500px

The Olympic Dream

My favourite photo sharing site is about to launch their shiny new Commercial Licensing Marketplace. I know very little about the scheme, other than it will be a place for 500px photographers to sell their images. I know of it because I’ve been asked to allow 500px to license one of my photos. Sure. Why not. If there’s the chance of cash comin my way, I’m game. I’m surprised about their choice from amongst all my photos on the site. I declind to upload any release documents. I don’t have any. But I’m sure that the IOC are infamously tight when it comes to anything with an Olympic image on it. Or even a hint of an Olympic image. Oh well, we’ll see how it goes…

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Black Friday Photo Deal

The best deal of the week? I’m a big fan of 500px, possibly the best photo sharing website on the net today. My account is here. For the next few days, an annual subscription is 30% cheaper. That means a Plus account is a paltry $18. An absolute steal. If you’re looking for a new online home for your photo collection, or simply want a place to show off the finest of your shots, 500px comes with my heartiest recommendation.

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Flow versus Judder

My last post was about ‘The Flow’ in 500px. I omitted to say it was a new version of their Flow. Replacing what was already an excellent wall of beautiful photos.  Compare this to Flickr, which tries to do something similar. But with Flickr, it’s more of a judder. As the title of the post rather indicates. I’ve looked at my photos on different computers with different OS and different browsers. And all too often with the same result. This….

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And this, on the Sets page…

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I’m not impressed. At best, Flickr loads slowly and patchily. At worst, it sometimes fails to completely load every image at all. I know the Flickr team are working hard to make things better. But all too often it’s one step forward, one step back…

Bing via 500px

Microsoft have gone the opposite route to Google in at least one aspect. Microsoft makes beautiful. Whereas Google has a long standing habit of creating ugly. Aestetics do matter. Although they don’t, as the Redmond giant has found to it’s cost, matter more than functionality. One of the ironies of Google’s inability to produce visually polished products (and I’m aware there are exceptions, Maps being a key one), is that they look rather….Windows 95ish.

I don’t use Bing to search much. But I do like to check out the homepage. It hosts some awesome imagery. And 500px, my favourite photo site in case you don’t know, has teamed up with them. In the Organizr section of 500px, you can submit your photos for consideration to be displayed on Bing. I’ve added a few of mine to the pool. I have minimal expectations of being successful. As ever, the pessimist. But still, one can but try…

Untitled By Default

My favourite photo sharing website is 500px. It’s slick, but not devoid of a few faults. One real bug bear currently is that the site doesn’t pick up the file name, usually something bland like DSCF1637, and use this as the title of the photo. Instead, all my photos are title ‘Untitled’. As demonstrated in the image below. Perhaps there is a way of changing this, but I have not found it. I shouldn’t have to look. That should be the default.

Once upon a time I named every photo I took. I used the titles of famous songs, or books, or street names or just random names. I used anything and everything that came to mind. But I often upload dozens, sometimes hundreds, of photos. And naming them is such a chore. So I gave up. Flickr used the photo’s file name as the title, and I settled for that.

What I would love is for a site like 500px, or a Lightroom plugin, to analyze my photos and automatically assign them names. Sure, they’d need a huge database of names. And the software to match appropriate names to each photo would need to be clever. But surely it could be done. I have had a look online to see if a third party name generator type program exists. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Which is disappointing. Let’s just say that this is now my number feature request.

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500px Photo Page

There’s a new, updated look to the photo page of 500px. The old look was already slick and professional. The new look is more about evolution than revolution. Thankfully. If something works, build on it. Don’t break it and trash it. Are you listening Flickr? I like the new look. 500px goes from strength to strength.

Not that there isn’t room for improvement. I wish the export tool in Lightroom would pick up the photo number as the title, rather than leaving the title blank. Or, as it happens, ‘No Title’. A proper import tool would be nice too, but I’ve been over that. The Organiser definitely needs beefing up. It sucks that I can only deal with one photo at a time.

Dear Flickr

Flickr reinvented itself recently. I’ve posted about the large scale changes that occured. Some of them I liked. Some I didn’t like so much. My biggest bug bear? The Windows 95esque top banner and white text that’s scrawled all over it. Hideous. I’ve tried a few things to mitigate it. I’ve given it time, to see if it would grow on me. Or if I would at the very least get used to it.

No, it’s still utterly hideous and is quite frankly ruining my Flickr experience. My latest effort at beautifying (or making less ugly) that banner was to upload a fairly common bokeh wallpaper. Someone else’s work. On my Flickrstream. Urgh. And people are complimenting my work and favouriting it. Which makes me feel worse still about it.

So I should move. I should dump Flickr and take my collection elsewhere. After all, it’s one of the best things I own. If someone came and took all your photos out of their beautiful leather bound albums and chucked them willy nilly into plastic sleeves with go faster stripes and bling all over them, you’d move them to, right? Oh, and Flickr are rolling this out too. UK accounts seem to be unaffiliated with this disease so far, but I suspect it is contagious enough that it will reach these shores before too long.

And yet, it isn’t as easy as that. The new place has to boast three features. Firstly, it has to be an aesthetically pleasing site. Like Flickr used to be. It must look nice! Secondly, it has to be reasonably priced. I pay $25 a year for Flickr. I’d move to $50 a year if the destination was good enough. Thirdly, it has to have the facility to import nearly 12,000 photos from Flickr without losing the sets, tags and titles. This needs to a be a one or two click facility. I don’t have time to manually upload my hundreds of sets.

It turns out that there’s not much competition to Flickr on the market place that does all three. Google+ isn’t pretty enough. SmugMug and Zenfolio are a little pricey, but manageable. They both do Flickr imports. But they are both pretty ugly themselves. True, they are also highly customiseable. But I’m looking for a natural beauty. Not one which needs a ton of makeup. SlickPic? Less ugly, but with silly prices. They do a $25 option, I hear you say. Yes, they do. But they’ll shrink your photos into the bargain. Strictly for those on the bottom rung of the amateur ladder.

There’s one site that is beautiful out of the box. And priced right – $20 a year. That option is 500px. I’m already a paid up subscriber. But it too has a drawback. It’ll import photos from Flickr, but it’ll not handle the sets. 500px also houses some of the most beautiful photography on the internet. I would almost feel guilty about uploading my entire collection there.

Still, I may well use 500px as my showcase going forward. Perhaps not for my back collection, until there is a decent import option. Or until there is a new kid on the block who meets my criteria. What does this mean for my Flickr account? I’m still going to use it as a storage silo. I’m unlikely to give them any more money. I’ll downgrade to the free option and live off the free terabyte of space they offer.

WordPress has some beautiful themes with superb galleries. I don’t know why no company has come out with a simplified photo sharing site option to utilise some of those themes, without the hassle of the hosting package etc.  But Flickr should be on notice. If I find a company who wants my business and gives me the tools to transfer, then my Flickr account has a delete button, and I wouldn’t be afraid to use it…

 

Flickr Ad

Flickr is seriously going for it. A TV ad? Has a photo sharing website ever had a TV ad campaign before now? I’m all for the growth. And there’s many things about the new Flickr I really like. The Android app is slick too. But I’m really struggling to get past the hideous banner and text. Really, really struggling. Let me put it this way. If there were an easy way to export my entire Flickr catalog into 500px, I would. But there isn’t.

And I also have to consider just how invested I am into Flickr. How many of my blog posts contain Flickr embeds. It would be a wrench to leave for many reasons. So I continue with Flickr in the hope that they will sort out that banner.

The Gallery

Flickr is very much a permanent fixture in my photography life. Not least because I have invested so much time and so many photos (11,065 at last count) that a move elsewhere would take a huge amount of effort. But I’m happy with Flickr. It remains the best value photo storage site on the net. It also remains the most powerful photo organised  And retains the largest and most active following of all dedicated photo sharing sites. Development had become stale, but in the last year Yahoo has started reinvesting resources into the site.

Every now and again I do ‘shop around’ though, just to see what alternatives there are. Just in case I want to move. There are some of the same old faces, some of which are better than others. Photobucket has improved. From absolutely awful to sub par. Picasa is still there, and still has a split personality. Smug Mug is great but pricey. Only for  serious pros who are really there just to show off their own stuff. There are the relative newcomers too. Google+, which is the other half of Picasa’s split personality. Why can’t they just turn the two of them into a single offering, and ditch the hideous Picasa interface?

Slick Pic in also fairly recent to the scene, having caught my eye last year, and looks nice. Looks can be deceiving. Their free offering allows uploads at smaller resolutions than even two year old cell phones produce. Even the next step up on the price scale will shrink (thus partially destroy) images that most compacts will produce. Their Pro offering? Geez, we’re on Smug Mug money. Slick Pic subscribers, perhaps, are more Mug than Smug. But that’s a little unfair. For the casual amateur or novice who isn’t too fussed what happens to their images in the long run, it does a job. But it’s a big step down from Flickr, so it’s not for me.

However, Flickr isn’t quite enough. I need other places to share my photos. Two other places. One for my mobile photos, and I’m currently weighing up the pros and cons of Facebook v Google+. They both have their pros and cons. Secondly, I like to keep a site for my best photos. My own little Gallery to showcase my successful efforts. For the last couple of years, and the foreseeable future, that place is 500px. The free option limits you to the number of photos you can upload, rather than by damaging your shots. The interface is nice. The community is quite lively, and my fellow 500pxers are a talented bunch. It’s pretty easy to lose time browsing through recent uploads.

There are pro options, at $20 and $50. The $20 option is Flickr territory and whilst the photo management tools aren’t as powerful, they’ll do the job for most photographers out there. My 500px profile is here. I keep intending to take up the $20 plan, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Soon. Perhaps. Till then, I leave you with one of my ‘better’ shots that made it to my 500px collection, from Marrakesh. We’re off again tomorrow on another whistle stop city tour. We’re heading east this time….

Tube Tunnel

It’s very rare that I see a worthy subject, landscape or scene, envisage the shot I want, take a photo, import it into Adobe Lightroom, process it and then actually produce just the shot I was looking for. Really, really rare. This is one of them though. Some of the others, along with a few shots I consider to be amongst my better efforts, are stored on my 500px account - it’s a supplement to my Flickr collections. I like 500px a lot. It’s the perfect portfolio solution for decent photos.

Flickr Reinvented

A few weeks ago, Flickr promised a radical revamp of the site. In the last few days of February, it went live. Sort of. In the end the only update made was to the Contacts page, where you can view your online amigos shots. You now have the option to select the ‘Justified View’ which makes more use of the screen. As you can see from the image below.  There’s less white space between the photos. And that’s a good thing.

But have a quick glance at the page, and you’ll notice a whole load of white space there at the top. A whole load. Seriously, Flickr…whilst the update is pleasant and welcome, there’s still work to be done. In fact, the updated photo view just highlights the rather old fashioned navigation header.

In Flickr’s defence, there are a couple of mitigating factors. Firstly, they are intending to revamp the site bit by bit over the course of the year. If they broke the site, then the Flickrverse would be mighty upset. So perhaps it’s best to go a bit slowly. Secondly, the flow of photos does load very slickly, much faster than on Google, and the functionality is great. I like that you can see the name of the photographer, and that when you hover the cursor over the image you get more details about the photo come up.

So it’s a good first step. But I can’t help but feel that it’s a view I’ve seen before. On Google. And other sites before Google. And on 500px too. I wrote about 500px a while back. The more I use 500px, the more I like it. In fact, if they did sets (and general organisation) like Flickr, made importing from Flickr easy (and that’s more of a Flickr issue) and had the facility to get my data back out easily then I’d seriously consider switching.

The last point is the most important. You don’t know how long a company will be in business. Last thing you want is your photo host of choice to go bust and take your snaps with them. One of Flickr’s strongest selling points is that it’s likely to hang around a fair bit longer yet. So seeing as they’ve ‘innovated’ by copying  others, why not go the whole hog? I’d like Flickr more if it looked a bit more like…

500px

I use three photo sharing websites. Flickr, of course. That’s my primary site, and has been for a long time. That’s where I store, organise and share my photos from. I use Google (Picasa) too, to which I recently paid $20 for extra space. At the moment, I really use Google as a back up. But I’m hoping they develop the site further to make it a genuine Flickr competitor.

I use one other site, 500px. They’ve been going a surprisingly long time, although they’ve flown under most photographers radar. But I like the site. A lot. It’s no Flickr replacement. You can’t sort photos into sets in the same way, for example.  It’s something a little different. I use it as a gallery to showcase my best photos. It has a simple, clean look that’s pleasing to the eye. It loads fast. And the other users all post pretty cool photos.

500px have had a pretty reasonable amount of success for a company of their size. And they’ve just done what needed to be done to keep things fresh – they’ve just released a fairly major revamp of the site. Building a popular photo sharing site is a tough ask. Building upon it’s success is arguably tougher. You have to innovate, but no one likes change. You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t. It’s risky, revamping. Get it wrong, and you can put yourself out of the game. Happily, they didn’t get it wrong. They got it just right. Spot on.

The site keeps the best parts of what attracted me to it in the first place – the clean look and easy to use functionality. They’ve now made more use of the screenspace with the (Google-esque) way they display the photos. They’ve also added a store, which allows you to buy and sell photos. Which I don’t expect to get much – if anything – from. But it’s nice it’s there. And it’s definitely something they can build on if they can market it right.

There’s also the Stories feature, which seems to have replaced the Blog capability – but remains the same sort of thing. Would I recommend 500px? Absolutely. It’s fun, and a great place to show off your best work. If you fancy starting a blog with an emphasis on photography, then this could also be the place for you. But I guess most of all I’d recommend it to an enthusiastic photographer looking for a place to display their ‘masterpieces’.

I do have a couple of reservations though. Firstly, I always prefer sites that allow you to get your data back out. Google makes it easy. It can be done with Flickr, although it’s a pain in the backside. I can’t see a way of doing it with 500px though. I’d also like to see a better sets function. It rules itself out as a primary photo sharing site completely without one.

Lastly, there’s the price for the Pro account. It’s a few cents under $50. I guess that’s ok for some people. But it’s pitched a bit too high for the mainstream. Maybe that price point works for them though. I’d pay up if I had the money. But having already shelled out nearly $50 on Flickr and Google, I’ve spent my photo sharing site budget already. Shame. The Pro features look good.

If you’d like to check out my account of 500px then click here. If you join up, add me. But that’s enough of this for now.  I’ll be back next week though, on this topic. Google revamped their photo site a couple of months ago. Now 500px have done the same.

At the end of February, it’s going to be Flickr’s turn. I’m rather excited. It’s about time they innovated in a big way and put themselves back at the top of the pile. I’m also rather anxious. I’ve invested a lot, a huge amount, of my photography and time into Flickr. I’d be devastated if they screwed it up….

Google+

I got my invite and I’m in. Getting access to Google + turned out to be quite tough. First impressions? Slick. Lots of features. Innovative. And unlike most Google products, it isn’t ugly as hell. Is it a Facebook killer? Before trying it, I was as dubious about Google+ gaining any real traction as I was with their last effort at social networking, Google Buzz. I remain skeptical, but much less so this time. Firstly, it isn’t (or doesn’t appear to be) dependent on Gmail. That was a Buzz killer, not a Facebook killer. Google+ doesn’t seem to be embracing third party systems yet though – Flickr is key for me. It’s got a way to go, but the biggest stumbling block will be getting users, ordinary users who are currently embedded with Facebook. That’s tough. And I think I can see Google+’s biggest problem. It’s not instantly intuitive.  I have invites. Let me know if you want one.

I’ve also been playing with 500px, a new photo sharing website. That too comes with some pros and cons. It’s a slick and unique experience. The photographers on there are producing some outstanding content. But there are flaws too. The name….500px? Really? And it costs $50 to be ‘awesome’. That’s too much. There’s not even a 30 day trial. I am tempted though to fork up. Well, I would be, if I had $50. But I don’t and given that I’ve spent two months worth of pay of visas and flights recently, with lots more expense to come, I won’t have it to spare. Shame. But if you’re looking for a virtual home for your photos, it’s worth a look. I’ve decided to use it to display my better efforts with my E-PL1.