Photography magazines… full of contradictions? Waste of money?

I don’t usually don’t buy photo magazines anymore. If a cover catches my eye as it did while shopping for groceries on Friday morning, I’ll pick it up and have a peek.

Such was the case with an outdoor photography magazine from here in Canada. A few interesting photos, (really nowadays that’s all I care to see in a magazine), a plethora of camera and camera equipment ads (that’s the purpose of the magazine) and articles and columns.

Even if you’re just starting photography as an artistic pursuit today, you’ll find before your first subscription runs out that you’re reading the same stuff over and over again. Oh sure, there might be the odd interesting article thrown in but to spend five dollars for one article?

First and foremost, magazines like newspapers, like television networks, their purpose is to make money. They make money by attracting advertisers. Nothing wrong with earning an honest living but realize most magazines for what they are, a vehicle for selling advertising. Like photo bloggers who have associations with photography equipment companies, they don’t bite the hand that feeds them. This bears repeating, if you want an honest assessment of a piece of equipment, troll the photo forums. Nobody speaks up faster than someone who’s been burned by a poorly made or inferior purchase.

I’ll use Photomatix as an example. I receive nothing from mentioning them. They probably don’t even know that I exist. I don’t get a kickback everytime you use code “DanJurak” when you purchase from their website. When you read a product name here, it’s not something that I casually mention because for the most part, it’s unimportant. When a piece of software is far superior to anything else that I’ve used and allows me to create like no other, I will mention it. Most regular readers couldn’t possibly guess what kind of camera or lens or tripod I use. That’s because, I think that it’s unimportant. A dozen other combinations will do what I do.

The magazine I browsed had a regular feature, I guess it is because it said so. LOL It was, what’s inside my camera bag. A double page spread with tens of thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment. I counted nine, that’s right NINE lenses and then a bunch of other useless, non-essential pieces of stuff that will only slow you down.

Who on earth needs nine lenses? I know professional photojournalists that might have three lenses with them. There was nothing that I saw from the featured photographer’s photos that I saw couldn’t be done far better with far less equipment.

So what kind of message does that send the beginning photographer? Buy. Buy. Buy.

So I go a few pages toward the front of the magazine and I see another column that made me chuckle. The photographer/photo blogger/photo teacher had in his column an article about not becoming obsessed with equipment, it only gets in the way of creativity. It’s funny how most of his blog is ads for camera equipment and easily half of his posts are about camera equipment. So what am I supposed to believe, the part where I’m not supposed to be obsessed with equipment or his obsession with lenses and filters on his blog?

Can anybody guess why magazine sales are plummeting?  Ten years ago, the best medium for communicating ideas was through print.  Today, everyone can blog. Everyone can have an opinion. I don’t need the approval of an editor or an advertiser to speak my mind. I can say something is junk and not have to worry about offending an advertiser or sponsor. If you don’t believe that goes on in the print world you’re being naive.

The kind of photo magazine I am interested in probably could not exist because it’s primary reason for being would be to showcase photography and not to be a showcase for photo equipment advertisers.

If you see one, let me know. In the meantime you’ll learn more by going out and shooting than by what any magazine will tell you.

Happy shooting,

Dan

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~ by Dan Jurak on July 23, 2011.

3 Responses to “Photography magazines… full of contradictions? Waste of money?”

  1. Dan,

    As usual, I enjoy reading your articles! Keep up the good work.

  2. So true, Dan. It can also be dangerous to read too much on Flickr because many of my contacts are constantly buying new equipment and some are truly obsessed with getting the so-called latest and greatest. I find myself frequently resisting the urge to buy new gear but it ain’t easy!

  3. I do have a subscription to one magazine in particular, but my eyes just gloss over the ads for those ultralight, uberexpensive carbon fiber tripods. I can’t afford them anyway. :-) My Manfrotto setup works just great.

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