If you are interested in the street art around RMIT University, it might very well have been shared to the world by Michael Fedyk. Michael needs little introduction to the university as the Blackboard trainer at RMIT. While doing Blackboard training with Michael I was impressed with how he uses images from Flickr to make his training more interesting and engaging. Flickr is a widely used tool in education both as a source of free photographic content as well as providing storage and community for photographers. In a video of our forthcoming Vice Chancellor Martin Bean that have been circulating it is interesting to see that he has included some Flickr attributed images in his presentations. Flickr is also one of the few social media tools integrated into Blackboard, the others being YouTube and SlideShare.
Describe your use of Flickr
I joined in 2008 – I remember because I had just given up smoking. I was using a phone camera to capture street art. A colleague here suggested I post them to Flickr. At the time the free service allowed 200 photos max. I hit that in the second upload. By comparison it is now free to sign up and you get a free terabyte of storage. It can also hold short videos too although it is 99% images. Photo: Nocturbulous on Flickr CC licence
Each photo can be set to private or publicly viewable. You can also make sets and groupings. Photos can be added to albums. Photos can also be tagged with keywords which is important because all the photos can be made to be searchable. All the camera settings also get stored with the upload so you can refer back to how you captured an image. The location of where a photo was taken, can be included so that you can make a Google map of all the images, or create other geotagging activities.
There are also themed groups in Flickr – I remember you pointed me to Rusty and Crusty
In Flickr you can create closed communities where only the members can view and have commentary. There are lots of open communities too. For example I am on a Canon DSLR user group made up of professionals and students who are constantly uploading and getting critical feedback. It is great for learning from others. There are sometimes prescribed tasks, such as using particular framing and settings. It works very like a photography class or a MOOC only more open and optional
When you share with groups you get a lot more hits on that image and are more likely to get feedback. You need to invest a bit more time with groups but it has a lot more payoff.
What are the payoffs for you?
I have made 2 friends that I have never met physically. J.D. Hancock who photographs pop art toys and Chris McVeigh who is a Lego photograper in Canada. Through getting to know them and helping them out they have sent me their paraphenaila such as postcards, special images and t-shirts. Flickr is also a great leveller – I can feel we are part of each other’s lives. It defeats the tyranny of a distance. It really is a good community. I know that I am not alone. There are lots of others on a similar journey. You don’t have to worry if you just have a mobile. Sometimes the composition by itself is so important. Crappy cameras teach you that. And you can upload directly to Flickr from your smartphone.
What about copyright when using Flickr?
I always ask in what contexts can I use images? Often the case is that an image is copyrighted. What I do then is contact the owner on the messaging in Flickr and ask . I say I am a trainer at RMIT and outline what I want to use it for. They always write back and say yes for free and thanks for asking. I keep a record of that communication. My partner on Flickr has experienced this from the other point of view. She has become a specialist in photographing flora and fauna.
So far she has 24 publications ask to use images. They have emailed and she always grants permission. It’s very satisfying. Once she was asked to use an image on a board game and got sent the board game. She gets great joy beyond sharing with family and friends and is inspired to continue putting up great photos. I have watched her evolution – she’s not a geek, and Flickr is now one of her main sites. Photographers are so happy you are using their image without stealing it. If you want you can also prevent download; and you can also create albums for others to use and share.
Creative Commons (CC) is popular on Flickr. Why put your photos up as CC?
It makes it easier to put images out there for others to share. If you get your work out there others refer back to your image. Then if they are shared on blogs or Facebook your stats are tracked. All clicks and views are stored, but also where is that site coming from but you can drill down on Google to find what people were searching for to find your image. This is where your tags come into play as they are retrieved in search results.
Creative Commons is more readily shareable. Creative Commons can get you presence pushed further into the subject genre that you are into. It is like being well known in a visual form. Students can become known in their field. For example the lego guy is really well known now. Over time he has projects with Gizmodo and Lego themselves made contact and asked him to be one of their photographers. At the beginning he wasn’t a photographer. Flickr taught him how to do it. Because he shared he became known and on the way he learned. The two things go together. I am fascinated by his journey and I feel a part of it.
It is vital to tag photos with keywords. This is critical for others searching. It also makes it easy to integrate with other social media. I will share my “graffitiart” tag on Twitter. So it makes it very simple to share out to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Tumblr. With one click and there can be a lot of cross promotion.
It is important to keep your tag clouds succinct but to try and also imagine what people would search for. I like finding my images with my specific tags as search terms.
Why share photos to Flickr and not another photo sharing site?
At the time Flickr was the best thing available. It still is the best because of the way it holds the images with different sizing options, Creative Commons options, and the ability to keep them private or not. In Flickr more capability that belongs to the owner and not the vendor. It has an inbuilt photo imaging editing and enhancing app called Aviary and it’s all free. And you can put in your own copyright.
What are the advantages in searching Flickr for learning content?
You can search in Flickr for all images or you can just search for those freely available to use through creative commons. In Flickr you get great quality. A lot of professional photographers store their work there. Some have both professional and private accounts as their portfolio. The site is more readily made for image viewing and you get to choose from a wide range of size formats if you only want something small.
During the bushfires I had friends that lost all their photos. I started recommending Flickr as these memories become your archives. In education images have a place. Often photos can have better impact than video. You can get to the point in one place whereas video takes time to get there. From Flickr I have learnt a lot about the world. It’s my photo blog that captures my journey in life and what is meaningful to me.