Flickr Needs Your Help… Should you care? Should you help?

In case you are really new to photography and haven’t heard of Flickr.  Flickr is the world’s largest online photographer-focused community. Flickr is an online photo management and sharing community that is used by over 100 million photographers worldwide.

flickr logo

Flickr boasts that it hosts tens of billions of photos as well as over 2 million user groups dedicated to a myriad of photographic genres and topics.  Those are impressive numbers by any standard.

The reason we are talking about it today…  On December 19th, 2019, the Founder and CEO of SmugMug – which is the company who now owns Flickr…  the Founder and CEO, Don MacAskill penned an open letter to Flickr users on the Flickr Blog.

The letter began with the headline:  The world’s most-beloved, money-losing business needs your help.

He goes on to explain that two years ago, Flickr was losing tens of millions of dollars a year, before SmugMug, stepped in to purchase it from Verizon Media who intended to shut it down – which would have erased the community and tens of billions of photos.

In the letter MacAskill details many of the improvements that have been made by SmugMug and then makes his pitch that the platform is still losing money and that SmugMug needs more paying members to keep the site alive.

If you would like to read the entire letter – Click Here

Full disclosure: I am a Flickr PRO member.  I have had a Flickr profile since 2011 – which I haven’t really used.  I will explain that momentarily.  I am not being paid or compensated to discuss this topic.  Seeing the news about the site shutting down made me reconsider my thoughts on the website and that’s what I want to share with you.

My timeline with Flickr

I signed up for a free account in 2011 to secure my profile name – JoeEdelman.  At the time I saw little use for the platform.  Most of the images that I saw were either very amateur or from genres like nature, landscapes, wildlife, travel, etc.  More importantly I didn’t need a way to store my images online and I saw little to no marketing value in Flickr since it was all photographers and at the time my customers were models, modeling agencies and clothing wholesalers.

A few times since, I have uploaded my portfolio and then wound up deleting the images.  First because I just couldn’t justify the time to participate in the site to grow a following that had little value to me at that point in my career and the second time I had uploaded a portfolio and then deleted it was after I had been an Olympus user for a year or so and then became an Olympus Visionary – most of the images that I had posted there were shot with Nikons.

My Flickr profile
My Flickr profile –

Fast forward to the end of 2019 and the photo blogs lit up with the news that Flickr needs help and is in financial trouble.  Did you ever notice that it feels like the blogs revel in the opportunity to report the demise of companies?  Sadly, those same blogs practice poor journalism because they simply want views so that they can serve ads.

It is important to report to you that this news does not mean that Flickr is on the verge of going away.  How do I know this, and the photography blogs don’t?  Because a professional news source also reported this story before the photo blogs did and the professional news source did what the photo blogs could have and should have done – it contacted SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill for clarification.  In an interview with USA Today’s Jefferson Graham, MacAskill explained that:  “It’s losing a lot less money than it was, but it’s not yet making enough…. We cannot continue to operate it at a loss as we’ve been doing.”

“We’ve gone to great lengths to optimize Flickr for cost savings wherever possible, but the increasing cost of operating this enormous community and continuing to invest in its future will require a small price increase early in the new year, so this is truly the very best time to upgrade your membership to Pro,” he said.

The reporter asked: “What happens if customers don’t respond?”  MacAskill answered that he has several backup plans.  “This is a way to find out if we need to go to one of them,” he said.

The reporter also asked: “How dire is the situation?” “It’s not that dire,” MacAskill told USA TODAY. “But we do need to get more cash in the door.” He explained that fewer than 1% of Flickr users have Pro accounts, and that if he could get just over 1%, that would be enough to keep the lights on.

More importantly, MacAskill explained to the writer that he wrote the letter to get honest feedback from customers on whether they’re interested in Flickr continuing: “Is this the right way to go? We’re about to find out.”

Let’s take just a moment and once again call for all of YOU in the photography community to hold the blogs and the YouTubers to a higher standard.  The articles that appeared in PetaPixel, and F-Stoppers just regurgitate the open letter posted on the Flickr blog and ironically the people who ultimately care about this news are already Flickr members and had already received an email with the same message direct to their inbox. I will give a few points… while they also reported on the letter, the writer did offer a personal perspective and additional thoughts for the reader to consider.

If you would like to review these articles for yourself:

Letter from Flickrs CEO:

USA Today Interview:

Petapixel article:

F-Stoppers article: article:

How does Flickr work?

You can join Flickr for FREE and upload your 1,000 favorite photos and videos, plus you will have access to their tools to edit, organize, and share them all. Flickr will show ads on your account with this plan.

To become a PRO member, you have a choice of the Monthly Plan which is $5.99 month or the Annual Plan which is $49.99 that brings it down to $4.17 cents a month.  That is less than $1.00 per week.

The perks of a Pro subscription

  • Unlimited Storage. The only limit is your imagination. All Pros may now upload as many photos as you can take, always at full resolution.
  • Ad-Free Browsing. Focus on what matters with a fully ad-free Flickr experience for you and your visitors.
  • Advanced Stats. See which of your photos are trending now, and which have performed the best over the life of your Flickr Pro account.
  • Premier Product Support. Skip the line. Flickr Pros now receive priority assistance from our new world-class support team.
  • Advanced Stats on Mobile. Stats in your pocket. All the photo stats you know and love, available in the app.
  • New 6K Photo Display Option. Look your best. Your images are beautifully optimized for any screen, from smartphone to jumbotron. Pro images display at resolutions up to 6K.
  • Partner Discounts
    • Annual Pro members get two complimentary months ($20 value) of the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan.
    • 20% off the Prime Lightroom preset bundle, based on film aesthetics with more than 100 variations.
    • With a 1-year subscription, you get 1 $35 Blurb photo book coupon per year (minimum $70 order).
    • A Unique Pixsy plan for Flickr Pro customers: 1,000 monitored images, standard scanning priority, unlimited case submission, 10 takedown notices.
    • A free month of classes from PHLEARN.
    • 20% off purchases from Peak Design and for new members a $25.00 gift card from Peak Design.

You can also upload videos of up to 10 minutes in length.

The partner discounts alone more than cover the cost of the first year.

Should photographers care or help?

My goal is not to tell you what to do – but as always, I am going to give you some things to think about.  It is my opinion that you shouldn’t “help” Flickr.  It is not your job or my job to “help” a company make money.  It does sound like SmugMug took one for the team (photography community) and saved Flickr without a fully baked business model or plan to make it viable.  So that’s on them.  Based on the CEO’s interview, it does at least sound reassuring that they have a plan with numerous options to keep it going.

I have had several people suggest that they should run a GoFundMe or Kickstarter to raise funds.  Sorry, but I think that is a horrible idea and honestly we need to stop supporting that behavior in our industry.

Why are we as a community giving companies like MagMod and Peak Design thousands of dollars up front to develop new product at our expense and then sell it to us at a profit?  I love both of those companies and have purchased quite a bit of their gear, which is not cheap.  They are making plenty of money on that gear and if they aren’t, they should seek advice from business advisors.  I’ll be darned if I am going to give them money for research and development of new products unless they are going to dramatically lower their prices.

My reasons for signing up for the PRO membership

  1. I want to put some of my older images back online because people ask about them – so I will create a few albums for my old Nikon images.
  1. People frequently ask to see the Olympus Micro four thirds images that I share in full resolution – I can do that with Flickr and make the pixel peepers happy.
  1. The discounts – duh!
  1. I frequently have to provide images to camera stores and tradeshows to promote my talks and events. The way that I do it now makes it a little challenging for them to preview the images before downloading.  Flickr will allow me to create private albums for each of my talk topics that I can share for download.

These four reasons allow me to easily justify a dollar a week.  To sweeten the pot – Flickr is offering a 25% discount on the Pro Membership beginning December 26th, 2019.  If you apply it annually, your next year is less than $38.00 which is less than 75 cents per week.

So maybe the platform isn’t for you or maybe you now have a better understanding of the options and opportunities it presents and feel like you should give it a try.  That’s what I will be doing at least for the next year.

Thanks for listening.

I discussed this topic in this episode of TOGCHAT LIVE


FTC Disclosure: No sponsors have paid for advertising or mentions in this article. Product links are Amazon Affiliate links for which I earn a small commission on purchases made.

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