500px Removes the Profile of a User It Once Hailed a 'Photoshop Master', Claims Images Aren't Photographic Enough

500px Removes the Profile of a User It Once Hailed a 'Photoshop Master', Claims Images Aren't Photographic Enough

In what is not the first instance of its kind, 500px has banned a user whose work the photo-sharing site decided wasn’t “photography” enough. The decision is even more surprising given that the artist in question was once spotlighted by 500px when they featured him, labeling him a “Photoshop master.”

Michal Karcz, of Poland, claims he has been being booted off the 500px community regardless of the fact he has previously been championed by the platform. A user of over 5 years, he had shared 173 images with his 34,000 followers. His “Affections,” the equivalent of “likes” on Instagram, totaled over 168,000. What’s more, 10 of his photos had been selected by 500px as “Editor’s Choice.”

In the past, Karcz has even been interviewed by the site and featured in-depth on the company’s blog for a profile piece called, “25 Parallel Worlds Created by Photoshop Master Michal Karcz.”

However, it seem the company’s new policy very much one that is no holds barred, since he has now been removed from the site. Karcz shared the below communication he received from 500px:

“This email is to notify you that our Moderators have found non-photographic content posted on your account. 500px is a photography community, and we do not currently allow non-photographic content to be uploaded to the site. This includes screenshots, graphic designs, drawings/illustrations, video game screen captures, and other non-photographic content that we deem to be in violation of our Terms of Service. If our Moderators continue to find non-photographic material posted to your account, it may result in your account being banned. Thank you for your cooperation, 500px.”

Karcz’s work contains heavy photomanipulation, and while his skills have made him a popular artist to follow, it essentially means that in order to hold a 500px account again, he’d be required to wipe his account so as to rid it of any “non-photographic material.”

Karcz pressed 500px for an explanation, hearing the following back:

Hi there,

Unfortunately photomanipulations based on photography is not photography and our website in the current iteration is evolving into a purely photography website. Not only that, our terms of service require you to be the copyright owner of the images you upload so if you’re editing bits and pieces of other peoples imagery then you’re in violation of that. I personally am a fan of your artwork but unfortunately it doesn’t fit within the conditions of our site at the moment.

Taking to his Facebook page to voice his frustrations, Karcz says he will no longer be using the platform.

After my e-mail with questions, the answer confirmed that I will not publish any new content on the website. I’m just curious if they will delete my gallery because of [the] new conditions and if this kind of message will be sent to other people [who] use photography for photomanipulation. So goodbye 500px.

Karcz tells Fstoppers he has always been clear in his wording, careful to call his work "photomanipulation" rather than just "photography." "This is my way of showing the world with my own eyes. Standard photography was not enough, and was too plain for me. I decided to use enhanced techniques and it was bullseye," he said.

It’s not the first time 500px has exercised its strict policy. Back in January, photographer Tim Gamble temporarily had his account disabled when his light painting work – which is created in-camera – was considered non-photographic.

You can still find Karcz’s ongoing work at his website and Facebook.

All images Michal Karcz, and used with permission.

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26 Comments

Rick Nash's picture

Moral of the story; without a twoway binding contractual agreement (they cannot change the terms without negotiations with you), its foolish to depend on any media website. The abused artist in this story typifies what happens.
Youtubers that were once successful become demonetized when algorithms are modifed.

Ken Hilts's picture

This new article is very much like an article posted on PetaPixel 5 days ago...
https://petapixel.com/2019/06/24/500px-threatens-to-ban-popular-user-it-...

it says "via PetaPixel" at the bottom of the article...

To be fair, those look more like 3d renderings than photos. Impossible to say what proportion of them are from photographs but to my eye it looks low. Also this bit is very hard to argue with if indeed he doesn't hold rights to all his images: "Not only that, our terms of service require you to be the copyright owner of the images you upload so if you’re editing bits and pieces of other peoples imagery then you’re in violation of that."

EL PIC's picture

They just steal photos like every other site.

Martin Witt's picture

Ignorance at it's finest

Giulio Roman's picture

It would be interesting to ask 500px where exactly is the border line between photography and photomanipulation. If they were able to provide a clear statement, it would be very interesting to read. IMO, Theoretically, even a subtle edit in Lightroom can be seen as photomanipulation. For example, I don't think that blending together dozens exposures to get a nice landscape or architectural picture is just pure "photography". It's much beyond that. In order to clean up their community and only have photography purists they'd have to ban everyone's not using film, or not shooting straight jpeg. Photography was born in 19th century, almost 200 years ago, someone should bash them on every picture that got some little photoshopping and ask them: "is this still photography? if so, why?"

Sue G's picture

I don't believe in any limits.
The amount of PS enhancement on this site is also intense to the nth degree.
View it and Enjoy it.
The idea will be stolen and manipulated on this site as well as others like 500px.

Timothy Turner's picture

The cover photo looks like a light house was replaced with the space shuttle, impressive as it may be, I wouldn't want hanging on my wall. what ever.

David Pavlich's picture

They're composites. Not my cup of pixels, but who's to judge what's what? Composite/fine art. 500px needs to get its head out of its posterior.

While it's unfortunate, I don't feel like they're wrong. The response they gave him summed up their position. They want to evolve the website into purely photography so I don't think him getting mad is going to change anything. However, in their new terms that should be more clearly stated to avoid misconception from other artists.

David Love's picture

So they should remove every image ever edited passed straight out of the camera then. Which is all of them. They host pics to profit off them and the users and then want to get picky. Nobody needs their site.

I understand what you're saying, but we have to just realize what they're saying. They're not saying his work isn't good or credible; they're just saying that particular style is not what they want to showcase on their site anymore. And that's absolutely fine. Nowhere does it say that EVERYONE has to like or accept everyone's work. An artist of his caliber and style will be just fine without them.

Marcus Joyce's picture

What if they evolve back to allowing photo manipulation.. then what?

Like any business, they'll go with whatever model is working for them at the time. No shame in it, that's just the way websites work.

user-128252's picture

Michal is my buddy. Very strange to see this from 500px. Seriously. Personally I am not interested in 500px because of the quality of the pictures there. I like the idea of 1x more than 500px because at least you get some curated images only, but in case of 500px, you have a flood of entries...Yes, they are all photos, but lets be honest:-)

His website if you are interested: https://www.michalkarcz.com

HUGE talent, byt this is just my opinion:-)

There should be a category for composites and another for photographs.
Tweaking a photo in PS is one thing, Adding multiple photographs to create an art piece is another thing altogether.

Mutley Dastardly's picture

It's a sad thing happening. 500px is now on my blacklist (company number 1414 on that list). I don't like censorship - the same as i have major objections to privacy-related issues. Our message to 500px should be - rules are necessary - but when you change the rules you cannot run those back into the past, and take revenge on your users.
It's only a drop into the ocean - but it's all i can do about it.

Timothy Turner's picture

If you are making a composite, make sure that all elements are your original work, otherwise you are comitting copywright infringement. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

When photoshop is outlawed, only outlaws will photoshop.

Dennis Williams's picture

I do not see why folks get riled up over this. Even less why so argumentative over what is a fairly cut and dry issue. The content was either in the viewfinder when you pressed the shutter button or it wasn't. Equating adding three moons and a flock of seagulls to a Death Valley landscape to cloning out a a zit or adjusting contrast three points or shooting in B&W is disingenuous to the point of being silly. Swapping out a background, inserting buildings that were not there etc. was considered special effects and credited as such in 1939. It should not be so hard to come to grips with this.

dale clark's picture

Two things. 1. The "pieces" you use for the composite images should be your own or you paid for use from the copywriter. 2. Websites need to have a separate category for such. I believe Shutterstock does. Now..I wonder if Andy Warhol, and others like him back in the day, got permission from copyright holders for his image manipulations (including Elvis Presley, etc). I know Warhol painted over or just painted a copy in many instances. Just a curious

Duane Klipping's picture

His images imo are not really photography but more digital art. Using parts of photos and mixed and blended to present a fantasy world that did not exist and that is why it is not photography.

So I would agree with 500 on this but not the flip flop and how they addressed it.

Jeff Colburn's picture

First, great work Michal.

Well, I won't be dealing with 500px. If a site prevents an artist can't explore their medium fully, then that site isn't worth dealing with.

Have Fun,
Jeff

For me personally, my line from photograph to digital art is what could/can be done in a wet dark room still keeps it a photograph; beyond that it becomes digital art. When I first dove into digital photography, I got frustrated that my images weren't anywhere near what I wa seeing on many photography sites. Little did I know the these images were heavily manipulated. Don't have the talents that digital artists possess and my hat is off to them. Not right to "ban" an artist but should be careful about calling something a photograph. Genre should have its own category.

EL PIC's picture

500px is a great place to steal images since it’s at full resolution. It is also a great place to steal ideas of a shoot and manipulate it.
But they are just images and few care if it’s photography, hand drawn art, or mixed media
Regardless .. Be wary of posting anything on any site.
You will be abused in one way or another.