I’m a big fan of Flickr. It has so many features, such functionality and such a network of communities that, in addition to using it for my own personal photos, I use Flickr for work-related projects.
If I have a Flickr set of photos relating to a specific event, I can show them to colleagues, contacts or journalists. And if a colleague needs a full-sized version of any image, Flickr gives me, via a couple of right-clicks, a URL for the original size of any of my images (This is only available to Flickr Pro account holders). I’m not just referring to the URL for a Flickr page – I mean the link to the image itself, and I can share this image URL with anyone, preventing the need to send large files via email.
So what’s the problem?
The ability to distribute images via the web is a great facility. But I frequently find myself promising a set of originals to a colleague, and then tediously right-clicking, copying and pasting my way through a large set of images, compiling a list of URLs within an email.
One day recently, as I was working through a set of images, retrieving original image URLs, I wondered aloud, via Twitter, if anyone knew a clever way around the problem.
The answer I got was not what I expected:
A guy called Martin Hatfield, through his Twitter account of @hairyhatfield, noticed my Tweet and offered to help. I’ve never met Martin, but he seemed to understand my plea and, as a guy who appears to know how tinker with the web, he set to work with the Flickr API, Yahoo Pipes and whatever other clever tools he uses.
A few days later, Martin contacted me again and unveiled his creation: Picr. A tool to automate the process of compiling image URL lists from Flickr sets.
How Picr works
The way Picr works is simple – you just enter the number relating a Flickr set (the unique number that forms part of the set’s ID), and you are given a list of the URLs relating to each image in the set. These are not the page URLs – they are the URLs of the actual image files. This list can then be copied, pasted and emailed to anyone I’d like to have quick easy access to the image files.
Images sizes and privacy settings
Picr gives you the image file for the largest file that’s publicly available, so if your Flickr permissions are set for everybody to have access to your original files, that’s what Picr will provide. If your Flickr account has been set to limit access to the original sized files, then Picr will provide a list of the URLs for the medium-sized images, as seen on regular Flickr pages.
Help with these permissions can be found on the Flickr FAQ.
If you’re currently logged in to Flickr, here is the page you need to govern access to your original versions.
It’s important to remember that Picr doesn’t bypass any of the privacy settings you have set for your Flickr account. If you’d like to be given a list of original-sized image URLs, your permissions settings must allow public access. If you’re happy to receive URLs for medium-sized images, then your account can have tighter privacy settings. Picr simply retrieves the URL for the largest publicly-available version of each image. If you can’t decide between the utility of accessing a full list of a set’s original URLs and the security of tighter Flickr settings, a simple solution is to alter your Flickr settings only long enough for the time it takes Picr to do its job – a few seconds – before resecuring your Flickr account. This may seem a hassle, but compared to the time Picr may save you, it’s no big deal.
Why this is good
Of course, Picr is a fairly specific tool for a fairly specific job. It will certainly save me time, but I appreciate not everyone uses Flickr in the way I do.
Perhaps more importantly, the appearance of Picr has reminded me a couple of things:
- There is so much that can be done with the mass of APIs, RSS feeds, Yahoo Pipes and clever developer tools. And when combined with the knowledge of how to use them (provided in this case by Martin), the potential solutions are countless.
- Secondly, I have been reminded of the willingness of near-strangers to help each other; to share skills, to solve problems. I have never met Martin in the flesh and I only vaguely know him through Twitter. But that didn’t stop him hearing my call for help and coming to my rescue with Picr. If I do ever meet Martin, the beers are most certainly on me.
Thanks for the write-up Clive! It was a pleasure to help, I get a kick out of doing simple coding projects, and I learned a bunch of stuff.
The only minor clarification I have is that the final version doesn’t use Y! Pipes, but is just a single elegant flickr api call for each set.
As I mentioned before, you’ll have to excuse the lack of design. I’m also open to suggestions for improvements/refinements from all and sundry. If the service gets popular, I’ll move it to it’s own domain.