15 tips for getting your photo Popular on 500px.com
I’ve been a member of 500px.com for about 18 months and have seen many – but by no means all – of my photos ranked as Popular. One of them, Sunlit uploads, made it into the top 15 a couple of weeks ago. In that time, I have looked at the work of many other members and have gained a good idea of what gets to the top of its Popular and why.
Before I share my tips to help you rank higher, here’s a quick summary of how the site works. Every photo uploaded starts with a so-called Pulse score of zero and every Like, Favourite, share on social media and comment – naturally, the algorithm behind it is never disclosed – boosts your score up to a theoretical maximum of 100. Gain a Pulse of 70 or more and your photo is ranked as Upcoming; surpass 80 and your photo is Popular.
The higher your score, the closer you get to the front page and the more people will see your photo and Like it. Your photo is ‘fresh’ for 24-hours, after which a 10-point penalty is applied that enables newer photos to climb to the top, Thus the competition is continuous and there are no prizes, save the satisfaction of peer recognition.
So, here then are the top five types of photo that go all the way to the top of 500px.com. If you’re able to produce images like these, success is virtually guaranteed.
1. The luminous landscape
With a soft glow that verges on fantasy, views like this often feature snow-capped mountains in the background and flowers in the foreground.
2. The fine art architectural mono
Taken using strong neutral density gradient filters and often processed using Photoshop plug-ins like Nik Silver Efex Pro from Google, light and shade emphasise the stark lines of modern architecture for dramatic effect.
3. The beautiful woman
Because most members of the site are male and portraits are a popular genre…
4. The bird in flight
Who can fail to be impressed by pin-sharp and beautifully processed photos of birds caught on the wing? It must take a huge amount of patience and skill to capture images like this.
5. The long-exposure beach sunset
It’s nearly dark, the clouds are mere texture and the sea has assumed a silky, almost vapour-like quality.
In a class of its own: the leading pro’s photo
Post enough great photos and gain exposure through YouTube, publishing and teaching workshops and you’ll gain recognition that virtually guarantees high placement on 500px.com whenever you upload a photo, which will of course be of the highest quality anyway. I’m thinking of the likes of Marc Adamus, Matt Kloskowski, RC Concepción and, one of my strongest influences, Serge Ramelli.
And what doesn’t
Here are five types of photo less likely to get to the top. I can illustrate some of them from my own work; for the rest, take a look through 500px.com yourself.
1. The church interior
I have posted a few photos of cathedrals and churches but they never seemed to gain traction. Perhaps this is down to the increasingly secular world in which we live?
2. The daylight photo
It’s a maxim of landscape photography that you should always shoot near dawn or dusk, so perhaps there’s an element of snobbery going on here?
3. The holiday snap
And here, too. ‘Anybody with an iPhone could shoot this’.
4. Your pet snaps
You might love Tiddles or Bonzo but, unless you can make an outstanding job of retouching the animal in your life, Facebook is probably the better place for his or her likeness. It’s that photographic snobbery thing again.
5. The grungy HDR shot
Aided by software from Photomatix and other vendors, this photographic fashion duly surged two or three years ago but, scarred by the halos it created around sharp edges, it has well and truly crashed. The smart tool to use nowadays to blend images is luminosity masks, as championed by Jimmy Macintyre.
Five bonus tips
Beyond the examples above, here are five more tips I can offer in terms of maximising your chances of a place on the Popular page.
1. Take good photos
Here are nine tips towards better landscape photos that I published earlier this year. There is plenty of other great advice out in print and on the Web, too.
2. Engage with other photographers
If you want your photo to be liked enough to become Popular, you need to like other people’s photos, too. Looking at other people’s work is, moreover, the best way to learn how to improve yours.
3. Upload your photos at least 24 hours apart
If you Like, Favourite and comment on other photos in the hope that the favour will be returned while you have a fresh photo recently uploaded – and let’s be honest, most of us members do it – you don’t want to dilute the amount of reciprocal appreciation each photo of yours is likely to get.
4. Avoid watermarks
Adding text to your photos isn’t really going to stop other people stealing your photos if they are really determined and watermarks do detract from your images (I stopped after the first couple I uploaded to 500px.com). I’m happy to Like photos with watermarks, but I’m less likely to Favourite them. What copyright infringers can’t take is your knowledge and reputation – and that’s what you build by publishing your work on sites like this.
5. Don’t give up at the first attempt!
The first few photos I uploaded didn’t rank highly; as a newcomer with no connections, I could hardly expect otherwise. Then, last Autumn, a photo of mine ranked as popular for the first time and I felt like I had reached The Next Level as a photographer. Many of the ones I uploaded thereater also reached Popular – it quickly became a disappointment if they didn’t. This is a general lesson in life.
Over to you. Do you publish photos on 500px.com? Are there other tips you’d like to share? Let’s start a conversation in the Comments below.
To those photographers whose images I have showcased in this post: I think they’re great and have included attribution and a link back to your 500px.com page. But if you don’t want me to feature your work here, do let me know below and I’ll gladly remove your image.