SPOTLIGHT 

Spotlight – Photography Mags

Photography is a growing market – cameras, lenses, gadgets, gizmos and digital software – and magazines covering the sector are big business too. Alan Geere looks through the viewfinder at the five top-selling titles.

By Alan Geere

PRACTICAL PHOTOGRAPHY

What’s it about: The clue is in the name.

Vital statistics: April 2015 issue: 132 pages, perfect bound. £4.99 cover price. Published by Bauer in Peterborough. Came in a poly bag with a 35-minute CD of ‘lessons, interviews, tutorials’ and a ‘Free acrylic glass stand’ (not in bag; p&p £4.95). Latest ABC: 25,357 combined print and digital (digital 1,356).

Cover: A beguiling image of coloured smoke. Wait, no, it’s coloured liquids in water as we find out on page 40. But none of the eight cover lines take you there.

Content: The magazine is uncluttered by those pesky ads until near the end giving it more of a feel of a book. An outbreak of listitis – 10 Clicks: What to shoot with your camera right now – works surprisingly well. Camera School, Know Your Stuff and Editing Suite are clear, concise and do just as they say on the camera case.

Digital: Neat signposts to all social media on page three but type in the advertised practicalphotography.com and you get re-routed to photoanswers.co.uk. All explained on About Us: “Photo answers is brought to you by the teams behind the UK's two top-selling photography magazines, Digital Photo & Practical Photography.” Lively Twitter presence (@practphoto), but only 630 followers. Healthier 22,000 likes on Facebook.

What they say: “Got an amazing image with a great story behind it? Want to see it published in a future issue of Practical Photography? Send us a lo-res JPEG and a few words telling us about it,” come-on from the Facebook page.

Verdict: Approachable, friendly and encouraging. For a title that’s been around since 1959, it has a modern focus and enough techniques clearly explained to keep both beginner and expert happy.

DIGITAL CAMERA

What’s it about: “Britain’s best-selling photography magazine” - tagline on cover.

Vital statistics: April 2015 issue: 148 pages, perfect bound. £4.99 cover price. Published by Future in Bath. Latest ABC: 36,779 (digital 5,916).

Cover: Big picture of a field – ‘Master the art of landscape’ – plus two small cameras and two little men. Eight points of entry.

Content: Some clever features including ‘10 things to try right now’, ‘Shoot! Your complete camera skills improvement plan’, ‘Back to basics: What the hell is Exposure?’ and ‘Digital darkroom; KitZone tests on lighting and tripods’.

A neatly put-together interview with ‘photojournalist legend’ Don McCullin in advance of a talk at The Photography Show, complete with iconic images, like the man with a mouse in his mouth. And a cleverly placed advertising feature (for Sony).

Digital: With 16% of sales now coming via digital, this mag clearly gets what it takes to involve the online community. With 342,000 likes on Facebook and 32,000 Twitter followers (@DCammag), they are way ahead of the competition. Website digitalcameraworld.com is set up in a rolling blog style, which may not be to everyone’s liking.

What they say: “I am on the verge of never clicking on your links anymore despite really enjoying them. The reason? I am fed up with the page jumping up and down with the pop up adverts. I have never seen any other site this bad,” – post on Facebook site.

Verdict: For a magazine with ‘digital’ in the title, it doesn’t sell the reader short. Knows that its readers are comfortable with gadgets and gizmos and with all the twiddly bits in a computer programme.

DIGITAL PHOTO

What’s it about: “Digital Photo is the UK’s number one magazine for photography and Photoshop,” says blurb on Facebook page. Like Practical Photography (see above), published by Bauer in Peterborough.

Vital statistics: April 2015 issue: 148 pages, perfect bound. Cover price £4.99. Comes in poly bag with ‘109 minutes of expert advice’ on CD. Latest ABC: 30,487 (digital 588).

Cover: A panoramic ‘photo planet’ shot of New York, with type over the picture that makes it difficult to comprehend. Four other pictures (camera, dog, flower, woman). Seven cover lines.

Content: Clear, easy to follow contents spread on pages 4-5. Sumptuous pictures used well (ie big). Detailed how-to sections like ‘perfect landscapes anywhere’; camera academy essential skills; Photoshop genius; Gear Focus. Interview with live music photographer is a rare excursion into longer form journalism, supplemented by the hows and whats of getting those on-stage shots.

Digital: With digital accounting for less than 2 per cent of sales, it’s not surprising to see little impetus behind a digital push. Just 199 Facebook likes and no Twitter promoted and none that turned up on a search. And shares the photoanswers.co.uk website with Practical Photography. (Not to be confused with an American mag with the same name, but a much better digital presence.)

What they say: “As I'm emigrating soon, I have a 3-4ft pile of photography mags dating back a few years. I want to give to a good home rather than bin them. Titles include Photography Monthly, Practical Photography, Amateur Photographer, Outdoor Photography, Digital Photographer,” - post on the photoanswers.co.uk forum.

Verdict: Deals with the topics in detail, giving a serious feel to the subject. A well-produced, lovingly-designed product but seriously missing out with a weak digital showing.

N-PHOTO

What’s it about: “100% Nikon, 100% Independent” - tagline under masthead.

Vital statistics: April 2015 issue: 124 pages (stitched, not bound). Published by Future in Bath. Free disc: Master your Nikon with our expert videos. Came in poly bag boasting 12 free gifts. Latest ABC: 29,892 (digital 7,184).

Cover: Portrait shot to plug ‘Focus on focusing’ plus four other little pictures (two cameras, a sky and an eye). 12 covers lines masterfully crafted.

Content: ‘Apprentice’, where a learner goes out with a pro, runs to 10 pages packed with tips and fantastic pictures; ‘Inspirational Images’ in Lightbox; ‘Over to you… your photos, your stories, your letters’ is a welcome inclusive feature; Nikopedia – the only camera manual you’ll ever need; another Don McCullin interview, complete with those very same iconic images.

Digital: Clear and bold digital plug on page three – ‘5 ways to get even more out of N-Photo’. As with other Future photo titles, it shares digitalcameraworld.com - shame about those obtrusive ads. A very healthy 170,000 Facebook likes and 12,000 Twitter followers (@NPhotomag).

What they say: “A camera is a box to capture your creative light. It doesn't really matter if it's Canon, Nikon, a biscuit box or beer can,” – post on Facebook page.

Twitter post: “Back issues of @NPhotomag are half price on iOS and Android for a limited time only.”

Verdict: Photographers are a fiercely divided, yet loyal, bunch so the concept of a magazine for one manufacturer is a clever ploy – especially when the same publisher also does one for the ‘opposition’ too! (See below). Beautifully printed as well as attractively put together.

PHOTOPLUS

What’s it about: “The Independent mag for Canon photographers” - blurb on contents page.

Vital statistics: April 2015 issue: (issue No 98) 116 pages, stitched. £5.49 cover price. Published by Future in Bath. Latest ABC: 24,529 (digital 4,289).

Cover: Lots going on. Cameras, lenses, gizmos and effects. Words and more words.

Content: The page 4 content panel gives a good overview of what’s inside but the opposing page of blurbs is a little chaotic and difficult to follow.

The Apprentice (now where have we seen that before…?), ‘PhotoPlus Inspirations’ tells the stories behind some wonderful pictures, Lens skills series and ‘Shot in the Back’ reveals how a photographer’s favourite image was put together.

Digital:digitalcameraworld.com – again! 220,000 Facebook likes and 3,900 Twitter followers (@PhotoPlusMag).

What they say: “Go buy yourself a smartphone, download Instagram and that's it: today you are a photographer,” – post on Facebook page.

Verdict: Feels more technical than some of the titles – “The 50-megapixel 5DS and its low pass filter-cancelling sibling the 5DS R revealed” says one contents line – but still has enough engaging material to keep the Canon fanatic happy.

OVERALL VERDICT:

The magazines are all very competent, well-designed and clearly put together by knowledgeable and committed people. There wasn’t much, however, to differentiate the titles and there seems to be a lot of ‘me-too’ with publishers fearful of missing out rather than being innovative.

And for a sector that is increasingly dependent on computer wizardry, the digital offering, especially social media, was seriously underwhelming. Just prosaic links to what is, was or will be in the magazine rather than using Twitter and Facebook to its full effect as a vehicle for engaging in debate, argument, discussion and, whisper it, having a little fun.