500px Shows Promise as Sort of a More Artistic Version of Flickr

My 500px Photostream

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.

My 500px Favorites

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.

“The mission
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.”

Our Team
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.

You can check out my photostream and follow me on 500px here.

Thanks by the way to my good rooftopping Pal Tomms, for turning me on to this awesome site. Check out this amazing photograph that he posted on 500px!

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!

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51 Comments

  1. Excellent review Thomas. I will have to check it out. I’ve had my run-ins with Flickr too including threats of takedowns for even mentioning (no link) that people check out my profile! And I have not been in Explore for 6 months despite possibly having the highest faved stream (or at last top 5) on Flickr with no inclusions in click-back groups. The pictures do get to the top of the interestingness lists for the major keywords which is why I get 10k views/day with only 130 uploads… But friendliness is not Flickr’s strong point, that is for sure!

    Patrick

  2. Excellent write-up. I’m definitely going to give this site a look. Thanks for taking the time to research and report, Thomas.

  3. Phill Price says:

    Unfortunately I can’t find an API for it yet – I’ve asked as I’ve spotted that it might do.

    Lets hope it has a better run than Zooomr did since it went to Japan.

  4. William Beem says:

    I was interested in the site until I read the TOS. It appears that all photos uploaded are under a Creative Commons license. That’s great for those who choose to use that license, but I have reservations about it because it’s too vague in defining what is or isn’t Commercial usage. For that reason, I prefer to keep my photos with ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

    If 500px ever changes its TOS to eliminate my reservation, I’d gladly use its service. Until then, I’ll stay away.

  5. Amanda K says:

    Great write up! I’ve been toying with the idea of a professional photography site – I wonder if this would suffice? Can you organize photos into sets and/or collections? I didn’t see the that feature.

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    Amanda, yes, they have Collections, but you only get 1 collection with the free account. If you upgrade to a pay account you get unlimited collections.

  7. Amanda K says:

    Good to know, thanks! I love the interface, very clean but artistic.

    I have a lot to think about as I set up a professional website, but don’t mind paying $50/year for photo storage and a photo blog, without knowing HTML.

  8. Jeremy Hall says:

    Great review, of both the pros & cons of the current site. Since you mentioned it the other day on Twitter I have been enjoying the browsing the quality work on 500px. I created a profile and fee more inclined to only post better work there based on everything else I am viewing. Time to up my game.

  9. Lynda says:

    I haven’t found any way on 500px to embed a photo into the HTML of another site. Where exactly is that feature? Under Share there is only options to share the link via various social media outlets. Is it a hidden featured for paid users? It’s not something that’s in their features or comparison chart at all.

    That’s the biggest drawback about this site to me. If it’s true you can actually host images on their server to embed on your site it’ll be much more appealing to me.

  10. Ian Sobolev says:

    Hi Thomas!

    I see there’s no reply feature to each individual comments, so I’ll sum up some of the questions:

    William Beem, all photos you upload retain the copyright. The TOS with regards to Creative Commons apply just to the comments, tags, and stuff like that. Your photos are always your photos, with all the rights and copyrights.

    Lynda, click “Embed” where the sharing buttons are to get HTML code for the photo.

    Amanda K, we have a service called “Portfolio” — it is in addition to the site and it is something that we sell. With Portfolio you can create separate clean-looking elegant web-site with some options. We host it for you, and you can use your domain, e.g. iansobolev.com for it. It’s only $50 a year, so that saves you both time and money.

    Phill Price, we know that. We are working on API, should be out in the summer. It’s something that really important to us as well, and we’d love to enable others utilize it.

  11. Ian Sobolev says:

    Thomas, thank you for the review! Always a pleasure to read some works about our work — I’m pretty sure nothing motivates us better.

    To give back, I’d want to share a code with you and your readers that gets 20% off the “Awesome” account. Of course you can upgrade only when you really want to, and there’s no expiration date on that :)

    Here’s it: http://500px.com/upgrade?&promo_code=friends

  12. […] out Thomas’ write-up on 500px for more info. EmailShareDiggPrint Filed under […]

  13. […] with time how it will evolve from there. Here’s my profile on 500px. You can also check out Thomas’ write-up on 500px for a great overview of the service and its […]

  14. […] 500px Shows Promise as Sort of a More Artistic Version of Flickr … […]

  15. Kevin Foster says:

    I think the had a glitch in the Matrix tonight. I went to your friends picture on the roof and wanted to LIKE it so I logged in and it put me in as Trevor Carpenter http://screencast.com/t/m9WU2oRCZ9K . I logged out and tried to login again and right back in as Trevor. I sent them some tweets but haven’t heard anything. It appears to have cleared itself up. I don’t think I will be using them until I hear what happened.

  16. Ulrich says:

    Thomas, thank you for that post, an excellent review. I did not know the site so far. It looks great, I joined for a try right away.

  17. Garrett says:

    Amazing share

  18. Thomas Hawk says:

    Kevin, that is weird. I’m sure there might still be some glitches. Glad it’s cleared up now. TH

  19. Kevin Foster says:

    Thomas,

    Received a message from @cyberguss on twitter:
    “Kevin, this is a bug with Facebook Login, I will push a fix within 30 min. Please logout and log back in.”

    Kevin

  20. Eric in SF says:

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I knew if anything compelling in the photo sharing space appeared, you would be on it.

    Once full EXIF/IPTC metadata reading is implemented I’ll give it a spin. Otherwise, there is no way in hell am I retyping tags, titles, and descriptions.

  21. […] then Flickr, then SmugMug, and now a new one. 500px.com has arrived on the scene. It’s being talked about a bit, and it caught my attention too. Like most of the other photo-sharing sites it has a free account […]

  22. Griffon says:

    I like it, it actually reminds me a bit of how zooomr performed at first, that nice crisp snap of putting something pretty in front of you.

    The biggest challenge to get my buy in for a new site is sadly the hardest thing to make happen which is support for external readers.

    I don’t want to upload my stuff to 5 different places just so my apple tv2 can read it in, the digital picture frame for my mom can read it it in etc. Problem looking for a solution is Friends feed type thing for images but with a focus on centralizing it with good output to external devices.

  23. TH, I’ve really been loving the little bit of interaction I’ve had over at 500px. They seem to have figured something out, that Flickr lost a long time ago.

    I understand your desire to not be censored. I support your version of desired freedom that Flickr clearly has hampered.

    However, I actually want the option to hide NSFW content. At first I didn’t see the massive flow of nude photos that 500px constantly seems to have now. I can’t flip through the new, fresh stuff with the kids walking around.

    So here’s to all them foreign names figuring out how to allow me to shut off the nipples.

  24. Friv says:

    i like this post

  25. Cirkus says:

    Im really enjoying 500px so far. I cant wait to support them and watch it grow. Ive seen a wonderful influx of flickr tog friends sign up & that makes me happy.
    I have over 17,000 photos on flickr. I will continue to use flickr as i alawys have but i know 500px will be my place for my favorites and what i deem my best work.

    THANKS FOR THE PROMO CODE. im down to be awesome!!! hee hee

    -cirkus

  26. Kevin Kelly says:

    That’s a great suggestion, Thomas. I immediately signed up for their free version and uploaded a few recent images. I am very interested in their “pro” version since I would like to “host” 500px’s very well crafted engine on my own domain (www.asiagrace.com), removing their logo and leaving mine. But I could not find any examples of anyone who has done that. Ordinarily, a vendor would have a list of linked examples of others using their feature. I could not find any on their site. And it appears you are not using this version either. We even wrote to the generic 500px email asking for pointers and whether they have an API, but have not gotten a response yet.

    I agree that 500px is a promising Flickr alternative, and even more so a promising portfolio engine, but have you seen any examples of photographers using their Pro domain hosted version?

  27. Kevin Kelly says:

    Update, just after I posted my comment, I did hear back from 500px, but still waiting for them to give me some examples.

  28. That’s a brilliant article, mate. And that is also trough this impressive photo that i’ve just discovered 500px minutes ago. Time will tell,

  29. […] moet je wel betalen, 500px.com is met $50 per jaar duurder dan Flickr, maar via Thomas Hawk kun je 20% korting krijgen (onderaan de pagina) en de dollar staat vrij laag ten opzichte van de euro. Ook kun je de site […]

  30. William Beem says:

    As Ian posted above, 500px respects my copyright. I had a nice chat with their Twitter account today and they pointed out my confusion of the CC license for comments vs. the photos. Apparently that’s been changed in the TERMS, as I was told other folks were confused by it, too.

    Now I’m actually very happy to try the service after the conversation and understanding their desire to protect us from copyright infringement – very unlike Flickr or sites like Tumblr that seem to thrive on using someone else’s work instead of creating your own.

  31. Greg says:

    Thomas,

    One critical shortcoming of the 500px site is that users can right-click and save-as on the images. It does not appear that there are any download protections built-in that I am aware of. I believe this is a critical flaw and I would not post anything until this is corrected.

  32. @Greg: download protections don’t work, if you are able to see the image on the screen then you’re able to download it (Javascript popups can be disabled). 500px only shows images at 900px, even if you upload larger, so 900px wide is the biggest image someone could take – that’s just the risk of putting anything on the web.

  33. Greg says:

    @Alistair. I beg to differ. Download protections will work on 90% of users. We put money in bank vaults to prevent the majority of people from simply taking it. There will always be a few dedicated individuals that will figure out how to get the money out of the vault, but that is calculated risk.

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  51. BjM says:

    I consider 500px as questionable as the comments that its users can leave for each picture get censored. It appears that you can leave any opinion there as long as its similar to the one of the website’s staff. Since 500px is a privately owned co, well, ok then .. but the site is not for those who have their own thoughts.