Flickr to begin deleting photos from users if they don’t pay fee

On Tuesday, the new owners of the Flickr photo sharing website will begin deleting millions and millions of photos. 

The company, one of the earliest photo sharing sites, going back to 2004, announced on Nov. 1 a change in policy and a renewed push to get Flickr back on the radar. As of Feb. 5, it would no longer continue to offer 1 terabyte of storage for photos for free. The new rules: $50 a year for unlimited storage. 

Photo-sharing website SmugMug, which bought Flickr from Yahoo in 2018, gave users who didn’t want to pay three months to delete their old photos. In January, it began declining to let anyone with over 1,000 photos upload new photos, unless they deleted or signed up for the Pro account. 

Andrew Stadlen, Flickr’s vice-president of product, says he expects the deleting process to go on for months. “The accounts that haven’t been accessed in years will be the first to go,” he says. “We’ll be working from the back of the line.”


The reaction from members has been two-fold. Longtime users have been more engaged with the community and appreciate that SmugMug wants to revive the brand, he says, “Others didn’t want to pay and have left. Not every single member is coming with us, and that’s fair.”

Stadlen would like you to sign up for a Pro membership, even though there are so many places to share photos online. 

The difference is that by sharing on Flickr, you’re showcasing your photos to a “community of like-minded passionate people,” which is a different social experience, he says. “People come together to discuss landscape, nature and other forms of photography.”

(The pitch for SmugMug, which starts at $47 yearly and goes as high as $359 a year, is as a place to showcase your work, sell prints and run a photography website.)


How to clean up your Flickr

The first thing to know is that photos are presented in two ways, public and private. For instance, publicly, I’m sharing 251 photos. But privately, I have over 25,000. That massive number happened because Flickr used to invite people to upload everything from their memory cards and phones directly to Flickr. And since the storage rules were lax, we happily obliged.

To see the difference between public and private, click on the “YOU” section of your Photostream. 

The easiest way to start deleting is to go to the settings section of your account, and click on the “Your Flickr Data.” Stadlen says Flickr will send back all your photos and comments, via a download. (We clicked the button Monday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time. We’ll get back to you on when the download link arrives.)

Another way to delete is piecemeal. Go to the Camera Roll section (Under the You tab). You can organize by dates, click Select All and delete this way. But get ready to spend a lot of time in front of your computer. If you’re like me, with over 25,000 photos amassed since 2004, there’s a whole lot of deleting to do. (Or surrender tonight, and sign up for a pro account.)

Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. 

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