Some ideas around Flickr sets




Rion totally nails something that has been sticking in my craw for the last six months or so. Ever since the rollouts of features that vastly improved the Flickr experience, the old design of the pages for holding sets of photos is really underwhelming. Here’s what an epic set of photos taken by Jon Armstrong looks like as a set:

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Kind of boring right? It doesn’t reveal too much about the incredible photography contained within when you click through one of the shots:

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I think they can do a lot more with the page for showing off a set, they could obviously go for larger photos, they could change the layout to be more like the “photos from contacts” page where images automatically expand to fill the available width and get to dominate the screen. Perhaps they could also change the sizing so that amazing small sets like Jon’s above could be much larger, where a set of maybe 100 images are still larger, but not quite as large as a small set.

If I know anything about Flickr, it’s that I would bet $1,000 someone has not only redesigned the set page eons ago, but it has been through testing and is being tweaked behind the scenes and will see the light of day someday soon. I also have another idea.

Flickr should start supporting blogging

How much  more impressive would Jon’s photos from Utah be if his photo set looked more like the following mockup? (click for a larger version)

Write a title, a few short summary sentences, and then fill out the story between each photo. Yes, I know it looks a little like Medium, that’s obviously a similar kind of layout. Yahoo, post-Marrisa Mayer has been doing some interesting things and Flickr seems newly rejuvenated. I love the service to death and wish it had uptake among my friends like it once did. I really think it’s time to try some new wacky ideas on Flickr and perhaps doing something closer to something that looks like blogging, that lets people showcase their work and their prose is a way this could go.

Since Flickr doesn’t currently support this, I tend to post these sorts of things on my own blog. Last summer I took an amazing family trip across Italy and came back with loads of great photos, but here’s how they look as a Flickr set:

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And here’s how some of those photos ended up on this very site:

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I would have no qualms about publishing that same story of taking trains across Italy on Flickr instead of my own site, and in the context of the whole set’s images, it might make better sense there.

Anyway, I’d love to see more courageous moves coming out of Flickr, and one small place to start could be the sets pages.

Published by mathowie

I build internet stuff.

15 replies on “Some ideas around Flickr sets”

  1. It’s still not what you want, but the “details” view is at least somewhat better:
    Even if the set page doesn’t get the overhaul you’d like, it should soon get the same “justified” treatment as contacts, favourites, and groups. (I’m somewhat surprised sets didn’t get ticked off already.)
    [Disclaimer: I worked at Flickr but that was a while ago and have no idea about what’s going on internally]


  2. I suspect that the sets page will have an overhaul in the near future. I would look to the mosaic wall of your contacts photos of what this potentially could look like. Search needs to be overhauled just as badly.


  3. Yeah, the /detail/ version always felt like a secret level of Flickr and I used to share that with people when I had a large set of photos they could scan through, but I found people didn’t know there were multiple pages and I’d have to remind them to page through each set.


  4. Exactly what I was thinking.. I still love Flickr for what it has done and have been feeling like 500px and others are moving ahead… Flickr needs to wake up and and join the current century for UIX. All that said they hold so many photos and people continue to upload.


  5. This is so spot on. If Flickr could nail blogging/micropublishing, it would replace (for me) my blog, tumblr, and Instagram all in one fell swoop. And if I could convince even a tenth of my FB friends to follow, it would replace FB too.
    Freaky thought: this has been possible on Flickr for YEARS. In retrospect, I can’t believe I kept a blog AND Flickr stream the year we lived in China (2006-2007).


  6. Two more things.
    Albums can be created on G+ that look nicer than sets on Flickr right now. Here’s an example of my America set:
    This still doesn’t address your blogging type scenario, which looks great, but it’s another alternative to flickr. Google’s started allowing full high res photos now so on a straight album to album comparison de facto as products I think they’ve got the better look at present. I suspect flickr’s new sets page ends up looking similar to the G+ album page though.
    Where G+ can’t beat flickr though still is in the extended functionality of sets available via Flickr the Flickr API. More specifically, Jeremy Brooks’ SuprSetr is the absolute best tool on the market for managing albums. I’ve got over 1,700 sets now on flickr and almost all are managed by SuprSetr. SuprSetr allows you to organize albums by keywords. Not only that, it lets you sort the photos by interestingness in the albums. So I can have a neon signs set for example. I can also have a San Francisco neon signs set (i.e. photos that are tagged with both neon AND sanfrancisco). I can have a collection of neon motels (photos that are tagged neon and motel). etc.
    This opens up all sorts of new scenarios. The app has a tool which will automatically tag all photos I’ve had that have received at least 10 favs with a fav10 tag. I t can then auto build an album of all of my photos that have received 10 favorites or more, a sort of “best of” my photos on flickr.
    Automated album functionality is the most powerful advantage flickr sets still have at this point. They should bake this into the actual product as less than 1% of people probably even know about Jeremy’s app.
    As far as display goes I think a mosaic wall with infinite scroll that shows photos bigger with intended crops would be the superior layout for albums. Certainly integrating a blogging tool or secondary display view makes sense too.


  7. At the risk of tooting our own horn, this is actually one of the reasons we developed Koken (
    Photographers often times have their portfolio sites hosted at while their blog/stream/news/etc is hosted at This setup works fine for some people, but there’s a lost opportunity there when it comes to providing additional context/narrative. Titles and captions only go so far. Koken tries to provide that missing bit of stickiness between an album of images and the written word (“essays” in our context) so that photographers can publish photo essays that include images and link to their respective photo albums within the same site.


  8. I agree that Google’s photo display on that page looks nice, but just about everything else they do poorly. So there’s no sense of community or even other people (every Google service has a cold, calculated feel to it instead of one designed by other humans), so it’s unlikely I’ll ever store my photos there.


  9. I don’t know Matt, perhaps in the past and mileage may vary, but I’ve never seen a community as vibrant in the photosharing space than Google+ is right now anywhere on the web. Over the past few years I’ve been on tons of Google+ photowalks and trips, done regular live hangouts (I’m doing one with my friend Trey Ratcliff on Monday night), etc. Comment threads are long and interactive, much more interactive than anything I ever experienced on Flickr.
    Flickr does still have a superior Groups functionality vs. Google+’s new “Communities,” but there are also some smart things that Google does with social functionality that Flickr does not. For example, when I block someone on Google+ they are really truly blocked. They become completely invisible to me and no longer exist. What personally drove me from Flickr groups was having to deal with stalking/crazy/harrasing sorts of individuals who could not be blocked from the Flickr Group.
    Google+ has blown away anything I’ve ever personally experienced as far as community on a network goes.
    You know a ton about community. Probably way more than I do. But personally speaking I’ve never met new more offline friends from an online community than Google+. That tells me they are doing something right.
    There are still functionality reasons why I prefer Flickr in some cases over Google+ (like SuprSetr mentioned above, unlimited high res photos for $24,95, etc.), but straight up for community Google+ wins in my book. To me it feels like much of Flickr’s community died years ago.


  10. Thank you for including my photos!
    Super flattered to see my photos like this. I love this idea so much. Yahoo needs to do more with Flickr and this is a great series of suggestions.
    Nobody has better photo organization than Flickr, but I’m out of the habit of posting there because my Flickr friends have moved to Facebook/Instagram. Those aren’t the best for sharing larger images.


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