In my last article, I explained how to setup your own photography website in just a few easy steps. But although you can get a sophisticated and professional looking website up and running in just a few days, still some people do not consider websites to be the best solution due to either financial or practical reasons. To them, a free, robust online platform with steady stream of traffic is the perfect solution to their needs. For that reason, some people choose to make social media platforms like Facebook or Google+ their base of operations; others use services like Flickr to host their works online.

Before having my own website, I used a platform called 500px, and I still use it now even though I have a separate website. In my opinion, 500px is the best free photo sharing platform available online. It is a Canada-based startup launched in 2009. It targets both the aspiring and professional photographers, and is designed in a way that encourages people to only upload their best works. Because of that, photos featured on 500px are typically of very high quality, and I often use this site as a source of inspiration.

Basic Services

Sign up is free at 500px, and you have the option to purchase the more advanced service packages. With a free account, you can upload up to 2,000 photos, but you are limited to 20 uploads per week so you need to choose what to upload carefully. If you upgrade to a premium account, the number of uploads is unlimited, and you can have as many as 100,000 photos to your account. You can also organize your photos into different sets or portfolios, and have access to the different statistics collected by 500px regarding your works.

In terms of networking capability, 500px does not have features like discussion forums or event creation like Flickr or Facebook. If you want to be connected to someone, you will have to “follow” them very much the same way you follow people on Twitter. When followed, photos that person uploads or made favorite of will appear on your feed. For each photo, a score called “pulse” is generated based on the number of views, likes and favorites it receives.

Exposure Opportunity

500px is designed so that as soon as you upload your photos, they are entered into a “Fresh” photo stream where tens of thousands of newly uploaded photos are shown. If your photos have sufficiently high pulse score, they will be entered into the “Popular” stream. There are millions of active users on 500px, and at any given time thousands of them are actively browsing the photos. Often time you’ll find your photos being commented on and “liked” by others within minutes of uploading them to 500px. I also discovered that if you upload your photos during the days, you will have more exposure and more likes and favorites than you would with photos uploaded during evening.

Personalized Store

One of my favorite features from 500px is the ability to sell your photos in both digital and physical format in various sizes. Although the individual prices are determined by 500px and not configurable, 500px will handle all processing and transactions involved in the purchases, and notify you whenever payments are available for pick up either through PayPal or a cheque. Furthermore, photos being sold on the market must be of at least 3000 pixels on the long edge or it will not be accepted. This feature is very convenient if you do not have the time or know-how to manage your own store.

Copyright Policy

Like most other platforms, 500px does ask for the right to use your photos for marketing purposes. You may place your photos under Creative Commons where others are allowed to copy, distribute, display, and give credits to you. You may also choose to place under whatever license you like, and 500px will see to that your copyrights are protected accordingly. Another feature that protects your copyrights is that, as soon as your photos are removed or your account deleted, 500px renounces the aforementioned rights to use your photos as oppose to organizations like Google that keeps your images on their server forever. In short, 500px offers very much the same copyright protections that other major photographer communities and social media platforms offer.

The Downsides

500px is a robust photographer community, but it does lack a few things that would have otherwise made it even more useful. First of all, there is no discussion forums or online group features like Flickr, making it difficult to have meaningful communication on topics of your choosing. Also, any photo uploaded are automatically resized and with right-click download disabled, making 500px unsuitable for online storage purpose. Finally, 500px takes a very deep cut on the sales of your images, so you may want to consider other options if you wish to sell your works online and make profits on them.

Overall, 500px is a decent platform that is perfect for you if you just want to share your works and find inspiration online. Although it lacks some features you would expect to see on an online community, it makes up for them with user-friendly interface and brilliant design. It may not have as many users as larger sites like Flickr, but that’s only because it is focusing on the serious photographers whereas Flickr is being used by photographers and non-photographers alike. I hope you find this article useful if you want to know whether 500px is the right choice for you. If you ever decide to sign up for a 500px account, be sure to check out my account and follow me. Should you have any questions or something you want to say, please do so by leaving comments below.

09/06/2014 Updates:

500px has officially rolled out the group and discussion feature, but it is still not as robust as platforms like Flickr. There is no group search capability, no group permission setting, and the discussion board is somewhat primitive. If you wish to have meaningful group discussion and organization, Flickr is probably still your best choice.