Is 1x.com the serious photographer’s last best hope?
Update July 2014: So the answer to the question posed above is ‘no’ – 1x.com is not the serious photographers last best hope. Feel free to read the original article (when I was full of hope!) and the comments posted by others who’ve used the site, but the general consensus is that while 1x.com might have better quality photography on it, it is a closed circle within which most photographers will never get a look in. The search goes on …
So my feelings about 500px are pretty well known, but can best be summed up by one phrase – highly disappointing. I found that site so frustrating in fact that I’ve since completely deleted my account – I don’t think I’ve ever done that on any site I’ve ever joined in the 20-something years I’ve been online. Since then I’ve been casting around for a good replacement and I’m here to tell you that I think I’ve found it.
1x.com has been around for a few years now and has always been visibly different to DeviantArt, 500px, Flickr, Viewbug or any of other photo upload sites for one big reason – it is curated. What does that mean? Well simply it means that in order to make it into the site’s main gallery your work has to be approved by a peer group of photographers and it has to be high quality work. In fact they warn you before you even submit an image that less than 3% of all photos get selected. In other words, there is a bar that has been set and that bar is high and if you get a photo selected then it is a genuine achievement. I have yet to have a photo selected and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Recently 1x had a big redesign and a relaunch and the changes are excellent. Each member gets a profile page which they can upload images to and have control over. As a free member you get 10 uploads a week which should actually be more than enough because the idea is to showcase your best work, not all of your work. You can view anyone’s profile page and click around at random or you can view in a ‘lights off’ slideshow mode designed to bring out the best in an image.
If you see an image you like then you can add it to your favourites and if you’re particularly taken with a photographer, then you can follow them. There’s also a cool Playlists feature which enables you to curate your own selection of images and then share that selection with everyone else in the afore-mentioned cool slideshow mode.
In order to get your photo included in the main gallery it has to be viewed and approved by curators. As a free member you can submit one image for consideration per week, paying members can submit up to 10. Images are chosen based on idea, mood, technical quality and originality. You only have to spend a couple of minutes browsing through the main gallery to see that the system works – the quality of the images is incredibly high and because they have been chosen to be there, there’s no gaming the system like with 500px and Flickr.
One of the biggest problems with 500px is the utterly inane and completely useless comments you get – they make the average Ebay feedback look like high literature. This is not an issue on 1x thanks to its collegiate atmosphere but also because there is a specific critiques gallery where you are invited to submit your photos and have them analysed and commented on by other photographers. You never have to use these forums and you shouldn’t unless you’re prepared to accept some constructive criticism – I’ve never seen anyone be nasty – but you may receive some robust feedback. In other words if you would like to grow as a photographer, to improve and to take better photographs then there are plenty of people on the site who are happy to help you.
If you prefer to learn through the work of others, then the tutorials gallery is a great place to start. Here photographers post their work and explain exactly how they achieved the end result. There’s a huge variety of styles and themes and they’re all incredibly informative. If nothing else it can inspire you to go and try some new photo technique you’ve read about, often a great way of breaking out of any creative lull you find yourself in.
There are also regular competitions run on the site, based around a theme (such as ‘vivid’) with various prizes up for grabs for the winner, including full membership of the site. As with everything else on the site the quality of the submitted images is always very high and it can be a great way to push yourself to try something new.
I have to say I’ve been very impressed by pretty much all aspects of 1x. As I mentioned, I’ve yet to have an image selected for the main gallery and that’s great because it gives me something to aim for. I’m not content to just churn out the same photos week in and week out and I now have a target to aim for – a level of quality that I can try and match and maybe even surpass.
If you’re looking for a site that will show off your images to great effect, but which also has a solid community of like-minded photographers then you should definitely give 1x a look. About the only criticism I have of the site is one that I also levelled at 500px which is that prints can only be sold in two sizes (at least that’s one size more than 500px) and the prices are determined by 1x not the photographer. But it’s a small gripe and I don’t think any serious photographer would use this facility anyway since it makes far more sense to run your own full-blown online store with someone like Zenfolio. So please do check out 1x if you get a chance, particularly if like me, you’re a 500px refugee. You can find my 1x gallery here – drop by and say hello.