Tell us a little bit about who you are, your background in photography, etc.
My name is Evgeny Tchebotarev, and I’m co-founder and chief photography officer at 500px, a photo-sharing platform that helps photographers showcase and sell their works. I have degree in business and finance, but I’ve been fond of photography from an early age, probably influenced by my grandpa, who used to shoot a lot after he got back from WWII, and got my first “real” camera in 2002.
Your collection of photography is impressive, what is your favorite personal image of the moment?
Thank you! I don’t think I’m ever satisfied with what I do — maybe for a day, but after I’m always thinking how can I do better, how can I improve. So as of today, those are probably photos from Iceland, from which I just came back from.
Why did you decide to start 500px?
Since the time I got the camera in 2002, I wanted to get better, so I was looking for an outlet to share my works and get criticism that would allow me to grow as a creative. So in 2004, I created a community on LiveJournal platform and invited my friends to share their photos. I called it “500px”, because back then 500px was a perfect width for a photo size (dominant screens resolution at the time was 800x600).
Who are the photographers that make up the 500px community?
This is a very global community. With 6 million members, we have members in every country in the world — even ones not officially recognized by UN. That’s crazy! Most photographers are hobbyists — they have a day job, but that doesn’t stop them from globetrotting the world and taking breathtaking photos.
What do they come to your community seeking? Education, camaraderie, inspiration? Please talk a bit about that.
The biggest benefit that 500px offers to everyone right away is ability to show your photos to the whole world — you are likely to get more exposure and more views than anywhere else in the world, due to our algorithms and reach. Another great benefit is to be able to license your photos with the most favourable terms in the industry, making some money from your hobby, which is very important to a lot of photographers I met over the years.
Another thing that we are trying to actively pursue is education — our blog ISO (iso.500px.com) is publishing insightful tutorials, stories, tips and so on, helping photographers improve their skills. We are keen to add a lot of value to our community by publishing only original and rich content, and we stay away from link-bait empty articles and re-blogs.
Do you see mentoring relationships form between experienced and new photographers, and do you have programs in place to help foster this?
Glad that you asked. Last November we started a highly successful program of guest editors choice. We invite recognized and accomplished members of our community to influence the future of photography by selecting unusual, unique and fresh new photos to Editors’ Choice. Editors’ Choice is highly influential place, so if you photos gets picked there, you might see hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of new followers. Some got their start there, going from being a hobbyist to a professional from an Editors’ Choice pick.
What do you see from your community that are some of the common themes of struggle for photographers these days?
It’s actually something we are trying to help them solve everyday. I think in the early 2000’s a few people, who considered photography their hobby thought about making money through it. But humans are extremely visual species, so we strive on visuals, on photos. Photographers buy expensive equipment, go to extreme length to take a perfect shot, spend money on travel, tickets, storage, etc., while constantly endangering their cameras, and just want to be compensated — at least for some of the costs. The whole team at 500px is working to help them do that.
Where do your community members draw inspiration from?
I think the inspiration is all around us — it’s other photographers, it’s everyday objects surrounding us, it’s stories we read… But for me personally, I drew my inspiration from 500px. A year ago I started noticing absolutely stunning photos from Patagonia, so I worked out to visit it with my friend. Then I started seeing breathtaking photos from Iceland, and I had to put that cold country on top of my list, and a half a year later, I visited it for the first time.
How do you want to see the 500px community grow and change over the next 5 years?
Frankly, I think we just scratched the surface. We are thinking, what will the community be like for the next 60 million members? What do we have to change to invite those people and let them discover and explore 500px? So, we are working on making it more open, more inviting, easier to use, and making a huge push to mobile, of course.
Ten years ago we didn’t have iPhones, always-on approach, no cellular data… all this is already so familiar to all of us. I think in just 5 years everyone and everything will be connected — sharing will be automated, so you’ll be getting a live feed of everyone’s lives at almost every moment in time. It’s exciting and scary at the same time!
As a bonus question, you mentioned owning a Lensbaby, what prompted you to purchase and use a Lensbaby?
I purchased Lensbaby 3G many years ago. I have to admit that I don’t use it too often, but I recently did a whole shoot with only two lenses — a Russian-made Helios 40-2 85mm f/1.5 and Lensbaby 3G, and I haven’t had so much fun in a while!