Sometimes it seems as though all good things — well, all free things — must come to an end, at least as far as internet services are concerned. In this case, we’re talking about Flickr, one of the most popular free photo storage services. The service was purchased by professional photo hosting service SmugMug, and last November announced that free users will be limited to 1,000 photos rather than their previous 1TB of storage.
According to Flickr’s blog, as of January 8th, 2019, users who have more than 1,000 photos in their accounts were no longer able to upload additional files. Worse, as of February 5th, any photos over the 1,000 limit “will be at risk of deletion,” beginning with your oldest photos. (Note: According to USA Today, Flickr is now saying it has extended the deletion deadline until March 12th.)
Want to avoid losing those photos? Flickr hopes you will decide to upgrade to Flickr Pro, which costs $5.99 a month (or $4.17 a month if you pay annually). But if you want to stay with the free plan, and have over 1,000 photos, you’re going to want to move all your photos to a different service, such as Google Photos.
There are two ways to download your photos, and which you’d prefer depends on how much info you’ve been putting into Flickr.
Download just the photos
If you just want the photos, there are several relatively simple ways to do it (but make sure you have enough room on your hard drive first). Any process begins, of course, by signing into your Flickr account and heading to your Photostream.
First, you can select photos from the Camera Roll tab. Flickr lets you organize your photos either by date taken or date uploaded; choose the easiest for you. Then run down the list and click on “Select all” for each date that has photos you want to download. (If you want to download all of them, click on the top photo, hold down the Shift key, move down to the last photo and click on that.) Then move your cursor down to the bottom of the window; a pop-up menu will include a choice to Download. Click on “Create zip file.”
There is a catch, however: Flickr only lets you download 500 photos at a time.
If you want to download more than that, you have a couple of options. According to a Flickr Help file recommended earlier this year, you can download up to 5,000 photos at a time from a single album. However, in several threads in Flickr’s Help Forum, many users reported issues with these mass downloads, and suggested keeping album downloads to 500 photos as well. Click on the Albums tab, hover the cursor over the album you want to download and click on the “down” arrow. Flickr will then offer to download the album as a zip file; just click on “Create zip file.”
Download photos and info as well
If you would rather just download everything at once — and also get all the metadata, comments, and GPS data that accompany the photos — then it gets more complex. Click on your avatar icon in the upper right corner of the page, and select Settings. At the bottom of the Settings page, there will be a large button labeled “Request my Flickr data.” The message above it specifies which email address the link to your data will be mailed to; you can change that if you need to. Once you’ve clicked the button, the message will change to “Flickr data requested.”
It will take a while. I had an old Flickr account with hardly anything in it, so I essentially only had to download 13 photos. I hit the button at about 11:30AM and it was ready to go in about 15 minutes. (Users with considerably heftier file numbers have reported much longer times — one who had about 13,000 photos said it took four days.)
Don’t expect to get your photos accompanied by their data — photos and info will arrive separately. The zip files holding your photos will contain up to 500 photos each, so you may have a lot of downloading ahead of you.
The data will come in a zipped series of files in a format called JSON. JSON is relatively simple to read; you can use a simple text editor to see all your information, including comments. However, while you’ll have the info safe, you won’t be able to easily transfer it to another service, such as Google Photos.
If you’re ambitious, you can try using a metadata tool such as Phil Harvey’s ExifTool to reunite your data with the corresponding photos. You could also try an app such as IFTTT, which has several tools to, for example, move tagged photos from Flickr to a service such as 500px. And if you don’t want to bother doing any of it yourself, Flickr lists several tools on its site that purport to make the downloading process easier and / or faster. (One of our staff members successfully used an open-source tool called flickr downloadr.)
Once you’ve retrieved your photos, you can upload them to another service, such as Google Photos, 500px, Photobucket, or DeviantArt. Remember that unless you’ve been able to join your data with the associated photos, you’ll just be able to upload the photos and not the metadata, such as location or associated comments, since none of those services offer any kind of specialized upload from Flickr. (And keep in mind that if any of those deleted photos were linked to, those links will be broken, so you may have to do some repair work.)
But while you may lose your Flickr comments, you will have saved your photos — at least, those older photos that are in danger of being deleted.
Update February 7th, 7:00AM ET: Changed to reflect the extended deadline of March 12th.