Why I'm not buying Amateur Photographer today...

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Lightmancer, Aug 19, 2014.

  1. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Real Name:
    Bill Palmer
    I have picked up a copy of AP almost every week for the past 25 years. Let's just work that out, for a moment. It is published 51 weeks a year, and I usually miss a copy during the Summer hols, so say 50. Today's cover price is £2.95, so let's split the difference for fun, and call it £1.50 a copy on average over that time. From top to bottom it measures roughly 12 inches.

    So, in the past 25 years, I have bought one thousand two hundred and fifty copies. If they were laid end to end they would stretch for about a quarter of a mile. They are about 1/6 of an inch thick, so if stacked the pile would stand about seventeen feet high. At £1.50 a copy I have invested one thousand eight hundred and seventy five pounds.

    I've bought cars for less.

    I've had bloody good holidays for less.

    I could buy a lot of camera with £1875...

    So let's consider content, and value. Photography has changed radically in the past twenty five years and the content of AP has likewise changed, albeit sometimes struggling to keep pace with developments. Today's magazine is nothing like the one printed in the same week in 1989. It has not just changed in subject matter, however, but in content and in editorial tone. In trying to tap into the photographic zeitgeist it is shallow and almost staccato in its treatment of topics. The contributor and editorial expertise that was evident in the past is there no longer. In spite of claiming independence, it reads increasingly like advertorial. Crucially it offers no greater depth of insight than can be found upon the internet; indeed it's own website effectively cannibalises it's own printed version. It no longer speaks to me, partly because I am not the photographer I was in 1989, but mostly because it is today a shadow of it's former self in detail, utility and integrity. I buy it, read it within the hour, and bin it.

    No more. Last week was the last I shall buy. There is a part of me that is sad, but one cannot be sentimental about these things; I have been buying from habit rather than anything else. In future the only photographic magazine I will be buying on a regular basis is "Black and White". i still class myself as an amateur, but not one that finds any value in the pages of AP today.
    • Like Like x 8
  2. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    I haven't bought this for what 30 years or so .. I still don't have a £1875 camera

    Local library is useful
    • Like Like x 4
  3. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    You've done it now, Bill -- hit a real hot button for me.

    I dropped my subscription to Outdoor Photographer because they seem to believe that real outdoor photography can be only be done with 20 pounds of equipment (at least an APS-C or preferrably a fullframe). I queried them a couple of times about "outdoor photography for the rest of us" that could be done with 1.5 lb superzoom cameras, and got not so much as a reply.

    Popular Photography has gotten up my nose because they can't -- or won't -- measure the autofocus speed of any camera that is not a DSLR. Yet other websites seem to manage it.

    I get it that Popular Photography is trying to be all things to all people, but I really don't understand why Outdoor Photographer can't embrace all of of the field. I also get it that publications exist to sell advertising, but I think they could actually expand their advertising base if they were to, say, devote a column to outdoor photography with small-sensor cameras. (sigh)

    Cheers, Jock
    • Like Like x 4
  4. Iansky

    Iansky SC Top Veteran

    Dec 8, 2011
    Cotswolds, UK
    yep, I have to agree with you.

    Most of the magazines on the shelf today lean toward promoting DSLR and spend little time relating to non DSLR bodies, their reviews read like promotional materials for the said item and their content is more promotional than ever before with perhaps 1 article of relevance to me.

    Since the demise of the Ogden Chesnut article at the end that had humour and in some cases relevance, I have lost interest and the weekly price has made it a purchase that to me is no longer financially viable for the content it contains.

    Alas, like you I will be resisting the urge to continue with this magazine (and many others of the same ilk).

    The only magazine I do still buy and find inspiring and relevant is B&W Photography, it is still well written, has articles of relevance and learning and when they do review cameras they do it in an unbiased fashion................think I will stick with that one!
    • Like Like x 2
  5. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    Real Name:
    If you'd put your money on your bank account, and assume a modest constant interest rate of 2%, you'd be able to spend £ 2401 on gear (or holidays) with the money saved :wink:
  6. christilou

    christilou SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2010
    Sunny Frimley
    I don't buy any magazines any more having previously been an avid reader of them. I find it far too difficult to choose between them, what with free CD's for this and that and finding most of them rather disappointing in content. I find much more of interest on the internet. I no longer buy any women's fashion/beauty/home magazines either they are simply there to peddle the latest must haves to gullible people. I'd rather hang on to my money these days.
    • Like Like x 2
  7. Tilman Paulin

    Tilman Paulin SC Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2011
    Portland, OR
    Agree with all of you.
    Most of todays photography magazines fail to deliver more value than is available for free on the internet. Gear reviews tend to be like spec sheets, photo advice is more like an advertorial... There is the odd good column in there every once in a while, but also a lot of repeating topics ("Ultimate Guide to sharpness", "the secrets of exposure revealed", )...

    Admittedly, the more experienced we get in our craft, the tougher we get as customers. Our interests might get more specific (whereas as beginners we were happy about broad information on lots of subjects). And our experience in certain areas starts to surpass the experience of the regular writers.
    But even taking this into consideration, a lot of the magazines just don't deliver the basics in a good way.

    Back in the UK I bought "Outdoor Photography" every once in a while. At least their magazine was nicely laid out and had some wonderful photos printed on good paper in there. (Unlike the more gear-oriented magazines.)
    Here in the US I only subscribed to "Outdoor Photographer" because they had an offer for 5$ for the entire year(!).
    The last issue I read had one interesting article in there - about shoes... :)
    • Like Like x 4
  8. Mixalis

    Mixalis SC Rookie

    Oct 13, 2013
    Real Name:
    Mike Evans
    Interesting piece, Bill, and I have constructed a little article around it for my blog, MacFilos. You can find it here

    • Like Like x 1
  9. biglouis

    biglouis SC Veteran

    Aug 4, 2013
    It is a shame that AP has not found itself the right niche in the new internet age. It really could be more a 'newspaper' than a magazine, reporting on the state of the industry but instead it tries to compete with equipment reviews which are better on the internet (TCS, Digitalrev, even What Camera) and advice of which the internet abounds.

    Having said that apart from buying a copy to amuse myself whenever I am holiday about once a year I too have not been a regular reader since the late 1990s.

  10. greyelm

    greyelm SC Top Veteran

    Oct 1, 2011
    London, England
    I stopped buying magazines when I found that I could get all the latest information on the internet for free and a month sooner.
  11. qhs232

    qhs232 SC Regular

    Oct 6, 2013
    Metro Detroit
    Real Name:
    A number of years ago while waiting for a flight out of Heathrow, I stopped in a store and picked up copies of AP and Digital SLR Photography.... which helped to rekindle my interest in photography which had lapsed for a few years. I even bought a few issues back in the States, eagerly paying more $$ than I should.

    After I few issues I stopped, but they served their purpose. Recently I flipped through a couple of issues of Outdoor Photographer, which seemed, for the most part, to be the same kind of articles rehashed and rebranded, from what I read 30yrs ago.

    I do pick an occasional magazine like B&W Photography, but like others....the internet is my friend.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. drd1135

    drd1135 SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Real Name:
    That's why we talk so much about technical things, be it gear or software. Most hobby magazines run through the essentials in a few years whether you master it or not. How many truly new ideas about photography have you seen lately? I'm talking about ideas you can actually apply.
  13. bilzmale

    bilzmale Super Moderator Emeritus

    Jul 17, 2010
    Perth, Western Australia
    Real Name:
    Bill Shinnick
    I tend towards digital magazines these days.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Real Name:
    Allow me to play the devil's advocate. I agree that the model for the typical "photography" magazine that is mainly new camera announcements and "reviews" serves very little purpose, and the ones like this that fail to adapt need to die a quick and painful death.

    But I'd like to cast my vote for a well done proper physical magazine...whatever the subject matter may be. I think a good photography magazine could come out quarterly (and still have room for discussion of new gear {or hot to better use the gear you have}). I enjoy sitting down and taking a break from the digital screens and looking at photos printed on paper, and peruse a magazine...take a break, and mark the page and go about life and then come back and enjoy some more in a favorite chair in the evening by your evening lamp (or a fireside in winter...better yet).

    I know the original post was about "Amatuer Photographer" and I have no doubt it's a dud....as many have become. But please, let's not bury all magazines just yet. I'm really starting to cultivate a dislike for screens, and I think we need to keep some free time away from them as long as we possibly can.
    • Like Like x 4
  15. Tilman Paulin

    Tilman Paulin SC Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2011
    Portland, OR
    Very good points, Luke!
    Magazines can't win the race against the internet in regards to "fast food news&reviews".

    So, instead they should slow down and take the time to produce quality content.
    Sounds like a winner to me :) I'd subscribe to that.
    (Now as for the economics of that, I have no idea... but some clever person might find a way to make it work...)
  16. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Real Name:
    Tilman, I may contact you for some source material. :thumbup:
    • Like Like x 1
  17. Biro

    Biro SC All-Pro

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Real Name:
    I don't subscribe to many magazines anymore. But I do subscribe to two auto and two motorycle magazines. What keeps me coming back when I can get all of the latest news and reviews for free online? High quality writing. For the most part, just ain't the same on the Web. Certainly in the car and bike field. As long as guys like Jamie Kitman, Ezra Dyer, John Phillips and (the semi-retired) Peter Egan keep writing, I'll keep buying. But I also second Luke's remarks about needing to do a good amount of my reading away from a screen.
  18. Archiver

    Archiver SC Top Veteran

    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    I have very rarely bought a camera magazine, perhaps three in the last 12 years, but my Dad collected an almost entire set of the British 'You And Your Camera' during the early 80's. I think it was a weekly magazine that showed a budding photographer what could be done, and it covered everything from portraits to landscapes to art and street. There were many interviews and features with prominent photographers of the time, and lots of very fun ads for gear.

    The information about gear is dated, but the lessons about composition and exposure are not. As a kid, I spent hours reading the many issues and quietly soaking up the advice. From the sounds of it, they don't really write magazines like that any more.

    Edited to add: A bit of Googling reveals that we might only have half a set. There were nine folders worth, and Dad collected only four!
  19. Iansky

    Iansky SC Top Veteran

    Dec 8, 2011
    Cotswolds, UK

    I agree with all you say Luke and we should not paint all with the same brush, this is why I mentioned B&W Photography magazine as one that I do still buy.

    To me it is a true magazine - well presented on good paper that is well bound. It has good content with articles of interest to all those interested in B&W photography, the equipment reviews are relevant, do not appear sponsored and often use numerous testers. There are also a minimum number of sales/promotional pages and all in all it is good value for money and for me remains a viable purchase as it still stands out from the crowd.

    We now also see a brace of magazines targetting specific brand users and inprticular the big boys "Nikon / Canon", these are attempted copies of the long running Leica magazine that has always been well presented, informing and value for money.

    I also subscribe to the Olympus online magazine (free) and that is starting to evolve into a great read with valuable information about Olympus equipment as well as readers photos (I have been featured once and due to be again in Sep) so even though I am biased, it is what many paper version aim for yet fail to achieve as they are trying to cater for the widest audience rather than brand users. I can see the brand specific online magazines grow as they offer insight into current/new products, real world user reviews, genuine photos taken with brand equipment by non pro photos as well as suggestions / tests of ancillary equipemnt from 3rd parties (tripods / flashes etc).

    I think this is the way all magazines are heading as overheads are cheaper and the audience far greater via the internet.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. Richard

    Richard SC Top Veteran

    Feb 1, 2013
    Marlow, UK
    I haven't looked for a while, but my local public library carries two or three photographic magazines, which you can sit and read in reasonable comfort and at zero cost. The reviews are always a month or more behind those I've seen online, but there is something satisfying about reading from the printed page rather than from a computer screen.

    • Like Like x 2