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Ah, Flickr - the photo sharing site for over 87 million people around the world. 

What I love about Flickr is that you can use certain photos from there for blog posts. You can even use some of them for commercial use, but that's a discussion for another time. Think of it - a whole fantastic library of photos to use for your projects. The number of photos stored in their run into the billions. 

But finding the perfect photo? That's a bit of an issue.

Think of Flickr as a colossal library. Now instead of employing a librarian, they've asked everyone who donates a book to classify it and shelve it where they think best. The result is that it's a mess, a real mess. A mess librarians would hate.

And although the perfect photo on Flickr might exist, finding it is another matter. 

Flickr uses the data users add about the photo to file them including titles, tags, locations etc, so it should be a pretty robust system, but time again the search engine just doesn't seem to work like it should. 

So here's 3 ways to make searching through the vaults a little more effective when you can't find an image:

Speak French...

Or German, or Polish, Spanish. Any other language that you aren't searching in. Although Flickr is used internationally it still uses the names of images provided by users to categorise photos. And as people use different names for things, you can find a whole lot of similar images all with a different name. Here's an example.

Last week I had a project where I needed to find images of Dandelions (don't ask.) You know the weedy yellow flowers, loved by rabbits, which turn into the things you blow to tell the time. After exhausting a Dandelion search in English, I realised that they're not called Dandelions elsewhere. In French they're 'Pissenlit' in German 'Löwenzahn', Finnish - 'voikukka' - you get the idea. And there you had hundreds more images that you never would have come across otherwise. 

Search Geographically

If you're looking for more photos of a specific place, then do this:

  • Open up any photo and scroll down to see the information.
  • On the right hand side there is often a map of where it's taken.
  • Click that and you'll have a completely different bunch of photos to look through based on geography.

Part of the data which Flickr has is the geo-tag of an image, (normally the longitude and latitude of where the image was taken,) which often is rather different to what you search for by keyword

Search Authors

If you still can't find the perfect image then try the following:

  • Open up a photo and see it comes from an album. Album photos are closely related by theme (most of the time) so you can see what else the author has taken shots of.
  • Open up the authors profile to see their other images. Although most collections are pretty varied (and often number into the thousands) you can come across images that you probably would never have otherwise found. 

If they have too many images to search through though:

Open up the authors profile and then open up their tag list (click on the three dots on the far right hand side of the authors profile.) This brings an alphabetical list of everything they've tagged. As this grows over time it's never going to be perfect, but can you can go through this to see any spelling mistakes or variations on keywords. So just say your searching for 'trees'. You could find 'tree' 'trees' 'leaves' 'autumn' 'woods' and so on to make searching easier.

All of this still takes some digging around, but it definitely opens up the options for images which you wouldn't otherwise find. 

If you have any other tips for searching Flickr then stick them on the comments below!

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