Social Media

Flickr is for quality photos, Instagram is for bad photos

How is it that Flickr is now the place for quality photos? Isn’t that Instagram’s realm? Not quite. Here’s what has happened between the two services in the past few years.

With the rise of Instagram in 2011, many photographers left Flickr. Instagram became THE photo app for mobile, while Flickr sat undeveloped since Yahoo bought the formerly popular photo service in 2005.

How did Instagram get this rise? Flickr had no mobile app, so Instagram stepped in with their beautiful filters. Instagram enabled hungry cell phone owners to easily post quality photos on a mobile device.

Instagram started out as a service with quality photos

When the photo app first came out in late 2010, people would post their best stuff to the app, because:

  1. You could only upload one photo at a time to Instagram. You couldn’t just do a huge dump like Flickr.
  2. Instagram were actually artists attracted by the aesthetics of Instagram’s filters, not teens attracted by themselves taking selfies.

Instagram is no longer a service for quality photos

Today with over 120 million users, it seems everyone with a smartphone is on Instagram. Instagram is no longer about quality photos, it’s about posting your every day life. While I’m a fan of the power of creativity within everyday life, the stuff that gets posted to Instagram is mostly the power of mundaneness.

Flickr = quality. Instagram = lots of engagement

Author of “Delight in the Details” Shawn Blanc confirms this theory of Flickr = quality. He explains in his insightful blog post that he puts his best photos on Flickr, however he finds much more feedback on his Instagram photos, therefore Instagram = lots of engagement. Hence, Flickr’s dilemma. Lack of users.

More bad photographers = Many bad photos

Certainly the quantity of Instagram users explains the higher rate of interactions on Instagram. More people = more interactions. But there’s another factor at play here. This higher quantity of users means not everybody on Instagram are good photographers. In fact, the great majority are bad photographers–many bad photographers. More bad photographers = Many bad photos. There’s so much garbage on the service that when someone sees something good, they jump at liking and commenting on it.

Flickr on the rise

In the past couple years I’ve also noticed a lack of feedback on Flickr. It’s kinda sad. But in the past couple months, I personally have been noticing a bit more life on Flickr. Take the number of searches my flickr photos have been getting:

Flickr searches 2010-2014

Starting in November, searches for my photos have skyrocketed. (source: statsr.net). Views are also increasing in 2014:

Flickr views 2010-2014

How can my photos have more views? Perhaps I didn’t uplaod any photos during 2013? Nope. I was still active on Flickr posting a steady stream of photos:

Flickr account growth 2010-2014

Increasingly, I’m seeing more people that like my photos are ones who just signed up for Flickr. The fascinating thing about seeing people sign up for Flickr is that they saw enough value in Flickr to sign up.

Perhaps Shawn Blanc is onto something with how Flickr is the place for quality photos now. Plus, there’s also great value in Flickr’s archive and the searchability of Flickr’s collection.

Instagram lacks features

Instagram isn’t about search. Instagram is all about the stream. If you want to find an old photo by someone, you have to manually scroll and scroll, tap “load more” and scroll, tap “load more” and scroll. You can indefinitely scroll-n-load trying to find a photo. You cannot do a search on an individual’s photos. If you use Instagram’s search box, you are forced to search the ENTIRE Instagram universe. And then you can’t even search with more than one word. Searches can only be ONE word long. Want to search for: “chicago art”? Tough luck. Or how about “train station” Nope.

Flickr is all about features. You can do all sorts of searches. You can add photos to public groups. Your photos can go into your own collection of sets.

Instagram? You can add one-word tags to your photo. That’s it. Instagram greatly simplified the photo sharing process, making it really easy for people to upload photos. Instagram dumbed down the process. When you dumb something down, you often end up with something dumb. Today we see Instagram revealing itself for what it really it is. Something dumb.

Flickr is advanced, sophisticated, in-depth. It only makes sense that Flickr is now the place for quality photos. Thank you Instagram for taking away most of the bad photographers, leaving Flickr with good serious photographers.

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