In a recent article called Flickr and Instagram, Shawn Blanc compares the feedback and activity around his photos in both networks. If I understood correctly, the gist of it is that while Shawn is obviously more satisfied with his Olympus photography workflow (as opposed to his iPhone photography workflow), he is disappointed by the feedback on Flickr — where he posts his best, higher-quality and more artistic shots — as opposed to Instagram, where the everyday iPhone snapshots end up.
On Flickr I have 885 contacts following me. On Instagram I have 2,235. Yet my Instagram photos get far more than just 2.5 times the activity than my Flickr photos.
In short, my Instagram snapshots spark far more feedback, interaction, and conversation than my Flickr photos do. And I bet anyone reading this who has an Instagram and a Flickr account would say the same thing.
The conundrum, for me, at least, is that my Flickr photos — my best photos and the ones I am most proud of — are the shots I want to share with people so we can both appreciate them together. These are the ones I most want conversations to spark around, and yet these are the ones which get the least interaction.
At the end of the day, Flickr is the only place I’ve got to put my best photographic work. But it doesn’t feel like the right place. As much as I love the service, it’s just not cutting it. And I suspect I’m not alone.
My experience is a bit different. I’ve been on Flickr since October 2005, and I was on Instagram from its inception roughly until it was acquired by Facebook. I remember trying to do a similar comparison of the feedback I had been receiving on these two networks, but I soon realised it was a sort of trap. Yes, both are ‘photo sharing’ services, but in my opinion they have two very different underlying vibes. Leaving aside the most egregious exceptions in both services — pro photographers posting quality images on Instagram, and users mindlessly uploading dozens of dull everyday smartphone shots on Flickr — I always found Flickr to be the archive/gallery place to post one’s good-to-best photos at a slow, leisurely pace, and Instagram the place for, well, insta-uploading all kinds of here-and-now, impromptu snapshots, more frequently and at a more lively pace.
I’ve also found different audiences and different demographics in Flickr and Instagram. On Flickr I have interacted with more people who take photography seriously (some very seriously, some even too seriously); I have talked lenses and photographic gear in the forums; I have exchanged ‘pro tips’ every now and then. You get the idea. On Instagram everything and everyone are more casual; ‘hearts’ are given more lightly, in a more spur-of-the-moment way. Sometimes, ‘hearts’ are given for reasons that have little to do with how technically good a photo is. Rarely an exchange has gone further than “Nice shot!” – “Thanks!”
To sum up: different vibes, different people, different expectations, different kinds of feedback.
Personally, over the years I’ve found feedback on Flickr more difficult to obtain, but generally more rewarding. When some Flickr contact or friend (and I have a few serious photographers among them) faves one of my photos or leaves a positive comment — or even a negative one if it’s constructive criticism — it often means more than the few ‘hearts’ I used to receive when I was an active Instagram user. I’ve always had the feeling that on Flickr, feedback had to be earned, in a sense. I’ve always felt the Flickr community to be a place of peers, and that you just can’t expect to upload a few photos you like and wait for the faves and the comments and the conversations to follow.
Maybe things have changed a bit, lately, especially since the ‘rejuvenation’ of the Flickr mobile app, but I remember that the Flickr community has always demanded a little more participation from its members. When I had more time to devote to the social side of Flickr, I used to leave a lot of thoughtful feedback to many of the people I followed; I even wrote emails to newly-discovered people, telling them how I’d been perusing their photostreams and appreciating their work. This kind of participation and activity always paid, in the end. And although I haven’t received an overwhelming amount of feedback on Flickr over the years, I’ve always been satisfied with the quality of what I received, statistics be damned.