Editor's note: Since the Flickr platform is always evolving, so are our best practices for using it. We welcome feedback and suggestions to keep processes current and up-to-date. For more information, read our social media policy. 

What is Flickr?

Flickr is a photo sharing website where users can post and share images, while in the process creating a high-resolution archive or "Collection." Other Flickr users and the general public can then access and repurpose these photos for online communications. The Digital Office has decided to create a single Flickr account for Energy Department, and will not approve or otherwise authorize requests for additional official Energy Department Flickr accounts.

Why use Flickr?

  • Flickr currently hosts over 5 billion photos, which often show up as search results online.
  • Flickr creates an opportunity for a larger audience to discover the Department of Energy from a visual perspective.
  • We can communicate the story of the Department through images curated for public use.
  • We can archive our best photos for future use.
  • We can allow stakeholders easy access to quality, high-resolution images and provide the ability to share them globally in all types of media.

Important Terms

Photo Stream: This is the main public page of a Flickr account and shows each picture uploaded in chronological order.

Collection: A top-level group of images, organized in sets, based around a specific subject. The Department will assign program offices their own collections, as appropriate, and all images associated with a program office should appear in its respective collection. Contact the Digital Office at newmedia@hq.doe.gov if you have questions about your collection or would like to request a new one.

Sets: Smaller groups of images within a collection, often uploaded in the same batch, and relating to an event or specific subject matter. 

Resolution: The amount of digital information in an image file, measured by pixel height and width, dots per inch (dpi), and several other varying methods. Flickr allows you to upload and archive high-resolution photos and will then create different sizes based on that image. 

Metadata (or Meta): Loosely defined as data about data. Metadata gives context to photos. In the case of tags, it optimizes photos for being located in searches. For Flickr images this includes titles, descriptions, copyright, photo credit, tags, dates (created/posted) and information about geographical locations.

Intellectual Property and Flickr

Any content published to Flickr should be in full compliance with the copyright standards set forth in the Department of Energy's social media policy.

All images published to the Department of Energy Flickr account will be classified as Government Work. This means "a work prepared by an officer or employee of the U.S. government as part of that person's official duties."

It is preferred that every photo on the Flickr account could also be classified as Public Domain, meaning that no person or entity can lay claim to ownership of the photo as intellectual property. The Public Domain classification allows a photo to be shared and repurposed freely with the knowledge that no laws are being violated.

However, there are times when the federal government creates works that it does not own or has not secured all rights for, such as:

  • Personal releases for image and likeness (with the exception of public events)
  • Prominently featured architecture, sculpture or illustration
  • Reuse of existing photographs not owned by the federal government
  • Images created as part of a contractual agreement with a third party. A rule of thumb is that Government Work implies potential restrictions on use and ownership while Public Domain is freely available for the public to use.

The responsibility for designating an image on the Department of Energy Flickr account as Public Domain rests on the person who uploads that image. For each photo, the person uploading must make the determination of whether or not the image is Public Domain. Additionally, if it is not Public Domain, that person must also secure any necessary rights or permissions in writing prior to uploading. If it is Public Domain, that should be noted in the description of the photo.

Preparing Photos for Upload

  • Prepare your edited photos and save them as JPEG files, in the highest resolution possible.
  • Create a set title and set description, and then a title and description for each photo.
  • After creating a set, add metadata to each individual photo.

Sharing Uploaded Photos

  • Embed an individual photo on your own web page
  • Send others a link to Photos, Sets or Collections

Best Practices


  • Have a strategy about what you are trying to communicate about a given subject. A picture is worth 1,000 words, so be strategic in what you present.
  • Take technically sound pictures. Think about the basics such as composition, lighting, foreground and background subject in relation to what is being communicated.
  • Exercise quality over quantity both when recording images and selecting which ones to upload. One great image can, and often does, generate more interest than 10 mediocre ones.
  • Edit your photos by adjusting crop, color and exposure in photo editing software.
  • Provide accurate metadata to every photo you upload for 508 compliance, as well as providing context and increasing online reach.


  • Provide every picture on your memory card. Be very selective.
  • Use images that violate intellectual property laws.
  • Watermark or credit the owner of the photo on the photo itself.
  • Use images containing sensitive or classified information.
  • Use images that reflect poor taste with regard to content or image quality.