Close-up of photographer to represent image sharing via Flickr

Using Flickr to share your images via Creative Commons

Social MediaCategory
5 min read
Bryant Tutterow

First things first

Here’s what you need to know before selecting a Creative Commons license …

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that Flickr and Creative Commons are not designed specifically for you to sell your creative work. There are several options to sell your imagery — including Flickr’s own Marketplace, where you can sign up for consideration and if you’re  a good fit, someone from the curation team will reach out to you.

This article, however, aims to highlight how Flickr with Creative Commons licensing enables you to share your creative work at scale and provides a means for gaining exposure, awareness and engagement. It’s about photo sharing, not directly selling your work.

Next, it is against Flickr’s Community Guidelines to host generic graphic elements, logos, banners, icons, etc., as a replacement for a content distribution network. The best way to think of Flickr is as an online portfolio of your best creative work that is highly optimized for search. You are not specifically trying to make money from the imagery itself.

Don’t try to get “creative” with your sales approach and upload tons of product shots, sales collateral or other imagery that is more appropriate for a sales sheet or product catalog. Do consider unique, interesting photos of happy customers and other examples of your organization’s values and personality.

Telling your brand story through photos is a great way to make the appropriate impression on Flickr.

Finally, and probably most important, make sure that you have all the necessary rights to upload the imagery you plan to license on Flickr. You definitely want to avoid infringing on any third party. The activities below are meant for designers who intend to share imagery they themselves create.

Once you have embraced the spirit of photo sharing and understand the various Creative Commons license types [link: Designer’s Guide to Creative Commons], you’re ready to learn how to offer your photography and imagery via Flickr.

Update Creative Commons license for each image

I personally feel that this method provides the most flexibility and control over the administration of licensing the imagery within your Flickr account. It is also the most time consuming and requires significantly more effort if you upload a large number of images. There are two ways to edit licensing permissions, either before uploading the image or after.

Update license before uploading image

If you need to maintain different licensing and permissions by image, I highly recommend updating your Creative Commons licensing information prior to upload. There are risks to others utilizing your work if you decide to update your licensing information, especially if you decide to become more restrictive later on. By setting permissions prior to upload, you can minimize these potential misunderstandings.

The process to update licensing is very straightforward. Identify “Licensing” in the Owner Settings tab and click the Edit link as highlighted by the red box in the screenshot below:


You will then see an expanded set of Creative Commons Licensing options (pictured below) to choose from. Select the option most appropriate for your image and save.


Update license after uploading image


Now let’s say you’ve been using Flickr for some time and want to update permissions on an image by image basis. Simply go to your photostream and click on the image you want to update. You will see a drop-down box on the bottom right (just below the image taken date) with the current setting of the copyright for that image.

Simply select the Creative Commons licensing option for that image, and you’re finished.

This is obviously not a time-consuming process if you only have a few images, but if you have hundreds or even thousands of images, these quick updates can become very tedious. The good news is that Flickr offers two other options to streamline the process.

Add a default Creative Commons license to your photostream


If you find yourself selecting the same licensing option for the majority of the files you upload, a quick timesaver might be to set a Default License option. This will apply your specific license option to every new image that is uploading into your account by default. 

Batch update all images with the same Creative Commons license

Having a default setting is great, but what if you have already uploaded those hundreds or thousands of images? Well, Flickr provides a quick solution for existing images with a Batch Update.


I caution you to be careful in using this feature, especially if you desire to maintain specific permissions by image. The Batch Update option will update all public images in your account to the same Creative Commons license.

One last note: While Flickr has provided easy ways to license your work, there are still other media and sites that will also host your imagery. Be sure to properly mark your creative work elsewhere and also follow best practices for Creative Commons attribution of others’ work on your own blog, in presentations, etc. This extra bit of work will produce significantly more meaningful references to your brand over time and show you are a legitimate and trustworthy source of information.