Five Alternatives To Flickr

welding photo
Spark up your image sharing with these Flickr alternatives

Many photographers have a love/hate relationship with Flickr. Anyone can get annoyed at a large faceless corporation and maybe you just got that new Nikon and want to shop the photo sharing sites anyway. Sometimes up and coming companies will give you a better deal.

So, the next time your relationship with Flickr swings over to “hate”, here are five alternatives to consider.

500px is a site where a photographer can host their portfolio and where other photographers can browse and comment on other artist’s photography.

The site offers a similar combination of features available on Flickr and, with the difference that 500px caters specifically to professional and advanced hobbyists in photography.

Public since 2009, they have nearly 50,000 members and receive 1.4 million visits each month.

Photobucket is an image and video sharing service that has a very solid platform, support for mobile platforms, and generous free accounts after lifting the limits on non-commercial accounts.

Photobucket makes it easy to share photos publicly or privately with password protected galleries.

The only downside to Photobucket for some people will be that it’s owned by News Corp and a few may have ethical qualms about financially supporting the parent company of Fox News.

Founder Kristopher Tate started to help friends and family share their photos with friends and family.

Zooomr has excellent support for international visitors and is offered in several languages.

Zooomr is not as polished as some of the other photo sharing sites, but it’s free and has excellent search tools.


Probably the least like Flickr of all the sites mentioned here and darn proud of that fact. DeviantArt is a home not only for photographers, but artists of all stripes with a flair for science fiction and fantasy.

DeviatArt has a wide tolerance for taste but I find the user interface cluttered and disorganized.

Fotki seems to be working very hard to best Flickr and even offers an API to partner with them for b2b commercial services.

Offers unlimited storage of full resolution images and offers discount printing and the ability to order photo novelties like coffee cups and t-shirts right on the spot.

Five Things I Wish I’d Known About Photography

pro photographer
Don't expect to luck into jobs like this - by Starscream

A lot of people dream about being professional golfers. Imagine getting paid millions and traveling around the country doing nothing but play golf! Here’s all you have to do to make that dream come true. Start when you’re 5, so go tell your daddy or mommy that you want to be a pro golfer. Then spend the next 10 years with a parent driving you relentlessly and whenever you’re not doing anything else, be outside hitting balls. Then spend the next 8 years with a series of coaches honing every facet of your golf game, driving you relentlessly and then you stand less than a 50-50 chance of making the cut in the junior tournaments.

Professional golf isn’t something people pick up on a weekend, it’s a lifestyle they started when they were young and it’s a job they work every day towards. Photography is not that different.

To be a professional, photography has to be more than a hobby, more than something you do on the weekend. It’s a competitive business that is a demanding, fast-moving professional field that is getting more and more competition from people walking around with smartphones and low-end digital cameras.

Here are five things I wish someone had told me about the business years ago.

You Have To Know How To Run a Business

Take classes in how to run a small business. You have to understand taxes, billing, cash flow, insurance and contracts. You can’t be a successful photographer without knowing how to be a successful business person.

It Will Take a Long Time To Make Any Money

Wedding photographers can sometimes build up a steady income in a couple years but don’t count on it. Mainly figure on starving the first few years until you have a deep portfolio and build up a client base.

I’ve known a few people who managed to claw their way to a living shooting commercial stock photography, but it took them a few years to build up that kind success. The advantage to specializing in stock photography is that once you build up your income, it’s recurring revenue.

Once you have a base of income, you can use that to branch out and experiment.

There Is New Competition Every Year

Just when you claw and starve your way to some kind of a living, you’ll find one day that clients start telling you about someone offering the services you’ve been providing for less than half of what you’re charging. While that happens in almost any business, in photography it tends to be particularly devastating.

You have to spend a lot of time monitoring your market, checking on your competition and staying one step ahead.

You Trade Regular Hours For Working All The Time

Being a photographer means trading the security of a regular paycheck for being an independent businessperson. In other words, you trade regular hours for working all the time. And some assignments take the concept of working hours to new and bizarre extremes.

I don’t know any professional photographer who doesn’t work all the time, nights and weekends included.

You Will Need a Emergency Fund

At some point it’s going to happen: You will get sick, hurt, sued or, in the case of PJ, arrested. When that happens you’ll need an emergency fund to get through it. Even if you prevail in court, you can still end up being out of business.

If you’re injured and can’t work, you have to have enough cash in the bank to keep the doors open and pay the bills.

Photography as a business is a job and you have to approach it that way. If it’s not a job you eat, sleep and breath, you’re going to have  a hard time makeing it.

When Does Photo Manipulation Go Too Far?

image manipulation
These retouches are considered minor by today's standards

It all started innocently enough; editing out a pimple here, a blemish there, maybe a chipped tooth. It was easy, it made the client feel better, and it was, for the most part, harmless.

Fast forward to today and digital manipulation has gotten totally out of hand. It’s not just blemishes and pimples anymore. Today we shave years off a face and pounds off a body, lengthen necks and make eyes bigger, lips pouty, and change hair color on a whim. Clickity, clickity done.

Color and lighting are now skills that can be mastered in post. With Photoshop plugins like Color Efex Pro 4 you can change the color scheme, lighting and almost anything else you desire.

All that taken together is bad enough, now comes along a product like LayerCake Elements and now the manipulations to the subject are just the beginning. Now you can add trees, grass and flowers. Don’t like the sky? How about nice sunset sky instead? Add a few clouds for dramatic effect. Put the moon over there, add a few stars because we have to pay attention to details. Need a horse? No problem, drag and drop, resize to fit the scene. Done and done.

Time, date, and place are now meaningless. It reminds me of the sunset scene in the John Wayne movie Green Berets (1968), supposedly set in Vietnam but featuring the sun setting behind the ocean. Those with a 5th grade understanding of geography know that Vietnam doesn’t have a westward facing ocean view. But that didn’t stop the filmmakers and it doesn’t stop the photographer with LayerCake. You can have a sunset anywhere.

So where does all this stop? Or does it? It’s easy to smirk and wonder if grandpa is having trouble adjusting to the new digital reality but keep in mind I was digitally manipulating images when most of you still had training wheels on your bike. At some point do we in the photography community have to say enough and start asserting ourselves in favor of reality? How will we know when we’ve gone too far?

In some fields that question has already been answered. Like photojournalism, where retouching, even adding a little smoke is a non-starter. You’ll not only get fired, you’ll be vilified and humiliated as a value added bonus. Your career will be over.

But what about the rest of us? Do we owe reality a nod, or is reality merely a canvas for us to paint our vision? Are master photo manipulators actual photographers, or something less?

Where it all ends is with H&M’s new lingerie catalog where the faces of the models are real, but the bodies are computer generated.  What do you think is “too far” in digital manipulation?

Flash Umbrellas – Size Does Matter

wescot 7 foot umbrella
New umbrellas like this 7 foot Wescott for $99 are bringing umbrellas back

It may come as a surprise to many photographers today, but softboxes are relative newcomers on the photography and video lighting scene.

In the old days on movie sets there were huge hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide lamps (HMIs), and “hot lights” with names like “Blondes”, which was a 2K open-face light and “Red Heads” which were 1K. Only poor filmmakers used Red Heads, although I saw them sneak on to big sets as background fills occasionally.

About the same time in photography, you probably would have found floor flash units mounted inside large umbrella reflectors.

Photography has always had an edge on film lighting, until very recently. With the advent of DSLRs on movie sets, we’re also seeing some intersection in lighting gear. The old days of HMIs, jokingly referred to as standing for High Monetary Investment, are giving way to less powerful lighting options that produce more even lighting. Softboxes are now turning up in photography studios and film sets alike, although the lighting inside is somewhat different.

With advances in construction and materials, we’re also seeing flash umbrellas making a comeback in photography, although these are not your grandpa’s flash umbrellas.

When it comes to umbrellas in photography, size matters. The broader and more diffuse your light source, the more even the lighting on your subject. The older style umbrellas were small, not much bigger than an umbrella you might carry with you for rainy days. Today you have a better selection.

Companies like Booth Photographicare fielding umbrellas that would make any softbox owner blush with envy. Parabolics, because of the shape, are going to have less fall off at the edges. A parabolic light like a large umbrella, near your subject. is going to give you a bit of wrap around the subject, contributing to a very smooth overall lighting effect.

Booth umbrella
75 in reflective umbrella by Booth Photographic

Umbrellas lost favor to softboxes because, for a long time, the only large umbrellas you could find were really expensive. Today, they’re coming back into vogue with models like this 7 foot Wescott and this 75 inch silver model from Booth.

When you’re out shopping for studio lights, don’t forget to give some of the newer umbrellas a look. With price tags under $200, it’s possible that parabolics will stage a comeback.

The Essence of Great Portraits

sample portrait
A very decent head and shoulders portrait that may be the most unimaginative work I've ever produced

You all probably remember the series we did on studio lighting a while ago. While we were focused on the technical aspects of lighting a good portrait, it completely overlooks the art. Sure, what we came away with was a completely decent head and shoulders portrait.  Looking at it now I realize it lacks any imagination and creativity.

Okay, that’s not totally fair. I shot those photos to demonstrate how changes in lighting change the look of a portrait, not as a demonstration in portrait photography. And yet it still bothers me. The reason it bothers me is that many photographers would think that’s a perfectly fine portrait.

You can have the camera, the lens, and the lighting and take fantastically lit portraits that are technically near perfect,  and still produce average work lacking in imagination and creativity.

The Essence Of a Great Portrait

The essence of a great portrait doesn’t come from the lighting or the camera, it comes from getting to know the person and capturing the essential qualities that make them unique. I don’t think the best portraits always come in a studio setting, they come taking the shots at home, in the shop, or where they work. Maybe that’s my background as a photojournalist talking, but those are the places people are most relaxed and most likely to be themselves.

If you are going to work in a studio, which does offer a lot of advantages, have the person bring something unique to them. For someone like my sister in law, I’d have her bring her knitting bag. I have a friend in Seattle, for her it would be one of her bikes and one of her cats. How you work such bizarrely different props into a single picture, that’s what you get the big bucks to figure out.

The bottom line is anyone who thinks they can capture a person just by having them sit on a stool or stand in front of a background is doing them a disservice. Spend some time getting to know your subjects and figure out what makes them unique.

Good portraits show people on the outside, great portraits show people on the inside.