. Flickr, then owned by Yahoo!, promised other changes along the way. But none of the other changes were really ever accepted by its user base. The service slowly began to fade into the background.

Enter SmugMug, Flickr’s new owner, with hopes to ramp up the use and usefulness of the service. But, by essentially forcing users to pay a yearly subscription fee, SmugMug is pushing out Flickr’s core market — the prolific hobbyist.

While professionals certainly use Flickr, hobbyists are what makes it live. This is obvious when you see that Apple iPhones are the service’s top camera brand, with Samsung’s Galaxy phones sitting in the fourth position. For the most part, pro photographers are going to upload work they take with their bigger cameras — not their smartphones. And Smug Mug believes that will hobbyists pay for a yearly Flickr Pro membership? I don’t think so.

The world of photo sharing is changing

With the hobbyists being pushed out of Flickr, and Google+ meeting its demise shortly, there’s only one real photo sharing platform left — Instagram. While you can post images to other networks like Facebook, there’s a lot more out there. Instagram puts the emphasis on images, while still allowing users to engage with comments or likes. Frankly, it’s really what Flickr should be in this day and social media age — and what the service tried (and failed to do) under Yahoo!’s ownership.

Additionally, this means as more and more people flock to Instagram and flee Flickr, being seen on Instagram will undoubtedly become more challenging. Taking advantage of things like account mentions and hashtags will be more important than ever. From a marketing perspective, Instagram will become what Flickr was for so many years — an alternative or perhaps even the primary portfolio for photographers.

SmugMug and Flickr will continue to get closer

Think of the SmugMug and Flickr combination like a relationship. Right now, it’s in its infancy. But as it continues to develop, especially with these changes slated to happen in January, SmugMug will continue to embed its thinking into the Flickr brand. The company has already announced that Flickr Pro users will be able to get a SmugMug portfolio site for 50% off. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this relationship continue to grow, with the two platforms being able to share photos and more.

This begs the question, as this marriage continues to foster, will Flickr eventually be swallowed up by SmugMug? At what point does Flickr become obsolete to SmugMug’s core audience?

Time to get creative

What these changes mean is that photographers who previously utilized Flickr will have to get creative. That might mean taking advantage of the Google Photos platform to store and share your photos with family and friends. It might mean using Instagram and Facebook to better market your photographs on a more regular basis. Finally, it might mean updating your website more frequently so your photos can be seen, or even starting a photoblog.

Ultimately, photographers will have to see what works best for them. I’ve stated before that Flickr is on its last leg. And with the changes announced last week, I couldn’t believe that more than I do right now.

For more on Photography Marketing, see my weekly column.

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