#555. A Force for Positive Change

#555. A Force for Positive Change

This is one of those posts where we look back at what a long and crazy road it’s been since post #1 and pat ourselves on the back reliving memories of millions of views, distant trips, exotic reviews and great comments.

Or is it ?


We tried to find a special significance for this post, putting the full might of Google search to task. Results were strangely few, strangely for such an auspicious set of digits, that is.

555 is how all fake phone numbers begin in American films.

555 is (apparently) a number that has become as legendary in sports as 10 (shirt number of football / soccer superstars Pele, Zidane, Beckham, …) and 23 (Michael Jordan) for being the number of straight wins by squash hero Jahangir Khan.

555 is a deficient number (ie, an integer strictly greater than the sum of its strict divisors).

In terms of photography, it’s tough to think of anything relevant : 5 blades is a recipe for fugly bokeh highlights, so does that make 555 3 times worse?  It’s also the price most of us would like to pay our next camera, knowing full well we’ll have to apply a (very) strict multiplier.

Thankfully, religion has come to the rescue, indicating that 555 denotes an Angel that represents a force for positive change. I like that one best.


Positive. Force. For change. Let’s build on that 🙂



Let’s start with force. It’s no secret to anyone in the industry that many photographic blogs are on their way out. Traffic has dwindled through the combined impacts of Google SEO idiocy, saturation of the marketplace and displacement of the main center of interest of the public towards smartphones and video.

DearSusan hasn’t been hit as hard as others, but is far from immune. Back in the ol’ days when we reviewed more gear (particularly more affordable gear) we’d get up to 15 000 visits in a day. Today, we’re nowhere near that. And that’s a good thing because (a) we don’t monetize our traffic and the blog’s running costs were starting to make gear look cheap. (b) engagement is high, we still get as many comments. Basically, we’re focusing on what we enjoy and readership has just filtered itself accordingly.

Which means, we’re a community. Which was the goal from day one.

And that’s where force comes into play. A closely knit community is far stronger than a list of readers. Over the coming months, we‘ll do our best to get that community to become more vocal, more active. Guest posts are a nice start. We want more, much more, if you’re willing to give it.


Desoto, Hackberry AZ

(c) Paul Perton


Change. I work in marketing, and have a close affinity with online training. In both activities, you don’t sell a process, you sell a transformation. And that’s the dream for DS. The blog is named after Susan Sontag, a writer whose essay “On Photography” has been more transformative for me than any other source of information before or since. And its goal is to break moulds to open up new ways of thinking and looking at things.

So I’ll be writing less about my opinion (very biased 😜) and more about the craft. This has started already, in the form of some discussions about composition. More will follow. And other topics too (colour theory, monochrome psychology, processing …) We’ll be picking up the interviews from where we left them. It’s a long and complex process but very worth it. And I’d love all you guys and gals reading to volunteer know-how of your own (like Brian Patterson’s article on adapting enlarger lenses). Don’t be shy, it’s fun. Don’t be selfish, it makes you miserable. Sharing and helping are vastly underestimated paths to true happiness.

We’ll also curate a lot more stuff from around the web.



Positive. Not being psychopaths, we’re not going to try to make your lives miserable, obviously.  So it probably goes without saying the transformation we’re looking for is for the better.

But that’s only half the story. If that.

We don’t pretend to be the sort of experts who can change lives through the power of our writing and photography. We’ll share what we know. But the real transformation can only come the crowd. If you stay on the other side of the screen nothing will happen. And I’m fine with that. I’ll continue to write what amuses me, so will Paul. And that’s a very acceptable status quo. But only a very weak one compared to what we could do if you started sharing your little tricks and dirty secrets.


San Quirico, Belvedere Sunrise -Olympus OM-D (c) Steve Mallet


Think about it. I’m sure, deep down inside you, you know you’re better than most people at something very specific. Maybe you’ve never thought of it that way. Maybe you’ve acknowledged it but never wanted to push that further. Maybe you’d love to but don’t know how. Teach ! That’s the very best way of forcing yourself to think a process through and get ever better at it. And those most people who don’t do it as well? They’d love to hear from you …

So, what’s your secret? Are you great at stacking photographs? Are you great at calibrating a screen? Are you great at finding exotic reptiles that no one else notices? Are you an expert at adapting legacy lenses? At machining adapters? At selecting tripods? At shooting into the sunlight? At post-processing skin? At matching frames to prints? At curating photographs? At finding interesting exhibitions? At designing productivity tips for photographers? At building UV lamps for platinum printing? At reviewing books? At archival processes? At data storage and recovery? At cyber-security? At psychology of art? At visual semiotics? At infrared? At finding great spots from Google Earth? At fixing old cameras? At approaching wildlife? At astrophotography? At panoramas? At the Orton effect? At model makeup? At smart sharpening? At finding visual commonalities in different subjects? At teaching kids the basics? At comforting sufferers of GAS remorse? At focusing fast? At selling prints online? At using intelligent apps for photographers? At sourcing old film? At creating a mesmerizing slideshow? At removing casts? At cleaning sensors? …


Take the plunge


Let me tell you a story. My young (2014) consultant business never was more active than in 2016. I don’t even have a website (yeah, a marketing strategy consultant without a website, in this day and age). My contracts mostly came to me through connections made on this photography blog!!! Case in point, I met co-author Philippe via the blog, we fast became good buddies and we now work together on multiple projects. Paul and I met via the blog. And I’m pretty sure, had he the good taste of not living in a distant paradise, we’d be working together too.

This is not to say you’ll publish and grow rich. Our Insight Guides initiative never made in sales as much as it cost in eCommerce tech, for instance 😉 But all manner of good things happen to people who share. The rewards are not always financial but they are always there. It’s very fulfilling.


(c) Philippe


So there you are. That’s what we’re offering. Make your life better by sharing with others and making their lives better. Start now. Tomorrow won’t be a better day for it. Or the day after. Do not seek perfection. Start small. Share a tip. Or just a photograph you love and want others to see and comment upon.

Why not a forum? Because forums encourage short form. Writing a post, even a short 300 word one makes your work orders of magnitude better for you and for others. Forum relationships are fun but shallow. A forum is entertaining but offers weaker ties than a true community.

So, just like Nike told us for shoes and Paul told me for my Macbook: just do it! And let’s build a photographic force for positive change together. Interested? Just leave a comment or write privately via the contact form at top right. We’re all looking forward to it and so are you 🙂

How will that work? Initially, we usually publish guest posts and interviews ourselves. But, if you’re interested in sticking to it, you get an author account and just publish your own article with a few minor guidelines. Every article you write can contain links to your own website/gallery to drive traffic if you want. I don’t own the blog, I merely pay the bills. The door is open. Just walk inside and settle in.


A frozen puddle makes patterns like a first and a foot. Zeiss Distagon 35/1.4 ZM and Sony A7r


And, even if you don’t feel like contributing yet, will you let me know your thoughts about the idea and about what topics you want us to cover in the future? More gear? Less gear? More locations? More composition? More post processing? More theory? More practical? More jokes (A horse walks into a bar. The barman asks “why the ling face?”) ? More rants (we hold world records at those)? More analysis? More art critique? … Tell us, I’m begging you 😉


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