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:
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. 😉
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.