My 500px Experience: A Beginner’s Perspective

I recently started to upload some of my photographs to 500px, which is a site where photographers showcase their work. My page is https://500px.com/tesslerphotography. The great thing about 500px is that the best photographs rise to the top, and you don’t have to be a well-known artist to get there.

Canyon Overlook at Sunset - My first photograph on 500px. It scored 91.

All photographs start with a 0 rating, and as people click on them to view them, mark them as a “favorite”, or “love” them, the rating slowly rises to a maximum of 100. A new photograph shows up on the “Fresh” page, giving it a chance to be seen by a lot of people. If it reaches a rating of 70, the photograph will appear on the “Upcoming” page, giving it another chance to be seen by many people. The photographs on these two pages remain only for a short time, and newer photographs regularly replace them. So unless you are a known photographer with lots of followers, it is very difficult to achieve a high rating unless your photograph is very good.

Once a photograph reaches a rating of 80, it is “Popular”. To get to the first page of the Popular photographs, you need a rating of over 99. Unlike the Fresh and Upcoming pages, which are time-based and display the most recent photographs on the first page, the Popular pages are rating-based, so the best, most highly rated photographs are on the first page. Photographs will only remain in the Popular pages for at most 24 hours, however, because after that first day, the photograph automatically loses 10 (or 11, I”m not sure) points. This feature ensures that 500px always features the best of new photography.

My strategy has been to upload one photograph a day. I don’t think it’s worthwhile to flood the system with 20 photographs in one day or even multiple photographs over a series of days. I feel like it’s better for me to focus attention on one of my photographs each day. My goal is to add photographs slowly and build a following on 500px.

First Light at Red Rock - My next photograph. It scored 93.4.

As a beginner on 500px, one of the things I’ve wondered about is timing. When is the best time to post a photograph to ensure it has a good chance of being seen and rising to the top? I’ve been posting my photographs around 4:30 PM Pacific time. I might try posting at the beginning of the day also. I’m not sure it matters that much, though. The algorithm 500px uses to calculate the ratings is not publicized, so it’s kind of a guessing game, but it seems to me that if you have lots of followers and people who have “loved” or “favorited” your work, then it will show up in their feeds on 500px, and assuming they log in at some point that day, they will see the photograph and possibly “love” or “favorite” it.

For a beginner who doesn’t have those followers, however, the most important thing is for the photograph to be seen by the maximum number of people when it has that opportunity on the Fresh and Upcoming pages. You can only control when it appears on the Fresh page (by choosing when to upload it), so it’s largely out of your hands.

I have noticed that the higher the rating, the more slowly it rises. I’m not sure if time has any effect on that observation. Photographs quickly rise in points at the beginning. As time goes on, or as the rating gets higher, the effect of a “favorite” or “love” diminishes. For example, when someone “loves” a new photograph, it might gain 5, 10, or more points. But I’ve gotten a couple of new “loves” after the photograph has been up for many hours, and the rating might only go up by 0.1. I think it’s simply a non-linear scale where the higher the current rating, the more difficult it is to get even higher, and the length of time since the photograph was uploaded may also affect that scale. Whatever the underlying algorithm, it ensures that the first Popular page always has outstanding photography, and it also means that it is very difficult to get to that first page.

Bryce Point Sunset - This one scored 92.5.

So far, I have uploaded three photographs to 500px, and all three have gone over 90. I am very happy with that result, since at first I had no followers and I am completely unknown on 500px. But that’s the great thing about 500px. I now have four followers, and my photographs have been viewed a total of over 1300 times. I’m sure some of those clicks are the same people on different computers or mobile devices or looking at different photographs, but that’s still several hundred new people viewing my photographs.

I’m enjoying watching my photographs gain exposure on 500px. I like seeing how many people view them, and it’s an exciting personal challenge to see how high they go. Will my next one do better than my last one? Will I hit 95, my next challenge? And will I eventually make it to the front page of the Popular photographs? I hope so. In any case, I’ll keep uploading the best work I can, and hopefully it will speak for itself.

Today I uploaded the photograph below. Please click it to view it on 500px and help it do well. Thanks!

Rock, Sea, and Sky - Just uploaded to 500px. Click the photo to view it on 500px.

Rock, Sea, and Sky - Just uploaded to 500px. Click the photo to view it on 500px.