500px Prime: A New Commercial Licensing Marketplace

500px Prime: A New Commercial Licensing Marketplace

Last week, 500px published an article on their blog stating they will be releasing a new project called “Prime”. It is a commercial licensing marketplace for photography on their website. The 500px team seems excited about it, the details are quiet intriguing, but the community has been showing mixed responses.

 Prime account details

  • 500px will be pricing licenses for sales in a way that brings “dignity to the photographer” and stated that they are “not joining the race to the bottom”.
  • The price for the photo licenses will start at $250. The photographer of the image will receive 30% commission for every image that is licensed. This seems to be the largest point of concern within the photo and 500px community. Only 30%?  Why not 60, or 80?  Do you feel this is fair?  Sure, 500px is giving the photographer a chance to have their image viewed by a much larger community, but in return, is the commission an equal amount to be given back?
  • 500px will be giving the buyer insight into how the photo will be “received and perceived before licensing them”


500px has become a mainstream source for artists of all skill levels to share their images. But with this new feature, it seems as if 500px is targeting the lower level/novice creators and people who are doing art for “fun” and not focusing on the residual side.  Why would I say this?  Mainly because in their blog post, 500px states: “so many 500px photographers want a way to share their work in the commercial space but don’t have the time, skills, or funds to market themselves and all the legalities.” If we break that sentence alone into pieces, we can see they call out a lack of skill and time. Pointing almost directly at people who are new to photography or don’t understand any of it at all. They also point out that it is for people who don’t understand the legalities. For the most part, your casual photographer really will not know the legalities to licensing commercial work.

Is this what the photography community needs? Maybe yes, maybe no. After seeing their post, I personally have concluded that the starting goal for Prime is not to reach out to the professional artists trying to make a living, but instead, reach out to the people shooting for fun looking for some extra cash that they did not “need” in the first place. I don’t fully agree with the 30% commission and think it should be higher, but some others have different opinions, which I am looking forward to hearing. With the statement from the 500px blog talked about above, I feel that they are trying to justify keeping 70% of the commission to cover the fact that they are handling the exposure and legal side of things while dealing with what they seem to point out is unskilled artists.

The first line of comments on the 500px blog showed users absolutely discontent. It actually took me quiet some time to find positive comments in regards to the commission rates. Below, I've attached a screenshot of the first comments shown. As you can see, it is negative comment after negative comment after negative comment. YIKES.


On a brighter note, Fstoppers Writer Noam Galai shared some screenshots with me of the backdoor look of Prime. As you can see, 500px actually does quiet a good job at making sure the correct documents are attached to each photo.  This in itself could prevent the market from being saturated with a surplus of each and every photo you could think of from everyone and anyone with a DSLR. The layout is clean and the questions are easily understood.



Overall, I am excited to see what Prime will do for 500px and the photography/art community as a whole. Sure, I think it is currently not aimed to help out the professionals looking to make a living but I think in due time we will see updates and changes depending on feedback from everyone once it gets going. This could be great for everyone.

If you are interested in more information about 500px Prime, visit their post! They also talk about how you can buy photos and join them so you can sell photos as well.

 What are your opinions on 500px Prime?

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Simon Whitehead's picture

Actually, the quote you dissect "don’t have the time, skills, or funds to market themselves and all the legalities" could be interpreted as "the time to market themselves, the skills to market themselves or the funds to market themselves" which may very well be true of a large proportion of professional photographers...

John White's picture

Nice view on that! Didn't take it that way but I can see how it can be interpreted so.

Dennis Manske's picture

I too thought that the dissection of the sentence was a bit indulgent. It didn't imply lack of skill as a photographer to me. The biggest issue that new grads of photography schools (including colleges) face is a lack of skill in dealing with the business part of photography. Teaching the the legal, the promoting, and marketing part of the business is often quite neglected. This is where I believe 500px is trying to capitalize. . . for good or bad.

Kurt Langer's picture

Hardcore! Only if they proposed 50%. All those 500px people would be more than happy instead of angry. They would get nearly every 500pixy people on board. Have better images to showcase to clients. And I believe could even make more money.

I suppose photography is a serious hobby to millions now. We are now in this digital world. Very easy for companies like 500px to do this now as its so easy to obtain a good high res clean, well manipulated digital file. Its all about supply & demand and how to create maximine revenue.

Another good article Fstoppers. Love receiving your daily emails in my mail box!

Mbutu Namubu's picture

The rates appear to be pretty high. But, it wouldn't be a surprise if aspiring photographers got upset about it. They tend to think that genre work and novelty is worth more than it really is...

Jeremy Bartlett's picture

My biggest issue with this is not so much about the painfully low cut photographers get, but the absolute lack of details provided to photographers in regards to the "exclusive license".

I've directly asked 500px on twitter and their support portal about exclusive markup rates and have yet to get a straight answer. In fact, the only answer I've gotten is along the lines of "rates start at $250 for non-exclusive licenses"

I'm also not very fond of the idea of lifetime exclusive licenses.

Alex Flint's picture

Hey John (et al)! Thank you for posting about Prime. I work at 500px, and love coming across a post. Just wanted to update you guys, that we've decided to offer the photographer 70% of the sale, rather than the 30% we initially announced. If you guys have more questions or feedback, let me know! Cheers.

Davandra Cribbie's picture

Hello. For 2 or 3 years, I had my work posted on 500px and had them available for sale. I also joined the 500px Prime. Never sold or licensed anything. What I did find however, was my work posted on Tumblr blogs (link was provided as to where the photo was taken from, but never asked to use) and even websites. These websites never purchased a license to use my work and no credit was ever given on my work they used. I have emailed all people that I have found were using my work and asked for the immediate removal of said work (except on Tumblr as my work has been re-blogged hundreds of times). Most complied. I have since removed ALL my work from 500px and refuse to allow people to steal my work from there. 500px is the only site where my work is being stolen from. If they had a feature to protect people from copying our work completely, then I may go back. Until then, adios amigo.