Book review: How to Use Flickr, The Digital Photography Revolution by Richard Giles

How to Use FlickrFrom the outside, Flickr may appear to be a simple photo-sharing site. But new members are often quickly overwhelmed by the vastness of it and there are hundreds of features and hidden gems that are sometimes only discovered after weeks or months of poking around. Flickr itself doesn’t have much in the way of a user manual, preferring instead to let people learn how to use the service by providing an elegant and self-explaining user interface and through group discussions. Attempting to bridge the gap, How to Use Flickr by Richard Giles is both a reference and a how-to guide for using Flickr. It’s also something of a tour-guide, explaining Flickr’s origins and revealing, through interviews and stories, a bit about Flickr’s diverse culture.

Disclosure: I am mentioned in this book several times and it features my Flickr Toys collection but I don’t make any money from its sale and I bought my own review copy.

The first chapter may be of most interest to the hard-core Flickr fan or people who have an interest in building websites and internet history. Giles writes a brief history about everything from the founding of Flickr through the acquisition by Yahoo! and it contains a few tidbits that even veteran users may not have known.

From there, the book moves on to the basics of signing up for an account and uploading your first photograph. It is organized in the same way that a typical new user experiences Flickr for the first time, gently introducing new concepts at about the same point when a new member would start to wonder about them. It closely mirrors the memories I have of my own first few months on Flickr. As the book progresses, it gives way to more in-depth information and shows how to organize photos and how to order prints and use third-party services. Chapters 6 and 7 are dedicated to the community aspects of Flickr and cover how to invite your friends, make contacts, explore, participate in group discussions, and share your photos with others.

This book is an excellent and extremely thorough instruction manual for everything that Flickr offers. It’s perfect for new members or people who feel like they might not be making the most of their Flickr membership. And it’s interspersed with many useful tips such as scanning photos and resolution that are great for new or new-to-digital photographers. A Pro Flickr membership and this book would make a great gift for a friend or relative who wants to share their photos but isn’t sure how to begin. Veteran members and the technologically savvy won’t get as much out of it but the interviews and stories are interesting for those of us who are interested in Flickr’s history and culture. And it’s a bargain, too: only about $15 online.

By John Watson

John Watson is the original founder of Photodoto. If you're interested in what John has been up to, you can browse his personal blog.


  1. Yeah, I agree… after a week of a basic membership, i felt compelled to get a pro membership, and i’v enever looked back… each time i logon i find something new in flickr, and realize how cool it really is.. and since the API is open, there are so many cool 3rd party tools (ahem, FD…..thanks!). I’m still finding new ways to share photos with people, and could spend all day on it! I even have tags integrated into my google reader rss subscription list! crazy!
    by the way, i am

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