By the lore of the web I have done everything wrong with this blog. The articles are too long. The articles are too personal and the articles don't have, as their raison d'être, the motive of constantly pushing product and making money. Sure, I put in ads for things at Amazon from time to time but I've long since given up really trying to push sales of my five books. And my attempts at "selling" are abysmal. Besides, the blueprint for financial success from affiliate advertising calls for three "gushy" articles about brand new gear for every one article about the actual art, or existence within the art of photography. It's sad to think that my core readers might not come here if I did follow the formula but they'd be replaced with legions of boring, linear thinkers like those that argue, ad nauseum, about aperture equivalence or shutter shock.
I think photography blogs have more or less run their course. For every blogger who really understands the gear, like Ming Thein or Michael Reichmann, there are legions of hobbyists who take duffle bags full of crappy images, review every camera that comes down the pike and fall madly in love with each of them. Every single one. Ming and Michael are leveraging their experience while almost everyone else is flexing their marketing muscles.
I am also commercially inept (as a blogger) because I have a soft spot for mutts and eccentrics. I love weird cameras like the Pentax K-01 precisely because it is a very functional camera wrapped in weirdness. My friends throng to the Olympus OMD but I am increasingly intrigued by the Panasonic GH3, a truly eccentric entry in the camera race.
What's all this leading to? Just a New Year's resolution. To wit: I'll continue to write about whatever interests me, on my own schedule and people are welcome along for the ride. If I want to show images of dusty road barriers and construction fences I probably have some reason for doing so that my therapists and I haven't quite figured out yet. Maybe we never will.
My promise to whatever readers remain is that I will be not only factually honest but also emotionally honest in both the information and my presentation. I won't be gushing about stuff I'm lukewarm about just to churn sales numbers and I won't present myself as the most famous and profitable photographer in the world when the real truth is that I'm located (both physically and economically) in a second tier, though very popular, market and my clients are representative of that regional mindset and geographic sales territory and not huge, international consumer products markets. Yeah, we do a lot of medical practice, high tech and manufacturing photography. I'm not a fashion photographer I'm a journeyman commercial guy who might be shooting routers one day and former presidents mugging with chubby executives the next. With lots of infrastructure stuff in between.
I'm not an expert in video but I'm learning it quickly and publicly and reporting my results directly back to the blog. Not because I think the results are glorious but because they represent what I'm doing and getting paid for in the moment. Now. Not theory. Practice.
When I show a portrait I'm not showing off I'm showing what. The portraits aren't necessarily put up for critique or praise as much as they are for an illustration of what I'm thinking right now. How I want to make images right now.
I'm like everyone else out in the real world that I know. I have a mortgage. I put money in a retirement account and a college account. I pay property taxes (extremely high in Texas since we have no income tax....) and I work in a market that's constantly changing and transitioning. The blog is just a hobby. A lark. A way to reach out beyond my geographic constraints and push ideas out to a wider world and, in return, hear back from people for whom my information resonates.
I may not answer comments instantaneously. There's no staff for that. My kid's track meet takes scheduling precedence over someone's complaint about my use of a technical term or someone's witty riposte. My morning swim practice has priority over the world's need to know how I really feel, deep down, about the latest kit lens for a camera system I don't even own...
Looks like beautifully lit bookends.
Looks like a guitar to me.
And then the blogs started to change. Most of the ones I've mentioned have remained mostly true to their core messaging but they've learned through experience to finesse the financial end. But hot on the heels of their real or imagined success have come legions and legions of mercantile bloggers. Guys who get it on the retail end. Write about the Nikon D4. Paper the site with ads, links and not so subtle pokes in the ribs. Write about the Powershot Primo Deathstar, gush and sell. Link, link, link.
Gone for most of those sites is the time honored ratio of merchandise to actual thought. No more three to one. Not even one to one. Just one, one, one.
And here's the reality: DXO runs the real numbers about sensors. I have no delusion that they are inaccurate, I just think the numbers don't matter that much anymore. DPReview does a great job testing all the feature sets and letting us know what's working and what's not. Several technical lens review sites run the lenses they are interested in through a series of objective, machine measured tests and they let us know what the numbers tell them. And the legion of mercantile bloggers all run with the same borrowed facts. They glean the buzz from the sites that matter and extrapolate.
Most reviewers don't spend much time with a camera or lens or camera and lens. They can't. The marketers need their samples to be like currency and keep moving through the system. Two weeks. Maybe. And in the two weeks many still have to hold down their day jobs, pick up their kids from school, fight the weather and find time to shoot, process, hold, fondle and get to know a new camera with new menus and new features. Really? Two weeks? I think it takes longer than that just to feel comfortable with Olympus or Sony Nex menus....
So they use the same metrics and since the web has become the Universe's biggest echo chamber the mercantile bloggers all grasp for and "interpret" the same factoids. A camera gets tagged as the resolution hero and nothing can bring it down. Not a super noisy shutter, indifferent-to-lousy focusing and a distinct desert of lenses. Once the camera is collectively anointed it is universally praised in spite of its flaws. And once an eccentric camera is tagged as out of the mainstream it's effectively sidelined by popular consensus. It's all about aggregation at a certain point. The aggravation of aggregation.
I love the reviewers (and I am guilty from time to time) who go on and on about the feel in hand of such and such camera. The location of the buttons. The way the plastic feels under their exquisitely sensitive hands. The weight and balance. As if everyone had the same sized hands (glove makers take note) and the same pre-training from other, previous cameras, as to where buttons and switches "should" be....
In the perfect world we'd figure out what cameras fit our needs and our budgets and we'd go into a store and try out all the ones inside our intersecting Venn Diagram of choices and we'd scroll through the menus and then buy the model that feels right to YOU. Not to Steve or Kirk or Hans. To YOU. And then you'd ignore all the camera reviews until years later when your camera finally breaks and costs too much to repair...
I've talked about the current decline of camera sales in north America. I've talked about the reasons for a decline. I'm now predicting a decline in blog interest. Why? As so many (even gifted) hobbyists and practitioners have moved on to cellphones as their implements of visual expression their needs and tastes have changed. A man or woman happy to snap and share on a cellphone probably isn't doing photography commercially and the only reviews (into the future) that might interest them would be about new phones with new cameras and new map apps and new transactional features.
Just as camera sales have dropped something like 40% I speculate that blogs will experience a similar decline. It will be like musical chairs and the remaining gear buyers will continue to read every blog about the new Turboflex and then, almost randomly, click through to the sale. There will be fewer sales, overall to make. Fewer clicks to share. And some bloggers will be leaning a little more heavily on the ole day job. In the end, as