Setting up a Flickr Photo-Lifecycle

Hi folks,

This time I want to outline my personal photo-lifecycle. – As I dislike anything that is related with real-life archiving (in other words printed photos and hard-cover albums) – because it’s takes a long time to search your photos, the quality of photos and albums decrease over time due to wear and tear, … – I always wanted to have my photos digitalized and stored in a way that I can access them wherever I like.

I remember, when I bought my first digicam a couple of years ago (I think it was in 2003), I was happy about taking nice digitalized pictures, but the chaos on my hard-drive with thousands of JPGs was also preprogrammed. This chaos even increased after travelling for a couple of months. – Until Gernot introduced me to flickr. – Soon after I became enthusiastic about this service and bought a pro account. The upload-limits that flickr had in 2006 where dropped a year or so later and almost every day they provided new functionality (and judged on my very strict quality standards, I have to say it’s one of few web 2.0 applications that keeps impressing me). One of my favorite features is the flickr map, thus geo-coding of my photos became a must, too.

In addition to the photos I took with my digicam, I scanned dozenths of old (paper-based) ones to preserve them for the future. And life was good. Nevertheless, as a security geek, I always fear an enemy takeover (M$ or other attackers ). I mean, I really invested a lot of time into writing descriptions, geo-coding, etc. and I don’t want to loose that information. Moreover, retrieving photos from flickr is of course slower than holding them on your local hard-drive.

Hence, I’ve been looking for a flickr-backup solution as flickr keeps denying, that they can produce a backup of your data, even in case you would pay for it. To be honest: my ideal solution would be the synchronization between my local photo folder and flickr without loss of metadata (e.g. tags, geo-tags, descriptions), but that’s still a dream. Though, after playing around with several flickr backup tools (for windows, because I don’t have the time to deal with complicated linux-stuff) over the last years, I finally found a piece of software that helps me setting up a photo-lifecycle that satisfies me for now.

So my current workflow (which is imho still way to complicated) consists of the following steps:

  1. First of all I take loads of funny and interesting photos with my camera.
  2. In parallel I log my GPS positions with my GPS tracking device edit 2010-01-27: (which is now a HTC Hero equipped with google my tracks).
  3. Back to my computer I retrieve my GPS log with timemachinex. edit 2010-01-27: from my tracks, because it is able to export gpx files .
  4. After downloading my pics from the camera, I use a location stamper to write the GPS-data into the Exif-tags.
  5. Then I upload the photos with flickr’s uploadr and add descriptions and tags on-the-fly.
  6. The integration on is done automatically by the usage of a heavily customized WordPress plugin, called falbum.
  7. As aforementioned I found the tool downloadr with which it is possible to get flickr photos including most of the related meta-information back onto my hard-drive. unfortunatley you can’t retrieve the photos’ geo-coding with downloadr, but following my email conversation with the author jan-gerd, he already considers implementing this functionality. edit 2010-01-27: Since 2009-08-30 it is possible to include the geo-information in the Exif-tags with downloadr, though it does not work for me, because the resulting coordinates are always slightly off and some software can’t read the tags at all. – I’ve sent an email to Jan-Gerd a few months ago but didn’t receive a reply.
  8. edit 2010-03-18: I gave up on downloadr and implemented the download functionality in FlickrMovr (detailed description). As downloadr stores all photos in one directory, I implemented a simple php script which retrieves the sets (including their descriptions) from flickr and copies the photos (flickr-photo-ids as filenames) into folders named after the associated sets. edit 2010-01-27: Moreover, it is now possible to retrieve some meta-data like for example a photo’s geo-location (GPS-coordinates), description, tags, etc. from flickr. this information can either be written to a separate text-file edit 2010-03-18: stored in a xml-file or written to the jpeg’s Exif tags (i use exiftool in FlickrMovr).
    I’ve coded this little helper quick and dirty without any user interface. – Sorry for that. – Anyway, it should do the job after you’ve inserted the necessary variables in the phpconfig-file. If you don’t have php installed, just download the latest version and execute the code below.
php -f flickrmovr.php

Phh, how inconvenient… ;) (edit 2014-05-07: I’ve bought a GPS camera in 2014-04)

Thus, finally I like to present the cornerstones of my desired photo-lifecycle

  • take photos with a geo-coding enabled camera
  • upload photos to flickr
  • enter and adopt meta information online
  • easily integrate my flickr account’s data – without too much customizing – into my WordPress blog
  • backup all media items to my hard-drive including all available meta-information entered on flickr (preferable into jpgs’ Exif-tags)

That’s it folks. – One remark: There are currently no plans to enhance the functionality of FlickrMovr. – If you plan to use my tool, please stick to the flickr community guidelines. In case you find any errors, don’t hesitate to contact me.


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