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Sunday, 15 March 2009


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1. I'm happy.
2. I'll pay you $0.07/month if it's that or nothing, but I'd much rather pay you $0.70/month. I'm that happy.
3. Did it occur to you that your "traditional media" friend might have been indulging in a "traditional media" bias when s/he said that calling yourself a pro blogger sounded idiotic?

Currently there are a number of publications online that do not charge any fee for reading or viewing any of their content. What has just crossed my mind is how the "new media" blogs, forums, and other websites are now forcing news papers and magazines to fold up. Do you think that some sites will start making you purchase online subscriptions? I can for see something like this coming about in the future. A day when there are no more paper magazines and you can get online magazines sent to your iphone or email address.

Camera reviews are good....keep 'em coming. The occasional guest blogger, uh, author is a good thing, too. But what I really like about your "vertical photography magazine providing daily content for avid enthusiasts all over the world" is your unexpected insights (unexpected to me, anyway). Example: You see something interesting or someone sends you a link. You ruminate on it till its ripe, and then write about it. This is where I learn things that I can't just go look up. In other words, I'd be OK with MORE idiosyncrasies.

What we DON'T need is another host for variations on the Canon vs Nikon war, especially since everyone knows you're secretly plotting the downfall of the Canon corporation. :-)

Dear Mike,(Sorry, Dear Editor);

Concerning your 'TOP is a "vertical photography magazine providing daily content for avid enthusiasts all over the world." '.

I want more of everything!! Just because you gave yourself a promotion, doesn't mean you can slack off on the content. In fact, due to your now exalted status(Chief Editor!), get to work.

You know, I've never really considered TOP a blog. Because your offering has more than one voice. So if anything, adding a few more voices would be the only thing I'd like to see. As a disembodied statistic I don't have a lot of dough to throw at you and unfortunately I've not been able to afford to buy a lens or accy thru Amazon lately either. In fact over the next few weeks I'll be selling all of my photo stuff. It's been like pulling teeth and I've sold all other hobbies. Unless something changes in the next week or so I'll be the Nikon stuffs turn. So come up with an amount if it's kinda low like you've mentioned and I'll chip in for the next year. After that, any hobby will be connected to growing or obtaining food. LOL
Or perhaps civil insurrection. I'll have to lose a little weight for that one. :)
Anyway congratulations on running a large, very successful, online photography site. Mr. Editor! hehehehe

I am almost a daily reader and as much as I think the equivalent $ of a cup of coffee a day in fees might be appropriate, it ain't gonna happen. My useless subscription to Popular Photography is $12./year and you are worth more than that. So honestly, I would have no problem in contributing 2-4 times that amount for the pleasure I derive from your site. (not that I have money, but fair is fair, you do have expenses and I can't invite you to Maine often enough to return the favor of casual comraderie)
As far as changes, have at it, I would encourage you to do what you like without deep criticism. I like what you do and willing to stay for a ride.

Good luck,

Large? Large! This is a large site, given the breadth of reference and expertise. Not just camera equipment, not just art, not just politics of imagery, not just personal reminiscences, not just scientific info, not just informed criticism, no, all those and more, from experts in every field. So ... Large!

I'd be glad to pay a subscription. I already subscribe to a blues podcast because I want to support the podcaster (Tony Steidler-Dennison at http://roadhousepodcast.com/ -- highly recommended) and this would be more of the same for me.

I'd rather subscribe at a higher level than 7 or 8 cents per month, though. I would like my money to signify that I like the site, not that it's spare change that I can't think what else to do with.

As for what I'd like to see: more of the same, please, especially if it's opinionated and personal. You may think vertical photography magazine sounds better than blog, but I like the idiosyncrasy of your blog, and that is what keeps me coming back.

Mike, I've always loved your site and I've always felt as if I was reading someone who really knows what he's talking about, and someone who is extremely thoughtful and has great respect for the English language, but the most enjoyable aspect is your ability to make your readers think and feel emotions. Simply, I think you're a great writer.

Suggestions for your site? I have none, or maybe if pressed just that you continue writing, teaching, and enlightening. You have an amazing gift.

Dear Mike,

Oh.... HOORAY!

I hate blogs. I even hate the word blog. It's ugly in print and it's ugly rolling off the tongue. And, as a class, the content in them is just as bad. Simplistic, repetitive, puerile, self-indulgent twaddle that nine times out of 10 I'm almost embarrassed to look at (and I avoid looking as much as possible). A serious waste of bandwidth and a club with which I do not wish to be associated, thank you very much.

From the day I started writing for Mike here, the way I've answered the question of who I'm writing for has always been, "I write articles for PHOTO Techniques, which is a print magazine, and any thrice-monthly column for The Online Photographer, which is an online magazine." For me that's the best description of what this place is and what I do, and it's the way I'll keep describing it.

Glad to see you coming around, Mike! I knew you'd see the light eventually [ grin ].

If you set up a micro-payment donation scheme, I will be the first to sign up.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I am another of the recently unemployed. When I saw it coming I ordered a new camera and $500 worth of frills, before the layoff was certain. At the age of 60, I may never go back to work, so this will probably be my last camera. Would of loved to have got it through one of your links, but it was just too complicated from Venezuela.
I am quite happy with your site as is. My photography is pretty basic, but I learn a lot here. I will not be one of your major financial supporters, but hope to see you prosper, and I get more than a few cents worth here.
By the way, the A700 looks pretty good to me, but only a dozen test shots so far.

Mike, check out the http://tipjoy.com/

You could set it up so people could just click on a button and give you 10c

Just tell people to click on the button once in a while ;-)

It should work well for you.

"pointed out that that answer sounds imbecilic"

I suppose there are worse things in life than being a imbecile.

Personally I love it the way it is, and would be happy to donate in a regular way as it stands now. I would like a few more posts (or are they articles now that this is not a blog), but I just love the eclectic mix of photography related miscellanea, and I think the balance of technical, biography, book reviews, lens reviews, camera reviews, history etc... is about right, though I would love a few more lens and camera reviews in the style that you do them i.e. in an informed subjective way, but not too many, so as not to upset the balance too much.

I've learned quite a lot from this website this last year, both through the articles and comments, and appreciate my hobby the more for it. So sign me up for a regular subscription, and keep up the good work.

Here're my two cents, for what they're worth:
I like best, things that help me be a better photographer which tend to fall into the following categories:
1. understanding composition, art/photo history and other elements of seeing
2. pointers to sites with excellent work, or other resources
3. recommended books

I also often like the type of review you do, but this is less important. If I'm really in the market to buy something, I do all the objective technical research elsewhere (DPReview, DxO). I come here for good qualitative reviews that save me from figuring out for myself, in advance, whether Camera X with 0.987 of quality A is really a better purchase than Camera Y with 0.975 of quality A, given that Camera Y also offers feature M which Camera X doesn't. - You do an excellent job of keeping such matters in perspective or helping me decide if they're worth worrying about.

However, even though I'm the same age as you and have been photographing since I was 12 I've never owned a large format camera and since I gave up on my film cameras and returned to photography digitally about 10 years ago, I haven't afforded a prime lens. And while I love, and do, B&W photography, I also like and do color. So I have to admit that stories on how nothing measures up to $1000 wide-angle prime glass, don't do much for me. They're kind of parenthetically interesting (like off-topic posts) but I'll never be able to afford enough primes to replace 2 or 3 zooms and certainly not if I buy fast or German primes.

I also love the fact that there is new stuff here frequently - that's an important reason I check in a couple of times a day, usually.

Not sure most online services allow payment amounts under $1. I'd surely sign up for $1 a month though (at least if you ask before I lose my job).


Nothing wrong with equipment, though one of the virtues of this site is that it is not equipment-centric. There are plenty of equipment review sites, but not many that delve into the why, rather than just how, and with what new, bright, shiny geegaw.

As to subscriptions; I'm somewhat phobic about auto withdraws from my accounts, as sometimes there is nothing to withdraw; how embarrassing. I'll have to continue to sometimes pay a little.


Mike, "I'm the editor of a large photography website." is equally lame imho.

You need to structure your reply in a way that tells people what you do to help people... (that *is* what you do here, isn't it?)

Something along the lines of "You know how people struggle to .... (whatever you think we struggle with), well I make it easy for them to .... (whatever problem you think your site solves).

Go on! fill in the blanks for us ;)

Cheers & good luck with TOP, it's a great site.


I don't see how 7 cents a month is gonna work, since to my knowledge we don't have a good micropayment system in place (and it's beginning to look like we never will have one, sadly).

Anyway, it's too little to care about. I had micropayments for a couple years on Domai.com, as long as bitpass was functioning (it went down). And I found out that while there was a little sale in selling items at fifty cents a piece, sales was much better when I bundled them up and sold them for ten dollars a bundle, despite there being *no* bulk rebate.

If it were me, I'd try with $9.75 per year as voluntary donation. I'd pay that.
Paypal can set up subscriptions.

Just a couple of comments, which are strictly my personal opinion and may be ignored if inapplicable.

1. C____ or N____ sponsorship? Heaven forbid! What a great way to muzzle yourself, or at least give readers the impression that you can't speak without bias. I'd say stick with multiple smaller widget manufacturers and services. Maybe just more of 'em.

2. The current format of the site – postings by the author with responses inextricably linked to each posting – sort of defines it as a "blog." I realize moving to a whole new system would be a huge undertaking, but perhaps a format with articles (with responses even) and a separate forum section would make for more lively conversation. One of the drawbacks of the current format is that subjects drop off the end of the blog fairly quickly, even some that could go on and evolve for some time. Of course that would mean a lot more administrative work and moderation, so I can understand why you might not want to go there.

3. In terms of subject matter I personally tend to enjoy posts about the art and value of photography more than gear-related stuff (even though I am a serious gearhead), simply because the web is awash with gear-related blather as it is. But of course the site would be a bit barren without the occasional gear post and the inevitable fanboy punch-up that follows, so by all means keep 'em coming.

That'll do for now. To recap, the above are personal, self-serving opinions from someone who enjoys TOP immensely but probably wouldn't go to the required lengths himself.


Hi Mike,

I appreciate your site. I don’t really care what you call it, but I guess the new name is a bit more classy and more to the point, accurate.

I have been reading your work in its various locations for many years. I would not mind paying to read it.

I'm kinda new at this. What exactly is "vertical" photography?

I personally don't have many thing to request: maybe a more consistent dedication in camera reviews (for instance, I'm still waiting for some last works on the Pentax K20D, and how shooting in their proprietary RAW format then converting to the Adobe one works best).

But I enjoy this site a lot the way it is, and I'm particularly fond of the very smart sens of humour of the, ahem, blogger-that-is-an-editor-in-the-making. So please continue this way. :D

BTW I run a very small, personal blog that belongs to the category you defined (like 12 visits per day). And still in my case, it took me a longtime to figure out whether it was worth to keep it online or would have been best to keep the topics for private discussions with friends.

For better or worse, my blog remains also online, although I don't make a cent (nor do I intend to) with it.

My opinion is that TOP already has an excellent mix of topics, and a fine mix of contributors. As for your 'blather'-- as I've said before, it's so refreshing to read the work of someone with such a good understanding of our language and its use, especially in these days of so many semi-literate postings all over the Internet.

As for content, I wouldn't change much. You often open my eyes to topics I didn't realized I'd be interested in. One thing you might consider, though, is more discussion of lenses and their properties, perhaps a series of recommendations on how to look at and judge print quality (and how to achieve it), and so on. Seems there was more of this kind of thing in the old 37th Frame days.

As for becoming a pay site, I suspect you'd be surprised at how many of us would sign up. But it might limit newcomers, possibly preventing them from becoming future subscribers. As for donations, $1 a year is more than reasonable. Hell, I might even consider TOP worth $2.50 a year! ;-)

Nice post Mike. I agree with the change of title from blogger to editor - much more apt and professional! In terms of changes to content (this is purely personal, what I like to read): more art, more film, more old camera reviews, more book reviews. OK, I know the world has gone mostly digital these days, but there's something about well made quirky old cameras that makes them a joy to hold and use, and marvel at the engineering that has gone into them. I like my d300, but I miss my old MESuper, and I'm hankering after an FM2n ... what old cameras rock your boat?

The thing that brought me to this site in the first place was that it tended to have more of a philosophical look at photography and what/how we shoot. I think back to the conversations about the Turnleys' first book when that was re-released, as well as the debate about when colour actually helps a photo and when you don't need it. I certainly welcome all the other stuff, which keeps it interesting, but I still get most excited when I see posts like the ones that were the norm when I first started reading.
Gear reviews are a dime a dozen, but I've always fancied this the thinking man's photography website.


I've been enjoying your ""vertical photography magazine providing daily content for avid enthusiasts all over the world" for quite some time now, and would be happy to contribute a modest amount to keep it going and give you fair recompense for my enjoyment. A dollar a year is much too modest, at least for me. A dollar a month, or $10-$15/year, would be more like it, and I'd be happy to do it. Let me know how to contribute. (A check by mail would be fine.)

As far as content goes, I think it's nicely balanced. I enjoy your opinions and your style. I like your writings about art better than most people's, though I don't think I'd want to read them more frequently. The articles by Carl Weese on the Pentax K20D and Ctein on the Fuji F100FS have been influential in my equipment purchases, and I wouldn't mind more on those or related models, but I wouldn't like a lot more camera reviews. If you can find more guest writers like Ctein or Camp or Weese or Tanaka, terrific. But by all means keep writing yourself, the more the better.

Victor Bloomfield

I enjoy TOP daily, thanks.

It does seem odd that you do not have a gallery. I think this would be a welcome addition. Also, you could 'slurp' TOP into a print-on-demand service like Blurb and, with a bit of editing, offer a "Best of TOP" annually.

Dear Editor,
I think of this enterprise as a (mainly) photography news magazine that lets the reader talk back instantly. This immediacy is what makes it work.

As to topics, I'd welcome some further exploration of photographic output technique and craft both on paper and on line. Reviews are appreciated.

I must confess to not visiting the tip jar, not because I don't want to pay, but because its something else to do and I have to be nudged in that direction. I would subscribe if there was a way but the system would need to remind me to re-up.

Now I'm going to find that jar.

This is my homepage, I check your site several times a day. Sometimes it's a bomb, but most of the time it's a grand slam. You introduce me to photographers, books, and other sites that I would not have found on my own. The idiosyncrasies enhance the site.

I'm willing to pay, how about an annual donation, say $10 or $12. I get so much from this site that I don't mind giving when others aren't.

The technology is irrelevant, you are an editor/writer of a technical/artistic/philosophical magazine.

Thank you.

Well Duh!
I found your "tip jar" and deposited my first $20. In a few months, I'll hit it again.
I'll cut back on the coffee:-)

Hi Mike,

I think the subscription idea is a good one. With regards to content, I'd like to read more often your impressions of lenses. Take, for example, when you compared the 5D II, A900 and D700. I was more interested to read your thoughts about the respective, "value" 35mm lenses than I was to hear about the bodies, while the latter ended up being your focus.

As for blogger vs magazine editor, your new title and description are more specific than the old, but no more accurate. I think your friend - the one in traditional media - has it all wrong. Blogs and bloggers vary greatly in scope and value. Traditional media folks don't understand this web space. Witness the dying newpaper industry.

Best regards,

Hey, IMHO this is a blog. Nothing wrong with that. Yeah, I hate the term too, but it is what we currently call sites like this one currently. And I have no problem with Ctein as a contributor here trying to find 100 fans to add to his income. After all, that is what capitalism is about. It's not like if we don't give him money we won't be invited back. Neither of you are making any contribution as a requirement of admission.

Keep up the good work...

A voluntary contribution will probably only be paid by a tiny proportion of your readers, regardless of amount (even a nickel) so make the amount a little more significant; it's voluntary, after all. I think of Ira Glass repeating that if every podcast listener would just chip in a few bucks, the people hosting This American Life would probably never have to ask for money again. Never going to happen, though.

I've recently cancelled a bunch of subscriptions to badly written photographic magazines that churn out the same old thing every few months and they each cost way more than you'd ever charge. And think again of Daring Fireball, which offers barely any extras to regular subscribers but still has enough subscribers for them to be providing the bulk of Mr Gruber's income, from what I understand.

As for content, keep doing what you're doing, writing and commissioning stuff about what you find interesting and relevant. That bit is already really well sorted. I too hate the word "blog", by the way but wow, there's some great writing to be had out there these days.

I'm not sure what your online service should become. I first started reading Sunday Morning Photographer pieces several years ago and now TOP. What kept me reading is your personal manner of addressing the subject at hand. It works for me.

Please don't become like DP Review or Steve's Digicams. I frequent both sites but I trust the opinions and content more here. The personal touch matters. How to remain a boutique website and make money is another question.

Set up some kind of payment system and I'm in for a few bucks a month. -- Go for it. Rich

I disagree.

The site exactly fits the definition of "blog". Crucially, it works so well (and I keep coming back) precisely because it fits that definition. Calling it something else just seems a combination of snootiness and technophobia — not to mention a dash of doublespeak.

Tell you what: keep calling it a blog, and keep running it like one, and I'll subscribe for at least one year of whatever plan you come up with.

I come to the site for art/cultural/social criticism.

What I would like to see is more discussion of the theory of photography. You obviously have given a great deal of thought and energy to the art. How about a series of articles featuring your thoughts on key members of the "pantheon" of modern/post modern critics:
Szarkowski, Barthes, A.D. Coleman, Minor White, Sontag, etc., etc. An annotated primer if nothing else.

Equiptment is only of interest as artifact, as artifacts are revealing of their creators and users and can also drive the work in new directions.

I would like to see more critical analysis of artists and their work. Past and modern.

I would also be happy to subscribe for substantially more than $.07 per month.

Thanks for listening.


My very first thought was that I don't know what I want more of. I can tell you where I stand as an Incompetent Enthusiast (IE). I just switched from Canon back to Nikon. I've made decisions recently on whether one is better than the other, what starter lens to get, whether to get the D300 or the D700, whether I really do need to go full frame if I meet my goal of getting much better, whether to trust refurbished equipment and used equipment, which to trust more, whether to abandon Photoshop and head for Aperture or one of the other Nikon-based programs, and whether having too much crap beats all the fun out of photography. If there are any ideas in there have at them. I am a magazine writer, so if you feel the IE community is underrepresented I will be happy to write down what I found as answers to all the above.

I like the site as it is.

I'm not much of a gearhead, but it doesn't hurt me to read those posts (or scroll past them) and often they open a window on something interesting that I'd otherwise not know about.

I'm happy with you holding the reins; if I weren't, I wouldn't be here.

Nothing wrong with the word blog in my dictionary-not a nice sounding word, but whatever. Your friend is on the wrong side of this one.

More important is that this is the future-you are blazing a path believe it or not. We absolutely have to forge ahead here, the tools exist, the audience exists certainly!

It will get worked out, all this micropayment stuff, subscriptions, etc, whatever it is. Eventually it will be commonplace. The barriers to an individual hacking a living hanging out a shingle on the web are to my mind actually the big players-the IPS's, cable companies, telcos, etc, and big media. They'd rather have chaos and the status quo than risk losing control of the gateways. So we get DRM, format wars, anything to avoid a consensus that does not involve big money.

Monopolies do not like to lose. But this is what is happening. Individuals need to get themselves on the web in creative ways and show that it can be a business.

How about a "whack a mole" button... If I like a post, I can "whack a mole" and give you $1,$5,$10,$100 as a donation... Make it easy.... You gave a link for a site that has documentation for out of date cameras, and I have given them at least 3 donations so far....

I have to say I'm very happy to hear of the decision not to make it a paysite.
As to your posts, I don't think we really need camera reviews, god knows we have enough sites out there dedicated to picking out every pixel with a tweezers and examining it. I love the idiosyncratic posts and the art profiles, and let me just say that out of all the photography blogs in my feed reader, yours is always the one I check first and the one I read the most devotedly. Keep 'em coming.

Only old media thinks blogs are imbecilic. You're part of the future of media - don't try to re-categorize yourself.

Editor and Publisher!

And I think we should be known as "Supporting Subscribers". I think $5 a year would be no barrier for most. After 11 months send us an email, "Would you like to remain a supporting subscriber?"


To "Speed": it's the magazine which is vertical, not the photography. I think it's simply Mike's half-facetious way of saying that even though the articles are under each other, it's more of a magazine than a blog.

I agree that part of the value of this site is that you can count on at least a couple of post per day. It's like a cafe you can always drop by and count on having a chat with the friendly staff.

"My friend (who's in traditional media) took me aside later and gently pointed out that that answer sounds imbecilic, since most "blogs" consist of trivial diary-type twitting that are seen by approximately twelve people a day."

You should stop listening to your friend. Especially if he works for a newspaper.

I almost didn't leave a comment; "Everything's great, TOP is fantastic" is about all I can come up with.

I read TOP every day, sometimes multiple time per day, if there's a lively discussion in the comments section. I've donated some money in the past (I liked the .02 per day, $7.30 per year total that someone came up with last year) and am enjoying the print I purchased a few months ago. If I had to give up reading all but one photography website right now, you can be sure I'd be loading up TOP tomorrow.

If I had to ask for one thing: more?

whoops, Mike. Wouldn't want you to be associated with us great unwashed bloggers. I'll remove you from my blogroll ASAP.

There's really nothing wrong with having a blog and being proud of it, and if you've found a way to support yourself financially with one, even prouder. Still, I suppose it does sound sort of childish to some, though no worse than, "I take pictures of dogs" like William Wegman. As a graphic artist, I like to tell people that I draw pictures all day (even though that's mostly a lie).

Anyhow, if you're embarrassed about being a blogger, then be an editor of a large website. That works too.

Call it what you like; I love the site just the way it is. The only constructive criticism I can muster (besides "more, more more") is that you should move the main content, the bl*g (or the "weblog" as you have quaintly referred to it up to now), to the main page, so that when I start typing www.theonlinephoto... in my Safari address bar and it autocompletes, and I hit enter instead of arrowing down one as I should remember to do, I get to the meat of the matter rather than the page that currently has pride of place as home page of this site, a page that I only need to see once in my life (which should be seen only when someone clicks an "about theonlinephotographer.com" link). Also, try not to write run-on sentences. They're hard to read.

Mike: A "large photography website" concerns itself with 4x5 sized cameras and up. I think the eclectic, never know whats coming next nature of your site is what keeps us regular readers coming back. What I would like to see occasionally are the personal glimpses that you do so well like "Never Get Married" with its sadder than sad opening phrase. How about one entitled "Why the Hell Waukesha?"

Dave Kee

Mike, I have been a daily reader of your site since day one. I really enjoy the mix of content that you provide, and the honest and open way you write about the topics you cover. Not sure you really need to change much of anything. I really enjoy the guest posts, especially from Ctein. I'd be happy to sign up for a voluntary subscription. I think what your site provides is worth much more than most of the paper magazines I presently subscribe to.

I like it here and I don't really care what you call it. I find the discussions, reviews, exposure to new work and general spirit enlightening and valuable. This is kind of ironic but I decided to make a donation through the donate link and it won't let me. I keep getting an error message from PayPal. I promise not to let that stop me but you might want to look into it. Maybe my Safari browser is the issue.

Just an idea for reviews.

I'm constantly frustrated by reviews of lenses which note certain issues but never illustrate them. Ironic, given the visual basis of photography. Anyways, what I mean is that most reviews now do show stuff like chromatic aberration or lack of edge resolution, etc., but even there, no one really teaches/shows how to distinguish/explain purple fringing from blue fringing from red/green fringing.

You recently posted a pic from a Zeiss 28mm lens which jumped out for you because of the obvious (to you) field curvature. I have to say this was the first time I actually saw the effect of field curvature although I've heard the term numerous times.

In this manner, instead of focusing on a certain lens which people may or may not be able to use because of mount choice, you can teach us how to evaluate any lens.

By the way, I bought LightZone because of this site. I use it for my LX2 RAW conversions and it's been a lifesaver (easier to get from A to B) compared to CS2, so thanks!

I'd pay. No question. (Not sure what the stars are on "I'd pay" to "have paid" conversion though!)

Main point from me though is that I come here for Mike. Mike's views on this camera, Mike's opinion on that show, Mike's anal frustrations with the other industry. I can get cold clinical reviews elsewhere - I come here for educated, opinionated, subjective Mikeness. So long as it stays like that, I'll keep visiting.

Kind regards

Editor ?!
Mike you are much more than an editor.
By god - you write much faster than I can read !
Many times I think - when, the hell, will I find the time to read all that good stuff in T.O.P ?

The rest of the internet photo sites are filled with Techie banter and pixel-peeping poop. On the threads one must wade through heated debates from idle retirees saying "Yes, it is. No it isn't. Yes it is, too. No it isn't, you're a lousy photographer. Yes it is, your mother wears combat boots. No it isn't, my mother's dead , etc., etc. etc." ad nauseum. I think you should put in more Art, more History, and more Photographers. In this area you are doing quite well to uplift the spirits of those who spend time here. Thusly creating a better atmosphere for things really important. My two sense.

"most 'blogs' consist of trivial diary-type twitting that are seen by approximately twelve people a day" ...

Well, that's us bloggers put in our place [makes Jon Stewart faces] ... just call me Mr. Imbecile ... And I insist on knowing how you got hold of my stats!!

"A dollar a month" sounds good to me, though there may be sound economic reasons, backed by top banking brains, for going for the micro payment option. Just show me where to sign.

Content-wise, you've got it about right, or why else are we all here? Frankly (and this may be embarrassing, or at least I hope so) it's your personality and opinionizing that keeps people coming back, plus your breadth of interest in the photo-fringes. Seek out and bring us the unconsidered trifles of Photo World, but do stay away from reviewing toys none of us can afford (unless, of course, they're amusing or ugly).

Oh, and maybe find a different outlet for your tedious Lens Thing -- maybe a blog? ;)

Please don't take offense. I'm a blogger. The only thing my friend meant was that to some people, it doesn't sound like something you could (or should) be doing with the better part of your day.


--Mike the blogger

I like TOP as it is, precisely because it's idiosincratic and original. I am glad you have managed to make some money out of it. Seems very difficult. I do write a blog, in Spanish, and I only get significative traffic when I comment on gear, wich I do rarely. Gear doesn't interest me much, there are plenty other places that do it well.
I have been worrying these last weeks about all this, and the effect Internet is having on media and on us all. Recently, a major Spanish publishing house closed the web of a daily paper, ADN, because they "only" had 1,3 million daily visitors, and that wasn't enough to cover the payroll of its 40 employees. A traditional paper feeds 200 people, then the printers and the distributors and the newstands...
El Pais, Spain's most important daily, gets 6 million visitors on a good day, vs 250.000 hard copies sold. And it's on the verge of bankrupcy. Internet traffic doesn't make up for the losses on it's traditional bussiness.
As we all know, that's the situation of The New York Times, etc.
I am beginning to see internet as a flesh eating monster destroying all sort of important institutions and giving us back very little.
That's the downside. The upside is that the technology may allow some lucky people to make a living on their own, independently, by reaching a comparatively small customer base. So far, there is very little proof of that, long tail, short tail, whatever.
That would be your case. Hope you become the living proof of the wealth that can be gained by going independent and managing a vertical photo etc. You certainly deserve it.
PS With your proven ability with tags and words, how come you are not into marketing? :-)

"Well, that's us bloggers put in our place [makes Jon Stewart faces] ... just call me Mr. Imbecile ... And I insist on knowing how you got hold of my stats!!"

Mike C.,
I'll never learn. I have a rule I try (and fail) to follow: never insult the janitor from Cleveland. Early on in my magazine career, I wrote an editorial that mentioned something in pasing about a janitor in Cleveland. I was stunned when I received an eloquent letter from a janitor in Cleveland, wondering what he could have possibly done to be singled out for scorn.

Forgive my verbal excess. There is of course nothing wrong with diary-type blogging for 12 friends. It just doesn't sound like something one could do with the better part of one's day, is all.

Mike, with blog on face

What brought me to your site originally was the columns "The Sunday Morning Photographer" you wrote for "The Luminous Landscape" some time ago, and if anything probably that would be what I am missing.
(I notice that your "Columns and Essays" which I would guess would be that kind of material haven't been updated that often(??))
But I realise that writing things like that probably represent a bigger effort, but since you asked.....
I will continue to come back even without that though.

Hi Mike, I really consider your website to be an extension of "The 37th Frame", your newsletter to which I subscribed oh-so-many-years ago and only received two copies before you threw in the towel. So in my own way I've already contributed to this site! And it's been money well spent, IMO.
Cheers, John

It's all good, and I'd be happy to pony up $10 a year to keep it coming. With a little more of the longer discursive stuff, if you have the time, so long as it doesn't cut down on the regular stuff.

I like the "supporting subscriber" idea, with an annual polite reminder.

And you are a blog. Keep it that way.

I love this site. I have always thought of it as the "Atlantic Monthly" of photography sites. So I suppose I do picture a magazine in my head. I like the variety of topics, and the gear articles that talk about the gear in use as opposed to the technical measurements of the gear. I find the proper English to be deliciously refreshing. I would become a subscriber. Just last week I bought a K20D through your links.

Comments for a possible re-design - well more of the same please - including your lens and camera reviews because they (unlike most of the competition) include insight, interpretation, intelligence and importantly your opinion (or that of your contributors). To me TOP fulfils the role of quality photography magazine that is largely absent in the UK. Previously interesting magazines like Outdoor Photography and Professional Photographer have become dumber and dumber over the years. With the exception of BJP (British Journal Photography) there's little quality out there. The blog format of TOP adds to its interest, vitality and currency. However, one frustration I have had with the current format is finding old posts/content again – the google search is rather too random. Some sort of structuring of content (comment, reviews, random excellence, author etc) could well help.
Being free (in all senses) is welcome but I would be happy to pay/donate to help ensure your continued existence. Could you offer some extra value of some sort to ‘supporting subscribers’? Please keep up the good work!

Nobody writes about lenses like you do. That is the only thing I would point out that I would like to see more of at this site/blog/zine. Don`t get me wrong, that is not why I come here almost every day, but it would be nice all the same.

Hmm, no real problem paying, and the amount could go upwards in my opinion.

As for content, as is, maybe more on the technical information, I have found that the more I learn on the technical side, the more interesting photography becomes, and I never thought it would be that way to be honest.

Thats all!

Personally, I'd like to hear more from you. You have a keen eye, why not share more of it. Tell me more about what you think of the greats, what did they do well, in your opinion, what did they do poorly. How did they effect the development of the art form in general. In Random Excellence articles, why not share more of what the artist is doing that is right or wrong, good or bad. Who they remind you of, etc. I never studied photography, but I have picked up some bits along the way and enjoy learning more. I think of this site as an on-line class room of sorts, and I wouldn't mind taking a quiz now and then. Sometimes I feel like Radar on Mash when he says "Ah, Bach."

I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on say, what to look for in different genres of photography that makes the work stand out.

As far as equipment related stuff, I like keeping up with what's going on on the technology side of things, and I would rather get the news here than elsewhere. And I enjoy your reviews, not so much as a basis for buying any one particular piece of equipment, but as a way to think about how my own camera works, or how I use it. Anyway keep up the good work. ch

You elitist.

What's wrong with just saying you are the editor and publisher of the online photographer? (The "online" part is a hint.)

Oh, and in the latest Bill Simmons podcast (on the ESPN main page) he argues with Chuck Klosterman (In part 2 of the interview. Part 1 was about NCAA basketball.)about the death of newspapers and the rise of the blog in the sports world. Not necessarily germane to the discussion but I thought the discussion of the perception of the newspaper columnist to be interesting.

The comments have been fascinating. It seems that whether your fans consider this a "blog" depends on their opinion of blogs. Since they're fans of TOP, if it's someone likes blogs, it's fine for this to be a blog; if it's someone who thinks *most* blogs are banal and imbecilic, they're glad you're willing to leave the blog characterization behind. I fall into the latter camp (let's be honest; even if there are 10 million good blogs - including, presumably, blogs written by TOP readers - that means at least 90 million others are banal and imbecilic).

I agree completely that when someone types "theonlinephotographer.com" into their browser, they should come straight to this online-publication-formerly-known-as-a-blog, not to the ugly mishmash that comes up there now, with only a side link to the meat of the site. "Not confusing your customers" is Marketing 101.

The only time I feel like TOP leans toward the "personal quirk" aspect of blogging is when you veer off into music. There are plenty of sites that do that well (if they don't, perhaps you could start "The Online Listener"?) and I just skip over those posts completely. I know photography and photographers have historically been closely linked with music and musicians, but it just doesn't work for me here (no offense, since my musical tastes are reasonably similar to yours).

That said, even the family refs don't bother me - Zander's custom shoes, Lulu's quirks - although I suppose you could bring them in less "personally" if you used Z's shoes to show the saturation of the K20D, or Lulu's charging about to test the focus tracking of the A900.


I'm definitely in as a payer, for at least as much as the typical photo-mag annual subscription (i.e., don't undersell yourself by only asking for 7 cents a month or such). And I vote for no more of a gallery component here; links to other galleries are good enough. There are plenty of places to look at photographs but not enough insightful writing about photography.

Mike, I really enjoy your site and would be prepared to pay. By coincidence, I have been wrestling with many of the same issues that are concerning you. I have a website of history and reminiscences on my home town, which is Durban in South Africa (www.fad.co.za).

It has been getting about 8000 visits a month and I decided to put up PayPal Donation buttons about eight months ago. About 64000 visits later and I have had a massive influx of three donations. My feeling is that people can't be bothered to go through the hassle of making a payment.

What web content producers need is a quick one-click way of receiving payments. The providers of ringtones and such for mobile phones are making a killing because it's so easy for their customers to pay on a one-off (or continuing) basis just by sending an SMS.

An alternative that might work for you is to sell something through your site. I have my book on sale on mine and that has worked better than the donation strategy, to the tune of a couple of hundred sales in five years. For local history that isn't too bad but you'd find that your stuff would have a much wider appeal. How about a cheaply-printed 'Monthly Mike' magazine booklet, for example?

Hi Mike,
I'm one of those lurkers who reads your site several times a day, and feels vaguely disappointed when you don't post because you are out taking pictures/having a life. So, rather than nod my head at your comments, I clicked the "Contribute a Few Bucks" graphic on the right column and sent you my coffee money for the next couple of days...I will pledge to send more every time you make be scratch my goatee! Please keep this up!

As someone who randomly tipped once, I think a yearly or monthly donation subscription is a better idea, to guarantee income for you, and for the subscribers to feel more structure in what and why they are paying. A tip jar is just too easy to forget about. I like the idea of making my contribution a consistent, regular one. $12 a year is certainly not out of the question.

Why do I come to the site and what do I want to see more of? Mike Johnston. It's that simple. I used to read The Sunday Morning Photographer every Monday morning when I went into work (at a camera store, so it was appropriate!) and always enjoyed your personal views and insights.

I'm a camera junkie, old and new, and there are plenty of sites that have technical facts, but little personal opinion, and indeed personality in reviews and comments. That's what I like about TOP.

I'm not much into the art side of things. I've never bought a book of photographs, and have only ever purchased one print.

Does that mean I'd like to see less photographic art on TOP? Absolutely not! I quite enjoy coming across it on my visits here, and wouldn't be exposed to it any other way. Keep it coming!

Mike -- two words -->> Pledge Drive.
You are the PBS of blogs because you provide thoughtful,
interesting, meaningful content.
So please do not be shy about asking for support !

Once or twice a year you could gear up and run a Pledge Drive
just like PBS does. You could even offer "rewards" such as
a cool 10x8" print for $100/year just like they do on PBS TeeVee.

And make a page listing supporters' names. People like to see
their names or their "aliases" in print as contributors.

Using a Pledge Drive model keeps T.O.P. free to those who
cannot or do not want to be a supporter. And gives all supporters a choice of the level of support they might wish to provide.

Cheers -- Andrea B.

On my opinion, you may redecorate the envelope, but the content of your site (call it a blog, an online magazine or whatever fill your wishes) is nearly perfect as it is. The combination of technical knowledge, photographic taste, clever humour, and well-timed off-topics makes your site the last photographic site I would give up.

I cannot believe a C--- or N--- sponsorship would change your writing or bias your opinions, but I hope that lesser sponsors may reward your efforts as highly as you deserve.

So far as I remember, I've never subscribed to an online "magazine", but I've had subscriptions to at least one site (wunderground.com) where subscribing doesn't get you extra content but does save your from ads (I'm not suggesting you change your ad setup).

I find TOP to be a useful and interesting site, and am in favor of its continuing to exist, probably to the point of some direct contribution (I'll never know for sure until I've done it).

I think the $1-$10 per year range is an interesting range of discussion. I'm pretty sure I'd sign up at $5 or anything less. I'm not sure I'd sign up at $10. Psychological boundaries, and the range of free content available, and the range of ways I can spend my time, all factor in. Plus economic uncertainty (I'm still employed, so things can easily get worse for me).

I have a fondness for precise measurements of things; possibly a fondness that exceeds the utility of such measurements in photography. And there are lots of online sites with that orientation, and I don't think it would be a good thing for TOP to try to chase them.

I like TOP *NOT* being brand-focused. The D1Scussion Nikon mailing list is tremendously useful to me as a Nikon user, and I even amuse myself by browsing the Nikon Rumors site now and then, but I value the wider focus, and the less-equipment-oriented discussion here.

The quality of your guest writers is a virtue of this site. The quality of people commenting here is also a virtue (nothing is perfect, of course).

"Blogging" started as people mostly posting links to things they found interesting, and making comments on their own blogs about what other people said on theirs. It's evolved from there a lot, and the multi-person blog is well-established (many of the high-profile blogs like Boing Boing and Making Light have multiple people posting top-level articles). Most blogs are one not very interesting person maundering on about not very interesting things (even worse than magazines, since magazines cost a lot more to run than blogs). Then again a lot of my interesting interaction with people happens through blogs (including Live Journal).

I think that you are already doing a really terrific job with this website, whatever you choose to call it. The content has been getting progressively better and better. I check it at least once/day. My conclusion...It it ain't broke, don't fix it! If you give the option of subscribing for some reasonable fee, I'm in.



I will definitely pay multiples of 7 cents per month should you set something up. Monthly works better for me than one lump sum. I come to your site at least 3 times a week (more often if work is slow).

I would like to second Rory's request for film camera and lens reviews, commentary, etc. For example, the "Good Old Nikon" article from the Sunday Morning days. I love to read about why people have preferences for one thing or another. Your comment about who has designed R series lenses made me wish you would do a writeup on that (out of my price range but I find it very interesting to hear the history and reasons behind products). Also, I like mechanical things (I am a member of the National Assoc. of Watch and Clock Collectors), I cannot afford newer digital bodies and lenses, and I spend all day in front of a computer so I don't want to spend my hobby time in front of one too. So, I like to read about why people liked certain film cameras and which lenses produce good or unique results for whatever purpose. You could call it "Blast from the past" or something like that.

I would also like to request some info for beginners. I don't have any friends or mentors that do photography and I hate traipsing through online fora for worthwhile answers. Worthwhile being the key word there. For instance, I just shot a roll of slide film and had it developed. What can I do now to make nice prints? I am probably the only person interested in beginner topics but I highly respect your opinions so I thought I'd at least ask that you begin including beginner advice- you can always say no.

I'll keep this short and sweet:

TOP is one of the few websites I'd pay a fee to view - the range of content and opinions (including readers' comments) makes it one of my absolute, guaranteed daily reads and when I've been away from the computer for a few days it's one of the two sites I check first when I turn the computer on (the other being my facebook page).

The other little thing I'd like to mention is my supreme disappointment that you're no longer writing for Black & White Photography magazine in the UK. Your contribution was often my main reason for buying it over the past few years and was certainly the main reason why I first bought the magazine - a really touching article about being a single dad and your relationship with your son in the February 2006 issue. Whatever the reason, your absence weakens the magazine.

Oh yeah, I was keeping this short, right? Happy St. Patrick's Day from Ireland and keep up the superb work!

I'm going to kill myself. I wrote a comment and then accidentally closed the tab... [smack!]

So in short: yes, I like the current type of content and can live with the current format. Although I would like the search to be a bit better organised so it's easier to find the old(er) stuff. Hint: tags and stuff.

It would be nice to include the old site in that, too, so it's not just sitting in a corner of a hard disk elsewhere on the Internets.

Donation, yes, as soon as I fix things with Paypal. But please don't turn this into a site with subscription-based access only. There's a great probability it simply won't work.

Blow off the site and go have fun! Drive a Jaguar or even a Smart car! Don't let this take over the fun you've yet to have.

Hi Mike,

Well, better late then never.

First, congratulations on re-inventing yourself. I have always hated the word “blog” which I equate to some sort of diary. Although the format may have been devised for that use, it is now being employed for journalistic purposes that the inventors probably never envisioned. Indeed, one of the concerns that have been recently expressed concerning political blogs is whether or not bloggers are true journalists and entitled to the same access as print journalists. The fact is that the world has changed tremendously and electronic journalism, like it or not, is here to stay. I, for one, think that is a good thing. The more voices the better.

I have always considered TOP to be an online photography journal, not a blog. You publish the work of others (myself included) and have many well known contributors. Posts are really more in the form of articles than journal entries. In my opinion a true blog is exclusively the work of the owner. Even going back to Version 1.0, I have never felt that way about TOP.

Insofar as Version 2.0 is concerned, I remain very contented with the content. In fact, I read it more than once a day. I would only suggest that you remain as open to publishing the work of others as you have been in the past. That makes TOP a true electronic journal, rather than one man’s soap box.

One other thing, not all readers are top level photographers. I’d like to see more technique/how-why-I-did-it pieces. Take an image and dissect it. That’s an invaluable learning tool.

Insofar as your subscription idea is concerned, I would certainly be in favor of that as well. I subscribe to a number of magazines, some of which don’t have content nearly as fine as TOP. I subscribe to them, even though I could read them at the library, because I want to make sure I don’t miss anything. I feel the same way about TOP. That said, I would not be in favor of a paysite. Even the New York Times couldn’t make that work.

Whatever happens, I am delighted that you’ll be around for at least one more year.



I wouldn't change much, if anything. I don't know why it is that people think that because it's relatively easy to change the format of a website that websites have to be constantly churned and upended. Somehow, books don't look terribly different from the sorts of things produced in the age of Gutenberg, and we're all managing. A simple column that delivers text and images seems to be working just fine.

My 2 cents, and I'll owe you five.

I just found, "The Photographer's Eye" by John Szarkowski, on my bookshelf and muttered to myself, "Oh, wow, I forgot I had this; must've been that Mike Johnston who'd recommended it on his site some while back!" Thirty minutes later, I appreciate this blog all the more. Thanks, Mike, et al.


For what it is worth, I read TOP for two reasons: because you can write, and because you can write about photography. Crafting prose that goes down so easy is a lot of work, no matter what the topic--worth at least a dime a day, and I would certainly go to $10 per month.

If you do go pay, please consider those of us who are not as yet in the Pay Pal world by supporting credit card payments.

Thanks for the work that goes into the site,

Bill Poole

cleaning, refining.....ok
major change......don't do it!
I hope there are enough of us "not broke, don't fix" crowd to be a large enough voice that you listen to.

I guess I'm a bit late to this, but yes I would be willing to pay a subscription fee. It's amazing and mysterious to me how so many web sites continue to operate for free. Makes no sense to me. The advertising can't possibly be that lucrative for that many sites.

Funny old world isn't it? People want things for free, but for some reason they expect top dollar for their own work.

Maybe I'm late to the party, but...

I took the plunge and subscribed to one photo-related paysite. Since almost all of the good websites are free to access, I was expecting something really special - deep insight, stunning graphics, great images. Sad to say, it was none of the above. Just arcane observations, stuff I already know, boring pictures and a clunky interface that now refuses to accept the email address and password I first registered. And I don't even care enough to try and get the problem fixed.

I think you should stay free-access and advertiser-supported, Mike; just on principle. You are running probably the best photo website in these whole damn internets (minor quibbles aside) just by following your instincts. This site will continue to grow; keep experimenting with value-added stuff, try some gimmicks, reach out. But, please, not the reader-supported route. Don't make this a club.

BTW, blogs are not a thing, they're a form, and a fine form it is. You are an online publisher using a blogging template. It works for what you do. Don't let the misguided denigrations of friends make you self-conscious. Embrace the new media, man.

Having said all that, I'm gonna go find your tip jar.

Only thing I would like is more... even if you just have a thought in the middle of the day that might be interesting I'll read it..=) I hope you don't change the format; if you change the window dressing, I hope the content remains the same (similar). Thanks for writing.

Mike, inspired by your article - I posted a question thread on dpreview... you may be interested in the response :


Kind Regards


"Funny old world isn't it? People want things for free, but for some reason they expect top dollar for their own work."

I definitely don't need top dollar. "Enough" dollar is more like it. For all my Bohemian pretense, I like to live kind of "country": I don't want to live in a house you can't track mud into, don't want a car so fancy you can't have a dog in the back seat, don't want a kitchen in which you can't hang something from a nail.


"inspired by your article - I posted a question thread on dpreview..."

It's your business and not mine, but you got your first sentence in that post *exactly* wrong...I explicitly stated in my post that I am ***NOT*** considering becoming a subscription-based site.

I said: "TOP will still be free, and everybody and anybody will still be very welcome to keep reading it without paying a penny. It won't become a paysite. Donation-subscriptions, if I get that far, will be purely voluntary."

I really do wish people would read a little more carefully. I mean, here you've gone on to another website and completely mis-characterized what I said. I don't mean to be harsh with you, but it's really quite annoying, I have to say. How could I be any more clear than in the passage above?

I am NOT considering making this a subscription-based site. It is not under consideration. It won't happen. Period.


Mike, I am mortified... I read the title "TOP as a paysite?" and asked a question of the dpreview forum inspired by this discussion.

I sincerely apologise, and appreciate that this is a sensitive subject - I'm pleased that you've found a more gentle way forward.

Kind Regards


Hi Mike,

When I wrote about a funny old world, I was thinking about an active debate going on in the scientific publishing world (in which I work). A lot of researchers (among others) want free open access to information, and that's understandable so far as it goes. But even free open access sites require copy-editors, layout people, programmers, system support staff, buildings with heat, etc. The money for that has to come from somewhere and no one wants it to come from their research grant.

I worry about how dependent on Google (to name one) the world is becoming. One day, sure as the sun rises, Google corporation will install a wacko or crook as CEO, or will simply lose their ad revenue (like commercial TV is doing), or maybe just have an utterly incompetent management team in place that just screws up the product. These "unlikely" scenarios happen every day.

What will we do then, when the libraries and magazines and newspapers are gone, and Google disappears overnight?

A word is just a word. "Blog" may have derogatory connotations in some circles, even though it need not. Your site went beyond the average "blog" a long time ago.

What are the doable options for subscripitions? Put it out there and let your readers suggest what it should be. I'd say 4.99 sounds both doable and like a real deal, but is that a possibility? Or 2.99 for the iPhone app. ;)

You work hard and deserve to get paid for it. Pure and simple.

And as much as I doubt it was your original intent, the earlier comment is right in that this site, and those like you, are the future of publishing. Publishers may not need to get fat (on the other hand Wisconsin does have some issues with that) but publishers do deserve to eat.

Well, don't worry about it. It's just that I put a fair amount of work into trying to be clear, despite which, I seem to get misquoted and inaccurately characterized all the time.

It's not your dpr thread that makes me annoyed, but the accumulation of all the times it happens.



Don't take money from camera or lens manufacturers: one of the pleasures of this site is to see your no-nonsense, uninhibited comments about equipment (or books, or software, or whatever), made without fear or favour.

Carry on as you are with your on-line 'magazine'. It's about the joys of photography, and should be able to include anything that you consider is photography-related. That's what makes it superior to the many 'me-too' sites out there.

It would help if your 'tip jar' link was more prominent BTW.



TOP reaffirmed my faith in humanity -- seriously. Keep it up. I read you everyday, and I turn a lot of your thoughts over and over in my head long after I'm done reading. Thanks.


I think I'd echo an earlier comment - I'll leave it to you to drive the content rather than push any particular element I may favour.

Do continue to go "off topic". I tend to feel that if someone over-reacts to having their views challenged, perhaps they're not the guests you want anyway.

And as for charging? Well I'm not sure about subscribing to the sites of large media enterprises (who I tend to think have the muscle to extract a decent contribution from the likes of C&N) but I think "cottage industries" like TOP are a different case. (Assuming you're not offended by being labelled accordingly). Never mind the principle, feel the content - I'd chip in.

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