Welcome to the Shutter Angle

by | Jun 15, 2021 | News

I have one simple reason for starting the Shutter Angle: selfishness.

This entire project is about creating the type of content I want to see. Photography is a pursuit of passion, and writing about it should be nothing less — whether about the art, the artist, or the technology behind them.

I have spent nearly a decade writing about photography, most recently as the photo section editor at a major technology news outlet. There, I chased trends in order to rank on Google, often at what I believed was the expense of my human readers. I watched as page design was continuously dumbed-down to meet a mobile-first agenda, even as over 60% of traffic to the photo section continued to come from desktop. I realized what worked for Google, and what may have worked for the average tech news reader, did not work well for photography — and it sure didn’t work for me.

My hope is that by giving readers a more beautiful, more enjoyable experience, they will be more likely to return.

I understand that load times, mobile-friendly design, and ranking in search results are important factors to the success of a modern news site, but I don’t want to make sacrifices to creativity and presentation to get there. As a reader, the content that has stuck with me over time has never been about answering a quick question or nudging me into an impulse buy. What holds my interest — and earns my return readership — are good stories. Stories told not just with strong writing, but also with powerful imagery presented in expansive, imaginative page layouts. These are the articles I don’t want to skim, but actually read.

And that’s my priority with the Shutter Angle. Great writing, beautiful presentation, and overall unique content that makes you want to consciously return rather than stumble upon one of our articles when it shows up on Google. It is my hope that other people want and appreciate the same things I do, but I have no market research or analytics to back that up. Just my gut.

Below is a map of my intentions for the Shutter Angle. Some details are bound to change over time as we figure out what works and what doesn’t, but we’re not out to simply imitate what’s already being done.

What we write about

The Shutter Angle’s target audience is photography enthusiasts. We publish news, reviews, and long-form features including explainers, how-tos, opinions, interviews, and photo essays.

What sets us apart

A unique voice

Think personal blog-style writing meets large-media-company-style layouts and attention to presentation. Almost. And with fewer ads.

The long-term goal is to feature a diversity of voices from authors who are encouraged to write in their own unique style.

But, um, look: it’s probably just going to be me for a while.

Presentation that matters

It’s strange that I need to clarify this, but: photographers are visual people. We like having beautiful and interesting things to look at. When creating a publication that targets photographers, I therefore believe the visual presentation of an article needs to be more than an afterthought.

At the Shutter Angle, our basic news stories will be clearly presented and easy to read, with no friction points between you and the content. That means no pop-ups, no auto-playing videos, and no paragraph-splitting ads. Our premium content — reviews and other long-form articles — will feature purposeful, often bespoke page layouts that are fun to look at or work to amplify the theme of the story.

It’s hard to justify this approach as it takes extra time (and Google doesn’t care how pretty your article is). But my hope is that by giving readers a more beautiful, more enjoyable experience, they will be more likely to return.

Reviews that are stories first

When we review a product, we aren’t trying to facilitate a quick purchasing decision. We want to provide passionate and insightful content that is enjoyable to read. We don’t aim to beat other review sites at their own game, but merely to add another voice to the conversation.

We’re also dropping review scores. Check the review guidelines of major tech publications and you may be surprised to learn that a score of 6 out of 10 is often considered to be “good.” Do you feel confident buying a 6/10 product, or do you see that as a barely-passing grade?

Getting rid of numerical ratings helps to encourage our reviewers to write personally about their experiences, while the reader doesn’t have to try to interpret what a score really means.

The Shutter Angle will instead use a simple three-tier system: Recommended, Recommended with reservations, and Not recommended. Our reasoning will always be fully explained in the review.

Ads that aren’t annoying

Do you hear that? That’s the soothing silence of a nonexistent comments section.

I would love to tell you that the Shutter Angle will never have ads, but I can’t in good faith do that (unless enough people subscribe to our Patreon). What I can say is that I am making every effort to make sure whatever ads we do run will actually make sense. Like, oh I don’t know, an ad for an actual photography product instead of some warning from a gut doctor urging Americans to throw out this one vegetable.

Digital ads are annoying, but maybe they don’t have to be. I fondly remember poring over striking, full-page ads in photography magazines in the past, and I’m working on a way to build a similar experience for the Shutter Angle.

We also plan to offer sponsored content. Don’t worry — we won’t ever write sponsored reviews or otherwise accept money to make product recommendations. Sponsored content will be educational in nature.

No peanut gallery

Go ahead, relax. Do you hear that? That’s the soothing silence of a nonexistent comments section.

That’s not to say, however, that we don’t want you to share your opinions or call us out when we mess up. You are welcome to write us a letter, and we’ll publish a collection of them every so often. You know, like the good-old days.

We also have an exclusive Discord channel for our Patreon supporters.

How can you help?

Great question. The short answer is, be here. Things are going to move slowly for a while as I am self-funding this project and am the sole do-everything person, from writing to web design. Knowing someone is reading my content will motivate me to keep going. (And, yes, I still use the royal “we” occasionally because I like believing that one day this won’t just be the peasant “me.”)

As you’ve probably gathered by this point, you can also support the Shutter Angle on Patreon. We currently offer a couple forms of exclusive access to our patrons, and plan to offer physical rewards in the future.

And while we never encourage you to buy something you don’t need, you can also help us by purchasing products from links in our articles, as we may earn a small commission. We will work with photo specialty retailers whenever possible.

Finally, we need writers. If you’re interested, you’ll find everything you need to know here.

Here we go…

Uncertainty surrounds everything about this project. Do people even care about the things I care about? Is this a waste of my time?

This may fail, and that’s fine. It’s an experiment. In some ways, I hope it always will be. A constantly evolving project that resists settling down and continues to try new things.

So, if you’re reading this, thank you for being here. If you share my desire to see personal, passionate writing and beautiful presentation about all things photography, I hope you come back.

Daven Mathies

Editor, the Shutter Angle