Decisions for the site going forward

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A rebirth of sorts; an excuse to post a cliche if there ever was one. (Actually: sunrise over Nanga Parbat, the Himalayas)

First of all, I want to say an enormous thank you to everybody who wrote in or left a comment after the last article on commercial realities – I’ve been overwhelmed by the time people have taken to chip in their thoughts, often very sensible advice. I’m also touched by the number of people who value what I do here. The community of readers who’ve turned into friends is something that I do value very much now; I do feel I have a duty – I don’t want to use the onerous term ‘obligation’ – to keeping that ecosystem healthy and alive. It’s one of the reasons I don’t simply shut down and go back to commercial work, and that I’m seeking the opinions of the people who are the reason why I do this.

Let me share some observations with you. The overwhelming majority are okay with ads, though are concerned that the revenue might be too low – probably, but it’s the least intrusive and costly method for now. A surprising proportion are okay with subscriptions, though there has to be some sort of hybrid model; this may be an option in the longer term if the interim measures still prove unsustainable. I’d still like to keep the community open and the content free, though.

There’s been a surprising interest in print sales and patronage. This is odd, because there was little response to the first couple of print offers I did – we’ll try again soon and see what happens. I’m quite happy doing this as it also lets me feel that you’re getting something extra in return for your support.

So, here’s an overview of what will change:

The site will remain free, but there will be some ads in the sidebar.
The area below ‘Announcements and news’ will see a few boxes – some of which I’m talking to direct advertisers about, some of which will be used for Google AdSense as an experiment.

Affiliate links.
You’ve probably already noticed these, but I’ll encourage you once again to try and make any purchases through either B&H or Amazon. At the very least, it does help to cover the cost of gear I review (and can’t get loaners for).

I’ve put the Donation button back, and added an ‘honesty box’ monthly subscription.
Those can be found at the top of the right sidebar, and also here. I’d encourage you (of course) to contribute what you think the site is worth; I suppose the price of a magazine or newspaper is a good benchmark. I trust my readership; there is a level of honesty and integrity here that I think will make this work.

I’ll be doing print offers again.
This didn’t have much demand the first couple of times, but the interest this time suggests that it just might work – or at least is worth another shot. I’ll take orders for the time I’m in the US, then aim to ship mid-April.

Content presentation.
Firstly, the observant will have noticed the top menubar has changed: the archive wasn’t getting the share of eyeballs it deserved, so I split things out into obvious categories to make it easier to find old articles – there are 500 from last year alone, covering over 1.2 million words of content and 2,500 images. These require manual updating, but hopefully enough people will find it useful to boost traffic a bit (which also indirectly helps the ad revenue).

Secondly, the post frequency will maintain – it’s every other day now – but the length will reduce. I was surprised to learn that a lot of people find the content too long and heavy; perhaps I was using the wrong crowd as a barometer. In any case, this is helpful for me as it reduces my workload considerably. You may take a while to notice this as some of the articles already written up have no neat split point, so they’ll remain as is. This applies to new articles going forward.

Thirdly, I’ll be bringing back POTD in a slightly different format – I suppose the site is a bit too text-heavy for something with an overwhelming imaging focus.

Fourthly, I’ll be making the main page easier to read: post content will be partially shown so things stay on the front page longer, and this should speed up load times considerably, too.

Future teaching content
I like the idea of giving something back in return for support; so there will be at least one more video release this year, plus probably an ebook.

Cool unique gear.
I’ve had enough people ask about my film scanning method that I’m looking into having the scanning frame/ alignment rig made for sale…expect that in the middle of the year.

Image critique on demand.
A lot of people have asked about this too, so if you just want a critique on a single image, then you can click to buy here. This includes finding out why something didn’t make it into the flickr pool. Critiques will be done in the same depth and style as the Email School and past Competition commentaries. Paste the link in the comment box at the end of the checkout, and I’ll get back to you within a day or so. I don’t know if I have the price right (too low, the volume is silly; too high, and it’s too expensive) yet, so expect that to change a bit.

That’s all for now! MT

____________

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!

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

Comments

  1. rychastings says:

    Hey you should publish your website posts into a book and self publish it on amazon.

    Zach Arias is even doing that with his tumblr.

    http://petapixel.com/2013/05/04/zack-arias-turns-1000-of-the-best-qas-from-his-tumblr-into-a-book/

  2. I haven’t vented my thoughts here, and I’ll take the liberty to do so now.

    I find it good that you are searching for an effective way to manage this site and the people reading it. And I find the changes for the better–although I wouldn’t have minded fewer articles in stead of shorter ones. However, I have no doubt the articles will stay interesting, thorough and well written.

    I also find the ads quite acceptable. Although, I would mind if companies could influence your reviews, but so would you. Thus no worries here :)

    I’ll subscribe and I’ll buy your ebook. I value your expertise and your way of communicating with us–keep it up!

    All in all, you’ve got to eat too. And you’re the only one who can balance your time–and resulting: income.

  3. I happily pay US$30 per year for Sean Reid’s site. No issue with the same for you. I don’t mind the length of your posts – I would rather read what you want to say and for you to say it properly than something banal and short of which the internet is full – and I think it is the thought you put into your writing that sets your blog apart. Pretty pics accompanying your writing are all very well but serve no purpose if they are not illustrating a point you are making.

    • Oh, if I shorten anything, it’ll just be to split it into two or three. There’s no way to say some things in fewer words because the concepts are complex. The pictures are chosen for a reason!

  4. Your blog is very interesting. You write about very interesting things. Thanks for all your tips and information.

  5. Kim Davidson says:

    Ming,
    One suggestion to help you if I may as you move forward to help us with your invaluable teaching site……Would you consider putting your link to Amazon for gear purchases on the side bar either under the link to recommended equipment list and or under the donate button? It seems too easy to miss right now in its current location at the bottom of the page. I went to your home page just to jump into Amazon tonight thinking of catching a lens rebate while they last and had to hunt for the link since I did not read through your essay (yet, but I will) and I wonder how many times the link may have been missed by others following your site.

    Best wishes,
    Kim

  6. Dear Ming, you might also consider the model of . It shows one ad from The Deck on the side, sells weekly exclusive promotions , and offers some kind of membership . Don’t know if the same model could be applied to your site but it may be worth giving it a thought or two. Good luck — you’re running a great site here. Cheers, T.

  7. Kim Davidson says:

    Ming,
    I want to share just how happy I am that you will continue your teaching. I have left the first of many more installments with paypal tonight. I consider this a payment and not a donation as you are providing a service that is priceless to me and it is the least I can do for all of the e-mails and technical assistance you provided when I tried to upgrade from a D700 to a D800 and from a Nikkor 80-200 mm f/2.8 to a Nikkor 70-200 mm f/2.8 VR II lens plus add in a pair of 28 mm and 85 mm f/1.8 lenses you recommended and I am so glad you did. After countless days of frustration and confusion I was ready to just give up on photography till you helped me navigate through the various quality control problems I encountered with multiple copies of each of the cameras and each of the lenses except I got lucky with my first try at the 28 mm lens.

    For those of us who are not professionals but are passionate about photography, I wonder if you might consider providing additional articles on basic technique. For example could you expand upon your essays about natural light and teach us how to work in conditions wildlife and outdoor photographers might encounter whether it be the harsh mid day light of a cloudless sky or other extremes, and possibly teach more about use of flashes and strobes for travel and other nonprofessional settings?

    Thanks again and wishing you lots of rest plus the very best!! Kim

    • Thanks for your support, Kim. Glad your experience had a happy ending! Thanks for the ideas for future articles, I’ll keep them in mind when planning the next round of content. Some stuff isn’t doable via article and really requires video; if I’m going to do that, I might as well produce a proper training series. We’ll see…

  8. Hi Ming,

    I’m a bit late to the party though I did vote over the possible options you were pondering.
    I still wanted to chime in to say that the pictures you make, of the hardware in particular, are definitely a big asset. I’m particularly impressed by your macro work on watches and your mastering of lighting. Such pictures are well accompanied by your balanced thoughts. When I come across macro photo on the web, it’s usually about animals/insects; I don’t think there are many people who share their experience of working with watches (something I’m more interested in). Photo & watches, yeah, you should definitely capitalise on that niche.

    Since you can’t spend too much time working on your blog, decreasing the amount of articles you write so as to preserve their quality and length could have worked IMHO. You chose to keep the frequency and shorten the posts, well, that’s another approach which also makes sense.

    Also, why not create some PDF guides, like, on macro photo? With plenty of pictures of both the setup and the subjects (watches, cameras…), with case studies where you would take time to comment each “difficult” parts of a picture – what to overcome and how.
    I think you already made an article about that… but if you review and (considerably?) augment it, that would probably make a nice e-book that people would be happy to buy.
    You could also attach more general thoughts on the macro philosophy, or some tips on the workflow, how to deal with clients, handle the products they lend you, do’s & don’ts when you take pictures at their places, etc. But hey, maybe all of this would actually sit nicely in a printed book? (just throwing in some thoughts as I’m writing this comment)

    P.-S. : ‘just made a litte donation – hope that helps.

    • Thanks for your thoughts and support. I’m sure there’d be many people interested in something like that, but I have no intention of training competition: the commercial world is tough enough as it is!

  9. Subbed. Is it possible to add referral links for amazon.co.uk?

  10. Dave Kosiur says:

    In addition to ads, I like the idea of a Donation button. I’ve used that with a few other blogs — as long as they kept my interest — then stopped donating when the blog was of little value to me.

  11. count me in for the ebook! Assuming the ebook is less than $10, i’ll buy because i want to support you even though it will probably cover photoshop :-) ! my apologies but i am allergic to photoshop !

    please consider doing a lightroom ebook as well! finally i’d prefer a $1.99 a month subscription as well! so i’ll ante in for that ! Stoked that hopefully you can make this site more self sustaining!
    ….Roland Tanglao a fan who also loves learning from you from Vancouver, Canada

    • Actually, the first book will be on philosophy and have little to no photoshop involved. There will be a lightroom video at some point…so many people asking for it, though I don’t think it’s possible to achieve the same quality as a full Photoshop-based workflow as there’s simply some limitations by not having a full toolset. Thanks for your support!

  12. i am going to subscribe after this comment. i will miss the more lengthy articles and hope that if you feel that you have the time and the article warrants it that you shall not hold back. otherwise, i completely understand why you feel that you must as well as understand that you are listening to “your constituents!” one day, when i feel i have the money i hope to take you up on the email school. thanks for your site and time and thoughtfulness. i hope the changes you make to the site do what you hope they’ll do.

  13. Hi MT,

    Thanks for the update!

    Re: length of the article – One way for me to catch up with on-line reading materials is to use the “text to speech” function on my iBook. Although the monotonal synthesized voice doesn’t capture/interprete the true essence intended by the writers, I am able to get the general idea and read over the actual article and view the photos later.

    So… Podcast?

  14. Gary Evans says:

    Hi Ming

    I have just purchased a Nikon D600, I have only taken a couple of thousand shots. I took some of the sunset in Key West and there are lots of debris marks on the images. Have you heard of any problems with sensor dust on this model, and what would be your advice on the best wy to sort it out. I buy all my equipment through your Amazon link to support you, as I appreciate the amount of effort that goes into running this site.

    Kind regards

    Gary

    • Nothing out of the usual personally, but I could have gotten lucky – and I haven’t shot much with mine because it’s my backup body. Thanks for the support, Gary!

  15. Hope you are able to make things work to your satisfaction. The mini critique is a great idea. This is the most well-written and helpful photography site I’ve come across. I still like the idea of having a subscription and tiered content.

    Although I feel comfortable making donations from time to time, in the end it somehow feels like footing the bill for freeloaders. That’s just me though. I’m sure many people do not feel as I do.

    You’ll see my contributions continue through buying your products and services and I will go out of my way to use the affiliate links. As soon as I get an iPad, I’ll buy the app as well.

    • Thanks Rob. Ultimately I’d rather be able to offer a greater variety of products than seek donations – better value for the buyer, and higher potential revenues for me.

  16. Hi Ming,

    Ads in the sidebar are absolutely OK.
    You could try The Deck ( http://decknetwork.net ) – they just fit the concept of exclusive, unobtrusive, value-based ads that can sit modestly in your sidebar.

    Subscriptions are also okay, I have just enrolled for the $2/month option. I read almost all your stuff, I find it just fair.

    In my opinion the content has not been too long in general, but somehow recently it started to get longer than before, and perhaps a bit too contemplational (if there’s such a word) and philosophical. That is okay, but requires much more time AND peace & quiet to deal with. I admit, I skipped quite a lot of paragraphs recently.

    Image critique on demand is great! Even if an image is actually accepted to the flickr pool, your articulated opinion may be worth $15. I’m already ruminating on what to pick from my portfolio…

    With all best wishes,
    Vilmos

    • Thanks for the support – yes, you’re right: it got longer because I found that as I tackled more complex/ less obvious issues, it took longer to explain things. We’re going to the two part format for things that are written up, and shorter for future essays. Here’s a tip for the image critique: use it to figure out why something works if it does and you can’t put your finger on it, as well as why something doesn’t if you thought it did.

  17. I think you could apply adverts on the site. We are so used to it now that it will not bother me at all if it is done right. Bought your app, I like the camerapedia very much! Have not tested the tutorials yet, maybe some video teasers would give an impression of what you get in the longer tutorials and help the sales. Me personally, I like apps that are more expensive initially, but where everything is included. Like your site very much so I just wanted to give some constructive feedback to you :)

  18. Hopefully everything will work out Ming, you have a great experience, talent and knowledge in photography and a rare gift of communicating that succinctly. It will be a loss for a lot of people if you cannot do this sustainably. I already used the donation button and hopefully will be able to donate more later (though I wish you have other method other than PayPal). And I really look forward for your prints for sale and also your e-book.

    Regarding purchasing through Amazon and B&H, I never buy my photography camera from these sites relying more with 2 local shops to do my purchases. But, I’m always on the look out for more books to buy on anything that will increase my knowledge in anything related to photography, and if you can slip in a book review now and then, it’ll be great, and there’s a high probability that I will buy it.

    By the way, for what it’s worth, I think if you want to set your e-book price you might want to look at how David duChemin, set his e-book price (I bought most of the books written by him). But at the same time, a price range set by Bruce Percy or even by Alain Briot, would also not be too far out. Those are some reasonable starting point for you to benchmark yourself with.

    Again I really am looking forward for more of your products.

  19. I like the idea of paying for a critique and I think the price is fair. I also like the smaller shorter article format that will be changing. Seems like you hit the mark. I look forward to seeing the changes in the site moving forward. A question on the Amazon/B&H links. I get almost all of my equipment from a local dealer whom I have had a long term relationship with. I do purchase many other non-camera related items from Amazon. Would you get something for those if I click through on the link?

  20. I think $15 for a critique is too cheap. I know what will happen : Someone send you a photo, you reply with a critique then he reply back with a modified version or more question and so on. I see one solution here :
    – the $15 option : you reply with critique and doesn’t reply to more question unless the reason is about some misunderstanding (eg : which window are you talking about ? there is 4 of them.)
    – an extended option (i don’t know how much you value 1h of your time) that allow more explanation and, eventually, the ability to send a modified post-processing version.

    And you also have a good reason to stop a conversation when someone paid only $15 (hey sorry, you paid the $15 version, it isn’t fair to ask me an extended review).

    • Yes and no: you get one shot, and I know exactly how much time/ detail that buys you – it’s based on the amount of time I spend for Email School students, who submit about 50-60 images total depending on their assignments.

  21. I’ll certainly be using your image critique service – just need to sort out some pics. Like all your ideas and changes. Keep it up, and best wishes.

  22. John Lockwood says:

    Sounds like you’re on the right track. Already used your Donation button yesterday. Anyone who regularly visits should do the same.

  23. Ming,

    Just subscribed! Awesome blog and thanks for everything you do.

    Best Wishes – Eric

  24. I would be very interested in your negative scanning setup. I have an epson v500 and a plustek 7600. Not sure if scanning with my OMD would offer any improvement, but I figure it might be worth a try. Does your setup work for both 35mm and 120? I assume it does since you have a nikon f2 titan and a hasselblad…

    I’m not interested in buying an old nikon or minolta scanner and buying a drum scanner is absolutely not an option.

    Best of luck with everything going forward!

    • Yes, it works for both. The version I eventually offer for sale will be even better than what I’m using now; refining the design at the moment. The OM-D will match or slightly outresolve 35mm film with the right lens, but not medium format because of the aspect ratio and much larger negatives.

      • I’m using the olympus 60mm lens. Should be fine. :)

        If you devise a way to have a 120 holder that can shift so that four photos can be taken of the negative and stitched together, well perhaps that might overcome the 120 issue you raised.

      • I’ll buy your product and just mount it to two focusing rails and rig it up like that myself for 120 :P

        Just subscribed (modest amount only as I’m planning to purchase the scanning setup).

      • Sounds good to me. Looking forward to it. I suppose a more elegant solution would just be to shift the holder or shift the negative in the holder (assuming it doesnt pinch). Will figure it out. :)

  25. Raymond Ho says:

    Dear Ming,

    I am a regular reader on your blog for several months already. I love your picture, your phliloshoy and opinion, as well as your gear review very much! Thank you very much for your effort!

    As I voted to pay a subscription in your last post, I did my promise and subscribed for your blog in paypal just now, although it is just a small amount because my month salary is not that high. I hope I can do something for you in order to express my thanks to your great effort!

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