500px Review – A new photo sharing site worth a look?

The profile interface on 500px.com. Really nice and clean.

See update to review below original article…

by Gavin Seim. So I’m pretty jaded to photo sharing sites. They all seem about the same. But 500px.com has caught my eye. I just setup a profile and here’s what it looks like… http://500px.com/gavinseim

500px is a photo sharing/portfolio/social network site all rolled into one. It’s not exactly the same as other photo sites, but it’s compelling. One, because it’s clean. The opposite of Flickr and many others. But the main feature to me was the rating system. People can like and  dislike images and that controls how they rank on the site. Finally, a site that based recognition on how good your image is, rather than how many groups you add it to. Could there be problems with a rating system? Maybe, but it seems they’ve designed it pretty well, with vote effect varying by age of the image, how many previous votes etc. At least they have one.

Not that other similar sites are bad, but as a Flickr user I’ve become tired. It’s filled with clutter, never really improves, and the interaction is way down. FB is great for reaching out to the masses and having a presence, but in truth it’s pretty lousy for presenting art. 500px is a little like a portfolio and a ongoing photo competition all in one. The challenge is ON.

Now my main space is my own website, but social sites like this can be a great way to interact and gain new eyeballs. 500px even allows users to sell images, and make a nice website. Both are things I’d rather do on my site for now, but these are cool tools for someone looking to make a clean simple space on the web.

500px definitely looks interesting. I plan to take a break from Flickr for awhile and see what I think. There’s a free and a paid membership and even the free version seems fairly feature rich. Not that it’s perfect. 500px lacks a lot of the exploring features, maps and beyond that we may be used to on other sites. But bear in mind it’s a newer project. Hopefully they can keep the features rolling out and not mess it up while doing so.

So go join for free and post a few of your best. And you’re welcome to follow me too… http://500px.com/gavinseim

UPDATE, 07/18. A deeper look.

Here’s an update on 500px, including the negatives I’ve discovered, as I’ve hung out on the site over the past week.

First, it’s the rating system that makes 500px look good. Just like any other photo site, there’s lots of poor quality photos being posted. You simply don’t see them because they don’t rank. Fair enough. It keeps to quality stuff on top which is a good things. The site is pretty much a ongoing photo contest where the prize, if you win, is a pat of the back from your peers. This can be very satisfying. Though it’s easy to get overly consumed with your latest scores and spend the day refreshing your page in anxious desire.

However! To filter up high to the top you need a LOT of likes. In principal the system is great, but there seems to be a ripple effect. It seems that someone who gets a high ranked photo or two (particularly early adopters) have gotten a lot of attention and a lot of followers. At that point they will tend to get more likes by simple nature of the fact that anything they post gets so many eyeballs right out of the gate. For the rest of users, it looks like most images will get a few views and then sit. Even if they’re really great.

Next is the comments. They feel good, but there’s very little critique. I get the sense that many comments are made in hopes of making a new connections. Not a terrible thing, and it happens everywhere. But it means comments are usually simple praise rather than thought out feedback. The other issue is the fear of negative comments. There’s a “dislike” button on images. This could be a good thing, but I’m not sure it’s needed and I think people may be refraining from constructive criticism, in fear that the receivers of such comments could dislike their own images in retaliation because they didn’t like what was said. It may be silly, but it will happen.

Also the site is filled with nudes. They tend to rank high (no surprise). Now I’m not saying they should not allow such content. Only that some users are uncomfortable with it. While those users can check a box to hide these images, they still show as image tiles that say NUDE CONTENT in glaring letters. Most the people that for whatever reason don’t want to see nudes, want them totally gone. 500px should be allowed simply be able to turn it completely off in their settings and not see anything related to it.

Lastly, the sad part is that no matter how much attention an image gets, it loses score. This seems like a real dower. The 1-100 Scores fade in time using an algorithm and that allows fresh images sift up (not sure how far down a score will go). In a way this algorithm makes sense. Problem is it’s frustrating to lose your rank for any reason and I think this will be a negative for everyone. You can have the top image on the site scored at 96, but soon it will drop and ranked with images that are just so so as if it never happened. This could be easily corrected by having each image marked with a banner of highest score achieved, sort of trophy that represented how well it did. But alas I see so such feature.

So that’s some thoughts after a bit of use. Not all bad, but not all good. I’ve tried tweeting a few suggestions to the folks at 500PX, but sadly they seem to ignore them. We’ll see going forward had they fare. 500px is cool, but I get the sense that the glow is going to fade quickly if they don’t find a way to keep people excited once they realize that their image is not likely to ever reach the top unless they have a large following.

We’ll see what happens. Don’t get me wrong, I still like 500px. But they have a short window. If they don’t listen to users and keep improving, they won’t get attention for long. Your thoughts are welcome on the comments… Gav