Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Low Frequency, High Amplitude



I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about the next step in my weird, one-off career. And this tweet, by a man who I truly admire, summed up my thoughts in just four words.

As a photographer, you could hardly ask for better advice. I’m taking it to heart, both for myself and for Strobist.
__________


Changes on Strobist

Strobist's new format reflects a desire to cut the noise and focus on the value. Starting from today (January 2014) Strobist will feel less like a day-in, day-out blog and more like an accessible archive, with the occasional new posts and articles.

I made a New Year's resolution for 2014 to not publish unless I truly felt I had something of value to say. This is to better respect both your time and mine, and to allow me the time and space to pursue several important projects.

It will also allow me more family time, which any parent of teenagers hopefully will not begrudge me. I am trying to de-clutter, and focus on what's important.

The format of the website is changing to reflect that. Rather than exist as a typical last-in, first-out blog, Strobist's front page will be more of a portal to a better-organized archive of information.

New content will still appear occasionally. And when it does it will be positioned atop (or very nearly so) the front page. The new content will also have a permalink and go out via email and RSS.


Fewer Swings, Swing Harder

Zack Arias gets it, and long has. He calls it “More signal, less noise.” We talked at length about it in a hotel bar in Tokyo earlier this year, and it is exactly what has led him to pull back from the cacophony of nonstop online content generation and focus on DedPxl, his upcoming project.

From what he has told me (and I am sworn to secrecy) it sounds fantastic and I am very much looking forward to it.

Low-frequency, high amplitude is the antithesis of the blogging and social media scene today. Look around and you’ll see many formerly good sites that have devolved into near content mills.

Being a good niche site and publishing dozens of times a week is a damn-near impossible combo. In fact, I only know one photo site that pulls that off consistently. But others are mindlessly chasing frequency-based traffic, and the result is a lot of noise. And a lot of wasted time for their readers, too.

I am running, screaming, in the other direction. I think Zack has the right of it. And ditto Brian Lam, the author of the tweet above, who left Gizmodo to found The Wirecutter, a fantastic resource which is most definitely low frequency but high quality/high value.

(For those interested in learning more behind his philosophy, there is a great interview with Brian on GigaOm.)


Same for Strobist

For the last nearly eight years, Strobist has been a ~2x/week blog. As of January 2014, you’ll see that frequency dialed back in exchange for (hopefully) more depth and quality.

There is no shortage of information out there today. In fact, there’s a glut of noise. I don’t want to add to that. I don’t want to waste your time reading it, nor mine producing it.

So going forward in 2014, expect posts that appear less frequently but as a result are hopefully more worthy of a read. Lighting will still be the center of gravity, but we’ll be exploring more deeply the full ecosystems within that context. Because this is not just about light mods and ratios. How all of this stuff fits together is far more important.

Also, we'll be improving the organization and accessibility of the Strobist’s 2000-post archive to make it easier to navigate the different subject areas of the site. There will be new vertical axes (similar to Lighting 101 and OA) to explore. And while on the subject, if you have any suggestions for themes, hit me up. This re-org is happening now.

Lastly, I have plans for at least one new core module in the works. More on that soon.


Same for Me

After more than a thousand miles of hikes/deep thinking in the last six months, I am also personally trading frequency for quality. I plan to do fewer photographic projects but to pour myself into them. In my heart I know it is the right thing to do.

So I’m embracing “low frequency, high amplitude” as a photographer, too. I'd encourage you to at least explore the idea. What will you be remembered for? I doubt it will be for quantity.

Knock wood, I have a few productive years left with photography. And I want to create the space to explore the possibilities of creating something meaningful. Or at least I’d like to try.


__________

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53 Comments:

Blogger Jan Kunz said...

sounds good to me. I don't think that bloggin necessarily means to publish daily. With your website even less so. I come back to the website and read a lot of "old" stuff. Simply because a lot of it is older in terms of publishing date but certainly not in terms of content. There are so many tips and tricks hidden in that website which I am always keen to learn from. One request I have for improved quality. Sometimes a simple sketch would help to illustrate the whole setup you had for a given scene...Where was the camera, flash(es), model and so on.

November 19, 2013 10:19 AM  
Blogger -SM said...

Right. On.

November 19, 2013 10:26 AM  
Blogger Clara said...

For those of us just discovering your work, I can safely say you've done a heck of a job on the "meaningful" part. You've opened up a world that I never thought I'd start to explore. Thank you.

November 19, 2013 10:26 AM  
Blogger BRIAN BULEMORE said...

Bravo, Mr. Hobby...bravo.

Very refreshing to see (and be reminded of) the need and benefits of a more mindful approach to the online world and specifically online photography content. It is quite easy to become caught up in the noise of it all and begin to feel as if one has to race to keep up, thereby lowering the quality. It's tough to resist, so thanks (as always) for some great leadership in that area. Best of luck on the shift...
--abacusphoto

November 19, 2013 10:32 AM  
OpenID crackleflash said...

Great concept but I don't think this site ever suffered from lack of meaningful content. That is not to say it's all of the same quality but it's pretty damn good.

Not too germane to the frequency of blog posts, but Nate Silver's book, The Signal and the Noise, is a worthwhile read for folks striving to maximize their time by separating the two and giving each their due.

November 19, 2013 11:08 AM  
Blogger Jay said...

For the record, I've never found anything you post to be noise, David. I found myself becoming oversaturated with information as my list of sites to check grew. I finally decided recently to cut my reading down to only quality. It was hard to do because I always managed to find a few interesting articles on Lifehacker or Gizmodo but that's a few interesting articles after skimming over a few hundred. That's just too much noise to find a tidbit here or there.

I'm really looking forward to see what Zack and you have up your sleeve.

November 19, 2013 11:21 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Jay-

To be clear, I am reshaping Strobist to make better use of the archive and to post fewer, more meaningful posts. I'm trading in an arbitrary posting schedule in favor of creating the space to try a big project or two.

November 19, 2013 11:27 AM  
Blogger Mommsen said...

Very wise words. In an only remotely relevant note: RSS is sadly getting little to no love from the big players, where it's such a convenient way to keep up with all the low-frequency/high-quality publishers (these two often come together, not just in photography).

November 19, 2013 11:37 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I started this year striving to live by the motto "do fewer things better." For me it's been a struggle to get rid of stuff, drop work that isn't meaningful. It's working. Slowly, but steadily.

All things change. Best of luck with the new direction!

November 19, 2013 11:39 AM  
Blogger michael anthony murphy said...

At first I was mad at the fact that Arias wasn't pumping out more posts. I think I've come to agree with both of your viewpoints, MORE SIGNAL, LESS NOISE.. Just this past week, I wrote a post about the new Nikon Df. I totally wrote it with little prep and less enthusiasm. Did I write it simply to fulfill my Sunday posting quota, while trying to maintain my stats? Very very possible. I may have been better off skipping a week rather than forcing an article.
I am also going to consider this type of movement.
I dig it Hobby.

November 19, 2013 11:42 AM  
Blogger Breanna LaRow said...

Yes! Yes!

The internet feels like millions of people yelling "I exist! I exist!" all at once. Original, thoughtful, and sincere media is what we need.

With that said, that is exactly what you and Zack have already been producing. And whatever your posting schedule is, I appreciate your posts and insights.

November 19, 2013 11:45 AM  
Blogger Alfred said...

This is the smartest thing I have heard in a long time!
I do find it sad that the good voices are silenced by all the noise and misinformation that is created in a unprecedented amount.

November 19, 2013 1:17 PM  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

I understand the intended interpretation of this, but often one still need remember the old poem, Casey at the Bat.

Just because it isn't big or perfect doesn't mean you shouldn't still take a swing at it.

It may seem like a petty job, but there's still a chance to hit it out of the park.

November 19, 2013 1:45 PM  
Blogger Charlie Gipson said...

I'm thinking most of us photographers (...even in a world where the film is free) could benefit by abandoning the frantic "spray and pray" approach and focus on more thoughtful and more intentional work.

This is not to say we should abandon improvisation, but rather that we might the time to open more opportunities for it, thoughtfully and intentionally.

It may also mean self-editing out the good to make room for the great.

November 19, 2013 1:51 PM  
Blogger Dano said...

Fantastic post David. I love that you are being so thoughtful about it.

I recently noticed when I open up my RSS reader that there are a few sites where I dread the volume and it feels like I have to cull through the posts to find the good stuff.

Thankfully, Yours is not one of those . Keep up the good work!

November 19, 2013 1:55 PM  
Blogger Dano said...

Fantastic post David. I love that you are being so thoughtful about it.

I recently noticed when I open up my RSS reader that there are a few sites where I dread the volume and it feels like I have to cull through the posts to find the good stuff.

Thankfully, Yours is not one of those . Keep up the good work!

November 19, 2013 1:56 PM  
Blogger ericsf7 said...

David,

Totally hear you. I have been going through annual renewals for professional memberships, online portfolio sites, and other photography resources; not to mention trying to stay on top of oodles of social media channels. And at the end of the day I have to ask myself if I really have much to show for it, let alone quantifiable ROI. It seems most gigs are coming through word of mouth and referrals anyway. I ask myself almost daily: "when do I get to stop being a marketer and social media hound so I actually do some photography?"

Eric

November 19, 2013 3:05 PM  
Blogger Martin Del Vecchio said...

The "low frequency" part doesn't work for me, because I'm still climbing up the steep learning curve. According to Lightroom, here are the number of photos I have taken in recent years:

2010: 4,523
2011: 17,222
2012: 36,280
2013: 48,999

I think you can tell when I upgraded to a 5D Mark II...

For me, it's still a cycle: take a bunch of photos, analyze what I got, learn what I can from the experience, and repeat.

Maybe in 10 years I'll be ready to adopt your mantra!

November 19, 2013 4:38 PM  
Blogger R. J. Kern said...

LOVED YOUR POST today! It resonated deeply with me. You are right, creating space takes a ton of energy and a smart dose of light. While the payoff isn't always in terms of $$$, it certainly helps balance work / life and keeps the long-term artist happy.

I'll ALWAYs pencil in a few minutes each week to devote to my strobist readership.

November 19, 2013 4:53 PM  
Blogger Doug Oines said...

Amen David! You are right on target with this philosophy.

November 19, 2013 5:44 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

I've never really understood the need of many bloggers to update the world with the current state of whatnot. I refer to it as quality over quantity.

I'm glad to see it being discussed and as always, I look forward to the future.

November 19, 2013 9:50 PM  
Blogger AJ Schroetlin said...

David,

From my point of view your blog has always been one of high amplitude; no matter the frequency. Low frequency, high amplitude is a fantastic idea, one that MANY creatives could learn from. The day I stopped looking to capture 1200 mediocre images in a single day, and instead focused on capturing one very high quality image a month, was a liberating one....and my work dramatically improved because of that change in attitude.

Thank you so much for sharing all that you have and for being a quiet and humble voice in a world full of ego and noise. I look forward to the evolution of your blog and will forever be grateful for all that I've learned from you.

Best of luck in whatever comes next, Mr. Hobby.
Good on ya!

November 19, 2013 11:59 PM  
Blogger hht420 said...

Less FPS, higher dynamic range?

November 20, 2013 6:58 AM  
Blogger Daniel Sullivan said...

Thank you, David. I don't RSS to strobist (or anything), but check in 1-2x times a week, and I've never really felt like you were just publishing noise. There were times when I felt compelled to read one of your posts, not because I was interested in the subject, but because it was "strobist" and I didn't want to miss anything (I've been on this site since early 2007). I look forward to your high(er) amped posts, and your personal fulfillment in whatever you dive into.

November 20, 2013 10:04 AM  
Blogger Jarrett Hucks Photography said...

Though I think hearing that there will be less content from you is the saddest thing I have heard all week, I completely understand and agree with your philosophy. I was crushed when Zack cut the Q&A so abruptly but I am excited for his new projects. As I have progressively grown in my photography and business sense, I have really loved reading what you have to say and though I originally didn't understand what photographers would talk about unless it was gear, I sure get it now and see how much there is that makes up the essence of photos other than lenses and light. Your writing has inspired my photos and my writing and I have started carving out my place in the world with the help of you and your heavy hitting photo friends. Keep looking forward my friend, you're one of the best!

November 20, 2013 10:43 AM  
Blogger luispixphotography said...

Mr. Hobby, while I respect your decision to skim your current practice of writing two blogs a week as you mentioned in your last article, I have to say I just hope you are doing it for the reasons of using that free time to pursue your creative endeavors which are quite considerable. Your blogs have been a wealth of knowledge and have found them educational and entertaining. That is a very difficult task to accomplish and maintain throughout time and you are one of the few who has succeeded in doing so. Having said that, I believe such decisions should be carefully considered and not be tainted by outside influences or from someone who has always been vocal about his dislike for blogging and the time invested into it. I am not knocking Zack Arias, I respect his work and vision but I don't believe in persuasion of the masses to follow everything he says simply because it is his personal opinion. I can not say that being an active writer has affected your creativity whatsoever and along the way you have paved the way for many aspiring photographers and peers. I applaud you for that and I can only hope any decision from this day forth will be based solely on what you feel works for you not someone else.

November 20, 2013 11:01 AM  
Blogger Heather Nilson said...

You just get better and better. I think that must be due in large part to the fact that you're still actively questioning your basic premises and the fundamental reasons for your business, the way you do in this post. That is not easy to do.
Your post is so well-timed; I am sending a link to my boss (I'm a website editor, boss is the site owner and a marketing guy) and we constantly have a little quality vs. quantity tug-of-war happening. Thank you for sending out some valuable ideas yet again.
(If you had any idea how often I read something you write and then incorporate your ideas into my work, you could legitimately come track me down and demand a giant cartoon bank bag full of money, complete with a "$" on the side. But, please don't.)
Anyway, heartfelt thanks for your work.

November 20, 2013 1:28 PM  
Blogger Thomas Holtmann said...

Look forward to your next stage. You stated: "In fact, I only know one photo site that pulls that off consistently". Interested what site this refers to.

Thanks

November 20, 2013 3:23 PM  
Blogger damián Simonelli said...

David: first of all please sorry for my english. I am writing from Argentina and English is obviously nor my nature language.
Photography is my Hobby, not my profession. Even yet since i have known your blog (it was on march 2013) i feel that i have improved my knowledge day by day.
you have opened a door to an amazing world for me, the lighting. I have nothing but thanks to you for all this that you share with us.
I really don´t mind how frequently you blog, i just need to know that you will be there teaching, showing, opening more roads.
Do what you feel what you have to do. I tell you more: do you need some vacations?, do you need a sabbatic year?, just do it. We, your fans, will be here waiting. reading and re reading your files.
You have gave us (at least to me) all you sincerelesly knowledge and that is what masters do.
with all my heart David, thanks.
we´ll wait for you.

November 20, 2013 8:06 PM  
Blogger Rick Yeomans said...

As an ex-pro comms engineer I don't quite agree with the low frequency, high amplitude analogy, but I do agree with what you mean, so I'll spare you the details ;-)

However, as a relative noob to photography (1 yr +) and a complete noob to "strobism" I learned more in my first visit to Stobist than in all of my other Internet meanderings put together. The tag line below the Stobist heading says it all "learn to light", and I for one have learned a lot and enjoyed it all the way. Best of all there is still loads more to learn.

If I could go to my grave knowing that I have inspired just one person then I would die happy. Photography is a great medium to inspire folk and you have provided it in swathes, so wherever your new direction takes you I wish you well.

Rick Yeomans

November 21, 2013 8:22 AM  
Blogger jeremyj said...

This is a great way to look at many things in life. The quality over quantity way of seeing things goes against much of the established mindset of the business world, but I think that in endeavors that actually mean something to you, it is important that the quality be there to sustain any lack of quantity.

Excellent post, it gave me something to think about. Thanks.

November 21, 2013 1:47 PM  
Blogger Brian Bray said...

It's ironic that the ones who most "get it" are the ones already doing it. Your site was never noise David, and the truly noisy sites will probably never understand the concept.

Follow your heart. I'm excited for you and wish you all the best.

November 21, 2013 11:56 PM  
Blogger Alexander Russy said...

Good motto for a whole life.
And you have never been suspicious to have a too low amplitude in your blog.
Nice thing, to share your philosophy.

November 22, 2013 6:28 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Good plan David! There's just too much noise and too little music as it is.

I decided last year that despite the trends to "instagram", I'd be the anti-instagram and simply do things at my own pace and speed, jist like the speed of film.

Thus, when I travel, I'll post a few here and there, but at night when others are downloading, processing and posting their works, I'd be relaxing and when I got home, process, craft and post in a few weeks as I had time. Sometimes weeks now become months, but as I do things slowly, my music rises way above the noise.

Quality over quantity? A novel cocept in these instant times!

November 22, 2013 10:55 PM  
Blogger Dan Hyravy said...

I really get where you're coming from with this. My new blog is basically a 2x a week thing right now since I'm covering basics. My aim is to make things straightforward and concise. Not to complicate the world. I've been with you for about 7 of those 8 years and look forward to the new focus. Stop by actionphototips.com and check out what's going on. Keep up the good fight!

November 23, 2013 12:47 AM  
Blogger matt said...

Sounds great and I look forward to seeing what transpires both with regards to your projects and the site. I think there is much sense in the 'low frequency / high amplitude' philosophy and I truly wish other sites would think hard about it. These days I tend to read Strobist and one other (wonder if it's the same one as you). I've stopped reading many sites because 90% of their output is poorly written junk along the lines of ''10 things you need to do to blah, blah, blah".

November 23, 2013 3:39 AM  
Blogger Martin Beebee said...

I think this is fantastic. If only more sites out there would start following this ethic/approach/philosophy, maybe some little part of the internet could start approaching its potential. I sometimes feel like most of my time with my RSS reader is spent sifting through all the fluff, hitting "Mark As Read" to dismiss the obvious "I'm here! Look at me!" posts far more often than actually clicking on the article to read it. Looking forward to the new year. . . .

November 23, 2013 10:45 AM  
Blogger John Naman said...

I just saw a photographer do a setup while wearing Google Glass, so that I see exactly what he was seeing, sight lines, reflections, shadows. Something to consider! See
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jawjuqt71pw after 5:00 min mark.

November 23, 2013 5:10 PM  
Blogger Adrian said...

Sounds good, to be honest I had a hard time keeping up with the numerous posts you did anyway, although it was always nice when I have time to come back and catch up on everything en masse and read a month's worth of posts at one sitting.

As long as Strobist isn't going away! It's still my #1 source for lighting info.

November 24, 2013 7:52 AM  
Blogger jammin8317 said...

If you never made another article, there would Still be more productive learning material than any photographic books or classes I read or took. I went from not being able to take a competent portrait to starting a small business largely built off of your teachings here and on your videos. Regardless of what you choose to do, I will follow. Thanks...

November 24, 2013 8:12 AM  
Blogger Wonderwall said...

True this. It's hard to find the quality amongst the noise.

November 25, 2013 1:03 AM  
Blogger Ave said...

One of my favorite aspects of the Strobist blog is that the content is inextricably linked to your journey as a photographer. As such, it only makes sense that the blog format continues to evolve in tandem with your personal philosophies. Looking forward to seeing what it brings!

November 26, 2013 10:19 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Grzegorz -

Many thanks for the offer, but I am not looking to enter into any translation ventures at this time.

Thanks again,
DH

December 06, 2013 2:50 PM  
Blogger Deb Smith said...

I agree! I will be checking back for your words of wisdom. Thank you for turning on comments, again. Personally, I'm dialing back too on social media and Twitter was the first to go. I missed the comments being here, but understand your reasoning. Thank you for teaching me hiw to light!

January 03, 2014 10:52 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

David, how will we know when a post is new. I've stop hitting several blogs that have gone to this format I might check them once a month if that. How about sending an email to those of use followers that want to be on top of it but don't want to get PO and quit checking the site because nothing is ever new. Thanks in advance .

January 04, 2014 3:54 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

Hey Michael-

First, this format gives me much more positioning flexibility when compared to the typical "stack of dishes at the Chinese restaurant buffet" LI-FO blog format.

So I will insert new posts when they come (not for a little while, but coming) right up top of the front page.

Second, you can easily subscribe to get any new posts mailed to your email in-box via this link.

January 04, 2014 4:33 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Deb-

Thanks for the thought, but alas the comments on *new* posts/projects will be via Twitter. Managing all of the spam related to comments (and the time of managing the comments themselves) was going to have to force me to choose between seeing my kids a decent amount of time and doing some new projects.

I did not feel I could make that choice, so I chose to wean myself from the biggest (and most soul-sucking) task associated with Strobist. Thanks for understanding.

-D

January 04, 2014 4:35 PM  
Blogger belfox said...

Damn man, I'm not at all happy with the new comment format, nor the fact that Strobist isn't a continuous thread any more.

But ....

Your decision to go for the family and the professional opportunities is wise ; you're getting out of the rut, something more people should do.

I will be missing you A LOT. You have been giving to the community at large for several years, and your impact can hardly be overestimated.

I sincerely hope to see a lot of you over the years to come, at any frequency you deem worthy of valuable contribution to our lighting and/or photographic endeavours. And by any measures, more often than you envision at this moment ;-)

May good wind bring you to happy shores.

January 04, 2014 6:48 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Hi David,

Thanks for all the work you've done over the years and how much information you've shared. I know I've learned a lot (spent a lot too) over the years of reading and learning from you.

It's funny, online, how you start to think of people as 'friends' or maybe someone that you'd like to hang out or spend time with, even though you've never met them.

Lots of luck in the future and even though it won't be coming as frequently I'll be looking forward to the new content.

Tony

January 05, 2014 4:13 PM  
Blogger Brad Calkins said...

It is rare these days to find sites that value unique and interesting content over clicks - bravo!

January 21, 2014 8:14 PM  
Blogger Pete Ran said...

Dave,

If you don't mind answering, what is the one blog you still consider worth reading? I too feel most of my regular reads have gone down the tubes in the last 6 months or so, and anything that's good is repeated amongst all the blogs. I'm assuming you're referring to a particular online photographer but just want to be sure :) Thanks.

-Pete

February 21, 2014 3:17 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

Can't really reduce it to one blog. I follow a dozen or so. Petapixel is my catch-all blog. It's the only fire-hose blog worth reading anymore, IMO.

But in general, I am looking for quality over frequency.

February 24, 2014 1:37 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Solid post, I haven't checked in for a long while and I would gladly accept quality over quantity.

I have been up and down the blog and G+ trying to find a way to contact you. I recently revisit my Nano 001 stand and wanted to share with you.

http://metrogradegoods.com/pimp-man5001b-stand/

I made some additions that you may find interesting, mostly from a DIY perspective but also from the ever change world of digital video/photo.

Thank you David, you're awesome.

March 30, 2014 8:02 PM  

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