The Downfall of Photography Blogs

Oct 6, 2014

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

The Downfall of Photography Blogs

Oct 6, 2014

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

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downfall-photography-blogsThere is a problem plaguing photography blogs, waiting in the wings, ready to ensure their demise. And, as all of you armchair pundits are excitedly clicking to the comments section to inform me of my blatant hypocrisy, allow me to save you the effort and admit right here: I know there will be multiple examples of hypocrisy throughout this post. Good…I saved you thirty seconds of valuable input.

Too Many Experts

Certain issues have besieged every medium throughout history and have invariably worked their way into every facet of our lives, so photo blogs are not alone. One problem arises that, when a particular medium becomes more accessible to the average Joe, you begin to see an influx of voices crying for attention and a surge in differing information. It happened with books, where any maniac began putting their expertise into print. It’s happened with television and the countless talking heads who drone on throughout the day. As Lewis Black’s script writers so eloquently put it in Man of the Year, “TV scares me. It makes everything seem credible. … If everything seems credible then nothing seems credible. … On one side, there’s this certifiable lunatic who says the Holocaust never happened. And next to him is this noted, honored historian who knows all about the Holocaust. … Everything they say seems to be credible. And so, as it goes on, nothing seems credible anymore! We just stopped listening!” Hell, that’s been around since the concept of verbal communication revolved around grunts and groans!

And, so, we have photography blogs, the number of which seems to be increasing every day. We have giant, industry-leading blogs that hit us with the news and opinions from the Big Guys. We have individual blogs where a photographer touts their views and expertise. And, we have everything in between, including photography learning blogs and blogs about creating your own gear (yes, a shameless plug). We have Photographer A moaning about how “all these amateurs” are ruining the industry, while, on the other side, we have Photographer B who claims that aspiring amateurs are actually strengthening the industry and that the sands of time will separate the wheat from the chaff. Photographer Q lambasts those who don’t spend $20k on their gear while Photographer K blasts Mr. Q for being a gear snob. Photographer C publishes an article listing the ten most stupid photographic practices while Photographer G believes she is a successful entrepreneur BECAUSE she carries out a number of those practices.

BuzzFeed-ing

Photography blogs are also readily falling prey to the BuzzFeed mentality, inundating their readers with posts about how “you won’t believe how these pictures were captured” or “372 Photos You Won’t Believe Aren’t Fake.” While that trend was great at its peak, many readers are becoming wary of it and annoyed with the tactic. And, there’s no faster way to lose readers than by annoying the bloody piss out of them. (NOTE: While blogs are great, if you observe blood in your urine, please contact a medical professional for further assistance.) And, like was mentioned above, if everything is the “best” or “most unbelievable,” then nothing in best and we no longer give a crap about believing any of it.

And the list of problems could go on…

Unthinking Readers

But, the greatest problem lurking in the shadows is not confusing or annoying readers to the point of throwing their hands in the air and screaming, “Fudge this spit!” The greatest problem plaguing photography blogs is an undiscerning readership. Today’s society has been programmed to act like a herd of mindless sheep simply following the voice of their shepherd wherever he might lead. We aren’t taught to analyze. We aren’t taught to think. We are taught to do what we are told and blindly swallow what the alleged experts are telling us. If you don’t believe me, take a look at higher education — young people are conformed to believe their only path to success is to saddle themselves with tens of thousands of dollars of debt so they can spend four years sitting in a room echoing what an instructor is telling them, and those who question this process or the academics taught are ostracized.

So what happens when you have a herd of sheep thrown into a vast field with countless shepherds calling for their attention? Chaos. Lack of progress. Animals dashing from one leader to another. And, in the end, all you are left with is a bunch of exhausted livestock that went nowhere in a field that is now trampled and muddy and good for very little.

As this trend continues, readers will weary of not being able to simply swallow every opinion or piece of advice and still find success in their careers. Just like a person who spends their lives pursuing meaning by following one religion after another, they will eventually slap all photography blogs with a label as “worthless.” A lack of discernment will cause them to throw it all away rather than sift through the information to find that which is of relevance and worth listening to. Readership will decrease, advertising will flounder, and the feasibility of continuing operations will come to a close. But, perhaps that would be for the better anyhow…

Think For Yourselves

Multiple voices AREN’T bad. In fact, the chaotic din brings a paradoxical sense of order and ushers in a whole realm of creativity and drive. But, I’m not discussing that, just like I’m not discussing how Lisa Frank was actually a Soviet spy on a mission to control our minds with neon-colored unicorns.

What I’m saying is, for the love of all things holy and a few that aren’t, wake up, think, and stop drinking the Kool-Aid from every source that tries to pour it down your throats! Don’t necessarily write it off, but be willing to challenge it. Stop running from one social media cult leader to another because they dazzle you with their charisma, fanciful images, or exciting, new techniques! If it wasn’t for the mindless masses, half these guys might actually be forced to create genuine work rather than host a weekly video broadcast!

Think for yourselves, and stop trying to be a clone of everyone else! For, when you tire of aimlessly running with the herd, the only one you are left with is yourself.

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Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

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33 responses to “The Downfall of Photography Blogs”

  1. Greg Urbano Avatar
    Greg Urbano

    What?

  2. Dave Crosby Avatar
    Dave Crosby

    Good article, it would be nice to see you being a solely DIY photography blog. Those posts are what made me Like you here. But maybe your (buzzfeeding) Inspiration posts get you more clicks?

  3. k.A.o.Z. Avatar
    k.A.o.Z.

    Amen! Great read this and very true that after everything you “consume” on the web, you still have to be your own decision-maker and try to find your own way in everything, photography and non-photography, you do. I find the internet a worthwhile past-time activity for gathering inspiration and learning about new techniques and gear. But after all, becoming who we are is about picking the best bits of input that we gather and further developing it all into our own creations. Know when to turn off the Computer and let your surroundings inspire you :)
    Thanks for sharing this article, I enjoyed reading this!

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      I am growing ever tired of the Internet in general and often view it as a necessary (and, admittedly, often convenient) evil that comes with living in today’s world. But, there is great truth in the idea of allowing your immediate, tangible surroundings to inspire you, both as an individual and as an artist.

  4. thecorfiot Avatar
    thecorfiot

    Allen, oh how I agree!

    Yes, I read photography blogs – more often because I have a problem and Google or whatever throws up a reference to someone who claims to have already solved whatever issue I am experiencing.

    However, it becomes really tiresome when at the end of the article, the author then proceeds to try and entice the reader into buying his (or her) very own solution to all your photographic issues, including those you never knew you had! This will often come with a hefty price tag running into three figures.

    Then we have the reviewers who have just got their hands on the latest piece of equipment which is sooooo much better than the similar product they reviewed a couple of weeks earlier and of course it becomes the latest ‘must have’ bit of equipment.

    I enjoy my photography and occasionally may share some of my efforts with others but I don’t want to sell it! Life was so much simpler when I first started photography as a hobby over 55 years ago!

    Mind you, we still had snobs then!

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      In case you missed the unofficial billboard attached to most of my articles, I am a blatant disestablishmentarian. :-) The whole idea of looking the Big Boys in the eye and saying, “Screw off, I’ll make my own,” is one of the things that first drew me as a reader to DIYP. The realization that I didn’t have to rely on others to excel and innovate is one of the things that propelled me in my pursuit of photography.

  5. Jim Johnson Avatar
    Jim Johnson

    I would also say that the general discrediting of photobloggers has caused some of the backlash. When popular bloggers and industry leaders are involved in scandals that betray their fundamental claims, people take notice. Yes, they will always have their cult of personality, but that kind of stink lingers and effects everyone.

    When people notice their favorite expert in the photography business spends more time teaching seminars than being a photographer…

    When people find out the person who instructs them to be authentic is actually pinching from others without giving credit…

    When people realize the piece of equipment they bought from their guru is actually just a Chinese knockoff with a sticker over it and a 300% mark-up…

    These things matter.

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      @disqus_E3BL3JAZxb:disqus: This is a huge point of angst for me and a persistent problem I have referenced in the past. It’s my belief that the “seminar circuit” (as I’ve called it) is largely a scandal unto itself. It facilitates a cult-like mentality amongst the naive throughout the industry while making the hosts, sponsors, and speakers independently wealthy by preying on those genuinely interested in bettering their craft. The information disseminated at these seminars is nothing new, earth-shattering, secret, or in any way NOT something you couldn’t already find through a decent Google search.

      Add to that these more specifics scandals (like you mentioned) above, and it’s very reminiscent of a funeral home squeezing every last cent they can from a grieving family.

      One day, in a particular fit of frustration with [we’ll leave him unnamed], I wrote, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; and those who learn from those who can’t will very seldom do.”

      1. Jim Johnson Avatar
        Jim Johnson

        I don’t know if I agree with you entirely. Seminars are not necessarily a bad thing as long as they are held in the right context. Essentially, attendees are paying for the experience of talking with someone with experience (whether as a teacher or professional), and to gather with peers in a shared experience centered around photography. There is nothing wrong with that, and it can definitely change your the way you view your work. But, when you start to sell “secrets” or make absurd promises or sell your workshops based on your personality, that is when the red flags go up.

        As for your assertion of the old and very wrong adage about the people who do and teach. I can’t endorse that in anyway. Being a good teacher is skill unto itself. Being successful in a profession does not make you a good teacher, nor does being a good teacher mean that you will be successful or skillful in the profession you teach about. Most of the people I have learned the most from failed at making it in the business. And I would not slander them to say that their students couldn’t learn from them.

        My point about gurus teaching you the secret to a successful photography business in my original comment wasn’t that they had nothing to offer, but that they always tell you it’s easy, anyone can do it, just follow “my plan”. This is just like those late night infomercials about becoming rich by owning property and not having to work more than a few hours a month. If it was really that easy, the person doing the selling wouldn’t be working so hard selling it.

  6. Alexander DiMauro Avatar
    Alexander DiMauro

    “The Downfall of [Insert Profession] Blogs” – I agree with you, but it’s hardly unique to the field of photography. In fact, I’m kind of laughing because I practiced photography in the 1990’s, only to start a career at the end of the decade as a Web programmer. Now after many years, I’ve come back to photography and so many of the complaints I hear are identical in the world of programming. Too many blogs. Too many experts. Blogs stealing from each other. Everyone with their own opinion. Everyone’s doing it now, even 10 year olds! Just drag and drop a few widgets and voila! Instant Webpage! Who needs a professional? It’s all the same, and I’m sure you could find dozens of other professions with the same ‘issues’.

    Ultimately it comes down to finding yourself, and finding what it is you love to do. Forget about all the voices and complaining. Life is short, follow your dreams, and stop listening to all the dissenting voices. The world is changing fast, and those that will survive are those that are able to change along with it, not the ones who spend all their time complaining and trying and scare off the competition. Work on yourself, forget about what the others say. There will always be someone ‘better’ than you, just find what makes you happy and be the best you can be at it. Read the blogs and learn, but, ultimately, find your own way, your own style, your own passion.

    Thanks for this article!

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      Oh, very true…and like I mentioned, the photography industry is not alone. Some of my greatest periods of personal growth have been when I’ve walked away from all the voices and simply relied on my own heart and mind to work on creating something worthwhile.

      Thanks for reading!

  7. Tim Avatar
    Tim

    There’s a lot to be said for this – at least, carefully applied. Distinguishing between opinion and fact is still essential. This is probably why people say “just get out there and shoot something” – although the lack of things supposedly taught by such experience is quite telling.

    Opinion: “your street-photography shot sucks”, even backed-up with “because…”)
    Fact: “stacking improves the signal:noise ratio giving an effective ISO that halves with every doubling of the number of source images”.

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      Yeah, what you said :-)

      You’re right about careful application. I am a very black-and-white person — I love compartmentalizing and drawing specific distinctions around everything. It makes me feel safe and secure, which, honestly, is what I feel has a negative impact on my work/art. That being said, though, truly-applicable blanket statements are rare, so even with this, pick and choose what is applicable…

  8. Mike Avatar
    Mike

    Referring to your readers as “you armchair pundits”. Might be one of the reasons…

    1. Dave E. Avatar
      Dave E.

      Why take offense at that? Are you really that sensitive? How do you know he’s referring to you, specifically? How do you know he’s referring to ‘all’ the readers?
      He’s not…just the ones who want to jump ahead, not read the rest of the blog entry, and are quick to bitch about all the flaws in something they didn’t even finish reading.

      If you’re offended by that – that somehow he maybe stopped you in your tracks from doing the exact thing he pointed out – then maybe he’s right? Who knows. I don’t.

      I do know this: It takes FAR more energy to be offended by something someone says than it does to let it pass and move on to what’s important, which is whatever you’re doing right at that moment. Being offended by the comment isn’t going to make the sun shine any brighter or duller in the morning, and robs you of time and energy you’ll never get back.

  9. Bellakentuky Avatar
    Bellakentuky

    Interesting comments. I’ve been involved in photography since 1975. I worked as a professional commercial photographer from 1984 until 2003 and as a portrait photographer from 2003 until 2013. The art and business of photography has been in decline since the mid 1970’s. The reasons have changed over the years. Back then it was all these pseudo-schools pumping out graduates every 6 months to a year. The internet definitely accelerated the process. Photography has become watered down- like drinking day old coffee made from week old coffee grounds. There are still some great photographers out there: those that are artistic and understand craft. But they are few and far between. The internet has allowed anyone in the world to claim they are an expert. It takes diligence to determine if that’s true or not. Most people today don’t take the time, or don’t care, or both.

    1. Jim Johnson Avatar
      Jim Johnson

      I believe digital also had a mental effect on both photographers and clients. There is often an assumption that digital means it should b effortless or have a super fast turnaround.

      The digital workflow has certainly sped things up (test prints for every single change?), but it still takes effort and time to get something worth the effort. It ain’t just point, shoot, click.

  10. John Harris Avatar
    John Harris

    ” Today’s society has been programmed to act like a herd of mindless sheep simply following the voice of their shepherd wherever he might lead. We aren’t taught to analyze. We aren’t taught to think. We are taught to do what we are told and blindly swallow what the alleged experts are telling us.” This is not limited to today’s society at all, but rather a human trait. The Dryfus Model of Skill Acquisition posits that there are several levels to acquiring skill, starting with the need to be told what to do, moving up through knowing enough to be dangerous ( my words ) and on up to expert level where you are the one doing the telling to those who are eager to listen. One can talk about how we are not taught how to think, but the reality based on the Dryfus Model is that this IS part of how we think. After all, we need to learn at least a little, and have some experience in our decisions before we know what questions to ask. We can’t analyze without having data to work with, and we won’t know what data we need to collect until we start at the bottom and work our way up.

    Thinking for ourselves can be beneficial, but the cart can’t lead the horse.

    Experts become experts because something in their field stirs them to be greater. Not everyone carries this desire and they are quite comfortable where they are, and will remain so, regardless of how much you or I might encourage them to think more for themselves.

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      Very true… Perhaps I should have simply said “society” and left “today” of it entirely. A simple look at history reveals as much.

      I understand what you’re saying and hadn’t really looked at it from that angle. I guess my use of the term “expert” was a bit broader. I mean, Jenny McCarthy is an “expert” on childhood vaccinations, but I’m not really inclined to listen to her advice…

      1. John Harris Avatar
        John Harris

        LOL! Your use of the quotes in “expert” had me visualizing air-quotes and I completely agree. Just because someone is loud enough to be heard above the media din, doesn’t really qualify them as experts.

  11. Amaryllis Avatar
    Amaryllis

    I agree with you, and it’s not because this is an article with a catchy title or because you’re a shepherd and we’re sheep. No, it’s because this is definitely true. I was a sheep a few years ago, following one blogger in particular whom I really admired until I understood that what he was saying was crap, most of the time. Very few of his tips were helpful, at least for me. Afterwards, I started learning how to distinguish what is ‘true’ for me and what is not, but I keep gathering information from everywhere because an expert is still an expert. Even when I don’t agree, it’s still something that might come in handy someday. We’re all different, so we’re all following different paths anyway.

    1. catlett Avatar
      catlett

      Go ahead and say it … Ken Rockwell

      1. Amaryllis Avatar
        Amaryllis

        Nah, it was a French blogger.

    2. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      Exactly. As we’re lying on our deathbeds, none of these experts will be resting beside us; we are the ones who live and die by our decisions, and we should not be allowing others to make them for us.

  12. vincent-b Avatar
    vincent-b

    So glad you addressed the click-bait titles thing! I’d leave DIYP if you were starting using those… as much as I love the content. (I’d be heartbroken!)

  13. LandscapePlaces Avatar
    LandscapePlaces

    Wow, maybe the best reading of the month.
    Sorry for the baaaad english, i’m an italian sucker.
    I have an italian photography blog, and i have same problem.
    All people i know tell me to make the same things all do, the same research of google adwords, the same article of news, for start the blog.
    I try photography. I try to rise my goal. I hope a day i live with this.
    But all are expert of all, all wanna news, new gear, new techniques.
    And if u want to give something different to people, they snub it.
    So, i can trust only thing: don’t loose yourself, and make your photography, and your article.

    Tanks for the post, love it!

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      (Hey, thanks for reading!)

      You are right. Unfortunately, that is a growing trend throughout the industry society in general. People want to be dazzled rather than challenged.

      Keep up the good work, stay encouraged, and don’t allow yourself to be pushed around by the whims of those around you.

  14. Albin Avatar
    Albin

    It was “mindless sheep” who bought all those DSLRs half a decade ago, blew $5K to $10K on gear that didn’t help them much (largely on the advice of bloggers who didn’t help them much) and threw in the towel for smartphones. The equipment and software is a few years out of date but the amateurs are not replacing them because they are no longer using them. End of story.

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      I’m not sure I follow you… Are you saying that the “mindless sheep” of a half decade ago were genuine innovators? Or, are you saying that they essentially wasted their money making other people rich who weren’t truly interested in helping them in return?

  15. catlett Avatar
    catlett

    In all honesty I was expecting to hate this article based on the title but I didn’t. You really hit the nail on the head when telling people to think for themselves. We have turned into a society that actually believes the news readers who only know what someone else is putting in front of their face.

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      To question nothing is to blindly accept everything.

  16. gumski Avatar
    gumski

    Now retired, I bought a camera and thought I’d do a bit of surfing to see what the latest work looks like – and for some inspiration.
    Couldn’t find any photographs – only ‘Stunning Images.’
    Is the word ‘photograph’ still in general use?

  17. Fergun Connell Avatar
    Fergun Connell

    I’d say your assertions here are accurate. Too many know-it-alls. What makes them know-it-alls is not that they have opinions. It’s when they treat other opinions as wrong and only their own as right. Sadly, the photography industry, as with any industry, suffers from closed-minded know-it-alls.