11 Reasons Why Flickr, Not Facebook, Is the Place to Put Your Photos

11 Reasons Why Flickr, Not Facebook, Is the Place to Put Your Photos

What’s the best way to put your pictures on the Internet these days? There are at least two answers to that question.

If you’re just asking which photo sharing service is the most popular, then Facebook is the hands-down winner. People upload roughly 350 million photos to the social network every day.

Snapchat isn’t far behind, at 150 million photos per day. (The difference being that Snapchat photos are hidden—but not deleted, it turns out—up to 10 seconds after you open them.) Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is in third place with 40 million new photos per day.

But if the question is which photo site is the best for annotating, curating, storing, and otherwise managing your photos, the answer is definitely not Facebook. It’s Flickr. I’ve been using the service since 2004—even before it was bought by Yahoo—so I speak from experience.

Measuring by sheer upload volumes, Flickr lost out to Facebook years ago. Flickr users upload a measly 1.4 million photos per day. Mary Meeker, the prominent Internet analyst now at the venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, dramatized the difference in a bar chart from her Internet Trends report this week; Flickr appears as a tiny yellow sliver atop a column dominated by Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.

The lesson seems to be that for most people, the act of sharing a photo is more important than the photo itself. This means Facebook’s sheer reach, with more than 1 billion active users worldwide, gives it a huge advantage. On top of that, years of neglect on the part of Yahoo’s higher-ups meant that Flickr missed out on fundamental changes like the social and mobile revolutions. Things got so bad that I wrote a column in 2011 wondering what comes after Flickr.

But change is in the air. Yahoo’s new leader, Marissa Mayer, thinks Flickr is cool and has sent more resources its way. In December the company finally released an iPhone version of Flickr, which has won much-deserved praise, and this week it followed up with an Android app. Flickr just overhauled the design of its flagship website, making it far easier for users to browse photos. And most astonishing of all, Yahoo announced this week that all Flickr users will get a terabyte of photo storage space, free.

A terabyte is a ginormous amount of data. When Google informed the world back on April 1, 2004, that Gmail users would get 1 gigabyte of free e-mail storage, most people dismissed the extravagant figure as an April Fool’s joke. A terabyte is 1,024 gigabytes—enough to store half a million photos at the 6-megapixel resolution of most smartphones. A hard drive with that much space would cost you $70 to $100.

So here’s my point: Flickr is back. Which is great, because Facebook is a terrible place to store and manage your photos.

Flickr's new photo browsing interface

Flickr's new photo browsing interface features big, scrolling collections of images that fill the browser window.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s okay to throw the occasional photo up on your Facebook timeline. If your picture is pretty or funny or provocative, it’s bound to spark some conversation, which doesn’t happen so much on the other photo-sharing services (with the possible exception of Google+). A couple of days ago I posted a picture of my dog modeling as a fur hat. It immediately drew a couple of comments and 19 likes.

But sharing is the only thing Facebook is good for. Once a photo slides off the bottom of your timeline or your friends’ news feeds, you might as well kiss it goodbye. If I had to describe Facebook’s tools for curating and managing older photos, I’d place them somewhere between “nonexistent” and “incredibly frustrating.” In fact, one of the great puzzles in Silicon Valley today is why Facebook, with its vast wealth and its army of engineers and its hundreds of billions of photos, has put so little effort into building decent tools for creating, editing, and browsing photo albums.

It’s probably because a photo, to Facebook, is just a vessel for social interactions. The one thing Facebook makes sure you can do pretty easily with your photos is tag the other Facebook users who appear in them. Still, it seems like a missed opportunity.

Maybe Facebook will get its photo act together someday. Meanwhile, here are 11 good reasons to use Flickr, not Facebook, as the default online home for your digital photos.

1. Flickr stores and displays your images at full resolution. Facebook compresses them by as much as 80 percent, resulting in a huge loss of information and detail. For serious photographers, this is the single biggest reason to avoid Facebook.

2. Flickr’s redesigned website showcases big, beautiful versions of your photos on endlessly scrolling pages. It’s vastly superior to Facebook’s photo albums and a huge improvement over the previous Flickr design.

3. You can easily share your Flickr photos back to Facebook—or Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, WordPress, Blogger, or LiveJournal.

4. Both Flickr and Facebook are ad-supported, but so far, Flickr’s ads are a lot less obtrusive and creepy than Facebook’s.

5. Flickr offers easy drag-and-drop tools for uploading photos and organizing them into albums (they’re actually called sets). Uploading photos to Facebook is much more tedious.

6. If you like maps, Flickr can display your geotagged photos on a world map. If you don’t have a camera that automatically geotags your photos, there’s an easy way to assign each image to a location.

7. Flickr lets you store videos of up to three minutes in length at 1080p resolution. Facebook allows longer videos, but limits resolution to 720p.

8. There’s an amazingly welcoming and supportive community of photographers on Flickr. They’ve formed groups around every conceivable subject, from HDR photography to the color orange.

9. Through a partnership with Aviary, Flickr provides a range of basic photo-editing tools, including the all-important redeye reduction. Facebook offers no photo editing tools.

10. Lots of other people have built apps and services that interact with Flickr—for example, if you use iPhoto on your Mac, you can upload photos straight to Flickr. This is also true for Facebook; the point is that you don’t lose anything by switching to Flickr.

11. In case you missed it before: a terabyte of free storage. (“Pro” subscribers who formerly paid $25 a year for unlimited storage get grandfathered in.) The upshot is that you can use Flickr as a backup location for all of your photos, not just the ones you want to show off.

12. (Bonus reason) The Flickr mobile apps for iOS and Android are really quite good, allowing you to browse, manage, and snap and upload photos directly from your smartphone. The iOS version comes with about 15 free Hipstamatic-style filters.

Flickr isn’t perfect yet. If you have a lot of photo sets, it’s hard to organize them for easy browsing and searching. It’s ridiculously difficult to order photo prints from the site—you have to specify the number and size of the prints you want one image at a time, then export the photos to Snapfish. There’s no official Flickr app for the iPad or Android or Windows tablets (though there are some decent third-party apps that work with Flickr—my favorite is called Flickr Studio).

Moreover, the recent changes to Flickr’s design have left many users, especially pro photographers, unhappy—for example, the technical “EXIF” data about each image is now buried a couple levels deeper. And there are folks like Mok Oh, founder of Moju Labs, who argue that the whole idea of the online photo album is obsolete, and that the next generation of photo organizing tools needs to be far more automated and personalized.

But overall, Flickr has made an amazing comeback. My fears back in 2011 that I might have to lug my 16,000 Flickr photos over to Google+ or some other service turned out to be unjustified. I’m thrilled with the recent redesign and hopeful that Mayer can get Yahoo back on solid ground, the better to support Flickr—which, to me personally, is the single most interesting and valuable product in the whole Yahoo lineup.

Facebook wants to be the catch-all location for everything you share digitally. But like all omnibus solutions, it comes with compromises. A great photo is a terrible thing to waste—so consider putting your photos on Flickr instead.

The Author

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy.

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  • Shermaine

    Thanks for the stamp of approval. What do you know about Flickr’s privacy policy? I am now an ex-Facebook member due to some concerns about how my personal data and preferences were being shared. However, I’m really intrigued by the idea of receiving a terabyte of data. That is pretty amazing.

    • http://www.xconomy.com/san-francisco Wade Roush

      On Flickr you can set a default privacy level for all of your photos (private, family, friends, or public) and you can adjust the privacy level of each individual photo. One feature that I’d like to see, which I don’t think Flickr has, is the ability to set a privacy level for an photo set. But to your main point, I don’t know of any cases of Facebook-style privacy blunders or brouhahas at Flickr. That’s not to say they couldn’t happen, but I don’t think Flickr’s business model is built around monetizing your content, in the same way Facebook’s is.

      • Jon Smith

        currently, the bugged revamp means almost anyone can steal any photo they like on flickr. and as they are full resolution now, that is very serious news indeed for any serious photographer.

  • jdurocher1973

    Thanks Wade… been searching for a new home for my photos and it’s been a challenge. I currently pay $99/year to a service that is shriveling up. I don’t mind paying the money but the support is gone. The biggest problem I have is finding a new site that will effectively serve as my archive for full resolution pics, and let me share via Facebook, and finally is easy to print items like a photobook.

    • http://www.xconomy.com/san-francisco Wade Roush

      Flickr will store your pictures at full resolution, and let you share to Facebook. It’s not so great at the photobook part. You can do that at Snapfish but it takes several steps to get your Flickr photos over there. (See my story about Blurb books for one good option there: http://www.xconomy.com/national/2012/11/30/photo-books-from-blurb-a-high-tech-gift-idea-with-low-tech-charm/). The problem is that this market has been commoditized: I don’t know it’s profitable enough for Yahoo to bother upgrading Flickr with better photo printing options.

  • Jon Smith

    hahahaha, are they putting something in your water? since the marissa mayer inspired revamp flickr is the place to dump a zillion smartphone snaps of pavement pizzas and blurred cats now, the proper photographers are making for the exits in their droves.

  • Kingsley Harris

    Wade, did you consider Everpix.com as another option?

    • http://www.xconomy.com/san-francisco Wade Roush

      Kingsley: I confess I’ve never had a chance to check out Everpix. I’ll do so now.

  • Jennifer Crowe

    I had the experience of a discovery one of my photos of a nephew included in someones collection of favorites. The person was obviously a pedophile as all photos in his collection were young boys under ten years old. There were somewhere over a hundred in his “collection”. I found this really disturbing and closed my Flickr account..

    • http://www.xconomy.com/san-francisco Wade Roush

      Jennifer — that’s an icky experience indeed. However, a solution short of closing your Flickr account would have been to make your family photos private, or visible only to your friends, so no one else could see them or mark them as favorites.

  • Lisa

    Is there a way to move some of my photos/albums from FB to Flickr? I know FB already compressed quality, but some photos I just want to have in Flickr albums anyway, despite compressed quality, just so I don’t loose track of them (like I would on FB), and I’ve already deleted these from my phone or computer, so they only exist on FB right now.

  • Barry Spock

    I don’t use facebook, but Flickr has gone to hell since yahoo started messing with its format a couple of months ago. If you were any kind of serious flickr user you’d know that.

    The usability and viewability of flickr has gone down the toilet. And do they listen to their users and paid-up pro users? No.
    So who’s paying you blogger?

  • Aaron Morgan

    While it is true that Flickr is awesome, Facebook has one thing going for it that Flickr does not. If a photographer wants to have his/her images seen by loads of other photographers, I do realize that Flickr has the potential to make a photographer. I know lots of non-photographers visit Flickr. Flickr is one of the great places for sharing photos. But if a photographer wants free marketing with an incredible reach potential, Facebook is the place to be. That’s even still true over G+, and that is true in addition to Facebook’s ridiculous edgerank.

    Consider, for instance, that you are a portrait photographer who thrives on word of mouth. When you do a portrait shoot, upload and tag your clients, a huge portion of their friends will see the photo. All of those who click on that photo go strait to your profile or business page. Facebook has been a boon to building my business. Flickr simply cannot do that at the same speed as Facebook. Flickr has mass “discovery” potential. Facebook has mass “reach” potential.

    I want non-photographers to see my photos. Photographer communities are fantastic for critique, inspiration and learning. Reaching the “explore” page on Flickr and being discovered can be incredible. But for regular day to day business purposes, Facebook beats Flickr.

    P.S. You are correct that Facebook is a terrible place to store and organize. But that’s not what Facebook is for, especially when it comes to business.

  • Stefan Breton

    The hell with a loads of free filters and gizmos; Flickr is a community of amateur and want-to-be pro photographers. Professional photographers have no time to comment on yet another photoshopped to the max image of some suspended teenage girl with angel wings. Its social networking quotient is quite low as 99% of the people looking at your photos are other photographers. I’ll give one reason why you should pick FB anytime over Flickr: it’s the closest social networking experience that we can have of the real world. But why choose when you can have both? After all, Flickr is excellent for storage.

    • pussykat_7@hotmail.com

      and I think fb like many sites are beginning to ¨police¨ us….they are locking accts without cause, demanding photo id and gov`t id which is ILLEGAL!!! They are doing this shit and getting away with it because they can, because people like you think they are some kind of god! If people would just shut down and not use their facebook accts for a day or two, we the people would be back in control, its a social media site for god sakes not the justice system, I need less info and id when I go to the bank!!

  • ellen

    Thank you for this article. Honestly, I had no illusions about Facebook but I am building an archive for work and need a free photo sharing site that doesn’t compress the image and offers a great deal of free storage. Much appreciated

  • Joe Daniels

    thanks for this article I’m looking to host 450 plus high resolution pictures from a kettlebell compeition for my website.

  • Spelio

    I really hope that Flickr do NOT force all the Pro members to use the so called “New Experience” which as a Beta is a disaster for serious members and photographers …
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/spelio/8768468920/

    They need to supply a permanent opt out button, and remove the “Try the new experience” button that ruins our images…