March 29, 2015 Travis Dewitz

Three Steps to Get the most out of Flickr as a Railroad Photographer | Guest Post by Nick Benson

Nick Benson Target Field Transit Station

Nick Benson – Target Field Station (10); Minneapolis, MN

Three Steps to Get the most out of Flickr as a Railroad Photographer

Flickr has emerged as the largest community of railroad photographers on the web. While there are thousands of people browsing Flickr for train photos, getting your work in front of them takes a bit of effort. Beyond getting trackside and capturing interesting images, here are three tips that will make posting your shots more enjoyable.

Nick Benson Train Snow Plow

Nick Benson – DM&E’s Jordan Spreader clearing the Jackson Sub in Baroda, MN.

Add your work to a train-centric group (or two, or three…)

The easiest way to get your work exposed to a broader audience is to add it to one of Flickr’s many groups that are devoted to train photos. The community is well enough established now that there’s a group for nearly every conceivable sub-genre of foamtography: Trains & Tractors, Railroad Snowfighting Equipment, and Railroaders – Gettin’ it Done are some of my favorites.

Flickr has a search page for discovering new groups, just enter a few terms related to trains, and you’re sure to find a few that look appealing. After you join a group, you may add your photos to it, and views, comments, and favorites will start trickling in.

Nick Benson Mono Rail Going Through Neon Glass Buildings

Nick Benson – Seattle’s monorail, built for the 1962 World’s Fair travels through the Experience Music Project, which was built around the line in 2000.

 Network, Network, Network

When regular Flickr users visit the site, the first thing they see is all of the recent photography their friends and contacts have uploaded. As such, it’s tremendously beneficial to add other railfans as contacts. When you add someone as a contact, they’ll see a notification, along with a link to your photostream. They’ll often take a look at your work, and if they like what they see they’ll add you as a contact – now you’ve got an audience whenever you upload a new photo.

Browsing groups is an excellent way to find new contacts, however; if you’re in the mood to do some shotgun networking, looking at another user’s profile and checking out who they’re following is a great way to discover like-minded photographers (if you need a quick start, take a look here).

Nick Benson DME Train at Sunset

Nick Benson – A quartet of RCP&E 40-2’s heading east out of Rapid City.

Geotagging and Railfan Atlas

While metadata (title, description, tags, etc.) are all tremendously important, the most interesting bit of ancillary information, at least to me, is the location, or “geotag,” which is simply that latitude and longitude of the camera where the photo was taken. You can assign the location information via a GPS module on your camera, by adding it to the image in Lightroom, or, by clicking “Add to Map” on your photo’s page on Flickr. Once coordinates are assigned, you can add it to Railfan Atlas.

Railfan Atlas, a pet project of mine, is an online map for exploring Flickr’s railroad photography; with over half a million images from more than ten thousand photographers, it’s a great way to discover photo locations and get a handle on operations in just about any area. The interface is intentionally minimal – zoom in on an area, and more photos appear.

Nick Benson Railfan Atlas Heat Map

Nick Benson – Railfan Atlas Heatmap

Railfan Atlas automatically scans dozens of railroad groups for geo-tagged images, but, if you’re anxious to see your train photos on the map, add them to the Railfan Atlas group, and they’ll be added more quickly, usually within an hour or two.

There you have it! By adding your photos to a few groups, networking with other railfans, and adding your images to Railfan Atlas, your Flickr experience will be much more rewarding. See you trackside!

Nick Benson

About the Author
Nick Benson is a freelance web developer from Burnsville, MN, where he lives with his wife and three children. His photos have been featured in publications and marketing collateral by Canadian Pacific, Kansas City Southern, Trains Magazine, and many others.


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