Goodbye Flickr Goodbye 500px
Popular photo sharing sites like Flickr and 500px have lost their appeal and it might be time to say goodbye to them.
Today I’m getting rid of both my Flickr account and my 500px accounts. I had a Flickr Pro account (for five years) and a 500px Awesome account, but decided not to renew either when they came up this year.
The Thrill Is Gone
500px really caught my attention last year and I had high hopes for the platform. But, I lost faith in the changes they made, especially the way the site became score driven. I don’t want my photos displayed next to a popularity score, especially one that prone to being manipulated and driven by a secret algorithm.
I’ve already written at length about what went wrong with Flickr. Although I had planned to delete my account in April, it sat on my to-do list for so long because I once had such an affinity for the service. On a previous version of this blog I had a Flickr sidebar and it was the response I got to images I shared on Flickr, back in 2009, that helped fuel my move into serious photography.
While Flickr had a lot of fond memories for me and I had high hopes for 500px. But, as I wrote earlier this year, The Price Of Social Media Is Endless Adaptation. I don’t believe it makes sense to try and be on every platform out there and given the way things change, we have to make choices about where to invest our time (and money).
“There are just too many services out there. It takes too long to manage all those profiles. And, having a dead profile on a service is, in the eyes of many tech-savvy people, worse than having no profile at all.
It’s now just as important to jump off platforms that are dying or, depending on how you view things, too mainstream. Like the old saying goes, we are known by the company we keep; except now we are known by the Social Media company we are co-branded with!”
The reality was neither service was meeting my needs. I could spend hours trying to rework my presence on either site, but the simpler, cleaner and faster solution was simply to delete both accounts.
The Lure Of Validation
In many ways, I’ve started to question the value of social photography, which is my way of describing services that allow you to both share photos and also comment on, discuss and vote for images. Flickr originally started as an online gallery service; we used it to host images and share them with friends and family. But, over time, it became more social, as the forums grew, commenting on images became more popular and we started to “meet” other photographers there.
As a beginning photographer, this can be a deeply rewarding process. I can remember being thrilled if a photo attracted 100 views and really soaking up every positive comment. But, what starts out as welcome encourage can feed an unhealthy obsession with validation. As I mentioned last week, choosing who you listen to, becomes increasingly important as you seek to improve your photography.
And, I believe this whole dynamic is worse when the validation is clearly a numbers game, as it is on 500px (and to a lesser extent on Instagram).
The Hobbyist Or The Photographer
Some photographers have told me about the sense of community they find on Flickr and to a lesser extent on 500px. While I see evidence of that, it very much feels like a hobbyist community. When I use the word hobby, I don’t just mean doing it part-time, or occasionally. A hobby is more like an obsession; the hobbyist wants to hang around with other hobbyists, talk about the hobby all the time, obsess over its details.
As much as I love photography, I don’t want to spend all my time talking to other photographers. Sure, it can be fun to share stories and compare experiences. But, get any group of photographers together and eventually someone will start talking about chromatic aberration, focus-shift or barrel distortion. Too much shop-talk can give you a very insular outlook on photography and really take your the big creative prize.
“The technician always kills the artist”
– Peter Reardon
I firmly believe finding your voice as a photographer involves learning to communicate visually with non-photographers. This is a skill few books or blogs ever discuss and no workshop I’ve attended ever really addressed. It’s a skill that will broaden your appeal and help you find work and, I believe, it’s a skill that can be easy dampened hanging around online photo-hobby communities.
Where To From Here
While I’m going to keep my Instagram account, I won’t be hosting my main photographic work on any other sites for 2013. I have a small gallery on this site and there’s plenty I can do to improve here. Overwhelmingly, the photographers I admire showcase their best work on their own sites. Take a look at how Chase Jarvis, David duChemin, Ami Vitale and William Ellis do it.