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.

  • Jef Poskanzer

    Yep, same here.

  • Sciamachy

    You’re not forced to do anything. Walk. There are better services on offer elsewhere, and ways to transfer all your photos. That’s what I’m doing. I had a pro account for years. I’m taking up a Plus account at 500px instead.

  • Jef Poskanzer

    That is doubly wrong because (a) yes of course there are still professional photographers, but more impotantly (b) flickr’s “Pro” account was *never* about professional photographers, and in fact flickr’s terms of service have always explicitly prohibited professional activities here.

  • Jef Poskanzer

    If you figure out where to look on flickr to get your actual storage usage, please let folks know. Seems like that number must exist somewhere, if they are basing your account’s pricing on it.

    Anyway, I suspect that very few accounts are currently over the 1 TB limit, or even particularly close to it. Maybe only you!

  • Spencer Selvidge

    From what I can see on Flickr forums, just set up auto-renew right now and you should be fine. I have mine set with Paypal so it is not connected to a specific card (that expires) and it looks fairly perpetual to me at the moment. I won’t risk changing my auto-renew from 1-yr to 2-yr until the air is cleared and more info is out there but its less than 24 hours since the announcement. This is a social media and PR nightmare for Yahoo/FLickr and they are a big company… they will fix it but they move slow because of internal bureaucracy.

    Patience is a virtue.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    lol @ smugmug

  • Antonio Carrasco

    I thought this was, not the customer service dept of flickr

  • Rob S

    Not sure where you get this. Given their partnership with Getty they were more than encouraging “Professionals”

  • Thomas Hawk

    Spencer only Pros who were set up to autorenew before this change. This excludes many other Flickr accounts.

  • Thomas Hawk

    A fair point. On the other hand, when this was brought to staff’s attention they did not seem to give any indication that this is something that they were considering. Emily pretty clearly stated that some Pro accounts would be allowed to expire without adding that they’d review this decision in the official Help Forum post.

    I wouldn’t call this an attack though — and I did write some very nice things about them earlier in the day and spent a few hours in the help forum endorsing most of the awesome changes they made yesterday.

    Hopefully by this issue getting some attention it might be fixed faster. :)

  • Vikingtravels

    They show a percentage of space used if you hover over your user-icon in the top right corner.

  • Fly_Dog

    The world of the 0.0001%, apparently.

  • Thomas Hawk

    Vikingtravels, existing Pros set to expire don’t have this functionality.

  • Ryan

    Flickr handled this redesign terribly, and will alienate it’s users even more. I made the decision to close my flickr account a few months ago after being a paid user for 6-10 years. It was time to move on because flickr doesn’t care about it’s users. Maybe they’ll wake up, but it will be to late by the time they realize that.

  • Joey Duncan

    I understand that, but this is a media outlet, you need to be careful how you personalize it. It’s pretty obvious reading through the comments this isn’t the first time you’ve vented about something on a personal level and people don’t take to it well. And you can’t say the comments don’t mean anything because 1; well this is the internet, it means more than most things, and 2: it means a lot to you otherwise you wouldn’t be responding.

    You have every right to be up in arms about this, I would be too. But somebody who took their posting seriously wouldn’t make the context personal, but more of an example. You should be warning people and addressing the issue as a whole, as a media producer not as a pissed off user.

  • Todd Gardiner

    I have never seen a post by Thomas Hawk that wasn’t complaining about Flickr in some way.

  • Thomas Hawk

    It’s just my writing style, I originally published this on a personal blog, PetaPixel asked to republish it here and I said fine. On my personal blog I speak for myself personally so that was the context it was written in.

  • Corinna Haselmayer

    I have never been on auto-renew but now I could change it to auto-renew at my Subscription Management/Payment page!

  • Vikingtravels

    Aha, and now I found out my Pro account had expired.
    “The more you know..”

  • Thomas Hawk

    Really? You must have missed the post I wrote about them earlier yesterday then.

    Or maybe my previous one where I reviewed their iPhone app:

    I’m actually a huge fan of Flickr but just think that they got it wrong here.

  • Jason

    Examples: You can’t host product images for an eBay item or put etsy links to products in your photo descriptions.

  • Mansgame

    So really, how many of you flickr guys have 1 TB of pictures and are mad that you don’t get unlimited?? 1 TB of JPGs…not raw files, but jpgs. That’s what I thought drama queens.

  • Thomas Hawk

    I do, I think…

    But it’s not just about unlimited storage vs. 1TB. It’s also about getting an ad free version of Flickr. Flickr Pro accounts are ad free at $24.95/year. The new 1TB ad free account is $49.99. That’s a doubling of the price for some Pros to stay ad free.

    In my case, with likely over 1TB, my price would jump from $24.99 to $499.99.

    I’m sure Flickr will sort this all out btw.

  • Mansgame

    Sorry I call BS. A 24 MP full frame DSLR has JPGs (on fine setting) of between 10-14 MB. You mean to tell me that you’ve been shooting everything at 24MP all your life AND you’ve posted all your pictures at full resolution for the world to see, AND your 82510 pictures are worth publishing? Pfft. Please. Let’s see all your 82,510 24 MP pictures then.

    Nobody cares that you want to publish 1 million pictures before you die. You’re welcome to start your own site and pay for your own storage and bandwidth if you want.

  • Mansgame

    Yeah but this is the me me me generation. He wants attention.

  • Mansgame

    lol yeah he’s paying $24 and is crying like a little girl that they screwed him over by giving him a free year and he can’t get unlimited everything for ever.

  • pickr

    looks like they changed it. i was able to extend mine just now and it changed me to recurring

  • slvrscoobie

    I just found out I might be screwed as well! I have a REOCCURING membership (2 years) from May 2011, but in December of 2013, I got 3 months free! Now it says my membership will EXPIRE?!?!

  • slvrscoobie

    Same Here!!! WTF Flickr! I get that 3 month gift was a forethought to get us out of our Pro accounts!

  • Thomas Hawk

    I shoot RAW and convert to JPG. Usually files from my Canon 5D M3 run anywhere from about 10MB to 30MB I’d say. I post everything to Flickr full high res. Here’s a photo of mine on Flickr that’s 36.5MB from my camera:

    99% of my photos were taken with a DSLR.

    As far as Flickr wanting my 1 million photos there, I think you’re wrong. Maybe Flickr doesn’t just want to store 1 million private photos, but photos drive traffic, photos drive millions of page views. My photos specifically have driven millions of page views to Flickr. These are valuable to them. I assure you that Flickr very much wants higher visibility photos on the site, even at large storage levels.

  • slvrscoobie

    You forget Flickr has its own compression algorithm.

  • jan

    This is pretty cool, now I can have all the features again that I lost when I stopped my pro account and turned it into a free account over a year ago ;-)

    Not a fan of the new design though. (must admit I didn’t like the old one either)

  • Bradjward

    Member since ’06 here too, but I NEVER use auto-renewals online so I’m in the same boat.

  • ISO640

    PetaPixel should have indicated it was a repost. That would have been the responsible course of action but I agree with your opinion.

    Mr. Hawk has a large following, a well-known name in certain circles. It’d be nice for him to “lead the charge” so to speak to try and make Flickr change what it’s doing to current pro members. I agree with him that it isn’t fair some pro accounts get to continue being “pro” accounts while others don’t.

  • lidocaineus

    There are no ads for people looking at your photos as well – I consider that quite valuable.

  • Thomas Hawk

    Alec Soth, photographer, Minneapolis: A few years ago Robert Frank said, “There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art any more. Maybe it never was.” What do you think about this?

    William Eggleston: I don’t disagree with any part of that statement.

  • Rob S

    For all the people being critical of TH for “whining” I ask this – since it is generally accepted that he could fix this for himself with a couple of phone calls, why would he spend the time to write this up? The answer – which he has given many times – is that its not about him. He knows he is going to be fine. he knows his account will “convert” to a “Pro for Life.” But that doesnt help the untold many who are not in his position. I have even more respect for Thomas Hawk for writing this BECAUSE he didnt have to.

  • Thomas Hawk

    hey thanks Rob.

  • Bristol

    The point of the article isn’t what you think he should be allowed to do, it’s what he has always *been* allowed to do which he no longer can do after being snubbed by an unexpected executive decision from the company. What are you, his mother telling him what’s good for him? Or a 7 year old using the “nobody cares because I don’t care” argument?

  • pixeljammer

    “Trojan Horse” and “Screwed Me” suggest that Flickr planned to mess with you when the truth is that you were a casualty of business decisions involving millions of users. I’m certainly no Flickr apologist, but I don’t see what they could have done that wouldn’t have pissed off or “screwed” some group of users. Blasting them loudly and publicly so soon after the change and without giving them a chance to respond to a politely-written private email is unfair and self-centered.

  • Patrick Downs

    Who cares?

  • Thomas Hawk

    I just updated my original blog post on this issue here:

    Flickr has totally just fixed this problem and I was just able to re-up for 2 years of Flickr Pro! They fixed this issue in less than 24 hours, what awesome customer service!!!!

  • Thomas Hawk

    Perhaps my language was a little overly dramatic for effect — plus I tend to get emotional sometimes re Flickr. I’ve invested thousands of hours there over the past 10 years and lots of emotional energy.

    The good news is that this problem was fixed and in less than 24 hours! I’ve updated my blog post at this point and changed the headline to how Flickr *DIDN’T* Screw me over.

    I’ve also updated it in the various places on social media that I shared it.

    Once again, all is good in the flickrverse as it should be!

  • Nate Parker

    Hawkman- I had always thought that for some reason your decision to use Flickr to host your magnum opus was a poor decision (for some reason) and now this- there must be a better place to trust: your self for instance on your own controlled website?

  • nate parker

    Mansgame can be a real bits sometimes-

  • Nate Parker

    cool- still for safety sake I would host your own images at your own controlled site. Lot’s of us photographers do that! Woot!

  • uberfu

    So let me get this straight – You are crying because YAHOO (not FLICKR) – the new owners of the Company made a Policy change to reflect their Corporate values and have no obligation to honor the previous regime’s Policies – While you also enjoyed 1.5+ years of FREE Premium (Pro) service (that probably not a lot of Users received)

    Yes you got a little spattered on from the hose. It sucks! That’s life. You are not a 10 y/o – pull your bigboy pants up and deal with it.

    You can always make an attempt to contact FLICKR and see if they’d adjust their new Policy to accommodate your temper-tantrum – OR be happy that you now have a 1TB storage limit that you do not have to pay for any longer.

    Also – you could simply open up additional Accounts and technically have unlimited “free” storage.

  • Montana Photog


  • Mansgame

    And what did you shoot with 6 years ago?

  • Thomas Hawk

    uberfu, keep up, this was resolved 2 hours ago.