Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Slicker photo sharing with flickr


By John Roling

Now that photography has moved swiftly into the digital realm, photo-sharing sites have popped up all over the Internet. With so many choices, where do you begin? Well, Ludicorp's flickr.com (yes, with the lower-case proper name) would be a good place to start.

Flickr, an online photo community, emphasizes the social aspect of photography. It's taken many features of social networking sites like Friendster, or Orkut, and applied it to photography in some pretty unique and exciting ways.


One of the best aspects of flickr is the amount of control you have over your images and how you share them. Sharing is based on your social network. You have friends, family, and contacts, and you can assign who can see certain photos based on those classifications. This is if you want to limit who can see your work, otherwise you can simply post your photos as public for everyone to see.

That's not to say that you have no control over a public photo. flickr allows you to assign a Creative Commons copyright license to all of your photos. This allows you to designate what type of copyright to apply to your work. If you want to let the photo be freely shared, you can do that, but you can also limit sharing to non-profit situations, or to anyone as long as you receive credit for taking the shot. The screenshot in Figure A shows some of the copyright options.


Setting your copyright licensing. (click for larger image)

The amount of choices may seem daunting, but the interface and tools make it easy to classify your photos and even set defaults that apply to all of your photographs. In addition to the social and copyright choices, you can also tag your photos.


Tagging is a major part of flickr. A tag is simply a keyword you've assigned to your photo. If your picture is of a sunset in Cancun during your 2002 vacation, you might tag the photo with Sunset, Cancun, 2002, and Vacation. Then you (or other people if your photo is public) can search for collections of similar photos with similar tags.

For example, searching for the tag of "sunset" on your collection will give you every photo that you've tagged with the word sunset. You can also search all of flickr and come up with every public photo in the service that has that same tag.

Also, you don't have to rely solely on the tags that you add. Any of your contacts can tag your photos as well, as shown in Figure B.


The popular tags screen. (click for larger image)

So if one of your contacts notices the vacation photo I referenced in the above paragraph, they can add other tags that make sense to them. Maybe the sunset was overlooking the ocean, or maybe they thought the orange color of the sunset was particularly striking. In either case they could simply add the tags of ocean and orange respectively.