I recently had my 10th photograph selected to Flickr Explore. Here is why it’s a big deal and why it doesn’t matter.
Flickr is a hugely popular photo sharing platform built for professional and photography enthusiasts. The focus is more on the art of photography compared to Instagram which is more suited for connecting with friends or social advertising.
Anyone who uses Flickr will be aware of the Explore feature. This is a daily stream of quality photography viewed by thousands of people each day. The selection process is composed of a closely guarded algorithm by Flickr engineers. Nobody really knows exactly how it works but it’s based on a formula involving favourites, comments and views in a relatively short time.
Why it’s a big deal
Many users aspire for a high level recognition within the Flickr community. Being featured on Explore will do just that. The first realization that your photo made the cut is that there will be a huge spike in views and favourites, followed by a surge of new contacts. This massive exposure leads to a sense of satisfaction since you are finally receiving validation for all your hard work.
Why it doesn’t matter
Many of us fall into the illusion that more is better. Some people tend to follow social accounts that have large followings simply because they want to be a part of the crowd. Others hope that they will return the favour. But the problem is that the number of views and favourites does not directly correlate with any measurable value.
What became clear to me is that most of the comments and favourites as a result of being featured on Explore were superficial. When viewing their account, it was evident that some users had an exorbitantly high number of views and favourites even though and in my opinion, took poorly composed, badly edited photographs of nothing. Nor was there any suggestion that they have an interest in my subject matter. This made it glaringly obvious that if someone wants recognition, all they need to do is frantically comment and like everything without any discretion.
But the real pitfall of this ego trip is you mentally construct a yardstick to measure how good you are as a photographer. It will no longer matter what photographs resonate with you, but rather what your audience wants. What will follow is your self-esteem will take a beating when you begin to compare yourself to others in a numbers game. This will lead to wasting time and energy on how to acquire more likes, views, favourites, and followers instead of focusing on creating work that matters to you.
There are two positives that I can take away from Flickr Explore. The first is knowing that the bicycle has breached the world of photography. No longer will the Flickr Explore be just about sunsets, landscapes, portraits, macro shots of flowers and insects. The second positive is that I don’t really care and that is truly satisfying.