Exploring the toxicity of internet photography forums

Earlier this month, I posted a teaser on several internet photography forums for an upcoming comparison I am working on between the Profoto B10 and Godox AD200 strobes. I left the following post up for a little over 24 hours so I could gauge the overall reaction in what has increasingly become a toxic environment for photography related content creators. How many people participated and engaged in the discussion and how many attacked the comparison and reasoning behind it? I thought it would be fun to spend some time exploring the toxicity of internet photography forums Read on…

The B10 Vs Ad200 Teaser

For my photo tutorial this week I thought I might do something a bit different and ask for your input. There’s been some debate recently about “light is light” and there’s no difference between a Profoto strobe and a Godox strobe other than price (and build quality). I thought it might be fun to put the Profoto B10 (~250 watts) and the Flashpoint eVOLV 200 (~200 watts) which is the same unit as the Godox AD200 head to head since they are both wireless strobes and close to the same power. The image above was taken with the same softbox (Photoflex 2 X 3 foot using inner and outer diffusion) at the same distance and the same height using the same camera. For the shot I used ETTL for both strobes on a Canon 5dMKIV with a 20-200 F2.8 IS II lens, ISO 100 @ F8 in the same indoor lighting conditions.  The question for you is: which image was taken with the more expensive Profoto strobe? The tutorial will be released Tuesday with all the answers and results from the online poll. The images are not post-processed other than copying into a single file for this poll.

Toxic environments?

Without going into specifics, I posted this teaser to a few strobe and lighting groups on Facebook, as well on Reddit, Twitter and a few photography-dedicated sites with well-traveled forums. I created the post with the intent of providing enough information about my proposed experiment for those well versed in all things photography, but remaining accessible to those who are perhaps actually looking at reading an article and discussing a comparison between a David and goliath scenario (for those that are unaware, the Profoto line is expensive and the Godox line are budget-friendly strobes.). I actually own these strobes and I thought a comparison would be interesting.

The proposed comparison

When I came up with the idea for this article, I figured “light is light” just like anyone else and if I was using the same softbox, camera and lens with a strobe that was ~250 watt seconds versus a ~200 watt seconds strobe with my camera set on manual and the strobe triggers set on TTL/ETTL there would be little or no difference in the look of the images, as I figured the triggers and strobes would endeavor to reach proper exposure and that would be the end of it, boy was I wrong. I shot the images in the same room at the same time of day (minutes apart) to minimize environmental variables as much as possible. I knew the light pattern would be different for each strobe, because the Godox has a protruding bare bulb and the Profoto has a recessed and softened bulb. A head for the Godox AD200 has been released which brings the light pattern closer to the Profoto, but I focused this comparison on the stock Godox and Profoto units. Where the differences really came in were what the Profoto and the Godox strobes and triggers considered to be a proper exposure. This test was conducted with the exposure compensation for each of the triggers set to 0, meaning the images taken were what the strobe and triggers think a proper exposure is based on the environmental conditions and subject. I was careful to keep the settings for the camera the same and focus on the same spot when shooting with each trigger. The differences in exposure appear to be the math involved in each unit. Realize that the triggers are not just dumb animals like a PC cable, they are doing a lot more than just sending a signal to trigger the strobe. The triggers fire a pre-flash, then evaluate that using the camera, and adjust the strobe output appropriately. It should also be mentioned here that all the firmware for the strobes and triggers and operating system software for the camera I was using are up to date. There are a lot of other variables that can go into the final image, including the current charge of the battery, how many times the strobe was fired before the image I showed you was taken and a myriad of other things. For this test, I took a few shots with each trigger set to 0 in TTL/ETTL mode and took the average exposure image. I was surprised that the Profoto was noticeably underexposed while the Godox image had about the right amount of light that I would like to see for a starting point. Enough about the technical aspects of this, what we really want to discuss is the social interactions.

Why Godox vs Profoto

A big part of the reasoning behind comparing these two strobes is the rampant fan base for each of the brands. The Godox crowd believe their budget strobes are as good as anything out there and the Profoto owners are like luxury car drivers, they know their cars don’t get them to the store any better than the Honda next to them, but their strobes handle better, never miss a fire and are the “industry standard for fashion photographers”. The Godox owners on the other hand believe they can buy many strobes for the price of one Profoto strobe and any imperfections in the color temperature or consistency in power output are insignificant issues to deal with given they are saving a ton of money on a per strobe basis over Profoto. For clarity’s sake, I own both the strobes and often use the strobe that fits the shooting scenario I am working in at the time. I’m also a Mac and Windows owner and user and don’t have loyalty to a specific operating system. These things are all tools and you need to use the one that will get the job done, depending on the job. I do love to see all the sparring back and forth about brand loyalty, I think it is all very fascinating.

Dedicated photography sites with forms

Without exception, the photography-dedicated sites did the best in terms of creating a worthwhile and informative discussion on the topic and engaging with myself and the others in the thread in a meaningful way. I had few if any questions, because the information I included in my initial post seemed to provide an adequate platform for participants to comment on the experiment.  I wasn’t surprised by this because these sites tend to do a great job of self-weeding of the trolls. The inquiries and comments were generally focused on the concept of posing these two strobes against each other. In general, unsurprisingly, the dedicated photography sites with forums are the best place to have a meaningful conversation about gear and techniques. The users are not out to attack each other and are generally dedicated to sharing their knowledge and engaging in meaningful conversations. The real fun with this social experiment was in the Facebook groups, Reddit and Twitter.

Reddit

The Profoto and Godox fans were in full effect in the Reddit forums, but I found that there was a lot more civility than I had anticipated. In general (and remember the post was only live for a bit over 24 hours) the users that commented did not seem to be as technically savvy as the users on other forums, they asked questions that would lead me to believe they were beginner to intermediate level knowledge in photography. Reddit also had the most participation in terms of stating which photo they felt was taken with the Profoto strobe. Reddit seemed like a good place for people to collaborate and learn about photography.

Twitter

I posted the image with a link back to my blog and had the least amount of discussion and conversation, but a good amount of guessing which photo was taken with which unit. This was not as big a surprise to me either considering the finite amount of characters Twitter allows for conversations. Anything meaningful tends to span multiple tweets or end up in a direct message. The fan base seemed to be fairly well split between Profoto and Godox, so there was also a lot a civil interaction on Twitter. I would put Twitter on the bottom of the list when seeking information about a technique or gear recommendation.

Facebook

I posted the teaser on a few different portrait and flash-centric Facebook groups. The first thing I noticed is that several of the groups I posted to have admin approval on so in these groups the post never made it to the general population. I found this odd, because if I had seen this post I would have been interested in the results. The groups I posted to were the target demographic for this type of review/comparison, and the information I provided should be more than enough to pique the interest of the community, so I’m not sure why they were not approved. Where the post was live was by far the most toxic responses I received. Out of all the groups I posted this to, only one person voted on the photo they thought was made with Profoto, the rest of the comments ranged from “light is light” to “this is useless” “I could do better” “you don’t understand what you are doing” and everywhere in between. Facebook users also spent more time attacking the validity of the post and going on about how much better Profoto was over Godox (and why would you bother with those when you can use Paul C Buff).

Without exception, the comments/attacks on the Facebook post appeared to come from participants who had not read the entire (or more than the headline) post. The majority of the commenters seemed to take the time to write a scathing rebuke of the premise of the experiment without reading more than the first and second sentences. Perhaps the information was too dense for the common Facebook reader. The comments posed by most of them led me to believe that the Facebook community generally didn’t have experience enough to comment cohesively Many of the comments were I only shoot in manual mode, which I was on the camera but not the flash. Rather than participating in a discussion, many of the Facebook commenters preferred to attack others for their lack of knowledge.

What I learned

I have pretty thick skin when it comes to comments and criticism about my content, whether photographic or written. With very little effort I found that the loudest critics of my work (and others) don’t spend a lot of time creating new work. The internet can be a toxic place, and I thought this would be an interesting experiment to conduct. I learned that if you are a new photographer you best place is to find a good photo-centric site like photo.com or slrlounge.com where the community is civil and strives to help others with their knowledge. I would recommend staying clear of Facebook for good advice. Perhaps the fact that people look at Facebook when they are at work and angry leads to more negativity and gate than on other platforms? Sadly, I would group Reddit, Twitter and Instagram in the least helpful of all the platforms especially in terms of helping others, looking for help or creating review content.

I found the idea of censorship on the Facebook platform the most interesting. This makes me wonder how many genuine questions are not getting posted to these groups. This means to me that the admins are effectively vetting the content and questions posted based on their interests. Not a big deal, I just found it interesting and a part of this topic that I had not previously considered.

What do you think? Have you had good or bad experiences on these platforms?  I’d love to hear from you, feel free to contact me on my social media links below.

Hey! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to contact me via my social media sites I would love to hear your thoughts on this or any of my other articles! Until then, get out and get shooting! 

My Photography site: http://www.tahquechi.com/

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