madshutterbug (madshutterbug) wrote,

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State of the Artist - A Long Meditation Not To Be Confused With A Rant

Every year, starting about now, as in September because my first time purchase of a paid account occurred in December, though it got pushed back to February by a couple 'gifts', I start thinking about should I renew my Flickr account. This is as most things are a multi-factor issue. Do I get a sufficient return on investment for the cost? What are the benefits? What are my needs as a purported 'Professional Artist/Photographer' and how well are those needs being met with this account?

It is pretty much an accepted standard these days that pros in any art form (as with nearly any other business, and selling ones art is indeed a business) need a World Wide Web presence. A web site. A personal gallery or portfolio, whichever one may prefer to call it. As with all things in the world, there is also a certain social... snobbery though status may be the more polite term... attached to how any individual professional artist exhibits their work on the Web. Ultimate control is indeed within a web site and domain owned and operated by the artist their own self. Using any other site puts the artist under the control of the owners/operators thereof, who will (not may, will be responding to community pressures.

Specifically, in my case, nudes. Community pressures are, in essence, censorship. A privately held web site will be able to show more, but could still be vulnerable to community pressures. However, a publicly owned site will either place restrictions on display of 'controversial material' or will outright not accept it.

I currently use two public imagery hosting sites, Flickr, and Deviant Art. I registered an account with a third, 500Px though I've not posted any work there. These are listed in the chronological order of my registering. Before these two I used Yahoo to host some images, and when the telecommunications behemoth AT&T hosted 'Personal Web Pages' I hosted a small (and frankly not particularly impressive) Mad Shutterbug web site there. The Yahoo images site became absorbed by Flickr when Yahoo first acquired Flickr. AT&T simply stopped hosting Personal Web Pages.

A brief summary of Myself on Flickr:
1626 photos stored in 87 Sets which are in turn in five Collections
Been a member since November 2005. Paid (former 'Pro' paid account) since December 2006.
Being a grandfathered-in old Pro, I am granted Unlimited Storage.
Probably 25-45% of those photos linked to my blogs

Flickr grandfathered my account in as a former 'Pro' paid account (see first FAQ below, primarily unlimited storage). So long as I keep paying (at the rate I was paying, according to the info) I will retain all the features of the former 'Pro' paid account embellished with the upgraded features now being offered.

One element of the FAQ which is not entirely accurate, the ability to create "Collections" existed in the Pro account before the change. A Free Account could create three Sets. More sets than that, and Collections, came with the Pro account. The more Sets aspect is actually a primary reason I first obtained a paid Pro account, since I'd been hired to photograph a social function and part of that deal included putting those images on line so attendees could order any photos of which they wanted copies.

Back in May via one of the 'social networking' sites (I think it was on the blog rather than FB) tagged by my friend Betnoir (who is no longer on the blog) who wanted to know what I thought about comments made in a press conference by the new CEO of Flickr. Specifically, an answer to a question (IIRC) about how the 'Pro' account status would be 'going away'. The answer included something (not an exact quote at this point) about there are no pro photographers any more, the Internet changed all that.

I made some notes, intending to respond. Took a while, yet here is the response plus a bit.

Hmm... Well, for myself anyway, there is the annual debate (as someone purporting to be a professional photographer) Does Flickr provide a sufficient return on investment in exposing my work?

Which question, this year, raised a notch in my concern after Flickr (Yahoo) instituting an Auto-Billing feature. I am not, after some experience with other firms, a big fan of auto-billing. However, I decided to let it ride for a bit.

Not totally related to the subject of the link, and yet not far removed either. Sounds to me that Flickr (Yahoo) is moving the way of all Big Business these days. To (mis)quote from Pink Floyd: "... Get your hands off of my stash..."

Part of the move to follow current Big Business is that while Flickr expanded the amount of storage to 1 terrabyte for free accounts, they also started showing advertisements. So they get a revenue stream from selling ad space, plus whatever they received from all those 'Pro' account folks like myself. Along with this, then, since a lot of us prefer to enjoy an ad-free environment (when possible) they sell an Ad Free account level, still 1 Tb of storage, for US$49.99/year. Or one could purchase a Doublr account, ad free and 2 Tb of storage, for US$499.99/year. So they kicked the cost of More up a pretty significant amount.

(Note to Self and Gentle Readers, I may be mis-remembering when Flickr started showing ads. I don't remember them when I first registered an account in '05, and as noted as a paid account holder since '06 likely haven't seen ads if such started before the Big Change.)

(Second Note to Self and Gentle Readers, Deviant Art is pricing a paid account there a lot more competitively than Flickr is... YMMV)

Now, 1 Tb sounds like a lot. However, that 1600 plus images I host on Flickr currently uses 0.00054 TB of Unlimited. And, as a professional artist, I currently use (here in Studio) over a third that (387 Gb) which includes RAW work, works in progress, print-ready work, and images I've got but currently do not elect to use. It does not include most of the images I've got on film which are not digitised yet (scanned), and even the ones I do store scanned, the majority may not be high-resolution scans. So I'm going to chew through that at home terrabyte fairly soon, particularly when I get going on scanning old film. This doesn't count creation of new images or new works in progress.

Additionally, though I never made notes about this aspect, and getting back to that comment about there are no professional photographers anymore, the whole concept of skilled vs unskilled comes to play. This is a statement I've heard a number of times related to different subjects, that skilled work is not cheap and cheap work is not skilled. There may well be truth to another old saw that if one puts 1000 chimpanzees into a room with a typewriter they will eventually through random typing create something like one of William Shakespeares plays. Truth in the sense that anyone at all pounds away making a multitude of whatever, for the purposes of this discussion photographs, they will eventually make some which are very good.

After all, one of the simplest and most difficult of the lessons I learned from my first teacher is, Never, ever show anyone the trash. If they only ever see the good, then they will think you are very good.

Now, mind you, with sufficient practice one gains skills: at composition, at exposure, focus, printing (or other final display). All that skill comes together, and one produces it consistently more frequently from the start, with less and less trash in the workflow. Yet we also still produce images from the getgo which are technically high-quality work but lack Something, and so we don't show anyone those. In this manner, the customer receives a better return on their investment in hiring someone who is Professional rather than looking through a terragagilion photographs on the Web for just the right one...

Thus, Virginia, yes there are still Professional Photographers. We may be a threatened, possibly endangered species because yes, the good old new Internet certainly changed how a lot of business' conduct their business. And one of those changes is that someone who is (lucky/skilled) amateur does get a greater exposure of their work.

Some quotes from the Flickr site FAQ:

What used to be offered with a Pro account?

Flickr Pro is no longer available for purchase, but many of the Pro-only features are now part of free Flickr accounts.

Here is what you used to get with Pro:
Unlimited photo uploads (50MB per photo)
Unlimited video uploads (90 seconds max, 500MB per video)
The ability to show HD Video
Unlimited storage
Unlimited bandwidth
Archiving of high-resolution original images
The ability to replace a photo
Post any of your photos or videos in up to 60 group pools
View count and referrer statistics
Limitation of maximum image size available to others
Ad-free browsing and sharing
What do I now have with a free Flickr account?

Starting on 5/20/2013, members with free accounts on Flickr will have:
1 Terabyte of space
Upload and download in full original quality. Up to 200MB per image
Ability to create “Collections”
Ability to replace photos
Post any of your photos or videos in up to 60 group pools
I've heard that Flickr Pro is no longer being offered. How does that affect me?

As of May 20, 2013, we are no longer offering Flickr Pro subscriptions to the majority of our members. Some things to be aware of (with more details below):

Recurring Pro members currently have the ability to continue renewing at the same price.
Eligible non-recurring Pro members can purchase a recurring Pro subscription.
The “Gift of Pro” will no longer be available for purchase.
Pro users will no longer appear with a “Pro” badge beside their name or buddy icon

Your Pro pricing remains the same and your benefits have improved:
Those who remain Pro will retain all their original benefits.
The photo and video size limits will be upgraded to those offered with our new free account.
If you are on a recurring Pro subscription, your payments will remain as is. To see what your current subscription costs, see the previous payment on in your order history.
Pro members will never be automatically transitioned to an Ad Free or Doublr subscription.

Notice they don't list anywhere here what the folks grandfathered in are paying; notice also I didn't mention it anywhere either. That's our business, eh! However, it is significantly less (at least for me) than the Ad Free account, so that's one reason I choose to carry on and roll over from year to year... so far.

There are other aspects, though, and I'd been thinking about those recently. Another friend, stardreamer (on DW) starcat_jewel (on LJ) put them into words. The changes made in how Flickr displays the photographs or videos hosted there cause the site to load ssssllllllooooowwwwwllllllyyyyy. As in, Dial Up Slow.

True, here at the Ranch we've moved into (or as close as) the 21st century on our Internet connection. We started by transitioning from dial-up to Sky Internet (satellite) and from that to DSL through the land-line telephony connection. Even on Hospital's true super fast Ethernet connection, however, Flickr Loads Slow. (Mind you, no, I'm not browsing my photos on Hospital time. Lunch breaks or after work, yes, not patient care time.) I've got the phone app for viewing Flickr. I rarely view Flickr on my smartphone.

So. Trade off:
Pros – easy to stay with the status quo, lots of on-line storage which at my current pace I am in no danger of ever exceeding, ability to link to work I've made in my preferred manner via this blog, not terribly expensive so long as the company continues to honour the terms of the contract we concluded (before the changes started), ability to organise the pieces stored for display to facilitate either linking or referring

Cons – slow loading viewing experience, advertisements for non-registered or Free viewers, very obscure URL for any kind of publicity such as business cards or brochures, terms of service which make displaying one of my primary subjects (nudes) an exercise in Political Correctness, fairly pricy for accounts which either no longer show ads or increase storage capacity

At this time and in the near future, the Pros exceed the Cons for me. Your Mileage May Vary. Until I get around to creating that very privately owned Mad Shutterbug Photography or Studio 318 or whatever name, at least.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Tags: art, photography

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