People know Flickr as a photo storage and sharing platform, but the best parts need your money, so is it worth paying to subscribe?
Flickr was once created by Canadian startup Ludicorp when it first launched in Vancouver back in 2004, but has since evolved and changed ownership more than once. Most recently, SmugMug acquired it in 2018, and subsequently instituted some changes without changing the name. SmugMug is also a photo-sharing site, albeit more focused on professional photographers.
The concept behind Flickr is pretty basic: upload photos to store them, and share them with others, if you wish. It’s hardly the only cloud service offering that, but in light of the impending changes with Google Photos, where free storage will be vastly reduced, Flickr’s longstanding presence may be an alternative.
You can always access your Flickr account and see your images on any web browser. However, there’s also a separate desktop app for Windows PC and Mac called Uploadr paid members can use to back up images. Flickr’s mobile apps for Android, iOS and iPadOS also have a similar feature.
There is an app that works natively on Chrome OS, so Chromebooks aren’t left out. Neither smart TVs nor game consoles have one, so if you want to view photos on the big screen, you will need to use other methods. There is no native Chromecast support, though you can display images in random order by setting Flickr as your preferred photo source when you select the Chromecast in the Google Home app on your phone or tablet.
The lack of straightforward TV support is a vexing one. It requires too many workarounds. Even if you mirror your phone or tablet screen to the TV, the resolution will be off.
Once upon a time, before SmugMug’s acquisition, users were able to get up to 1TB of storage for free. That was drastically reduced to a mere 1,000 photos with some restrictions. Photos could be no larger than 200MB, and it capped 1080p HD video files to 1GB.
You’ll notice the limits refer to the number of images, while the caps for each file are pretty generous, especially for photos. If a user posted, say, 500 high-resolution images that were an average size of even half the limit at 100MB, you’d still have 50GB worth of data in the cloud for free. Ultimately, though, the overall cap is going to be 1TB.
Part of the reason for the move, as Flickr outlines in this blog post, was to put users and members above advertisers. It’s a roundabout way of saying that it wanted to ensure some level of user privacy by not selling any of the data to advertisers. Instead, paying members would sustain the business. But there are ads on the site and app when you use it as a free user. They aren’t tied to your photos in any way, they’re just a way for Flickr to monetize those free accounts.
The Pro subscription comes in three different options. You can go with a monthly plan (plus taxes) at $8.99/month, or pay in three-month quarters at $24.99/month. If you choose to go with an annual plan, it costs $78/month, breaking down to $6.49/month.
Flickr adds an incentive in the annual plan by way of some extra access. They’re not necessarily exclusive features on the platform itself, but rather discounts to others. For instance, going Pro makes you eligible to get 50% off a SmugMug subscription. It also gets you two months free of Adobe’s Photography Plan, 35% off a Capture One subscription, and $35 off up to four photo books from Blurb. There are a few others on top of those.
All Flickr Pro plans retain the photo/video limits and data caps, yet give you unlimited data. They also remove all ads, and provide stats about traffic coming to your photos. The Uploadr desktop apps for PC and Mac are also only for members.
As part of its acquisition, SmugMug brought over the ability to print images in a number of ways. That includes paper, canvas and metal prints, as well as photo books. Flickr takes care of the prints, while outsourcing the books to Blurb and Chatbooks.
You can easily order in Canada, where shipping is expedited, but not free. If you have any problem with the order or quality, you can email Flickr within 30 days.
Serious amateur and pro photographers should pause before jumping onboard if file formats are important. Flickr outlines its support here but the gist is that only JPG, PNG and GIF are allowed. No RAW files.
And if you do upload something that isn’t on the approved list, it automatically converts to JPG. Here’s another tidbit: “Images can be no more than 31.25 times wider than they are tall.” That basically rules out wide panoramic shots that may have those types of proportions. The boundaries are a little broader for video with nine formats on the list, including the most popular ones.
One of the neat things it does, however, is re-size your images to make them easier to share. For example, if you wanted to send one to a friend who would view it on their phone, or live in another country where speed and bandwidth aren’t so good, you could choose a lower-res version.
Another is to curate who can see what photos. For instance, if you create an album of a baby or child, and only want few eyes to see them, you can make it private and send special links for those whom you choose to have access.
While a social media site like Facebook can also do that, it’s safer to do it with Flickr. The reason why is because it won’t use the photos as data to sell to advertisers. Facebook has already shown a willing disregard for the security of user photos, though Flickr hasn’t been without some egg on its face, either. You can also apply copyright licences to your photos and video. You can even set it so that they can only see or download the low-res versions, if you want.
Still, you do need to be mindful that Flickr won’t necessarily put privacy first in every aspect. Before and after uploading images, double-check the settings to ensure only the photos you want to be public are actually public. Since you can also apply tags to photos and videos for easier organization, you will want to be a little vigilant.
Compared to Google Photos, Flickr isn’t as convenient in device compatibility, but is easier to share albums with others. That includes the limits and restrictions you can impose upon them. The free tier also has no 16-megapixel photo quality restriction like Google’s does.