Reviewers: Too Often Your Photos Suck


It’s a simple question. When I read camera reviews on blogs, why are many of the sample photographs that some reviewers use so bloody awful?

You know what I’m talking about. Whenever a new camera review is posted on a blog or website someplace, it usually includes a series of sample photographs taken with that camera. For the most part, they all suck. I know some of these reviewers are simply writers, but many of them claim to be working photographers. Why don’t they use images that show off their talent?

I know some of these blogger/photographers are better than the images they show us. Instead, they show me nothing. A wife’s face, their kid, their dog, flowers on the dining room table, a view from their living room window. Wow, how exciting!

Many Review Photos Are Little More Than Snapshots

These guys spend countless hours going over every arcane detail in the camera’s software, every button, every menu item, examining in minute detail every subtle nuance in the design, but when it comes to taking a few photographs to show to the audience, they seem to be going through the motions, spending a few minutes and coming up with photographs that amount to nothing more than snapshots. (Well, at least the camera was level.)

When I read a camera review, I only want to see five photographs.

  • One shot in broad daylight
  • One shot on an overcast day
  • One shot indoors
  • One shot at night (ISO 3200)
  • One shot of a fast-moving subject at wide aperture.

That’s it. I don’t need to see anything else (nor do I need to see extreme crops of the corner details). I know this little rant seems a bit picky since most camera buyers have very little experience. But I never read reviews for those cameras; I am simply not interested. What I am talking about are pro or prosumer cameras targeted for professionals and advanced amateurs. After all, if I am expected to evaluate the value the camera as a working tool, it would follow that I want to see how it performs in situations to which I can relate.

For instance, sometimes I see a night shot at ISO 3200 as one of the samples. It is usually a simple shot of a street at night. The reviewer puts on his hat, puts his dog on a leash, and steps outside with his review camera. As he walks the dog, he snaps a few of the street. Awesome! If he is going to show something taken at night, make it interesting. Put a person in the photo, go into a coffeehouse or bar, do anything except simply snapping the shutter the minute you step outside.

Useful Reviews Take Time and Effort

Since I am not famous and my blog isn’t visited by thousands of people a day, it’s unlikely that I will ever be asked to review a new camera from a major manufacturer. But if I were, I would do it like this: First, I would see what market this camera is targeted to. Then I would carry it with me for a few days and shoot 500-1000 shots with it in various conditions pertaining to the camera’s target audience. Then I would begin editing these shots and quickly get it down to 50 or so. Then I would wait a week or so and choose my final six or seven shots to include in my review. Then I would write about what I thought of this camera from the user’s perspective. That’s it. But that’s another story; and I might save that little rant for my next article.


11 Responses to “Reviewers: Too Often Your Photos Suck”

  1. Well, you could always buy the product and write your own review.

  2. Thank you. Endless high res files of crap.

  3. Anything more than a snapshot risks inviting questions/discussion about the reviewer's photographic abilities (technical and artistic skills). A snapshot focuses attention on the output of the camera, not the photographer. If reviewers showed "better" images, I bet the comments would be polluted with advice/criticism about his/her skills as a photographer!

    I do agree about a standardized set of review images though - that would make it easier to compare cameras.

  4. Intresting read and I so agree, we need to see a real world view of images photographers and the like will really take with said cameras...

  5. Having just written a review of the D800E and taken some really crappy photos let me be the first to apologize. Sorry.
    -Schaf

  6. Agree with the bullet list but disagree with the sentiment. I don't want to see 'creative' shots adding to the collective view that price equates to better photography (check the Leica blogs) it doesn't.

    I'd like standard shots, easily reproduced because half the time cameras are let down by poor bloggers and evangelised by those in awe (usually of brands).

  7. You have forgotten the sixth photo you want to see on a review, but the article is a nice pinch.

  8. I agree completly that's when I get a camera to review it's my main camera for a short while. I even do some client work with it just to know how the camera behaves in real life situations.

    I get to review some camera's for sony, samsung and nikon on a frequent base and don't want to write a boring review like every other reviewer does and that's why i get to review the cameras not because my website has 30 visitors a day, which i know is nothing.

  9. Kinthano, thanks for the catch ...

  10. well, I guess they want to be 1st in the market to review the product, hence the page hit gonna be highest all other reviewer that came later..

    Wth the amount of steps you suggest above, it will take at least 2 weeks before you conclude it, and publish it to the web, well too late dude!

    Dpreview.com had done it... *wink*!

  11. I doesn't matter how long it takes 'dude". It usually take a few months fro the camera to hit the market. Plenty of time if its a Leica.

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