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Kingston's class with the photo icons

Kingston's Icons of Photography site offers monthly features, providing insight and info from four professionals.

Kingston's low-key but interesting Icons of Photography site uses a monthly magazine format to make the most of a relatively shallow content pool. Over the past year and a half, it's parlayed the four pros--Harry Benson, Colin Finlay, Gerd Ludwig, and Peter Read Miller--into 11 issues by doling out bite-sized chunks of editorial.

Accompanying each piece you'll find a handful of photos, representative of the work of the pro or the amateur supplicant. Calling them galleries would be a gross overstatement: they're five-photo, completely text-free slide shows. If the idea were to present the photos in an elegant manner, that would be one thing. But the huge, distracting Kingston logo banner and ad ruin any chance of that. So a label with the name of the photographer, and perhaps some EXIF data, might be nice.

Bright red banners remind you that you're on a manufacturer's Web site.

There are four basic types of stories, all targeted toward the interested amateur. The feature "20 Questions" presents brief interviews with pros, that makes an interesting two-minute read for the uninitiated. It's a bit frustrating, though. For instance, when Harry Benson discusses his famous image of the Beatles' pillow fight, a link to or inclusion of the photo would have been really nice.

20 Questions is an interesting feature, but a little external linkage would provide more texture and contrast to the content.

For "Critique My Image," you can upload up to five photos and select which of the pros you want as your critic. The ability to select is nice, since each has a different style of critiquing. I found all the responses worth reading. However, Kingston's terms of use for image critiques requires that your images have been captured to a Kingston card. That's silly, even for a marketing site. It's also impossible to know to what brand or type of media on which a photo was saved.

"Ask the Icon" gives readers a chance to submit their own questions. I don't know how many queries Kingston gets for critiques, but rather than rolling them out to the reader on a regular basis, they seem to be aggregated to create a given month's feature.

The third type of story is a traditional tips-and-tricks piece, "Techniques of the Icons." Though there's the occasional mention of a Kingston product--and of course the mandatory ad and brand banner--the site thankfully keeps the marketing aspects under control.

The issue archive is the only way to navigate the site; you can't find past critiques or question-and-answer sessions without clicking through every issue.
The upcoming event calendars also suffer from a lack of links, and since the entire site's in Flash, you can't swipe, copy and paste to search for more info on them.

There's just enough on the Kingston Icons of Photography site to merit a return trip for a few minutes each month. Ironically, though, Kingston provides no notifier service to tell you when the new issue has posted; you'd think the company would take the opportunity to harvest e-mail addresses for promotional purposes. That, plus better navigation, would improve the site experience quite a bit.