Last year I began posting a series of essays on things I learned about photography that I did not learn in a textbook. Hence the name:

Photography After the Textbook

To date, I’ve written seven or so of these essays and will be reposting them here, on — rewritten for clarity where needed. I will write new ones as well, when the muse strikes me.

Here is the fifth essay I wrote, titled:


Who Can You Believe?

How can you trust all the talking heads like me that pontificate on YouTube? I say this because recently I became keenly aware of something that is probably obvious to everyone else – One can make a lot of money saying something is good even if they don’t believe it to be.

Around six months ago, I was contacted by a web hosting company (probably not the one you’re thinking of), about doing a video that demonstrates how easy it is for a photographer to setup their portfolio with them. They were going to pay for that video then sponsor several more videos. I cannot tell you how much I would have made — we never got that far. I’ll be honest though, I was interested and asked them to give me a free website with all the tools I needed to create a premium site with shopping cart. My intention was to try it out to see how easy it was to setup so I could demo the website explaining how one could create their website to sell prints and or services. I began to test it out and looked through the pricing and realized that it was quite expensive and most importantly, it wasn’t good – there are web hosts that are cheaper, easier to use, and with better templates.

I told them I wasn’t interested.

Recently I mentioned that I was planning on getting into drone photography and that perhaps I would be doing demo videos someday. Almost immediately I was contacted by a Chinese importer offering to send me two different drones – high-end drones retailing for around $5000.00 — in exchange for a favorable demo and review video for each drone. So, for two videos, I would have owned two, high-end drones, without paying one cent. On top of that, I could have included my affiliate links to make more money.

I never answered the email and purchased a drone myself.

Another thing to keep in mind is that product videos get the most views and attention on YouTube. If a photographer wants to be a YouTube star they can do product reviews and make sure they include their affiliate links and they will do very well. Judging by the number of offers I get – companies asking me to demo and review their product, a YouTube photographer could do a new video every day.

Unfortunately for me, judging by the few I have done, product reviews are not really in my wheelhouse so I decided some time ago to keep them to a minimum.

Unfortunately for you, who can you believe?

My suggestion is that for straight photography and post-processing videos, watch anyone that connects with you and presents the material in a way that you can understand it.

For product reviews and demos, seek more than one opinion and if possible, demo the product yourself. If it’s a camera or lens, bring an SD card to a camera store and take a few test shots.

If you don’t have the luxury of a local camera store, seek out videos from the working pro who is using the equipment in his or her photography business and has images from their shoots online and accessible to be scrutinized. I see many product reviewers without any online portfolio, website or even Instagram showing us their work. To me, that’s highly suspect.

I hope you’re fortunate enough to have a brick and mortar camera store in your town. There you can check out other equipment such as tripods and camera bags.

If you don’t have that brick and mortar store, take what the YouTube reviewer says with the proverbial grain of salt.