500px Shows Promise as Sort of a More Artistic Version of Flickr
For the past week or so I’ve been spending some time playing around with the photosharing site 500px and am really starting to like it. The site has been around awhile (since 2003) but went through some major redesigns, most notably in the Fall of last year. The result seems to be a very elegant photosharing community that is far more focused on fine art and artistic oriented photography than Flickr is.
In a lot of ways, the site reminds me of an early Flickr, back when the staff seemed to care more and back when Flickr actually seemed to care about beautiful photography and their users.
The site has two different versions. There is a free version which features a basic photostream and limits you to 20 uploads per week and one collection. And then there is a paid version at $50 per year which offers unlimited uploads and collections.
Both versions offer unlimited hosting and a basic photostream organized by most recently uploaded photo in an elegant large square format with oversized photos when you click through. Both versions also include a free photoblog to blog your work in a different way if you’d prefer that over the traditional photostream as well as a wall where people can leave comments about you. 500px also claims that the photos are optimized for SEO so that your work can be found.
In addition to allowing unlimited uploads, the paid version allows a number of other features including the ability to link your photostream to a custom domain, an RSS feed, the ability to remove all 500px branding from your stream (aka white label), advertising free, as well as the ability to hook your stream up to a Google analytics account to better monitor traffic and activity.
In addition to your own photostream, like Flickr, you can build favorites of other photographs, comment on photographs and either “like” or “dislike” photographs which results in a public numerical score that a photograph receives. There are several areas where you can also explore some pretty amazing photography, including popular, editor’s choice, upcoming and fresh.
Perhaps what I find most refreshing about the site as it’s structured right now is that it seems to be attracting some of the most talented photographers I’ve seen on the web in any one place in long time.
Scrolling through many of the members photostreams it reminds me of some of the early photographers who gravitated to flickr using it to express the beauty of the world around them. Comparing some of the showcase areas above, for example, with Flickr’s super crappy Explore (complete with blacklisting users, sparkly gifs, and obnoxious watermarks) there simply is no comparison as to which is showing superior fine art photography. 500px is better.
Also, in contrast to Flickr’s puritanical censorship, 500px doesn’t seem to have a problem with the occasional artistic representation of the female form that, God forbid, might (gasp) actually show a naked breast. I guess it probably helps that they are Canadian and more laid back about those sorts of things. Flickr on the other hand censored this photograph of mine of an 1874 painting by Jules-Joseph Lefebvre from the Chicago Art Institute that doesn’t even show boobs.
Creating an account and profile was very easy on 500px. I liked that they don’t seem to have a problem with html markup in your profile and I was able to link all of my other social media sites. It’s also nice that your profile accompanies your photostream, favorites, etc. giving good exposure to the photographer.
Uploading photos was pretty easy. It’s also nice that 500px allows images sized up to 30MB. Flickr is stuck in the dark ages with the pre-2004 20MB limit still. When popular cameras like the Canon 5DM2 routinely produce images between 20MB and 30MB it sucks that when you use Flickr’s bulk uploader that they mangle images so badly, resizing them in some cases down to less than 500kb (example). It’s bad enough to have your images resized without being told about it, but to resize a 22MB image down to less than 5% of it’s original size just seems really cheap on Flickr’s part.
It is a drag that 500px doesn’t seem to read a photo’s metadata and allow you to auto-populate titles, keywords, descriptions/captions, etc. Hopefully they enable that soon as there is no sense in doing that work in lightroom only to have to rekey that data in after uploading to 500px. There are also lots of areas that 500px seems to have room to grow in. It would be nice to see groups there like Flickr has.
Like Flickr, 500px allows you an embed code to blog your images, as well as the buttons necessary to share your image to other popular social networking sites like Twitter, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Google Buzz, etc.
I think more than any of the above items, what’s got me most interested in 500px though, is what feels to me like a truly refreshing view of photography from the people who work there. Flickr staffers have routinely expressed their disdain over the years for the fine art photographer. They’ve deleted accounts without warning, they’ve censored artists, they’ve blacklisted many from Explore, they’ve banned artists from the public help forum areas, and in general just routinely treat us (their users) like garbage. We’ve been talked down to, treated like children, and been openly abused.
Compare and contrast Flickr’s disdain for the artistic fine art photographer with this “about” page from 500px.
Being an artist has never been easy, especially in today’s fast paced, digital age. Photographers can’t be just artists anymore, they have to be managers, accountants, marketing teams, assistants, web developers, and their own ‘mean, lean, shutter-clicking machines”. Too many things to handle? We sure think so! We started the company to help photographers get greater exposure, reduce some of the marketing headaches, and to let creatives concentrate on what they do best. We love seeing amazing work and equally love promoting it! A sense of inspired community is also important to us. We believe that the way forward is through presenting, discussing, supporting, and socializing with like-minded people.”
500px is a group of individuals that live and breathe photography. We like to share art with others and have the means to do so. Our small company is based in Toronto and from there we broadcast the awesomeness. We truly enjoy what we do.
That reads so refreshing.
500px still has a lot of work to do to continue competing with Flickr, but thus far I’ve found it to be very community centered and certainly with great potential. They state that they are currently seeking angel and VC funding here.
Update: Ian Sobolev, one of the founders of 500px, commented in the comment section below and added a link where readers can get a 20% discount on the paid Awesome Upgrade for the site. If you want to upgrade to the paid version you can save 20% by upgrading through this link, with no expiration date. Thanks, Ian!