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How to Get Popular on 500px

Check out all of our other how-to guides here. Ok, I know, I know, before you are even going to read my first paragraph you are probably wondering … why in the world am I giving other people, many who are better in photography than me, advice on how to get popular on 500px? How […]

How to get popular on 500px
Jasper Lake at Sunrise

Check out all of our other how-to guides here.

Ok, I know, I know, before you are even going to read my first paragraph you are probably wondering … why in the world am I giving other people, many who are better in photography than me, advice on how to get popular on 500px? How can someone who isn’t even that popular on 500px give advice to others? If you bear with me for a second, I’ll explain myself.

First off, although I may only have about 11 000 views on all of my pictures, it is only spread out among 12 pictures. That gives around 900 views per picture, which is certainly well above the average photo uploaded on 500px. Every photo of mine uploaded has made the popular chart, and all but two of them have hit the 90 pulse mark, with a few of them hitting 95 and higher, all that without having a lot of followers. So that makes me an above average, but certainly nowhere near top, uploader on 500px, I guess.

But no, you won’t be able to hit the 99 pulse mark (aka popular page #1) on 500px in just a few days by following my tips, and I haven’t reached that high myself (yet). You won’t get hundreds of followers overnight either. Let’s be more realistic. Maybe you want to reach a pulse of 80 at least, which is 500px’s definition of popular. Maybe getting popular for you is to hit the 90 or 95 mark. And that is definitely possible with some effort. It’s about consistently getting to the Popular mark in your pictures. So here we go :

1) This is not about spending hours “engaging” with other people’s pictures

A lot of the advice given on Internet seems to turn around the concept of liking and commenting on pictures of others in order to make them get to you. Yes, it does work, but not only are these methods superficial, they are all very time-consuming. Who really has 2 hours to spare every day to comment on other people’s pictures? Also, building a good follower base is, needless to say, important, but the law of diminishing returns is in action. Unless your photos all consistently get to the 95 pulse mark, and you want them to go to, say, 99, “actively” trying to get followers is largely a waste of time for most of us, and hardly worth the effort. Quality content will attract followers slowly, but surely, over time.

2) How 500px works (a quick refresher)

All that being said, what is still worth the effort to do? Before answering that question, let’s do a quick refresher on how 500px works. Every single picture uploaded gets automatically to the Fresh page, which is sorted by date. This is actually hugely important, and is the big differentiating factor between 500px and all other photo platforms. In fact, the global audience system means that anyone, even a first-time user, can get discovered extremely quickly, unlike any other platform. To give an analogy, 500px is the Reddit of photography just like how Flickr is the forums of photography. And if any picture reaches a pulse of 70 or more by votes and favorites, it gets promoted to the Upcoming page (still sorted by date), while a pulse of 80 makes it to the popular page (which is sorted by popularity). And after 24 hours, your pulse automatically drops by 10, and slowly thereafter. Now all that’s out of our way, let’s continue.

3) The not-so-secret mathematics behind 500px’s pulse and Popular

So if every single picture uploaded to Fresh has a chance to make it to 500px’s Popular and beyond, why only a tiny percentage of them does? It all boils down to one thing: exposure (as in traffic). Any photo, if it has enough exposure, enough views, will eventually become 500px’s most popular picture. But of course, it doesn’t work like this. The timeframe in which you get views from fresh is extremely limited. The results from my inaccurate and non-scientific stopwatch test over 5 times of the day shows that the average time any single picture spends on the first page of Fresh is around 3 minutes 49 seconds, give or take. That figure might vary anywhere from 2 minutes to 5 minutes, depending on the time of the day and day of the week, but it is unarguably very short. And every page after the first one, you may lose half as much exposure to your photos, and so on. After 10 pages of Fresh, your picture is essentially dead if it didn’t made the Upcoming or Popular section.

What about Upcoming then? Although I haven’t measure exactly how long a picture stays on the first page of Upcoming, it should be around 15 to 30 minutes according to my experience. Not to mention that a lot more people like to visit the Upcoming pages compared to Fresh, it should be the ideal moment for your picture to gather attention. Most of the really good pictures have already reached a score of 90 while still in the first 2 or 3 pages of Upcoming!

Once you hit the Popular section, your picture is hopefully still in the first few Upcoming pages, and thus getting views both from Popular and Upcoming at the same time, which means a rapid boost in Pulse. Unfortunately, Popular alone won’t be much help since it is sorted by popularity (obviously), not chronologically. But if you have already reached the Popular section, most of the heavy work is already done. By far the hardest thing is to get your photo from Fresh to Upcoming before your views die, and the only way to do this, to get popular on 500px without a lot of followers is to make your picture stand out from the crowd.

Lake Morraine
Lake Morraine, Alberta, Canada

4) Good content is king on 500px

This may sound cliché, but the first thing you need to do is to post quality pictures only. Leave the cute cat photos to other platforms, please. 500px is NOT a website like Flickr or Picasa where you are encouraged to upload a large amount of pictures at a time. You may do it, but you will be quickly discouraged by the 20 picture weekly limit and by the fact that most of your lesser quality pictures won’t get any views. To put it in other words, it is better to post great pictures occasionally than to post average pictures regularly. Not only does the pictures have to be of a high visual standard, but the editing should be too. I know, sometimes post-processing can be excessive on 500px, but you have to fight fire with fire. Not editing or poorly editing your pictures among a whole page of nicely post-processed ones is a surefire way to not get attention. Good post-processing is of a critical importance.

 5) Not all content is created equal

Making pictures stand out from the crowd while still in Fresh usually means getting landscape shots or portraits of attractive women, so the top pictures in Popular have these two themes vastly overrepresented. When people only glance each picture for a few seconds, street photography shots or sports shots are just too similar to the junk posted by some 500px users. Leave these for Flickr, your blog, or someplace else where people might appreciate them for their just value. From my personal experience, vivid landscape shots (not panoramas), water reflections and long exposures (of all kinds) are the categories best suited for 500px.

6) No one ever mentions this, but crop carefully

You can select a custom crop area for your picture on 500px, and you should definitely use this feature, instead of letting 500px automatically select the middle of the shot. Maybe some important element of your picture is in the edge of the frame, or there is a particular element that you want it to be left out. Whatever the reason, always do this yourself and try at least to make your thumbnail the most attractive possible, especially when people will likely only spend seconds looking at it. Yes, you may change your crop later, but it takes a while (15 to 30 minutes) for the server cache to respond and you definitely don’t want this. And that is also the reason why panoramas are not recommended for 500px. You simply lose way too much of the frame when cropping that 4:1 ratio to a 1:1 square.

Bad Cropping
An example of bad cropping. Not only is the watermark in the thumbnail, but the few branches from the trees are also very distracting while in thumbnail view.
Good Cropping
This is an example of good cropping. Notice how the watermark is left out and how the main content of the frame is tightly included.

7) Timing is key to success

Maybe even more underestimated than a good thumbnail crop, the timing of your upload is nothing less than essential. This whole article has focused on how to get your picture to stand out by looking better, but what if you could make other’s pictures look worse? When you upload a picture, be sure to fill out everything and take a look at the Fresh page before clicking the upload button. If you upload while the Fresh page already has many good pictures, your picture will likely get a lot less attention, and vice-versa. The Fresh page refreshes every 2 to 5 minutes, so just be patient. Ideally, you should upload right after some guy unloaded a chain of 20 crappy pictures, and that happens a lot more often than you think. My best rated picture, Castle Mountain, had a 98 pulse rating, putting it smack in the second page of Popular, but it was in fact a reupload. The first time I uploaded that picture, it barely got to Popular with a pulse of 81. This shows how timing can wildly influence your pulse.

Castle Mountain
Castle Mountain, Alberta, Canada

8) What does all that mean concretely?

If you have followed all my advice given above and want to get a picture, a picture by the end of 15 to 20 minutes following its upload should hopefully be already in the Upcoming section, and it should reach the Popular mark after no more than 1 or 2 hours after. Remember, even the Upcoming section has a limited timeframe, so the quicker the picture gets to Popular, the better it is. Remember, you want to maximize the amount of people who are going to see your picture in the following 20 or so hours remaining.

I hope all of the tips given above have helped you getting more exposure from your 500px pictures, and if you don’t, keep trying! Remember, quality, content, crop and timing are all essential things to look for, and persistence will eventually pay off. But if you aren’t involved in 500px or in any other photo sharing website and are still reading this, you may ask, why am I even writing a whole article? Well, people obviously want to get more views, likes, and favorites, but there is more than that. To borrow a few terms from the financial industry, it is about bringing undervalued photos to its just, intrinsic value. Get the attention your good pictures deserve to have.

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32 replies on “How to Get Popular on 500px”

There are some great tips here, some that I also use. But I think I can expand upon your timing suggestion. It’s not only beneficial to upload after someone else’s “parade of cat photos,” it’s also important to look at the time of day, but not necessarily your own.

What does time of day matter you ask? Well, if you’re an American (like me) you need to understand one important thing, you’re not the only country in the world. In fact, you’ve probably noticed that you get more responses (comments, likes, and favorites) on your photos from people in foreign countries than you do your own. So, that being said, it’s important to realize that it may be smart to upload your photos a peak point of day, when more Europeans are online, i.e., late at night or early morning here in the States.

I’ve seen a larger number of likes and favorites from photos that I’ve uploaded at 1 am – 2am EST and when I wake up, my inbox is full of people liking the photo I uploaded before bed. Unlike the U.S., which is less populated in the middle of the country, Europe is populated all over and so you’re likely to gain more exposure if you play to your advantages.

This has worked for me in the past and may be beneficial to many readers. If your on the west coast of the U.S., you may hit the jackpot at 11pm – 12am. Give it a shot and see if that works for you.

Ninad,

Only likes and favorites add to the pulse. However, Facebook, pinterest etc. social shares will help you improve your visibility among your photographer friends, which may indirectly affect your pulse, right?

I’ve read a comment from one of the 500px workes – guess it was on reddit – stating that sharing via the social media buttons directly affects pulse. But I’ve not yet found out how.

Another strange behavior I saw the last weeks: I uploaded a picture, it got maybe 10-20 likes and faves in the first 1 hour, getting the pulse to 80-90; then, a couple of hours – nothing. Of course, this is because the picture wasnt on the first pages of upcoming or fresh anymore. But then, all of a sudden, I (often!) get 5-10 likes or faves (after some hours of nothing!) in just a couple of minutes. I absolutely dont know how and why. It seems very strange to me – how did they find my picture? Why several users in a row?

Fidel,

I have experience this too before, and to be honest, I don’t really know either. The most probable explanation is that a high-profile user recently V+F’ed your picture and all of his followers suddenly saw it on the flow.

Correct, this is where the Flow feature is going to work for you. Let me explain: if your picture get’s feedback (like, Favorite or Comment) by someone it will show up in the Flow of everybody who is following that person.

This is why I sometimes receive feedback on a photo I posted weeks or months before, just because someone found it and as such it pops up in their followers flow. Keep in mind though that those votes do not help to make the photo Popular (as that is only possible in the first 24 hours) but you might gain another follower which will help when you post your next photo.

This is why it is pretty important to have a large follower base because you get more exposure and thus more chances on feedback. As said before you can get a large follower base by consistently posting good images, but it can also be that and a bit of luck. I for instance got most of my followers (5000+) because one of my photo’s was selected as Editors Choice. Others use the aforementioned “scratch someone’s back” method but that is very time consuming and personally time better spend on your own photography. Either way, dedication and hard work will pay off!

Thanks for the interesting article and keep up the good work!

https://500px.com/DESHAMER

Perfect answer, thank you. Indeed, it must be the Flow-Feature, totally forgot that because I dont like it this much 😉

Thanks for the great article! This is my first week on 500px, and one of my photos made it to the first page of Popular, staying there all day, peaking at a pulse of 99 and a rank of #4. That was a thrill! Then the pulse suddenly dropped to 87 and the photo disappeared to page 15 or something. But I’m curious what worked and then stopped working. So far, I’ve posted 20 photos, and about 12 of them have made it to Upcoming, and 7-8 of those to Popular. I’m an amateur photographer with almost no following, so I’m excited to get this kind of response. Some of the photos I thought would be most popular have been barely noticed. Do you recommend removing them and reloading? Is that what you did when you said you reloaded (i.e., you removed it first?) Thanks again!

Hi!

Thank you for your tips. I’ve been using 500px since 2013. I think I have better photos than I had 2 years ago but they get less and less views, and less and less “pulse”… On the other side, you can see a lot of really bad pictures with a pulse greater than 90. And this is getting worst and worst as time goes by.

Hello
Interesting article BUT, I see the author is no longer on 500PX?
Why is that?
Is there perhaps a story there?

Thanks

Todd McIntosh

Todd, thanks for bringing up this issue! I recently changed my username from weixiluo to thejackluo, which is why the link was invalid, and I did not realize that the link wasn’t updated until you told me. I’m still going strong on 500px, dont worry 😛

I haven’t joined 500px yet. I recently join Viewbug which came with a package that I bought. It sounds somewhat familiar but someone who is a member of both can explain the differences. Viewbug runs contests some with quite good prizes but their are so many pictures posted, good and bad, your chances of winning anything seem very slim. But you do get ego stroked if you post a good picture that gets a lot of random Likes and Awards (which is like a “Like” from what I can tell with maybe more conviction. I am still not sure. ) Anyway, I am wondering what is the point if you are an amateur and likely never going to sell anything or win a contest? So, why do people join? I am asking myself that regarding Viewbug which will ask me to be a paid subscriber soon. It sounds like you get a few hours of fame if you post a good picture.

I stopped using 500px long time ago, as a professional photographer my main concern was that they: TAKE the TOTAL ownership of uploaded content. Might not be the case for pro account but for the free ones it is in their Terms and Conditions. Recently I was “spammed” to check out a site called YouPic. I must say I really enjoyed the Experience, much more 2015 than 500px. Also as you might have guessed I totally checked out the terms and conditions on YouPic and they do not steal rights to the photos. 500px does unfortunately. I think they will lose many users to the new kid in town. The concentration on YouPic seems to be about inspiration and getting better photos. And the amazing 10 000 views in less than 2 days on my photography was a wow experience.

I’ve had a few of mine become popular as well, but not able to reach the 90s score. All within the 85 mark. Not sure if this is because becoming “popular” suddenly removes the photo from the upcoming views where it occupies a higher slot.

500px used to be a cool site. During the last months I noticed a dramatic decrease of views on my posted photos there. When I checked Alexa I saw that 500px’ ranking went down since about April 2015 quite heavily. I noticed also many blueheads there and hardly any interaction anymore. Groups and discussions are practically dead and so is the support, especially on weekends. Lot’s of nude photos which are not marked as “adult content” are even under the most popular photos.

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