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(Credit: Flickr)

Photo-sharing site Flickr is undertaking a big shift following its 2018 purchase by SmugMug, and this week the transition begins in earnest. Starting January 8, Flickr is limiting free accounts to 1,000 photos and videos, way down from the 1 TB of storage that the company offered for free when the service was owned (and neglected) by Yahoo.

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(Credit: Jeff Carlson)

If you took advantage of that storage in the past, or you've been sharing photos with Flickr (download for Android and iOS) for a significant portion of its 15-year history, you may have more than 1,000 images on the company's servers.

SEE: Keep your photos safe in the cloud with the best online photo storage

So, you need to decide what you are going to do about your free Flickr-hosted photos and videos. Because starting this week, if you have more than 1,000, you can't add anymore. And then on February 5, for free accounts that contain more than 1,000 photos or videos, Flickr will begin deleting content -- starting from oldest to newest date uploaded -- to fit your account under the new limit.

What are your options? You can update to a Flickr Pro membership or download your images and data to ensure you don't lose them when Flickr starts deleting media beyond that 1,000 limit. (If you have fewer than a thousand photos, you don't need to worry about any of them being deleted.)

Flickr Pro

The solution with less friction is to subscribe to a Flickr Pro membership, which offers unlimited storage and costs $49.99 per year. That's pricier than some previous paid plans under Yahoo.

(Explaining how it determined the 1,000-photo cut-off, SmugMug discovered that "the overwhelming majority of Pros have more than 1,000 photos on Flickr, and more than 97% of Free members have fewer than 1,000," according to a blog post announcing the changes.)

Download your photos

If a Flickr Pro subscription is too costly -- a common sentiment for people who may have stopped actively using the service during the Yahoo era -- you can download the photos and associated data. (Even if you have a Flickr Pro account, you have the option to download your Flickr Data.)

Here's what's going to happen, and how to ensure you don't lose your media.

Starting January 8, free accounts won't be able to upload new photos or videos beyond the 1,000 mark. And beginning February 5, the oldest photos in a free account "will be at risk of deletion," according to Flickr, though images licensed through Creative Commons before November 1, 2018, won't be deleted.

It's possible to download photos individually or by albums, but a more efficient approach is to request your Flickr data:

1. Sign in to your Flickr account.

2. Click your profile picture and choose Settings.

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(Credit: Jeff Carlson)

3. Scroll down to Your Flickr Data, and click the Request My Flickr Data button.

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(Credit: Jeff Carlson)

4. Wait patiently by your email inbox. When I submitted my request, it took about a day to get an email saying my data was ready. (The good news is that you don't have to linger by your computer the entire time; the data remains downloadable for a month after it's made available.)

5. When the data is ready, return to the Settings screen.

6. Under Your Flickr Data, you'll see a collection of links; click one to download a .zip file containing the data or images.

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(Credit: Jeff Carlson)

The Account Data downloads include metadata about your account and the images, stored in the JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) text file format. It includes files such as "albums.json," which lists the albums you've created and the images you've added to it, indicated by the code numbers Flickr assigns.

There's also a text file for each of your images, which holds EXIF data included by the camera (the technical details of the shot, such as exposure and aperture), plus other Flickr-readable information like the photo's license, privacy and comments other Flickr members have made. The number in the text file's title matches up with a portion of the filename for its related image file.

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(Credit: Jeff Carlson)

Unless you have a tool to parse the JSON files, they may not be immediately helpful. However, the EXIF and IPTC data are also stored in the image files themselves. Those are included in the Photos and Videos downloads. Each .zip file contains 500 files.

One thing to note is that the image files will all be stamped with a modification date of when your Flickr data was ready. However, their correct capture dates are stored within each file's metadata and are properly read by photo editing software.

Download all the Photos and Videos .zip files, expand the archives, and store your photos in a safe place.

The links remain active for three weeks, so you can return to the Settings page within that time window to download all of the archives.

Save your memories

Flickr has endured a rocky history, so it's no surprise that many people have old photos stored there. Fortunately, you can pull them from the site if you don't want to pony up for a pro subscription.

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Takeaways

    1. If you have a free Flickr account and more than 1,000 photos, starting this week you have one month to either move to a premium account or have Flickr start removing your photos to under the 1,000 free limit.
    2. Flickr also lets you download all your images if you'd rather move your photos and videos to another storage and photo sharing service.

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    Author and photographer Jeff Carlson (jeffcarlson.com) is the author of the books Take Control of Your Digital Photos, and Take Control of Your Digital Storage, among many other books and articles, and co-hosts the weekly podcast PhotoActive. He believes there's never enough coffee, and does his best to test that theory.