How Rating Works (And Why There's A Lot More To a Rating Than Just a Number)

Published July 20th, 2011

We had many requests and questions about rating, ranging from “Do someone specifically targets my photos?” to “Why do I have a sudden drop of rating?” to “How does rating works?” to “Why don’t you remove the dislike button?”.

I tried to cover some of those issues in my blog post, but it’s definitely time for a more elaborate answer. So, let’s take a deep breath and dive into details...

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 iansobolev.500px.com 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 of your name or status.

They are among us

Back to the questions "Do someone specifically targets my photos?” and “Why do I have a sudden drop of rating?” We have recently checked a dozen of photographers that have asked us to investigate a sudden drop of rating, and we are... smitten. Photographers who argued that they have been a victim of a troll attack, disliking their photos, had zero (as in 0!) dislikes on all of their photos.

The reason behind such questions is pretty simple — our algorithm downgrades all the photos daily, so a great 90+ photo will be in the 80’s by next morning (unless it is significantly upvoted by diminishing like votes).

So if you feel that you have been a victim of an unfair dislike — think for yourself, take a look at other photographer’s profiles and notice how their great photos have fallen to 60’s, or 50’s or even 40’s with time. It’s just a part of the algorithm that we are proud of, and which works to display ever greater new photographer every day, without getting boring or repetitive.

If you don’t like votes and can’t stand this rating fluctuations, simply visit Portfolios and setup your rating and comment-free environment, where your works can be shared to your visitors, clients and friends.

Crunching the Numbers

When you first upload a photo, it appears in Fresh and on your Friends' pages. When it reaches a rating of 60 (that is, just 5 positive votes for a fresh photo), it gets to the Upcoming. This shows last 7 days of photos, sorted by upload date. Upcoming photos have a great chance to get to the Popular, and are a great way to discover already pre-filtered photos. Popular contains 50 pages of photos with the highest rating. Currently, it takes a rating of about 84 to get to the last page of the Popular.

Editors Choice is a curated category, where our Editors (including me) select 1-3 photos per day. That is, an average photo has just 0.02% chance to get to Editors Choice.

PS: Feel free to ask me questions, I’ll add replies to most common one’s to this post.

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Rotem Littman  over 4 years ago
I noticed today, that when I pressed "like" on some photo from 6 days ago, it reduced(!) the score from about 80 to 74.3. How could it be? I'm sure I pressed like and not "dislike".
It happened before once, and I thought I pressed the wrong button.
Jon Swanson  over 4 years ago
I like your explanation. But still don't see the need or purpose of the dislike button. If someone doesn't like it then they shouldn't vote at all. Just have a like and leave it at that.
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Nathalie Verbeken  over 4 years ago
If you post a shot at 8am European time, and it's on the climb, will the rating go down already at 11am (same day)?



zach bright  over 4 years ago
Great article and great website! I have a question for you however, if you have time to look into it. It may be a bug, or I may just not fully understand the rating system.

What I am experiencing is this- if I vote "like" on someone's photograph, their score rises. If I vote "like" and then favorite, the score also goes up. But for some reason, if I fave first, and then give a "like" vote, the score always drops, sometimes significantly. Is this normal? I'd hate to be giving bad scores to good pics.

Thanks, Z

Cristian G-C  almost 5 years ago
I'm new user of 500xp. Thanks a lot for the useful explanation!
Adrian Askew  almost 5 years ago
Great post, it has helped a lot because i've been quite confused with the rating system. :D But still I don't really think the Dislike button is that necessary. I understand it's intention but still feel people abuse it. I once saw a few pics on the fresh page all with 0.0 rating which must have been a troll. Keep up the good work though I love this site. :)
Mike Thompson  almost 5 years ago
I must admit that I am becoming discouraged with 500px. I started off loving it - talked about it with many people and really chatted it up. However one begins to feel victimized after a while. The members here are great and I feel that I have made some good friends already... but frankly the whole power of the dislike button really is unfair and unjust. I get immediate dislikes with every picture that I post. The rating drops and there is no hope for any kind of real recovery. It simply makes no sense and takes all the fun out of the site. I don't come here to get stressed out - I do it to have fun and enjoy photography.

Clearly the owners of the site are aware of this, but unwilling to do anything about it as they have their own agenda. For any business to be truly successful it must be about the customer. To be honest I am not feeling like one anymore and sites like smugmug are looking awfully good.

Damian H.  almost 5 years ago
Hihi, is it possible for a photo to keep the "moment of glory" highest score attained in another classified column box after the rate of decay overwhelms it? In summary, It's like a souvenir score that has no effect whatsoever on the overall rating system, just a display achievement score.
Steve Hansen  almost 5 years ago
There are definitely things to work on but these guys at 500px are onto something amazing and are doing a pretty darn good job. They have a front (portfolio) and a back (ratings).
Mariano de Miguel  almost 5 years ago
First of all , thanks for this site. Through it I had the opportunity to enjoy outstanding work and meet talented photographers ALL over the world. Their work not only moves but inspires and triggers ideas. I had several photos with a rating well over 60 but never noticed them in upcoming. Am I missing something??
Shaphan Thomas (inactive)  almost 5 years ago
Thank you so much for this explanation! I am new to the community, and so far have been thoroughly impressed with just about everything on 500px, and very much enjoy the rotation of pictures featured on the site. This very much helps me understand how, why, and when the ratings are established.
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John Dunnigan  almost 5 years ago
Glad I found this post, makes the whole rating system much easier to understand and I feel overall that it's brilliant. However, I just had a photo go from 95.5 to 73.4 literally in a matter of minutes. That doesn't make sense to me. Just saying.
mel brackstone  almost 5 years ago
I clicked a LIKE button on someone's work the other day and it dropped over 20 points!?!?! What's with that? It was a month old, and probably hadn't had anyone visit it for a few weeks.....but sheeeesh, made me feel pretty bad to be responsible for dropping the ratings on an image I liked!
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Josef Gelernter  almost 5 years ago
The DISLIKE button needs to be removed so that there is no manipulative approach to other people's photos and so that no one thinks that the reason for his her photos' ratings dropping are people hitting the DISLIKE button...
Sean Hoyt  almost 5 years ago
Been here a day and I can already see the need for more image metrics. See an image's current position in the various sections, its top all-time rating and a temporal trend line to see how it fluctuated based on sources (fresh list, upcoming list...)
Dan Hashemi  almost 5 years ago
I love everything about 500px, but I think the main item missing in the comments as mentioned before is REAL critiques...but maybe, similar to 1x.com, adding a Critique section would be good, so that photographers can really get better at their craft...just my 2 cents :)
John Running  almost 5 years ago
95 % = Art ??? BS Art is not a democracy
A Vahanvati  almost 5 years ago
Is there anyway to know which photo in our profile has the highest rating, highest likes, highest fav, most commented, most dislikes, etc ??
Wolfgang Zimmerman  almost 5 years ago
Let me post here what I had posted earlier on here http://500px.com/benfelten/blog/18336

"First of all, to only have the choice of either liking or disliking an image is plainly absurd. So, for a start, there ought to be a voting scale, from 1 (lowest) to, say, 10 (highest score). This should be linked with having to make a comment of a minimum number of words, say 40.

This would still leave people the option to 'dislike' a picture, which is only fair enough, but it would have the advantage of a) being HELPFUL TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER, especially the one who is new to the game, and b) to some extent at least, reduce clique voting (my main bugbear) where people race around - and believe me, the evidence is only too visible - chasing votes by leaving a one word comment (great, awesome, wonderful, superb, like...) or better still '!' '+', then hitting the Like button, expecting to have the favour returned of course, before moving on to the next "friend". It's all, by hook or by crook, about chasing "Likes" and has got nothing to do with APPRECIATING the work of others.

There are pictures here that carry an 80% plus rating that would have been thrown out in the first round of a local camera club competition. Someone here said, and it might even have been me, that 500 is beginning to resemble Facebook more by the minute.

All that notwithstanding, there are some great images to be found here, but the same applies to other sites as well.

I am at present on hiatus here, and I certainly cannot see myself going "Awesome" the way things are at the moment. My 2cts."

Artur Zinatullin  almost 5 years ago
Give me by dislike back!
I am clicking rather equally like and dislike on photos I really like or dislike.
Why should anyone restrict an opinion or enforce "sugar and honey"?
Even if one is a misanthrope, he has right to express his opinion.