Nuts and Bolts:
May 2008

by Bill Pierce

"25 Ways to Use Photoshop To Make Digital Valentines"
"We Test 273 Pocket-Sized Digital Cameras"


Do you remember when we used to get all our photographic craft and technical info from magazines? A nearby bookstore has an exceptionally large display of photo magazines. Almost all of them seem to feature the same articles.



Truth is there are some wonderful magazines that feature images, but my newsstand of craft articles has moved to the Internet. And it seems that some of the good editors and writers appear on independent Web sites that have no print corollary.

The Online Photographer, otherwise known as TOP, has Mike Johnston as its editor and major contributor. Some of the other contributors such as Ctein and Carl Weese you will recognize as writers for Photo Techniques, one of the many print magazines with which Mike has been involved.

Among the contents the site introduction lists are photography news, book reviews, equipment user reports, opinion and editorials, profiles of photographers, photography-related links and, occasionally, the odd off-topic posting. I would say the odd off-topic posting is hardly occasional. And that is the joy of this site. It is a hodgepodge that deals with the main issues of craft and then suddenly veers off into areas that you have never considered considering. Oh - and the commentary and feedback by the readers themselves often show signs of intelligence and minimal egocentricity. How's that for a first?

You can get to the site at and directly to the articles at .

In years past, the British Journal of Photography, otherwise know as "The BP," featured equipment test reports by Geoffrey Crawley, who became its editor for 21 years. While other magazines rushed to press with reports of newly introduced cameras, Crawley would go to a store, buy a camera and spend months testing it. When his camera or lens reviews finally appeared, they were both literally and figuratively accepted as the last word. Today, the British magazine Amateur Photographer will publish, too rarely, a piece by this eclectic British artist and scientist.

One of the few people with a similar attitude towards testing (use it, test it, use it some more, run some more tests, eventually publish something of real use to other photographers) is Sean Reid whose Reid Reviews is a subscription site ($32.95 a year). Logging on at you will see not only a list of the equipment he has evaluated, but some examples of his writing so you can evaluate him.

While Sean Reid has written about a broad range of equipment, even including camera straps, his site probably contains more testing and evaluation of rangefinder equipment than any other site outside of that of Erwin Puts ( However, the Puts site devotes a great deal of its content to theory and film-based photography. For the digital journalist whose tools include rangefinders or even smaller cameras like the Ricoh GR or the Sigma DP1, Reid Reviews offers more usable and practical information.

I recently looked at a number of magazines I had picked up at airports. Some of the article titles were "Create Hollywood-Style Imagery," "Produce a Masterpiece by Turning Photos Into Rich Digital Paintings" and "Perfect Photos ... the Tools You Need to Retouch Images." These magazines cost between $9.95 and $14.99. I suddenly felt real good about my one-year subscription to Reid Reviews.

I treasure those photo magazines whose purpose is to publish good pictures. For now the printed page, in books or magazines, does a better job than my computer screen in displaying the subtle quality of a photographic image. So it amuses me that my computer lets me print books.

In the "old days," I used to gather up a stack of prints, silver or inkjet, get out my GBC binder and bind the pictures and cover sheets together with a plastic, spiral binder. It wasn't too elegant, but it did the job. I once took a stack of prints, bound them and sent them to David Vestal, a photographer I greatly admire. David included the book in an article he wrote on self-publishing. I never had the guts to tell him that he had reviewed a book whose only edition consisted of one copy.

A while back an acquaintance of mine went on a fishing trip to Alaska with his son. His son took pictures of the trip and, using the Mac program, Iphoto, on his laptop, laid out the images in book form and transmitted them to the printing service that is part of the program. By the time they got back from Alaska, their copies of the books were waiting for them.

Now I can send digital images to a variety of Web sites that will turn these images into a conventionally bound book – a hardcover if I wish, as many copies as I wish. Friends, who are way ahead of me on this curve, not only make up books of what they consider to be their good pictures, but books to be used as promotional pieces in getting work and exhibits.

While there are many book publishing sites, one of the longest established ones with a good reputation among photographers is Blurb located at, logically enough,

Among all the places your pictures can come to rest – newspapers, magazines, museums, galleries and books – I have always loved books. You don't get as much fatuous flattery as at a gallery opening, but the pictures last longer.

I was recently asked why most of the pictures that are tacked onto the end of Nuts & Bolts in "pictures that have nothing to do with the column" tend not to be serious when photojournalism can be very serious. I'm not quite sure – probably because serious stuff deserves its own place.

This picture was taken at the entrance to a hospital in West Beirut. I think Alex Webb and I were the only photographers there at the time. The other soldier with the wounded soldier is screaming, "No pictures!" Later, long after this picture was taken, the wounded soldier signaled me to take his picture. I don't remember how we communicated, only that he felt people should see what happened in a war. As I took the picture, he flashed the V for victory sign, assuring that no editor would ever publish the picture. He had been growing paler and grayer as time passed and a few minutes later he died.

© Bill Pierce
Contributing Writer