9 Reasons I No Longer Use 500px

   Three years ago I signed up for an account on 500px – an online photo sharing website. I was pleased to see they were based in Toronto and I liked the notion of supporting a Canadian based photo sharing site as I had with Flickr back in 2004. I read their TOS, and all seemed straightforward and uploaded some photographs. Considering how many followers I had a the time, I had a good reception, and one of my photos even had an “editors choice” which gave me some early attention.

   I don’t want to give the impression with this list that I hate the people involved in producing 500px, or the users on the site. I do like the layout and manner in which 500px displays its user’s photography, and the reaction to my photography there was generally positive. I wrote this over the period of the last few months, but have hesitated to publish as it’s more of a negative post than usual. The subject of 500px comes up often enough in online conversation I thought it would be beneficial to write down some of the issues I’ve had over the years and communicate why I no longer participate in sharing, voting, or viewing there.

EDIT#1 (October 19, 2015): I have updated this list to include mention of 500px’s new site 500px.me – their Chinese hosted 500px.com mirror. I’ve listed it as #1 here instead of #9 as I feel it might be the most important on the list (the rest aren’t really in any order).

EDIT #2: (December 28, 2015). I’ve had a number of people ask me where I DO recommend hosting photos. If you just want to display your photos on a network for sharing and not selling, Flickr still does a decent job at that. If you want to sell your work, I’d recommend Photoshelter. It isn’t free but their site tools are good and they don’t come with any of the sort of BS 500px does. If you really want to go to the next level I would host your own website with your own domain name. I use Photoshelter along with web host Dreamhost (40% off) for this photography site. No problems encountered with either after many years. On with the list!

1. 500px creates 500px.me (initially vcg.me) and hosts your images in China

   In July of 2015 500px announced they had obtained $13 million in funding from China’s Visual China Group in order to expand into China. When the vcg.me site (now rebranded 500px.me) was discovered last week it became apparent that there could be some major issues with the move into China – an entirely new Chinese site written in Chinese and hosted in China. 500px support confirmed with users asking for an explanation that indeed this was a 500px website. My main issue with this is the fact our images were copied onto Chinese servers, but the way 500px handled this is also problematic. Once again they have dived into a new feature or development without sufficiently communicating with 500px users, or determining the outcome of their actions.

A more thorough discussion of my issues with this move to China can be found in the following post:


2. V+F

   I wrote this section a few months ago. Since then I’ve read a great post by Sarah Marino titled “Photo Consumption, Conformity, and Copying in Landscape Photography“. Sarah’s post nicely sums up the issues with voting, goals of popularity, and the resulting conformity better than I did, so you should just go read her post. Well, after you finish mine. πŸ˜‰

I’ll just say that since I left 500px I don’t miss comments simply consisting of “V+F” or the emails I had saying that they would vote for my images only if I would vote for theirs first.

3. Pricing of Digital Downloads

   When 500px launched their 500px Market option that allowed users to opt into limited canvas sales and digital downloads I was interested. The canvas side of things seemed reasonable, but it was tied to the digital download, and you couldn’t pick one over the other. The digital download gave out a large file (if not full resolution) for around $3. As I was not willing to give images away for that price, I wasn’t allowed to access canvas sales on 500px. I should point out this was not the same as the 500px Art store I mention below.

4. Launch of 500px Art store (service ending in 2015)

   I was not interested in opting into the print store (500px Art) due to the sizes and pricing offered, and 500px wouldn’t communicate where these prints were being produced. I did take a look at their site, and in doing a quick search on it, found my images listed in the results despite my not having opted in. This may very well have been covered by the 500px main site’s Terms of Service but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. Clicking on my images in the search results didn’t allow you to actually get a print, so I presume as the store was new they were populating the search results with some images from the 500px main site until their selection improved.

5. Dignity for Photographers: 30% Royalties.

   When 500px’s licensing site 500px Prime was launched two statements were made that really angered many photographers. From their blog post (https://500px.com/blog/998/introducing-500px-prime) we have this statement:

“We are pricing all licenses in a way that brings dignity to the photographer, we are not joining the race to the bottom. Our licenses will start at $250.”

While I was not interested in selling RF licenses (I only offer my work as Rights Managed) at least the prices weren’t in microstock range. However, their next statement was this:

“We are giving you, the photographer, 30% for every one of your images that we license. It doesn’t matter how it is bought, who buys it, or under what license, your 30% comes off the top.”

30% = Dignity? You’ll see in the comments on that blog post that many were not happy with the 30% rate. Quite a few photographers negatively reacted to the choice to use the word dignity alongside a 30% royalty. To their credit, 500px changed their stance on this about a month later and flipped the royalty rates to 70% for the photographer and 30% for themselves. However, I think the original 30% royalty betrays their attitude towards photographers and the value placed in their work. This may be close to industry standard rates but I reserve the right to be disappointed by it.

Edit (March 21, 2016): 500px has now cut their royalty rate from 70% to 30% for non-exclusive photographs. Exclusive photos are now at a royalty rate of 60%. Ouch!

6. Free images for Bing’s Homepage

   In late 2013 500px offered another opt in program to allow photographers to potentially have their images used as the background to the Bing.com homepage: https://500px.com/blog/736/500px-bing-showcasing-world-class-photography-together . Many photographers were unhappy with this, as placement on the Bing.com homepage was formerly a potential licensing deal. As indicated by Patrick Smith in the comments section – one that was valued around “a couple hundred dollars”.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. In one of the comments a 500px employee responds in part with this statement: “This is a free collaboration between 500px and Bing, and I think it is a wonderful opportunity for photographers who would like to get discovered and get more exposure.”

I figure that most photographers desire exposure in order to get noticed by those who may help them make money on their photography. How does decreasing the reward for use on the Bing homepage to $0 work as a first step towards exposure to eventually make money? The logic here makes no sense to me anyway.

7. Rewarding unethical wildlife photography

   There have been a lot of popular photographs on 500px showing wild, unfledged baby birds out of their nests and being fed by parents. These initially look like cute photos showing a glimpse into the daily lives of these birds. However, in many cases, the photographer has taken the babies from the nest, propped them up on a branch and waited for mom or dad to come by and feed them. What happens next? Does the photographer place them back in the nest? Either way, a very unethical way to go about wildlife photography. We can add to this example photographs of drugged frogs holding leaf umbrellas, and insects covered in various substances or refrigerated to make them “pose” in a desired position.

   This is something that probably happens on many photo sharing networks. The reason this is an issue for me concerning the 500px platform is that these images have been directly rewarded by staff in the form of editors choice picks and promotion on twitter. I complained about this via twitter on a number of occasions. While 500px can be applauded for frequently responding to user and public queries on social media, questions as to why they were continuing to promote these types of images went ignored.

8. Images appearing to be for sale

   Some images on 500px, despite not being part of their 500px Prime RF licensing site, show this display below the photographs:

500px rf sales message

   Sometimes these request to license boxes appear below an image, sometimes they do not. I haven’t figured out why these are not constant, but being there at all is the reason this bothers me. I have not opted into the 500px Prime licensing site, and yet sometimes these have appeared below my own images. Last year I had a potential client ask me a few questions about licensing. We had a back and forth about exactly what they required, and I gave them a quote of around $400 USD for a Rights Managed License. They came back to me asking why I was selling the same image on 500px, Royalty Free, for only $250. I had to try to explain that this was not the case and I had nothing to do with the message advertising $250 on 500px. I did not get the sale. I can not say for sure this was due to the way my image was displayed on 500px, but it illustrated a big potential problem for me with sharing images on their service. Of all the items listed here, this issue is the one that lead me to delete over 100 images from 500px.

9. Remove ≠ Delete

   I pursue a lot of copyright infringement of my images. In some cases I find these on websites based in countries where copyright is only a faint notion, and I have to pretty much pretend I didn’t see the infringement. Sometimes I have been able to block use of an image if they are hotlinking it from my website. Some hotlink from 500px, as they do from almost every online photo sharing service. However, I did expect that once I deleted my images from 500px (due to item 7 above) they would no longer be available for hotlinking. This is not the case, unfortunately. Photographs may disappear from your account immediately, but are still held in place on the server. I’ll speculate this is to preserve photographs used via the embed feature from 500px. I’ve been told the only way to delete images removed from your profile is to contact 500px and request they be deleted entirely. I have not yet done this but it is probably time that I did.


   So these are some of the reasons that I no longer supporting the 500px website. By far the biggest issues for me are the Chinese expansion implications, photographs that appear to be on sale, and the issues around voting, favouriting and the quest for popularity. I understand that for a small startup company revenue generation can be difficult, and that some of the things I have objected to above are the result of their attempt to monetize. While the motivations may be understandable the organization’s attitude towards photography and its customers has lead me to believe their website is not the place for me.

   What are your thoughts on these issues? What places online do you share your photography and is it a community that celebrates a variety of styles and methods?

96 thoughts on “9 Reasons I No Longer Use 500px”

  1. Kudos to you for making the decision to leave 500px. All of your reasons are valid and I completely agree. I myself removed my work from sale on their site and then found them putting the licensing buttons u nder my work just as you did. I removed all of my work at this point.

    They are not the only one’s guilty of this but in different ways, so I have closed accounts all over the net.

    Thanks for writing this and sharing it on G+ Michael. Now if we could just get the SM sites to prevent right clicking our work πŸ™‚

    Thomas Welborn

      • Yes Michael that was my reference to theft protection. I realize that it is asking for too much I suppose.
        I see I needed to clarify my comment as well. After removing most of my work, I did leave one image in order to keep the account open, I then noticed that they were putting the licensing buttons under the image despite my removing it from their sale platforms.
        In the end, none of the sites available for us to share are perfect I suppose. All have their drawbacks.
        My biggest complaint was their promoting one style rather than a diversity of landscape art with no apparent room for anything else that deviated from the ‘norm’. I could be wrong in my assessment but it is just my opinion.

        • If you read the post I referred to by Sarah Marino (if you haven’t already) I think you’ll find that many people think the same way about the selection on 500px. As for right click blocking, I don’t think it does much (if anything) to prevent image theft. It takes 2 seconds to get around it and at the very least someone will likely just screenshot what they want. I do think the site wide right click blocking does far more to impede the normal actions of desirable users than it does image thieves. Personally, I open up new things in tabs all the time, and if a site blocks that I’m likely to simply leave.

  2. Great point raised here Michael. #500px has a bunch of aspects I don’t like, and you’ve hit on most of them. The only reason I’ve stuck with it, despite not using any of their sales aspects, which I really don’t like, and the friggin’ ranking numbers game, which I hate, is that its still a decent quality platform for simply sharing work for the sake of having it seen. The only thing I did like is that the overall quality bar for the work shared there was a bit higher than flickr… and unlike the flickr of way back when, they didn’t seem to have an innate hatred of professional photographers and the idea of using the platform for some self-promotion – something flickr would delete your account if you got caught doing.

    – Gary.

    • Thanks for your comment Gary! I am not sure if Flickr has changed their stance on links to websites in captions etc, but I wish they would. Just for the sake of sharing 500px was fine for me for a long while too. The appearance of pricing my work for me was something I just couldn’t get past though.

  3. Very interesting, Michael!

    I signed up for a 500px account a year ago, or so. Frankly, the only reason I don’t use it is because the photography there is usually so attractive to me that I’m just too intimidated to place mine alongside!! Haha!! Every time I go to that site I end up feeling like “What’s the use? Everything I could possibly do has already been done 100 times, and 100 times better, by others!” By such photographers as yourself, for example!! By the way, I’ll need to stop following your blog now!! πŸ™‚

    Great post, Michael. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for reading Tim!

      From what I’ve seen on G+ your work SHOULD fit in just fine on any photo sharing site. That said your work on 500px may not get great scores (though it might) – but I don’t think that is a bad thing. One of the drawbacks of 500px is that subtle work, or that which might take a few seconds to savor and enjoy is often ignored there. If you haven’t already I’d suggest you also read Sarah Marino’s post on that point which I linked to in #1.

  4. Like you, I signed up for 500px a few years ago, was fairly active for the first year or so, and then I stopped it using it. I made the decision for many of the same reasons as you. I’ll add that it also just did not fit into my marketing plan and I’m so short on time that if I don’t see business value in it, I probably won’t do it. Great post, Michael.

    • Sometimes it can be tempting to have a foothold on every social media/photo sharing platform out there. I’ve certainly been in too many places in the past but now I try to concentrate on the areas that give some return. Thanks for the comment! πŸ™‚

  5. Relying on any online platform to sell photography in our best interest with any semblance of honesty is naive at best. 500px is an outstanding display platform. I’ve not authorized any image sales, but have a message on my page to contact us directly for print sales, and we have and continue to sell work from 500px without their intervention.

    • I agree on your point about online platforms and that 500px does a great job at displaying photographs. I do think that their choice to display pricing below your images despite your having not opted into their sales programs is unfortunate. On first glance it appears your images are for sale for a $250 RF license or $50 for web and social media use, even though that is not the case.

  6. Members of 500 px should be mindful that many photographer members are from countries where salaries are far below those of the U.S.and Canada.

    This encourages photographers from countries with lower economic indexes to join 500 px with the idea they’ll make money, given that a sale for a photographer in let’s say Russia or Poland, is more valuable to the photographer.

    Unfortunately, people spend membership money and waste it, since they are not aware of the market for stock photos, and 500 PX passively takes advantage of this.

  7. I did not realise that the best way to get noticed on 500px was to follow a thousand other photographers, post photos and then pick up photographers with fewer followers than yourself. It becomes a game. The social media popularity stakes are getting very dull. The fact that FB cannot even decide to make more “moods” than like says everything about modern American culture. Your dog dies, you announce it and the only option you have is like…says it all. Popularity certainly do not make my photography any better. I make a concerted effort to comment anyone’s photo’s, what I like, what it says to me, ideas etc. Yet it is so rare to get any useful feedback. I saw one photographer with over a 1000 followers and his photos were really just holiday snaps.
    However what better alternatives are there? I have used 72dpi but it is much the same.

    • I haven’t tried 72dpi but at this point I mostly use Twitter, G+, Facebook, and occasionally Flickr. On Fb I only post links to my blog posts, and generally all my social media posts are linking to my website. Social media can be useful, but ultimately if people aren’t exploring my work on my website I’m not sure it offers much return.

  8. Great post! I have been contemplating joining 500px for a while now. I already feel like I am spread so thin and take so much time on social media already between Facebook, G+, twitter, my website, blog, flickr, etc and wasn’t sure what worth joining 500px would bring. I do already sell my photos under rights managed license through Photoshelter but was hoping to get on other licensing platforms with better SEO. After reading this article it looks like 500px might not be the platform I’m interested in if all it will brings is more disconnected ‘likes’ on yet another social media platform.

    • As I haven’t used the 500px Prime licensing site, I can’t really speak to how things work on that side of 500px. However, I do believe they only offer RF licenses which would certainly clash with your RM licensing on your PS site. As for SEO on PS, things have certainly picked up there for me since moving to a Beam template back in April. I also intend to write longer and better descriptions for images going forward, as most relevant text on the page can only help the SEO there.

  9. Great write up. I had heard so many great things about 500px that I was minutes away from pulling the trigger until I found this. From what you say and what Sarah wrote, it sounds like the way Instagram is going…promoting conformity and copying in order to achieve meaningless “likes” and one-word comments from people fishing to boost their numbers. And then your concerns about misinformation and whatnot. I guess I should spend more time on platforms that work rather than a little amount of time spread across all platforms..that’s really all it comes down to for me. Thanks.

  10. Michael,

    Do you know anything about 500pic images being tweeted without your permission? I have had several of my popular images tweeted as being “popular” on the website but I don’t have a twitter account nor did I give the sight permission to tweet them….

    • They promote images from the 500px site on Twitter (and likely other social media as well) many times per day. My assumption is that if you read the Terms of Service you’ll find something in there allowing them to do this. If you’ve signed up, and this is in the TOS, then you have already given them permission to do so.

  11. I’ve been looking into putting some of my work on stock photography websites, but Ive been put off so far due the bewildering array of stock agencies. Someone just recommended 500px so I did some research and came across this blog.

    The trouble is, to be honest, that there seems to be a pro photographer’s blog about “why I’m no longer using X” about pretty much every stock photo agency. This is the most recent I’ve read – most, for eg about iStock, seem to be from 2013 or before.

    Also, 500px now seem to be saying that they’ll give us a 70% cut. They also seem to be saying that they’ll negotiate the highest price possible – not just the flat $250 rate for full rights in perpetuity. Have these things changed since this blog was written?

    Finally, if you wouldn’t recommend 500px for selling photos, what platform would you recommend?

    • I am not sure I would consider 500px a stock photography site just yet, at least not in the same vein as agencies such as Alamy, Corbis, Getty etc. I did not sell images through 500px when I was active there, and I the serious stock photographers who I am aware of don’t either. That said, they clearly do make some sales, so success there is at least possible. As for the 30% royalty at 500px, you’ll notice in my section on this that they did give in to the immediate pressure they faced over that number and changed it to 70% rather quickly.

      My personal philosophy on selling stock now is that I will never use microstock licenses (such as those at iStock which you mentioned), and I’ll avoid Royalty Free in favor of Rights Managed only. I fired Alamy earlier this year due to their pricing and other shenanigans and now just sell through my website only. While avoiding RF and setting my own (fair?) pricing may yield fewer sales, I do believe it makes me more money, so I am sticking with that for now. I currently use Photoshelter (which I highly recommend) as the service behind my Image Library where people can view the photos, or buy them directly. There are a few stock agencies I would probably work with (Tandem Stock for one) but I am not yet interested in giving them exclusive rights to sell my work as I prefer to do that via my website as well.

  12. Thanks for this very helpful reply. It seems to me that the stock photography market is in considerable flux; in fact, I wonder whether economists would do well studying it as it’s a curious sort of supply and demand, further complicated by the subjective nature of pricing this particular product.

    It’ll be very interesting to see how things settle – at the moment there doesn’t seem to be enough financial incentive to contribute really good photographs to most stock agencies, which probably explains why most of the photographs on them are really quite mediocre. Those who do value quality seem to value reputation as well but this will prevent them getting the size of libraries that customers value.

    Customers may be demanding low prices and there may be many photographers willing to cater to that market – but I don’t think it’s sustainable at the prices for the broad rights available. It’ll be very interesting if customers value quality enough to pay amounts that make it worthwhile to the photographer. Maybe, since it’s so hard to distinguish between price points, the market will stabilise with different stock agencies taking care of different price points and quality levels.

    Searching briefly on 500px they do seem to have comparable subjects in their catalogue to the likes of iStock but, at a glance, I think the photos 500px have for sale are better. Their 70% royalty, and their higher prices, seem to provide much more of an incentive for photographers than all competitors including even Stocksy as far as I can see.

    • Sorry I missed your comment until now – I came back to this post due to the controversy today (look up info related to the Chinese mirror site that copies all the images into Chinese servers). I had left a handful of images in my profile on 500px until today where I deleted them all. I might have to add a #9 on this post. πŸ™‚

      As for licensing – the low low pricing doesn’t seem at all sustainable to me, and I don’t really know why photographers seem willing to offer their work for pennies. They aren’t thinking ahead all that far? 500px may have an offering of stock that is usually good quality – but will buyers head there to look for it? Is there enough variety to keep them coming back?

  13. I do have several of my photos on the marketplace. What I’m very curious about is that some of my photos have a red banner at the top that says “Secure this photo. Be the first to license it,” and several don’t have that banner. Yet, I’ve never received any royalties, and my account says I’ve never had any photos licensed or sold anything. There would be no way to know if someone had licensed anything! Why would those photos not have that banner? Call me paranoid, but I’m tempted to have someone buy a license (with my money) to see if I get paid.

    Also, I didn’t find any of my photos on the Chinese mirror site, nor am I able to sign in there.

    • I have never offered my images for sale on 500px so any questions regarding their marketplace will probably be answered by 500px support if you ask them. πŸ™‚

      As for the Chinese site – I don’t think they finished transferring all the images before users discovered it earlier this week. They say you’ll be able to delete images off the Chinese site soon, probably after they finish transferring all the images (or those not censored by China). I’ll be updating this post or writing a new one to address what I believe are the implications of the Chinese website for 500px users soon.

  14. Good posting, I had been thinking about doing more with 500px, but not now, I am very glad I found your posting about China. Not the way to go.

  15. Excellent post, Michael. I’m glad I stumbled up on it. My account with 500px expires next week and with the loss of the actual print orders, there’s just no reason to stay. I sold large and small prints through their original marketplace, but the web/print licensing has not delivered any results. I really didn’t want the overhead of maintaining my own site, but that’s the route I’ve decided to take.

  16. Nice Post man, seems a lot more people are starting to share my opinion of 500px. I started an account when I first started out in photography, and the initial response I got was really positive, until I realized most people who liked or Favorited my photos, only did so, so I would either follow, or in exchange like or favorite theirs. This was not the reason I signed up. I wanted real criticism, from real photographers to help me better my craft and also a place to offer my experience. I got neither of these from this website. I think the photography scene could really benefit from a website dedicated to the art of photography, where people can share, encourage and critique others in a positive environment. I think you have helped me make the choice to pull my work from that site, usually when I post a photo I think is well done, it receives such a low score, I get discouraged that I am doing something wrong. Anyways, enough of my rant, thank you for the post. Most if not all of you’re points here are very valid. Regards.

    • Unfortunately that kind of expectation of reciprocity is one I’ve found on a number of different networks, though 500px took it to a new level (V+F!!). I put at least part of the blame on 500px itself as assigning a score to a photograph sets up that kind of competition for attention right out of the gate. Critique is a tough one, especially on the internet. I’ve asked for critique in a few places, and given it from time to time (when asked). So many seem used to getting likes on FB (or on 500px etc) and can’t handle even well thought out “criticism” that doesn’t simply praise the work without question. Asking for critique can be tough, but honestly most of the time I haven’t received much worthwhile. This is mostly because this kind of thing took place in forums or social media where the audience was also only in the “this is great +1!!!” mode and wasn’t often thinking deeply about the images themselves. The good critique I received was seldom as harsh as what I’d come up with on my own so I soon decided that this wasn’t going to be a useful avenue to pursue, at least in an untargeted, online way. I haven’t seen your work but a low score on 500px can mean a number of things. There is always the possibility the work isn’t a good one, of course. Or quite likely it might just not fit into the niche of what those voting/faving there are used to. I’ve seen great, interesting photography there completely ignored because it wasn’t a big, impactful (and often saturated) scene (in the case of landscapes) and actually took some pondering and thought to digest and appreciate.

      If there is a website out there like you describe I haven’t found it. I’ve heard of a few that were great (before I heard of them) but have devolved into various unsavory attitudes and cliques. Personally I set up lists on social media (Twitter and G+ mostly) and follow mostly those photographers and individuals who I can learn from, are friendly, and engage in conversation from time to time.

  17. Hi Michael,

    Totally agree with your post, and very interesting to read, didn’t know about the china things!!! We are trying to find another platform that is little bit more serious about wildlife photography!! Just one question, Should we try google+ instead?
    Dalida and Andrew Innes

    • Well that might depend on what you want to get out of a platform. I do quite well on G+, but I’ve also been on there since it was in Beta (4+ years ago) and have quite a few (by my standards anyway) followers already. I have shared quite a bit of content directly there, but as I think is wise for everyone, I spend most of my time sharing content from my website now. So while I encourage people to use G+, I think any social media platform is best used to send visitors to ones own website, not to house that content itself. That isn’t really much of an answer, but regardless of platform what are you hoping to get out of it? More print sales?

      • Hi Michael,
        Thanks for your answer, We are not expecting to make a fortune with print sales, of, no it’s not our plan. We are moving to Africa next year and setting up our own business and we only hope to get people to make a safari photography with us so i ( dalida) guess that social network with our pictures can drive people to our website!! But 500 px seems more like a competition between photographers to be on the top of the first page! It really doesn’t help!

        • On G+ (and Twitter/Facebook) each image I post has a link to where that photo was posted on my Blog or in my Image Library. I get a lot more visits by having decent SEO on my sites, but social can certainly bring some visitors too.

  18. Hi Michael,

    Thank you for the post, I was just wondering about the best site for sharing photos to start as a very beginner in photography. It seems that 500px would not be a best place for sharing the photos in a long term, though I have an account there, but still no upload.

    Now I am considering to use flickr, or is there any reccomendation for a newbie like me to upload my photograph?


  19. Wonderful post Michael, I was just doing some research about 500px as it’s not something I have chosen to pursue in the past but I have seen so many more images these days popping up all over the web hosted by 500px so I decided to check it out but from reading your post and many others like it I think I can sleep more comfortably at night without getting involved!
    I’m not really surprised their policies are as such and would urge others to do as you have done given their tactics if this is truly the case.
    There are many other good outlets to sell, share, gain exposure and view other photographers great work without having to deal with the kind of attitude and wanton disregard for their contributors which 500px seems to display.

  20. Hey Michael,

    I really appreciate your article on 500px. I have signed on for two reasons and am curious what your opinion is on my decision. My reason was that the portal could be a valuable backup site to my Aphotofolio site, and second it has a good category setup. I didn’t sign up to sell any stock images. I do that through Getty, and have no plans to link to sales. Should I bail? Is there any danger having my images hosted here?



    • It would only be a valuable backup if you can access your full resolution files, and only then if you originally shot them in jpg (no RAW backup if you shoot in RAW). If I recall they have a limit on how quickly you can upload things there, and beyond that you have to pay. There may also be space limits. As for danger (beyond the China issue outlined above), any “cloud storage” relies on that service staying afloat. If 500px died tomorrow would you have your photos saved somewhere else?

  21. First of wall i want to tell Michael, you have a great portfolio!love it! I started to be active again on 500px .Didn’t been active since 2 years ago i think…Does anyone ever had an income from there? Its kinda strange that you need to pay for plus account. Seams to me that their budget is kinda low… not earning to much from people selling the images so they need to come up with something. Anyway, i don’t find any insights about, if people do actually sell there. And i’m not talking about selling an image once an year .Did anyone here ever sold an image there ?

  22. Hi Michael,

    I am still a fairly new photographer (and college student) and have been using zenfolio for the past year. However, I am not really happy with it. I am not interested in Squarespace either. Anyway, I was reading an article on different photography/portfolio hosting websites and I came across 500px. I went and checked it out and seemed alright to me, but then I read your article. Now, I don’t think I’ll be using 500px. But is there any hosting website that you recommend? My focus is portrait shots so I will have many different client galleries. Any tips and/or recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • At the beginning of that 500px post I mention Photoshelter which is where I house my Image Library (the rest of my site is self hosted with Dreamhost). I would recommend PS – especially if you are needing the ability to sell to clients which is something a site like Flickr doesn’t have. Your needs may be different than mine though, and I don’t really have experience with other sites so I can’t really recommend anything else. Photoshelter does have a free trial though so you can test it out before you decide, which may be helpful.

  23. Hi Michael,

    Great article. Great points. It seems though the article is more relevant for professional photographers who makes a living from their work and uses 500px for displaying their work to a larger audience.

    What about hobbyist photographers and budding photographers for whom making money from it is still far away. Would you say 500px could still do a great job for them?

    • Thanks Naushad! I agree some of these points are mostly relevant to those trying to make some income from their photography. I would point out that while making money can be a ways off for some people, supporting services and practices (working for free for example) that decrease the likelihood of making money in the future is not a beneficial tactic either. Even if the problems I’ve outlined here mostly come from the perspective of a professional, the attitude of a platform’s administrators can have a large affect on the community as a whole. So I guess it depends on what someone is looking for in a platform to share their photography. At the top of my post I recommended Flickr over 500px, and I would still do that today. While they have just been acquired via Yahoo by Verizon, until we see what changes are made there I’ll still recommend Flickr over 500px. 500px is a bit of an echo chamber where much of the work is of a high quality, but has a similar look to it. Grand landscapes (for example) are favored over intimate ones. I find more inspiration in variety than a relatively narrow vision, so I prefer the self directed exploration that Flickr does a better job of encouraging. Again, it does depend on what someone wants out of their photo sharing platform though.

  24. I’ve been on 500px for over a year. Joined solely for the purpose of seeing good images from photographers around the world and sharing my images. Given the nature of social media’s “like” psychological hooks, it’s hard to not get caught up in the game of how many people have seen and responded to your images and to compare your imagery to others. And, while I’ve had several images that garnered a significant number of responses, I’ve come to realize that this is not a terribly sophisticated or subtle crowd of viewers!

    I’ve done tests to see what kinds of images capture attention. For a while there, overly HDR’d images were the rage and grotesquely manipulated images reigned supreme over straight-out-of-the-camera clean, pure images. Put a hyped, Technicolor sunset in and thousands respond — with extra points if the sun was shot with a 500mm lens and is the size of a basketball in the frame!

    Iimages that take time to reveal their complexities, subtleties, characters — or need some study to truly appreciate — almost never capture the attention of the “flip and move on” audience.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t marvelous images on 500px. There are many. But there is a sameness to so much of the subject matter and look.

    What disturbs me more is the so-called “recommended” images. Not sure just who is doing the recommending but, IMHO, more than half of the recommended images are simply not of adequate quality — technically or photographically — to even qualify as family snapshots! There are some truly dreadful recommended images on this site. Makes no sense at all.

    Likewise, when you see similarly weak images that have thousands of likes, ya gotta question the value of a like!

    I joined 500px to share and explore. I’m still finding much to explore but the marginal imagery seems to be taking over the site. Wish there was a way to have one site for well-intentioned snap shooters and one for a more refined level of photographers. Sadly, 500px has become an equal-opportunity display of lower quality work occasionally interrupted by a few great, albeit similar, images. Disappointing.

    • I understand the frustration if it not being a level playing field in terms of exposure. A recent development there is that they automatically have new accounts, or accounts that have logged back in after a period away, follow a select group of favored accounts. So 500px themselves are doing the “recommending” you mention. These 180+ accounts get a lot more action/views as they are pushed to users unlike the “regular” users on the rest of the site. I’ve seen quite a few complaints about that recently but that is one reason you’ll see mediocre or seemingly uninteresting photography become really popular. Like my post here might suggest, I was tired of being continually disappointed with 500px so I stopped uploading in late 2013. I deleted my last few remaining images entirely (or tried to, they’ve refused to delete them so far) about a year ago.

      • And recognizing that the real motivation of any site like 500px is to make money, they are broadening their reach to attract more people who, good photographers or not, will pay fees to be seen and appreciated. Understandable but obviously dumbing down the offering. I’m following your lead, Michael. Pulling my files — if they let go of them!! Now looking for another way to share.

        Best regards,


  25. Hi Michael, would you have any recommendations for people like me who are just starting out? I’m a programmer by trade now, but it would be nice to earn some money from the photography I do as a hobby. I’ve read through some of your comments here where you mention that it’s best to get people to visit one’s own site, but I’m not sure I’m at that level yet. In cases like mine, what sites would you recommend? Thanks for your time and this excellent post!

    • Sorry it took me so long to answer you here. I’ve dabbled in programming (js,php/mysql), and I decided after my last failed gallery attempt I wasn’t going to spend 6 months to get it right, I’d sign up and give Photoshelter a shot instead. I’m still using it after 6 years. While it may be a bit of overkill for someone just starting out – it also gives room to grow into. If you don’t feel like building a website a service like PS (or Smugmug, though I’ve not used them) would be a good place to start. I’ve done a bit of both – my site is html I’ve written, the blog is wordpress, and the image library is Photoshelter. If you want to start out with little effort, a service like PS starts at about $9/month – which is cheaper than buying a domain name and web hosting. Building a whole site (and getting a domain name (I use Namecheap) and web hosting(Dreamhost)) is feasible, but I’ve found managing image galleries with WordPress and other CMS products to be cumbersome. I’d rather make photographs and dabble in html/css here and there than wrangling plugins and themes! Regardless of what you decide, I’d make your site the center of your online efforts. When I post in Facebook, Twitter or G+, I almost always leave a link to a blog post or image library page so someone can find my website.

  26. It may look as if it is time to move from 500px to photshare. I have noticed the “click and move on” mentality of 500px users, the feedback I’ve got on my photos has been during the first 24 hours after uploading, then silence. However I like their photo quests, some of them are good fun to participate in. The photos I have sold on 500px has been in connection with such contests. I managed to get a photo in the Lonley Planet’s toilet book as a result of one of their quest. I’m not a professional, so managing to get a photo on print is reward enough for me πŸ™‚

  27. Thanks for publishing your thoughts Michael. I was about to sign up, or at least, spend some serious time investigating 500px, but this has pulled me back from the brink πŸ™‚

    While photography is a serious hobby for me (my daytime job is in IT/software), I’d like to promote my photography a little more, and I was thinking 500px may help. I’ll work on a plan B for now.

  28. Michael, can you recommend a free website for beginner photographers? I have many nice photos, mostly of landscapes and flowers, and I was hoping I could bring in a little cash from my hobby. A paid membership is currently not an option for me, and I would prefer something that doesn’t require a lot of time. Could you maybe do a post on which photography websites are best for different types of photographers?

    • Well, not really. You’ll notice above I recommended Flickr as a free option but that really isn’t a website. Photoshelter is a good option, but it is around $10 per month. Free, easy, and effective are not often things that intersect. You can certainly sell images by having them on Flickr, but it isn’t all that likely. Selling anything from any website (free or not) will take a lot of work. So the constraints you suggest here more or less eliminate the chances at success. I am not really qualified to write a post on various sites as I don’t use them, or how they’d relate to various types of photography since I only do a few of them myself.

  29. Many thanks for writing such an interesting piece. I, like many of the others, have been toying with joining 500px but I don’t think it’s for me. I already have a Flickr account and should probably spend more time curating that rather than yet more ” social media”-I use Instagram and Twitter as well.
    I’d be interested in selling in the near future so will keep Photoshelter in mind, even if there’s more cost involved-if it makes life easier I think it’s the way to go in this instance!

  30. Well covered, I never was payed subscriber to 500px – the only useful thing this photo sites can do is provide photographers with good backlinks. As you said – to have your photos somewhere only for receiving some lame comments.
    I understand they are trying to stay in business, but not sure if this the most appropriate and ethic way for supporting the hole industry of photography.

  31. When I left my office to go home to unpack my new Samsung tablet I had about 578 followers. Not long after getting home I unpacked my tablet and checked out a few pages, one of which was my 500 px page. I then saw that there was a 500 px app for Android, great I thought. I downloaded and installed and viewed my page – pretty good I thought. It was then that I realized that I had 620+ followers – how could this be? There were some 50-60 more followers than when I left the office.

    So, I copied all the followers and all of those that I follow to a Notepad file and then to an Excel spreadsheet. I then compared the 2 lists and located the additional followers. I had never seen these followers before.

    Digging into this a little more deeply I have found that many of the people identified in my list below have loads of fake followers – these followers themselves have 0 followers. Let’s take Antonett Ewan as an example – she has 12,354 followers, yet the vast majority of these have no followers themselves. Clicking anyone these results in a page that does not exist. What the hell is going on?

    I clicked on one of the images of these people…a photo that got 99.3% from 519 likes – 170 of these likes had 0 followers.

    I am seriously considering deleting my account.

    • Bots and fake accounts are a problem on most networks, it seems 500px is no different in that regard. The scoring system for photos seems to make that a bit worse there though at times.

  32. Thank you Michael for a very thoughtful article. I have an account with 500px, because I appreciate the image quality. All of the social media aspects, as well as the scoring has always been a mystery to me. Actually I don’t care about the popularity game.

    Recently, I discovered one of my photos on an online, travel magazine site. They had linked my photo from 500px without my knowledge or permission. I reread the 500px Terms of Service, and it looks like they have permission to do so!

    I wrote the magazine an email, and asked them to delete the photo and not to use my photos again without permission. They say that they will concur.

    Do you know of any reliable way to find one’s photos “out there” that are being used and linked without the artist’s permission? I only use two sites: Flickr & 500px. Apparently, copyrights and royalties don’t mean all that much!?

    Thanks again.

    • 500px encourages “hotlinking” of a sorts by sharing from their site and embedding on another. That is one thing for a non commercial blog but for a commercial site it isn’t acceptable IMO. I believe the hotlinking they allow to be the reason they won’t (after 2 years) delete my image files from their servers – they have people still loading them on other sites, or don’t want to close off access to them in that way.

      I wrote a post about finding infringements that you may find useful: https://www.mrussellphotography.com/blog/finding-copyright-infringements-web/ . The only thing I’d point out is that 90% of the time now I just use a google reverse search plugin, not the one that does 3 at once. so I’d start there. I pursue all commercial copyright infringement that I can find, though that might be more difficult depending on the wording in 500px’s TOS for those images uploaded there.

  33. I joined a year ago January. My account was terminated by them for violations in their term agreement, (I stupidly posted my new domain name which pointed to their marketplace). They said I had done it multiple times and that I had received multiple warnings which is untrue. I was not allowed to delete anything, 200 photos or any of my information.

    This January I get an email from Paypal saying that 500px had taken $26.88 for an automatic renewal. I wrote to 500px and I contacted Paypal to try and stop that payment. Paypal said there was nothing they could do because I originally accepted an automatic renewal. 500px wrote back that I had been refunded in full but it would take up to 2 hours to show up in my account.

    It has been 23 days and nothing, no refund and Paypal says that they have NOT cancelled that transaction. 500px has refused to answer any of my follow up emails.

    I have written to help@500px and I am filling an Internet Crimes report with IC3. Not so much for what they are doing to me but I cannot be the only one.

    You should know what type of company you are dealing with when you cannot reach them by telephone.

    I have nothing good to say about 500px.com but I have a bounty of negative words tripping over themselves to get out πŸ˜‰

    • I feel your pain, but in a slightly different way (I never signed up for a paid account there). They still have my photos on their server (though not in my account), and they are watermarked with their website. I’ve asked for them to be removed many times through support and twitter, but never had a reply. They are hosted in the USA (company based in Toronto) and the server ignored my DMCA Takedowns as well. Frustrating – but lack of communication when someone is critical is something I’ve read a lot of before. I wish you luck in seeking your refund. Does your paypal come from a credit card or bank account? You may be able to reverse the charge that way as well. Good luck!

      • Hi Michael
        I just joined for fun , wondering how this all works , fun so far 1 week in.however I just wanted to know why I cannot upload photos that come from my goggle cloud?
        Then I finding this blog.
        VERY good information hear just not an answer to my question.
        Hopefully I will move off soon to photoshelter
        Thanks love your pictures impressive site!
        Hopefully hear from you soon

  34. I find them excrutiating to deal with in regards to receiving payment for sold licensed work. The wait is quite long before payment can be requested. I requested my latest payment 3 weeks ago, submitted a W9 form, etc., and received nothing in my PayPal account. I have subsequently filed another w9, communicated with “Steph” numerous times with no results and I have just had it with them. Not worth the aggravation for the pittance that they pay photographers.

    • A pittance in return for a license is usually a sign of what is to come in terms of service and respect. I do hope you have much better luck removing your images from their site than I did, though I was never involved in the marketplace part.

  35. Hi. Thanks for this article. I like to know What are the other websites for Photo Contributors to earn money? I am already using Shutterstock, Alamy, EyeEm, Adobe Stock and Depositphotos sites.

    • I won’t license for pennies on the dollar so I sell all my licenses myself now. Of those in your list only Alamy comes close to decent pricing (though still too low for me). The rest are just taking advantage of photographers IMO.

  36. You are right with unethical wildlife photography. But a lot of people eat meat or consume animal related products. Do you think they care about animals? If they really do, they are vegan. But most aren’t. They just live a lie.

  37. I’m at a loss.

    I have read your excellent article and others concerning social media photo sharing. I have always had my own stance and never sharing family photos in the simple beleif of “privacy is golden”. This belief didn’t follow through with my commercial endeavours though. Strangely enough, on my website (my own private land) I seldom shared any new photographs. All content was evergreen service details etc. While on my social media I would share clients wedding photos. This was going against my own personal beliefs but my customers don’t care. They seem to love their wedding photos online. Along with the privately posted, but not publicly private, photos of their kids in the bath etc.

    Over the last couple of years, I have been questioning where social media photo sharing will lead us. As a result, I have been considerably less active and even deleted many accounts and images with accounts I still hold.

    My loss is here…

    I began my photography career believing all I needed was a talent. My photos all are the explanation I need to gain work locally. I may not be the best in the world. But I do have a talent. This was at a time of crossroads for analogue and digital photography. Within the first couple of years becoming self-employed, digital was the only real option and your website quality and organic SERPs rankings where all you needed online. I did this and reached first place for my main keywords locally in google maps and standard search. Even so, I received few views to the website. And even fewer bookings.

    Then it all went social. So I went full steam ahead. Put everything into it for a couple of years and got insanely popular. I got a boost with a little extra work. Still, nothing to write home about!

    These days I have social media accounts simply to prevent others using my trading name. But rarely post to them and I spend less time working the Google SERPs. I had reached the top (locally at least) for both with little return. In fact, I think google and social media giants may have gained more from me than I have from them.

    Now I’m lost…

    I have invested a lifetime of energy on my business, missed out on family life and tarnished my love for photography. And for what! Today I wish I could do it all over again and continue enjoying my photography for myself.

  38. they do not care about their users, at all. they banned my account with no warning (even tho their own terms specify that first, they must give a warning), and they refuse to even answer. they only have one persons answering to help@500px.com, and that person will mark a ticket as ‘solved’ without even answering, at all. they practically have no help and no respect for the photographer. it’s really a terrible business model, with everything

  39. Thanks for sharing the information Mike. About 3 months ago, I paid for a pro membership with 500px because all the reviews were positive. Since then I have uploaded about 75 high quality images for licensing and used the 500px logo for what I thought would be a little extra security. Almost all the images were received with likes and considered to be popular and upcoming. Three weeks ago, however, I started having technical problems uploading and logging in to my account. After the same problems continued to prevent me from logging in, I thought that it might have something to with my password so I changed it. Sure enough, I was able to reconnect to my account only to discover that all my images had disappeared without a trace. I have tried to connect 500px for an explanation but all I get is automated response. At first, I thought I was hacked or it had something to do with technical difficulties until I learned something about hot linking on this post. So, if my photos have been hot linked from 500px what can I do other than file a complaint with the better business bureau in toronto and report this as an internet cyber crime.

    • Your recent technical problems are probably a result of the change in hardware (or something) 500px was doing recently, and they’ve had server problems ever since. If there are technical issues with your account – hotlinking is unlikely to have any part in it. There is also nothing 500px has done wrong if they’ve allowed or encouraged hotlinking of your images on other sites. While I find their stance on this distasteful, and one that is puzzling for a site that claims to want to sell licenses, it is not illegal, a cybercrime, or anything like that. The Terms of Service you agreed to when you signed up no doubt cover this – I’ll bet if you give them a read ou’ll see all the things you’ve agreed to. As for the rest of the 500px service, I don’t know many who continue to use the site, and many started abandoning the place back around 2013 when I left for good and the evidence was ample that photographers were not something 500px seemed to respect.

  40. I’ve had the same issues as Robert Mckinstry (comment above), problems logging-in and uploading to my account. This has gone on for several months now leaving me to wonder if 500px is capable of resolving their technical issues. My account expires in December and needless to say it won’t be renewed. Imagine, paying $ for this type of service. I’m an amateur, a hobbyist who’s purpose for posting images on line is to see the reception they garner and to solicit critiques and suggestions that will help me grow as a photographer. I’ll have to find another site to post my snapshots!

    • There is always Flickr. I’ve been on Flickr since 2004 – and it has always treated photographers with respect (a few yahoo slip ups aside). It has less action than 500px, but all the work there doesn’t look the same, which is something IG suffers from as well. Flickr probably has some critique groups that might be useful to you. Ultimately I think the best place to post your photographs is on your own website, and point there from social media, but that isn’t for everyone.

  41. I’m wondering if 500px is more stringent on the saleability of photos than other sites. Dreamstime and Bigstock readily accepted what I sent them. 500px declined half the photos for the generic reason of them thinking it wasn’t commercially viable. What’s really surprising is they thought a cat picture was more commercially viable than a food picture.

    • While I never submitted to 500px for selling anything (even back when they did prints) I also removed my photos from all stock agencies back in 2014. Even though they all of what I submitted, the prices weren’t what I can get myself, though they were way above the likes of 500px and the microstock places. I have seen others with your same complaint about the perplexing acceptance decisions of 500px, however.

  42. Hello Michael,

    I landed on this post while researching on alternatives to 500px.
    I’m an amateur landscaped and wildlife photographer.
    Can you advise me on how to get exposure on the internet, and what are alternatives to 500px?

    Thanks in advance.

    • In terms of a social site for photographers I still use Flickr. I don’t post my photos to social media (Facebook etc), and most of my success comes from people finding my work on my own website via search engines. If you do use social media use it to route people to your website.

  43. There is this one member “Mix and Match Studio”. It is not unusual for this guy to photobomb the site with up to 1000 crappy stock photos a day. It is beyond ridiculous. I have written to the moderators several times and was basically told to STFU. The last time I was told they were banning my page for excessive complaints. “Customer service” on this site is a joke.

  44. The reason this bothers me about the 500px platform is because these photographs have been actively rewarded by employees in the form of editors’ choices and Twitter promotion.


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