After struggling to get his work published in print, software developer and photography enthusiast Lance Ramoth set up a little spot on the Internet where he and a few photographer friends could easily post their fine art images. Through the site, Ramoth reckoned, they could encourage one another, vote for their “community favorites” to be featured on the home page and enjoy some great talent that might otherwise go unnoticed.
He dubbed the site fotoblur.com, and before long, with word of mouth and the magic of the Internet, itself, his small group in early 2007 blossomed into an international community of 2,500 members today and counting.
“I was surprised by how well it worked,” Ramoth says. “The images that the community selected as their favorites were among some of the best photographs I had seen. Launching our own magazine just seemed like the next step given that we had a pool of great photographers who would provide the content.”
And photographers who appreciate the reproduction quality of print. “It’s just dramatically better than what you see online,” Ramoth says. “Plus, Web sites come and go, but magazines can last decades. And for those of us chronically attached to our computers, it’s nice to be able to enjoy a magazine anywhere besides on our screens.”
Ramoth’s instincts were spot on. The first issue of Fotoblur Magazine drew 600 submissions from the fotoblur.com community. Issue 2 brought in 800. By the time Issue 3 (the most recent issue) came around, Ramoth was overwhelmed with 1,400 images.
Just as the fotoblur.com community votes for favorite images to be featured on the site’s home page, members also vote on which images should appear in the magazine. Ramoth and a small group of editors review the top 10 percent of the vote-getters, selecting 40 or so black-and-white and color images per issue that represent a diverse cross-section of subjects and a range of photographers, themselves.
Ramoth then designs the issues, usually devoting a full page to each image with very limited text and no advertising.
“There are already a lot of photo magazines out there with articles and ads,” he says. “But our philosophy is all about the image and the celebration of it. Each image contains a story in itself and requires a full page for it to be fully processed and appreciated by the viewer.”
The decision to bypass advertising meant, of course, that Ramoth needed a way to print the magazine without incurring any expenses. He heard about MagCloud from a colleague and decided to give it a try.
“I’ll admit that I was skeptical about the print quality,” he says. “But when I held the first issue in my hand, I was simply blown away — it truly exceeded my expectations. The color of the images was spot on. There was little to no color cast on the black-and-white images, which was one of my major concerns. I just remember thinking, I really did it!”
Since Ramoth runs fotoblur.com and manages the magazine almost singlehandedly, he appreciates that MagCloud handles all the printing, shipping and order processing details. He looked into working with a few newsstand magazine distributors, but found that the upfront costs and the need for advertising to support the distribution would have threatened his creative vision. “MagCloud allows me the freedom to concentrate on the results I desire creatively,” he says.
As each issue is published, Ramoth spreads the word via fotoblur.com, as well as through Twitter (@fotoblur) and digital publication sharing services like Issuu (issuu.com) and Scribd (scribd.com) and various file sharing services. Contributors to the issues also help publicize the magazine’s availability.
Ramoth makes the issues free to download and view online and supplies links to MagCloud for those who’d like to purchase the print version, $15.40.
Ramoth hasn’t given up on his hope to turn Fotoblur into a newsstand magazine if he can attract enough purchasers. He’s also considering combining all four of this year’s issues into a hardcover book.
His advice for other potential magazine publishers? Purchase a good software package, create the content and do it. “When I told people that I wanted to start a photography magazine, they thought I was crazy,” Ramoth says. “But I just didn’t listen — I just did it anyway.
“Be creative, publish, then promote,” he adds. “It’s an amazing experience in itself, and you’ll feel something special when you turn that idea in to something tangible.”
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