Blogs, camera reviews and monetization

Olympus Stylus 1 Comparison

There’s a dirty little secret with photography blogs — it’s the equipment reviews that pulls in the views.

You might notice that some of the popular blogs shift more and more to reviews. I’m not immune to these realities either, though I do actively try to resist. I guess it’s human nature to do more of what you are rewarded for. I started thinking of camera reviews because of a post I saw over at mingthein.com, an excellent blog by the way, and one that I follow consistently.

Ming basically writes in his post, A new way to look at reviews, that he is thinking of a palatable way to monetize his camera reviews and by extension his entire blog. Perfectly understandable. And as Ming clearly articulates, it’s a lot of work doing camera reviews and with not much upside, except if lucky, a larger viewership. You see, Mr. Thein is a professional photographer and every minute he spends on his blog is time taken away from other revenue generating opportunities.

It’s a tough world out there, especially for photographers and even successful photo bloggers. It makes sense, if you think about it. Look at the comments on Ming’s post. People acknowledge that he does great reviews but they also seem reluctant to pay for them. It’s certainly hard to fight a growing culture of free. These same forces are killing newspapers and magazines. Heck, this is the same mentality that is killing stock photography as well as the entire recorded music industry. So it’s not shocking, I suppose, that smaller fish down the food chain are also savaged by these strong currents.

Rollei 35 and Fujifilm X100S

So where do I fit in? Well, I’m lucky, I don’t make a living as a photographer or as a blogger. I can continue to do this as long as the sum of the value I derive from this activity outweighs all the negatives — and why I spend so much time on this blog is a topic for another post. But simply stated, it’s a major source of creativity for me, at least for now.

I am unabashedly an amateur photographer, and a passionate one, as you can hopefully tell. While I don’t have the authority of a professional or have 30 years of industry experience on my resume, I think I bring a unique point of view. While a 50-year-old talking about using film seriously for the first time, might sound laughable to the experienced, it’s a genuine experience. One that some of you out there might find interesting.

Am I going to do more camera reviews? Sure, once in a while. But it’s a lot of work and there are unintended negatives. I rather be known for good, even great photography. I fear though, at least from what I can tell from my circle of Austin friends, that I’m merely the blogger that does mirrorless camera reviews. That’s certainly not what I live for and that certainly don’t feed the creative muse. I suspect Ming, in his own professional way, feels the same. Camera reviews, monetized or not, is not the end goal, perhaps with the exception of places like dpreview.com. And how terrible is that? Look, dpreview is a great site and serves a useful purpose but I feel sorry for the folks having to do those camera tests.

Finally, as I’m talking about monetization, I’ll throw in a shameless pitch for my site. I have no plans to add advertising or charge for my reviews but if you find my stories and experiences helpful or entertaining, please considering using my sponsored links. I have that blue box with links to Amazon, B&H Photo and Precision Camera below most of my posts. If you are planning to buy anything from these sites, please click on the relevant link first. You get the same price and I get a small referral fee. You don’t even have to buy camera equipment. Want something from Amazon? Click on my Amazon link first. It’s true that I don’t need to feed my family with this blog, however, your vote with dollars certainly means a lot.


Please support this blog by clicking on my Amazon Link before buying anything.

9 thoughts on “Blogs, camera reviews and monetization

  1. Yes, I read reviews (including yours, or MT) and enjoy doing it. Just like as a teenager (in the 80’s) I would read car magazines reviewing the latest Ferrari model (which no intention or even hope to buy one one day), I nowadays read reviews about the latest Nikon FF or latest Leica monochrome, etc. Do I have any intention to buy one of those? Absolutely not. Which means that I probably would not be willing to pay for those reviews.

    1. Laurent, thank you for continuing to visit my site. Yes, in a way blogs and other websites have become the magazines of today. Yes, there are a lot of “aspirational” reviews to be sure. Of course, if you look at the stuff I actually use, most of it is not too expensive. But surely, I admit, I have way too many cameras.

      Please enjoy my free reviews and other photography oriented stories. Let other know if you think they might be interested.

      1. I usually enjoy your reviews, particularly the ones that are out of the beaten path (a film camera, or a 8 years old DSLR, or a traveling P&S), rather than the latest iteration of the Nikon FF, because they give a broader perspective on what is available to the average (or even, in my case, less than average) amateur photographers.

        Is there any reason why you don’t use the tag “review” for your blog posts?

  2. “I’m merely the blogger that does mirrorless camera reviews.” I think a lot of people value your opinion on gear but I don’t think that’s the only reason they come to your blog. You share a lot of great images and experiences. That’s what I’m most interested in. I especially love when you share your travel images because I don’t get away much and I enjoy the vicarious experience through your skilled photography. In all honesty I tend to skip over most gear focused posts on all blogs lately. That’s just where I’m at personally. I’ve found a set of tools that I find adequate for pursuing my photography and just don’t real care to pursue anything else at the moment. Marketing people will always try to tempt us with a better hammer though. 🙂

    While it isn’t my thing right now, there isn’t anything wrong with having a love of the tools. From my conversations with you I know you love tinkering with gear as much as you like capturing images. Nothing wrong with sharing that side of you too. If it puts some money in your pocket to buy more toys, so much the better. You are indeed very fortunate to have a day job you enjoy that enables you to do the things you love in your spare time. My advice to you is to blog about whatever brings you the most pleasure and satisfaction. The important thing is to be genuine about whatever you write about. You’re not on a payroll to produce your blog so don’t worry about writing to please the fickle masses. Write for you.

    1. Very wise advice, Mike and thank you for your comments. I’ll try to include more travel photography along with my other photography oriented stories. I am moving away from just reviews since ultimately that’s not what truly interests me. I have been talking a lot more about film but that’s, obviously, not talking about the latest gear. Just stuff that I find interesting as a photographic amateur.

      These are all “first world problems” to be sure. I’m just a guy having fun shooting pictures an talking about them. I am very lucky that I can do so. Thank you and to all that come by and visit.

  3. There was a wonderful cartoon in the New Yorker recently in which an older man is admonishing a young boy:
    “As you go through life, take time to monetize the roses.”

    I think you’ve achieved a better balance.

  4. Great blog post, Andy. A lot to think about.

    I believe there’s a place on the web for amateur photographers and amateur bloggers. I enjoy seeing a wide variety of content and opinion from people hopefully without any conflict of interest.

    And I also enjoy writing a blog as a creative outlet. I don’t make any money whatsoever from my blog – I write it because I enjoy it. If you’re not in it for money then you need to be doing it for yourself.

    1. edrosack, thank you for your visit. I do admit in the past that I was less open about my amateur status. I didn’t pass myself off as a professional by any means but over the years I’ve learned that it is OK to be honest about who you are. I now take pride that I am an amateur photographer.

      However, it doesn’t mean that my work and thoughts don’t have value. I charge good money for my photos. And, while it takes a bit more salesmanship, I believe that there is value to my blog. I hope others see it that way and potentially, through affiliate sales, vote with their dollars.

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