Photo sharing and the future of photography

As Flickr has grown in both size and popularity, it is increasingly becoming a “go to” source for photographs and photographers. Photo editors, galleries, newspapers, magazines, authors, ad agencies, artists, and more are all browsing Flickr every day looking for interesting photos, photographers, and inspiration.

Yesterday on the Flickr blog, Heather Champ wrote that Deborah Latimore’s fish eye photos were featured in the October 2006 Popular Photography magazine (check them out—they’re not what you think). An editor for Popular Photography found the photos on Flickr which led to an interview and a feature article.

Another interesting connection was made recently by Tampen, a reporter for the Sunday Times, who convinced his paper to commission a photographer he knew through Flickr for an article. He predicts “that more and more newspapers and magazines will use Flickr as a resource for locating skilled photographers” and advises us all to keep an eye on our inboxes.

The Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York had an exhibition in July and August called “selfportraitr” featuring the work of a huge number of Flickr photographers. Over 135,000 photos were included and curated by visitors to the gallery and over the internet in what became a massive interactive art project.

Personally, since I’ve joined Flickr, I’ve had my photos published in four books and I’ve been featured in several magazines. I’ve even been contacted by a large ad agency. All of that because I share my photos online. And there are dozens of other examples of this type of thing happening on Flickr. People who never expected to be published are being published. Amateurs and professionals alike are finding a wider audience for their photos than they ever imagined possible.

What does this say about the future? I think events like these on Flickr reveal the leading edge of a change in how photographers market themselves and how photographs are found and used. Sites like Flickr allow photographs and photographers to be found in new ways and provide a venue for amateurs to market their work that did not exist before. It truly is changing the way people interact with photography and how photography is perceived.

Digital cameras and photo sharing sites have enabled the rise of a new kind of photographer: amateurs who’ve been able to make a name for themselves via online photo sharing and the recent availability of low-cost, high-quality digital equipment. People who straddle the middle ground between the Sunday snap shooter and full-time professional. These “middle-class” photographers aren’t what most professionals would call a professional photographer. Indeed, it’s often the case that just being published is all they want and they’ll give their photos away just for the credit.

It’s an exciting time for photography. Traditional, professional photographers have seen their share of the photography market erode to legions of digital camera wielding amateurs. At the same time, many people who might never have considered calling themselves a photographer are doing just that. The entire photographic landscape is shifting—for the better, I think, despite the fact that, in the short term, some pros are feeling the pinch. As in other markets, increased competition and supply lead to lower prices. Of course, sites like Flickr, the rise of micro-stock, and the availability of low-cost, high-quality digital cameras aren’t going to destroy the traditional photography industry. But those pressures are creating a new kind of photographer and a new kind of market for photography.

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. You’re so right… It’s mindblowing for an amateur like me, with a point-and-shoot camera, to receive attention from magazines and ad agencies. I’ve had my photos published in several online magazines, but the biggest thrill was recently being contacted by an ad firm that wants to use several of my photos in a local ski area’s new brochures. More than anything, Flickr provides the kind of feedback and recognition that can fuel a hobbyist’s passion to learn and do more with their camera.

  2. I agree. Through my images displayed on Flickr I’ve already been contacted by ESPN and one book author. I also enjoy the options provided with Flickr, especially being able to “blog” any one of my photos on display as well as create public and private presentations.

  3. My husband built a tackling dummy and posted the process on flickr. We have been contacted by to be interviewed for one of their segments on college football fans. Pretty exciting stuff. I love flickr and the community.

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