So what is Flickr?
At its most basic level, Flickr is a photo hosting service. Photo hosting services are sites on the web where you can upload your own photos, either free or for a small charge. These photos can then be shared with other users of the internet without the need for your own website space. You can read this Wikipedia article if you want to find out more about the concept of photo sharing.
Flickr is not the only photo hosting service, there are plenty of others including Photobucket, Kodak, Fotoblog and Zoomr. I have used a couple of other photohosting services in the past but then switched completely to Flickr because it was so much better. I haven’t used every single photo hosting site so I don’t know how all the others compare. That said, I do think that Flickr has a lot of features that make it ideal for artists and we’ll get to these shortly.
Why do I need a photo hosting service?
Unless you are already in a position to put up a dedicated website where you can host your own photos then in order to make a simple visual portfolio online, you’ll need somewhere to host images.
Even if you do have a dedicated website on your own domain name, you’ll probably still need a photo hosting site. I find I use Flickr just as much now as I did before this site launched.
Later in this series, I’m also going to be strongly encouraging artists to blog and if you’re an artist blogger then being able to quickly and easily share your photos is vital: nothing is more dull than a visual blog with no visuals – I know, I’ve done it!
However, right now we’re going to concentrate on how to use Flickr to make a simple online visual portfolio.
The Advantages of Flickr
It’s probably obvious by now that I’m a fan of Flickr. There are lots of reasons for this:
Flickr Is Easy To Use
If you have a computer, an internet connection and a way to get your images onto your computer then you can use Flickr – it really is that simple. Even as a beginner you should be able to upload images, label them, sort them into galleries, tag them and very quickly end up with a presentable display of your art.
Flickr looks good
This is a personal opinion and you might disagree but I think that Flickr has a clean, pleasant interface that looks reasonably professional. In addition, unlike somewhere like Facebook, you can also do a certain amount of restructuring: it’ll never be as adaptive and individual as a personal website but you can have a decent amount of control over how your images are displayed.
Flickr is community based
This is hugely important because in effect, Flickr already contains a massive captive audience. What’s more, it’s a captive audience who are unusually sympathetic to visual culture and already used to looking at each other’s images and giving feedback. Naturally a lot depends on how you approach people but I’ve honestly found the majority of people on Flickr to be very approachable and sympathetic towards artists. You can never overestimate the importance of an interested captive audience, it’s like gold dust to any artist and remarkably hard to find. That audience already exists on Flickr; even if you already have your own website, do you really want to ignore that audience?
Flickr Makes Networking Easy
This is related to the community based aspect of Flickr. There are lots of tools on Flickr that break the massive user base down into smaller, move navigable chunks. I’ll be talking about these tools in detail in a later post.
Flickr Is Cheap
Flickr is either free with ads and limitations or $25 a year for a more extensive ad-free service. As a way of making a simple yet presentable visual portfolio that already comes with an in-built sympathetic audience, this is a complete bargain!
Of course, Flickr isn’t perfect, many Flickr users have been unhappy about some of the changes which have occurred since Yahoo bought the site in 2005. In particular it may not be the best choice if you make art which is very sexually explicit or graphically violent because Flickr does have restrictions on adult content. In addition, you can’t actively use Flickr for selling. However, there are lots of artists on Flickr and I’ve not heard of people being kicked off for promoting their art on there. While it would be wise to avoid things like having prices on your images, I’m pretty sure that you could link to a selling site like Etsy in your profile without any trouble since I’ve seen plenty of people doing just that. This article from Wikipedia and the Flickr guidelines give more background detail and should give you a better idea if Flickr is a place you’d feel comfortable.
The next article in this series will concentrate on the nuts and bolts of setting up an account on Flickr and some handy tips for making the most of it.
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.