New members only: Get access to member benefits starting at $29.99. Access classes, stats, and more!Upgrade now

Thoughts about the evolutions on 500px

Published March 5th, 2012

I haven't posted here in a while. In part because I was waiting for this to become a proper blogging platform, and in part because there was little or nothing new about 500px to discuss.

It is now clear that 500px will not offer proper blogging tools, and maybe it was silly of me to think they ever wood. I was hoping that I could use this as an outlet for all my musings on photography, in the same way that I'm using this as an outlet for all my (decent) photography. Stories, however, is even less of a blogging tool than the previous incarnation. It seems that 500px doesn't want you to talk about photography, it wants you to talk about how you took photographs. Pretty radical, but hey, I can only blame myself for assuming that going towards a proper (if sparse) blogging platform was a goal for the site.

I don't particularly like the changes that 500px has recently implemented. The site is, if possible, even less social than it previously was: less sharing options, wall relegated to an obscure sub menu (I was trying to find the Wall of one of my followers this morning and I simply couldn't), market is a joke (download or high-end canvas print is your only choice, US only for delivery, why did they not stick with Fotomoto???)

More importantly, I've come to realise that the ecosystem around the viewership is an illusion. When I joined 500px I bought the premise that the photos would be viewed on their merits and that therefore a decent photographer would get more views here than elsewhere. In reality though, it has become apparent to me that the only views I get come from me tweeting photos to my twitter followers when I upload them. Sure, I have a lot more views here than I had on Flickr, but then I never tweeted my photos from Flickr, so the change is not a result of the platform, it's a result of my own behaviour having changed.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I've come to realise that the single most important driver for photos being viewed and voted on is 500px themselves. Get your photo tweeted by 500px and you'll get views (obviously) and votes (because their audience are all 500px members). And of course, 500px tweets the photos they see, ie. the photos of a limited subset of members, those who have the highest ratings and the highest audience. It's a self-feeding cycle. It's even more shocking with Market since 500px will tweet and point to specific photos for sale on the market, thus distorting said market completely. If you're not in their little books, or if you're not capable of aggregating a large amount of traffic from outside of 500px, you have no chance of selling anything.

Does this all matter? Yes and no. What does matter to me is that it's become quite clear now that 500px doesn't have a vision for what they're doing beyond "Flickr is weak, let's nab some customers off them". Nothing wrong with that per se, except that it's only going to get them so far, and maybe they're already there. I bought a subscription because I was hopeful that they would enhance the social aspects of their platforms and that the "you have 24 hours for your photo to be seen" ecosystem was a temporary solution that would evolve. It's now quite clear that it's at the core of the site, and that's not what I wanted.

On the other hand, the photos look good and people can see them. I now know that I need a separate blog to talk about photography, and I've tried various options. I'm still undecided, but essentially, I know I'll be spending less time here. As it stands, I'm unlikely to subscribe again next year: I subscribed on the hopes of better things to come, and they didn't come.

I'm curious about what others think about all this.

Login or sign up to comment.

Ajay Sharma  about 5 years ago

I've read a few of your 'story'/blogs Benoit, and I find them really interesting. What do you think are good website that really offer photographers (aspiring and professional) a good social environment along with plentiful amounts of exposure? I used to think, but soon realized that they promote in their own image.

Benoît Felten  over 5 years ago

Oliver, thanks for your comment.

If you're getting constructive feedback from other 500px users, you're either luckier or more talented than I am. I'm getting a mild degree of appreciation (and I'm fully aware that the quality of my photos is the only thing to blame for that) but constructive criticism, never. 99% of comments are variations on "me likee".

When I wrote this, flow was still very flawed, and I've now come to appreciate it to a certain extent, but we're still far from any real opportunity at social interaction around photography.

I'm still waiting to see "what's next" from the 500px team (apart from limiting non-awesome accounts) but by and large the platform is still far from what I'd expected when I joined.

As for finding such a pool of photographic talent anywhere else on the web, there's plenty of places where photography is more diverse, more appreciated and higher quality than here. They're just not as convenient. Which is not to say that you can't find gems on 500px, of course you can. But the stuff that simmers to the top is extremely codified and severely lacks originality most of the time...

Oliver Cook (inactive)  over 5 years ago

Hmm, I have to say I've been lurking around 500px for ages now, but have recently joined and started uploading and I am very impressed. I used to use Flickr and yes, I got millions of views, but to be honest I don't think they were the same 'quality' views. I'm getting thousands of views on 500px, with only a fraction of the photos I had on Flickr, and comments and favourites I'm getting are from quite often absolutely amazing photographers - so their input is much more valuable to me than the typical Flickr user.

Flickr has too many pictures, most of which are trashy to be frank. 500px can't be perfect, but I would say it's system is leagues about anything else in terms of keeping quality. I don't see what you are talking about with the 24 hour window thing either - the flow system ensures that images that are good and of interest can keep on getting views. Inevitably some will lag off over time, but what can anyone do about that when new images are added all the time - they can't all be as visible.

As for Tweeting - Twitter is a farce and you only have to look at the disillusionment within Twitter HQ, in terms of long-term vision or purpose (or lack thereof), to see this. I would suggest that if you are relying on Twitter to get views to your photos you are going about it the wrong way. Avid Tweeters are as fleeting as snowflakes and certainly won't build you a genuine fan base. Far better to concentrate on producing good, interesting, different images and then they will organically grow a following, and other people will spread them anyway - why do you want to waste your time doing that?

I think that 500px is taking the best course in terms of avoiding becoming a blogging, or even overly social site, it is about the images and that is why it attracts the numbers of serious, highly talented individuals that it does. I would challenge you to find anywhere else on the web with such a pool of photographic talent as 500px.