500px – the site to finally topple Flickr
Yahoo hasn’t got much right over the past decade, but one of the best decisions it made was to buy the photo-sharing site Flickr. Alas, like many of the other once-excellent services in its portfolio, Yahoo has allowed Flickr to stagnate to the point where the only reason to keep using the site is the size and talent of its user community.
The Flickr homepage looks like its designers went on strike in 2003, its uploading facilities are basic and it simply doesn’t display your photos in their best light.
For months I’ve been looking for an alternative to Flickr, and at last I think I’ve found it: 500px.
Although I only stumbled upon it recently, 500px isn’t a new site: it’s been around since 2003, if its About page is to be believed. Yet, it looks and behaves like a thoroughly modern and attractive site.
That’s partly because the whole site is created in HTML5 (or “handmade using ecologically sustainable code”, according to the witty slogan at the foot of the site). That means it not only works well on desktop browsers, but also on tablets – even the iPad.
The site is working on an official iPad app, but it also publishes its own APIs, so third-party developers can produce their own 500px-based apps, such as the excellent ISO 500 for the iPhone.
500px has two features that, for me, set it apart from Flickr. The first is the Editors’ Choice, which, as the name suggests, is a curated pick of the best photography on the site. The quality of photography on display here is awesome — and somewhat intimidating for an enthusiastic amateur like me.
The second is the free photo Portfolio that is available to any signed-up member of the site. There is a range of classy themes to choose from – I’ve opted for the Minimal Pitch Black – which look stunning in the default full-screen view, and works equally well on the desktop as it does on touchscreens.
You also get a dedicated URL based on your username (in my case http://bazzacollins.500px.com) so that you can easily point people towards your work, as well as the option to fill in Biography and Contact details. You can even publish a free blog via the site. For photography enthusiasts – and potentially even professionals – 500px could spare you from the hassle of setting up your own website. More designs, custom URLs and Google analytics are available to users who sign up for a $50 a year premium account.
There are a couple of things to watch for on 500px. As with Flickr, the photo uploader can be erratic, especially with larger files – which partly explains why my own portfolio is currently so slim. The “Popular” section of the site – the photos that have earned the most reader votes – is also top heavy with portraits of naked women, so you might want to untick the Show Nude tickbox at the top if you’re viewing the site at work.
But with a thriving community (three million unique users last month), stunning design and plenty of free tools for photographers, I think my long search for a Flickr successor is finally over.
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