How Do You Use Flickr?

Flickr is undoubtedly the most popular, if not the best online photo management and sharing application in the world. Yet – and it embarrasses me to admit this – I don’t get it. Specifically, I don’t understand how a nature blogger benefits from posting pics to Flickr that could be posted straight to one’s own blog.  What am I missing?

I invite those of you who integrate Flickr into your online presence to explain its uses and benefits. For example, is Flickr a community unto itself or do you find admirers of your photos visiting your blog as well? Is it easier to add a photo to Flickr and link to it than to upload a photo right to your blog?


  1. October 22, 2009 at 2:16 PM | Permalink

    By keeping your pictures on a seperated site like flicker or Photobucket, you can share it on other venues like forums. Also, there is usually a limit to how many pictures a blog host will hold, if I am not mistaken. I also have the ability to do at leasta little filing on photobucket.

  2. October 22, 2009 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

    Improved findability, though tagging.:

  3. October 22, 2009 at 3:24 PM | Permalink

    “…if not the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.” My head hurts from laughing so hard at that. I would argue vehemently that it’s the lowest common denominator for photo hosting and sharing. Popular? Sure. Feature rich and functional? Absolutely not. Remember, you get what you pay for.

    I don’t use Flickr and can’t respond to the Flickr-centric questions, but for hosting services in general: the host takes the bandwidth hits, they give you some form of organized access to the photos you’re posting on your blog, they render various sizes automatically, (as Dave pointed out) they offer sharing on other venues–not just your blog, they can offer some level of access control and reporting, their infrastructure ensures your photos don’t go down with the ship if your server fails or hard drive dies, and the list goes on.

    It gets even better with for-pay services, like on-the-fly custom sizes, output controls for sharpening, color, white balance, etc., handling all sales interactions, no requirements to link back to the host when displaying a photo somewhere (meaning use your photos as you see fit, not as the host sees fit), and so on.

    I hosted all my own photos and videos for several years. It was a lot less work and worry for me to hand that off to someone else so I could focus on the photography rather than the hosting.

  4. October 22, 2009 at 3:47 PM | Permalink

    I expect my (rather poor) photos to appear only on my blog but found that, with Blogger, I’d no idea where uploaded pictures went. So I started using Flickr for that reason. I’m now on my own WordPress site, so it may all change again.

  5. October 22, 2009 at 3:57 PM | Permalink

    I’m a Flickr user; I signed up for an account when I was out in BC a couple years ago as a way to upload and share some of my photos from the computer I was using, which didn’t have an ftp client (it was an old Mac; maybe it did have a client and I was just too clueless to find it). Very quickly I maxed out the 200-photo limit for a free Flickr account (it keeps the rest of them, but it only displays your most recent 200 to the public), so I decided to buy a Pro account.

    All that was pre-blog. When I created my blog about 6 months later, I had a lot of difficulty with inserting photos using the blog’s own media tool. has undergone a dashboard update so it’s much easier now, but at the time I said screw it, I’ll just use Flickr. It was easy, I knew how it worked, and I had a pro account in any case.

    I’ve continued to use Flickr because I get a small but noticeable amount of traffic to my blog through Flickr. I’m not diligent about it, but when I remember to I post the link to the blog post in the caption of the appropriate photo. I also have my blog address in my profile and in the description labeling the folder the blog’s photos are housed in.

    I also use Flickr outside of my blog. For instance, it’s been a great tool for uploading photos of moths to share with my friend/co-author so that he can confirm my IDs. Lately I’ve been taking measurements of the moths I catch to be used in the text by photographing the moth with a ruler; rather than fill Dave’s inbox with 20 photos I just post them to Flickr and let him know they’re there. I’ve also used it for sharing photos of our new house with family/friends when we moved, or posting photos of our new puppy, etc. You just upload your photos and point visitors to the particular folder they’re stored in.

    I don’t use Flickr this way, but for a number of people Flickr *is* their blog. They post a photo a day with a paragraph or two about it. People stop by every day and leave comments. Flickr also has a built-in tool that functions as a feed reader for all of your other Flickr friends’ photos. There’s a whole huge Flickr community out there not unlike our nature blogger community. If all you’re doing is posting a photo and talking about it, and you don’t much care if your site has a personalized skin, then Flickr is a decent blog substitute. Recognizing this, I’ve opened The Moth and Me to Flickr/Picasa/etc submissions, too, providing the photo is accompanied by a paragraph or two of text.

    Also, all the things Jason and Dave said. :)

  6. October 22, 2009 at 4:25 PM | Permalink

    I find Flickr useful for three reasons. One is metadata. I can tag my photos with useful information about what they depict and find them easily later by browsing or search. This isn’t so easy on a hard drive with over 10,000 images that may or may not have appropriate file names. Other people can comment on the photos, or even add their own tags, which provides an additional layer of information about them. Since this repository is independent of the blog, it also makes it easier to share photos via other services.

    Second is the Flickr community. I have gained some contacts on Flickr that view and comment on my photos there but had not previously read my blog (as far as I know). A lot of comments are of the “nice photo!”) type, but some have identified tricky insects or helped improve my photography. Here’s a prime example.

    Finally, the Flickr community can be a good source of photos for blog posts. Most photos are tagged as “All Rights Reserved” and require the photographer’s permission to reproduce, but a substantial portion are licensed through Creative Commons. The people behind Birdfreak started a group specifically for this purpose.

  7. October 22, 2009 at 4:36 PM | Permalink

    I’ll one other thing to what I wrote above. Since I take a lot of photos, I often find that I have more than I can really incorporate into a blog post, either because they are off-topic (for the post or the blog) or because I don’t want to overload the post. My Flickr account serves as an online repository for these, so I can still share them with other people who have similar interests.

  8. October 22, 2009 at 4:54 PM | Permalink

    I use the blogger platform and so when I uplad photos they all go into Picasa Web albums. Both Blogger and Picasa are owned by Google. I can’t imagine using a non-integrated platform for hosting photos. Seems like a real pain. If you are on blogger and wonder where your photos go just log into

    FYI: The blogger team is working on upgrading the editor for blogger. The new way photos are handled is really really cool. You can check out the new editor by logging into your blog via You have a lot more control. I just wish they would implement the changes sooner rather than later.

  9. October 22, 2009 at 8:10 PM | Permalink

    I use Flickr for various reasons. First, it is a more-or-less safe place to store photos in case of hard drive failure.

    And it’s handy for sharing collections of photos with particular people or groups; I just have to send them the link.

    Then, there’s Blogger. Loading photos to a post is slow, one-at-a-time work. I do that with the photos I want for a particular post, just in case the Blogger/Flickr link becomes inoperative. (It has, in the past.) But with Flickr, I can load them in bulk, tag and sort them the same way.

    Also, when I am away from home, I still have all my uploaded photos at my fingertips, organized and searchable, whatever computer I happen to be using. (Picasaweb has the photos I’ve loaded to Blogger, but not the rest of them.)

    The Flickr photos do steer a few people towards the blog. They probably would be more effective if I added the link in the caption, as Seabrooke suggested.

    There’s a blending of communities going on. Many of my contacts on Flickr are also people I meet on Twitter and Facebook, as well as in the blogging networks.

    (I’ll have to check out the new picasaweb editor that Kirk mentions; I’ve always found it awkward and slow, so I haven’t taken advantage of it. Maybe it’s just me.)

  10. October 22, 2009 at 10:06 PM | Permalink

    First, it saves me the bandwidth.

    Second, you can set up and administer group photosets. So everyone who participated in the International Rock-Flipping Day can tag their photos or add them to the group pool and they get consolidated into one place. Theoretically, that group photoset could then be displayed on all the participating blogs via some Flickr API.

    The Flickr API means it has hooks that WordPress and other platforms can use to pull the images into your blog with a simple plugin. Because of this, I can take a picture with my iPhone, upload it to Flickr and easily and seamlessly have it appear on the front page of my blog almost instantly. Alternatively, I would have to be at my computer, load a browser, login to my blog, upload a photo to my database, compose a post, insert the photo and publish. This picture of an Unidentified Florida Organism was on the front page of my blog within minute of me finding it. Mind you, I still don’t know what it is.

    Flickr allows you to assign a Creative Commons license to your photos. I see many science blogs where folks just steal photos from other sites, sometimes even hotlinking the images, without even giving attribution. This is not only poor form, it’s also illegal. With Creative Commons, you can specify what uses are permitted in advance and facilitate sharing in a legal framework that makes both parties happy. It also means that I can search Flickr for Creative Commons licenses images. I don’t have a picture of an echidna anywhere in my personal collections. But with Flickr Search I can locate a whole puggle of echidnas images, and many other CC images, that it’s OK for me to reuse on my blog.

  11. October 23, 2009 at 9:18 AM | Permalink

    This feedback is amazing. Now I see many of the benefits of using Flickr and other photo-sharing/hosting services. What about the downsides?

    For example, at 10,000 Birds, we get a ton of visitors through Google Image Search. If our photos were hosted on Flicr, wouldn’t we lose those visitors? What are your experiences?

  12. October 23, 2009 at 10:46 AM | Permalink

    For me, it is a bit of a nuisance to have to flip back and forth between windows/tabs to get the links for the photos as I’m writing my blog post, but it’s not terrible.

    Also, if you use an image from Flickr their user agreement states that you have to hyperlink the photo back to the photo’s page on Flickr (they provide you with cut-and-paste code for inserting a photo on a page or forum), which means you can’t hyperlink it to anywhere else. On the rare occasion where I need to link a photo someplace else (eg. for blog carnivals) I upload it to my blog, not to Flickr.

    And if your blog’s content column is, say, 475 pixels wide, Flickr’s pre-sized 500px-wide size will be too big. But the next size down, at 240px, is tiny, so you’d have to either crop your images to the size you need prior to uploading them to Flickr so that you can just use the original, or manually resize them by changing the width/height numbers in the html code on your blog. When I customized the CSS code for my blog skin I made sure I set the content column width to 515px to accommodate the Flickr photos.

    I doubt you’d be likely to lose any Google Image Search traffic by switching to Flickr. GIS indexes the text of the page (including alternative text in the code for the photo), and not the photo itself, so what GIS is searching is your webpage, regardless of where the images are hosted. If you click on an image in GIS results, it shows you the whole page where the image is located. I get a fair number of hits from that, too.

  13. October 23, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink

    Seabrooke covered it already: GIS provides image search results based on context, not the image itself. Proper title and alt elements in the img tag and the content of the post will send the search to your blog.

    I use SmugMug rather than Flickr, but it works the same way. As a for-pay service, though, the options are well beyond Flickr and other free hosts (e.g., Seabrooke’s concern about size doesn’t impact me since SmugMug provides on-the-fly custom sizes in addition to the standard sizes it generates). Likewise, I can link the images however I want with no requirement to link back to the image page (since I’m paying for the hosting service and not sending possible ad traffic to them); if I want to hotlink, that’s fine, but so is linking back to a larger version or the gallery or whatever.

    But regardless of features and functionality, the usefulness is the same and the end results are the same when it comes to GIS searches. I switched from self-hosted to service-hosted images and videos several years ago when my bandwidth costs went through the roof. The change didn’t cause any drop in traffic generated from search results.

  14. October 23, 2009 at 7:02 PM | Permalink

    Funny that your question should come up when it did; we just got back from a 2 week vacation in New Zealand. Since internet connection was sketchy in some places (and very expensive in others), we would download photos to Flickr every 2-3 days, write a description of our itinerary and post one photo to my blog from Flickr, and e-mail our friends my blog website.
    This was handy, since not everyone we know does Facebook. To see more pics, all visitors had to do was click on the photo selected in blog post, and it would take them to my Flickr page where they could view my photo stream or sets.
    Downside—that Flickr page not too user friendly.

  15. October 23, 2009 at 11:50 PM | Permalink

    I do host some images on my site for the reasons that Seabrooke states, but otherwise use Flickr. In addition to all the other reasons listed in this thread, it makes your blog a lot more portable, too, especially if you decide to switch platforms. Exporting tools tend to just move text.

  16. October 24, 2009 at 2:27 PM | Permalink

    Someone mentioned Picasaweb further up in the thread. Yes, Picasaweb is integrated with Blogger, but not nearly as much as it could be. For example, when adding an image to a post, there is no option to import directly from your Picasaweb account. Inserting one by a web URL can give unpredictable results. Integration seems limited to storage space. Picasaweb pales in comparison to Flickr’s community and metadata advantages.

  17. October 24, 2009 at 2:37 PM | Permalink

    Interesting question and comments. I’m a total Flickr addict, but my blogging and Flickring sides are parallel online personalities that sometimes intersect. My blog is focused on birds and history; text-heavy with images as secondary elements, if at all. I also have no illusions of bird photography beyond casual hand-held digiscoping. On the other hand, I’ve found Flickr to be the social networking site that best fits my temperament and interests (plus some good friends of mine are on it). Many of my Flickr photos are of moths (which occasionally stray onto my blog) and historical sites; birds are secondary at best. In a way, Flickr is my moth blog.

    Once in a while I have a Flickr photo that can be used for a blog post, but I often end up taking a photo for a blog post (say of some field sketches) and uploading it right to Blogger, since I don’t post photos of my field sketches on Flickr. My bird blog is a very specific manifestation of my interests that I try to keep on topic, while my Flickr presence is a more accurate reflection of my wider range of interests (at least, the ones that lend themselves to photography). I’ve also found other people that share some of those interests on Flickr, so it does have a social dimension as well. I have ongoing Flickr comment conversations with some people I’ve never met in “real life.”

    Flickr can be a good source of other peoples’ photos to use on one’s blog (check the copyright statements carefully, of course!), but I haven’t done a lot of that so far. I’ve found Flickr’s “post to your blog” functionality very easy to use, but it is bare-bones and I have to subsequently add tags to the post in Blogger.

    I don’t watch my blog stats all that much, but my blog definitely drives a few visitors to my Flickr stream, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it works in reverse.

    I could go on and on, but hopefully this addresses some of the original questions.

  18. October 24, 2009 at 4:56 PM | Permalink

    Jennifer makes a great point about Flickr as a place to find other people’s Creative Commons-licensed photos to use for illustrations; we use this extensively on my mother’s website, especially since I discovered the extent to which image searches attract visitors. In advanced search mode, simply limit the search to CC-licenced images. One has to be sure not only to link back to the original, but to include the attribution and the exact license in a caption or footnote.

  19. October 25, 2009 at 12:40 AM | Permalink

    When I’m doing a blog post and don’t have good pictures for it, I fill in with pictures that have a Creative Commons license that have been posted to Flickr (using their advanced search feature).

    I put pictures I have taken on Flickr
    1) to use up less memory with my host,
    2) to give back to the Creative Commons, and
    3) to participate in opportunities like the Sierra Club’s Daily Ray of Hope, which selects a picture from Flickr every day to be emailed (along with an uplifting or nature-oriented quote) to their mailing list.

  20. October 25, 2009 at 4:53 AM | Permalink

    @Dave I’ve often wondered about including the attribution and the exact licence for Creative Commons. I always link back and include a copyright in the title but as for reproducing the licence… I rather hope my own CC licence at the foot of every page covers it. Would that be right?

  21. October 25, 2009 at 9:55 AM | Permalink

    @Andy Gibb For the “Share Alike” licences, inclusion of the licence is mandatory — it’s part of the terms of use. For the others, it’s probably not as critical. A link back does of course allow people to see how it was licenced, but since a lot of people lump all CC licences together, I think it helps to at least give the shorthand form, e.g. “Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.”

  22. October 25, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

    @andy Gibb Actually, come to think of it, where the SA licences are concerned, you can technically only use the material if the resultant work is covered under the same licence, so to be fully compliant you’d probably want to add a notice at the end of the blog post stipulating that the post is licenced Attribution-Share Alike or whatever. However, I think that part of it is really only important if you alter the image in some significant way, say by cropping it or turning it black-and-white. The originator wants you to have the freedom to do that, but also wants to make sure that others know they have the freedom to do the same with your derivative work — that’s what “share alike” is all about.

  23. October 26, 2009 at 7:04 AM | Permalink

    My CC licence, which is site-wide, is share-alike. That’s what I thought would cover my use of other SA material. I also, just as belt-and-braces, stick a copyright into the title of any image. If nothing else it fixes the name of the photographer in my mind.

  24. October 27, 2009 at 12:45 PM | Permalink

    I have a Flickr account, but rarely use it. The reason I created it was so I could add bird photos to the photo pool that the Cornell Lab created when they were trying to get more photos for the updated All About Birds site (and I’m happy to note that some of my photos were used!). I am aware of it’s capacity as a pseudo-blog and as yet another social networking platform, but I, like Kirk, use Picasaweb to bring my photos to my blog. I use Picasa’s software (not to be confused w/Picasaweb)almost exclusively on my computer to view and alter/enhance my photos, then I choose what I will post on my blog and upload them to Picasaweb. From there, I plug html code into my posts for the individual pictures (several preset image resizes are available through Picasaweb). This is how I’ve done it for as long as I’ve blogged, and I would hate to think of changing course. The only downside to using Picasa, though, is that it may not work so well with other blog platforms (wordpress, for example). In theory, it should work, especially since I’m just posting the photos using code that references back to my Picasa web album, but since I only use the Blogger platform, I don’t know how compatible it is with other platforms. One thing is for sure: Picasaweb does not have the 200-image limit. I’ve posted many 100s of photos to Picasa web albums, and I’ve still got about 45% capacity left before I have to pay for more (you get 1024MB of storage for free with Picasaweb!). I think there is a community aspect to Picasa, too, but I haven’t really explored it.

  25. October 27, 2009 at 4:19 PM | Permalink

    I think I’ve found a neat and unobtrusive way to include licence and attribution for an image where I want to use its title for my own purposes. CC can produce a small widget for the exact licence of a photo if you follow the licence link and scroll to the foot of the page.
    It’s easy then to append this to the image followed by the photographer’s name, which links to the source material. It’s easier to see in action, so scroll down one page on my blog to find the Science Fiction picture. Feel free to copy the HTML from this if you want to use it.