Exposure offers gorgeous story telling without much … exposure

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I’ve been sitting here for 15 minutes staring at a blank screen. I just took Exposure — an elegant new photo-sharing platform — out for a test spin and I’m at a loss on how best to describe it.

Sure, it’s a site that allows you to display a set of photos in story form but where exactly does it fit in this already-crowded world of photo sharing?

[Click the screen shot at the top of the page to see my photos on Exposure]

In some respects, it’s one part blogging site, like Tumblr, and another part artsy photo gallery, like 500 px. But while both of those sites are heavy into community building, with an emphasis on likes, follows and comments, Exposure really makes you work to find other users. There’s no place to leave comments. There doesn’t appear to be a way to follow other users. There’s not a “like” button anywhere in sight. There are Twitter and Facebook share functions, but that’s about as sociable as Exposure gets.

Better Doesn’t Mean Bigger

I can only assume that’s by design, which shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that Elepath, the San Francisco company that created Exposure, was founded by Jake Lodwick, who started Vimeo. To get an idea of what Lodwick is like, read this Pando Daily post by his cousin, Bryan Goldberg. Goldberg, one of the founders of Bleacher Report, says the key to Lodwick’s success is not that he tries to create things that millions of people like but that he creates things that he likes.

So, it’s telling that Exposure’s creators come from an ethos where quality trumps quantity. From The Verge:

Exposure designer Luke Beard is convinced that people want a better place to show off their photos that isn’t a blogging site and isn’t a full-fledged photo-site builder like Smugmug. “People have been conditioned from previous generations of photo sharing services like Flickr and Instagram to live this ‘permalink life’ — creating single artifacts — so people never got to thinking they could tell more with photos that they’re taking,” he says.

Beautifully Designed, Easy to Use

Speaking of which, from a design standpoint, Exposure is  beautiful. It has a  crisp, clean and responsive design that allows you to create your own magazine layout in a few easy steps. Setting up and publishing your first post is almost as simple as clicking and dragging a few photos into an upload box.

I threw a bunch of photos from my trip earlier this year to Canyonlands National Park into my first post. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the text, but if I had, I could have created more of a story like Keith Barney did for this Fifth of November event.

If you’ve got a story to tell, Exposure will help you do it in a way that puts your photos front and center. There’s a lot to like about it.

But will I create a second post? At this point, probably not. One day, Exposure might be the perfect platform for travel photographers but not just yet.

Is It Worth $9 a Month?

Exposure allows you to create three posts for free but after that, you have to subscribe at a cost of $9 a month or $99 for a year. That runs counter to the typical online model of first trying to create a massive base of free accounts and then adding premium subscription features. Here’s Exposure’s philosophy from their FAQ:

We think far too many services focus on getting lots of users first, with little or no consideration to how they’ll keep everything running. Exposure is something we’ve wanted for such a long time, and we intend for it to be around for many, many years. We also want to make sure that we’re always able to focus on building the best tool possible for creating photo narratives, instead of figuring out how to keep the lights on. We simply wouldn’t want to use a service that could disappear tomorrow (or worse, shoves ads in your face, or disrespects your content.)

For me, the money isn’t the issue, though the annual fee seems a tad high. For $60 a year, I can get a “power” account on SmugMug that — with its customization and branding options — essentially allows me to create an Exposure-like presence with the added benefit of having private directories to store and organize my photos.

Instead, Exposure gives me a beautiful platform but puts me on an island, with limited ways to connect to a wider community of users or the ability to integrate my Exposure experience with my blog, for instance.

That might be fine for the artist who creates art for art’s sake (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but it doesn’t resonate with those of us who use social platforms to get wider exposure for our work.

I think it’s probably too early to pass judgement on Exposure’s viability. There will be changes, improvements and refinements for the product, which is barely out of Beta.

For now, I think I’ll wait to see how it develops and what kind of changes Exposure makes to meet the demand of its users.


Joe Newman

I'm Joe Newman, multi-media story teller, non-profit do-gooder, international street photographer, serious poker player, intrepid traveler. Bourbon drinker.

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