500px.com Review and Promo Code

500px.com is best described as both a place where a photographer can host their portfolio and as a place where photographers can browse and comment on other artist’s photographs. They offer a combination of features that you may have seen across other sites like Flickr, Vi.sualize.us, or 1x.com. The difference between those other sites and 500px.com is that 500px has nearly mastered the essential features that I am looking for as a photographer wanting to share my work and explore the work of other photographers. Their service opened to the general public in 2009 after several years of conceptualization. Since that time they have gained nearly 50,000 members and currently receive around 1.4 million visits each month. They have built a community that is filled with talented artists, which in return generates a large amount of traffic. Most of that traffic is from fellow photographers and those who are interested in viewing beautiful work. A small fraction of the viewers may be potential future clients, which is one of the reasons 500px.com receives a recommendation at the end of this review.

User Profiles

What 500px.com does extremely well is social networking. Specifically they have created a social networking platform directed towards professional level photographers. I believe that 500px.com greatly exceeds the social networking aspects provided by competitors like Vi.sualize.us or DeviantArt.com. These 2 competitors target a much larger audience (artists in general), which is perhaps why 500px has a lead in the photographer market. The vast majority of work on display across 500px.com is high quality, similar to photos you would see in magazines or art galleries. Because they are targeting a professional level audience they are able to stand out from competitors like Flickr whom appeal to a wide range of styles and skills. 500px.com has a feature that enables members to mark other users as friends by “following them”. When you follow another member you will see all of your friend’s most recent contributions displayed on your personalized homepage. This lets you keep up to date with their latest work without much effort.
Activity feeds allow you to view the latest actions related to your profile. If another user comments on or favorites one of your photos, that action will show up in the activity feed. Whenever you start following another photographer, or another photographer follows you, that will also show in your feed.

Explore Images

500px features work from thousands of photographers, and they make it easy to find some of the best work through voting algorithm and editors choice categories. Editors choice images are hand selected by 500px.com staff, while the other categories are controlled by the collective rating of “Likes” and “Dislikes” submitted by members. The popular category showcases the highest rated works. It uses a voting algorithm (explained here) where the highest score possible is 100. I don’t fully understand the exact methods involved in determining their scoring, but I recognize that members are the ones in control of promoting content through their votes.

500px.com Portfolio Page

If you are a photographer looking for a website to host your portfolio, 500px.com offers a very simple and elegant way to do that. Each account is provided with a portfolio page subdomain. For example my username on 500px.com is “Heikkinen”, so my portfolio is found at http://Heikkinen.500px.com. If you own an “Awesome” account ($50/year) you are able to host this portfolio page on your own domain name. This feature and a few other benefits are included in the final part of this review.
At the time of this writing there are 7 basic portfolio themes, and 4 additional premium themes reserved for paid subscribers. One of the limitations of their portfolio pages is that you are unable to customize it. You are left with what they provide you and can only make small changes to the content on the contact page. 500px.com is currently developing a feature to create add-on pages for your portfolio site. An example use for this feature would be to add a “Pricing” page where you could list your fees for photography services. This will be yet another feature for “Awesome” users who pay the yearly subscription fee.

500px.com Contact Page

For members who want to use their portfolio on 500px.com as a way to attract new business, it’s essential that you give viewers a way to contact you. 500px.com provides each portfolio with a contact page, which lists your social media contact information (Twitter, LiveJournal, Flickr, ICQ, Skype, Google Talk), your homepage URL, as well as more traditional contact methods like your phone number and email address. To simplify things they even include a contact form that will deliver an email to your inbox, so that visitors don’t need to leave the page to dispatch an email.

Sell Prints Online

500px.com offers a very simple way for you to sell your photographs online through Fotomoto.com. First you must agree to the store policy and verify that you own the rights to your photographs. Once you have done that, a “Buy Print” option will appear beneath your photos which will direct users to a Fotomoto.com popup to complete the sale. Photographers earn an 80% commission (minus the cost of print), while Fotomoto will take a 15% cut and 500px a 5% earnings from each sale. When you start selling prints you are supposed to be contacted by Fotomoto.com with a welcome email containing signup information for their site so that you can configure your prices. When I signed up to sell photos I never received the email from Fotomoto. At the time of this writing I cannot comment any further concerning the ability to sell prints because of this issue.

Premium Features (a.k.a. Awesome Users)

There are a number of features that are reserved for “Awesome” users, 500px.com’s term for premium members who pay a $50/year subscription fee. Throughout this review I have mentioned a few features that are offered to these accounts, but here is a list of all of the benefits offered:
  • Premium portfolio themes
  • Unlimited photos
  • Unlimited portfolio collections
  • Custom domain
  • Custom logo on portfolio page
  • Ad free portfolio page
  • Remove 500px branding from your portfolio
  • Full-sized image RSS feed
  • Google Analytics Integration
My personal favorite feature is the ability to upload as many photos as you want. If you are an avid photographer who has a large number of photographs that you want to share, then this feature would be essential. Without a premium account you are limited to 20 uploads each week. For most photographers this is perfectly acceptable, as they will only submit their top tier work which may consist of only a couple dozen photographs. If you have under 100 great shots that you wish to share you could get away with a basic account if you are patient enough to wait a week between each batch of 20 uploads. Many photographers could easily justify the $50 a year fee when they consider using 500px.com as their portfolio host. If you aren’t interested in building a wholly unique portfolio site then $50 is a pretty good deal for such a sleek interface.

Final Notes

It seems that 500px.com is doing a lot of things right. Their service is slowly expanding with new features, and their web traffic is quickly growing. There are a few glitches in their system (ex. issues with Facebook Connect), but I am pretty confident that with time they will continue to iron out existing bugs and improve their research and development process to avoid future problems. I highly recommend that semi-professional to professional level photographers check out the site, and if they like what they see sign up for a free account. Amateur photographers might be a little more discouraged from user feedback on the site, so I recommend that you limit your portfolio to your absolute best work. In case you missed it at the top of this article, 500px.com provided me with a promo code so that readers can receive a discount. Enter the promo code “friends” during checkout to take $10 off your first year when signing up for a premium account..

5 Comments. Leave new

Hi, 500px looks even better than smugmug. But both 500px and smugmug lacks good searching and grouping function at where Flickr still leads. I am a photography enthusiast. I would like to see and get inspired by good photographs. In Flickr, if I search for landscape photos, it will give vast number of landscape photos based on ‘relevant’, ‘recent’ and ‘interesting’. I can also see photos from well categorized groups. But in smugmug and 500px, I cant see that much number of particular style of photos using their search engine.

500px is more professional and tempting me to join. But I am afraid that I couldnt see the works of photographers with similar interest like me. I would like to hear your opinion about this.

Thanks in advance!

Eric Heikkinen
May 29, 2011 11:53 pm

Hi Jay, thanks for the comments. I think that 500px doesn’t really compare well with Flickr for a few reasons. Flickr is great for a layman photographer, who just wants to casually share their photos online, where 500px is meant to be an online showcase of the very best work by professional level photographers. 500px works best as a social network where you can share your photos with others and receive comments on your work. It’s design makes it pleasant to browse through, and isn’t overwhelming by keeping features to a minimum.

One of the major disadvantages of 500px is that the content isn’t indexed very well (as you pointed out). Most work being uploaded isn’t getting tagged with enough keywords to have many images turning up in search results. This problems is partly due to the size of 500px, as it is still a tiny community when compared to Flickr. Another problem is that 500px is heavily used by non-English speaking users. I believe that a large amount of photographers on 500px are Russian, so even if they are tagging posts with relevant keywords in their own language, they won’t turn up for the equivalent English search terms.

I maintain a pro level Flickr account, but rarely use the service for anything besides a way to publish a large amount of photos online for others to browse. I know that they offer some mix of social features through forums, comments, and groups. I have yet to explore these features because Flickr is overwhelmingly large and offers almost too many features for me to dig through.

I don’t have much experience with SmugMug, but it appears to be a halfway point between Flickr and 500px. It offers some of the same social networking features as 500px and also the more general purpose photo sharing features of Flickr. SmugMug’s interface is what stops me from creating an account and exploring it further. It’s not as clean or intuitive as 500px and that’s been a turn off for me.

My best advice is that you start out with a free account and if you end up liking it after a couple weeks upgrade to a full account. The free account has most of the same features and will give you a good idea of whether it’s worth your money to invest in a 1 year subscription.

Hi Eric,
Thanks for your reply.
I too have a pro Flickr account. I want to develop my photography skill and produce pictures similar to pro photographers. Even though great photographers are there, it takes hours to find good pictures in Flickr these days. It is becoming more like facebook 🙂

I hope 500px people with come up with new indexing feature soon. Smugmug is also a good photography website. They give lot of customization options for personal webpage. But their layout and size of the pictures are not great as 500px. Smugmug also lacks indexing feature.

I also noticed that 500px is famous among Russians. There are lot of Russian fashion photographers in 500px. It makes 500px look like a fashion website:)

I read some where that 500px founders are developing the website. Hope they will add more features. As you have mentioned, I will try to use the free account.

Thanks again – Jay

Hi Eric –

500px is not for artists, it’s for photographers. I’m a Fine Art painter and I inquired before I paid for an account. The response was that artists can use the site however, it’s limited and I just don’t see the point in paying the same fee as others when I would be limited.

I just wanted to clear that up before a stampede of artists head that way. It’s too bad though, 500px could be pulling in lots of revenue. Hopefully someone will come up with a sleek, simple site such as 500px for Fine Artists.

Great article, very informative. I just signed up for 500px yesterday got the ‘Awesome’ account. I created some portfolios but can’t for the life of me see how others can view my portfolios. In the top navigation menus there is no link to portfolios, just the entire stream. I also tried to find portfolios on other photographer’s pages and couldn’t find any. In flickr it’s a breeze to find people’s ‘sets’; I wish 500px would make it as easy.

Also, one thing I miss is ‘groups’. I like to be in regular contact with a few key groups on flickr, and in Google+ I love the ‘circles’ concept. Hoping that 500px will add such a feature. Creating ‘followers’ is ok but it smacks of Twitter, with no organization of contacts into circles of interest.

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