500px is not Flickr

500px - your main photostream page
500px - your main photo-stream page

Suddenly everyone and their cousin is talking about a Flickr alternative that is attracting users in large numbers – 500px, oh! well, 45k may be large for some 😉 I have been putting my digital photographs online since past 10+ years and have moved from uploading them to my own personal site, to flickr and then joining the 500px bandwagon recently.

My first reaction to 500px was indeed WOW! this is so much better. After using the app for a while the WOWness wore down a bit, some what like the second year of a marriage, I began to notice the shortcomings. Not wanting to get too frustrated I decided to blog the good and the bad and keep using the site.  May be I will come back to review this post a year later.

500px is not Flickr – the Good

  • The user experience on first flush is indeed very nice. The large square thumbnails with semi-transparent caption overlays are definitely how a photo website should be.
  • The tabbed interface for Photos, Activities, Friends etc is clutter free and intuitive.
  • The main photo display page gives a good 900px wide display which is much needed to appreciate a photo.
  • Below the main photo display is a filmstrip display of recommended photos – great for discovering photos
  • The concept of Blog and Wall integrated into a photo sharing  site is indeed useful and nice.
  • The editorial picks ensure that there is a human curating the choicest of the photos for you.
  • You have an easy to remember URL for your portfolio with your user name  eg: mine is http://500px.com/tariquesani
  • The portfolios can be themed and are separate from your photostream. Portfolio also has sections for Biography and Contact – Add to that the fact you can point your own domain to your portfolio and you get a ready made website solution for photographers who are web challenged.

500px is not Flickr – the bad

  • No public API!!! I could not find any mention of any API, no API means no upload app for any device, no possibility to create mashups or easy way to integrate your pics in other places. Yes the sharing to Facebook, Twitter etc is there but can I make a plugin for my favorite CMS? No! I may be wrong here, so if someone knows where the API is let me know.
  • No Geo-location integration – yes that map with red dot thingie.
  • No way to view extended EXIF info – these two points are very important for me.
  • No HTML in description, URLs in descriptions do not become hyperlinks automatically.
  • No way easy to see pictures in various sizes – I did discover a tedious work around though. If the photo url is http://500px.com/photo/799387 then you can view the various size images at http://photos.500px.com/799387/1, http://photos.500px.com/799387/2, http://photos.500px.com/799387/3, http://photos.500px.com/799387/4 and http://photos.500px.com/799387/5  Update: No longer works but is available thru an API call.
  • No concept of permissions – everything is public by default.
  • No way to declare licenses for your pictures – I like to explicitly indicate that my pictures are under a creative commons license.
  • There are categories but no concept of groups. Special interest groups are needed to popularize your pictures to your intended audience and creating communities.

I guess I should leave the good and the bad equally balanced at eight points each.  In summary a lot of effort has gone into the UX and UI part of the app now what we need to see is more features. Also I do wonder how things will scale up with increasing user traffic. Given the fact that they have received a funding I do hope to see accelerated rate of development. Plus at least at this point the developers appear to be communicating with their users.

P.S. That there are better photos at 500px as compared to Flickr will soon become moot as more and more users join in.

Update: An API was launched Mid Aug 2011 and you can get the details at http://developers.500px.com/

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  • 6ix

    Flickr is like Windows, slow, out of date and cumbersome to navigate, it just looks and feels old. 500px is like OSX – elegant, easy to use, and very attractive. Its also a lot faster. Its presentation mode makes Flickr look like the 1980s PC. APIs are coming, but not in the “mass upload 1000 images at a time” like flickr. 500px wants the best displayed, not little johns family dog. 500px is raising money but they will raise prices too to keep the garbage off. I used Flickr for years hardly got anything in return for my efforts. One month on 500px has already put me in touch with some of the best photographers in the world and gotten my work in the hands of art directors. Flickr is dead, it is the myspace of photo sites. Good riddance. You Flickr lovers all probably still use PCs… dinosaurs!

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  • pp

    I like it a lot for nature photography. The other niches are yet to be filled.

    It would be great to have a Comment Importer like the one you made for Flickr to show up, so all comments can be stored in one place. (Like I’m using your script for SuperettePierre.eu.)

  • Tariq, not sure I get your point, you have 213 views on Flickr and 204 on 500px….not sure of your point. I for one agree 1,000% with the poster that said flickr is a dinosaur. Try being a fine art or erotic photographer on Flickr. I had my Flickr account gifted to me by a fan and paid 10 years in advance….I got thrown off there for some non-sense about arguing with some american in a group. Flickr is not only a dinosaur, they are the Gestapo of photsharing sites where porn and stolen images are allowed and original fine art and nude content is deleted and censored and the creator of that conten are attacked and discriniated against. I am SO glad that I discovered 500px. I will never look at flickr the same again. It IS the myspace of site. Littered by losers and a waste of time and space.

    • tariquesani

      It is not about views it is about the community – I consistently get more fav and comments of flickr. People on 500px appear to be mostly voyuers. 500px is young and is already getting it’s share of bad reviews in terms of customer service. I do hope they learn and succeed because yes there is a need for a true alternative. As it stands right now 500px is just a better looking showcase but with limited features

  • Yes you consistantly get more Faves and comments because there are 3,700% times as many people on Flickr than 500. But if you are like me and check the profiles of EVERYONE that favorites or comments on my images you will find most have NO images in their stream or stolen images. Then when you look at what THEY favorite you see they have 3,000 favorites…..mostly porn…..and at that point I usually block them. I have a block list that is 2,500 people strong on Flickr. I have had a few on 500 favorite my images only to not have any theirselves. But I suspect they followed me from Flick or facebook and came mostly because they wanted to LIKE my work to further me along.

    • tariquesani

      Well thankfully my case is not like yours… If 500px is working for you then good for you.

      I have just presented a balanced pros and cons view here and will revisit it a year later as promised.

      Lastly – as you can see for almost the same number of visits flickr users are more likely to comment or favorite than 500px users. The 3700% larger community size is moot

  • Jonathan

    Thanks for this review, tariquesani. I just learned about 500px from About.me, and I am thinking about using it to display my fine art photography. All attempts of mine to create a gallery site for myself have failed. I just can’t find anything that does what I want.

    FYI, I’m writing this in May 2014, and I noticed that you intended to update this review periodically. Do you have an updated point of view or any further insights into the pros and cons of 500px given that three years have now passed from the date of this blog post?

    If so, I would love to know what you think now.

    Thanks again,


    • Tarique Sani

      Most of the gripes mentioned in this article have now been fulfilled adequately.