Guest post: How to use Flickr to find pictures for your ads

dancing the tango in Argentina

TBYB! thanks Lise of Frugal in the Fruitlands for writing this excellent two-part tutorial about how to use Flickr photos to illustrate your ads. In this first installment, she walks you through the process of locating and downloading images about your topic. Those of you who are working on a New Year collage should find this material really helpful for locating those hard-to-find pictures of your dreams for 2009. Here’s Lise:

Last year, Lynn introduced TBYB! to the Power of Google (*light descends from on high*), showing us Google Image Search and Google Desktop and their applications in personal advertising. Today, she’s asked me to write about how Flickr can be used for similar purposes.

What is Flickr?

Flickr is an online, photo management and sharing website: “almost certainly the best,” if you believe their About page.

You can sign up for a free account and start uploading your photos immediately by simply selecting a file from your hard drive. Once uploaded, you can tag them, submit them to groups, share them on your blog, all with just a few clicks. You can also select whether you want the image to be visible to everybody, only yourself, or some combination of your friends, contacts, and family.

Not ready for that kind of commitment? Nothing of your own to share? Well, that’s okay, too. You can get the best personal advertising benefit without even opening an account. Let’s discuss those aspects of Flickr that make it so flexible, starting with tags.

What Are Tags?

Tag your photos?” you say. “What does that mean?”

Tags are simply labels. They are key to how many sites, including Flickr, organize content. Tags are a little different than categories – one might think of them like key words.

On Flickr, a user can ad up to 75 tags to EACH of their pictures to identity what it’s about. For example, I recently posted some photos from my vacation to New Mexico in May. I tagged all of them “new mexico” (and categorized them all in a set called “New Mexico May 2008”), but I tagged some “taos,” some “santa fe,” some “rio grande,” and some “garnet” (I spent a lot of time gazing longingly at garnet jewelry in Santa Fe), depending on the subject of the individual photos.

Once you’ve tagged a photo, and you’ve made it public, other users can use those tags to find pictures relevant to them.

Find Images for Your Ad Campaigns

By now one way to use Flickr is becoming obvious: you can use it, similar to Google Image Search, to find content for your ads. If you imagine yourself learning tango in Argentina, Flickr can help.

Why would you choose to use Flickr search over Google Image Search? There are two compelling reasons:

1) Different results. Google depends on the text that surrounds the image to define the search criteria, and it covers a wider universe — commercial or not-for-profit; amateur or professional; drawing or photography. So often when using Google Search, I find a lot of irrelevant images. Look at a similar search on “argentina tango” on Google Image Search: sure, I get pictures of couples tango-ing, but I also get a picture of a Buenos Aires hotel room, a type of wine called “Argentina Tango Soul,” and a lot of CD covers.

When you search Flickr, however, you’re searching images that have been tagged by a human being. There’s no commercial content, or irrelevant text to throw you off course.

2) The licensing is clear. One problem with using images found on the internet is that you have to be careful that you’re not inadvertantly using images that belong to someone else. Professional photographers may post their images to the web, but that doesn’t mean they want everybody using them free of charge.

Everything that is uploaded to Flickr is clearly labeled with its license – that is, who can use this photo under what circumstances. By default, all images uploaded are “all rights reserved,” but many users choose a Creative Commons license for their work – as I have done. My photos are licensed under an “Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike” license, which means that others are free to share and remix the work so long as they attribute the source to me and they don’t use it for commercial purposes. (Example: the photo on this page was taken by Petezin.)

Especially if you will be modifying the images, or if some of your personal advertising will be in the public eye, I recommend using the Advanced Search features on Flickr to search for Creative-Commons licensed content.

So let’s get starting searching!

  1. Starting on the main page, click on the pulldown menu next to the search box, and select “everyone’s uploads.” This will take you to Search page. (Note: you have to be logged in with your free account to see the pulldown menu)
  2. Select “Advanced Search.”
  3. Enter your search terms and select “tags only” — this will search only the user-selected tags, excluding any text accompanying the image. I find you get better results this way.
  4. Scroll down to the sections labeled “Creative Commons” and check “only search within Creative Commons-licensed content.”
  5. Click “search” to start your search.

Once you find an image you’d like to use in the search results, click on it to get the full Flickr page for that image. Before downloading the image for your personal use, check two things:

  • Is the licensing model what you expected it to be? Look under “Additional Information” on the right side of the page.
  • Can the image be downloaded? Regardless of licensing, many Flickr users do not allow downloads of their photos. If, when you right-click on the image and choose “save,” the name it wants to save the file as is “spaceball,” then the image has been set to not be downloaded. The “spaceball” is just a stand-in one-pixel image. Don’t bother downloading it; move on to the next search result.

If the licensing looks OK and the file name is something other than “spaceball,” then go ahead and save the image to your computer to use for your ad.

In Closing

What is your current personal marketing goal?
Is there a visual component to it you could use Flickr to illustrate?

Lynn says

Thanks, Lise — this is really helpful. Next week we’ll run the second article in Lise’s two-part series, which teaches you how to automatically stream tagged photos from Flickr to your desktop with the Google Photos gadget to continuously remind you about your goal.

And speaking of Flickr, if you tag any of your photos “tbyb” they will show up in the photo stream on our Examples page. If you come up with a great ad for yourself, please consider sharing your idea with the rest of the TBYB! community in this manner. Personal marketing is certainly a case where all of us together are smarter than any one of us alone.

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  1. Laura
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    This is SO helpful, especially for those of us who’ve not yet ventured into the realm of Flickr. Encourages me to think that perhaps I can participate in using that site. Thanks, Lise, and thanks, Lynn for bringing Lise’s helpful material to us.

  2. Posted September 3, 2009 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    As a corporate blogger, I manage about 12 or more blogs a week. When I need a creative image, say for my “animal care” blog, I specifically query Google like this: “cute puppies on Flickr” – and *poof* it takes me right to the section of Flickr I need to be in, then, as you stated, once you’re in the right section use a Flickr search and browse by the tags.

    You are correct, some people tag their photos really well: “…girl, lady, woman, dress, red dress, smile, happy girl, female model, girl with black hair, me and suzy on vacation, ” – you can find almost anything you want.

    I immediately look for the “Blog This” button over the photo. You can click that and “pop” a photo right into one of your blogs and it shows up with the proper accreditation and link to the author of the photo automatically. It’s a really cool feature.

    I had a slight run-in with a professional photographer you might need to be aware of. I used the “Blog This” button to post a gorgeous photo of the Charleston SC harbor to my “I Love Charleston Blog.” I don’t know how knew that I used his image (he might have done a “” search), but he contacted me and was NOT HAPPY. I reminded him that he gave everyone permission to use his outstanding image and he apologized. So, the thing to remember after you use someone’s photo is to go to the Flickr post box where the image came from and publicly thank them. (You can leave behind a URL link to where the photo is used in a blog or an advertisement online and that is great for SEO).

    Thanks for the wonderful, informative blog post. I love Flickr. It’s great that you shared your ideas with folks so they can benefit, too.

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