Listening in on Sharky

By Tom Sheeter

In 20-30 minutes, you could burn 200 or so calories, enjoy about 200 calories of pinot noir, or do either while getting up to speed on industry gossip, tech trends, and the burning questions faced by working photographers. Since 2015, the popular PetaPixel.com site has produced a twice-weekly podcast that covers all things photographic, with a balance of news, education, and celebration of photography.

If you are not one of the 6 million monthly visitors to PetaPixel.com, here is a snapshot: In the eight years since the site launched, PetaPixel has become an influential voice in professional photography. Social media stats top 952K Twitter followers and 486K Facebook followers.

Mike “Sharky” James, who lives, breathes, and incessantly talks photography, hosts PetaPixel podcasts. James is a former photojournalist in his mid-40s who left his newspaper gig four years ago. He previously hosted the LensShark Photography podcast, which focused on DSLR, mirrorless, lenses, photo software, tips, tricks, camera technology, and drones.

Earlier this year, he joined Brian Matiash as co-host of No Name Photo Show.com, which they describe as chats between “two photographers with good intentions and a lot to say.” James is also a regular contributor to This Week in Photo.

PetaPixel podcasts are photography-centric but eclectic. In more than 200 shows, James has focused on subjects ranging from industry trends to equipment reviews to competitions to the realities of the business. Content is agnostic but opinionated, sometimes praising and sometimes challenging the major players. Adobe, Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, and Yashica have all scored hits and misses.

To give you some idea of the breadth of the conversation, here is a sampling of podcast topics:

  • Opinions on the Nikon D850 and Canon 6D Mark II
  • Reading the tea leaves of industry mergers and acquisitions
  • Online scams via Amazon and Instagram and real-life risks victimizing photographers
  • How AI is changing the industry
  • Problems with watermarking
  • Sony quality control issues
  • What you need to know about 500px
  • Subscription gear rental.

If it is namechecks you seek, you will not be disappointed. Steve McCurry, Mike Boening, Athena Carey, Jeremy Cowart, Matt Granger, Tony Northrup, Zack Arias, Sal Cincotta, and Richard Prince have all been the center of the conversation. (Some of them may wish they were not.) Guests have included ambassadors from Panasonic LUMIX, LexarMemory, Olympus, Sony, and other leading brands.

James is a likeable tech geek who can make a 10-minute ode to the many uses of gaffer tape engaging and oddly inspiring. It is clear that he retains enough love for the work to sidestep the slide into cynicism and snark that is so prevalent in podcasts. He sees himself as a photography educator, not an entertainer. He can also be a hardnosed critic who holds manufacturers to a high standard and is unafraid to challenge them when the over promise, under deliver, or both.

A few biases crop up. James regularly expresses dissatisfaction with Nikon and Adobe, describes himself as a mirrorless fan (but he still would not use it for a major assignment), and frets about the impact of citizen-journalists on the profession. He has called out photojournalist Steve McCurry for allowing digital manipulation of his news shots. (Given his background as a photojournalist, he admits he is particularly hard on his former peers.) A drone enthusiast, he also criticizes hobbyists with “more money than sense” who create safety hazards and spark negative public opinion about drones.

For the full “Sharky” experience, hear (and speak) for yourself … Subscribe to the PetaPixel podcast via iTunes, Android, RSS, or Spotify (search for “PetaPixel” on mobile). The website features a widget that enables you to send a message to the show or pose a question.

Listeners can sometimes cash in on special promotions, bundles, and discounts on gear. (If you are disappointed in it? Well, you know who to contact to get the word out.)

PetaPixel Photography Podcast

Tom Sheeter is a Los Angeles based writer and Sr. Account Manager at Superstock. He specializes in film and tv licensing and clearance issues.
(tomsheeter@bellsouth.net)

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