OT guest contribution: The pathology of ‘fanboyism’ and a little advice to MT

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A representation of photographer logic; image suggested by MT.

A first for me: today’s post is an article courtesy of guest contributor, psychologist and photographer Dr. P.L., a London-based practitioner of some note who wishes to remain anonymous to avoid spam from said fanboys. I have asked him to keep the terminology as readable to the non-psychology layperson as possible.

I write this piece as a concerned reader and friend of MT: of late, I’ve started to notice a lot of hostility starting to creep into the comments, which must be addressed lest it be to the ultimate detriment of all.

Photography is a pursuit that is attractive to individuals who a) are creative, or believe they are creative; b) tend to be somewhat analytical; c) in general prefer to operate somewhat independently. As much as teamwork is required for a Crewdson-style production, ultimately there is still only one creative vision and one person aiming the camera. A) is necessary to be able to distil scenes of interest from the common. B) tends to be the case because some technical proficiency is required for the degree of control required to reliably translate vision to output. Photography is also an anthropological and psychological pursuit: we are reflecting ourselves in our observations, whether we share them with others or not. And more often than not we are observing others, too. I believe herein lies an explanation as to why photography seems to generate so many fanboys – and so much irrationality.

The more controversial anything is – object, opinion, event – the more likely it is to generate polarizing opinion. Inseparable from emotion is opinion: you cannot have an opinion without caring/feeling something about something: otherwise you would really have no opinion. Unsurprisingly, the stronger the opinion, the more emotion it generates.

The equipment-centricity of modern photography combined with the information overload that is the internet has resulted in a unique breed of individual: one who perhaps might have otherwise kept their opinions to themselves and been happy in the conviction that their beliefs – no matter what they might be – are absolute and go unchallenged, is now subject to opinions that differ from their own. In fact, the easy availability of that information – easier than actually making pictures that satisfy the individual in question – encourages them to seek out opinions that reinforce their own biases; in doing so, the alternate challenging views are encountered. The individual is forced to examine their biases, sometimes in a very abrupt manner.

This is where things can go in one of two directions. For those who have a tendency towards a certain personality type, the rational mind takes over and whilst it is impossible to completely remove bias, the contradictory statements encountered are examine with some degree of ‘benefit of doubt’. These people are more likely to accept personal bias introduced by the author and allow some altitude for relativity. The other direction is unfortunately self-reinforcing, and is very clearly demonstrated in both war and internet fora: escalation. The individual feels part of their identity is being challenged, and therefore feels compelled to defend their definition of self. What we then see tends to follow a pattern: response; initial allegations or statements are read with bias and deliberately ignoring any mitigating clauses, escalating to personal attacks against the other party and very occasionally worse if both parties are sufficiently pigheaded.

In short, it is no different to an elementary school ‘your-momma-so-fat’ contest.

Unfortunately, we humans are heavily predisposed towards the second behavior of escalation simply because the defense reflex has been hardwired into us from the days of the swamp: unmet challenge meant the difference between life or death, survival or not. As a young species, we did not have the luxury of preference: it was kill or be killed (and subsequently eaten, our genetic material never to propagate).

It seems a large proportion of the photography community has not developed beyond their lizard brains, including sadly some fellow practicioners I know who also happen to be photographers. I always find it entertaining that they can exercise such objectivity and detachment in diagnosis of a patient, but are completely unable to see – to paraphrase our host MT – “your camera is not your religion”.

I am not a good photographer, nor do I harbor any delusions that I will ever be. I am fortunate that my practice endows me with the disposable income to dabble with whatever takes my fancy at the time; my laziness means that I have retained both the hardware and the depreciation on most of it, too. But it does give me a certain degree of equanimity: I am inclined to agree with MT: not everything is perfect, but we do have preferences one way or another. (I currently shoot Sony, though more for reasons chiropractic than anything else.) I spend more time carrying my camera than using it – and the images I produce are mediocre and MT continually tells me I suffer from problems with balance every time I submit an assignment.

But, it bothers me not in the slightest: I know I am making images to please myself, and the assignments are a discipline to keep me making pictures. More often than not, I dislike them but cannot put my finger on why; sometimes though, I do make one I like and either way – I do not blame or praise my camera but rather know that the result is a mixed consequence of my personal biases and my own (lack of) ability.

This is the crucial element lacking from the ‘fanboy’ and the ‘troll’: they suffer both from a sense of underdeveloped or undefined personal identity, and the ability to be objective. (It can also frequently make observing exchanges on photographic forums more entertaining than photography itself.) An artist is always going to be eccentric, different and prone to provoking differences in opinion: however, they also have an extremely strong internal identity linked to their work, and conviction in their own opinions – as voiced through non-verbal means. This tends to provoke outbursts in defense* and once again – the escalatory behavior cycle begins. On top of that, both groups are at risk of being superficially dismissive of anything outside their sphere of immediate personal experience as being impossible – and therefore severely limiting their own personal development as a result. No experimentation takes place, nor is it possible to advance beyond a fairly limited level of ability.

MT: *Probably best saved for another article – ‘the pathology of the artist’, perhaps.

‘Fanboys’ and ‘trolls’, on the other hand, are typically lacking in self confidence or conviction in their work, and in the majority of cases, are actually unable to produce any work that they are actually proud of. They can never muster the humility to admit this publicly, but it does affect their private mental state. This lack of self confidence and insecurity prompts them to both be defensive at the smallest perceived slight towards anything they consider ‘personal’, and furthermore turn to the other remaining sources of identity in the hobby. These are of course the objects of a tangible nature: cameras. I believe there is actually very little jealousy involved: the value of purchases we are talking about here represents significant disposable income but would not have made a material difference to the purchasing individual vis-à-vis one system or another. Whilst the artist has a strong personal/psychological ‘investment’ in their work, the troll has a need to defend their tenuous identity and a strong financial investment in their equipment  – there is no meaningful investment in art or self-improvement or education, because it requires more effort and delivers far slower returns than the instant gratification of a purchase. It is also nearly impossible to receive comparable instant peer validation through merit of output compared to that available online by appearing to be part of a club.

The manufacturers are also equally culpable. What is extremely concerning is the illusion of independence combined with extreme enthusiasm: this stimulates herd mentality in the no-so-confident, itself probably the desired outcome so long as it results in an immediate purchase. Indirectly, they are limiting their own long term business prospects by limiting or discouraging honest feedback towards making a better product and only encouraging unobjective ‘reviews’ which are advertising everything but name. We as the consumer lose out because we will not get a product we want, and they lose out because there becomes less and less motivation for an additional sale especially if previous concerns were not addressed. The nature of the internet itself has further entrenched the ‘entitlement mentality’ that has been increasingly prevalent since the beginnings of discretionary consumerism: we want it now, better, and cheaper than before. And everything online should be free – content included. The disconnect is of course that I think many who expect and feel entitled to free articles, reviews etc. online would have no problem telling somebody to take a hike if they themselves were propositioned to do the same thing in real life without compensation.

In fact, the behavior of ‘trolls’ and ‘fanboys’ differs subtly but meaningfully: the latter is unobjective but not usually hostile towards others, whereas the former is significantly more aggressive because he or she feels their identity is threatened. It is no different from the schoolyard bully, except for the reverse chronological pathology: most children grow out of such behavior as their own confidence and identity develops, however the reverse is true here: it develops with age. Perhaps it is a subtle variant on the ‘midlife crisis’ in which an individual with average to below average accomplishment feels insecure with the lack of perceived recognition from their immediate social circle and thus needs to seek it elsewhere.

Interestingly, these people tend to be quite normal in person; I have on several occasions met people at photography-related gatherings and subsequently encountered them again online, both in situations that were directly and personally hostile as well as evidenced by historical interactions with other forum members. In some cases, there is evidence of borderline schizophrenic or bipolar disorder requiring treatment. This is also one of the most fascinating behavioral changes provoked by the internet: the layer of anonymity and disconnection consistently forces individuals to do or say things they would never consider in personal face-to-face interaction; I cannot help but feel this is not a good thing for society as a whole.

This article is a product of a discussion via email our host and I have been carrying out over the past month or two. Like most readers here, I am part of the silent majority, and like most, I have significant self interest in seeing MT continue as a photographer and writer; I enjoy his work and do not wish to see him overwhelmed and unable to continue due to jealous negativity. It may not be obvious to himself for others (though I note the support of Kim, Slack, Chambers, et.al.), but there is a note of resignation and poorly restrained frustration that was not present several years ago.

My advice to him is the following, and he has graciously allowed me to share it here: You are a true artist, and with that comes a level of obsession and passion that few will understand, and also a certain temperament. You will be affected at a personal level by any and every comment made, because you identify with – or even obsess over – your creation – photographs, writings, etc. You view everything holistically in the context of the outcome or result; how you get there is unimportant and merely a step. This is not a common position for individuals, even serious photographers or enthusiast who may also be your readers, clients, or students. This will be your greatest advantage and your greatest weakness: the emotional attachment and obsession will allow you to achieve image beyond the imagination of most of us, but it also puts you at risk of severe depression because you also lack the objectivity to separate opinions that matter from those that do not, and as a result, you are unhappy when you cannot satisfy everybody.

I do not agree with those who suggest shutting off comments or restricting site access; the community your site provides is a wonderful thing and does not exist elsewhere – you will undoubtedly have noticed that whilst other fora eventually have an entrenched ‘troll’ population, yours are usually repelled fairly quickly because nobody else wants them there for the negative feelings they create – even if they may agree with their opinons. Take it from a professional who spends as much time reading internet photography forums studying human behavior out of morbid curiosity as I do.

You cannot stop people from disagreeing with you, even if you can see the rational value of their points. You certainly cannot prevent people from failing to interpret your words without bias and have those biases come out in a very emotional way: but you can choose to disregard any opinions except those you actively seek. This creates a subconscious value tiering of feedback and will help you to detach yourself from anything that is not constructive. Choose not to respond when provoked because it only starts a cycle of negativity that will ultimately prevent you from producing work that satisfies you, and I am sure you can understand why that is a bad thing.

My advice to the population here is much shorter. Please treat this site as a physical gathering instead of a virtual one, and behave accordingly. Imagine speaking to a large group with all attention on you when you say – or in this case, write – something. There is nothing wrong with disagreement – but strive to do it in an objective, non-personal way. I have done this in the past and both learned many things in return, and changed our host’s opinion on occasion.

Finally, MT, realize that what you do here is unique, and only exists because you had the conviction to attempt it in to begin with. Your audience is a testament that some agree with you; the trolls are a testament that your opinion matters enough. Do not try to keep everybody happy, because you cannot, and in doing so will only make yourself unhappy and uninspired. I am sure I speak with the interests of both the active community members and the silent majority when I say it would be a great shame for that to happen. P.L.


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  1. It’s impossible to remain a photograher for very long without having an ego about it, however unsubstanciated. Even in denial, one wouldn’t continue to pursue something they didn’t feel they were “good” at.

    But that isn’t the essence of the topic, which is rather, that like many other pursuits, photography has become like politics and religion, wherein “truth” is the goal, even when nobody can really define what the “whole truth” really is, and that ambiguity is hard to reconcile. There was a time when Ansel Adams was Zeus, and yet… it was a strange pinnacle to be standing on, in that his achievements were technical, primarily because his processing prowess, so even the most benign subjects became grand, and some of his grand subjects remained grand.

    I recently visitied Yosemite for the very first time, and as I rounded the upper bend towards El Capitan and Halfdome, I laughed so hard my wife was a alarmed. All this time I was under impression that Ansel was out performing miracles, but this place, this patch of Holy Grail, is really like fishing in a stocked pond. So while it’s a miracle that he made the effort to lug the gear that far on bad roads and trails, in some respects it was more like he had discovered a place where Gods dwell, then that he was the god who invented it. In essence that made him more of a St Augustine, than a christ or an apostle. Learned and diciplined. Still, one could argue that without Augustine, there would be no Catholic church.

    In photography we have similiar gods, priests, dogmas, and at times, as someone once said “a very clear vision of a very narrow concept”. Luckily, our dicipline falls more to the sciency side of things, in which every “truth” must be proofed, and just like science, everything we hold dear can just as easily and eventually become disproved. We might assume that fashion must be shot with a Hassleblad by a serious photographer, only to learn that it’s just as likely a pervert with a point-n-shoot will be just as successful. Theh gist of it, is that our medium is science based, and yet we treat is as though it were religion.

  2. MT – in my opinion, the vast majority of people online appear to ‘conflate’ diverging opinions with being a troll, flame, fanboy, or whatever label etc. What I’ve found online personally is that it is at battle for ego, ie whom has the most useless knowledge that people can compete about. It is a purely intellectual pursuit and devoid of experience, which is a time wasting exercise.

    So, when a person has a diverging opinion, they are attacked and ridiculed for having this opinion and then given the apparent label. I guess the bottom line is that for growth we all need to be willing to express and receive with the same degree of impartiality, and out of this there is growth.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that; lets not be too quick to label anyone for having an opinion. As I said, and have experienced personally many times, ‘any’ opinion diverging from the status quo, is typically earmarked as a rebel uprising that needs to be squashed.

    I check in from time to time on your site, probably like most others. I do find the vast majority of people commenting to be sycophantic though.

    I like to read your points of view, mostly, I don’t agree, but that’s a good thing. I can contrast my own viewpoint with another and challenge my belief system about something. Rather that be a sycophant, I think express, and then, grow.

    A sycophant does not grow, as he follows another. And, that is my point of view, that I personally welcome people with diverging points of view, as they lead to a higher level of understanding and refinement of view point.

    So mate, I guess from the observers point of view, the site has grown into a pseudo forum where people perhaps want to say more? In the end the online world becomes something which people can freely express themselves and own their own point of view.

    As Krishnamurti puts it – the observer, is the observed.

    Ps – I’m shooting a M6 with a 1930’s uncoated Summar – Life, is very interesting. Also a Rollei 1930’s edition. And, believe it or not a Zenit with some Ol German lenses. I’m using my iphone purely for digital. Very happy with this combination as the iPhone seems to do a great job.

    When is your next film diary?

    Keep shooting….

    • I too have always welcomed diverging opinion – objective discourse is the only way any of us can learn. However, there is a big difference between discussion, open-mindedness and abuse…we are not talking about the former here.

      • My point, is that we are too quick to label anyone with a point of view, other than our own. On the most part I think what we perceive as abuse, is not.

        Of course, when it is abuse, there is no question.

        I remember recently, in a closed forum where people were apparently smart, questioning the research of a person whom claims to have recorded the vapor trails from planes as a plot for human extinction.

        He labelled me a slug and troll.

        In a public Law forum I questioned the concept of writing about how hard is was to get a law job, when this is realistically the first test in becoming a Lawyers.

        I was labelled as a Troll by several people, attacked and then, which I think was even funnier, was told by the attackers to ‘stop feeding the troll’.

        In a street photography facebook group I was attacked by questioning why people keep repeating the work of others whom were from three generations ago, why not come up with something original?

        Again, attacked.

        Generally, I’ve found this is the trend;

        Read the opinion, have a thought, any thought, which is diverging, then get attacked 😉 It’s the style of the intellectual, as they only see one side of the dualistic thinking.

        So mate, I think, that we are too quick to judge.

        In the welcome I think welcoming diverging viewpoints is better as we grow.

  3. I’m part of the silent majority and read some of the comments. This is probably my favorite site to learn. Plus, I’m continually amazed at MT’s way of transforming the ordinary into extraordinary and stunning photographs. (I’ll never forget that simple faucet!!) And the way he uses color and light and details are over-the-top. The photos are breathtaking and the writing is both understandable and practical. Plus, I enjoy the subjective, the artist, and humanities he throws into the analysis. I kept this article bookmarked since published as I’ve finally had a chance to read it. That’s how much it meant. My advice is don’t respond to the trolls. You’re sharing what you know, not having a debate.

  4. There are good technical photography websites but the photos aren’t great, there are websites with interesting photos that you stare and remember and want to copy but the artist is not an educator, then there are the rarest of them all, like Ming Thein, the artist who teaches you, inspires you, takes your mind to places you would not go otherwise, and whose photos and writing you enjoy visually and intellectually. My photography changed course for the better when I found your website through the “The demise of the DSLR” post. To fully absorb all your words and ideas would take me a lifetime so I wish you keep doing this.

    All the above is not relevant to the post (sorry) but just wanted to help expose you to the highlights 🙂 where all the nice details are instead of the shadows.


  5. Dave Fisher says:

    It’s all been said above, so I’ll leave it at…1) this is the best photography site on the web, 2) MT’s photos are inspiring and 3) I learned more and improved beyond my expectations working with him. Ming, please keep up the fantastic work.

  6. Great stuff. Would just add that this issue is not exclusive to photography. Off the top of my head one could add mobile telephony, graphics chips, games platforms, diets, football, politics and the list could go on.
    All groups, all polarized to an extent. Internet forums have clearly had an impact given the anonymous nature and the ability to group opinions, though, the emergence of brand being central to identity, clearly plays a part.
    Our projected identity has assumed greater importance than say, at the most basic level, providing food. Whereas once we chucked a spear at the victuals pilferer, now we hurl abuse at the at our brand assailants.
    I reckon you should do a follow-up article on how successfully to deal with personal attacks. Cant see the problem going away and responding in kinds exacerbates things. A non-confrontational approach? Banning? Screening? Ignoring? Would be interesting to hear opinions.

    • I can’t change the fanboys, but I can change the way I respond. That’s probably the only method that’s going to guarantee a 100% success rate.

  7. Thank you Dr. P.L. and Ming for this very interesting article. I’ll echo the popular sentiment that it is a serious shame that there are some (few) that cannot appreciate (a) your obvious talents (b) this wonderful site is free for them and finally (c) this wonderful site is not free for you Ming – you absorb all kinds of costs (hosting/your time/etc…). I personally think that (c) is the one that irks me the most. But trolls and fanboys do not post to create or educate – their actions are motivated by jealousy and complete lack of empathy. Ignore them / ban them – if one slips through we’ll take care of him 😉 . Just know that for every 1 troll/fanboy there are thousands of supporters (silent and vocal).

    I myself have long ago realized that the gear is secondary to talent. I think this applies to most artistic endeavors. I remember a buddy of mine (talented musician, contrary to myself) picked up my second hand guitar and made it sound fantastic – when I played his Les Paul well it sounded just like my second hand guitar.

    A true pro like you Ming can appreciate the all the differences between the various iterations of pro gear, and you decide on the gear to use to capture your artistic vision based on selecting the best for that specific shooting situation. I doubt very much if the talent of any trolls/fanboys are anywhere near surpasses their gear – I know, I myself, am not limited by my gear – so I come to your site for the wealth of information and inspiration you offer.

    Thank you for keeping this site going! Richard P.

    • Ah well, it’s not free for me – opportunity cost is the biggest, and there are other hidden ones like stress etc. – but I do get returns in the form of relationships, friends, and an outlet that forces me to examine my own thinking and philosophy…

      But if every silent one were to subscribe to $1/month, I’d be much happier of course 🙂

      I don’t think I surpass my gear – we are still the ultimate limitation since the image can only be as good as the original vision – but I do think that I know how to deploy it. A subtle, but I suppose significant difference…

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        I once read about an alternative system of a “Like” button.
        The reader made a contract with the provider how much money should wander from his account to the blog/site when he pushed the “Like”.
        Sorry, I don’t remember the name, it was described a few years ago, and had then started to spread.

  8. > Photography is a pursuit that is attractive to individuals who a) are creative, or believe they are creative; … c) in general prefer to operate somewhat independently.

    did somebody speak on behalf of forensic photographers or similar photography areas ?

    • I am pretty sure he meant for hobbyists. I don’t think there are any hobbyist forensic photographers…are there? And in that case, the primary objective isn’t art, it’s record.

      • Couldn’t Weegee be considered a ‘hobbist’ and a ‘forensic’ photographer, with a 4×5 camera no less? He photographed crime scenes, and has a strong body of work related to street photography.

        • I don’t think so. A forensic photographer has a desired end outcome/objective other than purely photographs…

          • There is, indeed, very little art in forensic photography. Shoot a 360-degree arc of images to establish the scene’s relationship to the surrounding area. Shoot images of the overall scene to establish the relationship of things within the scene. Shoot a series of images of each important item, from far to near, centering the subject in the viewfinder, until the subject fills the viewfinder. (No rule of thirds, or other artistic composition is used.) Repeat as necessary.

            Forget ultra-wide angles; the “normal” angle-of-view is ideal, for all except the close-ups. The 24-105L is ideal for this, on 1.6X crop, as distortion is reasonably low by 28mm. If there is art involved, it is story-telling via the series of images. I may cheat a bit, with a true ultra-wide, to shoot the 360-degree series of images, if in a hurry, but must document this in my report, as wide-angle lens can distort apparent distances between things.

            Then, there are forensic “portraits,” of assault victims. My work-horse lens is the Canon 100mm 2.8L Macro, with Image Stabilization, along with the Macro Ringlite and/or normal Speedlite. The victim is a living, breathing, human being, but the objective is the same as with an inanimate object at a crime scene, a series of images, near to far, to a 1:1 image at MFD, if applicable. If a crazed young man, under the influence of “bath salts,” has just tried to eat his grandmother’s arm, the images can be quite, well, words fail me. Controlling one’s empathy can be a draining, exhausting, experience. PTSD is an occupational hazard.

            There is no need to create interesting light. Flat, clinical lighting is the norm, unless it is necessary to show texture by using illumination from one side, to deliberately create shadows.

            On rare occasions, there can the photo-journalist-like moments, shot using AI Servo, but the images are composed to merely document the actions and scene. A Pulitzer is not the goal; I do not retain any rights to the images, and I am required to delete the images after a successful upload is verified, anyway.

            Actually, sometimes, I will try to sneak just a bit of art into the images of the crime victims, especially the head shots.

            I do not post-process my evidentiary images. A good, properly-exposed OOC JPEG is the goal. If unsure, at the scene, I will bracket for exposure, but must upload every image, as once I have “created evidence,” I cannot destroy it.

            Weegee did not shoot forensic images, but shot art that included crime scenes. Street photography documents the human condition.

            Be safe and well!

            • Thanks for the insight into the process, Rex – I can imagine this is a very, very different goal to what we are used to as photographers. Since these images would be legal record, I’m curious – how do you ensure or prove there is no tampering (i.e. additive or subtractive PS)?

      • however I can be a forensic photographer and yet have strong opinions about your writings about the cameras, because those are tools that I am using in my work… or may be I document some technological processes or scientific experiments for a living…

        • I agree with this, too; my reply here, earlier today, regarding forensic photography, was not meant to minimize the importance of such shooting. I see forensic/evidentiary/crime scene images as technical/scientific in nature, more so than art. Indeed, I try to compartmentalize my on-duty shooting separately from my personal shooting, and even tend to use separate equipment; Canon 7D Mark II DSLRs mostly at work, and mostly Nikon FX and Coolpix A during personal time. If I thought of my on-duty images as art, I fear I might come to hate photography, in time.

          • I think there is no question some of the portraits must be incredibly emotional though – surely if one of the objectives of art is to create an emotional response, these must qualify…

  9. Great essay. I always come here for the thoughtful essays and the well reasoned viewpoints. It is a restful place for me.
    I am sorry for the trolls that bedevil us but it seems the price of any visibility on the web.

  10. Martin Fritter says:

    Interesting piece by Dr. P.L. I’ve been following this blog for more than a year and the quality of the comments has deteriorated somewhat (hopefully not because of me) although it remains quite high by contemporary Internet standards. The time may be at hand for our host to moderate the comments section, although how he gets everything that he does done is beyond me.

    Trolling is such a common phenomenon in the ‘Net that it warrants little explanation and trolls should be banished. Fanboyism is much stranger. It has something to do with commodity fetishism and status, I think, but that approach seems problematic in a virtual environment where nobody can see you and your gear. Of course the implication that the publisher of a site is a fanboy implies that he is in the pocket of the manufacturer.

    (Actually, I think that sticking with a manufacturer and specific lenses is essential to developing good technique and vision. A working pro in a competitive environment might not have that choice, but I’m just a duffer.)

    Also, it seems to me that a part of the fanboy (or course the word itself is demeaning, isn’t it?) world involves fixation on engineering issues rather than artistic ones. There’s a lot of OCD in the high-end engineering world. It’s conceivable that some of the ‘Net fora misbehavior could be associated with certain Asperger spectrum posters.

    In any case, I am very appreciative of our host’s work. As I’ve mentioned before, the quality of the writing, as technical writing, is fantastic. When he need objectivity, I have no doubt but that it is objectivity that he has achieved.

    • The thing is, we want to stick to a specific set – but in the interests of expanding our envelope of capabilities, upping quality to deliver better transparency of ideas, and competing with other photographers…we have no choice but to explore options. That said, I think the Otus line of lenses is going to be come my go-to standard…regardless of body.

      I have tested on the Asperger spectrum. But there’s no need to misbehave because of it.

      • Martin Fritter says:

        Well, I think “we” in this context means commercial professionals in various fields where the most advanced technology makes a big difference – to competitiveness if nothing else. The better the equipment, the harder it is to use well, I think. I am less clear about how this applies to specialist or fine-art photography. Nick Brandt, for example, with his Pentax 6×7 comes to mind (but maybe he’s just a masochist). Or Martin Paar with his Nikon 60mm Macro and ring flash. Or Alec Soth with his 8×10 view camera. I suppose I remain leery of digital technologies.

        I suppose one aspect of the fanboy phenomenon might be a kind of resistance to change.

        Incidentally, do you read Erwin Puts?

        • Resistance to change for the sake of it is one thing. But resistance to change because you have found your perfect tool is not a bad thing – if only we should all be so lucky.

          No, I don’t read Erwin Puts.

          • Martin Fritter says:

            Well perfection is dangerous and probably an illusion. And the tool will never bestow the gifts one seeks. I may buy Horowitz’ piano, but it will never make me Horowitz (although it may make me sound somewhat better and it may make feel worse about being a piano hack). Having worked with software engineers for 30 years, I’m aware of a certain touchiness about things like programming languages and such, sometimes bordering on mania. The younger crop tend to be somewhat agnostic about tools however. Fanboying and trolling are certainly part of the Internet Disinhibition Syndrome. The more I think about it, the less I understand the fanboy phenomenon.

            Your site is the only photography one that is actually thought provoking in sometimes unanticipated ways. Well, you and Puts, who should perhaps be treated as a kind of literature. He’s capable of being quite critical of Leica, btw.

    • Typically people that label another person as a Troll, is one. They project themselves onto others..

  11. I simply don’t understand this–I have owned Canon, Fuji, Sony and Nikon bodies all in the last 2 years–and actually liked them all. And all the lenses–it just boggles my mind a serious photographer can’t look at a group of equipment(s), understand their differences, and see how these differences would inform people’s opinions. So odd. This comment is essentially a non-comment. I am simply amazed columns like this must be written. Then again, pleads into many wakes of life. I don’t think some people are able to separate a themselves from their belief/opinion, nor someone else.

    • You’re speaking to the same group that got all pumped up when Ming was promoting his mystery camera.

  12. Kenny Younger says:


    Your posts are the highlight of my days. I hang on every word, and can honestly credit you with pushing me to improve my photography in ways that I don’t think I could have done on my own. Your work is an inspiration to me, and love seeing and analyzing every picture. I am thoroughly looking forward to visiting your gallery in Chicago opening night — enough that I’m skipping a family wedding 🙂 — and finally getting to see the ultraprints up close, and very very much looking forward to shaking your hand and telling you all this in person. I comment when I can, but will make a point to contribute back more often!


  13. While it’d be awful for the page load time, forcing every comment to attach a picture would probably starve out the trolls. Want to whine about canon or sony or whoever, dig through your catalog for something you somehow couldn’t’ve taken with one.

  14. Ted Mueller says:

    Thank you for the excellent guest-post. I agree. Two quick thoughts:

    I am not sure that restricting access to the site would help improve the civility, dialogue and objectivity. In fact, it might serve only to further exacerbate and harden the attitudes and opinions of fanboys and trolls. Once those types of individuals are granted access to a restricted site, the exclusivity might serve only to further reinforce their presumed expertise and dogmatic positions.

    I have also been alternatively fascinated and appalled by many of the the presumed experts who populate the various photography forums on the Internet. Some time ago, I remember observing that nearly all of the commenters on Nikon Rumors forums were men, and that they often referred to their spouses as The Wife, and bragged about how successful they were in misleading their spouses about the cost and extent of their equipment purchases. To my knowledge, I have never read posts by women referring to their spouses as The Husband, and bragging about how they duped their spouses into yet another photo equipment purchase.

    In the process of making those observations I ran across an absolutely fascinating post. One individual posted a question on one of the Nikon Rumors forums asking why the members there photographed landscapes, animals and abstract subjects — but never people. The responses by the forum members were fascinating. Every single commenter, and I mean, every single one, said that people were the most difficult subject of all to photograph, and most added that they felt too shy or uncomfortable photographing people. I was absolutely amazed by the responses, and by what they seemed to indicate about the personalities of the forum members.

    I have gradually put together a portrait (pun intended) of many of the fanboys and trolls who lurk and stalk the photography forums available on the Internet — emasculated, insecure men so desperate for respect that they are wiling to deceive their wives to purchase the photography equipment they feel will somehow gain them the respect they need and deserve in online forums just like this one. Given the investment the fanboys and trolls have made in deception and self-gratification, it’s no wonder they are so opinionated.

    True artists might be eccentric, but to the extent they participate in online forums like the ones Ming makes available they tend to nurture and maintain a community of collegiality. It is the fanboys and the trolls and the wanna-be artists who drain the community here, and elsewhere, of the joy, the wonder and the dispassionate self-discovery and expression that photography so articulately provides.

    Ming Thein’s website is the crown jewel among Internet-based photography websites. There really is not other place quite like it anywhere else on the Internet. I trust that it will serve all of us for many years to come as an unparalleled source of inspiration, passion and commitment to the art of photography.

  15. PL’s article and MT’s responses are superb. Silently, I follow this forum.

    Empathy, both online and in early education, is a wonderful challenge.

    So what is empathy? My photo students are women, about 85 percent of them, and the chat I have emphasize one thing. Not gear or goals, but compassionate listening.

    So, instead of mental karate, which is fine, maybe perhaps we can think about deep listening. Thich nhat Hanh said this better:

    “Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation.”

    MT, you are already a compassionate listener. Deep Bow, and grateful thanks for your words and examples here.


  16. Dr.P.L: Thanks for a good read on trolls and fanboys. Some cognetive theraphy seams to be appropriate technique when our feelings run away with us on the Internet. M.T: Hope you continue to runs this fabolus site. Your teaching videos have been real eye openers for me. Publishing new material on the rate you have done over the years might take its toll.

    So, keep on publishing, I enjoy reading your post, even when I disagree.

  17. I very much like Ming’s photograph at the top of this article.

    This article makes many good points and addresses several challenges that Ming faces as the creator of this blog. I would add there are two well phenomena that also account for much of what this article discusses. The first is the “Dunning-Kruger Effect”:

    “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. The bias was first experimentally observed by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University in 1999. Dunning and Kruger attributed the bias to the metacognitive inability of the unskilled to evaluate their own ability level accurately. Their research also suggests that conversely, highly skilled individuals may underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks that are easy for them also are easy for others” (from Wikipedia)

    Ming is obviously “highly skilled”. It is a sure bet that his trolls are “unskilled” and suffer from “illusory superiority”.

    The second is TRIBALISM. There seems to be an unfortunate tendency for humans to segregate into groups of all kinds; religious, political party, nationality, climate change believers/deniers and so on. As the author points out, this can, in it’s most extreme manifestation, literally lead to war. As far fetched as it may sound, the Nikon/Canon battles, for example, may simply be a result of this tendency.

    • I begged PL to keep the article simple, but I do remember him mentioning something about that. In practice, it’s a tricky balance to achieve: if you assume everything that’s easy for you is also easy for others, you run the risk of coming off as cocky. If you don’t, you might be taken as condescending. Difficult, since neither is preferable.

      Tribalism happens in every way. But for the most part, there seems to have been a reasonable amount of averaging that’s smoothed out the effects somewhat. Not so much when you are forced by whatever circumstance to pick one or the other – I think few are in the position to be able to afford multiple systems to fit purpose, and so land up being tribal by default.

      • No edit function. So:

        “to divide the world you’re into into the unwanted many that disagree with you and you with them, and yourself, and the ones that do agree with you.”.

        Hope that helps.

      • I agree with your points. Also, you do strike a good balance. You don’t come across as cocky or condescending; rather, I think of you as talented, generous, thoughtful and very hard working.

        • This was meant to be a reply to Ming’s reply. Sorry for the wrong placement. Feel free to delete it Ming.

        • +2.
          Like some of the others, I too am part of the “silent majority” and seldom, if ever, comment.

          I think you are a very talented individual with multiple facets to your skills and abilities – you are extremely analytical, your images are superb both technically and creatively, and you write very well. I personally am grateful for all that you share here and wish you many, many years of continued success and fulfillment.


      • I agree with your points. Also, you do strike a good balance. You don’t come across as cocky or condescending; rather, I think of you as talented, generous, thoughtful and very hard working.

    • @David:

      1): NO, a resounding no. It doesn’t help at all to divide the world you’re into the unwanted many that disagree with you and you with them. That’s just survival mode. Fortunately it’s not that simple, it’s much more complicated, and that’s the real challenge.

      2): Yes, as I pointed out in an earlier comment, that tendency certainly is there. But it’s not something to judge, condemn, and then retret to whatever safe haven you have at your disposal. It’s undeniably there, and if you’re part of the same world it exists in, better try to understand it. There’s always a reason you know. Look at the increasing tendency towards (ultra) nationalism in Europe. There is a reason. Not necessarily good (or bad), but if you don’t make the effort to understand, where are we going to?

      • By being aware of The Dunning-Kruger Effect and the human tendency toward tribalism, we will be better equipped to understand and address the irrational biases to which we are all susceptible.

        • Yes. And we should also remember that those biases are what makes life interesting – art is interpretation and bias, and without it, there wouldn’t be any…

        • Michiel953 says:

          David, the mechanism you’re referring to (which I didn’t know by that name; I’ll have to look that up) just serves to create (a comfort giving) distance between us and those that so blatantly disagree with us. It’s, imo, just a “we them” mechanism, which incidentally us very useful in helping society long without too many people bashing each others heads in.

          But it doesn’t help on the understanding side.

  18. Kiekjeskieker says:

    Good guest post, and lots of (well-deserved) heartwarmingly positive and supporting comments. However,…

    … it’s actually a pretty sad day. Apparently the lack of courtesy, politeness and common sense that seems to be inherent to large parts of the internet, has now reached the corners of it as well. If even the niches like your blog, created for helpful and insightful sharing and discussing, start feeling the burden of it to an extent that it warrants a serious discussion, then that makes me quite sad.

    It might be temporary though. PL rightly advises to act as if in real life public space. But the reason some people don’t is their ability to stay anonymous. If this keeps getting worse and worse, I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in time we will all be given a virtual identity, needed to participate in some sort of “Internet 4.5”, discarding the anonymity. The price of such a solution for this problem will be very high though, as it will greatly influence our privacy. Probably not something to look forward to, so we better stick to PL’s advice for as long as we can…

    So if, at times, the troll/fanboy comments get to you on occasion, try to look at it differently: in a way, it’s an acknowledgment of your artistic talents and technical expertise. Being just a not very talented amateur photographer, if I had a website on which I showcased my work and expressed my views, I wouldn’t receive any troll / fanboy comments: as I so obviously lack the expertise and skills that you have, they wouldn’t feel threatened, and would never bother to comment to show their (only self-perceived) ‘superiority’.

    I must admit that I have a keen interest in technology in general, which is why on occasion I also visit some more gear-oriented sites (and sometimes learn something there as well, even though it’s knowledge that does not improve my photos). So it happened that shortly after you published it, I noticed that your review of the A7R II caused quite a stir on dpreview. It’s surely not the attention you want, and I’m sure I’m stretching the whole idea of “looking at the bright side”, but with all the other reviews on the internet going undiscussed there, don’t you agree that it does show that even the gearheads / trolls / fanboys that abound over at dpreview, consider your opinions as “authoritative” enough to be worth attacking or defending? — imagine smiley being inserted here–

    Anyway, for those that sit quietly in the corners (of the internet), please keep up the good work (especially the conceptual articles!). It is greatly appreciated.


    • I *is* a sad day that we got to this point. But I’m glad it happened, because in a way I feel as though a weight has been lifted and support I wasn’t aware of has now left me feeling strengthened. A new start, in many ways. It may be temporary, but the point of PL’s message was really for *me* to understand why the trolls do the things they do and not fall into their trap. He understands I needed a logic kick to avoid coming to the ‘not worthwhile’ conclusion. And that – regardless of what the long term impact is – is extremely valuable.

      Good point also: I suppose I’m both visible and credible enough to make some uncomfortable enough to attack me, though I don’t know if that’s entirely a good thing…if the DPR forums were a bar, I’d probably get lynched. It’s a good hing I’ve just learned mental karate. 🙂

    • The response to Ming’s Article on the A7RII is a mystery to me

      I admit I only read the review once and only some comments. So please correct me if my understanding is wrong here:

      1) Ming sold his Canon 5DSR
      2) Ming kept his Sony A7RII
      3) Ming is blamed to be a Canon Fanboy

      Astonishing. One would thing Ming used the strongest vote for Sony and against Canon: He voted with his money.

      Ming wrote that he does not like shooting with the A7RII. This is a personal judgment, but as a fellow photographer I am very interested in these. How good is a camera to me that ticks all the right boxes, but I do not like to pick it up to shoot pictures with.

      What I can confirm is that we are somewhat in a similar fix. I shoot (happily) with Pentax cameras and I have very good glass for it. But now we have to make movies, and as much as I love Pentax, their video quality is just generations behind Sony or Panasonic. So we are shooting now with a Sony Alpha. Thanks to an adapter I can keep using all my lenses. The recorded Video quality is so much better, no doubt. But it is just no fun to use this camera. I can go as far as to say changing settings in that Sony camera is infuriating me.

      This is where Ming’s writing became very useful. We are evaluating to buy a new camera. We boiled it down to either Sony A7RII or Panasonic GX8. Both cameras can record 4k internally. I trust both cameras have amazing quality. But given positive comments on handling for the GX8 and negative comments on handling on the A7RII, we will try out the GX8 first.

      How intuitive you can operate the camera does translate into a photographer who is in the zone, which then will shoot better photos and videos. It is hard to put this into a benchmark, it is true nonetheless. Is understanding this the differentiating hallmark between armchair critics and producing photographers?

      • I find that amazing because I owned the Canon – my first – for about two months. Why am I not a Nikon fanboy? Or an Olympus one? Or Hasselblad, Leica, or Ricoh? Zeiss perhaps? Hmmm indeed.

        I think pictures are probably the differentiator 🙂

        • Yep, now that you mention it 🙂

        • Well, if calling Sony out for perpetually lousy A7 battery life isn’t typical meterless F2 Titan fanboy behavior, I don’t know what is. 🙂

          • Yes, but I enjoy perpetual battery life. Except that so far only comes up to perhaps a few hundred shots, since I haven’t put that much film through the camera… 😛

            • Patrick Caughlan says:

              Your review of the A7Rii was an attracter for many fanboys and trolls to chime in defending or expanding on your criticisms. It should have been expected and people want to think they have spent their money wisely and selected the right camera for their needs. A quick look at the DPReview Sony FF E-mount forum will provide the author of this article all the evidence needed to confirm the neurosis surrounding camera choice, promotion and defensiveness. Some feel threatened by what Sony is doing with innovation and others are digging in and admiring/appreciating it. So, hang in their Ming. Sony may not be your thing but it is for many people. A very harsh article/review on your part is going to attract fantrolls of all kinds. It doesn’t affect your excellent work, clearly. You don’t have the corner on the most perfect equipment either so a balance should be struck when you approach your equipment reviews. I thought you were too quick to downplay what Sony has accomplished with their new camera.

              • I also pointed out all of the areas in which the 7R2 succeeded and surpassed the competition and generated a justification for purchase, which I subsequently did with my own money for these reasons. I don’t think that’s downplaying at all: in fact, the opposite, because despite all of the things I didn’t like about it, I still bought one.

  19. Surely the problems with trolls is that they amuse themselves by abusing any platform which is available to them, so why give them a platform?

    Why do you allow comments Ming? Is the cost of dealing with trolls worth the benefits to YOU of having comments in the first place? If so then carry on, if not then stop having comments.

    In my experience the only way to ensure high quality comments is to make people pay for the privilege. Metafilter is the best example of this I am aware of but even they employ moderators to keep discussions on topic (there is a one-off non-refundable joining fee and any spamming, trolling or abuse simply terminates your ability to generate new topics or comments).

  20. My thanks go to Dr. P.L. to address an issue that got me seriously worried: Unfruitful discussions and subsequent growing frustration by Ming. If this blog were to close, I would loose the one web site which helps me most to grow as a photographer / videographer.

    I very much agree on both the analysis / diagnosis as well as the suggested treatment. I also learned a few things about myself: How I can change my behavior instantly thanks to a deeper understanding of the process of escalation, giving me more tools to increase my percentage of extinguished heat versus escalation as a moderator. Thank you so much! This knowledge is very hard to come by!

    I have been in a similar position and such treatment was suggested to me as well, but it took us some time to translate the suggestions into a methodology, that we could apply in our daily work replying our forum.

    This methodology expressed below is based on our personal experience of running a small page (blog) on Facebook with about 4000 participants. Your mileage will wary, but I hope you will find some of it useful:

    1) We write personal and we respond personal, including expressing feelings if we feel hurt. This is in simulation of a person to person encounter where your facial expression would show when you are hurt. Showing when you are hurt usually will make the other side less aggressive.

    2) Once in a while — when the discussions become heated — we publish our forum rules, which encourage free speech of any opinion on technical matters, but do not allow personal attacks. We ask to write a post in the same way as writing a letter to your best friend. The rules also show that we reserve the right to block frequent offenders for the sake of keeping a friendly tone in the community

    This usually already removes some heat. On those posts still remain heated or offending we add the link in our reply to the forum rules and if still no change in tone, we will only reply with a standard message that until the unfriendly tone is removed, we will not reply on technical matters. If this results in more ugly posts, then the person gets blocked publicly. Usually resulting in applause from regular members. The majority of forum members appreciate politeness. And many posts show examples how a strong difference of opinion can still be discussed in a polite manner.

    3) Reply those posts that upsets the moderator only a) after sleeping over it b) only if a second person made a proof reading that nothing is included that would cause an escalation.

    I feel, enjoy and benefit from your passion for excellence and for teaching. In the long term you will only pursue this blog if it helps you to stay profitable and at the same time bringing you joy and inspiration. As such I pray for you to find the joy again in running this blog. And if you have any idea on how I can help you to find your joy, let me know.

    This should also be understood by the community. We benefit by contributions of Ming. If we can help Ming by sometimes stepping into a discussion suggesting a more friendly tone, we will increase our chances for this blog to be around a bit longer.

    • Thanks for the suggestions, Hubert. It IS very much personal for me – and it wouldn’t be he same if it wasn’t. So…sometimes my own reaction of escalation comes as the tradeoff. By knowing why and how it happens helps me to avoid getting upset about it – hear hear, thank you PL!

      • You are welcome, Ming. And you are wiser than me. Knowing why and how it happens was great yet still I become upset even today when reading some replies on my forum. My passion gets the better of me. Only by resisting to reply same day in combination with using a proof reader of my replies on hot topics I could learn over time to remove any writings in my reply that would trigger an escalating response.

        • What I do is write the response, let all the anger out…and then don’t post it. Oddly, it’s very cathartic. But I think thanks to PL’s comments, I’m not even going to have to do that.

  21. Homo_erectus says:

    I love your site Ming. This post is just one more example of why.
    Maybe you need a dedicated moderator?

  22. Michiel953 says:

    Fanboys and trolls, (internet) behaviour. Interesting subject and Ming, thanks for sharing this, PL, thanks for putting down your thoughts in a well considered post.

    A few observations.

    Isn’t it all about the, in some/most current societies, almost desperate need to compensate for the increasing departure of community feeling by “joining” a brand (Ferrari, a sportsman, a watch brand, a bicycle brand, a camera brand)? It satisfies the need to have some anchors (values) in life, possibly in the absence of others that “we”, being better persons, might have chosen instead.

    Treat the internet as a physical meeting place, not a virtual one. The essence of of what’s going on here and in a lot of other places on the net. Sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me. I can say everything I want to (in the absence of a moderator), because the person I’m hurting isn’t likely to come over and punch me in the face (which he might want to). The internet sometimes seems to have given free reign to that line of thought.

    Does it really matter? It does if you let it “hurt” or influence you. Which you shouldn’t, if at all possible.

    I love reading your blog Ming. It’s one of the few places on photography on the net that manages both a high level of professionalism and accessibility. Just keep it up.

  23. Hey no! Sony is the best!
    Ehi ehi 🙂
    This problem is widespread now, not specific to here. Even in my small blog site I can see “damn you for criticizing my company” type of posts. “My” company?

  24. Brilliant post, P.L., and a heartening comment section too. The sooner the gap between real-world and Internet protocol is bridged the better.

  25. What I’m seeing across the Internet these days is the politicization of absolutely everything. It really shows its ugly head in commenting sections.

    People identify with sports teams, brands, political parties … religion. Etc, etc. When anyone else attacks that which one identifies with, an individual often becomes defensive, particularly when they can sit at their computer, in their bathrobe, and cast stones, safe in the [perceived] belief that they’re doing so anonymously, with no threat of consequence.

    I’m sure one could do a paper or thesis on the psycho-sociological roots of this behavior [I’m sure someone already is], but it does seem to be getting worse.

    The good news is that the more intellectual the media outlet, the higher the calibre of the comments left beneath articles tends to be, and the less trolls that seem to appear.

    • I suppose it’s a consequence of the paradox of modern society: individualism is encouraged, but if you stand out too much you get ridiculed. So you have to be individual by being a combination of strongly-defended mass opinions…instead of performing scientific enquiry and having confidence in one’s own convictions.

      The calibre of comments on some articles is very high indeed – the accessibility bar may be a bit too high though, seeing as sometimes there are very few comments…or I’m just writing about unpopular topics.

      • Ming, I think sometimes there either isn’t a lot to be added (just like a great lecture might simply leave people feeling inspired), or to do so would be complicated and time-consuming in a world of emojis and one-line responses. I don’t think the total number of comments is the arbiter of a good article — in fact, if you opened up a vote on what articles from your site should appear in a book, I think my personal selections would be inversely proportional to it!

        • Mine too. And perhaps the internet is just the wrong medium for articles that require a little more contemplation rather than the very time-sensitive and virtually disposable review-type stuff…I think (if PL would permit it) this post would make it, though.

      • “…the accessibility bar may be a bit too high though, seeing as sometimes there are very few comments…or I’m just writing about unpopular topics.”

        Unless one’s chief goal is the hope of generating commentary, I’d probably caution against using that as a metric by which to gauge an article’s significance. That’s letting the tail wag the dog, IMHO.

        • It isn’t, but the number of eyeballs decreases proportionately too. Of course one can argue good/bad traffic, but there’s not much point in writing if nobody reads it 🙂

  26. *a member of the silent majority signing in* This is my second comment, ever, as I have not seen the need to. But, now I do to share my thoughts about you and your blog. And this comment is re-iteration of my first comment. You are, as I have said before, a great teacher, Ming. Sure, there are a lot of good photographers out there. But many of them, if not most, are not capable of passing down what they know. You are an exception, Ming. Every article is just wonderful – exploratory but direct to the point, brief but more than enough for me to re-read again and again to digest all. And, I believe that what makes this blog stand out from the rest. I believe in your passion & philosophy, and your skill to produce those two into your photographs. An axiom I personally try to apply on my approach to my every endeavor, – “Learn the art in science. Learn the science in art.”. And I believe, you have beautifully nailed it.

  27. I love MT’s blog and have been following it (silently so far) for a long time.

    However, I have a divergent view on this post:

    My experience with communities and fanboys is that often general public opinion polarizes followers of products, be they cameras, software or something else.

    Take for example Photoshop v/s GIMP. Because the former is allegedly considered ‘industry standard’, it pushes everyone who doesn’t use Photoshop to a renegade group — which then evangelizes merits of their chosen software against the “standard”. This leads to feature war among the followers of the respective products.

    I use GIMP (and other open-source products) for all my photo editing, cataloging and workflow needs, yes even HDR and panoramas. However, as part of a local camera club, I felt as an outsider because all tutorials etc were for Photoshop. What’s more there was a special category of awards each month for the ‘Best Photoshop’ing’! My only option was to find a meetup group that talked GIMP and leave the ‘mainstream’ so to say. This is but one example of polarization caused by a David and Goliath situation.

    No, I am not a professional but I do wonder how many professional photographers out there would admit to their clients (or peers) that they don’t use Photoshop. How many professionals feel they can still do a ‘great’ job without Photoshop — or without a Mac, for instance. Sorry, I digress.

    Anyway, whenever I read articles (or watch videos) of photographers highlighting how they achieved a terrific look in their photos with Photoshop (or some other plugin) I do feel like commenting and setting the record straight that GIMP can do the same (and often better — no really!) Now, would you call me a fanboy? Or them?

    Same is the case of cameras, I reckon. The big two full-framers (Canon, Nikon in case this needs to be clarified) have had all the Pros rooting for them for a long time (including mainstream photography press). Mirrorless is the newer kid on the block with claims of being as good, if not better. Hence the illusion of fanboyism. This can now be extended to individual brands of cameras or software or dish-washers or cars or ….

    So apologies if I don’t agree that fanboys are lizard brained and or lack self-confidence in their work. Not all, at least. Often, its the result of a popular brand and a rising brand that gives birth to “fanboys” — a term surely coined by someone part of majority.

    • Ah, but the way you’ve put it would not make you a fanboy at all; you have rationality behind your choices (and we have rationality behind ours, most of the time). And there’s nothing wrong with that: if we did not have dissenting points of view, we would also not learn anything. It’s when emotion overrides logic that things get ugly.

      For what it’s worth, I used GIMP quite a lot when I was still working for the man: I couldn’t install PS on my work PC, but would travel a lot and carrying two laptops was impractical. It does most of what you need it to do, but if you’re chasing certain specific goals, then PS is required. I would be happy not to pay Adobe the monthly subscription if there was an alternative, but my decision is a business one: the time saved with the PS workflow more than justifies the cost. That may not always be the case.

    • Dear KenP,

      thank you for your detailed comment. I agree with your point of of view, that the industry contributes to this trouble by dividing user into camps of brands. At the same token I would have no idea on how to run a company selling a product and not doing so. Thus this problem might only be solved with a paradigm shift of our social system. It may not be easier to solve as removing the division of our planet into countries.

      I also agree with Ming that your style of writing is wonderful and well suited to engage into fruitful discussions. This would make you not a fanboy at all. Just a user who is trying to learn how to get more value from products, which should be a common interest to all of us.

      I disagree however on your comparison of Photoshop with GIMP. I have been using Photoshop since the early nineties. This year we have made the switch from Photoshop to GIMP. For what we do, GIMP is sufficient. Since we provide Open Source Products with Open Source marketing materials, it makes sense for us to create artwork with Open Source Image Editing. As for usage, I find both idiosyncratic. No winner there. But as for features that a photographer can use to save his time, Photoshop wins hands down. E.g. GIMP still has no 16 bit color depth. We can get by as we shoot in 16 MP, but publish on the web in 0.5 MP. So we process color in high resolution, cause banding in gradients and then loose the banding in scaling down. But if you need high resolution output, this is no work around.

      Or here is another example. Scaling images down in Photoshop always resulted in images with smooth edges. Always, no matter the type of image! In Gimp however sometimes the quality was the same as in Photoshop, sometimes high contrast edges became jagged after scaling down. It took me 3 solid days to find a solution to the problem: You first need to apply a blur of the same diameter as your scaling factor. Say you want to scale 1:6, so you need to apply a Gaussian Burr of 3 px radius. So I lost 3 days of work and now when scaling down I need 3x the time in GIMP than when using Photoshop. On days when I process a hundred illustrations, this is painfully felt. For a professional, this one incident alone would make GIMP more expensive than Photoshop, when considering the cost of one’s time.

      This makes GIMP still not a full replacement for Photoshop, but it offers an Open Source and zero cost alternative to those who can live with its shortcomings.

      There is however a new contender on the block that you may want to have a look at: http://www.darktable.org/ It promises to have the same editing power as Lightroom combined with processing skills more powerful than Photoshop (for photography manipulation, Photoshop still remains the king for illustration manipulation and Video / 3D manipulation). If you search on YouTube you will find impressive video tutorials. You would need a LINUX system though.

      I hope my reply serves in two ways: A) you learn more about GIMP and Photoshop comparison, B) as an example on how we can disagree in discussions, yet stay polite. As such we may be learning something new with every reply.

  28. I’ve said this to Ming in private e-mails, but since discovering his work, I have not looked elsewhere for education in photography. I recall, he once suggested I look for others to learn from as well and that he wasn’t the best out there. While that may be true, I have not seen another photographer who is as diverse and versatile a teacher as Ming.

    Likewise his images. Spend an hour (or half a day) on Flickr and it’s plainly evident that Ming has gone out of his way to shoot in as many diverse situations as he can to help him better master and polish his skills. So when he says something, you know his mouth his writing checks that his skills can cash in.

    I’ve had people complain to me saying Ming’s videos were expensive. I’ve made changes to ensure that I could afford his videos on a student’s allowance. And I can tell you that this blog combined with his videos and the occasional exchange of e-mail has made a phenomenal change to my photography skills. This is something I’ve been told by many friends and fellow photographers, some who also happen to be Ming’s students.

    And at the end of the day. This blog, with something over 1,000 articles is perhaps one of the largest, quality ones to learn about photography and it’s completely free!

    I’ve attended a couple of workshops with Ming and I can tell you that if you are serious about learning, this man will work harder to teach you than you do to finish his assignments. He’ll force you to raise your standards so high that you’ll sometimes curse the day you met him. 😛 But on most days, you’ll be surprised at your own portfolio and how far it’s come.

    Like many others have said in the comments below, Ming. It would be a shame to see this blog disappear and to not have a ‘Ming’ eco-system around. I’ll do the best I can to support you, be it commenting on your posts or buying prints whenever I can.

    Thank you Dr. P.L. for putting into words something many of us have wanted to tell Ming for quite some time, but didn’t know how exactly.

  29. I certainly appreciate PL’s concern and effort in writing his article. Although I have some 30 years experience with film-based photography, I am finally gravitating toward the digital medium. Unfortunately, this causes most of my infrequent comments to be mostly equipment oriented rather than photographic content oriented. That situation will correct itself as I fill out my ‘digital gear bag’ and move on to the more interesting discussions once more.

    As a veteran of other photographic forums, I tend to ignore/discount ‘contributions’ from trolls/fanboys as they tend to be boorishly humorous at best and downright irritating at worst. Perhaps I ought to do my part deflect negativity in troll/fanboy infected discussion threads. This forum has quickly grown into my favorite photo forum by far ever since I was first directed to it by a friend on another photo forum a few years ago.

  30. lensaddiction says:

    Ming I read your blog with great enjoyment, even tho I don’t fully understand the level of technical detail, I trust that you do. I don’t usually comment (time etc) so haven’t witnessed the issues you are seeing here but I loved this article, Dr PL hit the nail on the head on much of what he said in my opinion!

    Two key points I got out of this – the silent majority need to be less silent perhaps?

    Also people who want to be assholes ARE and nothing you can do to interfere with that. A sad truth in this day and age and the Internet allows them an unmitigated opportunity. I meet these same people in RL to at camera clubs and competitions and once identified, to be avoided at all costs. Your popularity is a curse 🙂

    • I would have hoped they’d be better behaved in person, but yes, I generally avoid the camera clubs too: not enough photography going on 🙂

      • lensaddiction says:

        I will also comment that while its not solely a male province – assholeism (is that a word?) in my experience it is a good 80% of the time your average asshole is a guy. Not sure what thats about…..

        • That’s actually a good ratio considering 95% of my readers are male. I don’t know why I scare the ladies away…

          • Lensaddiction, MT, I have a theory on why online photography statistics bifuricate the way they do: females have a preference towards the empathetic or creative part, and men prefer the quantitative or technical part. The internet deals almost entirely with the latter – ergo, we see more men on fora even though there are probably just as many, or more, female photographers. Of course, like every other element of human behavior, this is not a clear-cut distribution but rather a continuum…

          • Probably because men have been repeatedly demonstrated to be technicians when it comes to photography, whereas women care less about that stuff and more about feeling their way through making a picture. I realize I’m generalizing here, of course, because there are lots of exceptions and reversals on this, but women to tend to “see” differently than men because their neocortex operates a little bit differently.

  31. MT–I’m not you, but if I were, I would just moderate the comments and include only those you find instructive or otherwise interesting. It takes but a finger twitch to delete. It takes a lot longer to worry about other people’s problems in public. Not considering myself a troller, fanboy, or, I might add, an MT sycophant (a group that also contributes little to the greater body of photographic knowledge), I didn’t gain much from this post. I’m not bitching about that. Just sayin’… Keep up the good work, and have fun!

    • If you had gained something from this post, it might have been that implying you like the site, but then calling others who like the site sycophants who contribute little to photographic knowledge (as if that were their remit), is exactly the sort of thing you would not say in a physical meeting unless you were just picking a fight. And having clearly and transparently ‘bitch’ed about it, saying that you aren’t bitching.

      Different point, what I most gained from the post actually was the insight into typical patterns which included deliberately ignoring mitigating clauses. That is bang on the money, I myself usually construct my own opinion carefully (not so much in the preceding paragraph) to precisely phrase it as it is – my opinion. Common trolling behaviour when I do encounter it is to crudely reword my words into straw man things I would never say and then ridicule accordingly, completely ignoring the limitations I already laid out. Exactly the same as when Ming carefully states that the reviews and conclusions he writes are his own experience of using items he paid for, for his own individual photographic and business needs, and that these only apply to him – only for the trolls to clearly feel personally attacked and ignore this entirely.

      • Richard – the interesting thing I find is that understanding this behaviour helps a lot in not succumbing to its negative effects. Odd, huh?

        • Empathy is a great way to deal with it if you can, and I suppose the more formulaic the patterns of behaviour are to you, the less the content or that particular spin on it is relevant and therefore the easier they are to dismiss/ignore as necessary without getting personally attached to the sentiment. Oh there goes a variant C troll, that’s the type who write 80% positive as a pretext to saying something really nasty for the other 20% on the premise that it is validated and balanced by the 80%… etc etc.

          Having said that putting very considerable effort into explanations which you owe no-one and then are deliberately (or not) misconstrued and attacked is frustrating and renders empathy more difficult, especially when your own expertise on the subject is generally going to be >=99.x% of your general readership and 99.9xy% of the trolls’ (know any top level professionals who are trolls? I don’t). I hope that the only trolls around QT one day for you are the ones under the bridges and in the mountains 😉

          • I look at it as ‘rationalising it out’, but I suppose empathy also covers the same bases.

            Top level professionals don’t have time to be trolls 🙂

    • It does, Don. But I think leaving the dissent in – so long as it’s not personally abusive – is not a bad thing, because all are entitled to their opinions (and we may well have missed something). In a greater context, I find myself in that position often and would not want to be moderated out because I disagree with the general consensus. So, it would not be fair of me to do anything but the same…

      • Eu-Gene Lee says:

        But isn’t the point here that trolls do not dissent civilly? I would trust that any disagreement you might have, Ming, would be done in a manner that isn’t personal. The same can’t be said for all. I have read many attempts by readers in this forum to articulate a contrarian point of view without getting personal. I see no problem with moderating out comments that do not meet such standards. And this being your site, you can set those standards at a level that you deem appropriate.

        • Yes. Civil dissent is fine – and encouraged, because it forces us to examine why and understand our premises better. By and large, the readers here do not care about X vs Y for the sake of X vs Y: we want to make better pictures. 🙂

        • Civil dissent in some form or other is actually a necessary part of any sort of behavioral change, otherwise the subject would not (and cannot) be cognizent of their actions and point of view relative to others. I would posit that MT’s site would actually benefit from more of it to avoid us becoming fanboys in our own way.

          • Eu-Gene Lee says:

            Quite so. Or to avoid falling into some sort of “group think”. However, as has been pointed out in one of the comments, the more a particular view is supported, the more “emotional” cost or risk is involved in positing a contrarian view.

  32. Jaap Veldman says:

    Being a member of the silent crowd, I totally agree with the advise to treat this site as a physical gathering.
    This is a wonderful site run by a very intelligent multi-talented guy with independent opinions.
    People should be happy this place exists.

    • Thank you, Jaap. By the way, your name is pretty unusual – I remember being very envious of a beautiful grey/silver M8 waaaaay back in the day… 🙂

      • Jaap Veldman says:

        Well, that wasn’t mine Ming.
        Although I like that camera very much for it’s great B&W capabilities.
        But I’m quite happy with a simple R6.
        Also great for B&W and with a clarity in the viewfinder that can’t be found on any digital camera!

  33. For some of you that want to continue, this may be too simplifying. Most of us become “depressed” over things from time to time, sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to grieve, etc.. The danger that I most often see is becoming depressed over being depressed. Applying this, asking people to give themselves permission to “feel” depressed it most often goes no further. If the trolls upset us and we become upset over the trolls upsetting us we’ve most certainly gone off the deep end.

    • Depression is actually far more common than most are aware of in the current era. There still remains a strong social stigma against any kind of mental illness, especially in Asian countries; as a result the condition goes untreated and frequently gets worse. Often the initial condition is not that serious and could be mitigated by control of stimuli and positive reinforcement, but by the time the sufferer actually consults a professional, much stricter measures may be required. Too many patients I have seen wait until they are almost completely unable to function before they (or their loved ones) address the issue – and that is too late.

      • You’re spot on about the stigma in Asian countries. I have several friends with various grades of autism; those who can pass as ‘normal but a bit strange’ do the best they can, because the minute special exceptions have to be granted, you’re looked at as defective and less than human. It’s seriously unfair. I wish there was something we can do about it – especially given how prevalent some sort of mental condition is (I wonder if part of it is brought on by the expectations of modern life/society)…

        • Unfortunately very very true. I am not ashamed to admit that I have suffered from clinical depression for about 10 years ( or at least, 10 years since diagnosis). I was treated, following an unfortunate event, at a major teaching hospital in KL, where the “treatment” consisted solely of various forms of chemical intervention. Very little help was given, actually none if I recall correctly, in the areas of cognitive behaviour therapy (hardly exists at all in Malaysia) and very little understanding of the causes and effects of depression was shown by supposedly educated psychiatrists. I was merely given medications, and, with a cheery laugh, told that if those didn’t help there was a whole catalogue (which was shown to me!) of alternative chemicals that I could take if those prescribed didn’t seem to work. It was left to me to decide what medications I wanted to take to “feel better”. I didn’t go back.
          A couple of years further on, I have finally found a competent, understanding psychiatrist, and doubtless the fact that she is Johns Hopkins educated (the gold standard my view) leads to her competence. She struggles, mightily, to provide care beyond the chemical in the cultural and educational wilderness that is Malaysia. CBT is simply not available, and only prodigious self help routines, and a stable home environment allow me any continuing progress in this country.
          Sorry for the rambling complaint, but I wanted to reinforce the point. I enjoyed reading this post very much, and agree with the great majority of it.
          (Now you know why I was “shy” and rather reserved at your meet-up, Ming, my confidence, and ability to communicate, is directly proportional to the amount of people – Lucky there weren’t more, heh. 😉 Terrible thing is, I never used to be this way, depression is a creeping, insidious illness.)

          • The chemicals are a temporary patch, not a cure. I had a former girlfriend who required medicating…and never quite got the help she needed. I think half the problem is social stigma, the other half is it isn’t properly understood to begin with because the patients are almost afraid to admit it. If it weren’t for PL’s timely message, I’d probably need the name of your therapist. It’s no fun and I do apologise if I inadvertently made you uncomfortable by expanding the meetup…

            • Social stigma for many this country is a huge issue, fortunately I am way past that. And don’t care anymore. Understanding it is something that follows directly from that, and won’t change until the former does. Indiscriminate medication is much worse than a patch, let alone a cure.
              Absolutely no apology required. Yes, it changed the dynamic, yes, the subjects under discussion would have be very different, but how churlish would it have been of me to demand exclusivity of your time? Unacceptably so, in my opinion. I still enjoyed the opportunity, and as I have told you privately, some positives came of it. And if you ever do need to see someone seriously good, I have the contacts. 🙂

          • Grant S., perhaps this is not my place to say, but did you consider treatment in another country?

            • Very kind of you to ask. Unfortunately that is not really an option for me at the current time, for financial and geographical mobility reasons. However, as I said, I am fortunate enough to have found, via referral, a very well qualified psychiatrist who specializes in my area of most need, so I am doing pretty well with good prospects.
              I like what you have written, think that you are doing a great service in this; opening people’s minds to the inherent responsibilities of openly commenting on anyone’s personal site, and to Ming himself, who is held in high regard by many, which is evident from the responses here.
              Appreciate your concern in asking me, very much.

        • Michiel953 says:

          Just jumping in here Ming. No, I think it’s “caused” by the increasing (everything else increases/improves etc, so why not this?) need of society to “label” everything that is slightly different and therefore uncomfortable or annoying.

          We have two lovely twin girls of just over two years old and even I feel compelled every now and then to categorize their behavior. “Compulsive organizing, creating chaos, and reorganizing”? Something must be seriously wrong there. Or is that just something she inherited from me? Is it just play?


          • We definitely project on our children, no matter how young. I’m guilty of doing it already. Fortunately my wife is very good at stopping me 🙂

            • Michiel953 says:

              I’m not sure guilt comes into it, although I’m aware of the projecting bit. But what else can we do? Kep an open and watchful, loving, mind I guess.

          • Michiel,

            Isn’t it called “learning”? :D)

            • Michiel953 says:

              Terry, I grew up (as you did, though you were a few years ahead of me) in an era slowly and sometimes a little faster evolving from tight arsed to tolerant. That tolernce is still with me. My girls now have to cope with a very complicated world… I feel I can only help them, and stimulate them to be curious (which they are) and learn. Their mother is a bit more strict… Of course.

              • I am hoping my daughter doesn’t have my curiosity for disassembling things…

                • Michiel953 says:

                  Well…, one of my twins is into organizing, reorganizing, tearing up etc. The other one is into creative stuff.
                  We’ll see. They’re only just over two years old.

      • A loyal reader says:

        While the stigma may be less in the UK/European countries, I’m not sure the care is any better.

        I’ve spent 6 of the last 10 years in private therapy, trying to put right the effects of a known childhood trauma. With it not being hugely effective and money running tight, I went to my NHS GP (NHS is the UK’s free healthcare provider), who referred me for a mental health assessment.

        The 4-page, error-riddled report can be summarised in one sentence: “You’re not right & drugs won’t help, but as you’re not about to kill yourself or harm others we’re discharging you”. So back to square 1 again. I despair.

        • Unfortunately, that seems to be much the case within the NHS. Every branch of the service is suffering from the usual bureaucratic limitations of administrative overload, decision paralysis and budget shortages. Ironically, this includes the Mental Health trusts. I find the biggest challenge with providing adequate mental health care is really one of manpower: it is necessary to have continuity of care and a relationship with the patient so that the history and developments are known and adjusted for considerations of individual personality. Unfortunately, this means that there are only a finite number of people each practitioner can adequately service – my total active patient roster is a lot lower than a lot of my colleagues, for instance – and I feel as though I am already operating at capacity. Sadly, the trend of course has been towards more – at the expense of efficacy.

          I hesitate to make any speculations or suggestions without assessing you in person, though it sounds as though that funds may be better spent on a complete change of situation rather than trying to rectify the current one.

          • A loyal reader says:

            Thanks for your thoughtful response PL. Many of my university friends are medics, and it has been illuminating (and sometimes scary) to hear the system from “the other side” as they progress in their careers — or head to general practice, as a number have chosen to.

            I completely understand your hesitation (and expect nothing else from a professional) to speculate or suggest, but confess I got lost in the latter half of that sentence. What sort of complete change of situation were you alluding to?

            > though it sounds as though that funds may be better spent on a complete change of situation rather than trying to rectify the current one.

            • The change of situation is in its simplest form anything that forces you to re-examine constant anchors in your life: career, physical location, country, etc. However, one of the reasons I find speculation unhelpful is because it could well be such a change that triggered the condition to begin with.

      • I think the point that Kadi was trying to make was why is it so important to get ourselves upset about being upset by Trolling.
        Can the “Trolls” always identify themselves as “Trolls” or are they busy commenting on this subject along with everyone else?
        Are we now going to spend our time being suspicious of everyone who comments? True trolling is a malicious act and it is usually
        identifiably as such. In those cases I have seen where this community rather quickly puts a stop to it, and Ming sometimes jumps in as reinforcement. We don’t need to start becoming suspicious of everyone who doesn’t agree with us.

    • I really started to feel it happening to me, a small ‘erosion of the edges’ that used to be pretty sharp. And then occasional writer’s block (that’s a new one for me). PL came along at the right time.

  34. Ming,
    Explaining the psychopathology of the vandals who post negative comments on your beautiful website seems important only if it helps you resist distraction and discomfort. Your work speaks for itself. A diverse worldwide group of admirers numbering in the thousands eagerly look forward to seeing your images and learning from you. Life is about doing not gauging the effect your actions have on others. Is Michelangelo less as an artist because Pietà was vandalized in 1972? I hope you can redirect every bit of energy you spend thinking about these issues into your art and your family. We will all benefit. I am very grateful for all you have taught me and thank you for your generosity.

    • Agreed.

    • Alas, Michelangelo did not have to see the vandalism, but I do suspect he had his share of critics – and patrons – in the day.

      • Forget the trolls, I’d have gone mad retouching the same ceiling on my back for four years. I have trouble staring at PS for four days! That said, it was completely worth the effort… 🙂

    • Thanks John. I found PL’s comments helpful – and worth sharing – because they force me to be objective and unemotional about the whole thing: if I don’t give a response, then they don’t come back because they don’t get what they want. And it isn’t me who has the problem. Elegant, no? 🙂

  35. Ming’s blog has historically been refreshingly free of trolls and fan boys as compared to others. I think it’s because the content and insight is at a higher level than the vast majority of other blogs out there, which tends to attract others who are at a bit higher level themselves (or aspire to be). Thanks Ming!

    I consult with Global 1000 companies on how internal collaboration can make their employees more productive, more innovative and reinforce the culture they want to have as a company. The sort of trolling you see on Internet sites does not generally occur on company intranets because people are not anonymous. People realize there could be consequences for someone who behaves outside social norms. Expressing opinions that the company could be doing something in a better way are encouraged, but respect for individuals is a core value that is rigorously supported at virtually every company.

    Would be interesting if the software that supports these sorts of discussion boards would allow us as readers to flag someone as a person whose posts we personally don’t want to read anymore and then send that person a notice that he’s been tuned out. After the troll has gotten a whole bunch of these notices, would he change his behavior? Back to the “treat this as if it’s a physical gathering” advice, now the troll sees that each time he lashes out, his audience wrinkles their nose in disgust and walks away. If he wants to have anyone to talk to he has to tone it down. Or he can decide to stop coming to the gathering.

    • IMHO some means for readers to confirm to Ming our objection to a post/poster for Ming to consider blacklisting, would be welcome, as it enables Ming to respond to the concerns of his greater readership, not his own possible reluctance to single out a destructive poster…the tribal council, as it were.

      • That’s possible. I could keep a blacklist page somewhere. But I’m not sure I see the benefit in making the negativity public.

        • … Ming I was not imagining a public blacklist but more of a “thumb down” or “report poster” button that totals the results and reports only to you. If a poster receives a high number of readership objections, you ( and only you) would know your audiences consensus and could consider deleting the post or barring the poster, possibly after a friendly warning. Your site may or may not have that capability. Just a thought. No need to reply.

      • Barry Reid says:

        Unfortunately, I see this as a risky approach leading to massive extra work as there is a risk of MT’s time being wasted by malicious reports or reports by those who don’t wish to see particular debates opened up (yes, the MT blog is a big enough brand to have its own fanbois😉).

        Web moderation that doesn’t stifle debate yet keeps things civil is a skill which is hard to effectively crowd source. There is also a tendency to bullying by established members I’ve seen develop in some internet fora which this approach to moderation could encourage, particularly if anonymous.

    • Interesting idea, Tom. I don’t know if discouragement would make them cease or just start the whole ‘escalation cycle’ – I suspect the latter, which is why disagreements over seemingly trivial things on some fora blow up into huge name calling contests. The upvote system seems to work well, but plays havoc with causality/sequencing of comments and replies. What I’d really like is a way to force people to use their real identities; I could make login FB-only, but that would unfairly exclude those who don’t have it… So…we’re back to the delete button for now.

      • Please, please, *never* go FB only! I know a lot of highly intelligent,positively motivated, and interested people who refuse, for whatever reason to use FB. And also me 😉

  36. Dr PL hit the nail when he said Ming’s biggest struggle is not being able to separate the opinions that matter and those that don’t. The occasional reassurance is something we’ll give Mr Ming when needed 🙂

    One thing I still struggle with is unless you have a highly vested interest in the company why on earth do people care and support it so much (more so with massive corporations)

    • Gerner Christensen says:

      Junaid, my Buddy 🙂

      **One thing I still struggle with is unless you have a highly vested interest in the company why on earth do people care and support it so much (more so with massive corporations)**

      That’s what PL tries to explain I assume. But I agree and wonders as well. There are some us who are brought up or have been taught on a later moment in life, ‘we have to behave nicely despite we might disagree’. Some of us might even have been told to accept being slapped and immediate after just turning the other cheek against to receive the next.
      Perhaps Ming addresses all this on the behalf of not only himself and his personal mailbox, but on behalf of serious bloggers and attempts to establish serious photographer societies on the net.

      We are talking about a serious weakness of the Internet in general I think: I has no consequences at all to accuse each other for being bribed or bought, being stupid and ignorant, incompetent and an idiot. Trolls are having fun and fanboys as well. The latter is though far less likely to impact on common sense. ‘I am am a Manchester FC fan and I fight for those guys who are thinking like me.’

      • Hello Gerner. I am glad that MT addressed it because his is one of the few forums that has managed to maintain a very high intellectual standard of discussion despite the audience size. He attends to that personally, and I have no doubt it makes all the difference. However, it also takes a large personal toll on him – one that is becoming visible. This combination of properties makes him both unique and ‘fragile’ out of all of the other forums and sites I frequent – he may resent this description – and ‘the right person’ to address it.

        • Ouch. Fragile is a hard way of putting it – and if it came from anybody I didn’t know offline, I’d be…concerned – but I suppose you’re right. I operate optimally on a knife edge: I need some drive and malcontention to be motivated to push the limits, but not so much that I’m depressed. And too much happiness makes for a complacent artist.

          • Praneeth Rajsingh says:

            We studied this is Psychology 101. Everyone needs a certain level of tension/malcontention to be able to work efficiently and productively. The malcontention must be strong enough to drive you to work to be rid of it. I may be wrong. But I do recall reading about this in Psychology 101.

          • You may wish to consider yourself “anti-fragile”, based on a work that PL may well be familiar with. From what I see, and perceive, you could fit into this category.

            • I don’t think so. Antifragiles need chaos to survive; I’m definitely not the spontaneous type (even if it may appear that way). I need to rationalise and understand why/how I’m doing something before I’m comfortable doing it. You should see how I agonise on the load out before a shoot…

      • Gerner, I thought they were helpful words for me as they forced me back to being objective – and seeing what was wrong in my own behaviour. Putting that ability to fix things back in your own control is very powerful. I suppose that’s why PL is so good at what he does 🙂

    • CrazyP, for some, the money they have spent on hardware is not insignificant, and required some compromises – it is here where they feel they do have an investment requiring some defense…even if the understanding that nothing an individual can say or do changes the value or perception of the product. It is also possible they understand this to be true at a subconscious level, and compensate by expressing their opinions in an even louder and more obnoxious manner. Of course, there are some individuals who can significantly influence the perception of a product – MT for one – and they resent this and escalate accordingly.

      • I’m flattered to think I have that much influence, but I doubt it. If the referral sales numbers are anything to go by, either the camera companies can close shop, or you guys give me too much credit.

      • Superb, some fantastic discussions here and I feel you’re correct in that the sums of money invested in a camera nowadays is considerable enough to alter behavior.

        I think people struggle with the fact Ming is indifferent to the brand of camera he uses – surely he must be a fanboy!

        Ming – I think you make people unhappy as you speak rather truthfully. People can’t handle the truth :p

        Gerner – I’ll shoot you an email my friend, we must catch up!

    • He’s right, but I think it’s one level higher than that: I want to try to make everybody happy. And that is evidently impossible – but I don’t understand why I make some people so unhappy.

      • These two sentences strike me as the heart of the matter. An interesting article, and a lot of interesting philosophical comments. With deference to the much greater experience of PL, from my own experience, I would summarize things very simply.

        You don’t make some people so unhappy. They are already unhappy.

        It’s not personal. You can’t fix it. That photography is the apparent subject is irrelevant. There are other issues. You’re just a convenient target. Rare will be the case where it’s worthwhile to think any further about them, even as an intellectual exercise; you have better use for your time, and this isn’t the first time it’s been evident such things take a toll.

        Likewise, it’s your choice if you want to try to make everybody happy, but in my opinion it’s a futile exercise, certainly in the context of an internet forum which draws so many different types of people (most of whom you don’t know personally) from so many locations, backgrounds etc.

        This is a place for your personal expression. If you want me to be part of your audience, I might think you “owe” us politeness and respect, and I may also be here because I agree with your goals and standards – thoughtfulness, objectivity, integrity, for example – but I don’t see that it’s your job to make us happy. And you’ll make yourself crazy trying.

        From observations in personal and business relationships, I’ve seen that people learn, and change, when they’re ready. Maybe it’s appropriate to offer information, guidance, and support; but whether that’s helpful depends on what trajectory the person is on. Sometimes people learn best by example. And some people are so bound up with their issues they spew nothing but negativity in their wake. These people are toxic and you’re not obligated to let them into your space.

        It’s pretty clear this is a forum of reasonable, thoughtful people. Anyone coming in here foaming at the mouth over, for example, a perceived slight to their latest Canon or Sony whatever, will either pick up on the general tone (e.g, learn something) and calm down, or not. In most cases, I don’t see that anything you say will make a difference, and I wouldn’t waste your valuable, limited time trying. If you don’t want to delete or block people, don’t respond. People whose goal is drama have other places to find it.

        Finally, I’ve followed you for quite a while; you’ve been a fabulous resource and source of inspiration. I don’t know you personally, but obviously you care deeply about what you do; you have to be sensitive to be the artist you are; and as an educator, you’ve made yourself open to the give and take of the learning process. It takes courage to put yourself out here in the wild west of internet territory where people can take shots at you. But if people throw enough crap at you, some of it is bound to stick. If it doesn’t feel worth it anymore, if you’re no longer getting enough of value from us in return for what you’re investing, it makes sense to close up shop.

        As the saying goes, just my two cents…

        • And the conclusion is, the only thing which makes any sense is keep on keepin’ on. 🙂

          • Well, if you can with a smile on your face, go for it!

            I have some psychology background, and used to be really interested in understanding what makes people tick. Along the way I grew less interested in the philosophical whys of behavior, and took a more functional approach – pretty much around the time I became a manager. Possibly also the latent engineer in me making an appearance…I’m not cynical, just realistic. Some people are just dopes, there’s nothing much you can do about it, so don’t sweat it.

            Probably good I didn’t pursue a career as a therapist…

            • I think some understanding is required up to a point, but then one has to get on with their own life…

              • Absolutely agree. I believe I am, by nature, a kind and compassionate person; but I’ve learned via much experience when a line needs to be drawn for self-preservation. I hope you’ve found what you were looking for in the overall discussion on this topic.

  37. Richard Crack says:

    Hello Ming. This comment may be slightly OT, although placing it in the light of supporting MT and his website, I believe it to be relevant. I have only recently discovered your website in the last couple of years, yet it has become one of my ‘top ten’ websites to visit on an almost daily basis. Your dedication to and hard work in continuing to move your site forward are very evident to and appreciated by this reader. Thank you.

    In addition, I really feel the need to tell you that the image at the top of this article is superb. It is a supreme and very successful example of one of the really interesting and challenging compositional challenges of photography, combining abstraction and ‘reality’ in one image. Also very much in its favour are the many subtleties of tone and colour that work with the strong lines and curls of the cables/hoses to create a sense of potential energy just waiting to uncoil. The tiny loop of blue at the top enables my imagination to explore the possibilities waiting beyond the boundary of the image. One further point about the composition, I personally have always found corners to be compositionally awkward if not dangerous, however you have handled the bottom corners of this composition so elegantly that the intersection of the cables/hoses with the bottom corners lends a sense of stability and strength to the whole.

    Your photograph embodies what my former art college instructors use to call ‘pure seeing’, that is seeing the potential composition rather than just the object(s) being considered. Another comment they used to make was that it takes time to ‘get your eye in’ or ‘to find one’s stride’. Well, from what I have seen over the last couple of years is that you have well and truly reached that point.

    BTW, this last paragraph is definitely OT but I have a Nikon D800e and have noted your statement that you profile all of your cameras. So with respect to Nikon cameras, how do you account for or do you ignore Nikon’s Picture Controls, I have the feeling that I am not really understanding the the process of profiling a digital camera even though I calibrate both my display and my printer. Perhaps this could form the basis of a future article on your website?

    Thank you.

    • Thanks Richard. On your comments – I find there was a point for me at which the world just decomposed into colors and shapes and became subject-independent. It’s an odd abstraction but really helps with any sort of composition, because you are no longer ‘fooled’ by the impact of the specific subject. On edges – just look for orthogonal cut points. Anything else is usually distracting because it suggests something that should be there but is instead cut off.

      Camera calibration: picture controls are ignored by ACR and only affect the preview jpegs. What I do is create a profile in ACR that is automatically applied to each file as it comes in; that way you have a known starting point, and if you have a calibrated display and printer, a known reference when editing and consistency/continuity through the output. It’s not simple to write about but is covered comprehensively in PS Workflow II.

  38. Your website is a rare thing, Ming Thein. As is your passion and devotion to your craft. It is people like you that install worth in life and anchor value by doing what they do. I, for one, am not afraid the trolls and the ennui accompanying them will get to you, because you carry a truth with you that few people do. Let this serve as a reminder that you are valued by many not just for your gear reviews but for what you bring to all of your creations.

  39. “Fanboys’ and ‘trolls’, on the other hand, are typically lacking in self confidence or conviction in their work, and in the majority of cases, are actually unable to produce any work that they are actually proud of.”

    Eh! They won’t like it!

  40. I do not comment often nor I know you personally but I enjoy reading your articles and your points of views. If you ever come to northern Spain I am sure I’ll have some good cigar waiting for you ;D (I do not remember very well if you liked them ;P )
    Best Wishes

  41. Unfortunately this is a very polarising article. Also divisive. I would much prefer to see MT simply screen comments with a strict policy of putting tone first, then considering content. That approach would be so much more effective and efficient than any article that name-calls and lectures. The introductory paragraph by MT makes an appeal to authority which also doesn’t help with the condescending tone.

    Trolling is an ugly problem and I don’t like it at all, but this article is almost part of the problem.

    • I found nothing objectionable about this article. How is it divisive? Can you be more specific?

    • Should we assume that the trolls are actually photographers? They comment as if from actual experience, but I doubt it. Then others that are truly knowledgeable jump in and try to straighten their thinking. And, the troll chuckles.

    • Hi Granite. I don’t know you but am puzzled by your comment…

      — “this is a very polarising article. Also divisive.”… Is it polarizing/devisive to describe that there are highly negative commenters on the Internet (whom the writer was carful not to name), who tend to insult/inflame and are generally referred to as trolls?

      –“article that name-calls and lectures”… The author was careful not to name names, but instead to describe the actions and possible motivations of commenters, who are hurting our host and impacting his willingness to continue his open blog.

      — “The introductory paragraph by MT makes an appeal to authority which also doesn’t help with the condescending tone.” … I just don’t understand what you are saying. I understood the intro to briefly introduce the writer and explain why he wishes to be anonymous. If he has credentials and Ming chooses to tell us, great.

      –“Trolling is an ugly problem and I don’t like it at all, but this article is almost part of the problem.”…are you suggesting it’s wrong to acknowledge there are decidedly negative posters here and on the wider internet, who hurt more than add and who are referred to as Trools or Fan Boys? Is your comment intended to be in that vein because I don’t understand what constructive point you are making.

      I do not mean to offend you in my reply, but am just not seeing your constructive point.

    • Hi Granite, I respectfully and completely beg to differ – Sir. I found Dr. P.L’s article to be insightful and far from devisive; au contrer, as he stated he knows MT personally and was giving us his views. I find your take of the situation coupled with Dr. P.L’s article to be doubly reinforcing that the silent should speak. Thanks.

    • Agreed.

    • It was not my intention to be divisive or polarizing, merely informative and explanatory of the underlying pathology of some of the behaviors we see online – so that we ourselves might do our part to stop it, for the benefit of all. MT did not solicit me; we had a correspondence and I offered to contribute my views.

    • I saw the article as much a kick at my behaviour as a series of observations – none of us are perfect, and PL doesn’t name call. It isn’t an appeal to authority at all, but something I felt was helpful to me in trying to be a better person (and letting that stuff affect me less, which is beneficial to you guys).

      As for putting tone first – it works in person but much of the nuance is lost online between text-only and English not being everybody’s first language, so that might not be fair.

  42. Frans Kemper says:

    “Please treat this site as a physical gathering instead of a virtual one, and behave accordingly.” These wise words nailed it for me.
    Another subject that came on popping up is about the silent majority. I am guilty of that as well. Especially when things start being negative, I than decide to ignore it. However, I feel that we, the silent majority should be less silent for the sake of A) supporting our host in not feeling alone in this and B) keep the communication positive. After all we are here voluntarily because we have a passion of making photographs, for whatever reason that might be.
    For me, the added value of this site is learning about making photos and how I can do things different to achieve a higher (artistic) quality. I am not a pixel peeper and believe strongly that it is ME that is doing the photo making and not my equipment. I have several excellent photos made by my grandfather with his AGFA box. These keep my feet firmly on the ground when it comes to equipment buying.
    Ming, your site is an inspiration to me, and I hope you have the mental strength not to get distracted. I think that we, the silent majority, should take our responsibility and be more less silent.
    My 2 cents,

    • I’ve always thought of the internet that way. There is no such thing as anonymity – you can be traced, quite easily. So why attempt to hide?

      I would be the last to encourage ‘whacking the troll’ – I think that puts all of us down to their level, but I admit recognising PL’s ‘behaviour of escalation’ in my own actions when replying. I usually reply, then delete it and come back a few hours later. But if everybody jumped into the discussion with questions or observations of their own, it would be greatly enriching for all 🙂

      Frans, you may just have started a run on the remaining Agfa boxes. 😛

  43. Joakim Danielson says:

    Great article P.L and so through for many places on the web. I don’t read that much of the comment section on this site but I am frequent a forum quite often where there are some users that are so obsessive in their opinions and aggressive in their behavior that I refrain in participating in a discussion or sometimes even reading the thread just because of them, quite sad really but that’s the way it is.

    Keep up the good work Ming, I have appreciated reading your articles for quite a few years now and learn a lot from them and your videos about photography, post-processing and that other stuff, what was it now… yes gear 🙂

    • Hah! Well, Joakim, a lot of people find me through reviews – which is strange, given that I’m usually on the second or third page. But if you type in ‘psychology of color’ or ‘what makes a memorable image’, it’s a different story. The problem is nobody is searching for those things…yet it’s what people really want. Strange disconnect, no? 🙂

  44. Jos MARTENS says:

    A comment that highlights the essence of life and culture : being an individual person, developing him/herself,open to all ideas of others but able to judge them and adapt or even not adapt when he/she feels right about these ideas ;
    Always looking forward to another rewarding thought provoking MT post

  45. Kyle Tebbs says:

    This article has provoked a lot of thought on my part. Because of it I feel I can be a better more enthusiastic photographer, and a better more enthusiastic person. Thanks so much.,

  46. The “schoolyard bully” is no longer just the big, inconsiderate, self-centered kid who was a part of most every childhood, the affects of whom was,ultimately, some benefit to most of us as we developed into adults. The childhood “schoolyard bully” presented the challenge of superior size, strength, and/or social influence. Everybody has seen the movie, or read the book, in which the smaller child finally musters the courage to confront and overcome the bully by punching him/her in the nose. I don’t remember it that way. Either the bully went on bullying, or was overcome by and even bigger bully. I do, however, recall that some kids, lacking the courage to confront and punch the bully, would scream obscenities at the bully when they thought distance or barrier would conceal who they were.

    Modern psychology and communication technology go together like hand in glove. Together, they worm their way deeper and deeper into public life. Relatively simple things that most overcome in childhood become deeply contemplated forces that must be attended to throughout life: the “schoolyard bully” transmutes to anyone whose superior opinions or abilities make you realize the inferiority of your own.

    Ming, you are a great photographer, and we are blessed by the fact that you share your opinions and experience with great flare and resolve. I am confident that your resolve is the product of considerable knowledge born of effort and experience. However, the very fact of your ability is going to result in your being viewed, by some, as a bully. And they will obsess over it. View the internet as a surrogate for a fence, or distance, and the trolls and fanboys as the kids that yell obscenities only when they feel they are safely out of your reach.

    • I suppose no matter how careful you try to be, somebody is always going to be insulted. Ah well…there is no point ‘dumbing down’ for the benefit of those people; I did plenty of that in corporate.

  47. MT, keep doing what feels right and gives you pleasure. Don’t let a few jerks discourage you. As intimated in the article, most of these people have their egos tied up in their equipment not their photographic output.

  48. I am one of the “silent majority”.
    I felt the the resignation, frustration, and even bitterness in the words of Ming lately – and it hurt to see/read it. There is so much independent thinking, energy, and passion in this blog – not talking about the immense work. We all benefit so much from Ming’s work, it is an incomparable source of inspiration as much as of information and education. This blog has become a part of my life, like a thought-provoking companion.
    Thank you for putting so much energy in this site, Ming, and don’t give up!

    • Still going, don’t worry. I have an editorial plan out til the end of the year. PL’s post was the kick up the rear I needed- and one of the reasons I really felt compelled to share it here. 🙂

  49. I’m very new to this website/blog/ . . . and have been losing myself in the links as I travel back to earlier posts. I was directed here by a reader/friend with whom I exchange images, reflections on images, etc. My approach to photography (also in my 3rd age) is much like PL’s. I make images for the process of so doing, for looking, for seeing. I like it when I make an image that pleases me, I want to improve but I’m not ever going to be obsessional about it. I find the images and the texts on this site deeply interesting and thought-provoking. I like the range of topics, I’ve enjoyed the psychology of perception articles (especially because I’ve just been to see some James Turrell installations – look him up – he plays with light and our perceptions of light). This is a stimulating and engaging website – I rarely post comments on people’s sites, but it seemed important to do so this time.

  50. Thank you so much for allowing us to read this great article. Personally, I agree with most of what it tells us. I though it particularly relevant to camera clubs in general and the positive/negative impact on members from the judging process. I think the term’ judging’ is absurd, ‘assessing’ is a far more appropriate term. No one presents an image for ‘judging’ that they feel is not up to scratch. They are demoralised when the so called judge gives their work a rubbishing because the rule of thirds has not been applied, the foreground is too large or too short, same for the background, or, the middle distance does not contain enough detail in the blacks. Plus many, many more criticisms that are so often totally irrelevant. Our impression of any image is subjective and of course our bias will inevitably shine through.

    I’m just an ordinary photographer, I know what I like and dislike. It amuses me when I respond to criticism of my images by saying, ” I know it’s a bit grainy and slightly out of focus but I’ve just ordered a f1.4 1000mm lens with VR so I’ll now be able to use ISO 100 in any light and these issues will no longer occur. Thanks for bringing my problems into the open,” and get a reply along the lines of,” Oh, I’ve read about that lens, I wish I could afford one because I have the same problems and that lens will fix everything.” I rest my case.

    Your blog should be compulsory reading for every photographer and so called camera club judge. Were that so, we would all better off.

    Keep up your great work and don’t let the philistines get you down.

    • Judging implies some sort of absolute right/wrong. Assessing implies relativity and subjectivity – which you’re right in point out is far more suitable to a very personally biased art form like photography.

      Dislike/like is neither right nor wrong – and that’s fine. But mistaking an opinion for an absolute is the beginning of the problem… 🙂

      • I shudder when a judge begins by using the word “like”. By using the work “like” it implies to me that he would take the photo home with him, at the exclusion of others.

        • Is there anything wrong with that though? It could be seen as just expressing personal preferences, and admission of bias: you can like something but not something else, but it doesn’t mean you don’t respect that something else. The tricky part comes when trying to maintain some sort of objectivity.

  51. Ming, yes, I would imagine it must be very difficult to give to us all the blood, sweat and tears that you do, and then get slammed or insulted by some readers. Please know the contribution your images, words and knowledge makes to my photographic journey is immeasurable. I thank you very much!!! I hope the callus/careless posters will think twice and/or you will develop a protection mechanism. The alternative would be a tremendous loss. Thank you again for all you do.

  52. John Brady says:

    I also wonder if the silent majority needs to become a little less silent. Trolls have a very corrosive effect, and as this article notes, there is an ennui in some of your recent postings which wasn’t present a year or so back. There is a danger that negative voices become dominant; hardly surprising then that you have openly pondered whether this effort is worth the hassle and negativity.

    I’ve enjoyed your posts for a number of years but tended not to contribute to the debate. I recently made a conscious decision to comment more frequently, in the hope that this will provide some level of counter-balance. However it’s a fine line: you tend to personally respond to all comments, and I’m not sure this is sustainable if the community grows.

    Best wishes, John.

    • Actually John, you raise a good point – the silent majority being less silent would make a huge difference…and it is through honest discussion that things move along. I certainly don’t want the negativity – it’s taking the joy out of photography – and if it’s becoming obvious to yourself, Dr. P.L. and others, I’d better do something about it.

      • I admit it was becoming concerning to me both because the atmosphere of enthusiasm was ebbing a little, and the atmosphere of collegial discourse of the early days wasn’t so prevalent in more recent comments. Personally, that openness was one of the big things that differentiated MT from others; it was a shame to see it lost. I felt, and feel, somewhat guilty – being in the silent majority myself. I have little time between consultations and family, and honestly wonder how MT manages, and what else he is sacrificing on the side for our benefit.

        I do own the entire “Forest” series of Ultraprints (and one which hasn’t yet been offered, thanks to our host) – and I think I understand what he is trying to accomplish. Given the level of enjoyment I derive from the prints – and the calming effect it has on my patients – it’s not a hardship. What is concerning is that so many are happy to pass judgment and condemn him as a gearhead or otherwise without ever having seen the endgame in person.

        MT, I apologize if I do not comment as frequently as I would wish. But you should know that for every troll there are far more supporters.

      • Eu-Gene Lee says:

        Or the silent majority can just go ahead and buy your work – the ultrprint is taking pride of place in my house, Ming. The only trouble is, the missus likes the work so much, she wants more! I have to be better at squirrelling away my pay and then more orders. I think a food series in the dining room is next. Proof of the pudding in terms of my support is to take out my wallet rather than my keyboard.

        • I would not complain if that were the case – glad to hear you’re enjoying the prints! My conversation with P.L. actually started after he bought Forest III…

          • Eu-Gene Lee says:

            Ah, yes. The Forest series. On a side note, I have just returned from Queenstown and I swear I could place some of your portfolio taken around that part of the world. All I can say is, I think the more economical route, though arguably less personally rewarding, is to just buy the ultraprints – trying to bridge the gulf in skill and dedication, not to mention equipment and printing (kudos to Wesley) to produce something similar is an exercise in futility.

            • Hello Eu-Gene, Forest III certainly made me want to visit Queenstown – but the journey time and my bad back makes it impossible…please go vicariously for both of us!

              • I actually made the journey in reverse once – Wellington to London via Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur, when we moved from New Zealand in the late 90s – even as a kid, something like 30 hours on a plane was hell…

              • Eu-Gene Lee says:

                PL, perhaps break up the journey in Asia and throw in a good massage to deal with the back pain. I remember having to look for some lumbar relief at Changi airport on the way to London from Australia a few years ago for exactly those reasons. Then again, you would have many options at your doorstep in Europe to explore such natural beauty. Maybe just buy the extended collections of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit and watch it on HDTV! Peter Jackson has probably done more for NZ tourism than even the tourism board could.

            • I’m flattered to think that I’ve done the locations justice – having been there in person, I tried, but boy oh boy are they magnificent…

              • Eu-Gene Lee says:

                You have. But then there is so much visual overload that it is difficult to capture it all adequately. You have to pick and choose something to focus on and that’s where I think your artistic eye comes in – visual curation…or something like that. 🙂

                • Photography is nothing more than a personally biased curation of the real world, no?

                  • Eu-Gene Lee says:

                    Maybe so, technically. But it just doesn’t seem to ring as well as “The Decisive Moment”. Perhaps the latter description fits more with street photography. Queenstown’s beauty, I’d argue, lends itself more to “visual curation”. The personally biased bit, while true, has derogatory overtones that isn’t warranted, especially in your case.

      • Ming, I’m one of those silent but long time learner, listener and greatful observers. I’ve notice slight changes in your prose but could not figure it out except for life’s currents. Thank you for this article; its clear now. I want you to know that my daughter, a graduate from Penn State, is now also your fan – seeing far more here than was paid for….it is your great work that inspires many….please whenever ogres find their way across your path, hear instead the wonderful cooing off your baby’s musings.

        We need you to continue your work!

      • The mystery camera trolling review last February was funny and (at least from the outside) appeared to be a constructive way to blow off steam. Stay sane and happy. Yours is a wonderful blog.

  53. I love MT’s work. His site is one of the reasons I get out every weekend and take photos, not sit at home reading gear reviews.

    I certainly don’t care what cameras or lenses MT used this week any more than I care about the brand of pencils used by my favourite illustrators. I do care that his images and articles make me think more deeply about how I can improve.

    Those clowns complaining that MT doesn’t use the same equipment they own (or more likely wished they owned) are not contributing to photography as an art, profession or hobby in any way. They really should get out more and spend their time behind a viewfinder.

    Typing insults and threats is easy, anyone can do that. Taking great photos is hard. That takes a working mind.

    Please MT, keep up the great work!

  54. Thank you, anonymous, for shedding more light on the elephant in the room while highlighting the things that make Ming’s contributions – his images, his analysis, his time – valuable, unique, and precious. I wonder if he wishes he could apply curves to some of the comments and do some selective dodging and burning and sharpening. The act of creation will always take more time, effort, energy, and intelligence than the act of destruction. There is a lot of ugly our there. Those of us who value its opposite will always have an uphill battle. Thank you, Ming, for your persistence!

  55. Gerner Christensen says:

    I think it was a refreshment to read and a necessity to touch this topic by third person since neither this is written by fanboys, trolls or yourself.
    This site is unique and there’s no parallel to it in the world that I know of at least. We as a community or readers should and do pay Ming respect both as a person and an artist and I feel humble and grateful I am welcome to come here to read and learn and leave a comment upon what is dear or important to me. We shouldn’t forget that Ming offers everybody an opportunity to learn and get inspired without any request of economical return for the invested time.
    I think then destructive and rude fanboys and trolls just should leave elsewhere and express what’s on their hearts if they have the need. This place is for balanced people who share their interest about photography and philosophy or even cameras of different type and how to get the best out of them.
    I owe everything to you Ming and some of your students, for the step forwards I have achieved the later year. I came to you because I wanted to spent my third age making better photos and it was exactly this site and the quality of it that lead to I got a more specific educational program for me which in the end meant photography became my way of living. (Not living from it I should say).
    It hurts me a lot to see mean people throw sand in your eyes while they really don’t have any legitimate reason to do so.
    I do think you should try not to affected by unserious and childish outbursts against you, but on the other hand it is unfair to ask you just to accept and swallow whatever BS that is thrown in your direction.

  56. I support every word in this fantastic and very relevant article and as a follow up feel inspired to quote Theodore Roosevelt:
    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    Dear Ming! Thank you so much for all your valuable posts and inspiration!

  57. Thanks PL; a great read, just a shame we live in a time where those that lack courage can wield the written word like a sword and get airplay.

    Ming; intelligent, articulate, passionate, independent (read UNBIASED), professional, artistic, committed to excellence, need I say more! It would be an absolute travesty if your site, but more critically, you personally faded in the face of these ‘moronic oxygen thieves’. I’m not suggesting I have the answer, but PL certainly articulated an highly informed position.

    For the record, I would happily pay a subscription for your site as I do now for Sean Reid of Reid Reviews. Is this with consideration? Your site and work certainly have the scale, breadth and quality necessary. I’m not sure how your courses go, but perhaps access to say one a month as part of the fee could be viable and a wonderful incentive (just thinking out aloud)? I’m sure the trolls wouldn’t pay for the privilege!

    Regardless of what you decide to do, I’d like to say a big THANKS for all that you bring to the photographic community. You for one breathe rarified air!



    • Thanks Gary. I’d like to keep the site open and free to access though – it would defeat the whole point to restrict access to knowledge…

    • Whilst the subscription model would be an obvious solution, I think MT is right in keeping access open to all – he has far more to gain intangibly by not restricting his audience. That said, I am of the strong suspicion that if every reader were to give him a dollar a month – not a hardship or even noticeable for most of us – he could probably be less concerned about the opportunity tradeoffs (and a little happier about dealing with the trolls).

      • Peter Bowyer says:

        An alternative (third way?) would be to leave reading the site & comments open to all, but to post comments requires a subscription – even if only $12/year. I would expect that barrier to dissuade the trolls/fanboys, while hopefully not excluding many true readers (poorer parts of the world and the unwaged excepted).

        I have been toying with a “Slow Comments” approach, modelled after the slow food/slow cities movement. Comments would be temporarily held, and after 6-24 hours an email sent to the commenter saying “This is what you wrote, are you sure you want to post it publicly? Does it add to the discussion?”. If they don’t click the link in that email, the comment is silently discarded. My aim is to get people out of the heat of the moment and to think about what they post.

        • That’s a great idea, actually. Hmmm…

          Slow comments would be equally great though the back end would have to be custom-written, and I’m not sure that is worth the headache.

          • Peter Bowyer says:

            I’m not sure either are possible with a WordPress.com hosted blog? The headaches & cost of hosting WordPress yourself would not be worth it (source: my job, hosting, maintaining & cleaning post-hacking a number of high-profile WordPress sites)

            • Probably not. I didn’t go down the self-hosted route for the reasons you mention. That, and having redundant international backup servers would cost a fortune with the amount of bandwidth I go through.

  58. What an excellent article. I found it really interesting and I definitely recognise some of the behaviour described, though more on other sites than this one. I think the description of MT (from the perspective of someone who has never met him and only ever read this site and watched his videos) is accurate too. It takes courage to publish this, to kudos to MT yet again. I have made a conscious effort not to behave as described on forums and I think treating all forums as if a physical one is good advice. I do recognise myself in the consumer description though. Gear purchases do give me a buzz and tuition is a much slower and uneven route to improvement. I still believe it will be ultimately more rewarding though, so will stick with it. Thank you to the author and MT for such an interesting article.

    • Tom, some of the other sites should be required study in undergraduate psychology…I am frequently shocked by how unfriendly individuals can be towards people they have never met. I admit to following some out of curiosity and finding that if they were to act the same way in person as online, they would require treatment…

      • Peter Bowyer says:

        PL, have you built a spreadsheet/database of these comments from across the web? Coming at this from a technical perspective, having a corpus of such comments would allow one to start developing automated algorithms to detect “wanted” and “unwanted” comments. Personally, I’d enjoy doing that as a side project, but it needs the data collecting first 🙂

        • At one point, I was considering writing a paper on trolling behavior on internet fora, and as such was looking into a means of collecting this data – the challenge was one of subjectivity in defining what you term ‘wanted’ and ‘unwanted’, especially on issues with borderline majorities. Unfortunately, I could not find a satisfactory solution to this problem without introducing observer bias or involving a very large control group with the appropriate background to assess comments – the former of which would render the study invalid, and the latter which would simply be impractical.

  59. A great article that has application far wider than photography. Too many products are have supporters whose worship is near to religious.

    • A valid point, and perhaps there is the germ of a future research paper here. I would only be afraid that those selling the goods would use it to create more irrational rabid fanboyism than allay it…

  60. Nicely put and its good to see support for Ming it seems he has been fighting the good fight lately.More than anything this is an indictment on the internit more than something that should be taken personally by Ming.I for one enjoy the articles Ming publishes.I dont always agree but that is just the nature of things and i certainly feel no hostility or think that my thoughts are anything but opinions at their best and i always remember that something like art or photography is very subjective.Thmx Ming and keep up the good work

    • It is the least we can do as the silent majority – who benefit so much – to just drop in and lend a word or two now and then…

  61. Some very good observations and advice P.L., and thanks Ming for sharing.

  62. Yes, this is a wonderful place to come. I love MT work and what he writes. Keep going proudly on your way.

  63. What an excellent and generous contribution by the author. I myself am very grateful to Ming for his contribution and dedication here, I consider that it is courageous to speak truthfully on photography and produce experimental work, and I consider the analysis to be as good as the photography. As an experienced photographer it is very interesting to hear these theories articulated at the level at which Ming operates.

    Meanwhile, I was once told of a cocktail party theory. You go to a party and walk into a crowded room. On average 1/3 off the people will like you. 1/3 will dislike you. The final third will just about like you if you try really really hard to please them. Take from it what you will, but your consideration should be in making yourself happy, and if that brings along 30% or 50% off the audience.… well it is what it is.

  64. I agree with atmtx: Wonderfully said. Perhaps some of the change in character of response to hostile comment is an increase in the pressure of time. A suggestion in this regard is that if a comment is sufficiently snarky it could be posted and ignored. Those sort of comments self destruct without any help. This would reduce the time cost some.

  65. Thank You for this. I agree with keeping this as a physical gathering. I too have learned much from Ming and hope the trolls stay far away. Best Wishes – Eric

  66. Lynne Shaheen says:

    A very true and well thought out assessment. Support for MT far outweighs the rest

  67. From the equipment side I have learned from MT that the personal output target matters. For me it turned out to be a photoalbum (physical) one and Facebook. Latter can be served well by my mobile phone and the other by my 60 year old Rolleicord which is most enjoyable to use in my opinion (btw. i am not 60 years old by far). That being said education is most important and that is what MT provides us. If the basic concepts(techniques, e.g. shot discipline etc. )were laid out in a concise book i would buy it. Thank you, keep on the good work and continue the hard work please.

    • I am part of the silent majority on this blog as well. And am also deeply grateful for the by far best photography blog on the Internet I have encountered so far (maybe you could share your favorite blogs if there are any MT). I have learned most of the most valuable photographic lessons here, both technical and artistic. And I continue to be amazed by the excellence of the writing, the thoughtfulness of the philosophy, and the great images in their perfect execution and refreshing quality of converting often ordinary situations into astonishing pieces of art.

      While I can’t afford the training material as a student at the moment (even though I hope to have the opportunity to meet you someday on a workshop), I would definitely buy a book. So please continue your inspirational writing and know that many of us love your way to do this blog and admire your amazing talent. And please consider to preserve your excellent technical, artistic, and philosophic approach in a book some day that contains the thoughts of your most important essays in a holistic and comprehensive collection.

      Yours sincerely TL

      • Thanks – the book is an idea I’ve been turning over for a while (not a photo book) but again it’s the logistics/economics of the project that are currently holding me back somewhat…

        • Totally understood. But it would be an great legacy as well (I’m sure you are also much more satisfied with print vs digital images, I think a book is very similar vs purely digital writing). And it wohl reach another demografic that does not frequent blogs. Many of your blogposts are simply so much better than the usual introduction to photography books. However it is a someday project for sure. Hope it will come some day 🙂

        • I especially liked that you provided explanations based on your background in physics. That sets you apart from what already exists.

  68. Wonderfully said.

  69. P.L.

    Thank-you for this! I can’t comment on the veracity of the diagnosis of the individuals involved in trolling, etc. I can, however, state my support for the beauty and value of the work done by M.T. The reviews are though provoking. The articles on photographic technique and the life observations in general have added to my capabilities and outlook on life. I continually aspire to generate images with the quality that Ming provides as part of the site. I can’t even imagine the quality he provides to clients. I would sincerely regret any loss of this site, or the inspiration provided by it and its author. I visit here at least 4 times/week… reading articles, being inspired, and learning about the hobby I and my wife enjoy together. Thank-you!


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