500px is undoubtably the most popular network for high quality image sharing, having dethroned Flickr years ago. The best part about 500px is that high quality, exemplified by expert curation and a platform that allows for the best image quality to be viewed over the web. Often photographers will point from social networks to 500px for “best resolution.” This is why their move to add a photo taking/editing app to the iPhone is so bizarre. It flies in the face of that standard of quality.
You can argue that there are great images on Instagram and VSCO that are taken on an iPhone, and you would be correct in that argument. There are a great number. But there are also a greater number of terrible, terrible photos that dwarf the number of good ones. Of the photographers I speak to, which are some of the most popular Instagrammers out there, they actually no longer take photos with their iPhone for their Instagram accounts. Instead, they have a backlog of images they shot on high-end DSLRs that they edit in Photoshop, crop to size and upload without adding filters, treating it as a marketing tool for their actual photography. They get thousands of likes, but with high quality photos, nothing taken with the actual iPhone camera.
So what is the benefit here of 500px adding the ability to take iPhone pictures and add them to a their public 500px account?
There really isn’t any. Any images added using the new features of the app will be considerably worse in terms of quality than what you see on 500px now. So why did they do it? Likely, because they want to increase their user base, have more photos uploaded to their system and grow as much as possible in as many ways as possible. This looks good from an investment/business standpoint.
But what initially looks good to investors doesn’t necessarily have lasting positive effects on a community.
The new photo taking/editing aspects of the app are fine, but they don’t bring anything new to an already saturated market. You can add filters that are bland and uninteresting, adjust a photo’s contrast and highlights, sharpen, etc. But this has all been done before by different apps for longer, and better. It’s a somewhat lazy add on that will go unused by the people that matter to 500px, the best photographers, and can only contribute to the watering down of the images in their giant library.
Look, 500px is not Instagram or VSCO. It never will be. It is essentially the Vimeo of photography, not the Youtube. This is a good thing for artists and for 500px. From that perspective, you want to be the Vimeo of something, especially if you want to continue to appeal to the highest quality artists. By adding this kind of functionality, they’re undercutting that quality and value. It’s a bizarre business decision that doesn’t bring a value add to where it should: high end photography.