Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Ultimate Guide to Becoming Popular on Flickr

How do you make your photos stand out among 6 billion others?

With over 80 million unique visitors per month, Flickr represents an unbeatable way to get attention for your photos.  But with over 51 million registered users, you're not the only one trying to get noticed.  Here's a step-by-step guide for what you need to do to become popular on Flickr.

Step 1) Put Your Best Foot Forward


Nobody wants to look at your average photos - they only want to see the beautiful ones.

Your Photostream should contain only great images if you want to get noticed on Flickr.

If you're serious about getting attention for your photos, you need to make sure that all of the pictures in your Photostream are great.  Viewers won't take the time to wade through your "good enough" photos to find the gems - so make sure every photo is a gem.

If you already have an account, and it's full of shots that don't highlight your best work, consider making your lower quality images private.  If that idea sounds too time-consuming, you may want to register for a second Flickr account, and use this new account specifically to show off your best work.

Make your not-so-great Flickr photos private.
 
Configure the layout of your photostream to maximize each photo's appeal by setting it to display Medium sized photos.  When someone looks at your photostream, the larger the photos are, the better the chance they won't just scroll right past it.  You can configure your photostream layout here.  Make sure you select "Medium + sets" or "Medium + collections", so that the viewer can easily discover other great photos you've taken.

Configure your Flickr Photostream layout to use Medium size images.

If you haven't already, upgrade to a Pro account. For $24.95 per year, you get to upload an unlimited number of photos plus some other goodies.  But the real benefit is that you get to see Stats about who is viewing your photos, so you can figure out which of your photos is drawing interest from people.  Once you've used these stats to determine which of your photos are interesting,  you can use that information to improve the quality of the photos you take in the future.



Step 2) Don't Spam Your Photostream


Nobody likes spam, especially photo spam.

Strongly related to the previous step, make sure you're not posting too many photos per-day to your Photostream.  Posting more than 3 shots a day is, in my opinion, asking too much of your Flickr contacts and people looking at your Photostream.  Remember, you should only be uploading the best. Be sure to avoid these common photography errors.

Add only great photos to your Flickr Photostream.

While you don't want to post too much, the opposite is also true. If you don't post for long periods of time, interest in your photos may wane.  Make sure you post on a regular basis. Several photos every week is a good benchmark.


Step 3) Use Creative Commons Licensing


Here's how you get strangers to do your marketing for you.

Let your photos be found with Flickr's Creative Commons search to attract attention.

As I've written about before, a Creative Commons license on your photos is a great way to get your photos noticed, because it lets people freely use your images on their own websites.  You don't give away any of your rights to the photos, it just means people can share them - essentially acting as your free marketing team.

There are several ways you can modify the license to best suit your needs:

Attribution
Whoever uses your image must give you credit.

Noncommercial
Your photos can't be used for commercial purposes.

No Derivative Works
Your photos can be freely used only in their original form.

Share Alike
Your photos can be modified, but only if they use the same type of license.

I recommend you use the Attribution license, and if you're just starting out, also allow your work to be used for commercial purposes.  For those trying hard to get noticed, having your work used in a commercial setting with attribution can be a huge boost.


Step 4) Make it Easy to Find Your Photos


If you want to get found, you need to make it easy to find you.

To start, be sure to give your photos good, descriptive titles.  It can be hard to be original when you're uploading photos every day, but the title of a photo is the first aspect that Flickr looks at when a user is performing a search.  If the user tries to find "Ferris Wheel", but your image is labeled "IM104", you may have just lost a fan.

A good photo, but titling it IM104 makes it hard to find.

Add tags to all of your photos.  Tags are an extra way to describe your image beyond the title, and allow you be more descriptive without being clunky.  You should tag the subject of your photo, the location, the primary colors, the time of day it was taken, and anything else you can think of that someone might search for.  If there is someone looking into the camera, label it 'portrait'.  If there is an animal, don't just label it 'tiger', but also label it 'animal', 'cat', and 'yellow'.

Add lots of tags to your photos to make them easy to find.

Add location information to your photos with Geotags.  Geotags are information about where a photo was taken, and people often search for photos from a particular place.  Because geotags are so specific and reliable, if a user searches for 'Paris', a photo that is geotagged as being in Paris may show up before pictures that are just tagged or titled 'Paris'.

Flickr Location Search is based on the geotags in the a photo.


Step 5) Make Friends


If you want to get noticed, it helps to have a lot of friends helping you out.

You can encourage other Flickr users to discover your photos by going out and discovering theirs.  Flickr has a lot of ways to find great photos - you can look at photos they've marked as interesting (more on that in a step 6), view a calendar of the last month, and even view great photos on a map of the world (another reason to geotag).

When you find a photo you like, add it as a Favorite.  The user whose photo you Favorited will get notified and may take the time to check out your own photos, and return the favor.  

If you like a photo you find, add it as a Favorite.

Try not to favor too many photos though, as it will become apparent quickly whether or not you have discriminating tastes.

What you can do an unlimited amount of is comment on other people's photos.  Flickr users love to get comments on their photos, and again, may return the favor. Make sure your comments are valuable and on topic.

Comment on photos to establish a network of Flickr friends.

Another way to directly share your work with others is to send your best photos to Flick Groups.  Groups are created by Flickr users, and are a pool of images that have something in common.  There are over a million Groups already setup on Flickr, so there is definitely one for your photos.  

Flickr has 262 groups devoted to Ferris Wheels.

Send your photos only to the most relevant Groups, and don't spam the Group with photos.  If you send your photo to more than 5 Groups, you hurt the chances of Flickr marking your photo as interesting.  Remember, nobody likes spam, not even Flickr.

The final way to make friends on Flickr is to add people as Contacts.  A Contact is someone whose photos you like, and their photos will show up on your front page.  You're again trying to get reciprocity here - if you add a person as a contact, they may add you back.

Adding contacts is another good way to make connections on Flickr.


Step 6) Take Interesting Photos


There's no better way to get attention for your photos than to take great ones.

Flickr's Explore page showcases great photos, and you need to try and get seen on it.  The previous steps in this guide have all been working towards this goal.

Get your photo here, and you've got it made.

Though Flickr won't disclose exactly how they decide a photo is interesting, we know that in general terms a photo is more interesting when it gets a lot of attention - when people comment or Favorite it.  If you're been following the steps in this guide, then you've built up a network of people who will be checking out your photos on a regular basis and doing just that.

Here are some other tips to increase your chances of your photos being marked as Interesting according to Flickr:

  • Upload photos with vibrant colors. These will stand out more amount the other thumbnails on Flickr's recent uploads page.
  • Upload photos early in the morning. This gives more time for people to comment on and Favorite your photos throughout the day, and that increases it's chance of being marked as interesting.
  • Saturday is a slow day for Flickr, which means it's a good day to upload, because there's just less competition.

P.S. Though it's not Flickr, you can also get exposure for your photos by getting it on the Water Marquee Facebook Fan page.  Any images watermarked with Water Marquee are eligible, just send it to me at john@watermarquee.com.