Candid thoughts on the online photography ecosystem

Let’s start off with a bit of a definition: the ecosystem covers all of the photography-centric bloggers, reviewers, pro photographers with blogs, corporatized review sites, e-commerce sites that might have some reviews, rumor mills, niche manufacturers of little photo-related widgets, gadget websites that might cover photographic equipment, testing houses, subscription review sites, point-and-click review factories, brand forums, community forums, photo sharing and hosting sites, facebook pages for photographers, columnists, contributors and so on and so forth – anything that’s photography-related, offering an opinion, and online.

This post is going to potentially offend a lot of people, but in the interests of continuing transparency and trust, I feel it is necessary to fully clarify my position.

There seems to be a bit of schism that’s taken place over the last couple of years, as the photography industry has both matured and moved truly into the digital age: correction, the primary consumer market of the photography industry has moved into the digital age. By that, I mean that increasing numbers of camera buyers are actually spending the time reading and then relying on the opinions of a relatively small (but growing) group of reviewers and websites. What I basically mean, is that photography online is becoming very much like either the automotive industry or the hi-fi industry. (I can understand why it’s so important to seek opinions in the auto industry – a car is a large, long-term purchase and you’ll probably only own one or at most two at a time; curiously photographers tend to own dozens of pieces of gear, whose combined purchase price probably exceeds their cars.)

Everybody and their dog (and their dog’s trainer and groomer) have an opinion, and many become self-proclaimed experts overnight.

It’s now both easier and harder than ever to check credibility: the louder a person shouts – and there are some bloggers who shout very loud about nothing much, or worse, illogical nonsense – the more weight an opinion seems to be given. This ‘expert opinion’ becomes repeated, quoted, and taken as gospel – all when the writer probably hasn’t done a shred of research, or worse, said something as a throwaway comment. People who in the real world, are generally sensible and making considered, planned decisions, are now following the town crier with their wallets open and thousands of dollars in their hands. Worse still, major camera makers are encouraging this by supporting the people with the loudest voice – not necessarily the most factual credibility. Where has common sense gone?

Perhaps it’s a case of information overload; the more text we have to read, the less we want to spend time looking for it, and so the first item on Google (or maybe the second, too, if we don’t have any meetings lined up) is all we read. The writers get more and more popular, and it’s a self-destructive cycle. The problem for the camera makers is that in the short term, people will follow the loudest voice. Obviously, this helps to sell a lot of cameras, which is what the companies want. In the longer term, as consumers get more educated, they’ll discover the louder voices are often incorrect, which discredits the previously ‘expert’ loud sources – and individuals are less inclined to trust future claims, which will have a negative impact on sales. It seems that feast now, famine later isn’t a problem for most executives because this year’s bonus assessment is coming up next month, and somebody else will be the one in the middle of the future famine.

As a consumer, you’re spending a not inconsiderable sum of your hard-earned money on something. Make sure that you know yourself, and what you’re going to use it for, before trusting the opinion of somebody who’s never used the item in question for your intended purpose. Most importantly: give weight to the review according to the output, i.e. the images. If a reviewer writes badly but is able to produce stunning images, then chances are they have enough knowledge that their opinion is meaningful. Do not trust reviews with mediocre (or worse, no) images – this is an obvious sign that the reviewer has no clue what they’re doing, and probably doesn’t even know what the equipment is for.

As a manufacturer, there’s a natural inclination to support those who are blindly loyal to promoting your product, especially if it’s at the expense of other companies. Wake up: if you can’t see that using many products gives a reviewer if anything even more credibility, then you might run the risk of being caught with your pants down when your customers (or somebody else with an even louder voice) says something to the contrary. A case of the Emperor’s New Clothes you do not want.

Forums full of equipment-masturbating fanboys are probably the worst hotbed of this kind of activity: people with relatively little knowledge go to seek the company of other people with similarly little knowledge, to try and reinforce the validity of their purchases – sometimes at the expense of common civility, or just being openly hostile to any challengers. Wake up: there is no absolute right or wrong piece of gear, the very reason that there’s a variety is because there’s no such thing as one size fits all. I don’t need my choices to be validated by somebody else to be able to take a good picture – that’s stupid.

One related trend that’s popped up and taken to the fore in the last year or so are the rumor sites: they serve an underlying malcontent insecurity amongst hobbyists who prefer to spend money on equipment in the mistaken belief that it will solve all of their problems and make them instantly better photographers. Worse still, titanically huge noises are made when the rumors aren’t as expected, and people forget that a) most rumors are intentionally leaked by manufacturers; b) nothing that might be released tomorrow will change your skill level or ability today; c) they’re rumors!!

What I really cannot understand is how people – and a lot of popular ‘reviewers’ fall into this category – can pass opinion on something that neither they nor anybody else have physically handled or used, and then treat this as gospel. Once again, the problem is that if something is repeated enough, and a sufficient number of people believe it, it becomes true.

But I’m probably preaching to the choir here: I don’t think the majority of my readers are under the illusion that practice and skill come second to equipment.

And that brings me to the crux of the matter: yes, cameras are now more than sufficiently prolific to be considered consumer goods (and with similarly short life cycles) – but ultimately, the pursuit of photography is about the production of images, not the collection of gear. There is nothing wrong with collecting cameras for the sake of collecting cameras*, or because you enjoy the designs, or for whatever other reason – just don’t confuse it with photography. It annoys me to no end when I’m challenged or criticised by people online, often hiding behind the anonymity of an ambiguous username on a forum, on something I’ve written that perhaps offends them because they purchased something I might have deemed to be slightly inferior to something else, or who insists on arguing a point that makes absolutely no difference in the real world. It is clear that these discussions are pointless, because a) you’re never going to convince a fanatic, but they can definitely waste a lot of your time; b) more often than not, they either haven’t posted a single image anywhere, or certainly none worthy of note: these are not photographers, they’re equipment fetishists.

*I highly doubt that anything mass produced and reviewed by every popular site on the internet is ever going to be collectible; there will simply be too many of them out there to appreciate in value – simple economics.

With that, I want to make some things clear about the principles under which I have so far and will continue to operate this site:

I am a photographer first, a writer second, and an equipment reviewer a distant third.
Everything I write about, I do so because it’s either interesting to me, or because I plan to (or already) use it in my professional or personal work. Time is far too limited for me to review things to promote them for manufacturers (several accusations) or bother testing extensively and reviewing a bad product. That is pointless, especially when I have to spend my own money to buy it!

My methodology is consistent.
I am a scientist by training, and know that a comparison with no baseline or repeatability or consistency in methodology is meaningless. I also know when the results are so close that the differences are within the margin of probable error, it’s impossible to call one superior over another.

If something seems off or unexpected, I double and triple check my results.
If there is a question in the results due to the possibility of sample variation, I will test enough samples to rule this out. The best example of this is the D800 and its focusing issues: I was accused of a) covering up the issue (!!) and b) crying wolf initially. I tested five bodies with a good spread of serial numbers variety of lenses; every single combination exhibited the problem. We can therefore conclude that there is a problem. If it had only been one out of the five, it would most likely be an individual sample defect.

I won’t ever post unedited JPEGs or similar images.
This is like making a judgement on a restaurant by eating half-cooked food. It isn’t giving the equipment a fair chance against other equipment, nor does it take into account the potential – and as a photographer, that’s what I want to have some concrete idea of. Would I buy a camera with crappy JPEGs but incredible RAW files? Of course, because I don’t shoot JPEG for the reason that I’m not maximizing the potential of my equipment.

I don’t do quantitative testing or pixel-peeping.
There are other sites that do this if you’re so inclined; however, sensor and camera technology has long past the point of sufficiency for the vast majority of uses, and even for those of us who make a living from images, our clients haven’t said anything about image quality for some time now (assuming of course you’re maximizing the potential of your camera). The fact that I need 3x higher a shutter speed to handhold adequately, or the fact that I can’t reach several of the major controls without contortion is far more important to me than the fact that the signal-to-noise ratio might be 5% better than its predecessor. One affects the way I work in practice, the other doesn’t.

I try to keep things relative.
In a previous life, I served as Editor and Contributing Editor to a photography magazine for over five years; in this time, I reviewed and used just about every major piece of equipment made; this totals some 300+ reviews. Using a variety of equipment both allows me to pick the best tool for the job, as well as have a good basis for comparison for one piece of gear against another. It’s of course impossible to use everything, but it’s also important to use enough that you can’t get called out for a glaring error.

I am not allied to any brand, though I work with many of them.
The brands I work with are fully accepting of the fact that I do so with no exclusive interest, and because I feel their product is the best for whatever I happen to want to do with it. I have full editorial freedom over what I write. And yes, there are brands and companies (I think you can figure out which ones by elimination) that I do not work with because they insist on censoring everything written first. That completely defeats the point of having an independent review, not to mention undermining everybody’s credibility. Saying something is good when it really is good is fine; it’s when people say something is good when it clearly isn’t that problems of objectivity arise. You won’t see me saying much (if anything at all) bad about most things, because it if’s bad, I won’t waste my time using it, or potentially affect my relationship with the brands by posting something negative that might be later constituted as inflammatory.

If I don’t know something, I’ll admit it.
There are aspects of photography where my knowledge is next to zero – sport, videography etc – and I’ll be the first to admit that. I’ll also not pass opinions on something that I have no knowledge of, or no ability to support through fact or experience.

My opinion is subjective, but I do try to be as objective as possible.
The outcome of any qualitative assessment is open to interpretation; photography very much qualifies as subjective in this regard. It is impossible to completely remove any interpreter bias, even moreso when it comes to the aesthetic considerations of an image – yet this is the area in which I receive the least (almost zero) discussion and challenge, by a long margin. I’ve always strongly encouraged my students and readers to seek a second opinion and not make a choice solely based on what I say; what works for me may not work for you, and what I like may differ from what you like. Seeking the opinions of multiple credible sources helps you to build up a objective, balanced picture – and hopefully make a better decision.

The primary focus of this site remains the creation of images.
From day one, this site has been about the pictures, and the creation of images. Everything else is a tool, technique or enabler, nothing more. It is information for the reader to absorb, and in turn allow themselves to be guided or influenced (or not) as they choose in their photographic journey. I initially didn’t want to review equipment, but eventually saw that it was a necessary part of photography – because so much of the way we see and create is inextricably linked to the tools we use, it is important to have an objective view on these tools from the point of view of a person whose primary focus was images. Don’t get me wrong: I like a good camera or lens as much as the next person (probably more so because I’ve used enough crap to be able to tell the difference) – I just don’t and will never let it be the dominating factor.

One final point: above all else, I value integrity and honesty – it takes a long time and several lucky breaks to build up a solid readership; but only one or two mistakes to erase your credibility. The danger comes when the commercial value of being dishonest is greater than the commercial value of being honest; this site remains a labor of love and a platform for me to share my knowledge with the photography community, and is nowhere close to being my primary source of income. (I think in over the last three months I’ve made a grand total of $400 or so from referral fees; nice pocket money, but not even close to being enough for a decent lens.) This allows me to maintain a level of objectivity that is impossible for pretty much everybody else – and I intend to keep it this way. MT

One final reminder for Malaysians: Today is the last day to enter the Maybank Photography Awards. Lots of great prizes up for grabs – and yes, I’m judging. :)

____________

Visit our Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including Photoshop Workflow DVDs and customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!

appstorebadge

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. This post just makes me want to read all of your writing even more. Thanks for the honesty and integrity.

  2. Fantastic post. You are one of the few photo bloggers out there that has the images to back up his words. I appreciate the honesty and transparency you have with your reviews, and love the fact that your writing doesn’t stem from the motivation of profiting off the articles, but from your willingness to share with others. Cheers.

  3. thanks for all the time and effort. i’ve learned much and appeeciate you sharing your thoughts and insights into a vast and complicated topic.

  4. Thank you. It is very simple. If you know about photography and you look at your images and you can replicate them then it is in your right to crit. Till you cannot achieve your quality i think we fall under the student and learn from the master category. This does not take away the right to ask or give different opinion based on hopefully facts to make a point.I have learn t lots from you and still will surely for long time. I do appreciate your knowledge and sharing .

    Dave Strydom

  5. Excellent!!

  6. Excellent! I am so sick of the “gotta have it” syndrome and all of the affiliate links that go along with the posts. As far as testing a camera for possible use in paid work, no client ever asked me to shoot a brickwall, a garage door, or a paper test chart.

    I think you may have missed one point – some reviews are being faked. Even if they lie about one thing, they’re still lying. This post, while a little juvenile, may be of minor interest

    http://www.petapixel.com/2012/10/23/marketing-fail-a-demo-of-af-speed-with-the-lens-set-to-mf/

    Thanks for you great article here

    • I’m aware of it but didn’t want to make accusations without proof or point fingers. That would be unprofessional :) (Though while we’re at it, there are plenty of ‘reviews’ that are also a copy-paste of previous articles or a regurgitation of the spec sheet.) Still – I’m at a loss to explain the enormous amount of traffic these people enjoy.

  7. Hear, hear. This should be a sticky on all your equipment reviews.

  8. Long before I knew your blog existed, I accidently came across your images on Flickr when I was searching for portraits taken with the Leica X1. The statement in your Flickr profile should be required reading for every photographer. There are plenty of websites that inform, but few that truly inspire — yours does both.

  9. When getting my first Nikon, I feel into such trap and was reading a lot of posts from Mr. Ken Rockwell. To me he is an excellent example of a loud voice. However, the more you read, the more you notice inconsistencies and you eventually see a pattern in the reviews. Everything is amazing and comes with links in the post. It makes me angry to see that other people fall into his trap. Even thought he may have some points, his writing is geared towards getting as much referral clicks as possible not providing any kind of educational source.

    That being said, I really do enjoy reading your blog, Ming. Unlike most sites out there, you have the images that prove your expertise and I feel I started paying more attention to composition after following your posts for some time.

    • Ken does actually make some valid points, but he doesn’t explain them very well. And yes, the reviews are all copy-paste templates with the volume sellers being particularly excellent and loaded with convenient affiliate links. I’m guilty of using those links too, but so far they’ve gotten me all of about $300 – hardly near the same volumes the other bloggers are living comfortably off.

      The philosophical and teaching essays – which are the bulk of this site, and in my mind, the purpose for its existence – are completely useless at generating referral income. And you’ll probably have noticed, I advocate using what you’ve got and sufficiency…

      • Rainer Hain says:

        Being new to digital after 30 years of analog and seeking for some gear reviews I came to Ken Rockwells site first because his reviews are what’s coming up when you google for any old Nikon lense… I confess I even followed one of his advice’s and bought an 28-80 3.3 – 5.6 plastic lense for 50 bucks ;) Well, not a huge loss and the lense is not that bad after all but certainly not the “ridiculously well” performer he suggested it is….

        I also confess I’ve read his reviews before I actually looked at his gallery. When I finally saw his portfolio, uhm, well…. There is not a single picture I even like, let alone admire for composition, technical perfection or postprocessing. His pictures look pretty much exactely like what I was doing as a kid with a Minolta X700 and a 50 1.7 30 years ago. But I was not really looking for advice from somebody whose pictures are even worse than my own ;)

        Then I found your blog while looking for a D600 review and comparison of the 50 1.8 D and G lenses. In the video you cut in some of the pictures you took with the lenses and I was stunned right away. Then I found your blog and read the D600 review and I was immediately hooked on the pictures you took with that camera. It was instantely like “I wish I could do what this guy does”. That’s what makes the credibility of a blog. I read your blog daily ever since and I really learn a lot everyday. And when your Photoshop DVD finally arrives I might even learn how to do proper postprocessing ;)

        • Haha, thank you for your support – I’m not sure which 50mm video you’re referring to though. Your DVD went out on the 16th of October, should arrive any day now. :)

      • Rainer Hain says:

        I feel pretty embarrassed but after I searched youtube I found that 50mm 1.8 comparison I was refering to wasn’t from you. Must have mixed that up when I was researching the D600 and lense options. Anyway, the pictures taken with the D600 that really striked me were definitely your work and made me a follower of your blog.

  10. Really great post. Well said. This, for me, is one of the reasons I follow your blog – honest, trustworthy, evidence-based (I’m a scientist too) views from a working photographer. Keep it coming please!

  11. excellent post !
    your site is an everyday must for me – although i’m not of the fanboy type ;o)
    thank you for the way you share your knowledge and experience with others

  12. Thanks for an excellent site and the efforts and dedication you have put into it. One of the very few photography sites that are truly intelligent and focussed on the core aspects of photography. I have basically abandoned the likes of dpreview and made your site as part of my daily reading instead. Keep up the good work.

  13. Great post and you’ve highlighted some very important problems in the industry – I think that you can sum it up by saying that there’s just too much noise (i.e. everyone wants an opinion) on the internet. You get to try gear for yourself to understand if it’s going to work for you – and not just rely on other people’s (often) uneducated opinion. Love your writing skills as well as your photography, so keep up the good work!

    • Thanks John! The noise – and sheer volume of ‘expert’ crap – was one of the things that made me start this site. Isn’t photography supposed to be about making pictures? It seems like most photographers have forgotten that.

  14. Ming, as always (mostly ;-) ) a brilliant blog. There are some bloggers I respect and have pleasure reading, that´s your blog, Erwin Puts, Shaun Reid and Gregory (Egor) Simpson to name a few. When reading this I came to think of Steve Jobs and his conviction that focus groups and opinions are useless because they only refer to what´s already existing. It won´t evolve products, society etc. I for one prefer Citroën suspension. Though Citroën seems to diverge from, what I regard to be, the DNA of Citroën – the hydropneumatic suspension. As Mark Twain so poignantly wrote; “Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

    • Interesting quote – thanks Lars. Being in the majority is profitable, but does not advance you artistically or intellectually. It’s a tough choice sometimes, but it looks like I’m firmly stuck in the unpopular half :)

  15. Appreciate you’re taking your blogging niche very seriously – that leads to the quality content you’re providing continously. However, you should not take your blogging pears too seriously – most of them are nothing but entertainment. And entertainment comes in as different formats as there are tastes. Thank you for catering to my taste with your excellent blog.

  16. Jeremy Choo says:

    I love reading your blog as it is a great source of inspiration for me. I have to admit that I mainly attracted to your photos when reading your posts (the excellent and comprehensive contents are second to me). I am grateful of your decision to share your knowledge to those who are willing to learn and I hope that you would continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Thank you!

  17. Thanks Ming! for the information, the learning material and the time you make available to us. Every morning I read your articles and that has become a truly wonderful habit and a perfect start to my working day… you are not only a great photographer and a fantastic writer, but more important a honest man with a true passion (very rare these days) and a very valuable font of inspiration… thank you, again!… please keep up your incredible work!

  18. Andrew McMaster says:

    As I was about to write, I realised that Jeremy Choo had said it for me. Thanks Jeremy. And thanks for the site, Ming.

  19. Thank you, Ming, for giving me a reminder that sometimes I think too much about gear instead of getting out there and taking pictures with what I’ve got!
    It’s the same here in Germany: More and more self-proclaimed “experts” and a lot of bloggers sitting in front of a mirror and praising what they see… (Hope I made the metaphor clear.)
    Simplicity is what we need again. I can’t remember who said it, but it’s true: Photography is about where you stand and when you press the shutter, because that’s what matters most for the pictures.
    Problem with simplicity is, that the bloggers couldn’t produce a lot of posts and easily get forgotten between those who post once or twice daily… You know this, that’s why you post daily, don’t you?
    But at least you’ve got something to say.
    To all those bloggers out there (also to myself): If you don’t have anything substantial to say, shut up until you have!
    Keep up the good work,
    Leo

    • The metaphor is plenty clear. I’m just glad with all of this nonsense out there, there are still enough discerning people that sites like mine can survive.

      Actually, I post between daily and every two days, depending on whether I have something to say or not. I just like writing, too. :) Thanks Leo!

  20. Didn’t offend me and made perfect sense. Thanks for a great site.

  21. Great article Ming, as ever thoroughly enjoying your personal insights into the photographic world, as well as all the valuable nuggets of trade craft you so freely make available to us readers. Great stuff all round, keep it up. Thanks. James

  22. xahonline says:

    I just wanted to say that I am also one of your many readers that really appreciate this.

    Thanks Ming!
    Xah

  23. Great way to say. I’ll be cresting more beautiful images instead of collecting more gears. Like this post

  24. Franco Morante (Adelaide, South Australia) says:

    I take my hat off to you Sir. I always enjoy your articles.

  25. Thanks for saying all these, this is why I like your photography work and your writing.

  26. One of the many reasons I enjoy your blog. Thank you! Please keep it up. You have the (excellent!) work to back up the words. There is too much noise disguised as information out there related to photography. :) It’s nice to have a place to come to where there is a talented photographer (not gear salesman) who will share his insights (you, of course). Let others chase the gear – I’m interested in being a better photographer and appreciate everything you share. Sure, technology / camera equipment is fun, but sad that so many people think the next big thing will make them a great photographer.

    • Thank you, DeeDee. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying gear, but it’s important not to confuse being a collector or salesman with being a photographer…

  27. +1 to most of the comments above.
    There’s a good reason why I check your blog for new posts on a regular basis.
    Thanks.

  28. There are two websites that I’ve learnt to trust when it comes to photo and gear review. Yours and Lloyd Chambers. The good point is that they have completely different styles: your is much more about street photography and Lloyd chambers is more about landscape. Moreover, your approach is much more on the art side, and Lloyd’s approach is more on the scientific side.

    Anyway, with these 2 web sites, I feel that I have more than enough to learn :-)

    • Thanks Francois. Actually street photography is a consequence more of personal work and client image restrictions (there are some things I can’t release) – but fundamentally, the same principles apply.

  29. Hi Ming,
    Just wanted to thank you for sharing your photographic knowledge with all of us. I really appreciate all your efforts and hope you will continue the great work. Please ignore the petty criticism by uninformed individuals. You stand way above many in the photographic world and you deserve better.
    All the best,
    Peter
    Ontario, Canada.

  30. Tony Holt says:

    Hi Ming,
    Just to say thank you for the your excellent blog, and for generously sharing your knowledge. Was just wondering, is there a way in which your referral link to amazon.com can work with purchases through amazon.co.uk (ie in the UK)?

  31. Christian Mosimann says:

    I keep observing the general attitude you describe for the online photo ecosystem in many other technical ecosystems online.

    Try playing guitar, especially electric, and doing research on a certain guitar’s properties. Although building guitars is an art and science in itself, it’s pretty difficult if not impossible to describe and determine quantitative traits about individual instrument’s tone, in particular as the individual player and the signal chain are such a huge components. You’d be surprised how obsessive folks become about minute details that might or might not affect the overall tone, contribution of certain woods to note sustain and color, lacquer chemistry that are said to improve resonance, and so on. Brand worship is very common, and sometimes manufacturers very blatantly use non-quantifyable traits for marketing.

    Yet in the end, you barely ever get good sound examples of what people talk about. Compared to images it’s more difficult to quantify the effects and record them and post them online. That, and the guys who shout the loudest might often not even play long enough to be entitled to such outspoken opinions :). It’s very similar to photography – the obsession with technical details is easy, the hard part is to master the tool/instrument over years and decades to use it for what it’s good for: evoking emotions.

    • It’s the same wherever you need a specialized, complicated tool to produce a subjective outcome – I you want to collect guitars, then don’t claim to be a musician unless you can play. (Same with hi-fi, incidentally.) Along similar lines, nobody ever asks Michelin-star chefs what saucepans they use because that must be what makes a dish great…

  32. Hi Ming

    I think the biggest thing i love about your blog are the supporting pictures you post along with the text (sadly this post didn’t have one…)

    By far the most inspiring images of any “Photography blog” that i follow. It just makes me want to create ^__^

    I will say i’m very guilty of the “New Gear” syndrome.
    Not that i think my Photography will improve with that new lens, but an interest in shooting and trying that new lens.
    But i realize those urges usually dissipate if i just go out and shoot.

    Thanks always for your insight and your inspiring images >__<
    - Collins

    • My pleasure. New gear can make you want to go out and shoot more, which is of course a good thing. But it won’t make you better directly – nothing wrong so long as you can tell the difference.

      I posted a photoessay to make up for the lack of pics in this one :)

  33. Hi Ming

    I think the biggest thing i love about your blog are the supporting pictures you post along with the text (sadly this post didn’t have one…)

    By far the most inspiring images of any “Photography blog” that i follow. It just makes me want to create ^__^

    I will say i’m very guilty of the “New Gear” syndrome.
    Not that i think my Photography will improve with that new lens, but an interest in shooting and trying that new lens.
    But i realize those urges usually dissipate if i just go out and shoot.

    Thanks always for your insight and your inspiring images >__<
    - Collins

  34. Thanks for your article. I read your blog regularly and really appreciate your more low-key and pragmatic approach. I generally stick to photography, rather than gear-related content. However, I’m currently looking at getting a new camera and so I found myself having to navigate through the ocean of blog and forum waffle and hyperbole, in order to find very little that is informed, intelligent, unbiased and unhyped (and half of that was probably bought opinion and the other half is most likely regurgitated from somewhere else). It’s hard work and enough to do your head in. But what else can you do? Your article was a bit of brain cleanse.

    • Well, because you can’t easily decouple the tool from the art – you need one for the other – I also do review, but I try to be objective about it. Hopefully you might find some of them useful.

  35. Jeff Smith says:

    I generally avoid most blog type sites and forums because everyone has a opinion and voices it even if they shouldn’t. However, I have found yours to be different and check it regularly. I enjoy looking at the photos you post and your articles – my hope is that I can learn something from them and I enjoy looking at a what I consider to be good photos too. You have a nice collection of work, thanks for sharing. Jeff

  36. Excellent article! I enjoy your reviews and respect your opinion because I think the images you create show that you can ‘walk the walk’, not just ‘talk the talk’. What other reviewers’ opinions do you value? Any sites you can recommend?

  37. Hi Ming,

    I’m a frequent reader but until now I never left a comment here. But this article is so wonderful written, that I want to thank you. Go on with your good work.

    Thomas

  38. I only discovered this site a few weeks ago but it has rapidly become my favourite website for things photography related. I love the fact that the photography takes priority over the gear reviews. Many thanks for sharing your views and photos

  39. Your blog is now on my daily reading list :) and I think you might enjoy Kirk Tuck’s blog:

    http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/

    • Thanks Erik. I do stop by there on occasion too – there’s a lot of good material out there, can’t say that I’ve had time (or have time) to regularly visit all of it…

  40. Ming,

    Enjoyed your article.

    A few thoughts:

    –Small people/critics don’t deserve much attention .
    –In the end, most people recognize the true value of what they are exposed to.
    –Some people who cannot make it otherwise in real life, try to “make it” in the blogosphere. They are losers trying to pass for winners.
    –Quality, honesty and integrity do triumph in the end.

    Keep-up the good work. It is much appreciated.

    • Thanks Joseph. I’m seeing plenty of #3 – people who got washed out in the real world now hiding behind a computer. Some of them excel because they seem to have found their niche, but here are others who are still mediocre. The opposite is also true, I suppose. It all goes back to human psychology…if you are willing to put in the hard work and have the right work ethic for he real world, then I don’t see why anything should change in the virtual world. Has to be the case for me because I don’t generate any income from the site directly. I still interact with all of my customers personally…

  41. Dear mr ming, honestly, you’re the first local blog that i follow seriously. Thank you for your free opinion and hardship for spending your quality time writing to us about photography. I admire your result especially on wedding, because, i also believe in real picture, picture with meaning rather than acting one, although other might not agree with me. Keep coming us with your brilliant work, i hope one day, i could save enough to join your classes..sorry for opinion out of subject
    Keep up with the good work!

  42. Jorge Balarin says:

    Thank you very much Ming, keep it this way. Greetings, Jorge.

  43. This is the best thing written on this topic I have ever read.

  44. Nicely said, Ming. I enjoy reading your thoughts, they are often closely aligned with my own and where they diverge, you articulate why clearly.

    I decided long ago not to review equipment on my blog, not to rely on it for income, to write only when it suits me, and only about photo related things that I felt might be of interest. Mostly about my photos. It will never make me famous or wealthy, but I’ve been pleased to participate with the audience that follows the blog. Good people, good photographers, good photos.. That’s worth the effort.

    • Thanks Godfrey. I’m still using the site to support my own profile and reader base for workshops etc – so I have to balance the need for traffic against the inevitability of reviews. I’ll only review what I’m going to use; that doesn’t change. Having to buy your review samples (or very occasionally be loaned them) makes that part much easier :)

      • Just my two cents’ worth regarding reviews of cameras and lenses. We absolutely need strong, valid, reliable reviews on very expensive equipment which could turn into very expensive mistakes. Most of us cannot afford these expensive mistakes.
        I hope you continue your commitment to review Nikon and Olympus lenses and cameras. Some brands (like Olympus) are not reviewed by other sources in the English-speaking media as often as they should be; therefore, we often go blind into the marketplace, particularly when we get into lens choices.
        Your reviews are helpful, necessary, and appreciated. Please continue.

        • Thanks Joseph. Let’s hope that eventually more of the brands appreciate the objectivity too; right now it seems that everybody wants a fanboy. I happen to review these two brands because I shoot them, and Olympus Malaysia values objectivity…Nikon I’m pretty much just another customer.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Let’s start off with a bit of a definition: the ecosystem covers all of the photography-centric bloggers, reviewers, pro photographers with blogs, corporatized review sites, e-commerce sites that might have some reviews, rumor mills, niche manufacturers of little photo-related widgets, gadget websites that might cover photographic equipment, testing houses, subscription review sites, point-and-click review factories, brand forums, community forums, photo sharing and hosting sites, facebook pages for photographers, columnists, contributors and so on and so forth – anything that’s photography-related, offering an opinion, and online.  [...]

  2. [...] -Ming Thein Excellent article here by the way. [...]

  3. [...] a very good read offered by pro photographer Ming Thien, about the state of the photographic online "community" as presented on the internet. Candid thoughts on the online photography ecosystem [...]

  4. [...] run, a lack of objectivity means that nobody will believe what you say anyway. Since writing the last article on this subject, it seems general degradation in the business side of things has meant increased [...]

Thoughts? Leave a comment here and I'll get back to you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 23,846 other followers

%d bloggers like this: