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AP tweaks

Discussion in 'AP Magazine Feedback & Suggestions' started by Nigel_Atherton, Aug 7, 2017.

  1. Nigel_Atherton

    Nigel_Atherton Group Editor

    We're going to embarking on a minor refresh of AP over the coming weeks. If you have any feedback on favourite features, least favourites, or suggestions for things we could add, remove or in some way improve upon, I'd love to hear it. Thanks.
    daft_biker likes this.
  2. Craig20264

    Craig20264 Well-Known Member

    Bring back Ogden :)
    beatnik69 and PhotoEcosse like this.
  3. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Never, ever, EVER bring back Ogden.
    Roger Hicks and GeoffR like this.
  4. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    Bring back Ogden and I won't take out another subscription until he goes away again.
    Roger Hicks likes this.
  5. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    I understand that AP is a magazine aimed at photographers with different levels of experience, skill and funds, and having interests in a great variety of photographic subjects. So it can never appeal to all photographers, but must attract as many as possible to buy the magazine or pay for the digital version for it to be financially viable. I have purchased AP intermittently since finding copies in my school library in the early 1970s, and subscribed for the last few years. I am aware that I am not the ideal reader many of your advertisers would prefer because of my limited disposable income. The relevance of this would depend on what proportion of AP's income now comes from advertising - I suspect much less than 20 years ago, so income from magazine sales would now be even more important. For the last 20 years I have only looked the advertisers at the back of the magazine that sell used stuff.

    So I offer some personal thoughts about editorial content.

    1. Please consider carefully what the word ‘amateur’ in the magazines title means. If you wish to continue reviewing camera bodies and lenses costing many thousands of pounds, perhaps the magazine’s title no longer represents its content.

    2. Ban phrases like ‘must-have’ or ‘essential’ from hardware reviews. Many of the things described as such did not exist a few years ago but people managed to take excellent photographs. Also they often make the subject larger, heavier and more expensive.

    3. Stop reprinting entire pages from a previous issue unless it is a vintage review (always interesting) or similar. The ‘My life in cameras’ in the issue dated 29.07.17 looked very familiar. This is not the first time I have noticed this in AP. Either it is a mistake which suggests high staff turnover or poor memories, or it was put in the magazine at the last minute to fill a blank page. If the latter is true, why not use a few recent images from the AP website gallery instead? (Note that I suggest the AP website - see item 5.)

    4. I am not going to comment on the ‘pay and display’ debate about multiple entries to APOY, since this has been discussed in other current forum threads. But I would like to comment on the prizes offered. Due to AP’s apparent ‘relationship’ with Sigma, the prize is often a lens or flash that many entrants cannot use because Sigma now only makes it in Canon, Nikon and Sigma fittings. Perhaps AP could discuss prize sponsorship with its regular advertisers: a voucher from LCE, Ffordes, Park Cameras, etc. that could be used to purchase anything they sell would be perfect. And for every round of APOY the advertiser sponsored they would get a big mention in AP. This arrangement would be much healthier than the current one in which AP is tied to a single manufacturer for APOY prizes.

    5. Consider if the rush to ‘work with’ social media sites is generating any new sales for AP. Also, forcing entrants to APOY to use a social media website is a concern because of the personal details and other information many of us do not want to share with them.

    6. Re. the Ogden debate – I recall when he, Roger Hicks and others used to each write monthly pages so that there was some variety. And then there was a cull and Roger was the only survivor…
  6. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    I would certainly support any move to have the back page rotating - perhaps 4-weekly - between contributors with different styles.

    Also, perhaps, a greater emphasis upon techniques rather than kit. (Although things are better in that regard than they were a few years ago).

    Finally, at the risk of repeating what was said on a different thread - change APOY to a competition that appeals to amateur photographers in UK who want to compete with each other for the honour of a placing on the leader board. No prizes necessary.
    Jacques Rebaque likes this.
  7. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    I agree, but since APOY entries now come via a third-party social media website how could this be enforced? I also suspect that the staff at AP like to work for an international publication - much more exciting than a mere national one. (And no, I didn't vote 'leave' in the referendum.)

    Re. prizes - I also agree. I suppose I should have said 'If there have to be prizes...'.
    Perhaps a free year AP subscription would be a reasonable prize for the winner at the end of each year's APOY.
  8. Nigel_Atherton

    Nigel_Atherton Group Editor

    Thanks for the feedback. If I may address a couple of your points.

    1] There is no correlation between being an amateur and the ability to afford expensive kit. At least 90% of Leica buyers are amateurs. Most of the people walking around Rutland bird fair with big white Canon super telephoto prime lenses are amateurs. The word 'amateur' is a meaningless hangover from Victorian times. We know what kind of cameras interest our readers from years of experience featuring cameras on the cover and monitoring the sales figures.

    2] Point taken

    3] That must have been a mistake. We do not deliberately republish content. This is nothing to with poor memories (though I have a particularly bad one) but the fact that we produce around 200 editorial pages per month under high pressure to short deadlines with a team a fraction the size of what we used to have.

    6] Ogden is no longer available to write for AP.
    Roger Hicks likes this.
  9. SqueamishOssifrage

    SqueamishOssifrage Well-Known Member

    For me, quite the reverse. I would like to see Roger Hicks have another page. Much of the magazine presents information relevant to our hobby, but the Hicks' column is thought provoking, the most thought provoking in the magazine. To have a facing page, perhaps dealing with another photographer's take on a similar subject, or the same photographer changing his style in a similar picture, would be extremely compelling - for me, and I suspect, many others.
    GeoffR and Roger Hicks like this.
  10. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    I've got a few suggestions:

    1. Add a little more humour into the magazine - I'm not suggesting making it into a kids' comic, but a little more lightheartedness now and then would be welcome. There are lots of things that can go awry when taking photographs - perhaps a series of amusing photographic mishaps (and how to avoid them).

    2. How about a history section each week - perhaps grab a review from an issue thirty or forty years ago and include it in its entirety. Perhaps this could be rotated with editorial comment from the magazine a similar number of years ago. Both could be coupled with a current short editorial piece about how things have changed...or stayed the same.

    3. I enjoy the articles that give details of how photographers work - but how about increasing the scope of these to include things that some of them take for granted but can remain a mystery to some amateurs. For example - an article on great insect photography might currently give details of the equipment and techniques used...but the reader might also be interested in where to find certain insects and how to get them to sit still while you shoot them! The same sort of 'spotter's guide' could be equally useful for birds and other wildlife. By the same rule an article on a landscape photographer might also be expanded to include details of how they managed to get all their kit to the top of a mountain!

    4. The current review system is, in my opinion, as good as it can be - bearing in mind that not every reader is going to be interested in every review. The reviews are a necessary and important part of the magazine. I subscribe to the paper version rather than online - but I assume that when the online version refers to alternatives to the piece of equipment being reviewed, it offers links to the AP review of the alternative item? Perhaps this could be done in the magazine using QR codes?

    5. Perhaps we could have more articles on things that are less mainstream - the best way to use out of date film, how to make your own developer, suggestions on getting the best from intentional camera movement, a run-down on the ins and outs of astrophotography (the chaps who take 96 exposures and use different filters for helium, oxygen, argon etc), panning techniques for F1 photography...the sort of thing that many of us will never try, but form part of the hobby and could prove of interest.

    6. Introduce a 'day in the life' series - not so much about equipment, techniques and results - more concerned with the practicalities of a day's photography. It could include wedding photography, a studio portrait photographer, a fashion photographer, different sports photographers (football, rugby, car racing, horse racing, athletics etc), a commercial product photographer, and architectural photographer, a property (estate agent) photographer, food photographer...you get the idea.

    7. Try to snag some interviews with people in the public eye who are also keen photographers - I'm not suggesting the Duchess of Cambridge, but you get the general idea.

    8. Keep Mr Hicks - he may be (occasionally) infuriating but he's never boring - in fact why not include a conflicting viewpoint? Mr Hicks and A.N.Other take turns selecting a photograph, the one who selects it gives his or her positive critique and the other give a more negative critique - each weeks 'face off' could be subject to an online weekly reader vote as to which argument is the more compelling.

    9. Regular reviews (or featurettes...did I just use that term? Shoot me!) on small local camera shops.

    10. A series on the most photographed scenes and places (Bamburgh Castle, The Shard, virtually all of the Lake District etc) and suggestions on how to do something other than set up on somebody else's tripod holes...how to get something different to the crowd.

    Well - there are ten suggestions off the top of my head.

    Cheers, Jeff
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
    Trannifan likes this.
  11. Trannifan

    Trannifan Well-Known Member

    Please bear in mind that film is not dead and that there are many (amateur) photographers out there producing pictures on film which are at least as, if not more, interesting than a lot of the digital snaps the mag gets filled with. I let my sub lapse precisely because AP seemed to drop film like a hot potato!

    I'll go along with the comments about prizes. Rolls of film for a good photo were OK, but why should I enter a competition where, if I struck it lucky, I would win a piece of kit which I have absolutely no use for? Even an AP coffee mug would be a preferable alternative!

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
    Roger Hicks likes this.
  12. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Certainly I want to see as much thought-provoking stuff as possible, and currently Roger is the best bet for that by some margin. Of course AP has always been a broad church and has to have something to appeal to everyone, so I accept the need for a real mix of content - and indeed that's one of the things I love about the mag - but please don't dumb down in the name of accessibility.

    And some of Jeff's suggestions look pretty good to me.
    Roger Hicks likes this.
  13. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Except that quite often, getting the pictures depends on Final Analysis being a regular column. Many photographers would not be interested in participating in a column that came out once a month.


  14. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    You know that I enjoy your column as it stands (that didn't sound quite as bad in my head), but I didn't realise that getting a 'release' for the photographs used in the magazine was such an issue.

    Do you think that there'd be any mileage in taking the odd picture from the AP Flickr page and applying the same sort of analysis that you employ with more famous images, to something produced by one of the readers?

    Cheers, Jeff
  15. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Nigel,

    Years ago, I asked Linhof and Professional what the split was, roughly, between professional and wealthy amateur buyers of Linhofs. They said, "About fifty-fifty". Given that Linhofs make Leicas look inexpensive, this clearly supports your thesis. A lot of amateurs buy Alpas too -- and they can make Linhofs look inexpensive!

    As you well know (though some of our readers may not), many professionals, at least early in their careers, rely on wealthy amateurs to buy expensive, professional cameras; use them very little; and then sell them, at a hefty loss, at a price the professionals can afford. This is probably less true with digital, because of the very short product cycle, but I'd guess it's still true.

    The point about the cameras on the cover is intriguing. Clearly we can't concentrate exclusively on expensive kit, but equally, there will always be a certain appeal in "Well, if I had the money, I'd really like a _______, and I'm intrigued to read a review. Maybe one day, or if I can find one used..."


  16. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Jeff,

    Well, not Flickr (unless we can get a high-res image) but yes, I'm open to pictures from pretty much anywhere. In fact there's one due shortly from an AP reader's web-site, which I found pretty much by accident.

    There are however two other considerations. First, I don't want to do it too often, because it becomes effectively another AP competition, but with only one judge (me). Second, I always prefer to use pictures from photographers who work in series or who may even have a body of work. We can all get lucky and take a single great shot, but I'm more interested in photographers with some consistency of vision. Pretty much by definition, we can generally learn more from them than we can from a single lucky picture.

    Remember, it's not just permission to use the picture: we also have to have the photographer send us a high-res image, typically about 2500 pixels on the long side. It's a hassle for them to send it, but if it's going to be in a weekly column in one of the most highly regarded photo magazines in the world, they're a lot more willing.


    Trannifan and Fishboy like this.
  17. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Jeff,

    1 Humour is EXTREMELY difficult to produce consistently. I liked the cartoon strips/funny photos with captions, but they're hard to do. Something that occurs to me though is that photos-plus-captions might attract some interesting entries; something like my Secret Life of Chairs. The drawback is that someone would have to select them, and that takes time that none of us has.

    2 I'm very much in favour of a history piece too, but why limit it to 20-30 years? Why not mine the full 133 years? Not too often -- once a month, maybe -- but it could be interesting. I'd like to see one of George Bernard Shaw's pieces: I've long thought it wonderful that I should write for the same magazine as he once did. Also, we could easily fill a page with vintage ads.

    5 We can also borrow/ adopt/ steal others' ideas from completely alien techniques. A problem, though, is that people who are very good at a particular technique are not necessarily very good at writing or even explaining.

    6 Think of the work involved! It's a lovely idea but I doubt it would make financial sense. You need to send out a reporter and then have him/ her wrote everything up. Not easy with today's budgets. I was shocked when I first visited AP Towers and found that Garry C-W did not have a vast marble-floored office with a chaise longue on which he could recline while dispensing pearls of wisdom in between eating grapes peeled by houris. No: he had to work for a living. And life has not grown any easier for subsequent editors.

    8 Not really. We might both like the picture, after all. Also, it may seem that my Final Analyses are often relentlessly positive, but that's because I choose pictures I like. Consider the future of a column that is relentlessly rude. Who is going to provide pictures? Why? At what cost?

    9 Another one that's quite expensive to do, for maybe half a page of copy.

    10 No, no, a thousand times no. Why encourage MORE people to go there? If people want to, then let 'em use others' tripod holes. Besides which, we all know what happens with the "do something different" brigade: the pictures are rarely any good. Yes, you can do great things with light painting and crazy angles and focusing on details instead of the whole and all the other tricks in the book. But most people don't. I think it was Dr. Johnson who said, "Your work is both good and original, but the parts that are good are not original and the parts that are original are not good."


  18. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    Wow Mr H!

    I arrived in work, saw the request for ideas and suggestions, and reeled off a list of things that I thought might be of interest. I didn't realise that they were going to be lined-up and shot down one at a time.

    I'm not arguing the validity of your put-downs, I'm questioning whether they're likely to encourage anybody else to put their head above the parapet* now that they know what to expect.

    Cheers, Jeff

    *To be fair, a significant percentage of the regular posters are bloody-minded enough to do it anyway - but that's not the point.
    EightBitTony likes this.
  19. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Jeff,

    Not trying to shoot you down; just pointing out some of the difficulties/ realities. Most of the ideas are good, but not (I suspect) affordable in the present climate. You might also note that I didn't comment on the unassailable ones (3, 4, 7), and that I was all in favour of 2 and 5. My objections to 6 and 9 were purely financial -- I'd love to see them -- so this leaves only 8 and 10 as things I think were bad ideas. Number 1 was more regretful than anything else. I'd love a column akin to Hector Chrome in the BJ 15-20 years ago -- I saw him on Sunday, because he doesn't live too far away (he really did retire to France) -- but I don't know who could do it now that he's retired.

    Seriously, I'd be surprised if Nigel wasn't very grateful for your suggestions. I found them very interesting indeed, and I'm certainly grateful. The thing is, they very well illustrate the difference between a reader's view, and the view of someone faced with ever tighter budgets. I sincerely hope that you and others will, indeed, continue to put their heads above the parapet.


  20. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    I can agree with the sentiments behind this, almost all the "features" considered essential on modern cameras seem to be automated means of doing things that the skilled could apply for themselves. I would think that a series of articles discussing how to achieve the effect of a feature on any camera would be of greater value than calling them "must have".

    I now have the time to enter the competition but I am not really minded to do so. The prizes aren't, for me, an incentive to enter but I might be more inclined to do so if the prizes were such that I might be able to acquire a piece of equipment that I wanted.

    I would also like to hear more on this, I wouldn't want to provide details to yet another data gathering site either.

    Ogden could be entertaining but didn't always do anything for me. See post 4 above.

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