It does not take a lot of effort to start a new site and crank out a boatload of content, if all you are doing is copying your competition. With the photography market on the decline, a number of photography websites have already gone through their demises. And what’s left is being attacked by some very dishonest individuals and media companies that exploit search engines to move themselves up the ranks.
These websites are copycats – they crank out content on a daily basis solely for traffic, they have no communities and they have no real following. One such website is ExpertPhotography.com. In this article, we will take a look at how ExpertPhotography shamelessly stole numerous articles from Photography Life and other websites, and how it quickly climbed the ladders of search engines, even managing to surpass the ranking of the original content.
As you may already know, it takes a lot of effort to write good content. Publishing content involves many hours of research, planning, creating illustrations and writing text that is easy to understand for everyone. We have been writing content on Photography Life for over ten years now and thanks to the feedback we get from our readers, we put out more and more educational material on the front page of the site several times a week. We don’t post content just to get clicks, because we understand that our readers value the hard work we put into every piece of material, even if they don’t get to see something new every day. I am not willing to compromise the image of Photography Life for the sake of purely increasing traffic, and that’s what my stance has been since the day I created this resource.
Unfortunately, some other websites out there do not feel this way and do what they can to climb their ranks just to get on the first page of search engines. Recently, I was working on my next technical article when I came across a page that was literally ripped out of Photography Life by ExpertPhotography.com, both in text and illustrations. One article was a straight up copy, but there were many others that were similar. I then decided to do a little bit more research, only to find that dozens of other articles were ripped off, some in their entirety. It is a straight case of copyright infringement.
Sadly, I then went on to find more resources like that that steal content, which was disappointing and disheartening to see. Let’s take a look at a few examples of how ExpertPhotography.com (also referred to as “EP” in this article) ripped off material from PL and other resources.
Stolen Material by EP:
- Spherical Aberration Article
- Focus Shift Article
- Other Duplicate Articles
- Brian Smith’s Flange Distance Article
- DPReview’s Equivalence Article
- LensRentals / PetaPixel Article
- ShutterMuse and Digital Photography School Articles
- Even More Stolen Content From PL
- ExpertPhotography’s Business Model
- Who is Behind ExpertPhotography.com?
Spherical Aberration Article
Let’s take a look at my article on Spherical Aberration that I wrote back in 2011, then compare it to the same article from Expertphotography.com (link to copied content), which was written by the top author of that website Craig Hull (total of 426 posts as of 11/11/2019). Before we go into content body, you will notice that the title is identical “What is Spherical Aberration?” Ignore the first two sentences and the image, because they are specifically done for SEO purposes to make it look like the article is different. Ignore the first header “What Is an Aberration in Photography?” along with the next image as well, because its purpose is to link to another internal article.
Come down to the “meat” of the article that starts with the header “What is Spherical Aberration?”. Here is the text from the article that I wrote:
Spherical Aberration is an optical problem that occurs when all incoming light rays end up focusing at different points after passing through a spherical surface. Light rays passing through a lens near its horizontal axis are refracted less than rays closer to the edge or “periphery” of the lens and as a result, end up in different spots across the optical axis. In other words, the parallel light rays of incoming light do not converge at the same point after passing through the lens.
And here is the text from EP:
Spherical aberration is an optical problem. it occurs when all incoming light rays focus at different points. This is after they pass through a spherical surface within the lens. Light rays that pass through a lens near its horizontal axis refract less compared to rays that pass closer to the edge. This results in the light rays ending up at different spots across the optical axis. In other words, the parallel light rays do not converge at the same point.
Do you see what’s happening here? Aside from a couple of words here and there that were inserted, along with dividing sentences to shorter bits, the content is identical. Craig didn’t even bother rewording the article – he straight up copy-pasted it, and to avoid Google penalizing his duplicate content, he added one or two words here and there to make it appear different. And this is just the beginning of the article! If you study the whole document, it is taken in its entirety from my article! Here is how the two articles compare, side-by-side (click to see a high-resolution version):
Now let’s take a look at the illustrations. Craig is clearly not talented enough to come up with his own visuals when ripping off content (why bother, right?), so he took my image into Photoshop, slightly modified it here and there, then inserted it into the article after having the guts to insert EP’s watermark. That’s right – you are looking at my illustration with EP’s watermark:
As you scroll down the article, you will quickly realize that the article is nearly identical in every way to what I originally published at Photography Life.
But this is all just the beginning. As I started looking into more and more of EP’s articles, I found a lot more infringing content all over the site.
Focus Shift Article
Here is the next article on Focus Shift, which I also published back in 2011. Take a look at the EP’s version of the same article. We can see the same patterns of theft here, starting from the first header “What is Focus Shift?”:
My original text:
Focus Shift is an optical problem that occurs due to Spherical Aberration, when an object is brought into focus at maximum aperture and captured with the lens stopped down. Focus shift can lead to blurry images and focus errors, when working with subjects at close distances and using fast aperture lenses. With the lens aperture fully open or “wide open”, incoming rays of light converge at different focal points due to spherical aberration along the optical axis, as shown in the top illustration below:
Focus shift is a problem that comes with spherical aberration. This optical problem happens when an object is focused and captured at maximum aperture. This can create blurry images due to focus errors. It is especially true when capturing subjects at close distances with fast lenses. When the lens operates ‘wide open’, incoming rays of light converge at different focal points along its optical axis.
Once again, both articles visually compared, side-by-side (click to see a high-resolution version):
Again, this is nearly identical to what I wrote. Craig made sentences shorter and added a few words here and there to make his text appear different.
Illustrations are once again ripped out of my article, in the same manner as the article on spherical aberration. However, there is an “oops” moment here, because Craig literally copied the illustrations from the other article and didn’t pay attention to the second illustration that shows the closed aperture that appears very different.
That’s what happens when you steal without much attention to detail…
Surprisingly, EP ranks #2 after my article on Google, which means that search engines are not able to detect duplicate content at this level of the game:
Other Duplicate Articles
I am not going to go through every article that has been copied, because the patterns are the same. He uses different images in some places, but as you will see further down, most of those images aren’t even his in the first place. Below is the list of articles that have been ripped off, just like the ones mentioned earlier:
- What is Distortion?/ EP’s copy
- What is Vignetting?/ EP’s copy
- What is Lens Diffraction?/ EP’s copy
- What is Moire in Photography?/ EP’s copy
- Best Monitor for Photography/ EP’s copy
- How to Find Shutter Actuations/ EP’s copy
- What is Exposure Compensation?/ EP’s copy
- Lens Mounts Explained/ EP’s Copy
- Use Nikon Lenses on Canon DSLRs/ EP’s copy
- What is a Teleconverter?/ EP’s copy
- Nikon AE-L / AF-L Button/ EP’s copy
This is what I could find in a relatively short amount of time. I am sure I could find many more exact duplicates if I performed a deep search. In some cases, EP’s staff were a bit more creative when stealing content – they re-worded some articles so heavily, that it is very hard to see how the content was ripped off. Other times, authors would take parts of articles and create new ones.
The math to derive the crop factor is quite simple. Knowing the physical size of the sensor, you first calculate the diagonal using Pythagorean Theorem (a² + b² = c²), then divide the number by the diagonal of the crop sensor. Here is an example on how to derive the crop factor of the Nikon CX sensor:
35mm / Full-frame diagonal: 36² + 24² = 1872², so the diagonal is 43.27
Nikon CX sensor diagonal: 13.20² + 8.80² = 251.68², so the diagonal is 15.86
Crop Factor: 43.27 / 15.86 = 2.73
And EP’s text:
The math to find out the crop factor is simple. If you know the physical size of the sensor, you calculate the diagonal using the Pythagorean Theorem (a² + b² = c²). Then, you divide the number by the diagonal of the crop sensor. Here is an example on finding out the crop factor of the Canon sensor:
35mm / Full-frame diagonal: 36² + 24² = 1872², so the diagonal is 43.27mm
Crop sensor Canon diagonal: 22.2² + 14.8² = 711.88², so the diagonal is 26.68mm
Crop Factor: 43.27 / 26.68 = 1.62
The text is nearly identical, but this time Craig replaced Nikon CX with a Canon camera to make his version look different. If you follow this article further down, you will see that all other text is also nearly identical to my crop factor article.
What about images? It turns out Craig hates creating his own tables in HTML. So he just took my table as a screenshot (left: image from EP, right: image from my article):
One note about the table screenshot, maybe not worth mentioning, but it may surprise readers that the two tables don’t look identical, given that we changed our CSS in the meantime.
So far, everything I have shown you has involved them from Photography Life. But folks at ExpertPhotography realized early on that they can just steal content from other resources, as long as it gets them higher SEO rankings. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Brian Smith’s Flange Distance Article
Brian Smith is a Sony Artisan and he puts out a lot of content related to Sony mirrorless cameras. His article on Flange Focal Distance caught EP’s desire to rip it off, which they obviously did. Let’s start from the description of flange focal distance from this link:
Here is Brian Smith’s definition:
Flange Focal Distance – also known as Flange Distance or Flange Depth – is the distance from the camera’s mounting flange to the film or sensor plane.
Flange distance is literally the distance between the mounting flange and the film plane or sensor.
The EP’s version is basically in a simplified language, but it is clearly copied from Brian’s text. Now scroll down further to “Examples”. Craig, as it turns out, has a problem with creating his own examples, so he just rips them off from Brian without hesitation:
This distance varies between cameras and lens mounts which explains the depth (or thickness) of lens mount adapters. If you scan to the chart below you will see that Canon EF-mount has a Flange Focal Distance of 44mm and Sony E-mount has a Focal Distance of of 18mm.
44mm – 18mm = 26mm
This means that Canon EF to Sony E lens adapters need to be 26mm thick in order to make up that difference so that the lens will mount the proper distance from the film or sensor plane which allows the full range of focus from infinity to the minimum focus distance.
Simple math explains why it’s possible to make Canon EF lens to Sony E-mount body adapters but it’s NOT possible to make a Sony E-mount lens to Canon EF body adapter, because in order to mount a Sony E-Mount lens on an Canon EF body, the adapter would need to be a NEGATIVE 26mm thick!
Craig’s modified text:
If you want to use a Canon EF lens on a Sony E mount, we need to first figure out the flange distances.
- The Canon EF has a flange distance of 44 mm
- The Sony E mount has a flange distance of 18 mm
When we take 18 mm from 44 mm we get 26 mm. This is the necessary thickness of the adapter, as it fills in the gap between lens and sensor plane.
If we were trying to put a Sony E lens on a Canon EF camera body, the maths would be reversed. This means that the adapter needs to be -26 mm thick. That’s impossible, so having this combination wouldn’t work.
At least this time Craig took the time to change Brian’s text quite a bit, but the result is the same – it is still a copy of Brian’s work.
Now scroll down further, and you will find an illustrative table that Brian Smith created. Compare it to the version from EP, which is identical, except EP sorted it by Lens Mount instead of Flange Distance (click to see high-res version):
At this point, I realized that PL and Brian Smith cannot be the only resources where things were stolen from. I had to dive a little deeper to find more, which I did.
DPReview’s Equivalence Article
Back in 2014, DPReview published a very detailed article on Equivalence. It was a very detailed, four page article that provided a lot of information, along with examples. It was a complicated article that I am sure took DPReview a long time to write, but that didn’t stop EP from copying this article in its entirety. Let’s take a look at some text and compare the two:
Equivalence, at its most simple, is a way of comparing different formats (sensor sizes) on a common basis.
Equivalence, in its most basic meaning, is how we compare lenses across cameras with different formats (sensor sizes).
Apertures and F-numbers
It turns out, the relationship between sensor size and aperture is very similar to that between focal length and sensor size. It’s the physical size of the aperture that defines depth-of-field, not its F-number.
F/Stops and Apertures
You might know that different sensor sizes affect the focal length of a lens already. But what you might not know is that apertures are affected in the same way. It is the physical size of the aperture that affects the depth of field, not the lens’ f/stop number.
Craig hates math and examples, so he often just copy-pastes them without any modifications. Pay close attention to all the tables in the DPReview and compare them to EP’s – they are identical. After examples are provided, he just moves on to copying explanations below the tables:
As you can see, although the lenses are quite different, the 50mm f/2 lens is giving the same framing and the same depth-of-field as a 100mm f/4 lens is on Full Frame.
As you can see, although the lenses are quite different, the sensors used with them make them similar. The 50 mm f/2 lens gives the same framing and depth of field as the 100 mm f/ lens.
Notice the typos in Craig’s text. He couldn’t even manage to copy the aperture values correctly for both lenses.
And the two pages, side-by-side:
If you scroll through the content and compare it to that of DPReview’s, you will see that the article is nearly identical, from text to illustrations.
OK, so we know for sure that EP is a bad copy-cat, but the real question is, how harmful are they with their duplication efforts to existing resources? Let’s see how they do when we perform a search in Google for “Equivalence in Photography”:
Whoa! ExpertPhotography is beating DPReview for this keyword, outranking it in Google! How is this possible? Google is clearly being fooled here, with the copy-cat taking traffic away from the original source.
I noticed very similar patterns for pretty much every article link I posted above – ExpertPhotography was either ranked right below those articles, and in some cases, ranked higher. It is clear that the site’s goal is to rank in SEO. That’s probably why it was created in the first place. We will take a look at what they are really doing further down, but for now, let’s do one more quick comparison and this time expand the scope beyond the “thief” author. How about the other writers?
LensRentals / PetaPixel Article
It looks like the website is owned by Joshua Dunlop. He used to write content early on, but he seems to have stopped, giving the “opportunity” to grow the site to other writers, who he is paying. I did not have a chance to take a deep dive at Joshua’s posts, but after running a few quick searches, I came across an article, part of which was plagiarized from our friend Roger Cicala, who published an article on Camera vs The Eye on LensRentals.com, as well as PetaPixel.com in 2009. Here is the article that was published by Joshua Dunlop back in 2011. Let’s take a look at the text in question:
The more commonly accepted value, however, is 22mm to 24mm (calculated from physical refraction in the eye). In certain situations, the focal length may actually be longer.
We can use the human eye as an example. The most accepted focal length of the human eye is 22mm to 24mm. This is calculated from the physical refraction found in the eye). In certain situations, the focal length may be longer.
Note that Joshua clearly copy-pasted the text – he even forgot to remove the parenthesis at the end of the sentence “in the eye)”.
And the text on the two pages, side-by-side (click for high-res version):
Again, this is a clear evidence of duplication and plagiarism, which is not limited to one author of EP – even the owner of the website has done it.
ShutterMuse and Digital Photography School Articles
To show the vastness of ExpertPhotography’s reach, I will show you one more piece of evidence, this time stolen from ShutterMuse and Digital Photography School. The article is on Extension Tubes in Photography, which you can find right here. Scroll down to the “Magnification” section, which is again almost identical to the “Calculating the Change in Magnification From an Extension Tube”:
The magnification of your existing lens can usually be found in the lens specifications from a manufacturers website. Once you have that magnification, you can calculate the new magnification with an extension tube, using the following formula:
New magnification = Native lens magnification + (extension amount/focal length)
Example 1: The Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM has a native magnification of 0.21x. If we use a 12mm extension tube on it, our new magnification will be 0.21 + (12/50) = 0.45x
Example 2: Using the same Canon 50mm lens with stacked 12mm and 25mm extension tubes would give us a magnification of 0.21 + ((12+25)/50) = 0.95x
0.95x magnification is very close to life-sized 1:1 that you would get in a true macro lens!
And here is EP’s copy:
You can find your lenses’ magnification on the manufacturer’s website and specification pages. Once you have that, you are ready to calculate.
New magnification = Native lens magnification + (extension amount/focal length)
Example 1: The Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM has a magnification of 0.21x. If we use a 12mm extension tube on it, our new magnification will be 0.21 + (12/50) = 0.45x
Example 2: Using the same Canon 50mm lens with stacked 12mm and 25mm extension tubes would give us a magnification of 0.21 + ((12+25)/50) = 0.95x
The 0.95x magnification is almost the life-sized ratio of 1:1. Now, your Canon 50mm lens is a macro lens.
Further down, the section titled “Extension Tubes Without Electrical Contacts” is very similar to a section in the article by DPS:
The second type of extension tube is one with electrical contacts that maintains communication between the lens and camera body.
These are the least expensive extension tubes. They are cheaper as they do not maintain that electrical contact between your camera and lenses.
Nikon, Canon and Olympus make extension tubes for their cameras. Sony doesn’t, but you can buy them from third party manufacturers like Kenko and Vivitar, who also make extension tubes for Canon and Nikon.
Nikon, Canon and Olympus all make OEM extension tubes. Sony does not. You can buy third-party tubes, such as Vivitar or Kenko.
Even More Stolen Content From PL
As I scrolled through EP, I found a bunch more articles that were either duplicated, or “inspired by” the content that we published here at Photography Life. Here is the list:
- How to Read MTF Charts/ EP
- Photoshop vs Lightroom/ EP
- What is EXIF Data?/ EP
- How to Photograph Corporate Portraits/ EP
- Dead vs Stuck vs Hot Pixels/ EP
- Saturation vs Vibrance/ EP
- DSLR vs Point-and-Shoot Camera/ EP
- How Phase Detection Autofocus Works/ EP
- Nikon vs Canon vs Sony/ EP
- Understanding Memory Cards/ EP
- Underexposure vs Overexposure/ EP
- How to Organize Photos in Lightroom/ EP
- How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse/ EP
- Exposing to the Right Explained/ EP
- What is Chromatic Aberration?/ EP
- How to Update Nikon Firmware/ EP
- How to Recover Deleted Photos/ EP
- What is IPS Monitor?/ EP
- How to Build a Photography Blog/ EP
- How to Calibrate Your Monitor/ EP
- DNG vs RAW/ EP
- How to Calibrate Lenses/ EP
- Lightroom vs Photoshop Elements/ EP
- DPI vs PPI/ EP
- How to Test Your DSLR for Autofocus Issues/ EP
I am sure there are many others, but you get the point – ExpertPhotography.com is a website built to steal successful content to grow itself as quickly as possible. But what is ExpertPhotography and who is running the show? Let’s take a quick look.
ExpertPhotography’s Business Model
By now, you are probably wondering – what is the point of all this content duplication? If EP is trying to dominate search engines, how are they making a ton of money without any ads by ranking highly on Google? The business model is quite simple. The website essentially serves as a “trap” to lure as many beginner photographers as possible, in order to push a premium product. This business model has been quite popular on the Internet, thanks to people like Neil Patel, who give demonstrations of successful businesses that are making tens of thousands of dollars by dominating the search engines, then offering a premium product or service. Neil Patel does this himself quite successfully, and he surely has many followers, including ExpertPhotography.
This is the business model, in its most simplified way:
- Create a digital product.
- Write highly SEO-optimized content that is aimed at dominating the first page of Google and other search engines.
- Create a high-converting “landing” page, offering a product for the person seeking help, as described in Neil Patel article.
- Display the landing page as much as possible, in every page that brings in traffic.
- If the person tries to navigate away from the page, display it again, or offer an alternative product.
- Offer an email subscription in exchange for a free product in order to create an email customer base.
- Bank on all the people who buy the product.
Now, let’s revisit ExpertPhotography.com and take a look at what it has to offer in its store:
Looks like a total of 12 digital products are offered, ranging from cheat sheets and eBooks to video courses (video courses range from $300 to $500 each). In addition, there are 12 presets for Lightroom that you can purchase, which is very typical for this caliber site.
Let’s take a look at how EP converts their visitors to digital sales off the homepage:
Looks like there is a “Free” guide (which is just a bunch of useless text and a collection of links to ripped off content), followed by a link to a paid “Course”. Links to the store can be found all over the website, from top to bottom, and sometimes even between articles.
And here is what happens when you try to leave EP:
Nice, the only way you can opt out of this pop-up is by clicking “No Thanks, I’ve Mastered Landscapes”. This is an exact copy of Neil Patel’s website, where he gives two options to “Do you want more traffic?”: “Yes, I want more traffic”, or “No, I have enough traffic”. Neil Patel also fires up a pop-up when you try to click away from his site, so we know where this strategy comes from.
OK, we have a clear picture of what EP is trying to do here…
Who is Behind ExpertPhotography.com?
So, let’s take a look at who is behind ExpertPhotography. For that, we click on the About Us page, where we get the bio of Joshua Dunlop:
It was a rush like no other. A happy client, my first photography paycheque, and a room full of people admiring my work. The date was January 17th 2011, and I had just finished my first photography job. That was all it took for me to realise that I wanted to pursue photography full time. So I took a risk. I quit my job working in live audio (my dream for many years), and started my very own (this) website. It took a little help from my brother and co-founder, Michael Dunlop, and my Dad (Sales Turnaround Expert, Barry Dunlop).
Two sons and their “sales turnaround expert” dad created EP. I found this sentence to be particularly entertaining:
As I was researching content to write about, I was increasingly frustrated with the quality of photography education on the internet. Thin content, distracting ads, and minimal photos. I knew I could do a better job than what was currently available, so that’s what I did…
It looks like Joshua was not happy about other websites, so he just realized that he could quickly rip them off and duplicate content, then label it as his own. Fine…but wait, there is more:
And since then (a lot of credit goes to the work done in 2018), ExpertPhotography has grown into the second largest photography education website in the world.
Wow, that’s a pretty big achievement. Josh sat down with an SEO person, figured out the strategy to rip off content from other websites, and it quickly paid off…
Let’s take a look at what EP’s traffic looks like on a monthly basis, according to SimilarWeb:
1.34 million monthly hits. Not bad for a website that steals content and posts as their own. It is a nice business model for sure, as you can quickly grow in ranks by re-wording content here and there…
As you scroll down the page, you will see the “talented” team of 13 people, including Craig Hull, the “Head Writer”. I did a little bit of research to find out who these people are, and most of them turned out to be from Budapest – it looks like Josh is outsourcing his writers from Hungary. Most people listed on this page are not real photographers and they don’t have any links to their portfolios that represent their work. I tried to look some of them up and gave up. None of these people are known in the photography world, including Joshua Dunlop.
The funny thing is, Joshua Dunlop wrote an article for PetaPixel in 2012, detailing his encounter with The Daily Mail stealing one of his photos. In this article, he talks about his experience dealing with unauthorized use of his photo. The story ends with Joshua getting paid for the copyrighted photo.
So Josh, can we all get paid for the material you stole from us?
Update: One of our readers, Greg, spotted the Twitter account of Josh Dunlop after my post went live, to find that he accidentally posted our story, linking straight back to us! Here is the screenshot:
Later last night, he made his Twitter account private.
About the Author
Nasim Mansurov is the author and founder of Photography Life, based out of Denver, Colorado. He is a photographer and an educator, conducting workshops, producing educational videos and frequently writing content for Photography Life. You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook, and read more about him here. The opinions expressed in this article are solely of the author. This article was also published here and shared with permission.
[lead image credits: StockSnap on Pixabay]