On TWiP Episode #239, one of the topics of discussion was the newest layoffs at Yahoo!, specifically of senior Flickr support staff. The layoffs, which apparently eliminated some of Flickr’s most dedicated fans within the company, are just another indication of the low priority Yahoo! has assigned to Flickr.
As a result, photographers are looking for alternatives to Flickr, just in case Yahoo! decides to shut down the service – or if the service doesn’t keep up with photographers’ needs. Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives to Flickr (too many to list in one article), both paid and free. In this article, I take a look at my top free alternatives to Flickr.
Of all the social networks out there, Google+ is easily the best suited for photographers. First, if you follow the work of any professional photographers, they’re pretty likely to be on Google+. Second, the engineers behind Google+ seem to have a special affinity for photographers.
The thumbnails for images attached to posts, for example, are nice and large, and the “lightbox” that the images display in when you click on them to see a larger version allow you to also see things like the photo’s metadata, comments from other people, and even a histogram, if you’re so inclined.
Basic organization tools like albums are also available, and uploading photos is drop-dead easy. iPhone and Android users can also upload images directly from their devices (though I wish there was a dedicated iPad app, you can use the iPhone app on the iPad).
Google bought online photo editing service Picnik back in 2010, and some of its features are making their way into Google+. When you upload a photo, Google+ lets you use its “Creative Kit” to adjust things like exposure, sharpness, and rotation. It goes beyond that, allowing for vintage effects like Daguerreotype and Polaroid to be applied to photos as well.
Bottom-line: Google+ offers a good, robust solution for those looking to share their photos in a more “social” setting.
“Big” is the order of the day at 500px. Images are displayed at a fairly large size, taking up much of your screen real estate. That’s not to say that it’s just a fancy slideshow-style website, however. 500px has a lot of functionality that’s carefully laid out with your photos taking center-stage.
This service is all about putting your best foot forward. They ask that you upload your best work to your account, and while there may be a few folks who don’t adhere to this standard, most do. One look at the Editor’s Choice images and you can see right away that the users of 500px do indeed care about maintaining a high standard on the site.
The service is still growing, so not all the “social” features of Flickr have made it over to 500px just yet. You can comment and rate photos, create a blog, follow your friends, and even maintain a Facebook-esque “Wall”. Groups, forums, a Flickr importer and more features are in the works, but the service is a photographer-favorite, and with good reason.
In TWiP #238, Frederick Van Johnson interviewed Josh Wattles, the Advisor-in-Chief from DeviantArt. While this site has been on my personal radar as an awesome design resource since my graphic design days, it was kind of a “Duh!” moment for me when I realized that there are a lot of photographers who also use DeviantArt.
In fact, according to Josh Wattles, 31% of uploads to DeviantArt are in the photography category, and more than 1.7 million of DeviantArt’s members are photographers. There are also over 3000 photography-related groups and forums on the site.
What makes DeviantArt a fascinating choice for photographers is the cross-disciplinary nature of the service. From film and animation, to literature, graphic design, and traditional art, DeviantArt is home to artists of multiple genres working in many different mediums. And, while it’s true that to become a better photographer, you have to look at the work of other photographers, that also holds true for looking at art created in other forms as well. DeviantArt is an ideal place to do this, and to collaborate with other artists too.
1x.com is pretty close to an online museum or gallery for photography. The look and feel of the site reflect this – lots of white space, an elegant layout, and a great deal of focus on the image are the hallmarks of 1x.com’s aesthetic.
The site boasts a very active set of forums on photography, as well as a really cool Critique feature. Here, photographers can post images they would like critiques on, and as opposed to the one-liners that you normally see in the comments attached to photos on most sharing sites, the feedback posted on images in this section are usually a couple of paragraphs long and are pretty well thought-out. It’s a great feature that more sites ought to adopt.
The site’s editors drive traffic to the best images, which are curated carefully. They also offer a lot of tools for members to sell their images as canvas or framed prints. 1x.com has also managed to get gallery managers, editors, authors and art directors buying from them.
Those are my picks for free alternatives to Flickr. Like Flickr, all of the above services, except for Google+, have “pro” accounts that add functionality, space, or other features for a fee. Of course, there are a lot more alternatives to Flickr; as I said at the start of this article, there’s too many to mention here. If you’ve got one that you’d like to tell us about, leave us a comment.
In Part 2, I’ll take a look at paid-only services like SmugMug, Zenfolio and PhotoShelter. If you have a suggestion for something we should take a look at, let us know in the comments below.