A picture may tell a thousand words, but all too often it's not that flattering a story. As many of us have learned to our cost, having the whole world see what we've been up to, courtesy of tags added by well-meaning friends, is not always cause for celebration.
However, tagging is the way the web works these days and, used properly, it can help you climb to the top of an image search results list and get noticed. Alternatively, tags can be used in a far more niche manner, so that only those in the know where to look.
You'll find tagging and other sorts of associative web trails all over the modern internet. But few of the best-known sites are as focused and user-friendly as Flickr. The website is almost entirely concerned with photos and beautiful images, and it presents a very pretty face to the world.
Flickr is remarkably easy to get to grips with. It's almost a model of Web 2.0 simplicity and easy to navigate. There are millions of photos posted on Flickr, yet finding relevant, interesting, high-quality photos, often along with interesting commentaries and detailed descriptions of the conditions or techniques needed to replicate the effects, are very easy to find.
The most populated topics have larger tags on the Flickr home page's ‘tag cloud', and it's a cinch to add to an existing cloud or create one of your own.
You may already have a photostream on Flickr, and the basics of posting and sharing pics are so intuitive that you'll hardly need any help. But this isn't the same site it was even a year ago, let alone when it first launched in 2004. We'll help beginners and experienced users alike get more out of the site's hidden tools and options.
Flickr doesn't have as many add-ons and widgets as some of the other Web 2.0 sites, such as Facebook, and isn't as customisable as the Firefox web browser. But it can certainly be personalised to work the way you want. If Flickr is your way of showing the world what you think, where you've been and what you can do with a camera, why not try some of our tips and show the world your best side?
1. To get started with Flickr you'll need a Yahoo ID. If you've already got a Yahoo email address or use Yahoo Messenger, you can simply sign in using those details. Otherwise, head to uk.yahoo.com and sign up for a free account. Now head to flickr.com and sign in. Click Upload Photos to get started.
2. You can browse to the photos you want to upload and select them individually, or download a Flickr desktop tool to automate the process. We used jUploadr. Right-click on the photo to automatically send it to a Flickr set or create a new one. You can auto-resize images via Edit, Preferences, Upload Actions.
3. When you start adding photos to your Flickr page, you create a photostream. This can be a single set of images or be organised by subject, location or any label you wish. To rename an image, click in the filename field and overwrite the text. Press Save, ‘Add to Set' to instantly organise your uploads.
4. If you haven't yet created any sets, you can do so now by choosing a theme for the photos the set will contain. When you're in the Organize menu, you can grab several photos on your photostream and send them all to your new set or group, or assign properties to all of them at once.
5. The photos you upload to Flickr are set as Public. You can alter this under Organize, where it's also possible to adjust whether your photos can be found by their tags, image type and other criteria. Public Flickr photos show up in image search results. You can also set age restrictions and a suitability filter.
6. There are millions of photos on Flickr. You can make your photo collection as hidden or as prominent as you like by adding obvious or more obscure tags (searchable descriptions of an image's content). For ideas, go to the Explore tab on the Flickr home page, enter a search term and see what comes up.
7. You can invite friends and family to view your photostreams by email or by uploading the link to your blog (if you have one). We set up a custom link for our photostream so that friends could search our snaps by entering a meaningful URL rather than an impossible-to-remember code.
8. If you're a Facebook member, you can link the two sites. Search for Flickr on Facebook to find the official Flickr link. You need to give Facebook permission to import your Flickr photostream. Enter your Yahoo email address and Flickr password to confirm the link. You can do the same in Blogger, Wordpress and MySpace.
9. Instead of simply setting your photos as Private, you can use the Creative Commons Licence to place limits on their usage. Go to Organize, Permissions (or click Edit next to the copyright symbol) to set permissions and specify whether other people can distribute and display your snaps.
10. If yours is a free Flickr account, friends can only download the image they see onscreen (or a smaller one). Only paid-for Pro account users can allow other people to download their originals. Flickr resizes photos to be 100, 240, 500 or 1,024 pixels along its longest edge. You can set size options on the Permissions page.
11. The monthly upload limit for free accounts is a fairly generous 100MB. Even so, you may want to consider resizing your photos before you begin so viewers don't have to wait an age for images to load. You can automate the resizing process in many photo editors, or you can use jUploadr.
12. You may prefer to edit your photo collection online using the Picnik batch editor that's incorporated into the site. Scroll down the Flickr home page and choose ‘Edit Your Photos' or click the Edit Photo option above your snap. Note, however, that you can only keep both copies of an image with a paid-for Pro account.
13. It's possible to have photos from several contributors housed in a central place using Flickr Groups. You can set a public group, a private group that only you and the other group members can see or a public group that operates on an invitation-only basis. Select Explore to search for groups.
14. To set up your own, click the Group tab on the Flickr home page and choose ‘Create your own group'. Decide on a type. You can't make a private group public later on, but you can hide a public one. If your group's photos contain adult content, tick the relevant box so that under-18s can't view it.