Who really delivers? Newsstand photo mags: are they worth it?

Cabbage Palms, Everglades National Park. All images Copyright Audrey R. Smith 2013.

Cabbage Palms, Everglades National Park. All images Copyright Audrey R. Smith 2013.

If you are like me, you find yourself in a bookstore more often than maybe you should, looking to see what new photography references are out (as they are with increasing frequency), and what new images are being made and published.  Maybe,  if you’re like me, you also wander over to the magazine section, and check out the latest issue of your favorite periodical, as they always have the most current news and trends for whatever tickles your fancy.  Also, if you’re finding both of us to be running neck and neck here, you also subscribe to at least one photography magazine.  There are many (and I mean MANY!) to choose from:  PDN (Photo District News), American Photo, Outdoor Photographer, Nature’s Best, Aperture, Popular Photography, Peterson’s Photographic, Photo Technique……the list goes on and on and on.  I do subscribe to one magazine: I have for several years.  Since my passion is nature and wildlife, or anything outdoors, the one I receive feeds that drive.  The locations represented are magnificent, and the images are beautiful, some even stunning.  However, possibly due to the length of time I have been receiving the magazine, I am noticing a disenchantment on my part with the periodical itself.  After I tell you why, I will share the names of a few of the magazines that have recently spoken to me, and I find myself reading again and again.  Maybe you have heard of them, maybe you haven’t, but they now jump off the rack and into my waiting hands!  Busy month, when you discover them all at once.

I originally purchased my subscription using the index subscription card that came in the magazine I picked up off the rack.  After I discovered Amazon.com also offered a subscription for several dollars less per year, I started using their service to order it.  At the time, it seemed like a great deal, and I would spend several hours poring over each article, column, advertisement, and information snippet.  But, over the course of the last year, I have found myself retrieving the newest issue from my mailbox, reading the topics splashed across the cover, and asking myself, “Didn’t they JUST have this same article a couple of months ago?” Telephoto landscapes, using wide-angle, issue highlighting the seasons, flowers in macro, etc…great topics, but not every couple of months, especially if you are looking to grow as an image-maker.  As I am sure you are.  Even the cover images are beginning to look alike to me; differences, of course, but usually flowers in the foreground, water in the middle, and a monolithic snow-capped mountain looming in the background.  Again, gorgeous: but no variety.  Variety is the spice of life: indeed, I have been buying more actual spices for my food to make it more interesting (and tasty), so I guess I am also looking for a magazine that delivers the same thing.  To their credit, minor changes have been made over the last couple of years.  New technology advancements have prompted additional features that highlight how these advacements can be applied to photography.  I never would have known about the app The Photographer’s Ephemeris if I hadn’t had my magazine subscription [if you haven’t heard of TPE, check it out…apps for iPhone and Android ($4.99 for Android), and free if you use your PC].  But the overall variety is has me stymied; I feel as though they are in a rut, same as me, and I look to books and magazines to pull me out of that rut by suggesting something new.  So, if I still have your attention, here are a few of the mags that I feel are stretching and reaching shooters of all levels, from rookie to pro.  Oddly enough, they are all out of the UK.  Sure, we have some wonderful magazines here in the states, but these particular titles are offering more information in their articles than just the basics.  Some are sister magazines to each other, and unless someone corrects me on this, all are done in the United Kingdom.  FYI, the following titles are listed in no particular order, and all monetary listings are posted for US dollars.

(The Photographer’s Guide to) Turning Pro: the title says it all.  This magazine is published four times per year. It is “the essential guide for anyone thinking of starting a-new in the photography business,” according to their promotion page. Downarchive.com states, “it is perfect for enthusiast photographers who are keen to make money from their hobby, as well as photographic students looking to take their first steps on the road to professional photography. Each issue includes a broad range of editorial features including detailed knowledge of specific markets, website and business Creative aned from its pages, and the images included from top pros in the UK are fantastic, and cover a broad spectrum of topics. The current issue covers topics such as getting your foot in the door of different photography venues, creating a brand, boudoir photography, presentation of your work to different venues, whether photo degrees are worth it or not, and interviews with working pros.  A must-have if you are starting–or have recently begun–an actual photography business.  Sister magazine to Photography Monthly. Newsstand USA price: $12.75.

Digital SLR Photography:  “The magazine by photographers for photographers.” Leading photography pros cover a broad range of subjects in this monthly publication. Contributors are experts such as Lee Frost, Helen Dixon, and Clive Arrowsmith.  Many images published in this magazine appear to be from readers who fall into the “serious amateur” category; as in, they make beautiful images, but don’t rely on their images to make a living.  On the surface, this seems to be more of a hobby magazine: one that would appeal to the “serious amateur,” but as you read it, you realize that the skill involved in many of the techniques goes beyond taking a picture and perfecting it in Lightroom or Photoshop.  Some highlights from a recent issue: ” Technique of the month: reflections,” and not just a mirror image in the pond; “How to shoot cobwebs;”  “Creative Eye: find a creative way to shoot cutlery;” “High-speed photography,” as in, the instant a balloon bursts or the perfect water drop splashes.  Very eye-opening for someone stuck in a rut, or anyone looking for a new challenge!  Try getting the perfect image of a water drop when it hits the surface of collected water…I tried, and it is harder and more time-consuming than it looks!  Also found inside the pages are sections on budget equipment–off-brands that are a tiny fraction of the cost of the brand name products, and the pluses and minuses when compared to them. A great snippet I found in this mag came from a sidebar in the high-speed article; a website where you can order either a triggering device or the components and schematic to build your own at a fraction of the cost ($30 rather than $300 sound good?).  It can be found at www.hiviz.com, “Your resource for DIY high speed photography. Information and inspiration, especially for students, teachers, and hobbyists.” I am very much looking forward to testing their material myself!  Newsstand price: $9.99.

Photoshop Creative:  I am one of the least Photoshop-savvy photographers I know.  The extent of my PS manipulations include simple basic adjustments, like color, contrast, etc.  I occasionally try a technique I read about (see the image above!), but I have to read the instructions and have them next to me while doing it, so I can follow it step-by-step.  This magazine is great for me, because it is full of tutorials.  Lots of step-by-step!  It appears to be published monthly, but I can’t always find it in my resident Barnes and Noble, possibly because they sell out of them before I get to the rack that month.  Attached to each issue, published monthly, it seems, is a free disc with 80 minutes of video tutorials on it, a companion to the articles in the magazine for that month.  If you are already fairly well-versed in Photoshop, I don’t know how much this magazine will help you, but I like to use it to build on the skills I read about and test.  Newsstand price: $15.50.

Advanced Photographer:  “The magazine that takes your images seriously.”  Another magazine that appears geared toward serious amateurs, it covers a broad range of topics in each issue, published monthly.  Everything from seascapes to urbanscapes to nighttime HDR: even one who hates the city, as I do, finds the images of the latter two quite beautiful and unusual, and expertly executed.  The major features tend to be of medium size; not short one-pagers (though there are some throughout the mag), but not long, drawn-out articles either.  Equipment, tools, software, and gear profiled are all rated on a grading scale, and provided is a list of pros and cons about each one.  This is a nice change from the usual one-page article that is more like an advertisement for the product.  Newsstand price: $9.99.

Photography Monthly: “For people that love making pictures.”  The monthly (obviously) sister magazine to Turning Pro.  Same editor, same publisher.  This is another resource regarding high-end images from very diverse venues.  Some more well-known names in photography also appear as contributors to this publication, such as Mark Bauer, CJ Kale, and Matt Walford. This magazine is a little different than most others I have seen, including those listed above, in the fact that most of the features in it are longer articles of three or more pages, with one-page ads in between.  Every magazine has ads; that is where the bulk of their money comes from, and you can’t get around it.  Here is what I mean about the wonderful topic diversity: cupcakes (photographing them, not baking; eating is up to your and your client if you have one), portraits of Africans in their native lands, Great British Journeys: on the trail of Beatrix Potter (she wrote Peter Rabbit, in case you forgot), fine art impressionist landscapes, make-believe worlds using scanned materials such as plants, abstract macro with a microscope (microphotography), wave and underwater images, and a geocaching competition combined with landscape photography (if you are unfamiliar with geocaching, looking it up; it’s basically a treasure hunt, though the treasure could be anything)!  And more!  Newsstand price: $9.99

So you can see, from this list, that there are many other magazines out there waiting to fill the void in your photographic life.  I have highlighted only five here, but they are the five that have caught my attention in how they differ from the others in the same rack at the bookstore.  They all happen to be from the UK, but that really just seems to be a coincidence, in my opinion.  American Photo is one that I looked at just today, and I liked what I saw, for the most part.  I did have a subscription to that magazine years ago, but it didn’t do anything for me at the time.  Either the magazine has changed a bit, or I have!  I still think that particular periodical has a bit of a bias in the work they display, and I don’t always understand what the hoopla is about regarding some of these images (An empty room?  The side of a building?  Nope, still don’t get it.)

The prices of these magazines is more than I would normally consider spending, especially every month, particularly if I am getting more than one.  But they do seem to be worth it.  It is a good way to keep current on techniques, images, equipment, news, and people in my chosen field, and for a profession that is always changing–and in recent years, changing rapidly and frequently–it may be a smarter investment than the books I am so fond of and purchase on Amazon in order not to bankrupt myself.  The really nice thing, in closing, is that these publications print information as well as the image; and in my opinion, if I have a choice between paying $6-10 for a showcase of pretty pictures, I may as well spend just a few more dollars and glean something in the process.  Well done, UK.  US, can we step it up, please?

***A quick add-on to this list from the UK: a brand-new magazine called DSLR Filmmaker, for those of you who experiment or regularly use your cameras to make films.  This is Issue 1, so it JUST came out; it is dated for March 2013.  I can’t say for sure what will come of it, but I would definitely put it under a “one to watch” heading.  Issue 2 is apparently due out February 21, but I don’t know if there is a time-lapse between the release date in the UK and one in the rest of the world.  A browse through this inaugural issue shows articles for beginner filmmakers, DIY bokeh, interview with a pro, lighting for film, interview with new filmmakers and student filmmakers, and more.  I missed the other info on publisher and release dates, so I will get back to you on that!  If you are having trouble finding it, go here: http://www.newsstand.co.uk/163-Photography-Magazines/14602-Subscribe-to-DSLR-FILM-MAKER-Magazine-Subscription.aspx



6 thoughts on “Who really delivers? Newsstand photo mags: are they worth it?

  1. After reading your article, I went looking for The Photographer’s Guide to Turning Pro, as I am also trying to break the ice here, but unfortunately the magazine has been discontinued after 7 editions and now is only available as a section of Photography Monthly magazine. Thank you for sharing the useful information. I really enjoyed reading it.


    • After seeing your comment, I did some research myself, seeing as I just bought the Winter 2012 issue. I could only find one back issue, which was for Summer 2012. This is apparently a quarterly magazine, not bimonthly as I had previously seen. I think there is a possibility that a similar magazine, using the same title, was put out for a while with PM, then discontinued an revived last year, but that is only speculation. If you are in the UK and wish to subscribe, you can go here http://www.subscriptionsave.co.uk/TP, but if you are in the US, as I am, it seems to make more financial sense to buy them at your nearest bookseller or newsstand; I get mine at Barnes and Noble. If you subscribe, and live outside Europe, it looks like you have to pay a shipping fee in addition to the subscription rate (remember to convert pounds to dollars to figure out your actual cost if you do this). You can access that same web link by going to http://www.photographymonthly.com and clicking on the advertisement window on the lower right. Thanks for your comment: it’s always good for me to double-check my information so I don’t tell you all something crazy 🙂 I will be contacting the publisher to verify, but right now, it looks like they are only in their second issue ever, and will publish it quarterly.


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