500px is a website that allows photographers to share, comment on, and even sell images. Sound like Flickr? Of course it does, but 500px has swept the photographic world, growing exponentially over the past few years as photographers have enjoyed its clean, simple layout and unusually high quality images that are self-edited by photographers. In the past, 500px has had a way for individuals to buy directly from the site, using a third party to print and ship images. Recently, however, that service has gone away...but is back with a few twists. Some controversy had taken place at the time of its new layout and printing services, so we thought we would go to the source to ask a few questions about what the new site has to offer photographers. Chief Operating Officer Evgeny Tchebotarev answers some of our questions.
Pictureline: Tell us about the new things we can expect from the 500px site, including layout, connectivity with other users, and the "Market."
500px: The new redesign that we have launched about a month ago is our biggest update yet, and included three main features — Market, Flow and Stories. Stories is now the best platform for sharing photo stories with the world. Check, for example, how we use stories — http://500px.com/tchebotarev/stories/33021/on-the-top-of-the-nyc-part-i. Flow is the unique new way to discover new photos. It is based on a very complex-yet-elegant algorithm that recommends to you photos based on what people you follow, so that you will see new photos that you'll definitely like. And the Market — it's a perfect place to buy and sell photos. If you ever purchase a canvas from 500px, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the size and quality — it's the highest quality canvas in the US. And if you buy a digital download, you'll get a high quality 1920x1080 digital photo to use as a background. All that brings more options for photographers to express themselves and to connect in new ways. I love discovering great photos by browsing Flow; it's just like magic.
Pictureline: You've recently moved away from a third party printer and are now offering canvases and high resolution download. What are the advantages of this for the photographers and for their clients?
500px: It actually happened a while ago. The experience working with third-party vendors always has its ups and downs. One thing is that it's easy to integrate, but in going that route we cannot guarantee the experience level that we are thriving for. So we have built a marketplace where if something goes wrong — you can simply blame us. And if the experience is right (and we are working to make it the best buying and selling experience in the world), you'll be a happy customer for life.
We have made some decisions as to the size, price and quality, and we believe that having one simple price for all 200,000+ photos available for sale makes it an easy choice for the buyer. We've seen great interest in digital downloads, and I believe that we are here just entering a completely new market — personal digital usage for photos never existed before, and people only, at most, had an experience with complex and user-unfriendly stock photography sites.
Pictureline: Some have worried that a marketplace will increase the submission of subpar work, something that 500px seems to have been avoiding. Photographers have branded 500px as being a cut above other sharing websites. How does 500px think this will play out?
500px: We actually noticed the opposite — the quality of photos have been increasing over time. Part of that is our self-learning algorithm that works even better with a larger amount of input and photos. So, even as we grew 20-40 times in the last year on most metrics, the photos you see in our "Popular" page or "Editors' Choice" has increased dramatically. Of course, we are constantly monitoring our algorithm and adjusting it as we go along, but the algorithm and discovery engine that we have has not been copied, partially because it takes world-class engineers and months of intensive labor.
Pictureline: Why are photographic prints not being offered at this time?
500px: We have just started, and we'll be adding other options with time. One thing is clear, however, that we won't venture in 20+ different paper choices, 50+ different frame options and such. We believe that buyers (and photographers) love simple, clear choices, and care about the quality, and trust us to select only the best for them.
Pictureline: Where is the canvas printing being outsourced to?
500px: We are not revealing our current partner just yet. However, those are the highest quality canvas prints, and it is #1 choice of the most professional photographers we have talked to.
Pictureline: We appreciate your time and wish you the best in fine-tuning the site for photographers as time goes on.
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