Photo Sharing Site 500px Ready For Its Close-Up
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Photo Sharing Site 500px Ready For Its Close-Up

Photo sharing site 500px, showing the curated section of photographs from member submissions.

Toronto startup 500px is hiring.
The website, which showcases high-end photography, has over 200,000 members, a tripling over three months, and co-founders Evgeny Tchebotarev (a.k.a. Ian Sobolev) and Oleg Gutsol expect to reach half a million before 2012. The allure of 500px stems from two main differences to other photo sharing sites like Facebook and Flickr: first, 500px has a cleaner, more elegant design to highlight the photography; second, the site curates the photography—with selections made by both users and the site’s editors—to ensure quality and reduce clutter. “What we’re focusing on are the really high-end artistic photography,” says Sobolev. “Photographers will post hundreds of photos on Flickr and then choose the top ten to post on 500px.”

500px has become a favourite of noted photographers such as Scott Kelby (who has called the site “the best thing out there”), Tom Lowe, and local Sam Javanrouh. As more people join the site, the quality of photography has increased, claims Sobolev. The larger volume of data has improved the accuracy of the algorithms that determine popularity, and the larger number of submissions has allowed the site to raise the bar on what qualifies as popular.
In addition to a section for popular pictures, 500px also showcases photographs chosen by the site’s editorial staff. “Editors’ choice are pictures that move photography further—unusual places, unusual time, or require additional effort,” explains Sobolev. Every submission, now in the thousands daily, is considered by editors. “They’re pretty tired,” he quips.

One of the photos voted popular by visitors to the site.

The editors will have to double down on caffeine as the site’s growth shows no signs of slowing: Sobolev tells us that 5,000 people are joining daily. In response, over the last three months, the company has grown from comprising just the co-founders, and now numbers nine staff. The growth is thanks to $525,000 in venture capital funding the company received in May, and revenue generated by premium accounts. (Photographers can host their work in an unbranded portfolio for $50 a year.) “It was impossible to sustain this with two people,” says Sobolev. “We still don’t have enough people,” adds Gutsol. They are expecting to make at least one more hire.
The recent expansion means that 500px will have to leave its current home, the Ryerson-based startup incubator DMZ, for an office “probably around [tech hub] Richmond and Spadina.” Also in the works is a New York office to further business development.
Next up for 500px: mobile apps for iPhone and possibly Android; readying the API to allow third parties to access information from the site more easily; and modifications to the main site to make it “more intuitive, easier to use, and faster,” says Gutsol.
The cherry on top of 500px’s amazing year thus far is the local attention the site is finally starting to get, after its launch back in October 2009. “The U.S. [has been] the fastest growing market for a few months now. Before that, photographers in Germany, Russia, China knew about us,” says Gutsol. “The Canadian users never heard of us before and were actually amazed we were in their own backyard,” he laughs.