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Flickr backup utility

Project description

A tool to incrementally backup your photos from Flickr.


  1. Install Python 2.7 ( if you don’t have it already:

  2. Install pip:

    $ wget
    $ python2.7
    $ easy_install pip
  3. Install package from PyPI:

    $ pip install flickrbackup


Note: You must have a Flickr Pro account to use this tool, since Flickr only allows access to original-scale images for Pro members.

The first time you run flickrbackup, you should specify a start date, using the format YYYY-MM-DD:

$ flickrbackup -f 2012-02-28 -v photos

This will launch a web browser and ask you to authorize flickrbackup with your Flickr account, if you haven’t already. You may need to restart the script after this step.

Once authorised, flickrbackup will download all photos and videos for the authorised account that have been created or updated on or after the “from” date (February 28th, 2012 in this case) into the directory specified (photos in this case). Items are organised into subfolders by set and the year, month and day they were taken. If an item appears in multiple sets, it will be copied into both set directories. Metadata such as the title, description, tags and other information will be placed in a file with a .txt extension next to the image file. The image file name is based on the Flickr id of the image.

After the first successful run, a special file named .stamp will be placed in the download directory, containing the date of the last backup. This allows flickrbackup to be run again without the -f argument, for example in a scheduled nightly “cron” job, picking up from where it left off:

flickrbackup /path/to/photos

Here, we have also omitted the “-v” (verbose) flag, which means only errors and important messages are output to the console, as well as a log of the ids of the photos that have been processed (mostly as a progress indicator).

It may be useful to log important messages to a file. In this case, use the --log-file (-l) option (with or without the -v flag to control the amount of information output):

flickrbackup -l /var/log/flickrbackup.log /path/to/photos

The log file will contain the type of message (e.g. INFO for informational messages or WARN for warnings) and the date and time of the message as well.

What if there are errors, e.g. due to a temporary conneciton problem? flickrbackup will attempt to download them again (you can control how many times or turn this off using the --retry option; the default is to retry once), but if there are still errors they will be printed to the console/log file.

We can store a list of the ids of the photos and videos that were not correctly processed by using the --error-file (-e) flag:

flickrbackup -e /path/to/photos/errors.txt /path/to/photos

Later, we can attempt to manually re-process just these photos using the --download (-d) option:

$ flickrbackup --download /path/to/photos/errors.txt /path/to/photos

If this succeeds, you should delete errors.txt, since the -e option will always append to, not replace, this file.

To see further help, run:

$ flickrbackup --help

Known limitations

  • Movie files will always get the extension .mov, even if originally uploaded as e.g. .avi or .mpg, because Flickr doesn’t provide a means of discovering the original file extension.
  • Photos that are deleted or moved between sets after being backed up will remain in the backup.

Running on a server or NAS device

You may find it useful to run flickrbackup on a server or a device such as the Netgear ReadyNAS Duo as a nightly scheduled job (e.g. using cron), to back up new or changed photos regularly.

In this case, you may find it difficult to authorise the app with Flickr on its first run, as this requires a web browser. The solution is to run it once on your local machine, and then copy the authorisation token file that is stored in ~/.flickr to the server or NAS device:

$ scp -r ~/.flickr user@server:~/

Usage on a ReadyNAS Duo

flickrbackup should work on any Mac, Linux or Unix-like system, and may work on Windows (although this is untested). On the ReadyNAS Duo, however, (and possibly other Netgear ReadyNAS devices) installation is a little more tricky, due to the limited nature of the system. Some hints follow:

  • Enable remote shell access (log in using ssh as user root with your admin password) and set up email alerting in the ReadyNAS administration interface.

  • Install Python, e.g. using the (commercial) add-on at

  • In theory, this should support Distribute/setuptools and hence the standard installation instructions, but the current version has a bug that makes any easy_install installation fail. To solution is to manually copy the following files to /usr/local/lib/python2.7/dist-packages on the ReadyNAS:

    Then, make executable by running:

    $ chmod +x /usr/local/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/
    $ ln -s /usr/local/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/ /usr/local/bin/
  • Copy the authentication token to the ReadyNAS device as outlined above

  • Run the script once to download the initial set:

    $ -k -f 2001-01-01 -e /c/photos/errors.txt /c/photos

    This may take a long time. Put nohup in front of the command to let it run even after you close the ssh session. Output will be placed in nohup.out.

  • Create a cron job to run the incremental backup nightly. For example, create /etc/cron.daily/flickrbackup with:

    dest=/c/photos -e ${dest}/errors.txt -l /var/log/flickrbackup.log ${dest}
    if [[ $rc != 0 ]]; then
        echo "An error occurred. Please check the logs." | mail -s "flickrbackup error" ${email}
        echo "Backup succeeded" | mail -s "flickrbackup success" ${email}

    Make this executable:

    $ chmod +x /etc/cron.daily/flickrbackup

    This will run an incremental backup to /c/photos (which you can set up as a share), with erroneous items logged to /c/photos/errors.txt and error output logged to /var/log/flickrbackup.log. After the backup is complete, an email will be sent to (replace with your own email address, obviously).


Version 0.8.3, released 2018-10-03

  • Fix encoding error with set names

Version 0.8.2, released 2013-07-29

  • Attempt to fix missing README.rst issue in tarball

Version 0.8.1, released 2013-06-01

  • Fixed potential issue with copying directories to sets they are already in

Version 0.7, released 2013-01-01

  • Added --log-file option
  • Added -download option
  • Added --retry and --error-file options

Version 0.6, released 2012-12-31

  • Exit with a nonzero return code on failure

Version 0.5, released 2012-12-31

  • Allow set names with characters that are not valid directory names
  • Print erroneous items at the end of the run

Version 0.4, released 2012-12-31

  • In non-verbose mode, print photo id instead of just “.” for each completed download.

Version 0.3, released 2012-12-31

  • Added --store-once and --keep-existing options
  • Removed --username option - you must authenticate as the user to use

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