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500px – Why I’m No Longer a Subscriber

For a long time the only half decent place you could show off your photographs online was Flickr. Unfortunately the website was seemingly abandoned by its owners and the horrible interface, incomprehensible promotional tools such ‘Explored’ and meaningless ‘pro’ features lead to a drift away from the site. All the people I spoke to used it only as an online backup service or somewhere to show off holiday snaps and had long since given up on it as a decent photo site.

So when 500px came along, all serious photography enthusiasts (whether pro or hobbyist) applauded. Finally here was a site that was designed by photographers, for photographers. Its cool interface and community driven voting system attracted the best and the brightest. The first page of the ‘Popular’ section of 500px displayed stunning photographs taken by the best snappers on the planet. I remember cheerfully signing up for a full membership of the site, days after seeing it for the first time, inspired by the first rate photography and motivated to try and produce equally awesome images. Fast forward a year and I let that membership lapse a couple of months ago and I wonder if I’m the only one. These are my main issues with the site:

Popularity is winning over quality

500px like all upload sites is, of course, democratic – in the sense that anyone can upload their photos – and that is as it should be. However over the last year or so I’ve been seeing photos which could, at best, be charitably described as average, sitting pretty on the most popular page while high quality images of all types languish at the bottom of the list. Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, but I don’t think any impartial audience would claim some of these images should be as high up the rankings as they are. So what’s going on?

If you look at the comments on such photos it’s easy to work out why it’s happening – the same clique of people are upvoting each others images irrelevant of their quality. If you are a member of good standing of this clique then you could cheerfully photograph your backside and expect it to be front page by morning.

The good news is that you can join the clique too – all you need to do is cast aside your integrity and press ‘V’ and ‘F’ on your keyboard, for every photo you see, no matter how good or bad. Then you simply let the photographer know what you’ve done by leaving a comment such as “lovely v+f” on it. What happens next is that the grateful photographer returns the favour and v+f’s your photo. Do it to enough photos and before you know it, you’re charging up the charts to the front page.

I don’t want to sound like an elitist arsehole when I make these accusations, I just strongly believe that photos should be upvoted based on their individual merit, not because you’re returning a favour to someone. I also don’t think that hitting the Like and Favourite buttons on a photo that is clearly awful makes you a nice person – if you produce bad photos and everyone tells you they’re great then you’re going to continue taking bad photos. I have no interest whatsoever in having a high ‘Affection’ count, but for some people it seems to be the reason they get out of bed in the morning.

Scott Kelby, the highly respected photographer and author warned that this situation would happen, over a year ago. In this blog post he said, ” … if they want to keep this from eventually turning into flickr 2.0 (and I saw a number of comments that fear exactly that), I think someone (or a group of editors) are going to have to be the “gatekeepers” to keep people from uploading snapshots and lowering the overall quality. I know this opens up a Pandora’s box of “Why did my photo get turned down?” and so on, but if someone doesn’t set a bar somewhere, we could wind up in flickrland before you know it.”

The Dislike Button is Being Used Strategically

500px might claim that the counter-balance to the V+F brigade is the ‘Dislike’ button. This only appears on your account once you’ve uploaded a certain number of images and have gained enough ‘Affection’ points. If you click it then it will typically knock a photo back about four pages in the popularity rankings, so it would appear to have a far greater weighting than a V or an F.

Unfortunately the Dislike button seems to be deployed very often by people, not because they do actually dislike a photo, but because they want to increase the chances of their own image. If they’re sitting just short of the front page, they can strategically ‘Dislike’ a photo and watch their own take its place.  Personally speaking I don’t mind the button’s existence, I just object to the way it has been used – call me old fashioned, but I use it myself when I genuinely dislike a photo.

Dislike certainly isn’t a popular feature as the endless pages of support requests bear out. It is clearly being used from fake accounts in order to game the system and the loser in that regard is quality photography. 500px’s official view on the subject is here; in short they say that only 10% of users have access to dislike and that art is subjective anyway, so don’t get all pissy if you garner a few dislikes. Glad that’s been cleared up then.

The Pulse alogirithm is meaningless

Pulse is something that’s unique to 500px and it is supposed to represent the ebb and flow of a photo’s popularity over time. As a photo garners likes and favourites its pulse increases and then as that subsides, its pulse drops too. The idea behind it was to give photos a fighting chance in the popularity stakes, but as 500px themselves point out, “It is not necessarily a measure of photograph’s quality.” All photos record their highest pulse and this is seen as the image’s high water mark of popularity.

Unfortunately your photo’s pulse can be badly affected simply by the fact that you’re not in a North American timezone. The algorithm uses a time decay variable which happens at the same time each night. According to 500px, “To get the most out of your photos [we] suggest uploading them in the morning, Eastern time.” That’s right – make the mistake of uploading during the daytime in Australia and your photo will not fare nearly as well as a photo uploaded during the daytime in America because it will be affected by the ‘time decay’ variable far sooner. Awesome.

There is no community aspect to 500px whatsoever

This is my biggest issue with 500px and it’s one that they show no signs of addressing. As crappy as Flickr is, at least there is a modicum of community involvement thanks primarily to the Groups feature and their associated chat forums.  There is nothing similar on 500px whatsoever. You occasionally get a bit of brief to-and-fro with another 500px user but this is inevitably because they are new and trying to garner favour with you. There are no meaningful photographic friendships on 500px, above and beyond I suppose, the afore-mentioned V+F clique.

So instead of introducing community features in order to encourage worthwhile interaction between paying members of the site, 500px introduced useless facilities such as Stories (a half-arsed photo-blog tool) and Flow which shows you photos people you follow have Liked or commented on (who cares?). It all adds up to a depressingly soul-less experience where photographers prostitute themselves for the sake of meaningless ‘Affection’ points.

The photo sales features are incredibly limited

After an interminable delay 500px finally introduced photo sales earlier this year and they even managed to cock this up. Rather than give photographers some control over this, there are just two options – both of which are awful.

Firstly someone can download a desktop version of a photo. This costs them $2.99 and 500px take a third of the purchase giving you $2 from the sale.

Secondly someone can purchase a 24×36 canvas print of your photograph for $207.99. From this sale the photographer earns $63. There is no option to sell other sizes (despite claims to the contrary) and no option to change the price of the print. Also the prints are only available for purchase in Canada and the US. You’ve got to wonder why they even bothered.

The subscription packages are a rip-off

As I mentioned, I signed up for 500px’s main subscription (about $50) shortly after signing up for the site. Apart from the word ‘Awesome’ appearing beneath my avatar there seemed to be very few other benefits. In fact at that time, the only real advantage to paying for membership was unlimited uploads. Besides, 500px was encouraging its users to only upload their best work, so unlimited uploads was somewhat meaningless – who takes more than 10 (the free account cap) excellent images a week? All unlimited uploads does is encourage people to use the site exactly the way they do with Flickr.

The other features a subscription gets you are domain linking, unlimited number of sets (wow!),
option to add custom logo and icon to portfolio, SEO optimisation (that’s a feature?), Google analytics, statistics page (the only way to find out which of your images has been ‘disliked’) and a few extra portfolio themes.

I had buyers remorse about a day after signing up for the main 500px subscription package and when they sent me a reminder that my account was due for renewal, I immediately went to the site and cancelled it.

Is there a way back?

500px seem to have totally lost sight of why they started the site. They say, “Over the years, the 500px platform went through a number of revisions and changes, growing together with technology and photographers, and keeping focus on the highest quality photos.” That might have been the case, but it isn’t now, the focus has shifted from quality to popularity and quantity.

In the last couple of years, since 500px went from a niche site to a high profile photo sharing phenomonem, other sites have come along which handle the quality/quantity issue with far more grace – in particular ‘competition’ sites like Pixoto and Viewbug and portfolio sites like Photoshelter. And let’s not forget, the long-awaited Flickr relaunch is due soon. So in all honesty, given the way 500px have handled things up till now, I don’t believe there is a way back for them. Which is a shame, because it showed so much promise.

78 thoughts on “500px – Why I’m No Longer a Subscriber”

  1. Interesting thoughts, thanks Andy.

    I’m a late-comer to 500px. I’ve seen loads of my friends and others with 500px accounts and a lot of people seem to get traffic from it, but I haven’t signed up an account yet.

    Over the past few years I reduced the number of forums and sites I shared my photography on, because it just became burdensome and time-consuming to upload the same image with the same description to all the different sites, go back and check on comments, likes, whatever. I felt like I wasn’t really part of the community because I was just doing it to get my work out there and not giving other people’s threads/photos any attention.

    So I’ve been concentrating on Facebook, my own website (mikesalway) + forum (IceInSpace), and Google+ (though not as active there as I’d like).

    I was going to sign up to 500px but now I’m not sure after reading your post. I don’t have any time or inclination to worry about ‘gaming’ the system, uploading images only at a certain time of day, worry about my ‘pulse’ or ‘affection’ , etc. But I do know there’s a lot of great photographers on there and it’s a great site to get some inspiration from.

    However like most photo-sharing sites, it’s usually just photographers looking at other photographers work. It’s not really a place where you’re going to get ‘customers’ from – someone who will actually part with $$$ to buy a print??

    That’s the hardest part, right.. how to reach the people who might actually buy your work.

    Anyway thanks again for your post – given me some food for thought.

    1. Thanks Mike. In all honesty you’re unlikely to get generate any print sales through 500px. I’ve only recently started selling my photos and so it wasn’t the reason that I signed up for 500px in the first place, but if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have bought a subscription. I guess its main use is to get your name out there, but even that’s far more difficult now that it has so many users.

      There have been a couple of breakthrough photographers on 500px, including AmishBoy (the guy that photographs the snails etc), Kenny Barker (English landscape guy) and Lincoln Harrison (the night sky photographer), but on the whole it’s hellishly difficult to get any sort of presence on the site without gaming the system.

  2. Interesting article, thanks. I’ve had an account at 500px for a year or so, but never have uploaded more than a few images. I loved it at first, but lately have noticed the decline in image quality and wondered if it was just me who thought that.

    I started out on photo.net and loved it for several years, and learned a lot from all the critical comments, but that’s what I wanted. I never could get into Flickr, mostly because the photos and thumbnails are too small to see well. For the past couple of years I’ve used Redbubble for my website. There are few critical comments on Redbubble, and not nearly as much traffic as Flickr and other sites, but the sales options are wonderful, the community is friendly, and the website is free, so it works well for me for now.

  3. I understand what you are saying and why. Still as an appreciater of photography long before it became accepted as an art form, I enjoy seeing the work of both types of photographers, I like many of the “bad” or “mistakes” in some photos because of the art form created unintensionaly not for anyother reason. You never know what may come from it unless you take the opportunity. As a hobbist, I learn from all of it and am grateful for this venue to study from many kinds of photographers and their special sight. As far as the sale of the work, I am glad it is available to me through this avenue- What I buy is in the eye of the beholder-me and has nothing to do with any other reason. I know the games that are played, just remember, there are those % that are really into the total process.

  4. I enjoyed this article Andy. I was part of Flicker for over a year and found the same clique problem there. Now I was about to join 500px until I read this. I’m trying to get myslef out there and recognized but don’t have the time for all the above that you mentioned on 500px. I mainly post on Facebook but find it difficult to garner over 50 likes on a photo. Ok maybe my photos are not Art Wolfe quality but when another photo simplymakes a statement about “How would you like me to just post a photo at random” and get over 40 likes I feel like something is wrong. A few of the different venues on Facebook show how many views have occured on a photograph and then you can see how many likes or comments have accompanied it. I like that, but am surprised at the low ratio. I don’t know what the answer is but I would certainly like to hear your views on Facebook and how to get your name out there to help encourage sales of your photographs.
    Thanks!

    1. Thanks Chuck. I think Facebook and Google+ are the way to go. Everyone thinks of Facebook as a social networking site, but in reality it’s simply the biggest photo sharing site on the planet. I am pleased to have built a strong and very engaged audience on Facebook and I greatly appreciate being able to see great photography by others that I’ve added to my interests feed. It has enabled me to connect with a worldwide audience in a way I simply could not have accomplished through traditional photo sites like Flickr or 500px.

      With regard building up an audience on Facebook, I make sure I regularly share my photos on the site – usually on a daily basis. I share them on my own page, but also on the main tourism sites for my region. There is a symbiotic relationship between photographers and tourism agencies in that the photographer gets his/her photo shared widely and and the tourism agency get awesome photographs to showcase their region for no cost. It’s also important to engage with your FB fans – I greatly enjoy getting to know them all and try and respond personally to most comments. I also share Facebook covers and wallpapers.

      I think Google+ has really been embraced by photographers and while I’m still working out the nuts and bolts of it myself, I think in the longterm it may well take over from Facebook as the preferred venue for photosharing.

  5. Andy, you hit the nail on the head several times. I too will not be renewing my subscription once it expires, which has about a year left on an “Awesome” account.

    I really started to notice the voting gang thing about 3 months after I had joined. I wasn’t paying much attention to it until I noticed that one of the people I had originally started to follow was getting all sorts of high rankings for some pictures, which in my opinion were mediocre, in an unbelievable short period of time. Sure, some of his images were good, but several of them were not so much.

    He would upload a picture and within a few hours had over 100 likes and tons of comments, many of which included that famous 500px phrase “Voted”. Really… what more can I say.

    1. Thanks Peter. I think it’s getting worse and worse to be honest. I checked out 500px yesterday and the first 6 pages of Popular were full of really mediocre images. It’s pretty depressing.

      1. Hello

        i do have an account at 500px, honestly i dont mind about what’s better than what, whats on display and whats not. YES i dont like people writing under my photos ‘V and F if you have time come see my gallery’ i never do!, and i have always told myself “should i write somewere PLEASE VOTE ONLY IF YOU LIKE NOT TO GAIN A FAVOUR BACK” (am gonna add it now). i just ignore such people, and i do vote what i like not just everything.
        this is me, however a part the ranking and platform of 500px, i still consider it a very nice place to upload photos (facebook no thanks).

        i was considering to get an awesome or plus subscription on holidays sale, but they do offer really little, im fine as free account.

        another thing i miss from flickr is the ‘groups’ (group lenses, themes etc)

        but overall there is no real alternative out there
        am gonna use 500px and accept its downside and enjoy the upside
        all i can do is make it clear, i do not return favours if i dont like your photo.

        what could they do ?
        try to explore new strategies and put on the hold the graphical aspect.

        cheers

  6. I have to agree with everything you have said here Andy. I am also a very late comer to 500px and after uploading 3 photos which I think are not too bad I simply can’t be bothered with it. I realised after seeing the few comments on my pictures that I would have to return the V/F favour to everyone and seriously – who has that sort of time? So I will let my free trial run out and delete my photos from the site.

    I now use facebook, but find it hard to build an engaged audience of fans, and I use flickr mainly to store my images but also because flickr images do show up in Google searches so it is a good way of getting some traffic to your flickr account and if you have a website you just put it with each photo. Plus like you say, it is a good internet backup :)

    The opposite end of the scale to 500px is 1x – each photo is moderated by not only the moderators but also the site members, and all the photos are of super high quality. I don’t think my humble efforts would be accepted but I enjoy seeing the awesome talent on that site, and there are tutorials of how some of the photos are created.

    1. Thanks mate. Yea – 1x is definitely the high water mark – I’ve submitted two images to the site which I thought were okay, but got knocked back. I’m totally cool with it because it encourages me to raise my game and I’ll know that if I ever get an image accepted there, that it’s of very high quality. :)

      1. Totally agree about 1x. I also use or frequent 72 dpi, Behance and Blue Canvas but I don’t think they give me as much as I am looking for in terms of viewing.

        I find G+ is just too overloaded with a lot of plain images and it also seems to be about chasing popularity. I look at Deviant Art once in a while but overall I think 1x shows the best quality of work in terms of there being very little shown to the public on the main stage that is not outstanding.

    2. I was on 1X a few years, but had my profile/account suspended for not properly following the way to leave comments!? Nothing negative. 1X has a set criteria in the way to leave detailed comments about someone’s work. I suppose my brief critiques didn’t match up to their standards. I was blocked for about 10 days, strange.
      I decided to close my account after it was unblocked and politely left an explanation as to why. High end in content, but their attitude wasn’t something I didn’t want to contend with. Maybe it’s different now but there are more online photo sites to chose that will work best.

      I have a Behance profile and looking to build that up more in time.

  7. Appreciate the informative post. I ran across it at random but it’s poignant. I have yet to do anything with the 500px profile I created, mainly due to lack of time to manage yet another social profile. After reading this post I jumped over to the 500px and everything described here is apparent. Guess you saved me a few bucks, so thanks.

      1. Thanks Andy. I really enjoyed yours, too, and bookmarked it for when I make my way to NZ! This has been on my list for a while.

        There are definite similarities between PNW and NZ landscapes, especially noticeable (from my perspective) when you look at Washington state’s alpine country — the North Cascades, in particular.

  8. The issues with 500 px are as clear as daylight!

    I have seen photos that look really bad, and even ridiculous in some cases, get wide attention, as well as a plethora of thumbs up and overzealous comments. Yet, many photos that are clearly deserving of such a response get few views. It’s quite pathetic, when you think about it.

    This has led me to conclude that photo sites such as 500 px are not worth using. It’s better to learn how to do seo, set up your own photo blog, and draw traffic to it through other means, such as organic search (search engines), Twitter, Facebook, and Google +.

    It will take a lot of hard work to do it on your own. But, in the long run, you’ll be better off, as you will eventually accumulate far more views of your photos than you would on 500 px, and other sites like it. Moreover, you will gain a steady flow of traffic to your site, and ultimately build a solid reputation online as a photographer.

  9. Couldn’t agree more. Good post. Many wonderful photographers have come and gone from the site because of its cliquishness, me being one of them (well actually I was banned twice for being so outspoken). Also, maybe you are not aware of this, but the admin of the site has a strong arm in using the dislike button and have been known to ascribe dislikes to people who they don’t favor.

  10. Hi Andy. This isn’t a spam post. I have been a member of Redbubble for quite a few years (somewhat inactive over the past couple for personal reasons unrelated to Redbubble). You may want to have a look and see if it suits your needs. They have a wide variety of ‘groups’, a shopfront and other features that have been set up based on member preferences. It’s here: http://www.redbubble.com

    1. Thanks Brad. I did give RedBubble a go – still have an account there as far as I know. Never had much luck with the site, though the groups and the interaction were a lot better than many other sites :)

  11. 100% in agreement Andy, it’s such a missed opportunity. My own personal peeve centres around photo-dishonesty, and 500PX’s admin’s apparent reluctance to moderate this issue. I contacted them about one particular user, “Jamil Ghanayem” who has posted a number of “photos”, clearly composite images, with some content that is demonstrably not his property. I messaged him and requested that he clarify his technique, and credit those parts of his photos that are not his, but the only thing he did was change the descriptions in a very vague, obviously reluctant fashion. He’s still completely avoiding the whole intellectual property issue.

    I digress, partly… my main gripe with 500PX is that they discourage direct communication with other users concerning complaints, instead suggesting I contact them (500PX admin) directly. I did, nearly four months ago, and he’s still portraying this stuff as his own, still lying about how he took the shots, and he’s still getting pats on the back from his little V+F clique.

    I’m glad I didn’t take the subscription plunge.

  12. Hi Andy,

    I really want to congratulate you on your very excellent post.

    I’ve only been using 500px for a relatively short time, after getting my first DSLR at Christmas. I initially started using it because it was suggested to me. I looked at the photos and concluded that this would be a great site for stretching my skill, learning a few things and, hopefully, meeting other Photographers who might be able to help me stretch.

    2-3 months in, and I’ve discovered the directly proportional link between likes and likes. On a couple of occasions recently I’ve tested the theory by uploading half-decent shots, but not commenting on others’ photos…just to see what would happen. Well, no surprises to see that my photos have not even reach popular (not that popular is the name of the game here, but you get the point!). I uploaded one yesterday and made a few comments and BOOM…everyone started posting on my photo..but it was all ‘nice V&F’, which help me not a jot!

    So, I’ve decided that 500px is a self-defeating website, that will strongly urge you to compromise your integrity and get you voting for votes…and I dont want to go down that route.

    I’m fascinated with your decision to use Facebook as a place to show your shots. How do you build up a network of people there? Do you promote your facebook albums, or actively network with other people regarding photography? Do you use groups to do this?

    Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated, as I really want to get off this roundabout which is 500px voting and go get some serious (and harsh) feedback on my shots, which will help me improve.

    Cheers!

  13. Hi Andy

    Just came across your article and it would seem I am going to be a lone voice here. I can’t fault your analysis of the problems with 500px but but would question your assessment of their significance.

    I joined 500px at Christmas when offered a 50% discount on their awsome account. At this price the cost was about the same as web hosting for a year in the UK so made sense for the portfolio feature.

    The problems of V&F became clear almost immediately so I concluded that if I played this game the “affection score” I achieved would reflect politics rather than aesthetics. The solution was obvious – don’t play that game. Sure I don’t get fantastic scores but my better pictures do tend to make “popular” and an indication of the true appriciation for an image is given by the ratio of votes to views rather than the total number of votes.

    As I am using the site to mount the results of a personal image a day for a year project there is a greater variation in quality of what I mount than might otherwise be the case, but by not engaging in the V&F game the scores I get tend to match my own assessment of an images worth. The key point is that there are some very clear discrepancies (both higher and lower) and it is this allows me to go back an reassess my work as part of the learning process (comments like “great capture” don’t help much).

    I feel that I am gaining from this feed back and am aware that I have to make a return contribution. I do this by voting for images I like, but I don’t comment, don’t select favorites and don’t use dislikes.

    I certainly would not try to sell images through 500px, Alamy provides a far more attractive option form me.

    Regards

  14. Your post describes exactly how I feel about 500px. I am so perplexed by the site that the way I ended up here was to type into Google “What’s wrong with 500px”. I should probably add that I’m fairly new to photography, at least in terms of being a “serious amateur hobbyist”. In no way do I think of my photography as spectacular…that my photos deserve top spot on the “Popular” pages.

    Some of the photography on 500px is incredible, the type of shots that I hope to be capable of making some day. That is what attracted me to the site in the first place. As I started posting images, I realized that my photos would receive virtually no attention, and when they did, the comments were/are basically useless to my growth as a photographer.

    On the other hand, there is a lot of what would be considered “snapshots” on 500px as well. Shots that could have been taken by anyone using a cell phone…shots that are just plain bad (in my opinion). I realize that not everyone sees things the same way and there are many differing opinions on what makes a good photo. But come on…how many different “awesome”, “brilliant”, “amazing”, “fantastic” shots can there be of a common house cat? (or a flower, or your dog)?

    So why am I perplexed? There are so many of these average (at best) photos that make it to the “Popular” pages of the site. Many that receive thousands of views, hundreds of Vs + Fs. How could that be? Even what I feel are my best photos have not come close to matching the popularity of some of these snapshots.

    Your post confirmed what I have suspected…I just wanted to know if there were others who felt as I do. I have not opted for a paid subscription to the site. It is ashame, as I thought the site looked promising. But there seems to be no point if it will not help me to grow and become better as a photographer.

    Thanks for posting!

  15. Just stumbled on this while looking for something else.
    Im a member of 500px and totally agree, its not about great photos any more its a popularity contest.
    I think a lot of the old hands know this, and if you can be bothered to sit there for hours V+F all the photos and paste a comment , then so be it.The no vote button (dont have) is just a way the in crowd control any one who is a thret to there page one status. Bloody disgraceful behaviour.
    I wont be renewing my pro paying membership, but will still upload photos on occasions
    Donald Goldney
    If you care to look at my page i state the experiment i conducted on how to gain page one status.
    cheers and well put

  16. I joined 500px before Christmas after remarks from Scott Kelby on the standards of the photos. I posted a few photos to start me off and was pleased to recieve some kind remarks from Photographers who had amazing photos on the site. I made contacts with very nice people and enjoyed viewing their shots. Like you have stated I soon found pictures on the site with extremely high ratings that just did not warrant them. I had people who took photos of other subjects that I don’t take commenting on my shots which I at first thought was very nice until I realised they were looking me to vote on their shots in return for their comments.
    Some were very poor but had high rating and this seemed odd to me until I noticed that they all had Facebook accounts and twitter accounts which I assume they used to attract large numbers of viewing and votes. I realised that you could upload a shot and check for it on the fresh stream to find it was already on page 8 or 9 due to someone uploading 90 snapshots at one time.
    I decided to deactivate my account and call it a day.
    It is such a pity for there are some amazing photos and photographers using the site.

  17. Thanks for writing this blog post Andy. I 100% agree with your assessment about popularity dominating quality at 500px. I’ve seen the quality decline even since I joined only last year and get frequently frustrated with the copy and paste comments. I have a plus account now, but I don’t plan on renewing; after my plus account lapses, I’ll use the free account if that.

    And to show you how insane the popularity contest has become, some people a fiverr are offering 100 likes on 5 photos for $5. This is crazy and certainly show the irrational mindset of some people in their quest to be popular.

    http://fiverr.com/minhaz110/give-you-100-likes-each-to-5-of-your-500px-photos

  18. Dear Andy

    I am one of the individuals that you have identified within the ‘Clique’ .

    I have been with 500 now for some considerable time . I follow around 800 people and i have a following of around 4,000.

    I am lucky enough to be travelling around your lovely country for a year , and have the time and motivation to get up at 0300 , drive for god knows how long , get to a location and snap away taking photos at sunrise , return and post what i consider to be a photo that is good enough for 500px.
    I also have the time and the motivation to visit and vote on people i am following . There is nothing wrong in this . I enjoy my photography , and through the contacts i have made on 500 , i have improved , and have sought to help others as well . I have had the pleasure of meeting and shooting with 5 followers/friends from 500 , and one flew in from the other side of the country to do this . All because of the relationships i had formed within this photo community.

    I invite any reader to visit my 500 page http://500px.com/Emmo , any critique is welcome. I believe my portfolio is of reasonable standard and improving , i work hard at my photography hobby and i enjoy looking , and discussing with others who do the same .

    In regards of the identified secret clique , i follow 5 of the individuals , have never heard of the others.

    Paul

    1. Mate – if you’ve found happiness at 500px then all power to you. However if you’re leaving meaningful comments on photos because you think they’re good – then you’re not in the clique. The clique is full of people who leave feedback less helpful than an average eBay response and who leave their comment litter on any and all photos irrelevant of their quality.

  19. Excellent article. My sentiments exactly and it took me about 3 months to work out what was going on. I just used the free account but joined Awesome today because of the brand new portfolio feature – this does look good.

  20. V+F!! Excellent post please visit my website hahaha…. I also hate how 500px lost the original way to engage good photographers, Ive been using other alternatives to share my work, like G+ and recently FB Pages, and Ive seen good results.

  21. Amazing article, and I was always suspicious that something wrong is going on with all those “v+f” or “check out my newest bla bla”.

    Yet, let’s be honest: There are some stunning pictures on 500px, and the majority with a “pulse” of 90+ are really beautiful and professional. I agree that there is a lot of crap, but it’s relatively hidden.

    And I can’t agree with the statement that you have to be part of a clique to get a high rating – some pictures of mine made it to “popular”, yet without any interaction, commenting or whatsoever from me. But to my surprise by far not my best images – they somehow go “down” unnoticed.

    I keep away from 500px too, because I want to get real ratings on my pictures, so I can learn to improve. I prefer one comment, explaining what someone likes or what I could better next time, rather than 10 nerd’s pasting v+f without even looking at it.

    Best,
    George

  22. Don’t great photos become popular?

    There are many enthusiast photographers who are either amateurs, semi-pros or pros.

    There are hidden communities in 500px, and in order to progress in life, you have to be linked up.

    If a new product of 100% is sold at 100% high cost, who can afford?

    It’s not about 500px being weak, but about the how you channel your works.

    1. No – pretty often great photos do not become popular – particularly on 500px. Besides – you’re pretty much proving my point by suggesting that you have to be linked up in order to progress. Some of us like taking photos, not chasing meaningless karma points on websites.

  23. Hey, I wanted to do the V+F joke, but somebody already did, so I pass :)

    I’m just an amateur that tries to have fun at photography. However, I do look for constructive feedback and after 1 year on 500px and 41 pics, I got something like 2 real comments. Obviously, I noticed the fake pics getting high scores, even though some are really badly executed. Not even mentioning material that you can easily find on the 1st page of a Google images search.

    Thanks to your post and the comments, I’m investigating the alternatives and will not renew my plus account.

    Cheers,
    Aurélien.

  24. Thanks for this post, Andy!
    I’ve only been taking photos for about 18 months and am on a huge learning curve. I will unashamedly say that I am on Instagram and while I love the community and it has (for me) been a great place to meet like minded people. I have had the fortune of meeting some great people who are professional photographers and I’ve learned a LOT from these guys who are very happy to teach me some skills (and even in person) for free!
    I have had numerous encourage me to join Flickr & 500px. I joined 500px for the trial period but wasn’t too impressed with it. I’m a member of Flickr just to test the waters and be inspired by others who are great photographers.
    I’ve joined RedBubble too but I was incredibly disappointed with their print quality when I ordered some of my images as greeting cards. They insisted it was my images (not their printers) and only gave me a credit voucher. I took my files and had them printed elsewhere to be sure… they were fine!!

    Anyway, I’m enjoying your site. I discovered you via your Facebook page & glad I did!! I also have a Facebook page but by no means profess to be anything more than an amateur.

    1. Thanks Liz – glad you liked the site. Interesting about Redbubble print quality – never actually bothered getting anything printed there. I think Flickr’s slowly on the way back if Yahoo continue to play their cards right! :)

  25. very good article, the main issue at the moment is the voting system
    on the site, it is quite plain to see some kind of a game
    is to be played in order to have your work displayed on the popular section of the site
    but myself i never seen the harm, im only there to give people a look at my work it really doesnt bother me who or what is on the popular section, as for the v+f i always thought it was part of the site ive done it myself at random from just really
    liking a photo and got nothing in return! :) i just thought it was something people on the site do i may stop in shame now! :)
    but i agree with you completely it turns things into a bit of a joke when you look at a bad photo with hundreds of votes and a great photograph with 2 votes, the editors choice is also a bit funny as sometimes they seem to have great names
    of big time photographers but terrible photos, i have always laughed at these things but reading your article has got me thinking a bit deeper about it, i really think they should get rid of all the likes and affection altogether and if people wanted to comment on someones work
    then maybe there would be more interaction, i never use the dislike button because with so many different people, different styles and different views on photography
    i personnally would not like to be negative towards anyone, silence is bad enough

  26. Great article! Actually that is what I think of 500px now. The voting system is suck. I also tried the F+V mechanism and got high ratings. But after several times, I found it meaningless. It is just a waste of time. I just could not believe how much time people have spent on F+V others in order to get a higher place on the list…

  27. Interesting article. When 500px started it was much better, it was a service for passionate photographers. It’s really frustrating to see comments such as “I just voted, please check my work…”. I am considering alternatives but I am still not sure.

  28. Wow its plain to see a lot of people agree with you. I am one of those people, within a minute of your image uploading it has moved up so many pages you dont get any hits. Unless you have a large following but its impossible to get without being cheeky. I dont know what to do now. I just want to show everyone my work and engage other people who love photography or want to buy it. Why is that so hard lol.

  29. Thanks for the article! I came across it as I was looking on Google for some more info on a previous contributor, Paul Emmings (who has some wonderful photos on 500px, IMO). I couldn’t agree more with many of your comments.

    I mainly went on 500px to set up a website as it seemed the easiest way for a mug like me. However, I noticed the things you and others have mentioned – photos (mine and others) which I though were reasonable getting 1 or 2 views with other crap getting hundreds of views in no time at all. Knowing photos stay on the first ‘fresh’ pages for only a few moments, I couldn’t see how this was possible. So I ran an experiment. I went onto 500px fresh photos for a day and ‘L & F’d all he ones I LIKED. Soon I started getting comments and votes and ended up getting some scores in the 80s and 90s.

    I think there’s a simple solution – limit ‘Likes’ to say 5 or 10 a day per member and a maximum of 20 favourites at any time. That way, people really need to think about which photos they really think have merit.

  30. I reached your post by googling for opinions on high prices they charge, and guess what, it’s now 75$ for being ‘awesome’. Sheesh!

  31. Reading through the comments I see one central theme. You want your work seen and recognized but don’t want to invest the time it getting it so.

    Time and time again I hear this complaint and it baffles me. Picture this. You create a website say at wordpress, upload some photos and then sit back. Do you honestly expect your site will get hits with that amount of work? I hope not. You get hits through advertisement and name recognition. Well, the same applies at 500px. You get your name out there by commenting and voting on other’s work. Yes, you’ll garner some attention by voting everything but you’ll gain so much more by leaving an honest, well thought out evaluation of another’s work. I don’t care who they are, if you leave a real critique, it will get noticed and that photographer will check your work out guaranteed. Now it’s up to your work and that photographer’s taste as to whether you get a vote back or not. If you are as good as you think you are, you’ll soon have your work being viewed on the first few pages which will then snowball into more votes. Because remember, your work is that good! Basically, it’s social networking. If you don’t like it then the internet may not be the way to show off your talents.

    As to limiting voting to however many you think should be practice, well that’s a perfect way to really turn the place into a popularity contest. Now you’d have friends only voting for friends and good work by new people wouldn’t see the light of day.

    As to lack of community. You can make contact with photographers from every corner of the globe there. Wonderful people from all walks of life sharing their experiences and work and eager to share in yours. You just have to make contact and be a real person.

    I’ve had a smugmug page for 3 years. I’ve received 5 times the views in less than a year on 500px as I have had in 3 years on smugmug.

    So in closing, you’re only going to get out of anything what you put in. No one above me is better than anyone else. You don’t deserve special treatment just because you’re you.

    1. Not entirely sure you actually read the article before riding to 500px’s defence. However …

      I have a strong photographic presence all over the Internet, on just about every photo-sharing site there is and have done for many years. In fact I’ve been a member of DeviantArt for 12 years now and Flickr for eight and, for the record, I joined 500px very early on and watched it nosedive into “V+F” oblivion from very promising beginnings. The simple fact is that 500px has the biggest single-syllable userbase of any photo-sharing site on the Internet – a cursory browse through the site will confirm this to anyone.

      So please don’t presume that I (and other like-minded photographers) are not prepared to put in the effort to cultivate good relationships with like-minded snappers. We are – we’re just not prepared to play some endless game of back-scratching tag with people. I don’t comment on others work in the expectation that they’ll do the same to me – I comment because I admire their work. That’s it.

      Also Smug Mug is a place to sell photos isn’t it? Just like Redbubble? Not a huge shock that you got more V+Fs at 500px – I could post photos of my sock drawer and get more interest there.

  32. I realise this is an old post so I was wondering.. Is there site you’d recommend in addition to the 3 above? I read your article on 1x and I saw (according to the last comment on that article) that you weren’t very happy with 1x either

  33. Thank you for confirming my suspicions.. very late to the party, I set up a trial over the weekend. Uploaded maybe 30 pics, and my email was flooded with comments and favs and ‘your photo is on the popular page’, in minutes. I figured most of them were just looking for favs back. I may keep the free membership, as then I only have to upload to one place and can share it to facebook, pinterest and google+ without having to upload multiple times. Definitely won’t be signing up for a paid subscription! Thanks for the info!

  34. I hate to say this but likes in facebook or wherever mean nothing sorry, look at the big name photographers on facebook then look how many people are following them and how many friends they have and then look at their likes, well say the have 6,000,00 friends and followers together, now look at the likes what a mere 200-300, example I have Art Wolfe as a friend and sometimes I like and sometimes I don’t, but the times I don’t does not mean I don’t like his pictures, I think they are awesome.

  35. Ok, so I’ve read the article (you raised some interesting points!!) and all the comments (rather a lot!!) and now I have a question:

    What’s the best online presence for a photographer? Be it for an amateur or otherwise?

    I only ask because I’m considering having an online presence again after a 3 year absence and to be quite honest I haven’t got a clue what would be best! I don’t like the fact that you can download stuff really easily from Flickr (unless your account is private), the voting system on 500px doesn’t sound so hot neither do their terms, Facebook is a no-go due to their terms also so is a blog or an own website the way to go?

    I just want somewhere to showcase my images and have as much ‘control’ as possible. I’m well aware of just how easy it is to steal pics…What do you recommend?

    It’s a damn mine field out there!!!

    Cheers!!

  36. having recently joined 500px i feel maybe the point is being missed

    The work you deem not worthy is actually someones attempt at creating something and maybe the encouragement gained from the site can inspire someone upwards

    Not long after joining i gained more sense about my work than i managed anywhere else and also seen some of the most inspiring photos available anywhere online

    I see your point about the games and i can see how it works with folk giving you a link to like their work , but they are a minority in my opinion and looking at the bigger picture does give a sense of what your achieving or not achieving

    I can understand for someone like you , (and ive looked at your work and admired it ) maybe you need something more , and are above a lot of the aspiring snappers on the site so maybe your pics get lost for something less impressive , which would annoy you im sure , i understand that

    for someone trying to make it looking for ease of use and and a broad spectrum of critic i believe the site will gain more fans , and alongside the more professional like yourself giving something to aspire to i think the formulae is unique at the moment

    anayway , it was very interesting reading your site and viewing your work i wish you well

    1. Cheers Rob. As I mentioned, the quality of an image is a relative thing and what I consider to be high quality may be very different to someone else’s viewpoint. However there’s little doubt that the system is being gamed by many users of 500px and it’s to the detriment of all photographers who use the site. :)

      1. Hi Andy, thank you so much for your comments. I found them to have the ring of truth to them But, what would I know? Having just joined 500px and had some photos hit the (alleged) heights, I now feel like you have just destroyed Stana Claus and ten for good measure , cancelled Xmas! Not your fault though becuase I know that you are spot on with your views.

        So now believing yours and many others views, what does a very old newby like me do now?

        i crave honest feedback, constructive comments and above all else I want to be able to feel good about my Art. o, where do I get tis from? Facebook..No, Flickr.. No, 500 px.. not any more.
        I would like to be able to get some measure of honesty, so have you considered formng a Panel, alng with Scott Selby, Julanne Kost and perhaps Serge Ramelli and perhaps 5 or so others that the Panel would approve?

        I guess it all boils down to trust. I for one would trust that you and the select Panel would offer great and invaluable critique. I feel sure that genuine Snappers would even be prepared to pay for this?

        Anyway, the way it is now is that we olde Wipper Snappers are like the proverbial Dead Atheist..” all dressed up with nowhere to go”

        Any thoughts or advice on this Expert Panel idea (A place to welcome “dead atheists would be most gratefully received?

        My sincere compliments for your comments and views expressed, along with most all others of a like mind as you and I.
        Kind Regards.

        1. Hi Tom – I think the answer to this question is actually quite a traditional one and it’s something you’ve partially touched on here. I was invited to give a talk at a local photographic group’s monthly meeting fairly recently and I was struck by the constructive feedback that club members were giving to each other, along with useful tips and general guidance. I think the Internet’s great for getting your name out there – and 500px is as good a service as any other in this regard. Maybe the new discussion groups will improve things over there? Perhaps Flickr will come full circle? It’s hard to tell and I certainly don’t have the answers – I’m looking like everyone else. :)

          1. Thanks Andy. I guess the heart of the problem is that whilst there are numerous sites for posting photographs to in order to obtain honest critique, they have become corrupted.

            However as you said in one of your bloggs “I dont want constructive criticism”. in my most humble opinion, what would be required is to obtain agreement by our peers and the market that what we produce has value and meaning. Given that agreement, then the next stage would be to be directed to a “Panel Approved collective” site (which is yet to be created)for developing sales and marketing opportunities.

            Such a Panel and Marketing site could be a collaborative run by businessmen such as yourself and the panel members on a purely commercial basis. The fundamental building blocks could be no vested interests other than being part of the worlds’ first
            incorruptible Photographic Clearing House for existing and aspiring photographic professionals.

            What we have at present is a flawed model for doing this, namely 500 px and also Facebook.

            I personally would prefer submitting photographs to a Panel
            (body corporate is another term) for some kind of “adjudication'” on the intrinsic worth and value of the work. That the Body was comprised of unbiased but recognised leaders in the field of photography and marketing then their views would have real meaning.
            People such as yourself, Selby, Ramelli and Kost immediately spring to mind as being the best ‘Names’ in Marketing their own and others products. Imagine the benefits from getting these people together?
            Still it is all a pipe dream really if no one cares to try and resolve this conundrum that your have already and so eloquently identified.

            Kind regards and genuine thanks for your inspirational words and photographs. (Trust me..it is genuine not like V+F in 500.)

          2. Not sure I’d plump myself in with the likes of Scott Selby, Tom – but I appreciate the comment. I’ve actually just re-made an account on 500x to see if anything’s changed in the two years since I deleted my account! I’ll post a new article here when I’ve tried it out.

  37. Hi Andy – I’ve attempted to tear myself from Flickr but nothing seems to fill the niche like Flick did back in the old days. I joined 500px about this time last year at the recommendation of a couple photog friends who enjoyed the site, uploaded a handful of images, but then quickly (within the course of a couple days, experienced much of what you’re describing here. I’ve returned just today within another handful of images and have perused the changes thought the climate seems essentially the same. I’m still half-engaged at Flickr though most of my, as you put it, most “meaningful” photography relationships that began there do not exist much these days. There seem to be so many other options – I’ve accounts on Ipernity and Fotoblur, as well as FAA and Viewbug, all of which I enjoy but they too fall short in one aspect or another. I’m curious where you spend the bulk of your online photography time these days and why?
    Cheers y salud :)
    Kevin

  38. Thanks Andy for such a well written article. I will be pointing others to it. You put it all so precicely. :-)

  39. Hello Andy
    I am a relative Newby 500Px and NOW l find your beautiful article! I have been becoming progressingly mystified by the ware and tear of the workings of it. I noticed Anonymous peoples, Large favouritism’s and the selling? well, you said it! I don’t sell. It is a waste of time and MONEY, my money. I am fed up with it and l want to leave, now. Your article has explained all l needed to know and yes l have Flickr, and l have ignored as people jumped ship. A website of one’s own is the only way to go in this life of Photography and that’s the road l’m off on.
    Disheartened and disbelieving of ‘Good Time’ pic sites!

  40. Hi Andy

    Very well written and informative post. I am a member of 500px, ViewBug, Pixoto and a few others which I deleted my account to recently. I still use Google+ the most as we are now members of a strong photography community and find FaceBook appears to compress images resulting in poor quality.

    For me the best and only way to either sell or showcase your images is to develop your own website. I have my own WordPress photography and web development websites with galleries, comments, tips and tricks etc. I will be adding a plugin to sell images later. The main advantages are quite simply; The images on the front page are mine, the images for sale are mine and later I will be adding my photography friends to contribute to my site. This ensures quality images and topics. Your post is a fine example on why I did this and it’s really fun having my own site not forgetting it costs almost the same as membership fees …. but it’s mine! Have I said that already!

    I recently developed a photography website for a friend I met at a very low cost and his site is doing extremely well! I have not added links to mi or his site as I do not wish to appear as spam or trolling!

  41. Good article Andy. I joined 500px about a year ago I think it was and still have a free account. I was wondering about becoming ‘amazing’ (that term is enough to prevent me) and glad that I found this article. Something had been irritating me and I couldn’t put my finger on it, until now.

    I have presence all over the net and my main site is on Smug. Smug have had there fair share of this sort of thing as well. There is/was a daily section that had the ability to ‘thumb down’ an image, which was being used/abused to remove an image from the gallery, or if the in-gang didn’t like a photographer:

    http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=218716&highlight=dislike

    Smug, as a matter of interest is first and foremost a display gallery which you can sell images from if you chose (referring to a comment of yours earlier). Since the revamp last year, the site really does offer attractive galleries. I would not join Smugmug for community, though. It really simply offers a great looking web presence.

    I have also had an account at Red Bubble for a while now (who also have their fair share of this sort of thing as well, particularly with challenges). In a group that I moderate, we decided to stop running challenges for this reason. People actually went to the effort of setting up ghost accounts to be able to vote for themselves more than once. There was a time that we offered a $50 voucher as a prize (this has been stopped now, fortunately) and it didn’t take long for the $50 Gang to setup shop!

    So it seems that the VF brigade move around a bit!

    Thanks again
    Clive

  42. Hi Andy, I appreciated your article and I have to agree with everything you said. I noticed you wrote this back in 2012, and have to say it still applies to the way the site is run today. I joined 500 px a year ago, but only uploaded a few images. I added a few more last week, but noticed nothing had changed. Images that were poorly composed and slightly out of focus had 100s of likes and 50+ favorites. I am glad I never paid to upgrade my membership. I am doing my research on the other sites you mentioned. Thank you for the information.

    Debra

  43. Hi Andy, thanks for this excellent writeup.

    I joined 500px three years ago, and uploaded some work I was proud of, and it received very few views, zero attention. I didn’t think much of it (I am a hobbyist after all) until recently after joining a local photographers’ critique circle. I reposted some of those exact images and suddenly they were Upcoming and Popular! Well it was quite a thrill but honestly they are probably just evidence that the bar for great photographs has just been lowered.

    Despite this, it is nice to actually get views for a change. I suppose these effects go hand-in-hand: as a site builds a user base the expected quality of photos should regress to the mean. So I don’t take too much stock in the Pulse of a photograph – 99.6 is no different than 25.0 if I don’t find your photo interesting.

    But I totally sympathize with the utter lack of useful feedback on 500px. I do leave specific comments on photos that I like. At least I want to comment on something I think was done right (I need practice in how to offer constructive criticism when it comes to photos). And I want to hear things about my photos too. But it simply doesn’t happen. I think people want to be nice to each other’s face and get along and all have popular photos.

    I was led to this post by your other post on 1x, it could be a clique or it could be a great learning tool. I suppose the ultimate goal is to take the best of all these resources and use them as you please. After all, we are masters, not slaves, of the Internet.

    Pardon the rambling; thanks for the site and articles.

  44. So far I think 500 px is a great site.
    Like minded photographers getting together to showcase their work to a audience interested in photography.
    The fact that photos only have a 24 hour window to get attention is a good one and gives other photographers a chance to get their work out there.
    It keeps everything current and fresh.
    The fact that there will be “average” photographs appearing and getting more attention than photographs of a higher quality is just a fact of life.
    The pictures I like will always be different from the ones you like.
    Getting a 90% pulse rating is nice but what it’s really about is getting your pictures out there to people who would never ever see your pictures anyway.
    The actual quality on 500 px is very high compared to facebook and other platforms where anything goes.
    Plus 500 px doesn’t limit your audience.
    It’s open to anyone not like facebook which limits your posts to only 5% – 10% of your audience unless you pay. Let’s just embrace people’s creativity and give them a chance to get their work out there and learn the wonderful art of photography.
    Give them encouragement when it’s needed and a chance to be artistic at the same time.

    Happy snapping :)

  45. Such a great blog thank you.

    I would love to know what an ideal photography site would be, and if there was such a site what would everyone suggest.

  46. Thank you Andy, I won’t bother with 500 now, but I have one question for you….all these media sites are used to promote your work, right?? Which ultimately if it is any good, people will contact you via your email or website to buy your work, right? Could you please tell me then which is the BEST website I could use to display my portfolio and prices? Smug mug? WordPress? Others? I am a French photographer who would like to become a pro. Any feed back would be greatly appreciated. Merci beaucoup!!

  47. I found your article when searching for info about 500px. I’ve been on it a couple of years but I really don’t know why. It’s just a place to back up some of my pictures. The only person who ever buys them is me. Which leads to my question. I went on the site to purchase a gallery canvas print and for the life of me I can’t find any way to buy my own pictures. I’ve googled for directions and found nothing. I’m befuddled.

  48. almost across the board, well intentioned photography forums fall prey to some of these fault. people want to be told, wow, what a great photographer you are, not – “um did you mean for it to be underexposed and out of focus? post that sometime – they will attack you. Revenge rating and cliques killed all interest I ever had in Photo.net. The old Usefilm.com had ceased to really function long before the server crashed and their new incarnation is just a “look what I did” forum where any real critiquing is likely to start an argument. several other forums are either too complicated or designed to reward networking to get votes, not so much learning or improving anything. and every one of them could be improved with a little bit of moderating. I use Flickr for the exact reasons you mention, storage and it’s really easy to send a file for free. I will say this about that. I have REALLY enjoyed looking through the work of the wide variety of photographers on Flickr and somewhere in the is some magic. Young photographers by the hundreds teaching themselves about film, doing things with digital that are fun and different and I’ve been inspired by much of it, bored silly by all the “here’s a flower and my kid” photos, but if you have some free time, take a look, the place is full of cool stuff.

  49. I joined 500px recently and like others its V+F and time of post patterns raised my curiosity level and I found your post as I googled on the topic. Yeah can relate to it very much. Thanks. Not really sure what the solution is. Too many content generators, but too little attention span and time available to consume them.

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