Flickr learning and sharing @ TechSoup

Qatari Skater

A few days ago TechSoup and Flickr sponsored an asynchronous chat discussion about the use of Flickr and photography in non profit organizations. Being an avid Flickrite myself, I popped on over there throughout the day and got involved in a lot of different discussions - from how to choose a camera to uploading photos and color profile integrity. I found that more often than not I had answers to questions instead of ones I wanted to ask.

In the process it occurred to me how I’ve developed a Flickr strategy over the past couple of years - much of which I can attribute to my photo obsession when I was living overseas. After Beth and a few others pointed out that the strategy behind my Flickr behavior could be beneficial to others in non-profits, it seemed only obvious that I mention some of my learnings in a blog post, so here goes:

1. Uploading - if you want your images to be seen by your Contacts (and the rest of the Flickr community), post only a few at a time. Only 4-5 images display on the Flickr homepage and on the Contact’s page, so the more you post, the less likely your audience will be able to find your best images (and messages!). So, even though every so often I upload 30 images at a time, I feel like it cheapens the Flickr experience and adds more clutter instead of focus.

2. Quality, not quantity - this builds on #1. Upload your best pictures in batches of 4s and spend more time on editing and building context around them. Use compelling titles, detailed descriptions, geotagging (if it’s safe to do so), and organize them in sets and collections. The more you share about the photo - personal anecdotes, how you photographed the image, how the image made you feel - the easier you can develop a connection with your audience. This helps change the Flickr experience from a one-way photo feed to a compelling conversation.

3. Timing *could* be everything - my Flickr pal Richard would disagree, but I’ve found that the time of day you upload your images has a direct correlation with how many people see your photo, potentially impacting your views, comments, and Interestingness. When I lived overseas I played around with timing a lot because I was hours ahead of most of my Flickr friends. The hours between 8 - 9 am EST worked the best for me, but it may have been dependent solely on my audience and their Flickr schedules. *note: I say all this now, but I’ve gotten far away from trying to “game” the system. When I lived away from friends and family I wanted their feedback as a way of keeping in touch. Nowadays when I want to upload an image, I upload it. I don’t wait until the “right time.

4. Want to make sure that one photo and message is seen? - Upload that image and nothing else. Don’t distract your audience with unnecessary clutter. There are millions of amazing images out there, so your image needs to capture their attention at first glance. If your Contacts return to your stream and you’ve added many other photos, it’s unlikely they’ll see the image you want them to. Send the image to relevant groups, cross-reference it in blogs, and feature it on your website.

5. You’re not the only one with interesting photos - Flickr is really about community. Jumping in on the Flickr bandwagon just to engage in your latest campaign, will likely be seen as a marketing ploy (because it is). Having a presence on Flickr and making the most of it involves nurturing your relationships with people.

6. Get involved - Explore what other neat stuff folks are doing, and build community knowledge in forums. Some great places to start are:

  • Utata - a Flickr community that has evolved into so much more
  • The Flickr group for the type of camera you use
  • The Flickr group for your geographic community
  • Start your OWN Flickr group

Incidentally, I thought there might be an NPTech community group out there, but there isn’t. Maybe it’s time for me to start one….

7. Color Profiles - so I’m really not sure I understand this yet (or if I’ll ever understand how to work around it), but it’s important to mention that photos look different in different browsers. Safari is great because it maintains color profiling of images, while FireFox tends to scrape away all the saturation and oomf of your image, depending on how you process it.

Here’s an example of the differences:


If you’re a perfectionist like me, you won’t like that your image appearance is inconsistent, and you’ll continue to seek out ways to manage this. Here’s what I’ve founds so far:

  • Use color calibration software with your monitor so what you see is really what you get.
  • Process your images using an sRGB color profile instead of Adobe’s format.
  • Read about gamut and ICC profiles here and how to calibrate your monitor with this in mind here - Macs and PCs have different monitor calibration resulting in different tones
  • The Mac version of Firefox does a worse job than the PC version of Firefox, but that also seems to be directly related to the quality of the monitor and how it amplifies Firefox’s shortcomings
  • Great article on web browser color management here

5 Responses to “Flickr learning and sharing @ TechSoup”

  1. 1 Richard

    Great post Michaela but much of it assume that the purpose of flickr is solely social networking and popularity. One can also use flickr to save bandwidth on other sites where one pushes photos stored at flickr. If one does this, uploading time and amount have little meaning.

    I would also argue that your point about being involved in flickr and building your own community is more meaningful than again, time of day and number of images in garnering comments and attention; if you post meaningful comments on other people’s images that you like (or dislike) you prime the pump, less on quid pro quo commenting, more on forming community.

    I wrote an essay a while back on the downside of a piece of flickr social networking that may become meaningful to some of your readers as they get more involved in flickr. It can be found here:

    Great job Michaela, too bad flickr doesn’t give credit for evangelizing, you’d have a free pro account for life (as would I).

  2. 2 Sue Waters

    Excellent post Michaela. I also like to point out to people how I use RSS to get the most out of using Flickr. I subscribe to the RSS from my contacts photos plus the feed from comments I make. This way the photos (only 5 max) from each of my contacts are delivered directly to my Google Reader and I am notified of replies to any comments I make without having to spend a lot of time on Flickr.

  3. 3 Micael Waugaman

    Thank you, Michaela, for sharing such an concise bit of flickr-minded goodness! Having ‘attended’ the event myself I was surprised that there weren’t more questions/answers about the value of using RSS and related widgets/plugins/components to bring the photos back to your website or blog.

    Like most folks I can easily spend an hour surfing around flickr just out of personal interest & fascination - and flickr certainly makes this worth doing from the perspective of community. But it seems to me that smaller and/or less flickr-conscious groups may be overlooking the benefits of setting their pictures within the context of the message(s) that they are trying to deliver online.

    To over simplify: a picture may be worth a thousand words but a thousand words accompanied by the right picture is worth so much more to a nonprofit’s cause.

  4. 4 Michaela

    Thank you Richard, Sue, and Micael for your thoughtful additions to this post.

    I completely agree 100% about saving bandwidth through Flickr, Richard. It’s also a neat way to virally spread your images in multiple venues to get your message across.

    I also think you have a great point Sue, about RSS and keeping up with your Contact’s images. I’ve been buried under threads and threads of RSS in my own world and personally I found that adding Flickr feeds to it made the task of digging out more daunting, but I also have a lot of Contacts I like to keep up with. Some friends I know who swear by RSS in everything they do absolutely adore the way you can use its function with Flickr. I never before thought of using RSS for tracking the comments I make on other people’s photos, however, that sounds fantastic and I’m definitely going to set that up for myself. I usually spend hours paging back in all my “recent activity” to see if someone has responded to a post I made.

    Micael, you also make a good point. One of the ways I’ve always used Flickr is to integrate photos into blogs and my organization’s website. Having a Flickr account is just another way to spread your message and make more people aware of the cause you support or the fieldwork you do. The words you choose are everything, and can make the most amateur or simple shot appear incredibly powerful. Sharing these photos on Flickr can also be great for getting immediate feedback on that messaging too.

  1. 1 Flickr Uses for Libraries…06.26.08 « The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian’s Weblog