Archive for August, 2009

Well, durrr!

August 28th, 2009

Big business versus protestors: an American protest group is up in arms because a Powerful Coal Lobby is using images bought from a picture library to depict their supporters.

I guess what they want is for the Powerful Coal Lobby to go out and gather all its supporters together and photograph them to use in its propaganda. Then they can see for real the horns and tails they expect to see worn by PCL supporters.

Instead the PCL bought their pictures from a picture library. Well, durrr!

That’s precisely what picture libraries are for.

These are model released, royalty free images. They can be used for any purpose the purchaser wants.

If the people being photographed have any moral objections to their image being used to promote things they don’t approve of, such as guns, pornography, tobacco etc., they always have an opt-out clause, as all fotoLibra members have for every image they upload. Not many of our people use it, so we assume most of our members are happy to have their Royalty Free images used to promote taxes, the government, banks or any other form of corporate or institutional villainy.

These models clearly don’t mind their images being used to promote the coal industry. So why shouldn’t they be? The protest group could just as easily buy the same image from the same supplier and promote it as a bunch of people implacably opposed to coal mining in any form. The big thing about these RF sales is that they’re non-exclusive — the good guys can use them just as readily as the bad guys.

You can see the images and the story here, and there is also a lesson to be learned for all photographers — there is always a market for photographs of people and groups of people against a white background.

Backgrounds are very important. They should not detract from the subject. Hence the popularity of plain white backgrounds — the Dorling Kindersley effect, as we call it. If you haven’t got a plain white background to hand, try opening up your lens to f1.2.

The other lesson to be learned is when you look at the (otherwise bizarre) pricing structure offered by the agency which sold the pictures, one thing is eminently sensible: the bigger the pixel dimensions of the picture, the more pricing options the buyer has. So it always makes sense to upload the biggest files you can.

Lesson over for today.


There used to be a stable of magazines in London all with the same name format: Books and Bookmen, Art and Artists, Dance and Dancers. I wonder if they’d have been interested in Prophecies and Prophets as a title.

I was musing on this because this weekend our good friend Mike Shatzkin is coming to stay. He describes himself as a publishing consultant, others call him a publishing guru, I like to think of him as a publishing prophet. He would probably refute this. Few people have ‘Prophet’ on their calling cards (though I did meet a gent from Microsoft who had ‘Director of Publishing Evangelism’ as his job title on his cards). Mike is very keen on e-books, and sees them as the future; I’m keen, but not quite as keen, and see them as part of our future.

The best prophets are inevitably Jewish. Mike proudly claims to be a fourth generation atheist.

Was Mohammed Jewish before he started Islam? (there’s a good example for never starting something you can’t stop). Prophets of Doom. Only Jesus prophesied Good News, and even then only after you were dead. St Paul took a more pragmatic view: ‘where there are prophecies, so they shall vanish away.’

What’s the difference between prophecies and predictions? Prophecy has a more religious ring to it, but the best predictors have to be viewed as prophets. They certainly attract their followers. Jim Kunstler’s Clusterfuck Nation blog, always a good read, works hard to present Jim as a prophet, with links to his literary agent, movie agent, lecture agent, ad agent and so on. Perhaps the more dogmatic and absolute the prediction, the more likely it is to be viewed as a prophecy,

On the whole maybe we’d better keep on regarding Mike as a publishing consultant. No serious prophet should stick around to see if his prophecies will come true. And nobody got rich by prophesying good news.