Today’s families are spread across the country – and even around the world. Social networking platforms such as Facebook have given us ways to stay in touch across those distances, but they have serious security and privacy issues. Posting vacation photographs on Facebook is also a public announcement that your home is empty – and just waiting to be burgled. Tagging photographs of your child with her name, gives a stalker ammunition to convince the child that he is not a stranger. And don’t EVER post a birth announcement there.
Although there is no perfectly safe online alternative, there are places offering free and/or affordable photo-sharing with much better privacy. One of those is Flickr. A free Flickr account gives each user 1 terabyte of photo storage space. That equates to more than 500,000 photos at today’s average photo resolution. Speaking of resolution, you can upload and store your photos at full resolution, making it a very affordable off-site backup location for your photo collection. Flickr’s privacy tools let you set privacy levels for each of your photos. Those levels are: public, friends, family, friends & family or private (only you). Flickr’s upload tools let you make those settings photo by photo or for an entire batch – and you can change them at any time. You can also choose how you want to license your photographs. In most countries, your photos are automatically copyrighted. Flickr allows you to choose from several different licensing options including copyright, Creative Commons and public domain. While licensing won’t affect the visibility of your photos, it will tell other users if they can or cannot download and use them.
So, how does Flickr know who your family and friends are? First, you can have Flickr search its user base using your Yahoo! address book to see if any of your contacts are already Flickr users. For those who aren’t, you can send invitations to share your photos, marking them as a friend or a family member as part of the invitation process. The invitation will provide them with instructions for creating their user account and connecting with you. They will also now have their own free terabyte of photo storage for their photos.
Flickr offers a lot of great photo-organization tools. You can organize your photos into “sets” – the Flickr equivalent of an album. During the upload process, Flickr also captures each photo’s metadata (time stamp, camera used, etc.) and the uploader apps (desktop and mobile) include tools to batch edit with additional metadata like tags, titles and descriptions. When viewed in a web browser, each photo has its own page displaying the photo along with all its metadata. In addition to title and description, there’s room for comments from anyone with rights to view the photograph. Here’s where families can share family moments without unwanted eavesdroppers.
As the number of family members on Flickr grows, you can put them all to good use when documenting large family events. Thanks to the growing abundance of camera phones, weddings, holiday gatherings and other events will generate plenty of photographs. Flickr has an impressive group feature that gives its users the ability to share photos from their personal collection to a group. There are three types of groups: public, anyone can join; public, by invitation only; and private. Private groups are not listed anywhere in Flickr. You can only join them by invitation. Public groups can limit who can submit photos to the group and can limit visibility to non-members – it’s up the the group administrator to choose.
Once a group has been set up, members can easily add their photos to it by choosing the Add to a group option from the photo’s action menu, then select the group from the popup list that appears on screen.
Groups offer more than just a place to share photos. Each group has its own discussion forum too. A savvy event planner could take advantage of this to help organize the event, generate interest and collect anecdotes afterwards. The example below shows the main group page for a popular public group displaying both the most recent images and the latest discussion topics.
While this article demonstrates how Flickr’s privacy features make it a very suitable photo-sharing option for families, we’ve barely touched its many impressive features. Next up is a look at ways to put your mobile apps to work with Flickr.