The best CNET photography of 2019 – CNET

As we peer over the edge at the pool of radioactive water, our dosimeters let out a warning squeal. If we stand too close for too long, we’ll get a dangerously high dose. CNET Executive Editor Roger Cheng and I are six stories up on top of a reactor that’s still melting down. It’s our second full day exploring inside the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and it’s a wild place to be.

And there are photos that need to be taken.

CNET relies on bold visual imagery, along with stellar writing, to tell the stories of technology and innovation. Here, we’re showcasing some of the finest photography work by CNET staff in 2019.

The rules to great photography are simple. Research, learn and understand your subject before you go. Distill and then simplify; listen, then learn; and pare it down to express the emotional rhythms of the people, places and things you’re reporting on. 

Repetition breeds skill, leading to stories that pull you in. What can I learn from this person? This situation? Often that experience, familiarity and preparation come together in a single image, a photograph that becomes a symbol. 

This is our simple intention. 

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US Border Patrol agents ride on horseback along the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas.


James Martin/CNET

Strong environmental portraits are a signature of CNET. Dara Kerr’s weeks-long traversing of the Texas-Mexico border took a closer look at tech being used as a political tool.

You can find these stories and more as we look back through some of our favorite photography of people, products and places CNET visited and explored in 2019.

Chris Wylie, whose revelations led to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Chris Wylie, a data consultant, blew the whistle in the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica affair, which revealed that data on nearly 70 million Facebook users was co-opted for political marketing purposes. Now he knows what it’s like to go from relative obscurity to the face of a controversy that involved divisive events including Brexit and the 2016 US presidential elections. 

The Oculus Quest headset photographed in CNET’s New York studios.


Sarah Tew/CNET

For now, and for the foreseeable future, virtual reality relies on people wearing headsets, and one of the best known pieces of VR gear is the Oculus Quest. With its passthrough camera, fantastic controls and full positional tracking, Scott Stein says, “there’s no better mobile VR experience than the Oculus Quest, and its full-motion untethered design feels like the future.” This image captures that bold reality.

HP Reverb VR headset: An in-camera double exposure illustrates virtual worlds.


James Martin/CNET

This image of the HP Reverb virtual reality headset won an award for CNET in the 2019 Communication Arts Photography Awards. The Reverb is a case of companies targeting their VR headsets at businesses, not just consumers, more in 2019 than they were a few years ago. This image conveys both the real and the virtual experience, always a challenge to present visually.

A portrait of Microsoft’s Alex Kipman wearing the HoloLens 2 headset.


James Martin/CNET

Microsoft initially pitched its HoloLens mixed-reality headset as a way to get work done and play games like its world-building phenom Minecraft. Now it’s saying the HoloLens is an easy way to transport employees anywhere in the world. Or a way for a worker to do something complex without having to learn the process beforehand, by having virtual information overlaid on the real world.  

We sat down this year with Microsoft’s Alex Kipman at the company’s headquarters. He described HoloLens as giving people superpowers. “This is a concept that’s been in our dreams,” he says.

Samsung Galaxy Fold photographed in CNET’s San Francisco studios.


Angela Lang/CNET

Media overload? This photograph illustraties the proliferation of the subscription services.


Sarah Tew/CNET

A colorful and mysterious image of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus crafted in our San Francisco studio.


Angela Lang/CNET

Some of the most creative photography at CNET is born from our reviews. We see hundreds of products pass through our studios each week, and being able to control the lighting and pay attention to the details, or even offer a more conceptual portrayal, leads to some of our favorites.

This photo of the Fitbit Versa Lite and Fitbit Inspire, photographed in the CNET New York studios, is all about dreamy hues.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Light from above accents the lines and forms inside Apple’s Steve Jobs Theater.


James Martin/CNET

In a space typically seen during the bustle and buzz of an iPhone launch event, we captured a much quieter moment alone below ground inside Apple’s Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California. This image won CNET a first place Graphis Gold Photography Award, in the Architectural category.

Rob Jones’ legs were amputated after an attack in Afghanistan in 2010. Now his home is giving him an assist to live more independently.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Ride-hailing drivers organize a demonstration outside of Uber headquarters in San Francisco.


James Martin/CNET

Uber faced challenges this year from all sides. While riders endured safety issues, drivers became more organized in and protested around the world, and regulators in London refused to renew Uber’s operating permit. This image captures drivers’ frustration and anger at ride-hailing services.

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook is doubling down on privacy. 


James Martin/CNET

Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote at Facebook’s F8 conference is his biggest speech of the year, akin to a State of the Union for the social network. This year’s conference came during the most tumultuous period in Facebook’s history. The social network was still reeling from its role in helping to spread disinformation in the 2016 US presidential election, as well as efforts by state actors to sway subsequent elections. Facebook has also taken flak for what critics have called a cavalier approach to user data. 

This image of Zuckerberg on stage proclaiming “The future is private” was a bombshell for a figure who once touted the goal of making the world “more open and connected.” Zuckerberg said this year that Facebook would refocus the entire company on privacy, saying the infrastructure of Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger would be more technically integrated and would prioritize end-to-end encryption and other privacy features.

Can photos from the new iPhone actually challenge those taken with a professional DSLR? Andrew Hoyle took the iPhone 11 Pro on a road trip through the Scottish Highlands to find out.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The iPhone 11 Pro, with its triple rear cameras, night mode and new selfie camera, was surely meant to be Apple’s counterpunch to Android’s three camera kings, the Huawei P30 Pro, Google Pixel 3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10. But the newest iPhone also has to show existing iPhone owners that there’s a step up in terms of camera features (such as Deep Fusion) and photo and video improvements over last year’s iPhone XS.

As part of a road trip through Scotland, CNET photographer Andrew Hoyle shot this painterly landscape at the Kylesku bridge. Photographed with the iPhone 11 Pro from the top of a cliff face, this image used the panorama mode to capture a wide scene and zoomed in using the telephoto lens. The photo was shot in RAW, allowing a broader scope of information with which to edit the image afterwards. 

This image of an iPhone, a pencil and crayons coated in chalkboard paint won a Graphis award for conceptual still life imagery. 


James Martin/CNET

Taking a ride on Swagskate, photographed for a last-mile transportation feature.


Sarah Tew/CNET

From the new movie 1917: Actors Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay with screenplay writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns, director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins, photographed in the CNET studios in San Francisco.


James Martin/CNET

Crisp, bold product photography of the Huawei Watch GT, done in our Sydney studios.


Ian Knighton/CNET

This is Doug Bowser, Nintendo of America’s president and chief operating officer, photographed at E3.


James Martin/CNET

A Kentucky Derby hopeful, photographed for a story about the first-class treatment aboard horse-shipping airline Air Horse One.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A US Border Patrol agent moves through the brush along the Texas-Mexico border by the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas.


James Martin/CNET

As part of a FolioMag award-winning feature, Dara Kerr traveled hundreds of miles along the Texas-Mexico border, looking at President Donald Trump’s push for a physical wall as the main line of defense and how locals feel about that. Here, a US Border Patrol agent wades through thick brush near the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas.

This award-winning image shows a worker examining tanks that partially treated water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.


James Martin/CNET

The immersive experience of video games, photographed as part of CNET’s E3 2019 coverage.


James Martin/CNET

Workers among the maze of valves and pipes inside the water purification facility at Fukushima Daiichi. This is a Neutral Density journalism award-winning image. 


James Martin/CNET

A migrant traveling as part of a caravan is photographed through the fence of a detention center in Piedras Negras, Mexico.


James Martin/CNET

Cristina Mittermeier, photographed amid piles of coastal plastic debris, has dedicated her life to protecting oceans and documenting climate change in far-flung places, from Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands to French Polynesia.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Google’s quantum computing technology took a leap forward in 2019 with new power and speed, along with grand promises for the future. 


Stephen Shankland/CNET

Apple CEO Tim Cook and design boss Jony Ive, photographed at WWDC 2019 at the launch of the new Mac Pro.


James Martin/CNET

Wildlife biologist Stephanie Martin installs tree-mounted microphones that listen for the call of the marbled murrelet, photographed for our story “Redwoods, birds and microphones: The quest to save an endangered species.”


James Martin/CNET

A photograph at sunset on San Francisco Bay taken with the iPhone 11 Pro in the days before the phone’s release.


James Martin/CNET

Silicon Valley marijuana tech startups are looking to cash in with merchandise including app-enabled smart vaporizers like the Pax, DaVinci and Firefly.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Samsung Galaxy Fold, photographed for the review of the innovative product.


Sarah Tew/CNET

A retro toaster oven photographed in the CNET smart home headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A fleet of mice, photographed for a story on the best cheap gaming mice to buy now, including Razer, Logitech and HyperX.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The hinge on the $1,500 Motorola Razr helps make the Razr the best-designed foldable phone to date and a reflection of the classic flip phone.


James Martin/CNET

In the end, the images, the gear and our work are all about people. This image of CNET staff at work with technology — doing what we do best — was shot at CNET’s Smart Home Loft in San Francisco.


James Martin/CNET

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