About 2 weeks ago I received a Nikon D70 Digital SLR camera in trade for some computer work I've been doing for a neighbor. I've long wanted an SLR of any type and this has helped energize the creative side of me a bit. It also means I've been putting pictures online more and making much more use of Flickr. Which has also led to many of my friends asking "so what's so great about this Flickr thing anyways?"
Flickr is a photo hosting/sharing service from ludicorp that's been in beta for a while now. I think I first started using it around 8 months ago, but didn't really get into it until the new camera. I'd fiddled around with running my own photo gallery software a few times, tried a few other services, but nothing really jumped out at me until Flickr. Flickr is all about finding ways to organize and ways to share your photos. Like most other photo hosting services you can upload pictures, create photosets (albums), etc. It also has a bit of social networking type stuff built in so that you can choose to only share photos with your friends or family.
But where Flickr has really hooked me is with some of the other features. The biggest of which are tags. Tags are keywords you can add to a photo to provide more data about it. For instance, in this photo that I uploaded there are a bunch of tags. I can then choose to look at only pictures of mine with the tag 'squirrel', or I could see all the public photos on Flickr that have the tag 'squirrel'. You can also put notes onto a picture that show up when you mouse over a certain area. Oh yes, and they also have it set up so that you can post your pictures to your blog or LiveJournal from within Flickr and they accept photocam posts too.
One thing the tagging system has done is that some tags have a following. People will take pictures that can be tagged with a certain keyword. One of my favorites is squaredcircle, where people post pictures of circular things in a squared image. This one has enough of a following that someone has created a group for pictures like this (groups are things you can join which have their own photo collections).
The other thing that made Flickr my choice for a photo hosting service was that someone wrote a plugin for iPhoto so that you can export your pictures straight from iPhoto (instead of saving them and uploading with the web site or one of their uploading tools). When it's this easy I can't help but want to post stuff all the time.
Flickr is currently free, also also has a Pro option. With a free account you can upload 10MB of pictures a month, have 3 photosets, and people can view the 100 most recent images you have uploaded. The Pro account offers quite a bit more, you can upload 1GB per month, there's unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth use, unlimited photosets, and permanent archiving of high-res images. In the future Ad-free browsing will be added to that. You can check out their FAQ for more info.
The last thing I have to say about Flickr is that it has really inspired me to really learn more about taking pictures and to actually get out there and take them. The other day someone invited me to a group called 'sky'. For the next few days I was on the road and everywhere I went I kept looking for good shots of the sky (and I finally got one I really liked). It really ends up being quite addicting after a bit.
Oh, and no, Flickr isn't paying me to rave on and on about how I like them. I just think it's one of the cooler sites out there and want more of my friends to use it.