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Instagram has become a place where photographers, artists, models and smartphone users in general come together to share their various passions through pictures.
For photographers in particular, this can either be a rewarding space or a frustrating one. The algorithms that govern the platform, and its community culture, can often be disappointing privileging those using trending hashtags and paid promotions rather than those with photography talent.
If you’re passionate about sharing your photographs, but Instagram feels more like a popularity contest than an artist’s haven, here are three alternative platforms you should try.
This is my personal favourite, even though I found it through a dreaded targeted ad from Facebook.
ViewBug is a free photo sharing platform that not only gives users a space to upload photographs, but encourages them to enter competitions or challenges to increase their exposure on the site.
The competitions are categorised by Free, Pro and Premium memberships. The Free membership barely restricts users however, and everyone within the community can still earn points, badges, exposure and other rewards depending on how much content they upload.
In general, the community that exists on ViewBug is friendly and encouraging, no matter how skilled you might be with a camera.
As a user, you are able to give “peer awards” to fellow photographers, like and even vote for their pictures in competitions.
For me, one of the key aspects of ViewBug is the diversity of its competitions, which encourage photographers to go beyond the what’s popular on social media platforms. On Instagram, for example, landscapes and Lightroom Presets dominate the photography scene, which can often become monotonous for some. ViewBug’s competitions are creative, often asking the photographer to look for an emotion within an image or explore a concept.
Currently, some of the competitions that are open for entry on the site include “Lapse of Time”, “Rural Decay” and “Bubbles in the Air”.
Prizes range from exposure all the way to valuable photography equipment.
If you’re keen to put yourself to the test and gain exposure among other like-minded photographers, ViewBug might be the place for you.
While Pexels is more commonly known as a website where you can find royalty-free stock photographs that won’t get you into sticky copyright infringement situations, its also a good place for photographers to express themselves.
The free photo platform gives creatives an opportunity to expose their creativity by putting their work out there for others to use.
Unfortunately, Pexels might seem like a risky option for photographers who are more sentimental about their work, as the platform allows public use of images without the need for payment or attribution. This means that the photos you upload to the site can be used by just about anyone, and they don’t have to acknowledge your genius.
Understandably, the thought can be disheartening, but Pexels does encourage users to either credit, donate or follow photographers on Instagram and Twitter.
If you need the ego boost however, the platform does show you how many likes and downloads your photos have received.
Pexels is a great option for a stock photographer looking to get their work out there, who strongly believes in the moral goodness of other people.
If you don’t mind your work going to unknown places, and have faith that your photos can inspire someone to follow or donate to your cause, Pexels is worth the royalty-free trouble.
Seemingly the best of both worlds, 500px is a photography website that combines the community-based space with a professional platform to sell your work.
Photographers who upload their work on 500px can gain followers, likes, comments, and money if their images qualify.
Though it is free to join and post pictures to the community, 500px is not a royalty-free platform, and one cannot download or save images from the site like Pexels.
Unfortunately for the photographer, there’s a catch, or two.
In order to make money with your photos on 500px, they must pass a “content review” to gain commercial license. Your images have to meet certain quality requirements to qualify. 500px also earns 40% of the royalties your photographs make.
Luckily, the website has a more lighthearted side that comes in the form of “Quests”. These are photography competitions that can earn you monitory prizes or get your shots up on billboards.
The themes are generally fun and contemporary, and currently include “Drop and give me zen” and “Make it pop (up)”.
500px suits the more serious, artsy, lifestyle photographer looking to freelance within an online community.
There are thousands of other photography sites to choose from when wanting to share your work, but I personally find ViewBug, Pexels and 500px inspiring platforms for the modern, yet committed photographer.
While Instagram is a fairly simple place to get your work out there and gain a following, sites built with the photographer in mind are far better suited to accomplish goals and improve your skills.
Feature image: Shereesa Moodley/Memeburn