Homage to Catalonia

October 3rd, 2017
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Like most decent companies, fotoLibra is apolitical, so we’re not making a political point here. We’re just saying that history repeats itself, or as George Santayana wrote ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

I have a book published in the 1960s titled ‘Queen Victoria’s Little Wars’ which clearly demonstrated the futility of going to war in Afghanistan. We never learned.

Now fotoLibra contributor David Carton has pointed out this image of Tragic Week on fotoLibra:

FOT1482477

This is a Punch cartoon congratulating King Alfonso XIII of Spain for brutally putting down a Catalan revolt in 1909.

This week representatives of King Felipe VI of Spain brutally put down a Catalan plebiscite in 2017.

Tragic Week was the name used for a series of violent confrontations between the Spanish army and Catalonian radicals during the last week of July, 1909. Civil guards and police shot at demonstrators in Las Ramblas, resulting in the proclamation of martial law. The Spanish government sent in the army. Barcelonan troops refused to shoot their fellow citizens and so troops were brought in from outside; they put down the revolt after killing dozens of people. General European condemnation was immediate, unlike in 2017.

We never learn.

But we have learned that however tragic the news, there’s probably something in the fotoLibra archive that referenced it years ago.

SSL Certificates

September 14th, 2017
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Firstly, many apologies for the lack of fotoLibra service over the past few days. The good news is that everything is now back up and running as it should be.

The problem was with our SSL Certificate. An SSL Certificate is a cryptographic protocol that provides security over a computer network. Websites use SSLs to secure communications between their servers and web browsers. Without a valid SSL Certificate you wouldn’t be able to access a website — unless you ignored a string of increasingly dire warnings.

We have automatically renewed our SSL Certificate every two years for the past fourteen years. This year we paid for the renewal on August 25th. Unfortunately our service provider 123-Reg changed their certifying authority from Globalsign to an American company, without notifying us. An email from this unknown new company, Starfield Technologies, demanding sensitive corporate data, went straight into trash.

When we eventually checked with our service provider we were told the email wasn’t spam, it was actually from a legitimate company, despite its very iffy write-up in Wikipedia. In order to verify our SSL Certificate Starfield demanded from us a letter of attestation signed by a lawyer, and an invoice from an outside supplier verifying our telephone number.

How many invoices do you get with YOUR telephone number printed on them? Right — just one, if any; from your phone supplier; BT in our case.

The American company rejected the bill from BT because they had made it out to VisCon Pro Ltd, not to fotoLibra’s holding company VisConPro Ltd. An errant space was sufficient for disqualification.

They rejected our letter of attestation because it was signed by a solicitor, not a lawyer. Americans, eh?

They were not at all interested in the fact that all our corporate data is freely available from Companies House, presumably because Companies House is not yet totally under American control.

Because these verification letters did not meet their demands, this foreign company had the ability to pull the plug on our certification. And so they did. Despite their failure to comprehend our valid credentials, they ensured we were unable to trade for five days.

Do we get recompense? Maybe, if we had phalanxes of highly trained American lawyers. But we don’t.

So once again, please accept our apologies for this downtime. I hope it won’t happen again.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

The estimable Photo Archive News tells us that Hong Kong has realised what other goodly states and countries have been ignoring over the past few years — that photographs actually have a value.

The last twenty years has been the most disruptive period in the image business since the invention of photography. The total transition from film to digital has been virtually completed, the consolidation of almost all picture libraries and stock agencies (except for fotoLibra) has taken place under the Getty hegemony, and prices for images have plummeted, benefitting only publishers — certainly not photographers, illustrators or consumers. Sales of illustrated books — an entire industry — have collapsed.

Now the Hong Kong Government has opened up its archives and decided to charge for its pictures. Is this the carrot at the end of the tunnel? Could we be seeing a reassessment of the value of images? Will people now begin to realise that pictures aren’t free by default?

They write: ‘The Hong Kong Photo Library‘s oldest record can be traced back as early as the mid-1800s. Apart from providing an official photographic record of Hong Kong’s progress and development, the Library includes a treasure trove of photos showing the many and varied facets of life in Hong Kong including our natural beauty, culture, sports and architecture.’

Members of the public can browse their website and view photo records. Hi-res digital photos can be bought for personal or educational use. A handling fee of HK$61 (£6) per photo applies. Photos purchased for commercial use are subject to an additional copyright/commercial use fee of HK$1,000 (£100) per photo.

It’s not a lot. But it’s a start.

Good for Hong Kong. As it says on the lid of my computer: “Pictures can be cheap. The right image is PRICELESS.”

BOO-HOO

July 4th, 2017
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

I don’t want you to think I’ve got a fixation about this, but I believe that photographers are undervalued and underpaid.

And who’s to blame for this? Why, photographers of course.

Once upon a time every branch of every bank had a bank manager. He (always he) would look after your money, let you take some of it out, and very occasionally, after terrifying scrutiny, he may have allowed you a loan.

And once upon a time photographers would sign up with picture libraries, who would license their pictures to publishers and advertisers etcetera and pay them half the net sales receipts.

Then some clever clogs in banking introduced the concept of Products. No longer content with banking your money, they now wanted to sell you Insurance and ISAs and Credit Cards and Loans and Investments and Mortgages and PPI and God knows what else. At the moment my bank offers six different current accounts. And the bank manager is no more.

The same thinking infected the Picture Library business. Instead of simply managing photographer’s image rights, they introduced Royalty Free images and Fixed Prices irrespective of usage and Microstock and Subscription Packages and Credits until the poor photographer no longer knew which way was f22.

The microstock concept was irresistible. Pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap. They sold in their millions — who wouldn’t buy a picture for a dollar, even if you had to spend ten dollars and buy nine pictures you didn’t need to get there? Photographers flocked to upload their images, with sales coming every month instead of once or twice a year. No worry that the sales were in cents and pence rather than dollars and pounds — someone out there liked my picture!

Now that happiness has been tempered. It’s great to make a sale, and it’s fantastic that your photograph has been seen by 40,000 people. Or 400,000. Or 4 million.

But when your photograph has been seen by 400 million people and you’re looking at a cheque for a measly £18 you might feel a little short-changed. But that’s what you signed up for. Brexit means Brexit. Royalty-free means Royalty-free. Microstock means micro-earnings — for the photographer.

The pleasure of seeing your work published palls after you realise everyone else involved is staggering to the bank under the weight of sackfuls of cash.

This has come about because a number of excellent photographers have been shocked to find the beautiful images which they uploaded to microstock sites, full well knowing the prices that would be charged, were actually sold to professional picture buyers. I wonder what they expected?

What they expected was a few pence per image and lots of sales. What they got was something like £18 per picture, and exposure to 400 million people who are using Windows 10. But no picture credit.

Yes, the canny purchaser was Microsoft. If there are photographers out there prepared to offer their work for peanuts, then pay them peanuts. No matter that Microsoft turned over $85,320 MILLION last year. Why pay more if it’s being offered so cheaply?

I can’t say that had Microsoft come browsing around fotoLibra we’d have made millions for our contributors. I can safely say we would have charged much, much more and I believe Microsoft would have been happy to pay it. We’ve sold half-a-dozen images to Microsoft’s excellent search engine Bing and they paid us £175 each.

What’s the answer? Don’t undervalue your work. Put it with an agency that respects your value and your worth. You may not see sale notifications quite so frequently, but when they do come in they’re in pounds rather than pence.

Source material came from Journalisten and PetaPixel, with thanx to Petax Howl.
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

fotoLibra‘s Home Page images have always been a source of joy to picture buyers and general browsers alike.
We’ve had only one lingering worry. Because computers have horizontal screens, all our chosen images had to be Landscape.

And we’ve got just as many superb Portrait images, which we couldn’t show you.

Then we thought, hey, Instagram works well on mobiles and cellphones and tablets, and people tend to hold those things in vertical mode, so why don’t we upload some of our great Portrait format images to Instagram?

Good plan, we thought, patting ourselves on our shapely backs. So here goes. The first one went up earlier this week. Because it won’t click through to the fotoLibra site, each one will be credited as follows:
“Film helicopter: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Kevin Fitzmaurice-Brown. You can licence this image and millions more through fotoLibra.com. #fotoLibra”

Of course they won’t all be photos of Film helicopter: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Kevin Fitzmaurice-Brown.  There’ll be a different picture every day, probably including one of yours at some stage. But each image will finish “You can license this image through fotoLibra.com.”

So please go to Instagram, search for fotoLibrarian, and please LIKE every picture you see!

A word of comfort: each image will be small size, lo-res and watermarked so ongoing opportunities for illegal usage have been minimised.

Tergiversation

February 13th, 2017
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Don’t know the word? Neither did I until I searched for a way to describe the way fotoLibra contributors preferred to photograph people.

Tergiversation means the literal turning of the back — that is, the tendency of most photographers to photograph people from behind, primarily because they don’t wish to cause offence or go through the tedious hassle of obtaining model releases.

I ranted and railed against this — and I Was Wrong.

There. I’ve said it. I admit it, and I apologise.

But I hedge my apology with numerous sub-clauses and conditions, provisos and reservations. In normal life PLEASE photograph people so we can see their faces, and if you seriously want to sell people photographs in this litigious world, you must get a model release. It’s as simple as that.

So why do I now say I was wrong to forbid photographs of people’s backs?

For the simple reason that it’s rare today to find a novel that doesn’t feature a photograph of someone’s back view on the cover. Have a look at these recent publications:

Back View Covers

What’s the reason for this? Well, fashion as much as anything. Book publishers are ovine in behaviour — as soon as one of them gets a bestseller, others stumble over themselves to mimic the success story as closely as possible. Clearly there was a recent bestseller with a haunted, lonely figure on the cover, so now everyone else has piled in on the act.

Please note that these are not simply photographs of people from the back. They are solitary, anguished, haunted folk, struggling with inner and outer demons. And another reason is that they probably don’t require model releases!

So more of these please. Not group shots, just wild, mournful, tragic heroines. And the odd hero, of course.

I secretly wish that on the back covers we could see the front view of the haunted, lonely figure.

Tergiversation, by the way, in case you’re as interested in words as I am, has a darker meaning: the action of ‘turning one’s back on’, i.e. forsaking, something in which one was previously engaged, interested, or concerned; desertion or abandonment of a cause, party, etc.; apostasy, renegation. Also an instance of this; an act of desertion or apostasy.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Every retailer knows that Price is King. People will always choose the cheapest option, and that’s perfectly understandable when it’s the same product.

If I see a litre of Famous Grouse for £20 in the Coöp, Sainsbury’s or Waitrose and there’s a litre of the Grouse for £15 in my local Londis, I’ll buy it there, thank you very much.

Of course there are exceptions. Louis Vuitton brand their luggage with a particularly plebeian design which is enthusiastically copied around the world. I imagine that less than 1% of the Louis Vuitton luggage you see is the real deal, unsurprisingly when the real bags are north of £5,000 and you can get a serviceable replica for £50. As my friend Jennifer says, Why pay less?

I have a friend who is so embarrassed by the big fat gold Rolex his wife bought him that he carries around the Watches of Switzerland receipt to prove to disbelieving friends that it’s real. We now have fun casting doubts on the authenticity of his receipt.

But images are different. You rarely see an image on fotoLibra which you can also see on Getty, Magnum, Corbis, Alamy etc., so comparing prices is much harder.

We’ll match or beat any price from any of the big picture libraries for the same usage and a similar deal. If you’re buying a photo from Getty Images for £10 it’s because you’ve agreed to buy 999 other images from them at the same price. We’ll happily match that. And you only need to commit to 99 images.

2017 has started well for fotoLibra. We’ve made a few big sales. But trickling on and on are the small purchases, people buying here and there for the same — always the same — reason: Editorial> Personal Use> One-Off.

The reason is that this is the cheapest easily discoverable price on fotoLibra. If you’re going to advertise your fizzy drink around the world, then you’d expect to pay big bucks to use one of our photographs. If you just want to print it off and stick it on your wall, then we’ve created a price just for you: Editorial> Personal Use> One-Off.

The snag is that some people will always choose the cheapest option they can find, even if it means not exactly telling the whole truth. So when they come across this bargain basement price they jump at it.

A year or so ago we saw a nice little earner. A lady had fallen in love with some of our photographs of English rivers. So much so that she bought 86 of them for herself; Editorial> Personal Use> One-Off. She put her address down as Interior Decorations Manager, Grande Hotel Splendide, Salford and paid with a corporate credit card. The Grande Hotel Splendide was just about to open an 86 bed hotel in Salford and we were struck by the coincidence.

We got in touch, and gently explained the situation, and to their credit the Grande Hotel Splendide forked out the correct price (which on a quantity deal wasn’t such a big difference).

The problem is that if we’re selling images online, we have to trust the buyer. Regular customers are no problem — they can download whatever they like and they account to us at the end of the month. But anyone can come along, register as a buyer, search the site for the cheapest price then buy a picture and walk away. It’s human nature, after all.

This doesn’t happen often enough to become a worry. But we’re aware of it, and we haven’t a clue how to police it. When it’s blatantly obvious then of course we’ll do some heavy chasing, but when M Zuckerberg of Dullsville, NE buys an image for $35 how do we know it’s NOT going to appear as a promotion for Facebook?

Any suggestions?

Oh — and a Happy New Year to you all!

Possible outage next week

September 30th, 2016
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

That’s ‘Outage’, not ‘Outrage’. I’m outraged most of the time, so there’s no news there.

We’ve been informed by our data centre that they are having a problem which can only be solved by the complete replacement of a unit, rather than a repair. So they are beginning to follow the Volkswagen Franchises Dealer model of no longer being a garage, just a place that slots in replacement parts. They don’t repair things any more. I guess something might break down, and then they might get sued, so it’s all our fault really.

This is what our data centre tells us:

As you are aware it is our intention to entirely replace the unit which caused disruption to services this week. We have a plan in place that rather than work around a complete outage for all customers, instead a controlled migration of individual cabinets to new supplies will be conducted. This will reduce downtime for individual cabinets and allow engineers to respond to any individual issues should they arise. 

Delivery and commissioning (including testing and verification) of the new device will take place over Wednesday/Thursday next week, with the migration of customer circuits to a clean supply occurring over the evening of Friday. Please note that these timings are approximate at this time and are still subject to change,  however i wanted to give everyone a chance to have as much notice as possible prior to the work starting. 

I will issue a further communication early next week confirming precise windows for the work to be completed in and also raise individual tickets with affected customers in order to arrange clean shutdown and restart procedures for devices.

Well, all that tells me is that there’s a vague chance we might be offline for a while late next week. fotoLibra hasn’t been affected by this problem as yet, and there’s no real reason to think we will, as we appear to be in a different sector, so this is just a heads up. If you come across fotoLibra behaving strangely, it should clear itself up within 24/48 hours.

Apologies in advance!

Real people

May 26th, 2016
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

It’s hard to deal with real people. They smile, they laugh, they have fun, they have temper tantrums, they storm out of the room, they are unforgivably rude and then utterly contrite. They make no sense.

Sometimes they don’t do the work they’re employed to do. For no reason at all.

That’s why, when you send an email to, say, customer services or Support for a large organisation, you’ll get an email back almost the instant you click the Send button.

Now THAT’s customer service. No human involvement whatsoever.

fotoLibra only employs real people. It’s hell in here, folks.

Which is why we’ve always promised we will answer emails sent to Support within 24 hours (but give us a break at weekends).

Your support query will have been read by a human being and answered by a human being. If you haven’t heard back from us within 24 hours, there’s a simple reason: We Did Not Receive Your Email.

It happens. It happens more often than we would like. Just as letters used to go missing in the post, so emails can vanish into the ether. Sometimes it’s the fault of the spam checker at our email provider — which pulls out 400 junk emails a day from my account alone — and sometimes it just happens.

If you want to speed up our response time, put your Member ID in the subject line. (Hint: Sign in> Details> Member ID)

If you haven’t heard from us within 24 hours, send it again.

From one real person to another!