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Flickr Hacks by Jim Bumgardner, Paul Bausch

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Hack #2. Control Who Sees Your Photos

Flickr has a flexible privacy system that enables you to share photos with your friends, your family, or the world—or keep them to yourself.

Flickr exists so that you can share photos, but you might not want everyone in the world to see all of your photos. Your friends would love to see photos of you knocking back a few beers at your favorite bar, but your boss might frown on them. Your family would love to see photos of you dressed up for your cousin's wedding, but your friends might not appreciate your powder-blue tuxedo. With a bit of planning, you can make sure that your Flickr photos are shared with only the people whom you want to see them (or not shared at all).

Every photo sent to Flickr has a privacy setting, and the default setting is Public. When a photo is Public, anyone visiting Flickr can see the photo. If you want to control access to your photos more closely, you can set them as Private. But the term "Private" is a bit misleading, because there are different levels of privacy. To understand how the levels of privacy work, you need to know a bit about how Flickr contacts work.

Flickr Contacts

When you mark a photo as Private, the ability to view the photo is limited to you (of course) and certain people among your Flickr contacts. Say you want to share a slightly embarrassing baby picture of yourself with members of your family, but not the rest of the world. First, you'll need to add your family members to your contact list by inviting them to join Flickr (or, if they already have accounts, browsing to their photostream pages and adding them as contacts).

To invite people, browse to your Flickr home page and click the Invite link at the top of the page. Enter your family members' email addresses and names, and designate their relation to you by checking the box next to "This person is family." Click Send, and Flickr will send out invitations. Once a family member receives the invitation, she can register at Flickr, and she'll be added to your contact list as a family member.

Flickr contacts can have three different statuses: Family, Friends, or Contact. Once someone on your contact list is designated as Family, he'll have the ability to view photos that you've designated at Private, Visible to Family. You can also designate photos as Private, Visible to Friends or Private, Visible to Friends and Family to limit access to just friends, or just friends and family members. Contacts without a Friends or Family designation will be able to see your Public photos only.

You can change a contact's status at any time by clicking the People link at the top of any Flickr page. From there, navigate through your contacts and hover over the icon of the contact you'd like to change. A pink box like the one in Figure 1-10 will appear, asking if you'd like to change the status of your contact.

The change contact question box

Figure 1-10. The change contact question box

Click the box, and you'll see a change contact status dialog like the one shown in Figure 1-11.

The change contact dialog

Figure 1-11. The change contact dialog

Adjust the settings and click OK, and the contact will have the ability to see photos (or not), depending on his status.

Setting Privacy

You can set the privacy settings for specific photos at any point, but it's best to do so when you initially upload the photos to Flickr. Figure 1-12 shows the privacy settings on the basic upload form.

The privacy settings on the image upload form

Figure 1-12. The privacy settings on the image upload form

Even if you're using a desktop uploading tool [Hack #5] , you'll find that they all offer a way to set the privacy level for the batch of photos you're uploading.


Be aware that if you add a photo to a Flickr group pool, any member of the group will be able to see that photo, regardless of its privacy setting.

You can always see how a photo is marked in Flickr by checking the settings underneath the photo. Browse to your photostream and look for a square icon directly underneath the photo. The color of the icon indicates its privacy status. Green means the photo is Public, yellow means the photo is Private but friends or family members can view it, and red means you're the only user that can view the photo. You'll also find a phrase next to the icon that indicates who can see the photo, as shown in Figure 1-13.

Private photos on Flickr

Figure 1-13. Private photos on Flickr

You can click the "set privacy" link at any time to change the privacy of a photo.


To publish a photo to your weblog with the Blog This feature at Flickr, the photo will need to be marked as Public. If you publish a Public photo and then change its status later, the photo will still be visible on your weblog, but people clicking through to the photo at Flickr will not be able to see the photo detail page.

If you find that you're marking every photo you upload to Flickr as Private, you can set this as the default privacy setting. At the bottom of any Flickr page, under the Your Account heading, click the Photo Privacy link to set your privacy preferences, as shown in Figure 1-14.

Global privacy settings

Figure 1-14. Global privacy settings

As you can see, you can set a default privacy value for your photos, and you can set the level of participation you'd like other Flickr users to have with your photos.

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