How to Browse 500px Like a Pro

Important keyboard shortcuts for 500px (Note: for a PC cmd=ctl)

cmd-click (to load a page in a tab in the background)
cmd-w (to close a window)
f (to fave a photo)
L (to like a photo)
cmd-option-arrow key (to move between open tabbed windows)

One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that how you browse photosharing sites matters quite a bit. Not just where you go to find great photos to see and interact with, but specifically *how* you navigate the site with maximum efficiency.

My two favorite photosharing sites at present are 500px and Flickr. In this post I’ll try to explain how I browse photos on 500px to find and uncover great photographs and also how to navigate the site. You can see the companion article How to Browse Flickr Like a Pro here.

500px is one of the most exciting photosharing sites on the scene today. It’s a stark contrast to Flickr.

Flickr is a slow moving slow innovating behemoth owned by crappy Yahoo. 500px is a scrappy, fast moving, weekly innovating startup that just received over 500k in VC financing.

Flickr’s community managers / staffers are abusive with their users and ban and censor people and ridicule their users. 500px owners are nice and pleasant and actually interact with their users on their site, Twitter, etc.

500px has a fresh new elegant photo page design. Flickr still looks like a tired old website from 2004.

500px seems to actually care about great photography. Flickr could care less (the quality on flickr declined dramatically overall when they turned it into a dumping ground by integrating Yahoo photos into it a few years ago and has gotten worse and worse).

500px is not frightened by the artistic female form. Flickr is scared to death of the female form (they censored this photo of a painting I took of a painting at the Art Institute of Chicago — ridiculous).

It’s exciting to see people that actually care about photography and photographers in charge at 500px. And it’s been great watching so many of the best flickr accounts migrate over there over the past several months.

So where do I go to find great photos on 500px? All over the place.

How to Browse 500px Like a Pro

For starters (like flickr) I go to my friends most recent uploads. Unlike Flickr (who will only show you the last 1 or 5 photos by your contacts) 500px shows you all of your contacts most recent uploads. The first thing I do here is cmd-click all of the paging icons at the bottom. This opens up the photo thumbnail pages in background tabs that I can tab to later without wasting time while they load. As they load in the background I’m cmd-clicking other photos on the page most recently loaded where I want to see larger photos. 500px gives you nice big thumbnails on this page in contrast to flickr’s tired old page.

After browsing my friends most recent uploads to 500px, next I move on to my own recent activity page there. They just started paging this page this week and so now you can see all of your recent activity (like Flickr). Here, similar to flickr, I’ll cmd-click the names of people who have interacted with my photos to load their photo pages in background tabs. From there I cmd-click the photos that I like on their page to open them up bigger and so that I can interact with them. If I like the photo I’ll use the keyboard to quickly press “F” and “L” to both fave and like the photo.

How to Browse 500px like a Pro 2

Next I go to 500px’s version of Explore (called Popular Photos). Here you will find some of the best photographs being published on the web today. I’m not kidding. 500px’s Popular Photos page BLOWS flickr’s Explore page out of the water. And 500px doesn’t even need a secret “magic blacklisting donkey” algorithm to produce it.

Along with Popular Photos, 500px also has Fresh Photos, Upcoming Photos, and a staff curated section called Editor’s Choice.

On each of these pages I’ll cmd-click thumbnails to load photos to interact with in background tabs. Further, 500px allows you to filter these sections by subject, landscapes, people, nature, fine art NUDES! (did he just say nudes? don’t worry folks, you have to check a NSFW tab in order to see these — can you imagine FLICKR actually giving people an option to see the most popular nudes?)

By using the techniques described above, I can find some really amazing photos by some really amazing photographers on 500px. By relying heavily on the cmd-click function, I can more rapidly and efficiently navigate the site, allowing load time to take place in background tabs, leaving as much time as possible for me to actually spend appreciating and interacting with a photograph.


As a bonus tip, one other thing that I’m starting to do on both Flickr and 500px is curate photographs with Pinterest. I’ve just started doing this, but if I especially like a photograph on flickr or 500px (or anywhere on the web really) I’ll pin it to a gallery on Pinterest. Here is a gallery I’ve started called “So This is America” which includes interesting and compelling photographs of America and here is another gallery that I’ve started of some of my favorite photographs by one of my greatest inspirations, American photographer William Eggleston. Pinterest is really what Flickr’s own galleries should have looked like if they hadn’t of done it so half-ass and with so many restrictions and limitations.

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  1. The Wallbanger says:

    Navigating photos using the arrow keys like Flickr and Facebook would be a huge time saver. I’d be much more prone to like and favorite images this way. Here’s hoping this function can be easily added.

  2. Thomas Hawk says:

    Wallbanger. Personally speaking I never use the arrow keys on Flickr or facebook. I simply load a page I’m interested in and cmd-click every photo that I want to see. I never want to see every photo in a stream, I want to cherry pick out the best photos. This technique personally works better for me as I’m never stuck waiting for the next photo to load. Instead I just use cmd-w or cmd-option arrow to move between already loaded tabs in my browser saving myself tons of time.

  3. The Wallbanger, arrow keys are coming very very soon 🙂

  4. Thomas, thanks for a great article!

    Faving and liking works just with “F” and “L”. We’ll add more shortcuts soon — for following and navigation.

  5. No flesh shall be spared…. goodbye Flickr and good riddance. In the process of leaving there myself.

    500px got it right on so many levels, especially treating their community with respect!

  6. april says:

    What are your thoughts on the longevity & growth plans for 500px? Are the owners committed to growing the usage on this site? Flickr has over 21mm users per month while 500px had around 175,000 until April 2011 with only 54,000. My concern is taking the time to move my gallery to 500px only to have them go away.

  7. @April

    It’s not about the quantity of users but about the quality surely?

  8. april says:

    Quality is more important, however my concern still is around the decrease in usage on 500px. If I’m going to take the time to setup a site and allow users to buy prints I want to make sure they are not going to shut down the site later this year. I assume they have to maintain a decent level of users in order to stay in business.

  9. The Tens says:

    I just started uploading photos to 500px and am liking it a lot. Definitely more focused on quality photos than Flickr. It seems to be mainly HDR/faux-HDR and highly processed shots right now though. I’m hoping to see more film and less-processed photos on there as time goes by as I am having a hard time finding them when browsing through the site.

  10. Ben says:

    When I CMD-Click it opens the link in a new tab but also puts focus on that tab. It doesn’t open in background. I’m using FF. Did I miss something? Thanks for this, great “when I should be working workflow”.

  11. Hi Thomas,

    I wonder if Flickr will read this and take note? The tsunami siren is whaling and I wonder if they will just sit around and do nothing!


  12. Ben says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Flickr doesn’t even hear the siren.

  13. Thomas Hawk says:

    Ben, I’m not sure why it’s not opening the tab in the background for you. I just tried it in firefox and it’s working for me. Maybe some sort of a preferences issue?

  14. Thomas Hawk says:

    April, 500px just got over 500k in funding. I suspect that they are in it for the long haul at this point. If they continue these growth rates and innovation they should continue to attract more funding as well as users.

  15. Thomas Hawk says:

    Patrick, it’s sad to say, but I just think the people at Flickr don’t give a shit — unfortunately. It’s a job for the people that work there. Killing time.

    There isn’t the passion there that used to be there.

    There’s certainly not the communication or user interaction and that combined with what must be a miserable company to have to work for these days (every other headline is about Yahoo losing, layoffs, etc.).

    I’ve been hoping Flickr would wake up for years. They think what they are doing is right. That ignoring users, banning users, maintaining the status quo, that this is where their success has come from. In reality their success has come from the lack of any innovative competitors. The ones maintaing the site are more of an elitist clique that does disservice to community.

    Hopefully 500px will be a wake up call for Yahoo with regards to the truly great site Flickr could become.

  16. Thomas:

    I agree that 500px excels at showing some of the best photography out there on the net right now.

    The only thing I thing about my early experience is worrying that the numerical ranking in combination with the “dislike” button will lead to some of that foul numbers-game-playing that can bring such negative attitudes and motives to the site. I mean, isn’t the only reason to have a dislike button currently to lower someone elses ratings? Is there another reason that it’s there and I may not be aware of yet?



  17. Tom Hender says:

    I did think it was rather funny in that “seriously, you’re going to make a big deal over this?” sort of way, that when I went to load the picture of the painting that you took, they prompted me, basically asking if that image is really what I wanted to see. I say yes, and (in my opinion even funnier in the same sense) they have a bar across the top saying “If you’ve changed your mind about wanting to see this content, you can ESCAPE”. They then have an arrow pointing to a link saying “TAKE ME TO THE KITTENS!” It made me laugh quite a lot! Way to be dumb, Flickr.

  18. Another site that tries even harder than 500 is They have gatekeepers that vet any work before accepting it into their hallowed halls. The quality as a consequence is quite breathtaking.

  19. Matt Kozovski says:


    Thanks for sharing your best practices on how you navigate around these sites. I’ve just recently joined to 500px and so far I’ve been blown away by both the UI and the quality of work on the site. Your tips and tricks have allowed me to get the most out of the site.

  20. Eric in SF says:

    Any word on whether 500px has implemented EXIF/IPTC metadata support? Re-typing titles, tags, and descriptions is no fun.

  21. Hub says:

    Eric, you are not the only one. That’s why I don’t upload on it. That’s what my first critique since day one.

  22. gil feliciano says:

    Any word on Lightroom export – unofficial or official?

  23. Jeremy Hall says:

    Good write up. Had to smile that my photo is in that first screen shot, a fun portrait of my brother’s paintball team with the “Last Supper” theme. Thanks 🙂

  24. As a photographer and a UX dev/programmer, not having a “next” button is puzzling. I wouldn’t have launched without one because in my mind it is part of the “minimum viable product.” I found this article because I was wondering if I was alone in this.

    It is 1) good to see a site such as 500px with so much potential that its users will find a workaround, and 2) good to hear that the feature is coming soon (is that right Evgeny?:) ).

    Here’s to the success of

  25. […] How to Browse 500px Like a ProThomas Hawk describes his method for browing the 500px photo sharing site […]

  26. Harold says:

    Yeah… I doubt my photos that made explore on flickr would make it to Popular on 500px. Could it be that 500px actually looks at the photos? The features in 500px are what i had hoped flickr would do; so glad the features are present on 500px.

  27. Luke says:

    I’ve just joined 500px for free and when i search it says there are far more pictures than it allows me to view – do i need to upgrade to see all of them? Many thanks!

  28. Simmessa says:

    I’m happy to find out I’m not the only one to think that 500px is boldly kicking flickr’s ass!

    Thank you for the great article, see you on 500px!


  29. tiamotiodio says:

    can i ask you some help?

    Do you now where i can see photos i liked? I can’t see a tab like for Favorites.

    How can i edit my photo “squared preview”?

  30. tiamotiodio says:

    Thank you very much in advance. 🙂

  31. Rick says:

    I’m loving 500px these days. And I agree; the quality of the images being created by photogs on there is nothing short of amazing. A very inspirational website.