Brand Me a Journalist

Using Social Media to Create a Professional Niche

Creating a Flickr Account Suitable for an Aspiring Multimedia Journalist

with 3 comments

(This is the third of 30 posts referring to 10,000 Words’ 30 Things Journalism Grads Should Do This Summer, as I work my way down the list of recommended digital media tasks.)

The first two posts of this series focused on establishing a blog and then using Twitter to bring traffic to it. With a year of blogging under my belt, I was in my element and wrote the posts to prove it. And as I indicated in the tease at the end of the last post, I felt equally confident about the upcoming task:

Task #3: Shoot 100 amazing photos and post them on Flickr.

As was the case with blogging, I felt a step ahead of this challenge because I already had a Flickr account. I’ve been an amateur photographer since I lived in Manhattan in the late 1990s, where I took an introductory photography class at the New School in Greenwich Village. I take my pocket-sized digital camera with me everywhere I go and recently have been testing out my new Canon EOS Rebel T1i digital SLR, so I have plenty of new photos to post.

However, when I went to Flickr to add those photos to my account, I realized I had a bit of work to do to make my account an effective element of my personal branding strategy. I had set up the account before I decided to go to graduate school and used it to share photos with my family and friends. I selected what at the time was a suitable Flickr web address: (Oh, is that link not working? I’ll get to that in a moment…)

Although I chose a great address name for helping Grandma find the Christmas photos, it’s not something I’d want on my portfolio page for potential employers to see. Unfortunately, changing a Flickr web address is as difficult as changing your birthday.

That is to say, you can’t.

Flickr unequivocally does not allow you to change your web address and says the only solution is deleting the account. But even after I did that, my problem wasn’t solved. Because I used “Jennifer Gaie Hellum” as my screen name on the deleted account, I now can’t get access to my name for the new one. I’ve been through three days and two levels of Flickr Member Support, hoping that in the end I’ll be able to have two accounts: one for professional use, and one for sharing pictures with the Facebook holdouts in my life.

Rather than give a lesson here on setting up a Flickr account ( has several tutorials on the subject), I’ll instead sum up what I’ve learned about using Flickr as a forum for career-related photography and as an element of my personal branding digital strategy.

  1. Think through what you want to accomplish with your account before you set it up. If the Flickr support team comes through for me in the end, I’ll be the first to give them a thumbs-up. But I urge you to think it through before you start so you won’t go through the frustration I have in trying to make changes.
  2. Use your professional name as your Flickr web address and screen name. As much as possible, use the same name on all your social media accounts to maximize your search potential.
  3. Create “sets” of photos that address the kind of work you want to do. Journalists increasingly are responsible for shooting photos as well as gathering stories. If you are considering a particular beat, think of the kind of images associated with the stories you’d be telling and seek opportunities to take photos of people and scenes that would accompany those stories. Organize and label your photos on your Flickr page so it’s ready to be linked to your professional portfolio site.
  4. Be your own photo editor. Flickr only allows you a limited amount of uploads per month, so you need to be selective. Show your best work.
  5. Find a separate forum for sharing personal photos. If a photo doesn’t tell a story, capture a detail or share a compelling, well-composed image, save it for Facebook or some other personal photo-sharing account.
  6. Decide what you want to say through your photostream. Perhaps you aspire to be an award-winning photo journalist. Or maybe you simply want an employer to know that you know how to compose a picture and use a photo-sharing site. Having a Flickr account will allow the public access to your work and evaluate your level of talent, so make sure it supports you career goals.
  7. If you are serious about photography, consider joining Flickr groups. Take the time to comment on others’ photos and invite discussion about yours. Actively participating in a social network of photography enthusiasts can earn you “testimonials” on the site and will highlight your commitment to the craft.

As for checking off Task #3, I guess I’ll have to take an incomplete. I promise to update this post with my new-and-improved Flickr web address and recent photos as soon as I get my case resolved with Flickr. I hope to max out my account’s upload quotas in the fall when I take my first photojournalism class. (That’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was an undergrad back in 1985, when I couldn’t afford the cost of all the film!)


Next up: Task #4. Friend at least 50 journalists on Twitter who in turn follow you back. Now this one has to be as easy as it sounds…

Written by Jennifer Gaie Hellum

July 21, 2010 at 3:46 am

3 Responses

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  1. Really enjoying this series! Keep it up. Especially liked reading about Flickr because I did the same thing myself — started it out as a personal account and failed to organize it well at first.

    I’ve got a good list of journos on Twitter who I think represent the future of the industry…

    Alexis Grant

    July 21, 2010 at 8:44 am

    • Thanks for following the series, Alexis. I appreciate hearing that you, too, had problems setting up a Flickr account.

      And thanks for including your Twitter list. I follow several of the journalists already–including my digital media professor Leslie-Jean Thornton (@ljthornton), who introduced me to Flickr and taught me the elegance of the well-crafted tweet.

      Jennifer Gaie Hellum

      July 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ljthornton, Jennifer Gaie Hellum. Jennifer Gaie Hellum said: My latest blog post: @10000words Task #3: Creating a #Flickr Acct Suitable for an Aspiring Multimedia Journalist […]

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