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How 500px Rating Works & What Can We Learn About Ourselves

Published July 3rd, 2011

500px is about 500 times less than Flickr in terms of registered users and approximately serves 20-50 times less traffic. 500px is also smaller than DeviantArt, Behance, and many other photo-sharing and portfolio-creating sites. In fact, we are the smallest site of all the big players we’ve been ever compared to. Then why do comparison of 500px with the big guys? It’s all in the rating system.

It's All About Exposure

Despite a lot smaller size, both members that are new to photography and heavyweights, like Thomas Hawk, Marina Cano, Gorazd Golob, Scott Kelby and hundreds of others enjoyed an interesting phenomenon.

Despite smaller size, both famous and new photographers get a lot more exposure. You can see it daily at the Popular — fresh photo quickly gets thousands of views, dozens of comments and likes. It’s all deeply tied with the rating system.

The rating system itself is fairly easy — you can “Like” the photo or “Dislike”. We often check the stats, and over 95% of the votes — are likes. That doesn’t mean that 5 remaining percent of votes are haters. More often than not they are helping, by sifting through the Fresh daily, disliking bad photos (yes, we have those, but that exact rating system keeps it in check), and liking good photos.

What is the top rating you can get? It’s theoretically possible to hit 99.9, but that’s in theory. In practice, anything above 95 is usually a work of art.

Does the Rating Matter?

Does the rating matter? Yes, it does. But only for one thing — a placement of the photo on the page. It has nothing to do with qualities of the photographer, because the rating is also time-sensitive.

On Flickr and many other sites, you always have favorites. I mean, favorite photographers, who are always at the top. They are social, they have thousands of friends and they have a reputation. So, their photos are constantly on top, as a personal reminder of their ego.

We at 500px don’t have that. I’m sure that by the time I publish this post, Scott Kelby’s photo will be taken over by some relatively obscure Russian photographer. Why? Two reasons: time-sensitivity and the love of the crowd.

It's Either Fresh or Not

The ratings on 500px are time sensitive. Remember than great photo that got 99.5 points to yours and ours astonishment? You won’t see it on the first page. Most likely, you won’t see it in the Popular altogether. Our system downrates all photo ratings each day, so that world’s greatest photo will have an approximate rating of 50 points after half a year. Just fifty! That’s just 3 votes for the new photo! Second level of sensitivity comes from the freshness — first vote on a fresh photo brings 27 points. If you wait, the same first vote will bring about 25 points on the second day. The same vote on not so fresh photo provides for less ‘love’. Why is that?

We thought hard and tweaked the system numerous times to achieve that balance. That helps quickly bring new exciting photos to the top, provide photographers with maximum exposure, and help them sustain it though the time, by uploading 2-3 of their best photos per day.

That’s why the site, which is 500 times smaller than Flickr can bring same exposure to both amateur and professional photographers alike.

It’s not Flickr, so dumping thousands of photos in hope of exposure will, in opposite, most likely alienate you from the community.

Love of the Masses

Each vote is unique. I mean, literally. Each consecutive vote brings less points. For a fresh photo it is like this: 27 > 42 > 52 > 59 > 65 and so on. First vote brings 27 points, second — only 15, third — just 10, then just 7, then 6 and so on. On super popular photos with already hundreds of votes your vote can bring just 0.1 points or even less.

After than, just one dislike can throw a photo long way — removing, say, 6 points. But each consecutive dislike will remove smaller points, and each like will get a little more points. The idea is that the placement of each photo is the work of the masses — it can move across the Popular page in matter of seconds. And that's fresh! Because if you come next day, most photos will change, so you are presented with a fresh view of today's mood.

Killing Me Softly with a Dislike

I know that some have received dislikes on their photos and take it personally. My advice — don’t. You can go to my page and dislike the photos you don’t like. It’s OK! I still have my portfolio at which I refresh based on your feedback in the community. That actually helps!

Dislikes are not unlimited. Everyone has a limit of dislikes per day, and after certain amount, you are asked to provide an explanation. It’s not that anyone can go and dislike hundreds of photos at once. No. It’s very limited.

We did had haters, who created multiple account to dislike photos on the top and like their own photos. Guess what — we take measures, and do something very, very special to them...

Becoming Better Photographer

Would you click on the dislike? I doubt it, and over 95% of you rarely do. But do you really think your photo should go up until 99.9 and stay there forever? I doubt it too. 500px is not a sport, and you are totally free to setup your free Portfolio, absolutely separate from comments, likes, votes. But if you want to participate, comment, vote and fave photos — then, I’m sure, everyone should have an objective vision of themselves and just go and try take even better pictures, regardless whether your name is Scott Kelby or Ian Sobolev.

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Arman Ayva  about 3 years ago

check my thoughts about pulse in

Juan Carlos Calvente Crespo  over 3 years ago

Dedi Irwansyah  almost 4 years ago

Thank you for nice info, and visite for my blog Peninggi Badan Alami

Pierre Anex  about 4 years ago

I get like 3 points on a like in second minute ? There is a huge gap between ratings of different pictures, I am still uncomprehending...

Awesome Account
Simone Conti  about 4 years ago

I undestand, more or less, the ranking criteria.
But how it's possibile that a photo with 90.1 points came back to 80.0 points in only 30 minutes:
How can I photography loose its ranking?

Klaus Schuster (Nikosap)  over 4 years ago

It seems totally clear to me that the dislike button will not really be used to mark bad pictures. Otherwise every picture out of popular has to be destroyed by thousends of dislikes. That will not happened. Quite contrary some of the best pictures will be disliked - why? The possibility to destroy a really good picture anonymously by one click is quite to attractive to some attention craving people. I think the dislike button is superfluous. Every bad picture will be ignored an ready. If I really feel to dislike a photo or give advise for a better one I´m able to leave a comment ;-)

Ilya @iPhotoN  almost 5 years ago

have no "dislike" button. Not a problem, but absence in confusing when I see "dislike stats" and description about this feature.

Jose Luis Mieza  over 5 years ago

Currently there are a cowardly troll dedicated to press the dislike button to spite certain person. My first photo as awesome, was initially launched and arrived very 99 ratings. He was immediately pressed the button and my rating dropped from photo. It only happens to me, one of my contacts Makuki suffers systematically in all the agresin photos of this individual. It's a shame, but if things continue like I will have to cancel my account and my example will be followed by many other

Pat Kofahl  over 5 years ago

I believe the "dislike" button may be a valuable tool, but why is it anonymous? If you feel strongly enough about a photograph to trash it, you should have to be willing to stand behind your evaluation. I've had two images get above 99, and both got a dislike. None of my hundred or so other images ever got dinged. At least, If someone doesn't want to leave their name, They should leave their reason, one or the other. That way the merits of the criticism could be debated by the community.

John Stokes (inactive)  over 5 years ago

Why should we debate a dislike. Art is subjective if a photographer's passion is subject matter i do not like then I have the right to dislike the image, I do not have to get into a debate with the photographer.

Steve Wakeman (inactive)  over 5 years ago

So having every photo that gets into the 90's being knocked down to the low 80's every single time is perfectly normal and nothing to do with abusers of the dislike feature? hmmm I have my doubts.

I wouldn't mind if it didn't do so much damage to a score but it totally destroys it. Ten points for one dislike and 0.1 point for a like? C'mon, that's ridiculous.

Guillaume Mégevand  over 5 years ago

Awesome, thanks a lot for the help

John Stokes (inactive)  over 5 years ago

I support the dislike button and understand the reasons for it and have added my own views on my stories profile

Cezary Krysiak  almost 6 years ago

Evgeny, drop the ridiculous dislike button. It's to powerful, and when used for the wrong reasons, it defeats the purpose of having it. Most of your users don't like it and it creates bad vibe about this otherwise wonderful site. Nobody likes to be stubbed in the back (unless you like war games). Instead, concentrate on liberalizing exposure times for less visible pictures, with some kind of a smart rotation algorithm, so getting to the first page wouldn't be a guarantee for permanent success. As you know, most of your visitors go to the first page of popular photos, vote for those pictures and never look further. I have some ideas, but I'm sure if you put your mind to it you would do too.

Brian Shaw  almost 6 years ago

I also am not fond of the dislike feature. Simply because it is not a means of balance for the site due to the like/dislike psyche ratio of people in the world and is unbalanced. Take for example youtube, there are so many trolls/haters there that it's almost a culture of it's own. What if every dislike, badmouthing comment there affected how many views or likes are in a popular video? Either way the dislike actually can give a video exposure as well! However in 500px and photography, it doesn't work that way, it may ruin a photographer's goal to reach the popular page. It's great to know how the scoring system works though. In my opinion, it would be great to have a main story page where everyone can participate, like a feed similar to facebooks wall feed that showcases random photographers and shots worth a 2nd look (that isn't based on votes).or to make things fun, feature a photographer a week from every country participating. That woukd be cool!

Dr. Prem Sundar Ch  almost 6 years ago

Glad to know how the rating system works to keep things fresh and tidy.

Was happy to finally see few of my photos hit the first page. only to find out that's when the so called "strategic disliking" by few starts. Got really irked by it, but, guess thats how things work and its same for all except those who participate in the "dislike" phenomenon. I personally feel the number of "likes" themselves are quite enough to rate a picture. "Dislike" just gives the ability to downgrade a photo by a few jealous folk. am pretty sure people rarely actually use it based on their opinion of a photo. but then, it could just be me who felt this way.

Anyway, my hearty appreciation to the team of 500px to create this eco-system :)

Michael Alestra  about 6 years ago

as a new user to the sit i dont have access to the dislike button, nor do i want it. it seems that the dislike button causes unwanted maliciousness to some and offers no real benefit to the site. i vote to get rid of it. the site is perfect without the ability of people to control the downgrade status of others.

let the popularity of an image be based on the amount of cheers, not boos.


Hey, I have one thing that is really confusing me...I added a photo and it was climbing up the popularity scale really fast, into the low 90s. I was really excited!! Then midnight struck, a new day starts and its down in the low 80s. It was on the for less than 24hours. Now as its not in the 90s no one sees the photo and it sinks to the bottom of the billions of photographs and is forgotten about. WHY IS THIS?? I was really excited, I am making a start at photography and this was giving me some hope!! It was the following photograph!!

Kelly Anderson  about 6 years ago

"Our system downrates all photo ratings each day" this seems to happen at Midnight Toronto time. This means that if you upload you photo at 10pm Central time, you photo will be downrated after just one hour of life. So I have to upload my photos at 11:05 pm central time or some one in Europe would have to upload after 6:00am and in Tokio after 1:00 pm. A more democratic down rating system would apply the down rating 24 hours after the photos addition to the users public profile, (or after the first vote). This way all photos get 24 hours to shine the best that they can shine.

Samir Clarke (inactive)  over 6 years ago

What does a number next to the twitter sign at the bottom of a photo of mine mean? :)

Evgeny Tchebotarev  over 6 years ago

It means number of times the photo page has been shared on Twitter.

Awesome Account
Mim Eisenberg  over 6 years ago

Sangeeth writes, "You have mentioned that ‘Dislike’ actually helps! But you have not mentioned how? Why do you have to take the pains to limit a ‘Dislike’, ask for an explanation for a ‘Dislike’ and then track the haters & take action if the ‘Dislike’ feature itself doesn’t provide any purpose? If it’s for keeping the popular photos fresh, your algorithm takes care of. All the top rated photos will move down with time. Why should one ‘Dislike’ the photo to move down a photo?"

I totally agree.