500px Versus 1x: A Photo Site Shootout. Free Lightroom 4 Presets For Clouds.
One of my best friends, Raymond Jabola out in California, told me yesterday about a photo site I never had heard of, let alone spent time viewing. It’s called 1x, and it appears to be a direct rival to the highly regarded 500px site. So, is 1x a 500px on steroids? A snooty 500px? A 500px wanna-be? Or is it sort of a place of its own?
First, if you never have visited the site, click here to take a look at 1x. Open a few of the images, maybe check out the categories and the rest of the headers across the top. Take a few minutes to see how 1x is set up and what its operating philosophy is. Actually, take some time to view a bunch of the images (there are some gorgeous ones). Then go back over to 500px and do the same thing (even if you regularly visit that site, click here just to be fair). Okay, time for some not-so-first impressions.
On my machine both sites present images that appear to be in true-to-life colors. And there are some drop-dead, top-of-the-line, outstanding photos on both. If you want to look at some beautiful images you can’t go wrong with either service. A tie.
1px images in all categories appear to be just a tad larger than those on 500px. I liked that. And they seem a bit sharper, perhaps with more resolution. It was noticeable, and I liked that. 1x wins in this category.
All the 1x images loaded slower on my computer than did the 500px photos. Not dragging slow, but certainly slower. We get used to speed, and we want to see our photos NOW! Try the speed comparison on a variety of images on your machine. But I give the edge here to 500px.
1x has a panel of curators who view uploaded images and choose which ones are posted and which ones don’t make the cut. 500px posts ALL photos somewhere on their site and then leaves it up to voters (the people, if you will) to decide which ones move to the top of the list. I like the idea of a curator who has no allegiances to any other photographer making choices on what ultimately is posted. That person has his or her own likes and biases, of course. But there is none of 500px’s suspect Dislikes to skew results (the dislike button allows anonymous voters to knock down a photographer’s images without rhyme or reason. It is often surmised the reason is to perversely boost their own photos’ ratings by reducing those of perceived competitors). Theoretically you get a more professional result of consistently higher-quality images on 1x. But 500px would argue that they have their fingers on the pulse of the public and what we Average Joe’s appreciate. Because we have no idea of the photo backgrounds of voters on 500px, I give 1x a slight edge here.
Comments on 500px have become routine: Great image; I love it. Great job. Love the processing. Great subject; good job. You get the idea – there isn’t much for a photographer to glean for information on what he is doing right (or wrong). It has become so monotonous any more that most people don’t even look at the comments. 1x doesn’t have comments per se for each image. The comments are so useless on 500px that I call this one a tie even though 1x has none.
What 1x does have is a forum section for critiques (at the top of the page). Photographers who post images there get the attention of non-anonymous viewers who are monitored for their comments. There is some depth to the what-is-good and what-is-not-so-good discussion. The original photographer can even jump into the conversation to ask questions or provide answers. This seems quite valuable to anyone looking for feedback that they can later use on that image or in general. 500px offers no such counterpart. Big plus to 1x.
Both sites allow you to purchase prints. I didn’t try either to see what the entire process is (or check out process). A tie.
There are artist profiles on 1x, a section where you can learn more about your favorite photographer and correspond if you wish. No such service on 500px. Advantage 1x for the social aspect.
Now the REAL difference that will affect many of us on whether or not we ever submit to 1x … you may join for free. But that means you may upload one image a week for a grand total of … wait for it … THREE images. Not going to be posting much of the old portfolio, am I? The other categories of memberships all cost you some of the old do re mi (money that adds up fairly quickly. You will be required to spend $49-$199 to upload a certain number of images each week, but without a limit on the cumulative total). 500px is free, Free, FREE; upload all you want and take your chances with the voters. BIG advantage to 500px.
Okay, the final verdict is that 1x is a neat site if you want to attempt to garner needed publicity or sell prints there (and are willing to back up that belief with hard cash); 500px is possibly treading water in a lot of areas but does it all for free. Don’t get me wrong – 500px does what it claims to do (allow photographers to post images for everyone to see), reliably and well. With 1x your image may or may not make the cut to see the light of day. But (there is that qualifier), but 1x does more than 500px with the images and the photographers it does feature. Both sites are worth bookmarking and checking regularly – for inspiration and for sheer enjoyment. I give the edge to 1x at this moment for my personal viewing by the slightest of margins. But for posting images online? 500px is still the people’s champ. Let the people speak; let all of us view at our leisure.
And finally we have a FREE set of (four) presets for Lightroom 4. If you have images with decent clouds, these presets may be just what you are looking for. They come in four strengths – mild to extra hot, if you will. And you know they work and are high quality because they are offered to the rest of us (for FREE) by the inestimable Matt Kloskowski (one of the original Photoshop Guys). Click here to see an example and to find the download link (and instructions for downloading if you need them). I downloaded these yesterday and tried them out. They work! Thank you, Matt.