I went for a walk through part of Modi’in yesterday and shared photos from the walk on Flickr. I noticed that the photos I took with my phone were geolocated at the correct location but, for some reason, Flickr tagged the locations as “Ram Allah, West Bank, Palestine”.
Here is an example (I geolocated my Nikon photos at the same location as my phone photos):
Flickr uses OpenStreetMap for its maps. When I clicked on the map preview in the image, it took me to Modi’in (which is correct) and yet the caption on the photos is a totally different city.
I don’t read Arabic so I couldn’t tell you exactly where Ramallah is on OpenStreetMap through Flickr’s map interface but here are Modi’in and Ramallah in Google Maps:
Leaving aside whether the caption in Flickr, “Ram Allah, West Bank, Palestine”, is a correct designation in itself, why are my photos tagged with that location when their actual locations are very much in Modi’in in Central Israel?
I’m sure the explanation for this is an interesting one.
I just realized that my Flickr Pro subscription ends in just under two weeks. The annual cost for Flickr Pro is $50 and I am wondering if it is still worth it?
Flickr still seems to be going strong and I follow a lot of photographers there. More importantly, I have my entire library on Flickr (100,361 photos as I write this) and I haven’t touched the sides of my 1 TB of space (I’m currently using 0.2 TB). I had a similar internal debate two years ago and concluded that it was worth it. Now I’m not so sure.
The main benefits of the Pro subscription is that there are no ads and the Desktop Uploadr is available for automated uploads from my local hard drive. The Uploadr used to be available to all Flickr users and Flickr restricted it to Pro subscribers when it revised the subscription plan.
I still think that was a mistake and Flickr alienated a lot of users, although I can see why they did that. The Uploadr became one of the few value adds that Flickr could hold back as a “premium” feature after it removed most of the image resolution and storage capacity limits.
There is a little doubt about Flickr’s future (this is a long-running issue) but there aren’t any concrete indications of Flickr’s demise. Flickr seems to be ticking along and may well keep going for the foreseeable future. It has certainly remained an integral part of my photo sharing and backup strategy for years.
There are a few alternatives. One is switching to 500px which has a Plus package that costs $25 a year for unlimited uploads, statistics and integration with Google Analytics. The Google Analytics integration is a nice touch but by no means a deal breaker for me.
One of the appeals of 500px is that I receive so much engagement there when I upload photos. That is great for validation and feedback. I get some feedback on Flickr but it doesn’t seem to come as easily.
Another option is something like SmugMug which has a $40 a year package for a customizable site, unlimited uploads and integrations with print-on-demand labs (could be useful). The price point comes close to Flickr’s and I’m not sure if there is a clear benefit there to justify it even though the service seems excellent.
I thought about consolidating everything in Google Photos (my library is there too, albeit in the reduced resolution for free storage) but upgrading to 1 TB will cost $10 a month which is too expensive. For now, I maintain a complete library in Google Photos in “High quality” resolution as a more readily accessible backup.
Of course, the elephant in the room is Facebook which is free (at least in terms of subscriptions) and which is a better sharing platform anyway. I have my libraries backed up elsewhere so it’s not like I’d need to entrust Facebook with my only copy. Facebook would just become a place to share my photos and get feedback from people.
Why it could be worth sticking with Flickr Pro
The big reason to stick with what I have is my self-induced lock-in. As I mentioned earlier, my entire library is in Flickr. It isn’t my only copy (definitely not) but it is a lot of material that is already organised into albums and shared in part online.
$50 is not cheap but if I factor in the hassle of replicating that library on some alternative service, it may be worth the extra cost. As I mentioned earlier, the main differences between the free and Pro subscriptions are that the Pro subscription removes ads and adds the use of the Desktop Uploadr which runs in the background on my Mac and automatically uploads new photos I add to a watched folder.
Of course, cancelling my Pro subscription doesn’t mean I have to remove my library from Flickr. As far as I can tell, it won’t be affected by switching to a standard plan.
If I switch to a free subscription, it will mean manually uploading new photos if I decide to maintain a current library on Flickr. There are other ways to upload photos to Flickr, though, as convenient as the Uploadr is. I have already configured Lightroom to upload to both Flickr and Facebook so it’s really just another step in my process to send images to Flickr and Facebook from within Lightroom.
The bottom line
On balance, the risks of switching to a free Flickr account are pretty low. It will be a crappier experience of the site with all the ads but an ad-free experience, alone, is not really worth the $50.
I’ll miss the Desktop Uploadr’s functionality but I am already uploading manually to Google Photos after the Google Photos desktop uploader stopped working on my Mac. I can compensate with Lightroom or even Apple Photos (if I decide to try that to manage my local library again).
So, having considered all of that, this is what I’m doing with my photos:
I’ve disabled the auto-renewal for my Flickr Pro account and I’ll see how it goes without the Pro benefits for a while. I’ll keep uploading to Flickr although the loss of the Desktop Uploadr may mean I’ll just upload the highlights.
Facebook remains a good place to share photos casually, especially considering that my friends and family are there (and I use it anyway).
I’ve been uploading some photos to 500px so I’ll just keep doing that. I receive great feedback on my photos there. No reason to stop doing that.
Google Photos will still receive all my new stuff as an alternative sharing space.
All my full resolution photos and RAW files will go to Amazon S3 as usual.
So … what do you do with your photos? What are your thoughts about Flickr Pro?
I gave this more thought after my post and decided to renew my Pro subscription. I’ve had a positive experience using Flickr and when I put the cost into perspective, it wasn’t all that much to preserve something that has been working for me.
Another plus that I didn’t realise when I was weighing up the pros and cons of renewing my Pro account is that visitors to my photo pages won’t see ads either (at least, this is my understanding from PetaPixel’s “In Defense of Flickr: 8 Reasons I’m Sticking Around“).
I agree with adding constraints to the free plan, although I can see the decision to delete all but the most recent 1,000 images being a concern for long time users with free plans. One way to get around that is probably to Creative Commons license your work, though.
My plan renewed in December. I was still a little ambivalent, but Flickr has worked really well as an archive for my photos over the years. Better than just about any other option I use at the moment.
Om Malik published a post that echoes much of my thinking about Flickr, titled “Flickr Fabulous – On my Om” that’s worth reading. I don’t use Flickr as a primary photo sharing service at the moment, but I’d like to. That said, I agree with Om’s sentiments here:
It was so far ahead of the curve: an ability to create tags out of meta-data, exit information as a way to navigate through photos, location as a way to be enthralled by a place and super fast uploads and RSS for everything. It is still web standards compliant. The community, the faves, the albums, and the stream — it had everything that you see everywhere. It was the genesis of the modern visual and social web.
My photos are typically uploaded to Flickr and Google Photos by default. I also sometimes share albums on Facebook but I don’t have complete archives there at all. I also make multiple backups of my primary photo library and RAW files because I am more than a little neurotic about losing my family photos.
At the same time, I love living in a time where we can take so many great photos and share them so easily. Having machine learning systems go through our photos and make them so accessible, despite taking 23 photos of the same sunset, is amazing.
Google Photos definitely has the edge when it comes to identifying what is in our photos. As long as I have my Flickr (and other) backups for full resolution images, I’m happy to keep sending all my photos to Google Photos too.
I haven’t used Apple Photos much. The libraries tend to become pretty big. My current edited library is about 128GB. That is stored in Flickr in full resolution (I uploaded most of that when we arrived in Israel – a decent upload capacity and no data caps is a must) and in Amazon S3.
I don’t really see me using Apple Photos for my full library. For one thing, I don’t have the drive capacity for that on my current MacBook Air. For another, iCloud storage pricing is still relatively expensive compared to other storage options. Still, I created a small Apple Photos library to play around with the new Apple Photos app.
One of the changes that I like is that I don’t have to replicate my photos in the Apple Photos library. I can “import” photos that I have stored on different drives without actually moving or copying them. That saves a lot of space.
That said, Apple Photos still seems to take up a lot of extra space on my drive relative to the imported photos. At the same time, the library may seem to be relatively big because I activated the Photos iCloud Library and it is importing photos shared through my iPhone and iPad.
I probably need to play around with Apple Photos and use a bigger subset of my library to get a better sense of how much space it will actually use once I’ve accounted for my iCloud library.
Those old family slides
My current mission is to have about 150-200 slides from my childhood scanned and added to my digital library. The big challenge with older generations’ photos is that there either aren’t many or they are in physical formats that will only degrade over time.
The slides are mostly in pretty good shape and there are a lot of amazing memories in there. So much I have forgotten from my childhood.
My Grand Plan is actually to co-ordinate with my brother and sister to have all the slides they have from my mother digitised and shared as a collected family archive.
When I look at photos of my parents’ childhoods, I’m struck by how few I have access to and just how few there are altogether. It isn’t quite as bad as the great grandfather in the Google Photos video with just two photos in his whole life but there really aren’t many photos going back a couple generations.
If anything, our kids will have too many photos of our lives and theirs but, hopefully, machine learning will keep developing and the (likely) terabytes of family photos we leave for them when we eventually leave this life will become a rich and valued archive of memories.
Capturing movement in our photos can be challenging, but it’s a great way to convey emotions. Here is a selection of some wonderful shots that capture motion in creative ways. To see more photos and share your own images, visit the full gallery on Flickr.
For starters, Google Photos is now a standalone service. It is no longer tethered to Google+ and its not clear what this means for Google+ as a social stream.
One of the best features of Google Photos is what Google described as a “single, private place to keep a lifetime of memories, and access them from any device”. You can store “unlimited, high-quality photos and videos, for free”. That bit got my attention immediately and features strongly in any discussion about Google Photos. It is a bit misleading, though, and I’ll get into that below.
One feature which was carried across used to be called Auto-Awesome. It is now called “Assistant” and it takes your photos and does some really cool stuff with them; adding effects, creating animations and a number of other really nice effects. It is one of my favorite features of Google’s photo service (here is a cool example based on some of these photos) and I’d love to see this in Flickr even though I’m not sure anyone other than Google can really pull it off.
Google Photos will take your photos and organize them automatically based on when you took them, where you were when you took them, who features in the photos and what is in the photos. It potentially takes a lot of that manual effort you usually put into organizing your collections. You can create manual albums too and you can even create Collections (these used to be called Stories in Google+) which are also very cool ways of telling stories using your photos from events and locations.
Another feature is your ability to share your photos using other services (like Twitter or Facebook) or even using a link that gives people who have the link access to your photos even if they wouldn’t otherwise have access. That is something Dropbox practically pioneered and Flickr emulated. It is great to see services supporting sharing across more external services.
Google has released iOS and Android apps as well as a new desktop uploader that, like the Flickr Uploadr, watches specified folders and uploads automatically. The apps are very clean and work pretty well. The iOS version works on iPhones and iPads.
Overall the update is a great one. Google Photos is a pretty compelling option for consumers who never really saw the point of Google+ as a separate social thing.
Google’s bait and switch
Google says users have “unlimited” space for their photos but there is a catch, a big one. The “unlimited” space applies to photos uploaded from now (or probably photos which were previously covered by Google+ Photos unlimited option – roughly 2 megapixels if I remember correctly) and only if you choose the option to upload “high quality” versions of your photos.
High quality images are compressed versions of your photos and are limited to 16 megapixels. That is probably fine for most casual users but it becomes a problem for more serious users and users whose devices natively shoot more than 16 megapixels (it won’t be long before this is the norm).
There is more, though. Your existing photos aren’t included in this new unlimited plan if they exceeded the resolution that qualified for the original “unlimited” so don’t expect space you paid for to suddenly be freed for other uses. Also, even though Google Photos will upload RAW photos (something Flickr doesn’t do), those photos probably won’t be included in the “unlimited” storage – RAW photos are usually very high resolution images and will probably use your normal storage allocation.
Videos can be up to 1GB each and playback on Flickr is limited to the first 3 minutes;
Photos can be up to 200MB each (that is probably the equivalent of a direct export of a RAW file at maximum resolution for most DSLRs);
Photos can’t be more than about 31 times wider than they are tall (not sure what this is about but I usually don’t encounter this problem).
Flickr prefers JPG and PNG images and will convert to JPG for viewing. That said, it retains your original files which you can download as and when you want:
The original, completely uncompressed version of your content is always saved to Flickr, along with several alternate photo sizes for you to use around the web.
Google Takeout will let you download your photo albums but bear in mind that you will be downloading the compressed, “high resolution” versions of your photos if you take advantage of the “unlimited” space. This means you can’t count on Google Photos for uncompressed photo archives unless you pay for enough storage.
The real losers
Google Photos isn’t going to replace Flickr for me but it is going to be a great option for casual users, especially people who use Google’s other services like Gmail, Google Drive and others (which is a lot of people). It is also going to be an easy choice for Android users (as you would expect).
I don’t need to do that anymore. I have pointed Flickr’s and Google Photos’ desktop apps to a local folder outside my Dropbox folder and they will upload new exports as soon as they appear. This means I can remove all my stored albums from Dropbox and keep that space available for other files I need to store on an ad hoc basis.
Dropbox’s appeal is your ability to store your photos in their original format on Dropbox and that includes RAW and other more specialized formats. Of course that means you need a fair amount of space but if you have followed all the suggestions to earn more free space you probably have more than the basic 2GB for use for a variety of storage requirements.
Paying for premium Dropbox accounts to accommodate photo libraries has become an unnecessary extravagance and, despite ripping off many of its features, Dropbox’s Carousel is just less compelling than Flickr and Google Photos now. If I were a casual user, I wouldn’t even bother with Dropbox.
Other losers include all the other paid photo storage and sharing services. Some of them, like 500px, are really good services but they are becoming niche services for professional photographers who want more advanced analytics and the ability to charge for their work.
Flickr and Google Photos have won the consumer space
The elephant in the room is Facebook with its huge market share. It doesn’t have the features Google Photos and Flickr have and may add those in down the line but my preference is to stick with a relatively free-standing service for my memories.
Consumers who feel similarly have no real reason to go with services other than Google Photos and Flickr. If you want to share high quality versions of your photos and be able to store them reliably (as much as you can with 3rd party services), stick with Flickr. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a secondary backup to Amazon S3 in addition to local backups and I recommend a similar setup. Don’t trust your only backup to just one service, whether it is Flickr, Google Photos or something else. Have multiple backups and blend local with online to keep your stuff safe.
When it comes to an overall winner, I still pick Flickr and you should take another look if you dismissed it previously.
I love virtually everything about this photo of bicycle handlebars titled “Kalverstraat” by Lucas ():
I really like using a shallow depth of field in many of my photos. My favourite lens is my f1.8 50mm lens although I am still learning how to capture as much detail as I need at those lower f-stops without getting too caught up in using a shallow depth of field just for the sake of it.
I also really like this photo titled “Red street” by the same photographer: