Trojan Horse: How Flickr Screwed Me Out of My Pro Account Through a Photo Walk


Yesterday, Flickr announced new changes that included a free, ad-supported terabyte of storage for all Flickr users. When I heard the news, I believed that Flickr Pro account users would be given an opportunity to stay Pro going forward. I thought this because this, in fact, was my understanding of what was told to me by a Flickr Senior Manager in a briefing earlier in the morning before the announcement.

Unfortunately, I found out the hard way yesterday that this is not the case.

In actuality, only some of Flickr’s Pro accounts are eligible to retain Pro status. More specifically, users had to be paid Pro accounts in January of 2013 and be set up for auto renewal at that time. If you were not specifically a paid, recurring Pro account user in January of 2013, set up on renewal, you will now be screwed out of your Flickr Pro account.

In my case, in August of 2011, I complained to Flickr about an error in their stats reporting. I had to send in several complaints about the same problem, but finally Flickr customer service acknowledged the error in their stats reporting. They said that they’d fix this error and that to make up for my inconvenience they would “gift” me 6 months of Flickr Pro.

My Pro account was set to expire in 2012 but I used another “gift” certificate from Flickr. This time it was a gift certificate that they handed out to all photowalkers on a big Flickr San Francisco photowalk.

The April 2012 Flickr photo walk I attended

The April 2012 Flickr photo walk I attended

Because I applied this 6 months of free pro that Flickr gave to every photowalker at the SF photowalk, my account was not set up to recurring Pro in January of 2013.

So, after paying consistently for two years at a time of Pro on Flickr for years, my Flickr Pro account is now not eligible for renewal, and I’m not grandfathered into the Pro Flickr service.

This blows.

I wish I’d never accepted the Flickr trojan horse “gift” of 6 months of free Pro at the San Francisco Photowalk. If I’d not accepted it then, I could be grandfathered as a paid Pro account along with everyone else. As it stands now, my Pro account will expire in July of this year with no way to renew it.

Now I’ll be forced to pay Flickr twice as much ($49.99 instead of $24.99) to remove my ads — and since I probably use more than a terabyte of storage, my Flickr fees will probably increase from $24.95/year to $499.99/year.

Yesterday, I thought Flickr was doing a very fair thing by allowing Pro accounts to continue on as Pros by paying $24.95 per year. I’ve invested thousands of hours uploading over 80,000 photos to Flickr with the understanding that I was purchasing unlimited photo storage.

Now, today, I’ve been screwed out of my deal because I made the mistake of attending Flickr’s San Francisco photowalk and redeeming a 6 months certificate for free Pro that they handed out.

This is just wrong and also contrary to what I was told earlier today.


Flickr should allow all Pro account users the ability to keep their Pro status, and not discriminate against those of us who happened to attend their San Francisco Photowalk last year.

There is a post on Flickr’s help forum about this here, where a Flickr staffer confirms that only some of Flickr Pro accounts are eligible for renewal.

I’m assuming that Flickr will sort some of this out before my Pro account expires in July, but I’m certainly concerned that Flickr would so easily take away Pro accounts from long time members who have supported the site with paid Pro accounts over the years. To offer someone unlimited uploads only to renege on that promise later for attending one of their photowalks feels wrong to me.

I’m still a big fan of today’s design changes and the 1 terabyte free account that Flickr unveiled today, but disappointed that long time Pro account users may now lose their Pro account status.


You can check to see if you are eligible to renew your Flickr Pro account here. If it doesn’t specifically say your Flickr Pro account will renew automatically on this page, you may be screwed too.

Update: GREAT NEWS! Since writing this blog post late last night Flickr has fixed this problem. I just noticed on my Flickr account page I have now been given the choice to extend my Flickr Pro account just like recurring Pros. This is awesome. So awesome in fact that I just re-upped for two more years of PRO!!!!!

Thank you Flickr for fixing this and in less than 24 hours! Now that’s customer service!

About the author: Thomas Hawk is a photographer and blogger based in San Francisco. Visit his website here. This article originally appeared here.

  • Bob Prangnell

    Quality not quantity. Some photogs, like you and Ratcliff, etc, have this bizarro idea of ‘documenting their lives’ as if anyone cares. What you end up with, even with skilled photogs, is a lot of junk. For the unskilled it doesn’t bear thinking about.

  • Gary Rea

    Hmmm…well, I have mixed feelings about this, myself. I, too, have a Pro account, however, the author’s claim that any pages are “ad supported” simply isn’t true, as far as I can tell. I like the additional storage and the larger image size, as well as the cleaner look of the layout. In fact, the old layout, frankly, looked like crap.

    That said, I am disgruntled over how Flickr now performs (or doesn’t) on my iPad. I found that all my images, when enlarged, are shoved down into the lower right corner of the iPad’s screen and cropped off on the right and the bottom. When I tried to move them out of this position, all sorts of weird things happened, from accidentally starting an unwanted slide show to parts of the image and my other images intermingling in some weird Mondrian-esque grid for a second, then snapping back to a single image crammed into the corner and cropped again. Surely, this is a glitch and iPad support for the new layout was intended….right??

  • Thomas Hawk

    Bob, why do you care how Ratcliff and myself shoot? Personally speaking I don’t care how any other photographer in the world shoots. Why should I? Anyone can photograph however they want as far as I’m concerned. There may be some ethical decisions photographers have to make sometimes and the line may blur there from time to time, but certainly quantity of images is not on of those gray lines. I can understand objection in cases like that but, simply because you think someone takes too many photos? Maybe you’re not taking enough.

    Henry Cartier Bresson said back in the film days that your first 10,000 photos are your worst. Today I think it’s more like your first 100,000 photos are your worst.

    Whatever the case, I shoot for myself. That’s all that matters.

    I’ve always thought it bizarre to see photographers care so much about how other photographers choose to do their work. As far as I’m concerned people ought to be able to shoot however, whenever, whatever, feels right for them if they can morally justify their activity in their head.

    After looking at the large libraries of Winogrand or Eggleston it’s hard to make a blanket statement that quantity cannot be done well. To dismiss quantity out of hand simply for the sake of quantity makes no sense to me.

  • Gary Rea

    It depends on the original image size. If you click on their See What’s New link at the top right of the page after logging in, you’ll find that you can scroll down the page to where there is a slider set to a default image size that is the average cell phone image size. My camera produces 16MB RAW files, so I cranked it all the way over to the right, which is 16MB, and it displayed the maximum number of images I can upload. It’s considerably fewer than the default. I am left to wonder, also, what happens to you guys who have 24MP or greater sensors.

  • Gary Rea

    There is: 500px.

  • Thomas Hawk

    Gary, you misread what I wrote there I think. Pro accounts don’t have ads. Free accounts do have ads. A number of folks with Pro accounts today were not being allowed to continue upgrading to keep that clean ad free experience at the 24.95/year Pro account price which comes with unlimited uploading. Flickr fixed this though and is now allowing more Pros (myself included) the ability to renew their Pro status and maintain their ad free service.

    Non-paid accounts will still have ads just like before. They now just get unlimited full high res uploads up to 1TB for free. Which is actually a really good deal if you are into free/ad supported accounts.

    As long as you and I keep our Pro status, we’ll continue not to see the ads.

    By the way, I don’t think this move by Flickr was in any way nefarious, I think it was more of an oversight that was quickly corrected. I probably should have used softer language in my original article in fact in hindsight.

  • Willi Kampmann

    “Thank you Flickr for fixing this and in less than 24 hours! Now that’s customer service!”

    Makes you look kinda silly bitching about it like that, doesn’t it?

  • Thomas Hawk

    yeah it does a little bit, doesn’t it. Although maybe the added attention was part of the reason why it was so quickly fixed and addressed.

  • Chris

    Just checked mine and it does say my Pro account will automatically renew on July 4, 2013………..Independence Day! Glad I didn’t get screwed!

  • Adam Cross

    because it’s all about “pro” status on Flickr. jeez. you need a slap with a wet fish.

  • j

    since this was fixed for him, the post should just get deleted… it serves no point anymore.

  • Keith D.

    It’s not about “‘pro’ status”, it’s about unlimited storage vs. 1 terabyte of storage and paying double every year, or paying TWENTY TIMES MORE every year for just 2 terabytes of storage vs. $25 a year for unlimited storage. That’s kind of a huge difference that goes WAY beyond the scope of a shiny badge on your profile name.

  • Adam Cross

    who really needs 2TB of storage on a website like Flickr anyway? (heck, I don’t even need 1TB, 10GB would suit me for online storage – I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket, my entire photo library on my desktop harddrive only comes to 111GB) seriously, anyone who thinks they need that much or who end up paying for it are absolutely beyond my comprehension – like this guy here who apparently has over 80,000 images on Flickr and wants to post 1,000,000 in his lifetime (which will never happen). each to their own, I guess.

  • BigEnso

    “Henry Cartier Bresson said back in the film days that your first 10,000 photos are your worst. Today I think it’s more like your first 100,000 photos are your worst.”

    Unlike a majority of the Flickr posters however, Henry Cartier Bresson got better after the first 10,000 images and continued to do so the rest of his life.

  • Willi Kampmann

    This is a business, not a bunch of of evil bullies who want to screw you over. It’s always a good idea to just sit down, drink a cup of tea and wait until the dust settles.

  • Ron Asbill

    Sounds like most of the time.

  • Al Borrelli

    Typically my response to these sorts of posts are “waaaah, quit yer crying”.. but I’m actually a bit upset. I’ve clearly been a regular customer with flickr and have had an uninterrupted account with them since 2007 and have one now through 2014 (ie I bought for 2 years) but since I’m NOT on auto renew even though I’ve not had a gap for more than 6 years, I’m screwed out of keeping my Pro status..

    Not cool Flickr.. when that time in June 2014 comes, I will NOT be renewing unless you ensure my ability to turn on (and get grandfathered) for this “auto renew” BS.

    Not cool.

  • anogymouse

    Suggestion: put a note right at the top of your blog post about the outcome?
    Makes it clearer you got remedy from flickr.

  • Thomas Hawk

    Al, this has been fixed now. You now should be able to renew if you were Pro before. All Pros.

  • blabbermoth

    Design changes and Pro account problems aside – what’s not being discussed enough is that the hard work of photographers is being used to sell advertising without their permission. Even if you have a paid account – ads will still show up when somebody looks at your work. They’ve cleverly circumvented creative commons licenses and successfully crowd sourced millions of images to sell without permission.

  • Alexander Wilde

    oh so the Professional photographers that use Hasselblad cameras with 50 and even 200 megapixel are non existent ?
    Before you call BS do some research.
    if you want just Google hasselblad 200MP sensor

  • Gregor_Albrecht

    To make sure I understand the problem, I’ll try to sum this comment section up:
    – Every serious photographer has a 200MP Hasselbald
    – which he uses on a daily basis
    – shooting 500 pictures a day
    – and he will upload ALLLLL of them to flickr.
    – And he wants that online storage for 25bucks or better yet for free.
    – Also, creating a second account or actually just seeing some ads is INACCEPTABLE.

    Ok, I don’t understand the problem.

  • TotallyRandomName

    Sorry. All I heard was “WAAAAAAAH! WAAAAAAAAH! WAAAAAAAAH! I got screwed by accepting free stuff! WAAAAAH!” Suck it up, baby.

  • Lame people

    Real professionals use a real website and not flickr for the omg someone commented on my photo

  • Jorge

    Well you whined enough… Jesus.

  • Anton Berlin

    Flickr screws hard and screws often