Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography


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.

         AmazonB&H PhotoPrecision

Refining my portable blogging environment

iPad Mini in coach - At 30,000 feet

iPad Mini in coach – At 30,000 feet

On the ongoing quest to lighten my technology load, I’ve experimented with different technologies. Camera wise, you know I’ve embraced mirrorless cameras. My main travel cameras are the Olympus Pens which together with the smaller lenses, make it much lighter than DSLRs. But my post processing and blogging platform weights a lot too.

On my Cancun trip, I experimented with the iPad Mini as my post processing machine. I also did some rudimentary blogging too. While it’s possible, I found some deficiencies that I’m working to reduce.

The Maxell Airstash works great but I wanted to speed up the download process. I got the iPad lightning SD Card reader which improved speeds about 65%.  It takes about 3 seconds instead of 8 seconds to download to the iPad.

I also got a bluetooth keyboard that improved the typing experience tremendously. The built-in touch keyboard works great for little bits of text but for longer blog posts, a physical keyboard is the way to go. And even if this keyboard is small (it doubles as a screen cover) it works better than expected.

The Logitech keyboard also makes selecting and copy and pasting text a whole lot easier — which was one of the more frustrating parts of linking to my photographs.

So I sit here in the now familiar cramped coach class, writing blog entries.  You can see how small the setup is. The passenger in front can fully recline and I can type unimpeded.  I’ve also used this setup in the car (as a passenger) and at restaurants. It’s becoming a really useful writing platform.

I now use Evernote to write my posts. This free cloud based system automatically syncs my documents across all my devices, my Mac, the iPhone and iPad. I can start writing on one and continue on another.

A great window view - at 30,000 feet

A great window view – at 30,000 feet

I’m marveling at technology as I enjoy a great window view at 30,000 feet. I guess with a WiFi enabled plane, I can even post directly from here. The creative blogging has made the time pass quickly. The 3 hour flight is nearly over as I fly into Washington DC. I’m out-of-town for several days. I brought my Olympus E-PM2 with the 14mm f2.5 + wide-angle and Canon G15 on this trip. I’m travelling really light.

         AmazonB&H PhotoAdorama
Photographs taken with a Canon G15 and post processed on an iPad Mini with iPhoto.

We Need Our Audiences

Thank you everyone for your wonderful feedback.

After I wrote my post about my third anniversary, I was feeling a bit down, bordering on ennui (I always wanted to use this word in a post).

While creating the 300+ posts and thousands of photos are no small task, I felt inadequate next to the super bloggers that I know. Trey Ratcliff of HDR fame, who I’ve met on numerous occasions, talks about having 10 million followers and my friend Kirk Tuck gets 1 million visits per month. I’m decidedly in the skinny part of the long tail of bloggers. I know that as an artist, I should be satisfied if I meet my own expectations — that I shouldn’t compare myself to others. But I do.

I think I make solid images. Sometimes, I’m even satisfied. Then I look at the spectacular images over at 500px. What a mistake.

Luckily I came across this posting over at The Online Photographer by Ctein. We Need Our Audiences, is the perfect posting timed impeccably. Yup, I needed that. I feel better. For anyone with creative angst, I recommend reading that post.

What also helped? Reading your comments and hearing from my audience. I also processed a photograph that I took last week in San Jose that looks pretty good. I’ll post that soon.

Happy 2nd Birthday, mostlyfotos

Birthday Cupcake, mostlyfotos 2nd Anniversary - Austin, Texas

Birthday Cupcake, mostlyfotos 2nd Anniversary – Austin, Texas

Yesterday, February 8th, 2013 marks the 2nd anniversary of my other blog, my one-photo-per-day blog called mostlyfotos. As a two year old, my blog has entered the toddler stage. This description is apt since, like a toddler, I feel like I’m really getting the hang of this thing and then I stumble.

I’m generally satisfied with the photographs that I’ve posted. I hope in some way, each picture has merit either artistically or shows a place of interest. The good news is that I have loads of photographs that I have yet to publish. Even if I stop shooting, my catalogue of available images will last a year or more. Since I do continue to take photographs like a mad man, I end up generating images quicker than I can post.

On the downside, the side that I’ve stumbled, is my failure to grow a larger audience. It’s really tough to carve out a presence on the internet and I’ve only had modest success. Often times, I’m at the whim of Google and when they change their search algorithm, my audience changes and usually for the worse.

mostlyfotos runs on the Blogger platform, unlike this one that runs on WordPress. On Blogger the statistics are not quite as good but I suspect my audience there is different from my loyal, core audience on this blog. It’s hard to tell especially since I don’t have commenting turned on for mostlyfotos — I want the keep the pages there clutter free as possible. If you are reader here and visit mostlyfotos on a regular basis, please let me know. I’m just curious, I guess.

For now, I plan to keep both blogs active. I feel the discipline of posting a photograph a day pushes me to shoot on a regular basis. I strongly believe that, like any craft, continuous practice is key. I also believe that mostlyfotos gives me credibility, in one sense. Sure, anyone can put up a limited portfolio of their best photographs, I’ve added one myself this year. But when you post 730 photographs over two years, you really get a feel for the photographer. Not all the photographs are brilliant, you many not even like them but you do know that I shoot often. For that reason, when I give equipment recommendations here, you know that I’m not just an equipment enthusiast that makes test shots of brick walls. I use my gear often and in real world conditions.

Thank you for continuing to visit this blog and mostlyfotos. It is such a privilege and in fact an indulgence to share my photographs with you. I hope I have helped you in some way, whether it is a piece of advice, a glimpse into another world or as a slight distraction from your busy day.

A big thanks to Marilyn

Marilyn Armstrong over at Serendipity blog nominated me for the blog of the year award. Best I can tell, this isn’t any official endorsement from some blog committee — it’s a personal honor given by individuals — friends — from within the community. And for this, I am very grateful.

Much of what makes the web special are still the small peer-to-peer connections. Like any growing system, the big guys continue to become bigger and threaten to monopolize the most scarce resource we have — time. But I feel lucky that almost anyone these days can publish their thoughts to a world-wide audience. The many who blog collectively add richness and color to a place that otherwise may be dominated by corporate interests and low-grade spammy filler.

Part of me feels guilty for not being more active within the blogging community. Of course I can make excuses about being busy, we all are. Yes, the two blogs and the photography take up much of my free time. Kind of crazy but perhaps it is an outlet. A creative outlet arranging photons and words that balances my increasingly analytical world.

I do, however, need to visit and comment on more blogs. At least things are trending that way. I recently realized that, as well as not watching TV, I hardly ever go to main stream media websites. Blogs from people who I trust and respect are now my source of knowledge and entertainment.

While there is some level of self-satisfaction in creating a tiny, personal corner on the internet, it’s aways thrilling to get feedback from one’s audience. Marilyn has some very kind and encouraging words and I am truly grateful.

Thank you.


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