2 Billion Photos on Flickr

- - Photography Business

… and they all… not going to say *it*.

TechCrunch reported a couple days ago that Flickr reached 2 Billion photos (here) and the lucky winning photo is:

Taken by Yukesmooks, who’s flickr page can be found (here). This photo evokes the famous cliché that I am sworn as a member of the professional photo community to never utter (unless I am dying). I think as a randomly selected image it perfectly represents the average of what you will find in the collection.
They are also reporting that Facebook has 4.1 Billion photos on their site. Blap.

What does it all mean? I just decided 5 seconds ago (really, I changed my mind as I was writing this) this is a good sign for professional photographers. It means people love photography and it means the photography business will be booming soon and talented professionals will be needed to shoot advertising and editorial for all the magazines (or websites) these photo lovers will buy. And, all the companies that sell cameras and photography equipment will need endorsements from pros and need multi-million dollar campaigns shot to support the boom. And, people will buy books and visit websites and click on ads that have great photography. How can it not?

Don’t you think Yukesmooks wants to become a better photographer? I think old Yukie does and would now be willing to put some money behind that quest. What if the 2 billionth photo had been something great and not just a photo of wood against sky. He’d be selling tons of merchandise and making money.

There Are 37 Comments On This Article.

  1. What’s with the condescending tone??

    Of course Flickr isn’t full of professional photographers who only upload their 0.01 % top selection. Waddya expect??

    Many people probably use Flickr as an archive where they upload all their photos without any prior sorting/picking. Under those circumstances the 2 billionth photo could have been much much worse… :)

  2. Then again, the image was posted by an amateur to share with other amateurs. Not as a professional portfolio piece or an image with which to build a career, nor as a marketing ploy or a cry for peace in a troubled world. Just an image for his friends to see.

    Context is important too… don’t you think?

  3. APE was simply trying to offer a more optimistic view of the continuing discussion of amateurs with DSLRs taking away business from shooting professionals.

  4. This photo has been bouncing around the internets for the last few days, and I’ve been wondering whether or not this is actually number 2 billion or whether Flickr staff pulled up all of the photos that were being uploaded when the counter clicked over to 2 billion (there has the be hundreds being uploaded at any given time) and chose one that wasn’t horrible. It very well could have been a snap-shot of super-sunburned Aunt Trudie in a leopard print hot-pants from a weight-loss cruise or something equally horrible.

    That said, professional photographers have nothing to fear from the amateurs – it anything, they’re benefit from the lower costs that mass appeal will bring to the equipment. Companies spend a boatload of money for R&D on high end camera equipment, which traditionally has been sold to a small group of people who could afford it. Small consumer base means higher cost per unit. With the digital revolution in photography, lots of amateurs and hobbyists are rushing out to buy the exact same equipment that the pros use. A larger consumer base means prices come down, everyone wins.

  5. Amateurs with a DSLR are not taking business away from shooting pros. Do you really think if someone could not afford a top end pro that a good amateur or part time pro cant meet the needs of a client? Get real, the high end pro never stood a chance of getting that business in the first place.
    I shoot portraits on the weekends and undercut every “pro” in this market. I service a client base that can not afford even the assembly line model of target or walmart. Am I taking away business from pros? No.

  6. I’d like to agree with the optimistic point of view but in the general public there seems to be a GEQ (good enough quality) syndrome. A few years ago my Dad purchased an ink-jet printer and started cranking out prints, they were the most awful things you’ve ever seen. He thought they were fantastic. Last year I edited my Fathers family “slide shows”, made hi-res scans as well as posted web galleries for the family. My uncle printed an image on his ink-jet from a screen file, framed it and gave it to me as a gift. Thanks Uncle Lyle! When I protested the terrible quality and the fact that I was in possession of the original scans he dismissed the comment and said the print was just fine. My fear is that the GEQ attitude is slowly creeping into client acceptability. For many clients $$$ is a big role in the decision process. Clients will always espouse that they only use top quality services and products but when it comes down to saving $$, $$ will win out. While GEQ won’t be part of the upper & middle class market (if there such a thing) such as brand driven ads, editorial at major mags and other top clients, we all have seen a decline in acceptability in parts of the market.

  7. I have friends with flicker accounts and they post EVERY photo they take at a given party, trip to their parents, vacation, etc.. So, you can imagine how many people are posting 300+ pictures from last nights diner get together every day. That adds up to a lot of Flickr picture by people who could care less about photography and improving their photographic skills. For many Flickr is just a way to store and share their thousands and thousands of random snaps.

    But that’s not to say there are not many many would be photographers on Flickr trying to raise the photography bar with pictures of their cats wearing funny little hats.


  8. GEQ is a fact of life. It sucks, but lots of things suck. Photography, especially the ephemeral world of “commercial” photography, is undergoing a significant change. A definitional change. I know lots of guys who are struggling who never did through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I also know some guys who are doing incredibly well.

    Gone are the huge budget shots with multi-day contracts for a campaign. For most shooters anyway. But then advertising and magazines have changed significantly as well. Combining that with the digital tools which allow AD’s and designers to work with images as digital assets and the middle of the road shooters get squeezed.

    For example, I had a young guy working for me as a designer. We had to do something for the Ballpark (at the time – BOB). He looked at a few books from local shooters and didn’t like what he saw for what he wanted to do.

    He took an afternoon and our 3MP camera to the ballpark and shot a couple hundred images. He worked them, collaged them and ended up with an award winning piece. He could have hired a pro, but for what he wanted, he felt that they would have been too literal. I dunno, maybe… maybe not. But before digital, he would have had no choice but to hire a pro.

    I don’t pay any attention to GWC’s (that’s guys with cameras) or the amateur who wants to play in the pro world. Fine. I love freedom. Love it. But I do look at the clients who hire them with a new eye. Who is the bigger fool… the amateur who thinks he is good enough or the AD who agrees? Personally don’t know a single AD in my book who would ever consider it, but I know in the wedding, portrait and local editorial it is quite an issue.

    If you are working with an AD or Editor who is just fine hiring you or the local dentist who’s got a, you know… 5D, big lenses – the whole enchilada, then you have a fool for a client and need to start looking to replace before getting replaced… the dentist will shoot it to hang with the models.

    Still not sure why we had to pick out a shot from an amateur who was of no threat that we know of instead of some real wanker who is taking work. But that’s just me.

  9. Flickr has allowed me to fall in love with Photography once again. 2 years ago on of my favorite bands was making the final rounds before calling it quits. I got into the show with a camera bag and shot their final New York show. Wanting to share my photos with friends and the band I uploaded my shots onto flickr. At first I was a little hesitant about using my account and really didn’t use it for the first year. Then the Organizer feature came about ( think Lightroom/ Iphoto ). This made life so much easier for putting together a body of work. Now I post on average 25 photos a month, ( yes I do an edit ). And I think it is a great tool for pushing photography forward. I really don’t agree with giving away too much information on how I did the shot. And there are some pro’s on there. Majority of my photo friends think that Flickr and sites like it are the death of professional photography. I disagree, I don’t think professionals really have much to worry about. It’s about pushing our medium forward and that’s it.

  10. If you market your product with Good Enough Quality photography then a product marketed with Better Quality photography can beat you. I think it “eventually” will be that simple.

  11. >> Amateurs with a DSLR are not taking business away from shooting pros.

    In some cases they may, like me for example.

    I am not a pro, since I work in a different industry. My co-worker was building a website for his friend, a dentist, and he needed some photos of his ambulance and equipment. He knew that I possess a DSLR so he asked me to shoot it. Why not? I took my new shiny superwideangle lens and did the shots. They were quite happy, since they would need to hire a professional otherwise, and my shots were very GEQ :-). I was happy that I may help and learn something new – and I also got a super-healthful tootbrush as a gift ;-).

    So sorry a Pro for eating your lunch, it was just a coincidence….

  12. It’s not so much that the totally clueless are taking jobs from pros it’s that because of the ability to fix a great deal in post, and the short learning curve and instant feedback that digital allows – people who should still be assisting are getting jobs they would never have had a chance at 10 years ago. The overall affect is that the quality of photography in both the editorial and commercial world is decreasing. Add to that the grunge aesthetic – that ugly is cool and the fact that most companies are being controlled by bean counters that wouldn’t know a great image from a hole in their head and you create a very dark world for the real professional photographers.
    I can only pray that A Photo Editor is right and renewed popularity of photography will increase the desire for great work.

  13. I agree that the majority of Flickr is for regular ol’ people to post their photos online, and because of it’s ease of use and sense of community it’s gotten many weekend warriors much more interested in photography (in addition to the aide of digital technology). I think that’s a wonderful thing.

    What I also think is amazing is that I’ve discovered SO many incredible photographers that I would otherwise have never come across because of Flickr…photographers are much more creative and whose work blows a lot of the shit I see in magazines out of the water. Some of it is taken by professionals, and other work is taken by amateurs. Flickr has been a big help for many people wanting to take their craft to the next level, mainly because it gets their photos out to the masses much more than a portfolio ever would. I know that personally I’ve gotten a lot of work because of my Flickr stream — some as stock images (my non-music stuff, mainly) and other work shooting regularly for magazines (mostly music). It can be a good supplement to a website.

    Not everyone wants to be a commercial or editorial photographer, necessarily, but some Flickr members may now be enjoying a level of success that they might not have before. Flickr’s main attribute, though, is it’s sense of community. There are many, many groups dedicated to professional photography that are incredible resources, which are not only helpful but also supportive. Personally, I’ve mentored many people via Flickr and it’s been amazing watching them grow into their own style…it’s very rewarding.

    Basically, what I’m trying to say is that instead of “pros” turning their nose up at Flickr, they should be focusing more attention on the businesses who think they can use it as a cheap resource. You can find some seriously kickass photography on there, but 9 times out of 10, the “client” wants the work for free or next to it. THAT is the problem. Just because a photo is on Flickr doesn’t mean it’s licensed under Creative Commons (I’ve had a stupid amount of people, including very large well-known companies, think that my photos were, when they’re actually All Rights Reserved).

    And appropriately, I’ve linked to my Flickr page above instead of my site. ;)

  14. When desktop publishing was starting up, many in the design industry were afraid that a lot of business would be lost to amateurs. Maybe. But if you have a client who’d be just as happy with work done by an amateur, it’s in your best interest to get rid of them, and fast.

  15. OK, I am an amateur (no doubting that). And I use Flickr. And I have no intention to ever go professional (all this money being put into law school should not go to waste, right?). But I love photography. It intrigues me, it mesmerizes me, it burns my curiosity. So I take pictures. And I read about photography. About 75% of my RSS feeds are from photography blogs (like this one). I subscribe to photography magazines, I buy (or check-out from the library) books on photography. I need to learn and grow to make my photography better, not to make money, but to please myself. To have a sense of accomplishment. To know that I can do it.

    Sure, not everyone in Flickr care about their pictures. I do have just boring ol’ snapshots in my Flickr pool too. But many of us are here to learn and understand. We want a record of how we have grown in our photographic knowledge. And we are consumers too. Thanks for recognizing that, APE.

  16. Great post!
    My thoughts exactly!
    And on a side note: Flickr has helped me escape from being an amateur to actually getting bookings and earning a bit on the side that I can invest in more equipment.

  17. I like to think about these issues in terms of other non-related industries. An example: the top chefs in the world probably did not fret over the sudden popularity of the microwave oven or the major incoming wave of culinary school graduates or even the advancement of short order cooks moving on from the chain restaurants to opening their own diner. No, I believe the top chefs in the world honed their craft, became good at one style, and learned how to attract the right clientèle. They also learned how to market and operate (or found the people who could) a business. If you’re a “professional” photographer, where do you see yourself? Are you working for the Olive Garden clients or the Per Se clients?

  18. >> (from Mark Gamba) … because of the ability to fix a great deal in post, and the short learning curve and instant feedback that digital allows – people who should still be assisting are getting jobs they would never have had a chance at 10 years ago. The overall affect is that the quality of photography in both the editorial and commercial world is decreasing.

    What’s really happening is that digital has leveled the playing field for a lot of people who don’t have a ton of money for photo equipment. Some of them have a great eye that would never have been recognized in the film-only days.

    In this argument as well as in photography itself, it’s all about what you see. Mr. Gamba sees the quality of photography getting worse. I see it getting better. Because of digital cameras and sites like Flickr, millions of awful photos are available for all the world to see. But so are thousands of great photos that would never have seen the light of day in the film-only era. Those photos push me to improve my own photography.

    In case it matters, I’ve been a newspaper journalist for more than 20 years, so I know a bit about an industry under siege from new media and new competition. Like great journalism, great photography will find a way to survive.

  19. I love your blog and I love Flickr. Most have been said above, I justed wanted to add that Flickr being internet-based and all that, thanks to the forums I’ve made a lot of great friends that I meet in real life and that I would never have known without Flickr. It has nothing to do with business, but it has motivated and inspired me in my pursuit of making better photos and it certainly has made me a happier person!

  20. I agree with everything ashleystravel and karin say about Flickr. It allows me to share my passion for photography, meet with others who share my passion, constantly learn more and document aspects of my life. I don’t upload ALL my pictures but a good deal of them…and yes I have cute pictures of my dog, my relatives and my girlfriend mixed in with more serious shots! I’m not ashamed of that (quite the opposite, in fact!), and won’t ever be made to feel ashamed by some snotty professional.

    If you are a pro photographer and you are that threatened by the amateurs on Flickr…maybe you weren’t all that good to start with?

  21. If my bosses at our paper are any sign of the future and present, it means that no, they will not pay for better material and wil continue to print any crap that comes their way as long as its cheap.

    Sorry, that’s my experience so far.

  22. I’ve seen the positive side first-hand (but then, I use Flickr for fun and like it). There are a lot of people speaking the language of photography now who weren’t a few years ago. The Uncle Bobs mainly take the business of people who weren’t worth a damn in the first place, but overall there’s a surging interest in photography. Most of the people I work for (when I’m working for individuals) are wildly enthusiastic about photography, and it gives me new sorts of freedom.

  23. flickr is fine for what it is. I can’t really see the difference between flickr for photographers and blogs for writers, “There is good and bad, in every man if we could learn to live, and learn to give ah ha”……………

  24. Good point, Mark. I can’t believe I missed the irony of people slagging Flickr on a blog comment board.

  25. death of photo rank

    It had to happen. The flickr/zooomr people had to come and ruin the party on photo rank. The ascendancy of Thomas Hawk and incestuous friends is proof positive of what will happen to photo rank if there isn’t SOME sort of moderation on that thing. Bland photography RULES!

  26. Lowest C Denominator

    How very weird to see respected professional photographers being put beside Flickr Weekend Warriors. Nothing wrong with Flickr, within its own neighborhood, but can we just keep it there? Flickr is like an insidious virus; it just wants to spread and eat everything in its path.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with amateur photography, but if you can’t go out with a 5D, and some friends, and with no client, and bring back a quality image, with no one giving you real-world parameters, (ie, the type’s got to go here; the talent needs to be “approachable and accessible”; it’s raining but you still have an 8am deadline tomorrow to bring back a quality, publishable image; the talent doesn’t want to be there; the AD is giving you one set of directions while the CD is giving you another set of directions — well, you need to sell that 5D.

    If I was Chris Buck or Chessum, and I saw my name thrown into this “competition” without my knowledge, I’d be a little pissed about it. It’s like they nominated themselves, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

    There is a whole different yardstick for a photographer who’s working on a paying gig, than one who’s just out with his friends, or on a student assignment, or even a Test.

    It would be great to know, in this silly new Photo Rank, which were jobs, and which were “me and my buddies out shooting”.

  27. death of photo rank

    Me, I can’t wait for the pros to come back online tomorrow and see what the weekend warriors hath wrought.

  28. “It very well could have been a snap-shot of super-sunburned Aunt Trudie in a leopard print hot-pants from a weight-loss cruise or something equally horrible.”

    What ? Martin Parr has a flickr page ?!?!


  29. i’d like to support the positive things being said here about Flickr. of course we all know it’s quantity over quality but at least some folks on there are trying their best to be imaginative and take a few risks…which is sadly all too often not the case with so many pros who turn out lifeless, slick, formulaic stuff that has little or no artistic merit or vision. in the field of experimental music, where the terms amateur and professional have little relevance since barely anyone makes a living out of their work, you will find creative activity of the highest order where beginners and experienced practitioners are prepared to work together in a non-hierarchical, non-elitist atmosphere.

  30. “It very well could have been a snap-shot of super-sunburned Aunt Trudie in a leopard print hot-pants from a weight-loss cruise or something equally horrible.”

    Yes Martin Parr or an American Richard Billington… don’t dump on the trash aesthetic!

  31. My own personal take.

    Where digital is important to me is in distribution. Certainly the Internet and for me sites like Fotolog and Flickr provide an audience which allows me to do things that I might never have a chance to show in a gallery or even make a print of. It empowers you to take chances, do it faster and get immediate satisfaction. This can fill you up with encouragement. It allows me to be prolific without purpose while getting this instant feedback. In some ways this may be better than something bigger that is too far in the future or maybe never comes. For me it has confirmed a sense, a self image, and a persona – this can be a strength, as you try to get attention for your work elsewhere. It has allowed me the opportunity to develop an audience slowly. It is an audience that I share a history with and is involved with the work over time in an intimate manner.

    This passionate audience is what allowed me to develop a body of work without art school, editorial clients or commercial clients. I am fortunate that I now have the opportunity to show the work in a NY gallery.

    Like all things this big, Flickr is mostly is average but that is probably true of most professional commercial and editorial work that I see as well. The reality is that most photographs are forgettable. Isn’t that why God invented contact sheets ….