This website was conceived as a place to display my photography. It has transformed itself into a place for thinking about my photography and has become a wonderful tool for working out my own feelings about my hobby. It has been an excellent exercise and I expect it will continue to be such.
As I read photo websites and glance through the hundreds of e-mails I get as a result of following sites and blogs, I see admonitions to augment my presence using social media. Well, I have a Facebook site but I am not a fan of this platform. I don’t have time and I am very careful about whom I call “friend”. I have a LinkedIn profile, but it is really for business convenience more than anything. It gives no insight into my photography.
But I was being urged to do something, so, I went looking at various options that others have used and settled on 500px.com for my first foray into something approaching “social media”.
A selection of my images as they appear on 500px.
I spent a couple of weeks putting up photos and getting some feedback from other users. But I had not really thought out what I was doing. That came after a week or so when I began to realize how much time it was taking to post a few pictures. It was substantial and it was taking me away from working on this website. So I began asking myself why I was doing it. Once again, this internet experience had me questioning where I am going with my hobby.
So, what has been good about the experience? Well, for starters, photographs look good on this site. It is a well laid out platform that displays well on my tablet and phone. For showing people my pictures without having to wade through the text and menus of my own web site it is very well suited. For that I like it. I actually chose to pay for an upgrade so I can create categories and group my pictures under subject headings. So this is a strong benefit.
I also like the ability to view the work of others and to “follow” them. This means that their new work is brought to my attention automatically. It amazes me how much quality photography is going on out there. And this is a good place to follow what is happening in the wider world.
There is another plus but it is a little more involved. I must admit, I do not really understand how others view photographs. I don’t know how my work is perceived. Generally friends and family are a poor guide because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. I am blessed with a critical partner who does not spare my feelings. If she approves of something, it is a real compliment and I appreciate the very intense conversations we can get into over photographs.
But that is not the world. Who buys photographs? What are they looking for? I don’t mean the people who by images to put on soup cans or diaper packages. I mean the people who by photographic art for their walls in their homes or offices. I don’t know what they are looking for.
This past fall I entered three of my prints in a photo salon. It was a small affair here in Vancouver. It seems that all photographic art events in Vancouver are small. There does not appear to be much of a market.
Anyway, when I went to see the show my prints seemed to be out of place. I submitted three large canvases, two in color and one in black and white. All of the other images were 13” x 19” or smaller, and I felt the quality was lacking. And yet, there was no comment on my work, positive or negative. Just silence. I learned nothing.
On 500px I have gotten some feedback however it is superficial and does not lead to real conversations about photography. On the internet, all of our images are a few inches on a side and we are all the same in terms of presentation quality. So the comments do not take production values into account. The print is the essence of photography and 500px is nothing to do with prints. So the conversations, such as they are, are partial conversations about only a portion of the photographic process.
And commenting on the work of others has a darker side. You create interest in your own work if you comment on the work of others because you drive views to your own images and that increases your personal ranking. This is a flaw in the system but I have no answer for it.
All in all, my initial ardor for 500px has waned. Yes, it has a few good points but really, when you take it all into account, 500px is a platform for “hobby” photographers. I may continue to post the odd picture there but I feel there is more to be learned in searching out websites and art galleries and trying to find the work of professional photographers to contemplate.