This is a guest post by photographer and educator Todd…
Like many media websites, the Gawker network has resorted to selling “promoted posts” as a way of creating advertorials for brands to push their wares. These posts appear on multiple websites and appear “above the fold” for hours at a time to ensure enough page views. Continuing this trend today, Gizmodo published a piece called “Why the Latest Cameras Blow Smartphone Out of the Water” written by Lisbeth Ortega, and lightly annotated as a sponsored post by Olympus.
The title was enough to attract my attention, and I clicked on it not realizing that it was an advertorial. The premise of the piece is something that most dedicated camera aficionados would agree with – namely the small sensors and automated controls of your typical camera phone cannot compete with their much larger counterparts in DSLRs and ILCs.
The piece starts out pretty light for a tech-related article, but slowly, hints of insidious advertising appear.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that using it as my only camera just isn’t cutting it.”
“Then I left my camera behind when I took a trip to Thailand — and kicked myself when I saw my friend’s photos from the same trip, all taken with a mirrorless camera.”
By the time you hit the 6th paragraph, Ortega mentions the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 and how it is “one of the latest mirrorless cameras, so naturally, it’s going to be outfitted with all the best tech.” I scrolled to the top of the article to verify my suspicion that this was a sponsored article.
Media outlets have to make money, and we can all understand the trade-off of free content and advertising. But the zeitgeist is of authenticity, which is why people like Zack Arias are able to build such big followings (disclosure: Zack spoke at our Luminance conference last year). He uses Fuji cameras, but he’s also quick to point out that his “deal” with them is to be honest about the camera’s limitations, and not act as an automatic fanboy for the brand. It’s a simple declaration of independence, but it adds tremendous credibility to him and his camera.
Somehow, the grey type indicated a sponsored post isn’t prominent the way that “Special Advertising Sections” appear in magazine, so the post felt disingenuous to me. But truth be told, my larger issue is that the photo illustrating the new camera was mediocre. Here it is:
The photo isn’t captioned thus it’s impossible to know who took it
and where it is (although it looks vaguely Indian or Turkish), but it’s obviously the Taj Majal (!). The larger issue is that it’s overexposed, and thus all the raving about manual controls and better image quality are for naught.
A few months ago, Canon was pushing their new Powershot N camera, and in an attempt to gain some street credibility, they “enlisted a couple of NYC pros, DJ Mia Moretti and fashion blogger Bryanboy, to show us their version of the city that never sleeps.”
I’ve tried to resist being a photo snob when it comes to non-professionals because I’ve run across so many talented and creative people who take marvelous photos, but for whom photography is a hobby. So it was with an open mind that I clicked on the post curiously entitled, “This Photo Tour of NYC Will Make You Cheat on Your Cell Phone Camera.” After all, I live in New York, and I always love seeing my home interpreted through others’ eyes.
Hey, call me a snob. But it was patently clear that engaging Moretti and Bryanboy was a mistake. I’m all for authenticity, but when you’re trying to showcase a camera (which has an articulating LCD and built-in WiFi), having good photos would seem to be a price of entry.
Moretti’s lede image of some graffiti was certainly colorful, but compositionally, they’re poor examples. The woman’s feet are cut off and the fire hydrant and pole are distracting elements. Things didn’t get much better after that.
This photo allegedly illustrates the Creative Mode, which I guess makes everything blue.
Bryanboy didn’t fare much better. Here is his photo from Battery Park City. Again, compositionally, it’s incredibly banal. There is no intention in the way that it was framed, and there is nothing about this photo that says “Battery Park” to me.
By contrast, my friend Alicianne took this photo from Central Park yesterday with her iPhone.
More noise. Enhanced saturation with a filter. But she waited for the light, and it’s a much more engaging photo in my opinion.
Better yet, here’s one by professional photographer Landon Nordeman from the same day from @landonnordeman. Street photography can be serendipitous, but Landon also has a stellar eye for this type of thing. Girl in green dress with pink bag about to step into the darkness of shadow. Green ice cream truck with pink desserts. Long shadow, gorgeous light.
Marketing is about hitting your target demographics. So it’s understandable why Canon would engage Moretti and Bryanboy. Presumably they have fan bases and hold sway via social media. If they are featured on Gizmodo, then they are likely to blog/tweet/facebook/instagram to their audiences, which is exactly what Canon wants. But if the goal is authenticity, then I would argue that credibility is also part of that equation. And if it’s about authenticity, then why disable commenting on promoted posts? Featuring mediocre photos of New York is a disservice to Canon, the city, and offends my delicate aesthetic sensibilities. Just another reminder that professional photographers are professionals for a reason, and it pays to pay them sometimes.
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