Ann Arbor, MI — August 2014 — The phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” has been replaced at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry with a new one: “Our photos are worth a million views.” The School’s Flickr website, www.flickr.com/photos/umdent, recently reached a milestone when it recorded 1 million views of photos, videos and albums on that site.
Created in 2006, the Flickr site displays a collection of notable events that take place at the School of Dentistry throughout the year including commencement, the White Coat ceremony, orientation for first-year dental students, Research Day, and retirements of administrators. Also included are student-sponsored programs, intramural sports competitions, the staff Halloween costume parade, and more.
The photographer whose digital camera has been in overdrive capturing these moments of instant history for viewing shortly after they have taken place is Celia Alcumbrack-McDaniel, one of several web content creators at the School.
Officially a web content administrator in the Office of Student Affairs, Alcumbrack-McDaniel manages the student blog and social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as Flickr. She occasionally took photos at student events before becoming what some now affectionately refer to as the School’s “Flickr photographer in chief.”
Alcumbrack-McDaniel considers herself a photojournalist. “I want my photos to tell a story, so I try to be as unobtrusive as possible to get candid, unrehearsed images,” she says. “Those photos are much more compelling and interesting than posed photos to me, and hopefully, to viewers too.” She uses a cellphone camera to take pictures of events and quickly posts them on the School’s social media sites. She also uses a digital single lens reflex camera to take many more photos for the Flickr site.
How many more?
“At first, I was taking four- or five-thousand photos during major events, such as graduation, the White Coat ceremony, and new student orientation,” she says. “But then reviewing so many was very time consuming. Now, I typically take between fifteen hundred and two thousand photos during major events. That’s still a lot, but it’s more manageable.”
After taking the photos, Alcumbrack-McDaniel reviews each one.
“The easiest part of the editing-down process is deleting blurry or out-of-focus photos. But it gets more difficult as I try to narrow down the selection to about 150 photos for possible use on our Flickr site. I select the best ones, crop, edit and tag them before uploading,” she says. In addition to selecting photos for public viewing, about 100 photos are set aside for the School’s archives.
As she takes her photos, Alcumbrack-McDaniel says she tries to remember the School’s target audience — students, prospective students, and alumni. She also tries to be as inclusive as possible. “I try to get a good mix of people in my photos and compositions that reflect the School’s diverse community. But sometimes I feel like I’m a paparazzi for dental students,” she says with a smile.
Dan Bruell, the School’s manager of media services, says the Flickr site “has grown significantly in recent years.” Initially, the site had mostly clinical images of work done in the School’s general dentistry and specialty clinics.
“But with the growth of social media, we have changed our approach,” Bruell adds. “Today, students, prospective students, faculty, staff and alumni expect us to post images from major events.”
Typically, there are between 1,000 to 1,300 daily views of photos on the School’s Flickr site. But that spikes to 10,000 or more after a major event such as graduation or the White Coat ceremony.
Bruell says some Flickr images appear in scientific or other publications. “As part of the University’s Open Michigan program (http://open.umich.edu) our collection is licensed under a Creative Commons license. We do not require anyone to pay us to use an image,” he says. “But we do want them to acknowledge that when they use our images they note that they are from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.”