There was a bit of a ruckus in December when Instagram changed its Terms of Service and then changed them back. At the same time, Yahoo released an all-new Flickr app for iPhone that was clearly an Instagram competitor, but word on the street quickly grew and word was good: Flickr was a good competitor. I wasn’t attached to Instagram and decided to give it a shot over the holidays to see if I would prefer it, and I’m glad I did.
Flickr has been around since 2004 in many different iterations, with this app being their most recent stab at remaining relevant. Flickr is more professional than Instagram — I’d argue in a whole other league (not unlike 500px, reviewed here), but its embracing of filters makes it real competition for that other app. Flickr isn’t perfect (we’ll get into that), but as an app, I like it more than I like Instagram.
Yahoo Isn’t Necessary
Let’s get this out of the way immediately: you don’t need a Yahoo account to use Flickr. You can sign in using Google or Facebook IDs as well as Yahoo. You can create a Yahoo account from the app, but I never bothered and have gotten along just fine using my Google login. It’s a little bit of a pain that Yahoo is so focused on getting people to get a Yahoo mail account (with all sorts of other non-related product affiliations you probably don’t want or need), but it’s easily skippable.
If Instagram is a blunt hammer, Flickr is a full tool chest that offers a cornucopia of features for everybody from novices to avid photographers. I’m no professional, but I love my D3100 and was pleasantly surprised at the amount of great photography I found while exploring the app. And it’s easy to understand why so many photographers flock to the site. For an inexpensive fee per year ($45), a pro account (which was free over Christmas) will let you store unlimited photos as well as download the same high-resolution originals again whenever you need them.
The app itself speaks of this sort of quality and respect for the craft of photography. If you give Flickr access to the information, you can take a deep look at the EXIF Data for your photos. Tapping an Info button gets you a look at everything from ISO to focal length to exposure to GPS data (longitude and latitude instead of just an address). The list goes on from there. It’s immense, and it would take three screen captures to see the entire list.
You can also store photos in Sets (which are like photo albums), and tag them to make them searchable (which isn’t done with a hashtag, but with an additional menu that adds an extra step, which is unfortunate).
The app is smartly designed and easy to use, but very different than Instagram. If you’re used to Instagram and considering making the switch, you might want to reserve a few minutes to experiment with all the different features. Suffice it to say, that it puts Instagram to shame.
One thing that I do want is an iPad app. The app description indicates that Flickr is optimized for iPad, which it is not. Viewing these photos on an iPad with Retina display would be incredible — a 4-inch screen doesn’t do some of these incredible photos justice — and I hope the Yahoo team is working on something to suit those needs.
Filters, Filters, Filters
I don’t want to spend too much time with filters because I’m not sure they’re the most important part of the app, but as a serious Instagram competitor, I do want to address them. Flickr’s filters aren’t quite as varied as Instagram’s, and they place a heavier focus on black and white images. That being said, I can’t say that there were photos I couldn’t find a filter for (if I wanted to use one).
Flickr’s take on filters is simple: they are there, they are simple and there are just enough to cover what should be the majority of users’ needs. You can also search your photos and public photos by filters. Finally, Yahoo thought through the fact that some people don’t like or aren’t interested in filters, and have an option to turn them off in the in-app Settings.
Flickr offers two photo streams: one for your contacts/friends/family, and one for photos they deem interesting. You can favourite photos, comment on then and share via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or email. You can also join groups. One particular favourite feature of mine is the ability to organize your contacts’ photo stream by contact or chronologically by day. I prefer just seeing daily updates, so I’ve set it to be chronological. This way, photos are grouped together by day instead of users.
Whether you feel that Flickr is more social than Instagram, if you’re already a part of that service, really depends on who you know that’s on Flickr. Instagram feels like Facebook to me; it’s a place where everybody you know (including that crazy uncle) like to hang out. Flickr feels like Twitter — it’s a place you keep up with a few closer friends and the people who interest you. It’s a completely different experience that I felt was a little more enjoyable, but your mileage may vary.
My Final Thoughts
I never thought I would say this about a Yahoo service, but I love Flickr. I love it enough that I got rid of Instagram and put Flickr where Instagram used to be. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re into gorgeous photography and you’re looking for something a little more prestigious than Instagram, Flickr (and 500px) is the place you need to be. Highly recommended.