OK, so I’m assuming that I’ve sold you on the benefits of using Flickr. So, how do you go about it?
I’m not going to spell out how to set up an account because that’s already well covered in the Flickr FAQ and help pages. What I am going to do is give you tips for using Flickr effectively as a professional artist. Again, I’m chopping this up into manageable chunks: this post will discuss ways to optimise your own Flickr space, while the next post will look at interacting with the wider Flickr community.
Use Your Professional Name
When you’re signing up, choose an account name that’s as closely related to your professional name as possible. Of course, if you have a common name this might not be possible. The reason for this is that it makes it easier for Google to find you. It also links your Flickr account to your professional online persona.
The observant amongst you will note that my own Flickr name doesn’t follow this rule, I’m kmhlamia on Flickr rather than kirstyhall. This is because I set up my Flickr account before I was thinking about using it as a professional space and it simply never occurred to me. Since I’m already known on Flickr by that name, I don’t really want to change it, although I am considering it.
You should also use your professional name in your Flickr profile. I have done this and it means that my Flickr page comes up on the third page of Google. Since this website is my primary website, that isn’t a problem for me but if Flickr was my main online presence then I’d definitely change my username to get better Google results.
Use Your Profile
Your profile is your friend: you can use it to host a mini CV and a statement about your work. Make sure that you include contact information and if you’ve got other professional websites, link to them. Don’t make it too long – people simply won’t bother to read it – and don’t link to anything you don’t want Google to find!
Think carefully about what you say in your profile since it’s part of the professional face you’re presenting to the world and it could be read by curators, collectors and fans of your work. However, Flickr is a fairly informal space so it’s OK to be a bit more relaxed than you might be elsewhere. Go with what you’re comfortable with.
Set Things To Public
You can set individual photos to different privacy levels in Flickr but if you want people to be able to see your work then you need to set your photos to public. You should also set your photos to bloggable to encourage other people to promote your work for you. Setting your images to ‘artwork/illustration’ instead of ‘photograph’, can help people to find your work since it’s possible to search just for ‘artwork/illustration’ on Flickr. If your artwork contains imagery that could be considered ‘unsafe’, then you should read the relevant section of the Flickr FAQ carefully and set your safety level accordingly but be aware that this may limit who can see your art.
Protect But Share
While I approve of Creative Commons in general, I don’t usually recommend it to other artists. However, if it’s appropriate for your work, then Flickr offers the full range of Creative Commons options. Personally I have kept traditional copyright on all my Flickr images because it’s important for me to retain full control over my work. However, I also put a note in my profile saying that it was fine to blog my images without asking but any commercial use needed my explicit permission.
Putting any image of original artwork up on the web is always a risk. Posting lower resolution photos limits the risk of people printing out copies but you do have to keep an eye out for people nabbing your images and claiming them as their own. If you’re really worried you can put watermarks in your images before you upload them to Flickr. However, I believe the best defence against this is to become well known online and I’ll be discussing ways to build up your internet art profile in later posts.
Tag Your Photos
Tags are one of the most useful tools on Flickr and can help you in lots of ways. Firstly, they make your own life much easier. For example, perhaps you have a series of artworks about the same subject but you uploaded the photos at different times. Instead of searching for each photo individually within your photostream and maybe missing some, you can do a search using your tags. You can also search for images which don’t have any tags, just in case you forgot to tag some of those particular photos.
Tags can also make it easier for other people to find your work because they can search for tags within the whole of Flickr or just in your account. Of course, this works better if you’ve got fairly specific tags; ‘painting’ will bring up thousands of images but since you can add more than one tag, you can label things in more than one way.
I usually use a combination of title, medium, themes, colours and materials for my tags.
For example, this image of Pin Ritual is tagged with the words, pin ritual; pins; art; performance; sculpture; white; repetition; domesticity; labour and textile art.
Decide How Pure You’re Going to Be
If you’re conceiving of your Flickr space as largely a portfolio for your work then you need to decide how pure you’re going to be. Are you going to show work in progress, related visual research or are you just going to show finished pieces of art?
You also need to decide if your personal photos belong on your artistic Flickr account. It is possible to completely separate out the personal and professional by having more than one Flickr account but there does seem to be a fairly large acceptance of mixing photos on Flickr. Including a few more personal photos can make you seem more human rather than less professional, although obviously if photos are really personal then it might not be appropriate to have them within a professional space! However, you can also set privacy levels on individual photos so that only people you’ve marked as family and/or friends can see them (apparently you can send personal invites to non-Flickr members, something I only learnt today).
If you do want to maintain two completely separate accounts on Flickr then make sure the personal one doesn’t link to your professional one and doesn’t use your real name in any way or Google will probably join up the dots.
Organise Your Photos
Organising your photos into collections and sets can help your Flickr be both more professional and more accessible. You can set your Flickr page to show both your photostream and your collections or sets and I’d strongly recommend doing so because it allows people to instantly find your art without having to trail through lots of possibly unrelated images (this is particularly important if you do decide to mix personal and professional photos).
Use Descriptive Text
Every image that you upload to Flickr has a space underneath where you can write a description – use it! It’s also a good idea to write more general explanations in the descriptive text box of your collections and sets because that provides people with more background to your art, all nicely presented in easily digested little bites.
If you want people to visit your other web spaces, then put a link in the image text. This is what I do with The Diary Project images on Flickr: they all have the same standard explanatory text, with just the date altered and a html link to the Diary Project blog where people can find out more about specific images. My other art images don’t have a direct weblink within the text box and I’ve just worked out that this is why the Diary Project gets considerably more visits from Flickr than this site does.
Right, that’s all for this part, next we’re moving on to the importance of taking part in the community aspects of Flickr.
Get more help
If you’d like more information about building your online presence, check out the free resources section.
I am also available for online consulting if you need one-on-one help.