Does anyone buy photo magazines?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by reallife, Jan 26, 2017.

  1. As a fairly new photographer I've been buying photograph magazines in order to improve my shots. Have to say I've always been disappointed. Even the mags that claim to be for amateurs have photographers in exotic locations using equipment that is out of reach for most for most of us. And my pet hate Photoshop is used so much its more like looking at computer graphic mag. What do others think about photography magazines. Keith
  2. The ability to modify images after exposure has always been part of photography, although the degree to which one can do it is much greater today. The magazines are mostly reflecting this. And the market is there to present equipment with all sorts of features at high cost that you may not need but which a number of photographers seem to need (or accept the need defined by others).
    I sympathise with your desire to use straight (unmanipulated) photography and to minimise after exposure treatment of your photos, although you may still want to use the basic colour and light controls to tweak your images (simple post exposure software like Elements can allow that). Not sure whether your interests are colour or B&W or both and whether you shoot digital or film, but B&W Photography out of London may be to your liking. It is presently the only magazine I purchase, even though I think they go often too far with interviews and portfolios of very well known photographers that can be otherwise mainly accessed via Internet searches.
    As a fairly new photographer you can find much useful information in existing texts on photography that treat seeing and various creative and technical approaches to making images. Most libraries have a number of such texts, often from film days, that can give you all sorts of ideas for your own photography, without having to plow through Photoshop 101 or 201, or reading up on expensive equipment you may not need. The American series Time-Life from about 40 years ago (photographic approaches and composition haven't changed all that much since then) is still a good source of reading on basic photography art and science. More modern texts exist on creative photography and the art of seeing. They can be useful to you as you seem to be interested in showing everyday subjects in a new way.
    Finding and purchasing two or three if these substantial texts is often the same price as one or two magazine subscriptions or newstand purchases. I have decided that the regular purchase of two or three magazines is usually not worth the cost.
  3. I second Arthur's recommendation that you try to find vintage (film) texts that teach about light, composition, exposure and the like. The principles are exactly the same today.
    Today's photo mags are useful if you are like me and look at advertisements to learn what tools exist, and the terminology associated with such tools. They can be useful if you are looking for locations to go shooting, after all you might live near an "exotic" location.
    Do not fall prey to the "you NEED this <thing> to make great photographs" that the magazines exist to perpetuate. Many famous photographers used the simplest equipment, and many great iconic photos were taken with simple gear.
  4. Public libraries usually have a section on photography, I believe the Dewey decimal system code is
    978point something. If you go browse into their book stacks you can usually find the pertinent info you
    need. Also the magazine section may carry current and recent issues of photo magazines.
  5. I've never bought any photography magazine. Flipping through a few in the past 20 years at my now closed down book store didn't give me any information I could use to improve what I already knew. They were mainly filled with ads and too brief articles on the subject of photography.
    Now a magazine I thought was very helpful back when desktop publishing became workable in the late '90's was Photo Electronic Imaging (PEI) I received for free for plunking down over $5000 in imaging equipment and Adobe software to teach myself digital imaging. Andrew Rodney was one of the featured authors along with Jeff Schewe and Joseph Holmes.
    It's now out of print and operates as a website under another name I can't remember right off hand.
  6. I do get photo mags - I subscribe to one, buy others as-and-when, and also enjoy looking through older mags which are often donated to charity shops. My reasoning is not to feel envious of others' camera equipment, nor to try to find what next to squander my pittance of a pension on, but to look at the images (which is what interests me in photography, and has done for over fifty years) and consider, if I had been taking the shot, how I would have approached it.
    In my naive view, I feel this has helped improve my photography, more so than reading books and articles on techniques, useful though those may be in their own fashion.
    In the long run, I take photographs to please myself.
  7. I used to buy them in the '90s, mostly the British ones, as they were better presented and more interesting to read. That wasn't always the case, though.

    The only magazines I'll buy now are from charity shops. The Internet has made magazines redundant. Mid-century publications were arguably the best.
    There was more diversity back then, in terms of equipment and approaches. That's my feeling, but even if I'm right it doesn't matter, as I am not bound by some oath that demands that I practise photography in a certain way.
  8. I get Shutterbug and a couple of other photo magazines. They are really cheap if you get a subscription(less than a dollar/month). I figure if I get one good idea out of each issue I have gotten my money's worth. There are a lot of ads and most of the photos used to illustrate an article usually aren't very good. New camera and lens reviews are always interesting so that's good. For the more sophisticated photo magazines (expensive) I go to one of my local bookstores and do some browsing. I have been watching quite a few Ted Talks on photography while I ride my exercise bike and have been pleasantly surprised at the quantity and quality of the talks. I just finished a couple of good ones last night by Ralph Gibson and Steve McCurry.
  9. Shame on Ansel Adams for raising the art of dodging and burning to such a high level. This is nothing more than an early form of Photoshopping, setting a bad example for us all.
  10. I can usually scan two or three while standing on one leg and leaning against the counter on base. They have little to offer on new equipment and they repeat a formulaic series of how to articles that follow the seasons or subject matter. " How to get better pet shots, " " how to get closer with macro lenses," " travel equipment." " sunset pictures." One would be better served by buying a few books by Michael Patterson or any books from Rocky Nook. I used to get Modern when it was around and a few UK mags but not lately. Even the ads are out of date. They are cheap enough, yet for a five minute browse it aint worth it I think. You might also get one of the historical collections of great photos such as the one by Taschen . For inspiration. i also glean stuff from the annual Nieman Marcus catalogs, surprisingly, on portrait styles and lighting. Wife has the account. Pretty good if you like that sort of thing. And no charge for the catalog. National Geographic is no slouch on interesting shots I hasten to add.
  11. I used to get a couple of fairly Popular photo mags, but dropped them when they became more ad than anything else. I still get B&W (the American one, not the British one) and Lenswork. Both are more about the images than the gear (gear is barely mentioned), but neither are really instructional.
    For learning, I'd also check out your local libraries, to include any college ones you can get into. If there's a camera club in your area, they might be a place to find more info. Some are good for that and others are more of a "my gear is cooler" kind of group. You have to go to find out.
  12. I have not looked at a photo magazine in maybe 7 years. I'm just not interested in upgrade camera's or photoshop tricks. I find stuff on you tube to watch however. Lots of film photography videos that I enjoy watching. I watched a Michael Kenna video the other night with him shooting in Korea. He talked about how he shoots, the gear he needs and his darkroom work. I enjoyed it. I shot a roll of HP5 at 800 today as my 2 y/o Grandson was turning on my desk lamp and it had some interesting shadows on his wonderful face so I started snapping pictures as he turned it on and off for about 10 minutes. 1/60th at f2.8. I have 10 frames left and I will shoot those tomorrow as I am going hiking at Pinnacles National Park. I will have an extra roll of film with me but I probably will not take a lot of photos. I hike out there every week and have more photos of the place then necessary already.
  13. I just had a thought (I know, right?). I think that if someone were to start a film-only magazine, that might do very well.
  14. I stopped reading photography magazines about twenty years ago, when they were all "film-only magazine." The one
    I continued reading the longest was focused on darkroom work. It was never a popular magazine, but it consistently had
    useful information. The popular magazines had maybe five useful articles per year.

    If you want to improve your photography, your time will be much-better spent visiting photography exhibits and studying
    books of great photos. (And, of course, practing photography.)
  15. Not so long after I started in darkroom photography, when I was about 10 or 11, I had a subscription to Popular Photography. I don't know how much I learned from them, but I did read them.
    Now I have a subscription to Outdoor Photography that my dad sends. There seems to be a buy one, get a gift subscription free offer. I do read it, though again, I don't know that I actually follow any of the techniques.
    I also sometimes read them at the public library.
  16. david_henderson


    I used to buy photo. magazines. Not any more - well maybe one a year or thereabouts. I can fill the gap they used to fill quite happily online-sites or Youtube. The most popular US mags were always pretty much useless anyway- the UK magazines were quite a bit better but even that hasn't been enough to interest me now.
    I think the world's moved on, and certainly my life is different in many ways now from a decade or two ago. Then I'd take a couple of mags on a photo trip. These days, my wife comes along and all the hotels have WiFi and I have Netflix, downloads of favourite series, and a host off links to web-sites pertinent to where I am or travelling to. I used to buy a mag to get through the train journey to/from London. I do that less today and anyway I have the iPad and free newspapers at the station. There's no gap for photo.mags to fill.
    And I'd rather spend time researching a new location than read a mag that tells me about where I can stand shoulder to shoulder with countless photographers and tourists. Especially I'd rather look at a great portfolio/website I didn't know before. Stuff that makes me jealous gets me thinking.
  17. I just had a thought (I know, right?). I think that if someone were to start a film-only magazine, that might do very well.​
    Maybe but content might be hard to think of. Most magazines have a lot of content on new products and film photography is more about used camera's and film that has already worked well for many years. However a creative person may be able to come up with stuff that is interesting to read. I guess the bottom line is the content and cost has to appeal to the reader. That is their challenge to sell magazines.
  18. I just went to the market to get some stuff for lunch. I am hiking at Pinnacles National Park today and wanted to make sure I had lunch when I got home and a snack bar on the hike. Anyway I went over to the very large magazine rack and there are no photography magazines there. I know photography itself is in a big decline as the average person is doing fine with cell phone photos but maybe the photography decline is also magazines, camera bags, and all sorts of photography products. But I don't know and do not follow that stuff much other then what I might read here. I hike at the Pinnacles quite often and there is nobody taking photos out there to speak of. Cell phones pictures and once in a while I see a consumer type digital camera. I shoot my film camera and nobody says anything about it any more. I used to get comments about being old school but nobody even gives my FM2 a second look these days.
    Anyway I guess my point is there are no photography magazines at the market. Plenty of gun magazines, hot rod magazines, etc but no camera stuff.
  19. I subscribe to Black and White. The work shown is sometimes too avant-garde even for me, and at other times too cliched, but there are always a number of images worth a long look. F11 is a digital magazine (free) from New Zealand, and it has a few gear articles, but mostly showcases work by good contemporary photographers, both fine-art and commercial. I really ought to get LensWork as well, and probably will soon. I find all of the gear-oriented stuff to be useless.
  20. The best of the bunch, and the only one I still subscribe to/purchase is Black and White Photography from the U.K. This is not the same as Black and White magazine mentioned directly above.
    It is stylized on the cover as "BLACK + WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY"
    I find it has thoughtful prompts/exercises in every issue, which is a useful thing as a learner. (The big advantage of taking a photograph class is having someone give you assignments.) These exercises are within reach of any skill level and any equipment bag. People share their results, and sometimes they are from top pro DSLRs, sometimes from antique view cameras, and sometimes from point and shoots.
    It has also been running a series on bookmaking, which is an interesting angle of the hobby, along with prompts and exercises for DIY bookmaking.
    Yes the gear reviews are unneccessary repetition of the internet, but blissfully short. I find the portfolio reviews interesting and they have introduced me to photographers and styles I never considered before.
    They are also scrupulous about not favouring digital or film; both are respected, and given comparable place of honour if not volume of coverage. There is blissfully almost no photoshoppery covered in the magazine.
  21. Did B/W magazine go color and B/W for a while or maybe still doing that?
  22. At age 74, I occasionally thumb through a photo magazine at a newsstand. With the exception of Popular Photography back in the 1960s, I have never subscribed to a photo magazine. Sometimes I see very interesting photos, but seldom learn anything useful for my own photography efforts.
    However, at around age 12, a friend and I used to pool our money and regularly buy issues of Peter Gowland's series of how-to guides on "glamour photography", which gave lots of what we now call "exif information" for each photo, but we only wanted to look at the "nekkid women" (whose Trump target was always completely airbrushed out of the picture or in full shadow). This was a few years before the era of Playboy and Penthouse and a long time before xxx-videos and the Internet. Cable TV has gone far beyond anything Gowland ever dared to publish.
    Gowland's widow is still selling his work (early and later). He died in 2010. If you want to go down nostalgia lane or see what was at the time often banned (as obscene) in some states. The website is at:
    The website has absolutely no how-to or technical info on the photos offered for sale. Back in the day, that information was a mainly a pretext to justify the sale of Gowlands guides for "artistic and educational purposes".
  23. Has no one heard of or read "Lenswork?" It is the ONLY magazine that focuses (pun intended) on photography, IMAGES, not gear or the latest techniques for whatever? "Lenswork" consistently publishes superb portfolios by excellent photographers. Traditional magazines like Popular Photography and Modern Photography were killed, perhaps justifiably, by the internet. Real photography lives on in "Lenswork" and a few British magazines and perhaps a few other small ones I'm not aware of. And, regarding "post processing," if you won't do it because of some "anti-Photoshop bias, your photography will suffer. Take a look at the original negative, and an unmodified print of Ansel's "Moonrise," you'll instantly see why "post processing," then burning and dodging, now Lightroom and Photoshop are essential to art. As Ansel said, "the negative (now the RAW digital file) is the musical score, the print (modified in the darkroom or Photoshop) is the performance. If you don't print, you may as well just stick with your iPhone (though some superb work, printed, is done with these as well.)
  24. Eric, I haven't actually heard of Lenswork, but it sounds interesting. I should give it a look.
    I must raise a point though: gear and technique are not separable from the image, as far as the photographer is concerned. People who read papers or websites for the content certainly do appreciate the photography, but they don't really care about the equipment used. Sort of like most people who go to see movies. Sure, most of the audience understands when you say '35mm' or 'digital' or 'lenses' but they fundamentally care about the story, or the actors.
    As for your comment about Lightroom and Photoshop, I have to ask: are you an experienced photographer? I ask that specifically. A lot of photographers who produce amazing work don't necessarily care about, or have, pervasive technical knowledge. And that's totally fine, BTW (I don't bother keeping up with every single thing in photography or cinematography either).
    But a lot of people don't use either Photoshop or Lightroom. I don't use Photoshop, as I am not a restorer, a compositor, a graphic designer or a publishing technician. I do use a RAW converter though (unavoidable unless all you shoot are JPEG files). So I would not call them "essential". A lot of press photographers do not have the time to waste with post-processing tools, even if they wanted to. Go and ask someone who shoots baseball or football if they have time to play on their laptop before sending off their images to their photo editor.
    Back in the 1990s when I first wanted to be a photographer, serious commercial professionals shot on slide film, for very good reasons which we don't need to go into here. No dodging or burning, no post processing. Sometimes they'd use graduated NDs, or correction filters, or tungsten balanced film. They actually did less to the image than photojournalists did - and PJs do not allow themselves to do anything except correcting for exposure, framing, and tonality. Imagine it: a commercial photographer, who is allowed to mess with the image, often did no such thing (but it wasn't always like that of course - long story). With some subjects, like nature, there is often nothing to do. They sometimes didn't even add any light: they just pointed the camera, focused, and clicked the shutter. Boom. Done. Finished.
    Some photographers just like to capture the world, and some are not allowed to do anything but. Whereas some use a photograph as a starting point, sort of like a painter creates a painting. I do think that a lot of people do use software such as, but not limited to, Adobe Photoshop, for the sake of social signalling, to show that they are 'in' with the tribe. Kind of like how dogs pee on trees. They use it because they can, not because they need to, or because it improves their work. In many cases it's nothing more than a sophisticated generator of Instagram filters. But, thank goodness, it's a free world.
  25. Did B/W magazine go color and B/W for a while or maybe still doing that?​
    Yes, they did that for a while, but Color didn't do well for them.
    I get Lenswork now, and just subscribed to the British magazine mentioned above.
  26. I currently have over 1800 photography magazines dating back to the 1870's. I don't buy many new magazines although there are some of interest that can be found in good bookstores.
    I think the golden age of photography magazines was from around 1950 through 1970. They had a good mix of articles on equipment, technique, and showcased the works of interesting photographers. After that period they became more obsessed with equipment but to be fair so were their readers. Some of the most interesting magazines after that time had small readership.
    To the OP, I would look for other sources of material to fit your needs. I was surprised by the videos found on YouTube. Type in a search for "photography tutorials". Find an author you like and see what other videos they have. Then look for videos on specific techniques. I was surprised with the quality videos I found on specific Photoshop techniques.
    I think this is an area the could look into. I see some work in the galleries from photographers that I would like to learn from. It would be nice to have host videos from its readers who show special talent.
  27. I was just watching a you tube photography channel. "Negative Feedback" and it's in the UK. Anyway they are launching their first publication and I suppose you could order it online but I am not sure. Just look it up on you tube if interested. But anyway it's a brand new film oriented publication. The channel is a couple of very young film guys and they talk and demonstrate different camera's, films and just film photography related things.
  28. Thanks Les.
  29. Keith, you nailed it on the head. Those magazines are all about selling, selling, selling! Even their "articles" are not-so-subtle ads for gear manufacturers. It takes me about 2 minutes to thumb through those things.
    If you want to learn about photography, go look at some great photographers. Any place that shows Weston, Man Ray, Evans, and a lot of other great photographers can teach you more than looking at those magazines. That's what I did to learn about painting and printing. Made a pilgrimage all across the country to see what the good stuff looked like in galleries and museums. You need to know what is really good, and why it's really good. Only exposure to the real thing can tell you that. Then you need to go out and take photos. Lots of them.
  30. I stopped buying photography magazines when they went to more and more digital articles and fewer and fewer film articles. I don't have anything against digital but I am just not interested in it. I have been shooting film and working in a darkroom for at least 50 years because it is the way I like to work. I really do miss the magazines and I for one would love to see someone come out with a new film oriented magazine. While cleaning out the attic last year I found a large box containing "Camera35" magazines from the 1960's, 70's and 80's. What a treat! I had forgotten what a good magazine it was. Articles about photographs, technique, equipment, photographers, shows, books, critique. Really good writers and well written and very informative. David Vestal's series "Book of Craft" was excellent. I love reading the ads also. Equipment that seemed so expensive and out of reach at the time is now available for pennies. I don't want to sound like some old fogey living in the past but "they just don't make them like that any more".

Share This Page