This is a new series where I will talk about the various photo sharing communities I participate in. Most of all, I will probably be whining about how stupid computer algorithms and conspiracies against my person prevent my genius as a photographer to be recognized, but I hope to also present some facts and information that may be of help if you are unsure of what photo community suits you best.
I will start by talking about one of the latest sites I joined: ViewBug. Which is also, in fact, my favorite. ViewBug is all about the contests. Every day new photo contests and challenges are added, such as "Pets in Black and White", "People in Landscapes" or "Cities and the Rule of Thirds". You can win cash prizes or camera equipment and other neat things.
Now, the chances of someone like me winning a contest is pretty slim. Each one has thousands and thousands of entries, and many of them are pretty mindblowing. But at least you have a hope that it could happen. Because unlike most of the other photo communities I've tried, with ViewBug it seems everybody has the same chance of faring well. On other sites - some of which I will review later - it seems to matter more how many followers you have than how good your pictures are.
On ViewBug, on the other hand, once the voting starts, it's all about who has shot the best picture. When you vote in a contest - and everybody can do that - you are presented with four random images and can vote for your favorite and your second favorite before you are presented with another set of four. This goes on for as long as you feel like it, because as mentioned above, each contest has way more entries than you'll ever want to see.
So, after the public voting is over, the photos with the most votes enter a final round where human expert judges have their say. Their favorite becomes the final winner, but a "people's choice" award is also given, one must assume for the picture with the most public votes.
All of this gives you the feeling that justice is, for the most part, served. Sure, I've been wondering about some of the winners and finalists and in some cases how badly I have fared myself with what I thought was a pretty decent picture, but overall, ViewBug blows away the competition when it comes to fairness. My pictures often end up in the best 10-50% segment, and that's probably what they deserve.
The notable exception to my usual performance was the very first picture I submitted to ViewBug. The picture of my wife's daughter Jen chilling at a waterfall in Alberta, Canada, entered the final in a contest called "People and Waterfalls". Now, entering a final on ViewBug is a pretty big deal. Of course, my picture didn't win, but just being in the final brought me more exposure than I'd received on any other photo site. Before I knew it, I had 200+ followers and tons of "peer awards".
And here's the problem with ViewBug: the 200+ followers don't really translate to much of anything. Every picture I have submitted since the waterfall one, has gone all but unnoticed in terms of likes and "awards". Where, on 500px (another site I will review in the future), I will, within the first two hours, receive 15-30 likes for any decent picture I submit, I'm lucky to get five views and three likes on ViewBug.
So I guess so far that makes me sort of a one-hit-wonder on ViewBug. No matter how many other pictures I submit, it's always "Waterfall Vegging", as I titled it, that gets the attention. But I haven't given up. Every time I upload a new picture, I'm sure that that's the one that will bring me fame and fortune.
There's a lot more to ViewBug, of course. They are masters at awarding you badges for everything from giving peer awards to getting certain amounts of followers. This along with interesting stats about your pictures makes ViewBug the champions at motivating their members.
My conclusion is that ViewBug is the best site if you are genuinely interested in having your pictures judged fairly and getting motivated. There's not much of the instant gratification that you find on other sites. But if you are patient and can wait several weeks - sometimes months - before contests and challenges are decided, you will be rewarded with a realistic idea of where you stand as a photographer. And get lots of inspiration as to what you need to work on in order to be a winner or a finalist.