Permanent Tourist

The personal website of Mark Howells-Mead

Photo sharing

It’s sometimes hard for me to believe that I’ve been sharing my photos online for such a long time. I developed prior versions of what has become myself, which contained photo sections similar to photo sharing sites like Flickr, with galleries and keywords. When Flickr itself arrived, I joined up in late 2004 and began posting photos regularly in March 2005. It wasn’t long before I realised that I could share my photos without having to wrestle with web development and so I transferred my attention to Flickr fully for photo work in 2005. Since then, the vast majority of the photos I’ve shared have been posted to Flickr, and only within the last couple of years has my own website once again begun to expand with new galleries and many more photos.

An early posting to Flickr, of friends at a meet-up in spring 2005
An early posting to Flickr, of friends at a meet-up in spring 2005

Joining Flickr was one of the choices which helped me to remain in Switzerland. After joining various groups, getting to know other Switzerland-based members online, and helping to organize meet-ups across Switzerland, I gained new friends and acquaintances. We all relished receiving and leaving comments on one another’s photos and I took over the running of the Switzerland group for photos of the country I call home in May 2005. The group has grown to be come the de facto Flickr destination for this country, with nearly 8,000 members having posted nearly 170,000 photos over the last seven years or so.

The destination of choice for the amateur photographer quickly shifted to Facebook when their photo service took off and was improved. Many casual users of Flickr, who simply wanted to share their snaps with their friends and family, find Facebook’s solution much more usable and adequate for their needs. The result of this shift has been a marked decline in the amount of people viewing photos and commenting on Flickr, and whilst many bespoke groups are still highly active–in particular those dedicated to specific topics as well as professional and serious amateur photographers–those with less decimated followers have tailed off considerably.

With the rise of mobile phone photography, apps started to spring up to accommodate these devices. What appears to be the most successful of them, at least for those users who want to share snaps via social media tools like Twitter, is Instagram. The photos themselves are primarily shared after being edited using preset effects filters which are fairly restrained, in the rule. Two recent changes to the Instagram system have been fairly major; the first being accessibility of profile pages (such as my own) by non-users, and the second is that the seamless integration with Twitter has been disabled. This latter change has made the system less appealing, as where photos used to be directly visible in desktop apps such as Twitter’s own, one now has to visit the Instagram website to see them.

My first photo posted to Flickr using the latest version of their iPhone app
My first photo posted to Flickr using the latest version of their iPhone app

However, just in the nick of time, Flickr has stepped up their game and released a major update to their free app which includes not only the filter option so beloved by the hipster snapshot photographer, but also a more advanced integrated editing tool, geolocation tagging (for displaying photos on a map) and direct sharing options for Facebook, Twitter and Flickr’s own share-via-email option. This new way of sharing photos to Flickr is a serious contender for my social media photo sharing, in part due to the extensive nature of my account there and the extensive range of features which services like Instagram can’t offer. Although part of the redevelopment of my own website is to extend the portfolio section, my more casual, snapshot-type photos will now be destined for my long-standing Flickr account.

I’ll be keeping my Instagram account for now, as it serves its purpose well and I particularly like the direct in-app community experience, where users choose to share their photos only with selected friends, acquaintances and contacts. I deleted my Tumblr account in advance of the relaunch of my website, as it was only ever intended to be a stop-gap until better options became available.

As well as my website, I now only have photo-based accounts at Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram. It’s my next goal to bring more focus to my photos in as few scattered locations as possible, so I will be continuing to assess which of these services are truly worthwhile. Sharing my photos through many channels has been useful to varying degrees and an interesting experiment to see what kind of feedback and interaction can be gained. But, for example, my membership of has only really resulted in a one-way experience: sharing photos in a visually attractive environment. Comments from other users are all but limited to “Come and see my photos if you have time“, which offers me no real benefit. My new website layout now fulfills the purpose of presenting photos in a linkable and attractive way, so I doubt that I will retain my account there for much longer.

So, in short, feel free to join me or add me as a contact at Flickr, and I’ll look forward to hearing your comments and seeing your photos too.

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