a11 November 2013

500px vs Flickr vs Google+ vs Facebook

Sunrise on Fuerteventura
Click on the photo to view it in large size on black background.


Note: read part 2 of the comparison here.

In the past, things were easy. Everyone used Flickr to share their photos. No one complained because there wasn't much choice. Nowadays things are much more complex as there are dozens of websites where photographers can share their work, with most popular being 500px, Flickr, Google+ and Facebook.

Unfortunately none of these is ideal and in this post I will try to write a short comparison.

500px

When it appeared 4 years ago it quickly became my favourite. Not only average image quality was much higher than anywhere else (as some top photographers also share their work there) but it was also possible for unknown photographers to get a lot of attention as well.

What's important for photographers is that quality of your uploaded photos is really nice (one of the best amongst compared services). Also by default images appear in large size what's really great because you can really appreciate great photos this way.

Moreover 500px has very nice modern look & feel (which is still being improved and that's great). It also feels very well organized - you can get anywhere you want in just one or two clicks (so GUI design principles are definitely satisfied).

But unfortunately as the popularity of the service started to grew, average image quality started to decrease (in fact it sometimes happen that I just really love a few images from #1 Popular page). However, the images on 500px are still one of the best you can find on the Internet in my opinion with many great individuals still using it.

Another thing is that with recent changes (they introduced so called Pulse 2.0) average number of views per photo decreased greatly, at least for such unknown photographers as I. To get a good number of views you need to comment on others photos quite a lot (and so some people add comments like: I like your photo, please visit and like mine) or have plenty of luck. Although I do it (because I like watching good photographs), I do it for fun - not for views. So nowadays my photos hardly ever get more than 150 views. Not much given that I reach more on Flickr being virtually inactive there...

And even more recently the same thing happened to the number of comments. +500px I just can't understand why you can't comment directly from the Flow page (which I generally like), just like on Flickr? And when you click on a photo there, you go to a page where you can only like or share an image?

Pros:
  • Fantastic photos
  • Great image quality of uploaded images
  • Very nice modern look & feel of the service
Cons:
  • It's hard to get enough views and comments recently unless your photo hit #1 Popular page
  • It's not possible to comment on photos from the Flow page

Flickr

First photography oriented web service where I started to share my work (in 2010 if I recall correctly) and recently after a few months (or years? hard to tell) I started to share my photos there once again. Mainly because of the changes that I didn't like on 500px.

I still like 500px more than Flickr but if 500px will follow current direction I will probably spend more time on Flickr again. The issue with me is that I'm not photographer, I'm rather busy software developer myself so I cannot afford to spend time everywhere.

Compared to 500px average image quality is much lower on Flickr (with a lot of snapshots) and the service feels a bit more old school but there are some improvements being made in this field.

Also for me the most important issue was quality of comments. As you can add your photos to Groups and many of them require that you comment on other photos as well using some fancy gif images, comments under your photo might look very awkward.

Pros:
  • Still one of the most popular web services for photographers
  • Flickr is recently evolving and there is a great chance it will be great & cool once again
Cons:
  • Old school look & feel
  • Average image quality is much lower than on 500px
  • Quality of comments isn't often very high - my advice - don't use groups

Google+

Google+ isn't a photography service like Flickr or 500px but it has some really cool features that photographers will like. First of all it offers really nice image quality. It also offers some basic photo adjustment features (I don't use them because I much prefer Photoshop to do any tweaks) and also ability to show EXIF data.

Finally it's possible to get some crazy number of views on a single photo (probably more than on any other website). My personal best is "just" around 50.000 views but I know photographers who reached a few million views on a single photo! That's really crazy.

The main drawback is that it's hard to get attention from non-photographers because there are far less users on Google+ than on Facebook and majority of your friends probably use the latter.

Pros:
  • Great image quality
  • EXIF data
  • It's possible to get a lot of views on a single photo
Cons:
  • It's very hard to get any attention from non-photographers as most of your non-photography friends probably still don't have account on it

Facebook

Similarly to Google+, Facebook isn't a photography website. However, all great photographers are there. And not only photographers what make it possible to reach very wide audiences. And it is what happens. Facebook is on the list of top referral pages for my blog. Sharing an interesting post there can really boost page views on my blog in a short amount of time. So it's a great website to build your community.

But the greatest thing about Facebook is that activity on your photos is often much more personalized than anywhere else and it feels more like a talk, discussion. Mainly because many of your friends are there.

On the downsides, the first thing I need to mention is very poor image quality (and I mean VERY). When you upload your photos there apparently Facebook compresses them but it does it in such a way that some images might look really horrible: noise gets amplified, colour banding issues start to appear etc.

Unlike other websites mentioned in this comparison Facebook is also the only one that doesn't show EXIF data on photos.

And finally the most important thing - in recent months Facebook started to change its policy. Photographers had spent months or years building their community using Facebook Page feature just to discover one day sudden drop of activity - it's now necessary to promote your posts (by paying), otherwise your updates will reach just a few percent of all your followers.

And one more bad thing about Facebook: it can now use your photos and other personal information without paying you a single cent (or even without asking you) for virtually any purpose. Of course the chance they will use them is relatively low but still the fact that it is allowed is not good from photographer's point of view.

Pros:
  • Possibility to reach wide audience
  • Great to build community
  • Personalized activity on your photos
Cons:
  • Poor image quality of uploaded images
  • No access to EXIF data
  • Recently it gets harder to have a lot of views
  • Policy that allows Facebook to use your photos without asking and paying for them.

Summary

It's very hard to name a winner. As you could see from the comparison above each of the websites has their strengths as well as weaknesses.

I can just dream that on day someone will manage to create a combination of all above website: image quality and design as on 500px, popularity amongst photographers as on Flickr, number of views as on Google+ and personalized activity as on Facebook. But frankly - it's rather impossible :)

Note: read part 2 of the comparison here. 

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