What I Learned As A Guest Editor At 500px

During the month of May (2015) I had the privilege, honor and pleasure of being a guest editor at 500px.

Having the privilege is something very special as 500px doesn’t ask just anyone to join their guest editor team.

I could say that I learned that the 500px team is awesome, but I already knew that ahead of time. Instead I wanted to share some deeper insights into what I learned as a guest editor at 500px.

View my profile on 500px.

What Is 500px

If you are reading this and have never heard of or visited 500px.com before, then let me start with a brief and easy explaination as to what the website is.

Have you ever heard of Flickr? It’s an online community, owned by Yahoo now, where you can upload your photographs and interact with other photographers. You can get comments on photos as feedback or critique. You can share those photos elsewhere, like Facebook.

500px is just like that, but better.  500px, since its inception, has been known to have a higher standard of photography shared. So much so that it has also been known to intimidate photographers who do not feel their work stands out in a crowd like that.

I see that as a good thing, because you’re bound to see less crummy photos than you do on Flickr.  Right?

Keep reading.

What Is In It For Me

I do not get paid money as a guest editor at 500px. No guest editors do. There are two thing that I get out being a guest editor. I’ll summarize those two things in bullet points to make it simple.

  1. Recognition and promotion from 500px as a guest editor.
  2. The pleasure of setting aside a block of time each day to browse some of the most beautiful and amazing photographs on the planet.

What I Learned

I learned a thing of two being a guest editor at 500px.  So I want to share some of that with you. Some might shock you, but others might now.

1. Finding photographs

To find photographs for consideration as an editor’s choice, I start with the Popular section on 500px.  Because these are photos that have already been vetted by the community and have gone through the 500px algorithms as potentially worthy photos.

When I run out of new popular photos to browse through, I move on to the Upcoming section. This is an area where the 500px algorithms are saying, “Theses photos are good, and people are digging them and they might actually make it to Popular”.  So paying attention to Upcoming is worth doing as well.

I also posted queries on social media multiple times, asking for people to comment with their very best photograph on 500px. Every so often I was given a gem worth the editor’s choice label.

2. Unnecessary Criticism

There is always unnecessary criticism bound to hit the inbox of a guest editor. It’s unfortunately inevitable. People either get jealous, envious or just like causing controversy for no reason. Not long after sharing a really cool photo that I picked as an editor’s choice I received this redacted and grammar corrected message.

“I like to know if you really think it’s a real photo from Dubai as I can guarantee you that this photographer never shot the milky way in his life, this is not right and he got something for someone else’s photos.

I assumed that as an editor you spend more time to verify the images at the site.”

I did not bother to reply to this message, but I do want to point out that it was unnecessary.  I will state why in the next section.

3. The Stupid Argument

Since the dawn of time (ok not really) there has been an ongoing debate whether photographs should be manipulated.

To Photoshop or not to Photoshop, that’s the question – One Eyed Willy Shakesbeard (tweet this)

As an experienced photographer, one who loves the art both during the photo capture process and during post production. And as someone who has the privilege to pick editor’s choices, I want to state something important.

It doesn’t matter and I don’t care.

That’s right. If the photo is beautiful and speaks to me, then so be it. I don’t care if the photo has been manipulated as long as in the end it makes an awesome photo.

Case in point. Look at the photographs of Renee Robyn. They are so amazingly beautiful. They’re well thought out, artfully crafted and absolutely unreal.  I use the word unreal because so many of her photographs are not real. They are not as you see it. In fact, so many of her photographs are composited of multiple photographs.  But I don’t care because her work, in the end, is absolutely and without a doubt, superb.

Before & After by Renee Robyn
Before & After by Renee Robyn

4. Reasoning

As a guest editor it is extremely simple to simply push the “Editor’s Choice Button” on a photo and move on. I did not want to do that.

I found it educational for myself and inspirational for myself to go the distance by offering my reasoning for picking the photos I did.

Additionally, I offered critiques as to what might be improved to make the photo even better. I did not always did that, but sometimes my picks were for reason ABC when the photo could be improved at XYZ.

5. Rounding It All Up

Since I was already critiquing and offering my reasoning I decided to go the extra mile and create a roundup article each day that I had Editor’s Choice picks.

These articles were published on Ello, LinkedIn and Medium. I would love for you to check them out as you will see each and every photo that I had the fortune to choose as my picks.

6. Sharing Is Caring

Each of my picks were also shared on Facebook with their feedback. I shared them on my personal profile as well as my photography page.

I also have two IFTTT recipes that I use for photos that I favorite on 500px. You’re welcome to utilize it here.

  • 500px favorites shared to a Facebook page. Get the recipe.
  • 500px favorites shared to Buffer (I use this for a Twitter queue). Get the recipe.

7. 500px Doesn’t Mean The Best

I saved this one for last. If you recall in the beginning of this article I stated that you would think that with the intimidation that photographers get before posting to 500px that you would see less crummy photos on 500px.

As it turns out, that is simply not the situation.

There are pages and pages filled with crummy photos.  Not just that, though.  Photos that I seriously question why someone would hit the publish button on. Photos that you might think should belong elsewhere.

It’s true that many of the photographers publishing those might be new. They might not have ever gone to a workshop, or taken a photography course. They might not be looking for advice to improve. But they are posting on a platform known for quality.

So I learned a very important thing about 500px. Just because it’s 500px doesn’t mean all the photos are quality.

That is why I stayed away from the Fresh section of 500px for my Editor’s Choice picks. I did not want to browse through an endless stream of photos that didn’t have a chance of being an Editor’s Choice.

I’m not saying the photographers suck, so don’t get me wrong. It just isn’t my job as a guest editor to educate the photographers and offer critiques for each of them.  My job as a guest editor at 500px was to pick what I thought were the very best.

guest editor at 500px


Do I have any regrets? Heck no!

Would I do it again if 500px asked me back? Heck yes!

And I hope that they do, as it was an amazing experience to be able to be inspired and offer feedback on so many awesome photographs, and see the work of so many incredible photographers.

So thank you 500px for allowing me to join the super cool group of guest editors, and I look forward to doing it again anytime!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thanks for taking your time to write down your experience. Since I’ve spent about 6 months on 500px myself, I can tell you from experience that not all photographs even making to the first page of various sections are top notch, far from it. Unfortunately, the 500px algorithm hasn’t done enough (intentionally or unintentionally) to discourage those quid pro quo type of photographers, who would keep going on and on liking / favoriting/ commenting / following other people and their pictures to see their own low quality images get boosted to the first page and sometimes even to the top 5-10 spots! Whereas many other photographers who are under the illusion that 500px is just about quality pictures as ‘vetted’ by the community suffer even when they post brilliant pictures because they don’t engage in such behavior as these serial commentators, likers etc. A new behavior that emerged last month was a quid pro quo arrangement between certain editors who would go and and favor each other to get their own pictures given Editor’s choice on multiple occasions. Rather unfortunate abuse of power but it did happen. Also, as you worked hard in rationalizing your picks they didn’t even consider it worth their time give any particular reason for their picks, depriving the viewers from seeing the same gems as they themselves in those ‘editor choice’ worthy pictures. 500px has claimed that it is doing a lot to discourage spam, but clearly the first few pages indicate that it isn’t enough. My two cents and thanks for your time again!

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