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Flickr: the best alternative to Instagram

Following the news of Instagram's new terms of service, many users are deleting their accounts, even after hearing Instagram's side of the story, so the natural question to follow all this drama is "what is the best alternative to Instagram?" My answer: Flickr.

Now, before I jump into all the great features and services that Flickr has to offer, I want to clarify what I consider necessities to truly work as a replacement for Instagram. First of all, the alternative must have an iPhone app that allows you to quickly add filters to your photos, as this is one of the main features of Instagram. But notice how I sad "one of" of the main features; that's because Instagram's role as a social network is arguably an even bigger feature. Without the ability to like and comment on photos, Instagram would've never become what it is today, and that's why an Instagram replacement must also have a solid social network built into it.

Flickr meets both these requirements.

Flickr recently released a huge update to their iPhone app that included the ability to add filters to your photos. I was actually planning to write an article that compared the quality of these filters with Instagram's, but I'll instead just give you the punchline now: Flickr wins.

When it comes to photo manipulation, Flickr has so much more to offer than Instagram. Instead of restricting you to the ability of only adding a filter, Flickr for iPhone also includes a slew of editing tools ranging from basic adjustments to brightness and contrast, to removing redeye and whitening teeth. Flickr also doesn't force you to crop your photos as a square. However, Flickr does not have a tilt-shift option. Not yet, anyway.

Now that it's settled that Flickr is a fantastic choice in the photo editing and filtering department, what about social? Guess what, Flickr wins this one, too.

Instagram only allows users to "like" photos and comment on them. That's it. No other social integration is, and probably ever will be, included in Instagram. And that's actually ok as that's all the majority of users will have interest in doing, anyway. But what about users who might be interested in joining groups and discussions about specific areas of photography or likeminded people? Flickr's got them covered.

With Flickr, you can create and join groups and each group gets their own discussion space. These discussion boards are just like forums and work as an excellent way to communicate with other Flickr users about photography. These groups also make a great way to look through specific types of photos. For example, as an iPhone photographer, you can join an iPhoneography group that only displays photos taken by other iPhone photographers and communicate with its members about different techniques, apps, and accessories related to iPhone photography. And if you choose, you can also create private, invite-only groups if you want to restrict who is able to join.

In addition to great photo manipulation and social integration, Flickr also allows you to create sets and galleries to help you keep your photos organized. With Instagram, keeping your cat photos separate from your food photos is not an option, you have only one "folder".

Convinced that Flickr is a much superior service in terms of features over Instagram? Then what about Flickr's terms of service. What rights do they have to your photos? Do they sell your photos to advertisers?

To find the answer, we must actually take a look at Yahoo!'s terms of service. The following was taken from section 9, titled "Content submitted or made available for inclusion on the Yahoo! services":

Yahoo! does not claim ownership of Content you submit or make available for inclusion on the Yahoo! Services. However, with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services, you grant Yahoo! the following worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license(s), as applicable:

  • With respect to photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services other than Yahoo! Groups, the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Yahoo! Services solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available. This license exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Yahoo! Services and will terminate at the time you remove or Yahoo! removes such Content from the Yahoo! Services.

"Publicly accessible" areas of the Yahoo! Services are those areas of the Yahoo! network of properties that are intended by Yahoo! to be available to the general public. By way of example, publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services would include Yahoo! Message Boards and portions of Yahoo! Groups and Flickr that are open to both members and visitors. However, publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services would not include portions of Yahoo! Groups that are limited to members, Yahoo! services intended for private communication such as Yahoo! Mail or Yahoo! Messenger, or areas off of the Yahoo! network of properties such as portions of World Wide Web sites that are accessible via hypertext or other links but are not hosted or served by Yahoo!.

To summarize, Flickr does not own your photos, but by agreeing to their terms, you do grant them the privilege of using them, even manipulating them, for use on Flickr's website. What Flickr does not do, however, is use your photos for monetary gain.

Then how does Flickr make money? By having both free and "Pro" accounts.

Flickr's free account allows you to upload 2 videos and 300MB worth of photos per month. Flickr will also limit the number of photos displayed on your account and photostream to the most recent 200. Older photos will not be deleted and their links will still work, they just will not appear on your Flickr page. A free account also limits you to posting your photos to 10 group pools and only smaller-sized photos are accessible (though the originals are saved in cased you choose to upgrade later).

A Pro account allows unlimited uploads, storage, and bandwidth, and the ability to posts your photos in up to 60 group pools. You can also view count and referrer statistics, and have access to your full-resolution images while still limiting the image size available to others if you desire. This means a Pro account can work as an excellent method of backing-up your photos.

A Flickr Pro subscription is $6.95 every 3 months, $24.95 every year, or $44.95 every 2 years.

Every company needs revenue to survive, and this business model has served Flickr well for a very long time. Instead of seeking monetary gain from its users' personal photos, it goes directly for their wallet. This means that Flickr's customers are its users, not advertisers. I support this model.

I've only touched on a few of the features and benefits of Flickr, so I encourage you to take a look and start poking around. You may just find that Flickr meets your needs perfectly and makes stepping away from Instagram an even easier decision. Although I'm not one who is outraged at Instagram, I will start using Flickr more often as I do support their business model more than Instagram's.

If you decide to join Flickr, feel free to follow me and let us know your username in the comments below!

Former app and photography editor at iMore, Leanna has since moved on to other endeavors. Mother, wife, mathamagician, even though she no longer writes for iMore you can still follow her on Twitter @llofte.

  • I've had a Flickr Pro account for years, and it's still my favorite photo site. I like that I can put my stuff under Creative Commons license.
  • Yep, I was going to include a paragraph about the different licensing options you can place on your photos, but I was worried that the article was approaching tl;dr :P I also assumed that there'd be commenters that'd mention it... and you did! :)
  • Agreed. I've used Flickr for years as well. It's a great site for both photographers & casual users alike.
  • Nice review Leanna.
    I always liked Flickr as a web photo site and now as an app to boot. I highly recommend it over that "other" app. Cheerios.
  • Great article Leanna. You do the best comparison reviews.
  • I've always used Flickr to backup pics. Try FlickStackr as well. To be honest, it's an insult for it to be compared with Instagram. I still don't see the point in instagram and don't care about filters.
  • Just got Flickr for iPhone. Expect to use it more! Username: valdan1987
  • I think in some cases the social experience at Flickr is even better than that at Facebook. It was just mishandled by Yahoo when it acquired Flickr in 2006. Hopefully Marissa Mayer recognizes this little gem and gives enough support to realize its potential.
  • I may have to start using it again. Though if Apple would just include filters in the, that and Shared Photo Streams would do the trick.
  • I like Flickr. I just forgot about it for a while after I reset my phone as new. My username is goodevening tiny.
  • Thanks to you, I reset my my yahoo account so I could log in! I may have missed it, but I noticed Flickr has the photo cards in Twitter. Yay!
  • Flickr is fantastic in my opinion. I have had a pro account for a few years now, althought I don't use the app for uploading as I do all my photo editing on Photoshop via my PC. My stuff there is under my username of "clearviz" which is the same as my username here.
  • Leanna, I know you looked at Tadaa when Facebook announced the Instagram acquisition. Have you considered it any further? I find its a great community and the photography is amazing, both from iPhones and other cameras. It does lack some features like private messaging and such but the social aspect is quite good.
  • I think Flikr is better than Instagram as filters are for kids really. The problem I have with Flickr is the problem I have with all Yahoo! properties ... there are no user names left that make any sense at all. I've tried to join Flickr about five time now, but every time you put in a name for an account you are fighting against about 15 years of random people picking names for themselves and then abandoning them. If I can't get a name that isn't my own, I want to get one that's at least close or somewhat related. Flickr (and Yahoo) are completely out of names. If I could sign up using my email even instead of having to pick some cryptic nonsense I would, but until they fix this problem I'm not going to bother with attempt number six.
  • Switched on flickr too. Very nice application.
  • Yeah, I spent a few hours last night using IG's Flickr share to start moving photos over. Starting from first posted to last. I have about 600 photos and its taking quite some time. But in the end, the service seems to be much better for me. For one, Flickr stores full size images that can be redownloaded whenever I want (Pro). I havent updated to Pro just yet but it makes sense as a repository for all my mobile (and other) photography moving forward. Name is OnlyOneJK. Same on twitter and on IG
  • Another interesting app you should check is Pixplit ( It has all the social network features like Instagram (profile, following, followers, likes, comments) and image manipulation with filters and borders. But at the same time it is very different. Pixplit let's users create photos together in a single frame (social photo collages) and communicate with others using photos. This unique ability to co-create together what led AllThingsD to post a few days ago about it and call it "A Photo App That's Actually Social".
  • We have a by default private file sharing service with http://Drop.MX you can read our blog post discussing a great alternative to Instagram here:
  • Flickr's timing of the release of the new iOS app was incredible. Maybe they knew something was up with IG, or maybe they just got lucky. Either way, it is a great app. I'm on flickr at "daveyank" if anyone wants to connect.
  • OK...color me stupid. I have a Flickr account and recently installed the new Flickr app to my iPhone 5. I can only shoot one picture at a time...the moment I press the shutter I'm moved to the edit mode. IOW, pics are not stored anywhere in the app or on the Camera Roll. Surely I'm missing something?
  • Thank you, this is a very well-written and informative article. I've heard about the new Flickr app for a while now, and this post really helps me make up my mind about giving it a try. Better yet, I've just come across an article on about a free service that allows you to move all your Instagram photos to Flickr, so I thought I should share it here with everyone:
    P.S I laughed out loud at your "keeping your cat photos separate from your food photos." Kate Luong
  • Hello There is also : an image hosting system dedicated to photographers with selling options, automated website and photo blogging system, and a plethora of productivity and image protection features. Registration is free. Features list is available here: Automated photographer's website example here: Main URL is: Feedback and suggestions are welcome!
  • And... About Instagram and rights:
    "Facebook's Instagram claims 'perpetual' rights to users' photos"
    The Telegraph: