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Tuesday, 24 November 2015


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I already subscribe to TOP and will definitely subscribe to LL as well, you both offer a lot of excellent writing, something sorely lacking in many other places...

Might want to mention this as well: "and also all of our existing and future training videos (which up until now have cost $150 a year for a subscription), are all included in our new site membership program".

Now it really sounds like a bargain!

I think you're worth at least twice as much as L-L. Quarterly subscription thus started today. :-)

So, to add to the subscription models for Photoshop, MS Office, and more, we can now add Luminous Landscape. Any time now, I expect to see offered, a subscription model toaster – then at last you may finally get a good one!

The LL site is interesting, but the REAL premium is in viewing Michael Reichmann's images. He is just a TERRIFIC photographer.

Subscription-only? Foo!! Bye-bye LuLa.

Of course, as an owner/admin of a website I understand that the thing must be paid for somehow.

The problem with subscription-only websites is that while the amount per site is small, there are a lot of worthy sites I (and others) want to visit. The subscription costs soon mount up.

The problem with "free" ad-supported or commercially-sponsered websites is, well, the advertising.

However, when I found myself forking over $200 a year for websites, I decided that was totally ridiculous and let them all go. Have not missed them.

My favorite ad-supported websites seem to be able to manage the advertising and sponsorship in a not-too-intrusive manner. TOP being a superb example, of course.

Mike - how do I donate $1 a month to you? The content here is worth much more to me that LuLa.

Very sorry to hear this news. I enjoy the website, check in almost every day, and have shopped at their advertisers. But... I won't be "subscribing." I guess I'm old fashioned - if I subscribe to something I want a hard copy in my hands. I currently subscribe to 19 or 20 paper magazines, and love the old-fashioned things. And yes there are magazines that don't have advertising, I get two of them.
So, I guess I'm losing L-L in my daily web round-up. That's a bummer.

Unlike a magazine subscription, however, if Reichmann ever decides to shut down LL, all the content you've been paying for will just suddenly vanish, never to be found again, unless you've been saving your own copies of all the articles. This is one of the annoying aspects of web site subscriptions -- you're not actually paying for the content, you're just paying for access to it. There's no guarantee that you'll be able to access it in the future; if you drop your subscription or the site shuts down, it's all gone.

Unfortunately I find less and less interest in visiting Luminous Landscape.

However, while reading your recent post about the 10th anniversary of TOP I thought this subscription based format would be reasonnably achievable for TOP, and may help secure reasonnable and steady income to you. It would also let you focus more on what most come here for: posts on toasters, pool, and sometimes even photography!
I know I would subscribe in a heartbeat.
You obviously have a vast, caring and loyal readership.

I will be subscribing to the site as I enjoy more than one article per month. Some of the articles are pretty technical for me, but most are very interesting and educational. Also I lived in San Miguel de Allende for a while, so there's that. I have made some purchases and purposely linked for the purchase through TOP as I had a weird aversion to the tip jar thing. Now when I make my LuLa subscription purchase I will also put 25 bucks in your jar. BTW, I need to support my favorite brick and mortar store in LaJolla CA when they allow me to fondle a new camera model, but other stuff, especially cameras I am familiar with go through TOP.

Why don't you do the same?? I would gladly pay $5 a month!

Mike—I'm sure I'm not the first to suggest that this might be a way forward for you too?

I used to be a fan, still subscribed to their RSS feed, but I can't remember the last time I actually read or watched anything new on there in the past several years. I still occasionaly read some old articles though. Can't say what changed, guess they just stopped publishing stuff I'd be interested in. As far as I'm concerned, their first mistake was how they did video. Watching two old guys sitting at a table, talking about a camera/lens for an hour is just as interesting as watching paint dry. But I guess it paid off financially. So I must be in the minority. Or not, judging from the many, many short form web videos on similar topics?

So I can't, with any honesty, say I will miss them. Archives maybe, new stuff... not really.

This seems to be a very reasonable offer that nearly anyone can afford. Still, I'm not sure I'll sign-up.

Over the past ten years I have greatly appreciated being informed by Michael's thoughtful, practical hands-on reviews of cameras. More recently I've also enjoyed some of Kevin Raber's pieces, most particularly his recent in-depth look at the new Phase One XF body.

But I find LuLa's manic tech-centricity and obsession with the perfect pretty scenic landscape a complete bore.

So I might pass. But I wish Michael, Chris Sanderson, and Kevin Raber the best as they embark on a new model. They seem to be very energetic fellows and have a huge audience so I don't see this initiative in jeopardy of failing. I just wonder why they didn't do this sooner.

While I appreciate the attempt further monetize the content, I see this not as a step forward, but a recognition that the current business model is unsustainable. The question is why?

For some of us, the website is a tool to drive traffic so we can sell other goods and services. This WAS the model for LL as they sold videos. The website barely pays for itself from click-ad revenue, but the real income is in goods and services.

Unlike TOP, there isn't enough compelling content on LL for me to bother with the subscription. TOP isn't a loss-leader for selling training and product review videos, but TOP's product is TOP. I'd pay for this, but I won't pay for partial content for which I have to pay even more to get the rest.

Well, I have too much to read already. I won't miss the National Geographic subscription and I won't miss LL. It's not like it's the only game in town.

Too bad it's so landscape-hardware-centric. I wish there was a Luminous Portrait. Filled with vertical shots of course.


I'd would gladly pay the $1.00 a month for T.O.P. ; especially if this would improve your cash flow problem.

They've lost me then - I'm broke and use adblock so don't see all the ads a subscription would be protecting me from anyway. Hope you don't go the same way Mike as you're the only site I visit daily during my present temporary break fom all things photographic.

Unfortunately, I've found myself glancing at L.L. less and less since its change. Michael is no longer publisher and the site has suffered. It is almost approaching another popular site that amounts to a "oh look at what I did today, I am so good" level. Twelve bucks isn't much, but it becomes the principal of it.

I doubt I'll sign on. I have them on my RSS feed but I doubt that I visit LL more than 2-3 times a year. Unlike T.O.P--which I do send a couple of bucks monthly--I just don't find LL content that compelling.

Here's the differences for me: I will visit LL if and only if an RSS headline interests me enough to follow the link to the associated article. T.O.P. I visit daily regardless of what's in the feed. Heck, I'd visit daily if it was "The Online Toaster". The writing is that good.

Best of luck LL but I don't see sufficient value.

And Mike, let me know if you're not getting subscription money from me and I'll fix it.

I am undecided about subscribing. Yes, the cost is reasonable, especially with the access to the full video library, but paying to read a forum which I very rarely read anymore is a bit much. I like the articles by Michael, but find the more recent articles by others to be less and less related to anything I do. But then again, the videos are worth it...

Several have suggested TOP go to a subscription plan. Well, nice, but there is a problem with that for anyone who lives in Japan. Several years ago I "subscribed" through Pay Pal as I recall, but that suddenly ended when the Japanese government passed a law forbidding those types of payments to individuals overseas in order to cut down on illegal activity by the yakuza. So I suppose such a move would require incorporation or some other change in the way payments were made.

I used to read LL but stopped looking years ago. My interest is broadly art photography, whereas that site seemed to become more about commercial landscape photography, almost like stock photos, and high tech gear. It seemed like a site for people who are going to change their gear every few months in the quest to be able to take more and more spectacular landscape photos, which will then be heavily worked over in post. It'll be interesting to see if it works for them or not. I have my doubts whether people will pay for this sort of content, so they run the risk of losing a lot of readers. I suppose we'll find out in a year or so.

I used to subscribe to LuLa DVDs. Paid good money to get one every quarter. Then they changed the model to download only and gave credits against the remaining unsent DVDs. I managed to download one. After that they changed the model again so that it is HD only but you have to pay more even if you have existing credits for more issues, like I had. Then they stopped the quarterly, or so, video compilations entirely and started to charge for each separate video. I still have those two credits for DVDs that were never sent and that it seems impossible to use. Maybe I can use them for subscription now? Otherwise I would not bother. My opinions of the current content reflect a lot on what others have said above so I do not repeat them.

I will be subscribing. 12 bucks to access their video library seems like a good deal in itself. If they continue to produce quality videos along with their written articles they might have me for year two.

I say this as someone who doesn't shoot or particularly like idealized landscape photography, but LL has a pretty good track record on product reviews and editorializing on the industry. I value this since so many commentators and websites are either mouth-pieces for or childish in their condemnation of major brands. Also, they have hinted at a renewed focus on printing, which I'll certainly find welcome.

Lastly, I support the subscription model as I truly believe the advertising model, and the technology behemoths it has spawned, have been bad for our culture and the internet.

Realistically, running these sites requires stamina and engagement I'm guessing Reichmann is getting short on. I'm also wondering whether it's actually an exit strategy and prelude to selling the site. Cynical? Maybe but it's a movie I've seen repeatedly over the past several years with a variety of long-running "enthusiast" sites.

I will probably subscribe because the cost is so cheap, but when I think about it I do not get that much entertainment or knowledge from them anymore. It is a bit fun in a voyeuristic sort of way to watch the medium format reviews since I will never be able to afford one, but to pay to read it does not feel right. However I have decided to support TOP with a donation equal to the LL subscription. Kind of an atonement for my sin of lusting after a Phase or Leica, no actually because TOP is a much better read.

I've put my $12 where my readership is -- with TOP, by using the "donate" button in the right sidebar column. Anyone who agrees may do the same.

This announcement somehow makes me more than a little sad.
I've been a reader of Luminous Landscape since the beginning. In its early days the site was invaluable for Michael Reichmann's shrewd assessment of early generation digital SLR's, and generally spot-on speculation about where photography was heading. And some of LuLa's videos were great; I still cherish my DVD of Ctein discussing inkjet printing and demonstrating him making a dye-transfer print from start to finish.

But IMHO the quality of LuLa's writing has declined a bit over the last few years. Many of the recent short articles on landscape photography from guest authors seem about on par with those in vanity publications like Helen Longest-Saccone's 'Nature Photographer' print magazine. That's not a compliment.

I suspect I'll pony up for the subscription, just for access to the past content library. But I would not be surprised if LuLa saw its readership drop like a stone, leading to a death spiral wherein further paywalls are built attempting to monetize more of the content, leading to further declines in readership...

I'd also would like to sum my voice to the discomfort with the subscription only format. It can have a momentary positive effect, but on the long run is a way to safely close down - how would you attract new viewer/buyers?
The only site I am a subscriber of is LWN, which a pay-per-view-early site - all is in the public after a week. Maybe that is a better model.

(BTW I followed your Amazon sponsored link yesterday, but I think that wen I switched to Amazon.es I lost the thing - is it impossible to have a global sponsored link?)

Since Mike seems to be to self-effacing to mention it, perhaps it might be worth pointing out the discrete brown box in the right column with the SUBSCRIBE button in it :-)

Personally I don't even notice the pittance I send to TOP every month, but I suppose it adds up over the months and years. It's more than LL askd for too, but to be honest, while I have no problem supporting a site run by a passionate, articulate writer on photography of all shapes and sizes (and toasters) by voluntary donation, I'm not so sure I want to make a non-optional contribution to a site which is essentially a retirement hobby for a trio of very wealthy men.... And, I might add, I have supported them in the past by what amounts to voluntary donations through buying videos that I'm not really all the interested in, but rather bought principally to "give something back".

I'm going to take LL off my Bookmarks list right after I hit the "Post" button down here.
I won't be missing any luminosity in my landscapes by so doing as there's enough of TOP stuff to read 'ailleurs'.

Interesting to see how it works out - I would have guessed that many of his visitors are 'casual' ... perhaps following a link from a search engine, perhaps an occasional visit to see what's new.

I suspect many of LuLa's more regular visitors would already be paying for the videos.

For me - there's just not enough content of interest to me to make it worthwhile, and too much content in video! Am I alone in disliking video as a means of providing reviews or technical information?

If I'm searching for information, I generally skip any YouTube material - I want something I can read/skim/study at my own pace. Sure, sometimes "how to videos" are really useful, but I'm getting increasingly frustrated by the number of videos on topics which could be equally (or better) covered by text & pictures.

Reading is active - I'm engaged and alert. Video is passive and puts me to sleep.

There are people who build a site for the love of Photography and those for profit through ads, I have already deleted LL from my favourites list. Mike how about asking your readers to share their favourite sites, Mine is DG28, great tutorials for free!!!!

The only site I can see myself subscribing to is yours, Mike, such is my appreciation of it, but I'd hate doing it. On the other hand, if you could syndicate to amazon.es I might become your main contributor such is the amount of buying I do there (even my razors!). All my buys from amazon.co.uk passed through your links, but it is now becoming increasingly difficult.

Yes, the $12 a year that LuLa is asking for is more than reasonable. And they say they have some "mighty plans." But it might have been smarter to give readers a peak at some of those plans before requiring a subscription.

I used to be a daily LuLa reader and Michael and Kevin are highly talented and skilled photographers. But, like others, I have found less and less reason to make their site a regular read in recent years. I suspect they will have their followers. But I'm unemployed right now and something has to give.

I hope the new business plan works out for LuLa. But I will be wishing them farewell.

I hardly ever go there any more, maybe once a week for the reasons cited previously.

But I read TOP every day and it's a must-read.

Mike, you have a nice combination blog talking about photos, equipment, people, things that happen to you , even your 0ff-topic stuff is interesting.

I would pay too, count me in.


Good luck to Lulu but I will not be subscribing. I agree with the comment that their videos are like watching paint dry. No doubt Reichmann and Raber are both knowledgeable but if they were out in the field instead of behind a desk it would be much more interesting to watch. Similar content to theirs can be had for free on many other websites.

Although the subscription price is very reasonable it just doesn't sit well with me to support these guys "gear acquisition syndrome" as they switch multi thousand dollar camera systems more often than I change socks.

I think TOP could probably get a few more sustainers just by having a couple short "drives" every year. Keep it simple, no premiums, just a plea kept at the top of the page for maybe a week.

The most successful online sustainer outfit I've seen was a progressive site, Znet. Online funds kept the magazine Z alive. At its peak they had many thousands of sustainers who enjoyed forum access and could pose questions to Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn among others. Beast of a thing to manage though.

Mike, not to quibble and just to set the record straight, LensWork stopped accepting outside, paid advertising in 2003. Our philosophy is that we hope to publish content that our readers think is worthy of the annual subscription price, not to use the industry standard of "subsidized subscriptions" by junking up the pages of the publication with ads. Besides, most "photography magazines" are about cameras and advertising makes sense. Ours is all about photographs and camera ads would be very out of place.

I, too, will be signing up for Lu-La's membership website.

Until a couple of years ago LuLa was part of my daily web trawl, but these days it seems to be filled with reviews of ridiculously expensive equipment (you mean you don't have a full set of M-fitting lenses?), adverts for Lightroom tutorial videos I neither need nor want, and pretentious articles about inaccessible places (one regular contributor is so far up himself I am surprised he can breathe). I shall not be subscribing, and I doubt I will miss it.

I suspect that Michael is Trey Ratcliff's alter ego...

It is depressing that every time this is mentioned on your blog people suggest you try the same. Why do they not notice your subscription and donation buttons? Maybe because they don't show on RSS, but then they have to come to the site to comment. Maybe they are using adblockers? You are too generous with what you put out to RSS, most don't include the whole page but you even put the "Featured Comments" there.
This is not to say that I don't have issues with your "subscription" system. There are several comments in the last couple of days from people who cannot tell if you receive the money. I would subscribe more if I were sure you were getting it.

P.S. I would like to add to my somewhat cranky post above: TOP is one website/blog to which I happily and enthusiastically enjoy donating when I can. If more of my income had a fixed amount & arrival time, I would happily subscribe to TOP. Erratic expenses and income do not currently permit that, so I really appreciate your donation button.

I have enjoyed LL very much over the years, but the site has changed direction -from Michael Reichmann's informed opinion which was valuable to me weather I agreed or disagreed, to something that resembles PetaPixel or some other aggregation site.
Michael is a 'character' who's experience and expertise I value. He became a 'trusted friend' over time in much the way I value THIS sites author.
But his presence has been diluted by the new format.
The quality of new authors brought in has been highly variable.
Is it 'worth' $12 a year to me ? It is, but I doubt I will subscribe.
The larger point for me is that I do not want to encourage the subscription model. I'm happy to use advertising links for shopping I will do anyway. I'm happy to make an occasional donation as well.
But I for one, will continue to resist the monthly payment band wagon. We see advertising everywhere, if it can help compensate good providers for their efforts, I'm happy to live with it.

As a clarification, I believe Michael said Advertising would be eliminated only when they reach 50,000 subscribers or $50k /month. So at any lower number of subscribers they are counting on both revenue streams.
In that light, the content seems less compelling to this long time reader.

I came back to check the reactions to this post. I suppose it is good that several plan to subscribe to LL, but I will not be one.

In the early days of digital I was a regular at LL, averaging at least once a day. Over the years the site became less interesting and relevant to me. Even if I had the money for a cruise photo party to Antarctica that is not how I would spend it. Reichmann does write a pretty decent camera review, but he rarely covers much of interest to me.

I wish them well, but am pretty skeptical about their chances. My guess is that a subscription model for blogs is not yet viable - too many are used to getting too much for free. Maybe in the future for a few very popular sites - people are becoming more accustomed to subscription models for music, movies and so on - but not yet. On the whole, I suspect we readers will lose more than we gain. We'll see how it plays out.

I think my TOP subscription of $6/month is a far better bargain than a $1/month subscription anywhere else on the web, including LuLa. I love the subscription model as it means that neither the subscriber nor the content provider has to worry month-to-month about the transaction side of the relationship; it's certainly peace of mind to me. (Except that I unknowingly let my subscription lapse and discovered/fixed it just a couple of days ago.)

Just my two cents, but I think you should promote the (voluntary) subscription option at least as much as the Amazon/B&H links--which I also use religiously, BTW. And I wonder if you might consider a modified version of LuLa's approach: don't make the subscription mandatory for accessing the site, but perhaps provide incentives to being a subscriber (e.g., discounts on print offers, access to certain content, participation in things like a TOP forum or TOP print swaps). Either way, I'm thrilled with what my $6/mo provides and hope that TOP is around for a good long while, at least another 30 years or so. ;-)

I go to LuLa mostly to look at the forum, and I certainly get 12 bucks worth out of viewing forum contributors' images.

As I understand, the videos will be viewable by the 12 dollar subscribers.

I'd certainly have signed up but was, to my surprise, offered a free annual subscription to Lula because I'd recently bought a video from the store. (It was an excellent, hour-long production of Michael discussing printing and related topics with a very well informed chap who totally out-bearded him.)

I've been a subscriber here for years (under the long and unwieldy name on my birth certificate) and consider it the bargain of a lifetime. Have often thought you could offer a higher tier of subscription that many of us would be delighted to pay. Also, the existence of your subscription offering could do with a little push—how about a small link on the footer of articles?

The Luminous Landscape, which I enjoy, is charging remarkably little but closing off the content to non-subscribers. It's a brave approach – I hope that whatever model they eventually settle on works for them. Several recent commenters on the LuLa forum have been complaining about the move to video content instead of articles but I really enjoy the Kevin-and-Michael videos, which brought the site back to life for me.

Never been a fan of LuLa and now even less.
Good luck to MR...

Everytime I visit LL, I think: " Well , I'll never get those 30 seconds back..."

Not interested.

The success of a subscription model will depend on how easily similar content can be found for free elsewhere. Going to subscription is reckoned to lose you one third of your readership immediately. In Britain the Murdoch newspapers, The Times, The Sun etc are struggling with their pay wall because readers can find what they want for free from other newspapers. It's probable they will have to return to free access themselves at some point.

When it comes to Photography sites, I find there are remarkably few that are actually worth visiting and fewer still that I would consider paying for. I'd probably limit myself to one or two (of which TOP would be the head of the list as I've never read anything on here I didn't consider was both informative and entertaining). For me though it's the procedure of actually making the payment which is also a barrier. If I buy a magazine on the high street it's generally a one off impulse purchase, quickly satisfied. On the internet I'll buy Leica's LFI magazine from time to time, but it's the same principle, beer in hand, browse content, yeah that looks interesting I'll get that CLICK. No messing with cards, no chance to go cold on the idea.

There is another model out there, used by EEVblog, that gives access a week early to content to paying costumers. Other offer higher rez images and PDF articles etc. A "premium" experience that should not be a hassle for a semi decent programmer.
Not sure how this would work out for LULA.
I just do't get how LULA are going to keep growing if they don't "bait" new costumers in with the older stuff.
Personally, I find LULA less relevant than a few years back, focusing too much on 3/4 cameras, that while nice, are not everything to everyone. And if saving 200grams on a setup is nice for hiking, far more weight can be lost by laying off the nachos.

I will be subscribing, primarily for the forums. I have found the printing forum especially helpful, since people much more knowledgeable than me graciously share that knowledge without the condescension to newbies or tyros often prevalent in such forums.

Access to the videos will be a welcome bonus.

The price is extremely reasonable.

@Jack Martin: Not to cost them a sale, but you don't need to subscribe for the forums. The forums are going to stay free and outside the paywall.

I am likely to buy in to check out the videos that I have not previously paid for. Like others, I would still give it a positive rating, though I have actually found the site to be less interesting and valuable recently. That said, we who read about photography online are constantly bombarded with some terribly popular, truly weak content. If L-L is less valuable than it once seemed to be, it is still a far sight better than the content on so many other sites.

But it's no The Online Photographer.

Tangentially, I'm torn about my LensWork Online subscription, where I think the slow rate of content creation probably reflects its quality, but I still love the magazine more than the site.

The LL guys have a certain level of lifestyle to maintain, so good luck to them. I stopped reading many years ago.

Lula has some unique forums, and some obnoxious "big-shot" photographers (MR not being one though). Also I have found that as time has gone one, most of the content is just stating the obvious (I have gigabytes of videos which I never finished watching). To the extent that even when I visit Lula I skip their front page and go straight to printing or capture one forums.

TOP is really the only photography site where I come to read something, even if topic is irrelevant or boring, it is still intelligent and I respect that.

The forums are still free after some reminders of what happened with Rob Galbraith forums. Michael sadly does not write much these days.

that's an amazing deal, especially if all his video content is included as well.

LL is a site I sort-of feel I should like. With it going behind a paywall, I can stop worrying about that. The one I feel guilty about is DPReview, which I use for tech reference and comparisons fairly often.

Just bought an expensive pile of disk drives through Amazon, carefully following your link, searching out the item (which I'd been studying for a week), putting them in the cart, and checking out right then, in hopes it benefits you (however, it's not *from* Amazon, it's from another site they include in their catalog, so not sure how that works).

[Yep, that works fine, so thanks. --Mike]

I don't like having a (subscription) gun to my head and as a matter of principle will not EVER subscribe. information should be free, or it is suspect. But ... I'd pay a bit a year for your site ... as long as it was optional.

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