Flickr has been in the spotlight a good deal recently, but a lot of it has not been good news. It has been revealed that Flickr, like Facebook, strips out copyright metadata from uploaded images. Combined with a confusing API, licensing scandals, companies selling photos as cell phone backgrounds and more, it is easy to see why some are skittish about keeping their images on the site.
This has some photographers, bloggers and artists uneasy about using Flickr or at least using the site exclusively. Many have begun seeking alternatives to Flickr but alternatives seem to be thin. Though image hosts such as Photobucket exist and are great for embedding images into other sites, they lack the sense of community that Flickr provides and, in the case of Photobucket, can raise copyright issues of their own.
So what other sites are there for photographers and artists that might fulfill some or all of Flickr’s function while providing a slightly better copyright environment? There are actually many, but here are three of the more important ones to watch.
Photrade is a different kind of image hosting site. Rather than simply being a host for images, Photrade works more like a partnership between the photographer. Photrade offers prints, t-shirts, licenses and other items for sale, but, unlikes Photobucket or Flickr, it shares the revenues with its customers.
Photrade also offers a great deal of protection of the image, including the ability to ad a custom watermark over the image, privacy settings and more. Also, as with Flickr, you can embed the images into your site but, unlike Flickr, you have the option of earning ad revenue off of ads that run next to it (you can switch ads off during the embedding process if you wish).
Though Photrade’s community is nowhere near the size of Flickr, it is growing and is very tight-knit. All in all, Photrade is a logical choice for professional photographers and artists looking for a means to earn revenue from their images and want near-total control about how it is used.
It combines the best of most existing photo sharing sites with CafePress and other print on demand services.
DeviantArt has a reputation of being a less-professional image/art sharing site. However, it has many powerful tools that help to make it a contender for many photographers.
Like Photrade, deviantArt allows artists to sell prints of their work and receive revenue. It also has a watermarking system, though not one as robust as Photrade, and the ability to add additional licensing information, including Creative Commons, and upload information regarding a model release or permissions acquired.
deviantArt has a very robust community that is known to be very rabid about protecting their rights, even organizing groups to help patrol the Web looking for potential rips. The downside of deviantArt is that it has a very limited embedding ability, only working with a small handful of sites (though one could, theoretically, copy and paste the HTML elsewhere).
For the most part, dA is a self-contained, though very robust, community that offers a great deal of protection over one’s work and even preserves the metadata on the full-sized images.
Where Flickr and most photo sharing sites encourage everyone to join and participate, SmugMug is much more exclusive. The accounts on the site are for pay only, though there is a free trial period, andthe accounts can get relatively pricey, up to $150 per year for the highest level.
What SmugMug offers for that price is a clean user experience with beautiful galleries and zero advertisements as well as high levels of customization and usability. Also, at its highest account level, it offers a similar set of sales features as well as watermarking and other image protection tools.
Though metadata does not transfer on many of the embeddable images, which can be quite large, they do carry over on the original images. Likewise, they provide a standard set of privacy functions as well as the ability to limit the size of the embeddable/viewable images.
Though the pricing likely puts SmugMug out of the reach of the amateur photographer, professionals may be drawn to its simplicity, branding and flexibility. For those worried that Flickr may be too “open” and don’t want or need the very large community, it could be a good choice.
For most photographers, even with its flaws, Flickr is just fine. As long as one is careful about how they use Flickr and are aware of the concerns and potential problems, Flickr works great. With some preparation and forethought, it can still be a great service. I use it myself for my personal photos.
Still, there are some photographers, especially professional ones, that are more leery of these issues and want to better protect their work. Though it is almost impossible to beat the community that Flickr has built and the promotion it can provide, some, at least, are uncomfortable with the trade offs.
If you are one of those photographers, there are plenty of other image hosting/sharing sites out there that may be better suited for you. The three above are just a few examples.
Search around the net and, if you know of any others, feel free to leave a comment and let me (and everyone else) know.