Flickr, a longstanding image hosting service for shutterbugs and digital art enthusiasts, has unveiled a new tag: virtual photography. The announcement comes this morning with an explanation of how it'll work:
When you upload content to Flickr, you need to choose where it “fits,” a category that accurately describes what you’re sharing. Until now, Flickr offered three options for content categorization: photos, illustration/art, and screenshots. Today, we’re introducing a fourth category, virtual photography, because “screenshots” didn’t quite meet the needs of this creative and growing community.
Virtual photography has been on the rise recently. With games becoming more than about just a playthrough, titles like Cyberpunk 2077 have capitalized on implementing a photo mode that lets users explore and express themselves when they aren't engaging with quest-related content. Red Dead Redemption has a similar feature, resulting in beautiful images that can reveal either the violent or quiet side of Rockstar's simulated countryside.
Virtual fashion photographers such as Gogo have been at it for far longer, though. A major writer and reviewer of metaversal products for Second Life, Gogo is the owner of the blog Juicybomb (disclaimer: the editor of The Metaculture is a former contributor to the website). She turns out technical and evaluative summaries of new releases for interested customers, prioritizing what makes avatars look attractive and what keeps users coming back to the game. Gogo has also been a subscriber to Flickr's pro service for years.
"As a Second Life resident who uses Flickr strictly to store my virtual photography, I've always felt that there was a lot of negativity from 'real photographers' on the platform," Gogo explains to The Metaculture. "They openly criticized Second Life photography as not real photography and wanted us filtered out, so Flickr made a Screenshots category to do just that. I guess it's nice that people who want to search for Virtual Photography can do so now, and people who want to filter it out can do that too."
While not entirely happy with the change, Gogo admits it's probably what Flickr thought best to pursue. "Of course Flickr is a business, so they'll do what's best to retain their users, if this is a solution to keep everyone happy."
"I think it's a smart move on Flickr's part," offers creator Whiskey Monday. Whiskey has been a fine art photographer for years now, utilizing Second Life to fashion exploratory pieces that focus on the realm of self. "Virtual art is being talked about in new ways, and appreciated by whole new audiences. This move will help better normalize virtual art, and some virtual artists gain better recognition."
"I think virtual art is a broader term than most people know, with so many VR, virtual world, and now AI platforms where people can create. Flickr is including Virtual Art in their long running World Photography Day contest, and that's another great move. Mixing in our virtual art with other, more traditional photography forms will help to elevate virtual art in general."
"I changed all of my work over to the new Virtual Art category, where it used to be uploaded as straight photography. They used to have a 'screenshot' category, but that felt like it was demeaning what I did to create the work. I never used it."
This year, Flickr clamped down on non-premium photo slots to encourage customers to purchase their pro plan, which includes unlimited uploads. Originally taken as a sign for the site's deathwatch, the new virtual photography category just might keep the website running and attract new customers in the process.