Saturday, 24 October 2015

Every thing you wanted to know about photo sharing sites, but were afraid to ask...

Unlike some out there I have always had the opinion that criticism of your photos (constructive or otherwise) is an essential aspect of improving as a photographer.

One way of the best ways of doing this is to join a photographic society and enter competitions. However there will be periods in which you have a photo you like and you are desperate for some feedback.

An alternative is to make use of the plethora of photo sharing and comparison websites available. While there is nothing stopping you from joining as many as you want, you run the risk of spending all your time juggling sites rather than photographing (plus there is a potential cost). So really you need to choose one or two sites to share your best photos on.

This begs the question however, which ones are the best to use?

As a public service therefore I am going to look at some of the more popular sites and rank them. Specifically I will be looking at how good the sites are at giving feedback from your images. So I will be comparing features such as access to competitions, the ratings and critiques system and other features which provide an indication of the quality of your images.

The judging process

So what makes a good photography critique site?

The first important factor is the user interface. It must be easy to use or you will not return. This includes how easy it is to upload your photos and how easy is it for others find your pictures

Also there needs to be a community feel. So there needs to be a way to link to other photographers you like and allow them to link to you.

Additionally there must be some sort of rating or review system. This can be as simple as a score, a commenting system or just a ranking against other photos. What is important is that you can gain some indication of the relative quality of your image. Bonus points if you actually get some critique on failed photos on how to improve your image.

Price is always going to a factor. While it is fine for there to be costs to access some features, there is a danger that these costs will quickly escalate if you subscribe to too many of these sites. Obviously free is preferred, but if there are costs, they need to be justified by what extra features are provided.

A good site needs to be more than just about photo critique.To encourage me to keep coming back to the site, it needs other features for example forums, competitions etc. A site should be an celebration of photography and not just a photograph repository.

Today we live in a mobile world, so access through mobile phone via an app is useful(preferable supporting more than just Apple products)

Finally the site needs to have that X factor. In this case it needs to make you feel at home and encourage you to share your work and not feel like a out of town stranger in a locals pub.

So to rate these sites I am going to use the following criteria.

  • How easy is it to upload your pictures and get them noticed?
  • What feedback do they provide and how useful is it?
  • Price
  • The site qualities as a general photographic site
  • X Factor - the un-quantifiable look and feel score
  • Bonus features - anything else that stands out from the crowd
These go on to make an overall score

So onto the sites....




500px

 












500px was the first photo review site I ever used and until recently it has been my go to site

 As a photo rating site it has a number of good points
  • A clean and clear website design which shows images at their best
  • The relatively simple rating system.
  • A freemium model that allows the upload of a certain number of images a month
  • An android/IOS app that allows you to monitor the site
The rating system itself consists of a score or pulse that is based on factors such as the number of views a photo gets, the number of times a viewer presses the like button and (if they really like it), the favorite button.

All these interactions go to make up a pulse score which is also time based, so it degrades after no activity. As the score goes up the photo moves from a number of categories

When the photo is is first presented it starts out with a rating of fresh. With enough activity, it status raises to upcoming and eventually, if it has a high enough pulse is achieved,  it becomes popular.

There is in addition the  Editor pick rating, for images that the 500px editors particularly like (these can be quite 'arty').

It is not documented how the pulse system works and what level of score triggers an increment of its category. For example I have had photos get a score of 69 and still remain as fresh.

It is also possible to sell your photos through 500px, although how successful that is, I don't know. (I for one have never sold one)

In the free mode you are restricted to 20 uploads a month. I have found this is quite adequate. You can however pay more to have what are called a "plus" or "awesome" account .

The plus account costs about $2 a month
The awesome account costs about $6, plus there is a $12 a month option that  includes a Adobe CC option, which is not bad value if you want to go that way.

The plus account allows you unlimited uploads, while awesome is the same plus better analytics on who is looking at your images

The site also has groups or forums, a blog, and offer a pretty good free app for Android and IOS. However I have found the forums a bit bland and rarely visit them.

Like I said at the beginning I used 500px for quite a while, but recently I have fallen out with it a bit. First I was not happy with the site redesign, but mainly I found it harder to get high ratings on my photos(is that the sites fault? - Ed).

There have also been some complaints that it is harder for newcomers to be noticed, because the way photos are presented and discovered means that things can get a bit cliquey.

You can follow photographers, and their photos. The photographers you are following, likes and favorites become the first thing you see when you go to the 500px home page. This also means that these are the photos that are more likely to get noticed, meaning the more followers you have the more likely you are to get noticed, so introducing a like feedback cycle.

However  the bigger problem with 500px is that apart from likes and favorites, there is little other feedback. Yes you can add comments, but generally these are not the same as critiques and normally consist of 'good' photo and pleas to visit the commentators page.

There is a feeling that  the rating system encourages conformity in the pictures and punishes some genres.. As a  test I tried an experiment and chose a photo that I thought would do well in 500px, but to me  anything special.

The photo I chose came popular with a 86.4% rating, while others that I thought were superior got lower scores. The 1st photo was bright and eye catching. This is because most people only glance over the fresh photos page so in my experience black and white images do not do well


Scores

How easy is it to upload your pictures and get them noticed?7/10
What feedback do they provide and how useful is it?>6/10
Price?8/10
Photographic site features ?4/10
X Factor?6/10
Any bonus features?2 (Apps)
Total33




dpReview


DpReview is known better as a photographic news, forum and review site.

However it also provides what it calls challenges, where photographers can submit photos (normally based on a theme) and which are then voted on by other dpReview members.

The challenges area announced 14 days before the cutoff date, and after the 1st 7 days image can be uploaded. There then follows 7 days of voting.

There are no prizes for winning entries apart from the kudos of winning.

The vote consists of setting a score between 1 and 5(half marks are also allowed). the winner being those with highest average over the voting period.

The themes can range from very open (Best photo of the week) to very specific.You are limited to a fixed number of photos however there is no cost to entry and you can enter as many challenges as you like.

By entering the competition it does allow you to compare a photo in a given theme against others. However generally there is little direct feedback apart from the ratings.

DpReview itself has a massive set of forums, reviews and articles and is always a great place for camera and photography information.

Scores
How easy is it to upload your pictures and get them noticed?3/10
What feedback do they provide and how useful is it?3/10
Price?10/10
Photographic site features ?10/10
X Factor?4/10
Any bonus features?0
Total30




Flickr



This is the very much the old lady of the photo sharing world and is more a photo storage/sharing site than a review site.  However it does have some review features in that it allows you to favorite photos you like and add comments. However apart from that and a Flickr app it provides very little.

On the good side, you have virtually unlimited upload limits(1TB by default), although you can buy more.

But while it is no doubt a good storage site, Flickr does not really provide much in the way of features for getting feedback from your photos. It does what it does, but to be honest it feels a little bit old fashioned and behind the times now.

Scores

How easy is it to upload your pictures and get them noticed?4/10
What feedback do they provide and how useful is it?1/10
Price? 9/10
Photographic site features ? 2/10
X Factor? 1/10
Any bonus features? 2 (Apps)
Total19







YouPic




Youpic in many ways similar to 500px in that it is a photo sharing website that allows people to rate images. However it has some interesting quirkes of its own.

Like 500px you have 3 levels of photos, Newest, Inspiration, and Hot. However unlike 500px, users have a rating as well. You start at level 1 and as your photos are viewed, favorited or repic'd( what you pic calls sending images to your followers) you get points and at a certain point level your rating also rises (up to a maximum of 20). Each level is harder to obtain as the points needed rises at each level. Saying that I obtained level 6 with relative ease.

In theory as your levels rise, you get get prizes and special functions. However it is not clear what these functions and special prizes are. Also as you hit certain milestones, such as 100 followers, you get what they call medals.

All in all, it does a good job of providing incentives for you to put images on the site and review others in a way that 500px fails to do. It also does a good job of encouraging you to return, if for nothing else to see how your score is doing.

The site is nicely laid out and there is a good article section and the learn page has some good features. At present there appears top be no cost associated with putting photos on or limits and there is also a good app for both IOS and android phones.

Update

Playing around with youpic I have had the opportunity to rise through the levels. Level 1 to 6 are not hard to acheive, with level 6 requiring about 850 points. Level 7 however requires an additional 20,000 points !!!!!. This seems a hell of a jump. God knows how many points will be required by the time when (and if) we get to level 20

Scores

How easy is it to upload your pictures and get them noticed?9/10
What feedback do they provide and how useful is it8/10
Price? 10/10
Photographic site features ? 6/10
X Factor? 8/10
Any bonus features? 2 (apps)
Total 45






1x



1x is unashamedly elitist.  It makes a big thing about the number of photos it rejects and the main page reflects this with the photos shown certainly being a higher standard than most such sites

The pricing also reflect this policy. Unlike a lot of sites you are restricted to one photo a week for free, $5 a month for 5 per week, $9 for 10 and $20 for unlimited.

Also you don't upload your photos, you submit them for curation. Basically photos submitted are reviewed by 1x experts and members to see if they are worthy of joining the community

At first glance, 1X feels quite intimidating for up and coming photographer. However there are some features that make it worth persevering.

Firstly you can submit your photo for critique. This is quite a useful exercise that provides really good feedback from users who by the design of the system are forced to add more than the bland 'great photo'.

Secondly you to can "curate" photos. This is where you judge peoples photos and provide decent comments i.e much more than "good". This is a great exercise in in analyzing photos and looking as to what you like and don't like about images. Great practice if you suffer from masochistic tendencies and want someday to become a photographic judge.

There is no doubt that 1X is the place to go for some of the best photographer and photographs, however its very elitism feels like a barrier and in the end may intimidate and discourage many from returning.

It is not clear whether there is an app for 1x. There are unofficial ones for IOS, but little support for android phones

Scores

How easy is it to upload your pictures and get them noticed? 5/10
What feedback do they provide and how useful is it? 8/10
Price? 4/10
Photographic site features ? 6/10
X Factor? 7/10
Any bonus features? 1 (Curation)
Total 31






Kujaja



Probably winning the award for the hardest to remember web name,  Kujaja is a bit of an oddity. Its about box suggest that it was originally setup to support charities by crowd sourcing photo books, but it has grown to quite a comprehensive website with interviews and competitions.

It has all the usual features such as upload site, with new, popular and recommended photos sections. You can like, favorite and recommend photos  and follow other photographers. There are some other interesting features like the ability to associate photos with music.

The site provides weekly themed competitions, however the most interesting bit is the photo books. You can submit images which if selected are then put into photo books that are sold and the proceeds go to charity.

Kujaja is an interesting departure from the normal photo sharing site and it is nice to see a site that allow the possibility of your photos being used for good causes.

Scores
How easy is it to upload your pictures and get them noticed?4/10
What feedback do they provide and how useful is it? 6/10
Price? 10/10
Photographic site features ? 7/10
X Factor? 7/10
Any bonus features? 0
Total 34




Photocrowd



This site is primarily about competitions. Photos can be uploaded and entered into competitions or challenges. These are then marked from 1 to 3 stars , the highest winning prizes ranging from equipment to publication.

Unusually the entry and voting happen concurrently and over a long period of time, 30 days or more. As well as community voting, photos are also judged by experts.

One criticism is that unless your photo is in the top 100, it will not show its ranking. Also the voting system seems to favor the images with already high scores.

Still it is an interesting concept and the owners seem to be very keen to get feedback and improve the site, so it is one to watch.

Scores

How easy is it to upload your pictures and get them noticed?5/10
What feedback do they provide and how useful is it? 5/10
Price? 10/10
Photographic site features ? 4/10
X Factor? 5/10
Any bonus features? 0
Total 29





72dpi




72dpi is another photosharing website in the vein of 500px. Like the aforementioned it offers the ability to upload photos, ass likes, favorites and share.

It has a  a few nice features, like the ability to show where photos have been taken on a map and filter by how long a photographer has been on the site. However the website is a bit clunky compared to 500px and youpic. On the other hand there are no costs to uploading the images.

Scores
How easy is it to upload your pictures and get them noticed?7/10
What feedback do they provide and how useful is it? 7/10
Price? 10/10
Photographic site features ? 6/10
X Factor? 4/10
Any bonus features? 0
Total 34







Pixoto



At first glance Pixoto looks quite complex, however its concept is actually quite simple. You present images and then they are compared against images of a similar genre  in something called a image duel. This carries on and your photos rise up the tree, a bit like a round robin squash league.

As you win or lose duels, your photo score increases and rises in the category.

There are also a large number of competitions that can be entered, some with cash prizes.

The downside of the site is that it is relatively expensive. For free, you are limited to a small number of uploads based on your credit score. This can be raised by doing things like voting. However to do that you must link it to your Facebook account (which I must admit I am not  keen to do).

 The alternative is to buy a pro upgrade. This allows a lot more feedback on how well you images have done in duels etc but is relatively expensive at $8 per month or $15 for one month.

The site also allows people to buy images, although like 500px there is no indication on how successful that is.

The site also has a large number of contests running at any one time, most for cash or equipment prizes.

The concept of pixoto is interesting and worth checking out. However the user interface is a confusing and it sometimes feels like a photo selling site with added features rather than the other way round.

Scores

How easy is it to upload your pictures and get them noticed?5/10
What feedback do they provide and how useful is it? 7/10
Price? 6/10
Photographic site features ? 4/10
X Factor? 6/10
Any bonus features? 1 (Photo Duel)
Total 29






Viewbug




This site has a bit for everyone. Firstly it is a photosharing site with the usual features of uploading, favorites and loves. The former has the additional feature that you can specify from a number of categories such as composition what you like about the photo. 

The site also provides a large number of competitions that can be entered, most with prizes for the winner.

The site has a system of points. You get points for various activities such as uploading, favoring a photo etc. As the points rise you get extra features. 

Also you can win badges for various activities such as favoring 5 photos. The badges have kooky names such as the friendly badge for following 10 people or more.

You can quickly gain points by linking the site to various social media such as facebook etc. Also the number of points you gain for an activity is based on your level of membership. 

There are 3 levels of membership


  • Lite is free and allows you 10 uploads a month. 
  • Premium costs $7 a month and allows unlimited uploads plus access to more competitions,
  • Pro which costs $14 a month and allows access to all competitions

Viewbug combines some of the best features of photo comparison sites such as 500px and photo competition sites such as Pixoto. Plus it has a clean user interface(but not quite as good as Viewpic's). It also has a learn page with some good articles.

The range of badges and scoring system means that it is a site that encourages you to return and rewards your involvement.

Scores
How easy is it to upload your pictures and get them noticed? 8/10
What feedback do they provide and how useful is it? 8/10
Price? 7/10
Photographic site features ? 7/10
X Factor? 8/10
Any bonus features? 0
Total 38

 

 Conclusion

What makes a good photo sharing and review site? Obviously the answer to that will depend on your requirements and experience.

To me however, the most important thing is engagement with your fellow photographers. To do that you need to encourage people to return and take part in the process, either by adding images, or taking part in the review process.

 Most of these sites here have an element of that, but some do it better than others. Unfortunately in the end the difficulties of trying to manage multiple sites means generally you want one site that does it all


My award of best site goes to the site which does that the best. That my award to the best photo sharing site goes to (drum roll)....

YouPic


With it good interface, and its system of points and medals, it provides the best elements of a good photo and review site.

Highly commended was Viewbug, which provided many of the same features, but whos extra cost and lack of an app counted against it. 72dpi had a nice community feel to it, but its lack of features in the end counted against it,

Another special mention goes to Kujaja, which is more a photo community, than a photo comparson site, but is one of the more interesting sites on offer.

As for the others, they all had there positives. Photocrowd and pixoto are a good place if you are looking for competition entry, and dpReview will always the place to go for discussions.

The losers here (if you can say that) is 500px and Flickr. While 500px is in many ways a good site, it feels like it has fallen behind the time in terms of features. Flickr on the other hand, the site that revolutionized photo sharing, now feels really old fashioned. Yes, it is still a good place to store and share images, but has little else to help you improve as a photographer.

So what about 1x? In many ways this should be the go to site for those of you wishing to improve your image making. However unless you have pretensions of being a top photographer, I think it's very elitism counts against it. It feels like an exclusive club, where you have to justify your inclusion. For me photography should be about enjoyment, not having to justify why you should be part of a club.

Result Summary
YouPic 45Winner
ViewBug38Commended
Kujaja 34Commended
72dpi34 
500px 33 
1X 31 
DpReview 30 
Pixoto 29 
Photocrowd29 
Flickr 19 




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