Facebook vs. Flickr: Where to Share?

by Aaron on May 18, 2010

We talk about photographers being social and sharing work via social media, but when to comes to sharing photos, does it make more sense to share pictures on Facebook (with its wide audience and photo album and tagging features) or Flickr (with the photo-centric site offering more photo-centric features)?

Father and son surf lesson in Morro Bay, CA - image by Michael

Using Facebook for Photo Sharing

While Facebook is a general-purpose social network, they have a popular feature for sharing photos. Facebook allows users to create any number of photo albums. Files are automatically resized for Facebook’s interface, and the user can provide captions although Facebook doesn’t support keywords, camera information, or other metadata that is part of a typical photographer’s workflow. In theory, Facebook offers privacy settings on a per-album level, allowing one to easily choose whether photos are public, only seen by friends, by friends of friends, or private.

Facebook is a people-centric system, with photos being one of many bits of content that are ultimately associated with an individual. Facebook’s “killer feature” for photo sharing is that they pioneered the concept of visually tagging users in a photo. Once you’ve uploaded a photo to Facebook, you can “tag” your friends in the photo, which will make the photo available from that friend’s profile page as well as having the photo shared (on both your Facebook Wall and your friend’s Facebook Wall) as being tagged. With seemingly everyone having a Facebook profile, the audience is there.

Facebook’s terms of service essentially give them a license to do anything they want with your content. I mentioned this last week when looking at recent Facebook issues. Facebook provides no options for a photographer to indicate licensing or usage terms.

Using Flickr for Photo Sharing

Flickr is more of a single-purpose social network than Facebook, but that single purpose is photo sharing, and it does it very well. Users can organizes photos into a variety of groups (sets, collections, and galleries), with the ability to restrict visibility to groups of Flickr contacts. Having been designed for photographers, Flickr supports a wide range of metadata. Keywords are the most obvious (Flickr calls them tags), but Flickr also provides (unless the individual user has disabled the feature) the ability to see the camera’s EXIF data including camera model, shutter speed, aperture, and other supporting information.

Beyond the rich metadata features, Flickr’s other big strength is in its communities. There are Flickr groups (consisting of photo libraries and discussion forums) for nearly any topic imaginable. Whether it’s a piece of equipment, a theme, a location, a color, or any other of thousands of classifications, there’s a Flickr group of fellow enthusiasts devoted to that topic. As photographers we often talk about specialization into a niche, and Flickr allows us to easily connect with others in that space. In the past year, Flickr added the ability to tag people in photos, but it’s a much less-used feature than Facebook’s offering.

Flickr’s terms of service are more restrictive, only granting permisson for the photos to be used on the Flickr website and within whichever license a photographer chooses. Flickr allows photographers to designate photos as “All Rights Reserved” or licensed under a few different Creative Commons Licenses.

What Are You Doing?

Last night I asked (both on Twitter and Facebook) how folks choose whether to share photos on Facebook vs. Flickr. Here’s a sampling of responses:

  • “I never put any photos on FB. I (as far as I know) own my photos on Flickr…so most of the Flickr Wins.” – @harrisja
  • “Facebook for my family. Flickr for everybody else…though that seems to no longer be the case with the privacy changes.” – @scottyiseri
  • “I almost never post photos on FB because they can take them and use them for whatever. Plus I hate FB more w each passing day” – @ephanypdx
  • “Flickr photos get a wider audience thanks to group etc.” – Steve Eshom
  • ” I use various services, from my phone, I post on both, as well as Tumblr. From my camera – mostly to Flickr – and I’ve linked my FB account. Anything I make public at Flickr is noted on my wall.” – Gary Walter

My Conclusions/Recommendations: Facebook for People; Flickr for Everything Else

Which to use? Why? Looking at it from the perspective of a photographer who wants to get the most exposure (to the right audience), my general recommendation is to use Facebook primarily for photos of your friends, family, and other small groups of contacts (where you can use the tagging features to spread your work to a very targeted group) and to use Flickr for more general photos, large public events, and fine art. Of course you can always cross-publish, but for the best use of each platform, I default to Flickr for most things with Facebook for the more personal connections.

How about you? How do you decide where to post?

Photo by mikebaird, used under Creative Commons licensing

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