About a week ago 500px ran a deal for people who wanted to sign up for their “plus” or “awesome” plans. I’d been interested in trying out 500px for some time, and $20 for a year of “plus” membership was quite a good deal, so I signed up.
I didn’t like it.
Now, I’ve being using Flickr as my online photo sharing site ever since I got my first DSLR. I’m used to the way things work on there, so I knew I’d need to spend some time with the 500px interface before I got the hang of it. To that end, I spent some time putting 500px through it’s paces, just to see if I could get used to it’s way of doing things.
I didn’t. Let me explain why.
The Lightroom plugin is a headache
When uploading photos from Lightroom into other sharing sites, the metadata from the standard Lightroom matedata pane is applied to the images as they are uploaded. This makes sense and, with the exception of descriptions being dropped of of images uploaded to Facebook, it works seamlessly.
500px, on the other hand, uses a whole different set of metadata for the images it uploads through it’s plugin. If the data is not set correctly, then a semi-cryptic error will pop up about needing to have a category and at least three keywords applied to the photos. While the error is straight forward, it’s “semi-cryptic” because it never tells you where to find the missing fields. Given that my photos already had three Lightroom keywords, I spent more than a while looking for where the “category” metadata field was. Only after I accidentally scrolled down and unveiled the 500px metadata settings did I discover it’s location.
Now, there are some interesting things which can be done in the 500px metadata settings, the most notable of which is seeing a photo’s 500px stats inside Lightroom. Still, I think I’d rather all the special 500px fields either be optional or have some better documentation, it would save time and hassle.
The documentation is sketchy
To say the documentation for 500px is poor is an understatement. Aside from the complete lack of support of the Lightroom plugin, the scant information available for the service was frustrating. For example, part of the advertised features of the plus package for 500px is the ability to use Google Analytics for a user’s photos. As I appreciate the analytics service I decided to try it out. 500px does, indeed, have a page describing how to set up a analytics process for 500px, but neglects to say which URL should be tracked. In the end I figured out I should attach my base profile URL to Google Analytics – but a simple screen-shot and an explanation would have been nice.
There is a 500px help group on the site, but after scanning it for several minutes I determined it would be less than helpful. There were quite a number of people complaining how all the “professionals” had left the site, as the “hobbyists” had chased them out. As I’m obviously a “hobbyist,” I really didn’t feel all that welcome.
The mobile apps are not quite “there.”
Again, one of the features of the 500px accounts above the “free” level is to have more than one set of images, much like Flickr. As this is how I organize my images online, I thought this seemed like a good idea, and I went about setting up some different sets as test cases for my photos.
Then I went to view them on my mobile app and discovered all the sets I had set up could not be browsed. The iOS apps, it seemed, could only display photos uploaded into the default 500px library. As I organize my photos in sets, this made the mobile apps less than helpful for my workflow.
Display decisions are downright weird
When I first dabbled in 500px a few months back I was impressed with the site’s layout. In fact, the site’s beautiful look drove me to try a paid tier of the service. By the time I signed up for “plus,” however, their design had changed, and some of the decisions left me scratching my head.
The worst of these was the apparently deliberate decision to make photo licensing information available only to the image creator. I know this because I reached out to 500px for help locating the missing license information and got this reply,
There was a change and only the author will see what type of license it is.
I have no idea why a service would hide the license data for it’s contributor’s photos. It does them no service whatsoever. Creators, after all, want their license information displayed. In fact, omitting it only increases the likelihood photos will be used against the (unposted) licensing stipulations. As I depend on Creative Common’s images myself, I upload all my photos with a Creative Commons license. It would be nice to be able to tell viewed which version of the Creative Commons licensing they are released under so people know what they can and cannot do with my uploaded photos!
The licensing oddness was the last straw for me. A few days later I requested a refund for my account and got it not too long afterward. 500px is a very interesting service, and I’ll certainly keep my eye on it, but it feels incomplete – as though it’s the skeleton of a really great idea, waiting to be filled in.