Where is the Best Place to Share Your Photos on the Web? Survey Says… Google+

Where is the Best Place to Share Your Photos on the Web

Note! This is a very unscientific poll.

Let me repeat myself, this is a VERY UNSCIENTIFIC POLL. I understand statistics. I understand how flawed this poll is. Please do not rattle off in the comments about all the problems with this poll being unscientific.


Now that we’ve got *that* out of the way…

Earlier this morning I posted a poll at GoPollGo (it’s a cool polling site that my friend Robert Scoble turned me on to yesterday) asking people the following simple question.

“Where is the best place to share your photos on the web?”

I gave people five choices and put them in alphabetical order 500px, Facebook, Flickr, Google+ and Twitter. I really was only interested in social sharing sites so I didn’t include pay sites like SmugMug or Zenfolio, or sites that are primarily for photo hosting like Photobucket or mobile based apps like Instagram.

Next, I posted a link to the poll to each of my accounts on the five sites mentioned so that I could push the poll, at least to a degree into every site that was included. I have a large following on each of these sites.

2,514 individuals had voted in the poll as of 3:49 pm this afternoon (the poll is still open).

The answer by a wide margin?

You might be surprised, but I’m not.


Google+ took a whopping 68% of the votes in this morning’s poll. Flickr came in 2nd with 16%. Facebook was 3rd with 11%. 500px was 4th with 4%. And Twitter came in dead last with 1%.

And by Google+ I also mean its back end storage site Picasa (which should totally be rebranded as Google Photos).

A few weeks ago I blogged that Flickr was Dead and announced that it wouldn’t be long before Google+ surpassed Flickr in pages views for photo sharing. While I think that it’s going to take a while to fully see this happen, I think we’ve already begun seeing this move by many of the top photographers on Flickr away from Flickr and Facebook and over to Google+. If you are a serious social photographer on the web, you simply cannot afford NOT to have a presence on Google+.

Now think about this. Google+ is only about 2 months old. It’s still invite only and in beta. See how fast momentum can change on the web.

So why is Google+ doing so well with photo sharing with web enthusiasts?

Here is what I think.

1. The photos look GREAT. Facebook’s already tried to revamp to try to keep up with Google here, but it’s nowhere near enough. On Google+ you get great big oversized thumbnails in your stream (did you hear that Facebook? GREAT BIG OVERSIZED THUMBNAILS IN YOUR STREAM).

When you click through to a photo it instantly bursts into the best looking lightbox view on the web.

2. Photos on Google+ get way more engagement and interaction, for the photographers that put the effort in. Almost every photographer who has put the effort in at G+ has gotten way more engagement than any other site. I’ve never seen anything like the engagement photos get on G+ — new photographers and popular photographers alike.

Some people have told me that they still get more on Flickr. But keep in mind, some of these people are not really putting hardcore effort into Google+ yet and also they’ve been on Flickr for years in some cases and haven’t even been on G+ 2 months yet. Give it time though — here are some handy tips to build a bigger audience for your work on G+.

3. The photographic community on Google+ has the best positive vibe and the photo community is coming together there in the most amazing ways.

I quit all of the flickr groups where I was active over the course of the last month or so because I got tired of all the negativity, tired of the harassing anonymous trolls, tired of the pessimism. On Google+ everybody seems super friendly and positive and the photographic community is coming together in the most beautiful ways all over the world.

I love how much better I’ve gotten to know Trey Ratcliff through Google+. I knew Trey before from Flickr, but Google+ has helped us to become even closer and better friends. He stayed at my house the last time he was in town and we did a super fun Google+ hangout that night online. I love seeing photographers all over the world that seem to be coming together on Google+ and organizing photowalks, and critique clubs and things like self portrait Sundays, and all these other fun community sort of things.

I love seeing the new leaders in photography that are popping up on Google+ — people like Lotus Carroll in Austin, or Leanne Staples and Vivienne Gucwa in New York. Lisa Bettany and Catherine Hall from TWiT Photo are super active. Colby Brown‘s been a huge leader. Robert Scoble is constantly sharing so many new photographers on the site. Robert must have shared 5 new awesome kick ass photographers in his stream just yesterday including Mihailo Radi?evi? (check him out, he’s crazy good).

I love seeing Elena Kalis and her great underwater work. I love seeing Adobe Pro Jan Kabili sharing great Lightroom and Photoshop tips with us.

Did I mention the Google+ photowalks have been awesome! (Come join us for a Dell/Google+ photowalk in Austin next week too!)

And I myself have been making so many great new local photography friends through G+, hanging out more with folks like Doug Kaye, who I knew before but hadn’t shot with, or Sly Vegas who just started out with photography six months ago and already is an up and coming superstar on G+. Or Karen Hutton or Samir Osman. I’m making so many great new local photography friends through G+

4. The Googlers. I cannot believe how different night/day Google staff is from Flickr’s staff. Google’s staff embraces you and your art as part of the community collaboratively. I’ve been so fortunate to have met so many great Googlers over the course of the past few months. Chris Chabot, Brian Rose, Vincent Mo, Dave Cohen, Natalie Villalobos, Timothy Jordan, and Ricardo Lagos. They hired my pal Louis Gray the other day. (I’ve met so many more cool Googlers and I wish there was room to name even more). And the guys running Google+, Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz are two of the most involved people in the community.

You want to hear a crazy story? The other night I was hanging out in my basement editing photos, and who invites me to a Google+ Hangout? Sergey Brin himself. The guy who co-founded Google. I felt like one of those guys who got a Steve Jobs email or something.

We chatted for a good half hour about Google+ and Google Photos and of course lots of talk about photography. We both have the same camera, the Canon 5D Mark 2 and we talked about lenses and making big prints and all sorts of great photography stuff.

Meanwhile, Carol Bartz who was fired over at Yahoo yesterday, never even had her own flickr account. I have no idea who’s even running flickr and I can’t remember the last time I actually spoke with someone who works there. It’s been years for sure.

5. Google is innovating with photos like CRAZY. It’s a wonderful perpetual beta. Sure my +1’s disappear sometimes. Who cares. Sure there are bumps. It’s beta software that’s only been out a couple of months. But every week Google is rolling out more and more improvements to the site with no sign of slowing down. Heck just a few hours ago they gave us a new improvement for locking our photo albums.

6. The Hangouts. I LOVE hangouts. They are such a better way to get to know other photographers. Last night about eight of us just got together for an hour or so and talked about all kinds of great photographic ideas.

We talked about taking a trip to go shoot Bodie at night. We talked about the economy where Helen Sotiriadis was there in Greece. We talked about how unfortunately Jonathan Goody had his 50mm 1.4 lens damaged at Burning Man when it got knocked out of his hand in a bar. We talked about light painting the inside of a submarine and the time that Jeremy Brooks and I lightpainted this great old phone booth. Hangouts are so cool that we even got my old Pal Marc Evans to actually hook up a webcam (although he did have to find the right Windows 98 drivers).

Hangouts are an awesome easy way to connect and become even better friends with your photography buddies. These blow the conversations I’ve had in flickr groups away, complete with audio and video.

A shout out too to Shirley Lo, the queen of the Google+ hangouts — and sorry I can’t name about 10,000 mind blowing insanely talented photographers on Google+. There are so, so many and it’s because of all of you why I think the numbers are trending so high for Google+ being the great new place on the web to share photos.

Google+ vs. Flickr vs. Facebook vs. 500px vs. Twitter

The Hatch

Yesterday I posted a photograph of mine on 5 different sites at about the same time. The photo above, The Hatch, was posted to Google+ (Google’s much hyped new social network), Flickr, Facebook, 500px (an exciting up and coming new photo sharing service) and Twitter.

I will try to compare, the best I can, the attention that the same photograph received from each of these sites over the course of 24 hours. If as a photographer you are looking at photo sharing sites, in part, as a way to promote your work to a wider audience, the engagement your photographs receive online may be of interest. This case is very specific and of course everyone’s circumstances will differ, but this is my experience.

Before examining the attention the above photograph received in various places, I think it is worthwhile to look at some of the numbers (for me) behind each of these sites. Following are the number of “followers” roughly that I have on each of the sites mentioned, the approximate time I joined the sites, and how active I engage on them.

Google+: Google+ is a brand new social network It was opened to limited beta users last week. I’ve been on it now less than a week, but I enjoy shiny new things and so I’ve been somewhat active. At present I have 1,861 followers there.

Flickr: Flickr is the largest well organized library of images in the world. It’s the grandaddy big gorilla of photosharing. I joined Flickr in August of 2004 and have been active almost every day that I’ve been on the site. I generally upload 50 photos every day to flickr, have favorited or commented on over 100,000 photos of other users, and am active as an admin in a large and popular group. 21,125 people call me a contact on Flickr.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network. I have 3,161 friends following me on Facebook. I joined Facebook in September of 2006, pretty shortly after they allowed non-college students to join. I’ve never been impressed with Facebook and spend the least amount of time on the site of the five mentioned. I do however post daily to Facebook and occasionally engage with other people on the site.

500px is an exciting new up and coming photosharing site being built by a small innovative team out of Tornoto. 500px currently has some of the best photography being shared on the web being published there. I joined 500px a few months ago in April. 1,558 people are subscribed to my photos there.

Twitter is the world’s most popular micro blogging service — I joined shortly after it was launched in December of 2006. Twitter just started photo sharing last month with a partnership with Photobucket. I currently have 19,285 followers on Twitter.

So not all of the sites above measure views. But here are the breakdowns on the photo published.

Views: Unknown
+1’s (i.e. likes/favorites): 45
Reshares: 2
Comments: 14

Views: 102
Faves: 7
Comments: 2

Views: Unknown
Likes: 10
Comments: 3

Views: 52
Favorites: 4
Comments: 5

Views: Unknown
Faves: 0

Conclusion: My photos posted to Google+ receive far more attention than posting them to any other social network. Part of this might be due to the fact that Google+ is still a brand spanking new super shiny social network with lots of activity as people are checking it out. Part of it also may be the fact that every time someone comments on my photo there it “bumps” the photo back to the top of my followers’ activity stream.

Google+ doesn’t seem to report views on your photo, but based on the engagement on the photo I’d guess that it was viewed far more on Google+ yesterday than any of the other sites. Whether or not this sort of high activity will continue is anybody’s guess — but at least for now, if you are a photographer who wants to promote their work on the web, Google+ seems like a place that you definitely want to be sharing.

As an aside, I think how each of these sites shows your photo is important to the attention that they receive. There are two ways that people see your photo, in more limited stream view and then in better detail/lightbox view. In my opinion Google+ and 500px do the best job sharing your photos most beautifully. Both provide big oversized thumbnails that are elegantly shown to your contacts and both have really nice detail pages when you click through to a photograph.

Google+’s lightbox view, however, is over the top. It really is the best detail photo page on the web today, big giant oversized photos that load super fast and are on a black lightbox background. It is a very fast one click away from a photo in a stream and one click back, encouraging people to click through. Flickr has a lightbox view but it’s 2 steps away from your contacts looking at your photo (not one like Flickr and Facebook). Also Flickr and Facebook’s lightbox views are not as elegant as Google+.

It should also be noted that photos on various social networks generally do not get as many views on a weekend day as they do a weekday when everybody is working. It also seems that because this weekend is 4th of July weekend that there are less people around and online than usual.

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Google Plus

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Flickr

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Facebook

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on 500px

From Blogging Photos

Photo Sharing on Twitter

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 Iíve 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.

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!