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Two years after discovering the wonders of photography, I joined an online community called 500px. Unaware of its potential, I posted inconsistently, though I often found myself swooning over talented photographers whose online success was beyond impressive. Other than absorbing ideas and fascination, however, I didn't do much in the community. I was just another username, just another admirer of thoughtful photographs. I didn't take the time to get to know the website, so I ended up believing that I had nothing special to contribute. Eventually, my visits turned into random clicks whose intention was to find nothing but ideas. Within a year, 500px was no longer on my mind.
A few years later, I received an e-mail from the community letting me know that one of my photographs was featured by a 500px editor. Every day, the website's ever-changing editors visit various profiles in the community in search of outstanding images. Once they find a collection of diverse shots, they feature them. These images receive a great amount of attention, drawing followers and admirers to the creators' portfolios. All in all, it's an immensely uplifting opportunity. Since this happens on a daily basis, getting featured isn't akin to finding a pot of gold in the middle of nowhere. On the contrary, it's very, very possible.
Deeply motivated by this unexpected turn of events (and honoured to have been noticed amongst a plethora of artists!) I became an active member of the community. I now have over 9 million photo views, over 170,000 followers, and a portfolio that continuously pushes me to reach new heights. The reason my online presence on 500px became so successful is partly due to opportunities that others gave me. However, none of this would've happened had I not moved forward with those opportunities, remained open to new ideas, and passionately searched for ways to improve.
Building a successful portfolio on a new website can be intimidating, challenging, and often confusing. Even more frightening is the notion of attracting an abundance of views and followers. This, dear reader, is why I've written a guide for you. This is how you can build a successful online presence on 500px.
Ask Yourself These Important Questions
Familiarizing yourself with your goal(s) is the most effective thing you can do before you build any kind of online presence. Since success comes in different forms, visualizing a specific destination will make your journey more purposeful. It's easy to get caught up in the idea of success without truly understanding what it means to you. To make things a little more understandable, ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of a photographer am I?
- What is my idea of success?
- Who is my target audience?
- Once I reach my artistic goals, how do I think I'll feel and what will I do afterwards?
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to build your online presence wisely. If all you want is thousands of followers just to feel good about yourself, ask yourself if popularity is the only way to happiness. When I first started out, I naively assumed that once I had over 10,000 followers, my inbox would begin to overflow with e-mails. This fantasy never came into being, and my dream of finding joy in numbers never came true. Instead, I found that joy in more stable and valuable parts of my life. However, the numbers did come in handy for collaborations, connections, and other perks I hadn't anticipated. The real opportunities emerged once I began to get in touch with others. The same thing can happen to you!
Interact With Other Users
Connections and communication are highly important in any community. As a portrait photographer, I've had opportunities to photograph many wonderful people in my area thanks to acquaintances and friends. Had these people not known me through a mutual friend, they may have been hesitant to have a shoot with a stranger. Online connections work in a similar way. Putting effort into getting to know all kinds of artists will open more doors for you.
Of course, this doesn't mean you should go out and meet people for the sake of taking advantage of their position! What you can do, however, is familiarize yourself with many artists on 500px. Find a group of photographers whose work you admire and let them know that their images are appreciated. You'll be surprised to know how many incredibly talented and humble photographers exist in the 500px community. Some people will go out of their way to provide you with tips, advice, and encouragement (including yours truly 🙂 ). The more people you know, the closer you'll get to acquiring a pleasantly unexpected opportunity.
Your work is inspiring. Once a new visitor sees that, they'll go through your photos and wish for more content. The beauty of loyal followers is their endless hunger for more photos to admire. If they see that your posts are consistent, they won't hesitate to follow you. While you don't have to share hundreds of shots daily, make sure you have a vague but reliable posting schedule. Quality and quantity are equally important.
How popular an image gets depends on 2 different factors: an image's Pulse and the Editors' Choice section. An image's Pulse is calculated by an algorithm, almost like a random generator which takes views and votes into account. Editors' Choice is a section which features stunning photographs every day. The editors of 500px are always on the lookout for all kinds of photographers. In the editors' world, your popularity or follower count aren't a priority. The quality and originality of your work is what matters most to them. This is especially useful for new users; even if you have 5 followers, getting discovered by an editor is possible. Once you get discovered, you'll get a refreshing boost of views and followers.
For Even More Perks, Upgrade Your Account
500px is very generous when it comes to both free and premium members. It's not filled with ads which require payment to be removed. Users who upgrade their accounts receive very interesting and useful perks. However, they're not for everyone.
In my opinion, an upgraded account isn't necessary unless you believe that your idea of success depends on any of the perks stated on this page (and pictured below). I recently became an ‘Awesome' member; this has given me access to advanced statistics, photography classes, and unlimited uploads. The photography classes have benefited me greatly and given me an immense creative boost, and the advanced statistics have shown me what I need to improve on. If these options don't spark your interests, don't worry about it! Free members can be just as successful as premium users. 🙂
The most important things to keep in mind are quality and quantity. Combining them will allow your photographs to be a consistent part of 500px, which will inevitably attract the attention of editors and potential followers. Knowing how and why you want to succeed will also benefit you greatly and make any problematic situations overcomeable. Keep persisting, interacting with fellow photography enthusiasts, and keeping your eyes on your destination. Even in a year, you'll look back and see a beautifully blooming and successful 500px portfolio.
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