Archive for April, 2010

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

… ripping off UK customers, that is.

They’ve just announced Creative Suite 5, the top of the range version of which retails in the UK at £2,303 and in the US at $2,599. That’s £1,685 at today’s exchange rate.

Why should this product — which is software and therefore can be delivered in identical packages anywhere in the world at no additional cost apart from local taxes (not included in these prices) — cost an astounding £623 more in Britain than in America? That’s a 37% hike. There is no way any company in the world can justify such an extortionate, exorbitant pricing decision.

So they don’t. No one at Adobe will lift his cowardly, avaricious head over the parapet to defend the reasoning. “We have established what is effectively a monopoly. If you’re in the image business, you need Adobe Photoshop. So fuck the Brits, we can charge what we fucking well like.”

It’s a wonderful product, but the officers of the corporation who decided on this price differential are shits.

And I bet it still strips metadata. Because Adobe doesn’t own the system.


Types of Buyers

April 13th, 2010

Every business offers discounts for bulk purchases, and fotoLibra is no exception. Workers can’t be expected to make decisions for themselves, however, so management usually imposes a sliding scale of acceptable discounts — 5% off for a dozen, 10% off for a gross and so on to tares and bushels and other wonderful weights and measures.

All very well, but some people are always compelled to try and knock the cost down further, whether by pleading, demanding, bullying or negotiating. Whether that’s in their nature or they are commanded to behave like that by their bosses, I have no idea.

A price is a price, and I feel it should be respected. I am deeply uncomfortable in souks and other environments where you are expected to haggle. My haggling skills are zero. Yet I have a good friend who proudly boasts he has never paid full price for anything in his life.

I am also deeply suspicious of ads offering me “50% OFF!” 50% off what? A price which was inflated by 100% in the first place?

But at fotoLibra I’m a seller, not a buyer, so because we know the process can be uncomfortable, we try to make it as easy as pie to buy. I have gradually discovered there are five distinct buyer types:

1. The Wham-Bang

2. The Global MegaBuck

3. The Dealer

4. The Mendicant

5. The Great Honour

The Wham-Bang comes to the fotoLibra site, finds what it wants and buys it. Job done. We love them and we want to have babies with them. All Apple customers are Wham-Bangers. You don’t see many discounts on an iPad.

The Global MegaBuck won’t even deign to notice our existence because it already has tied up an exclusive contract with their pals at Global MegaPix to supply all their image requirements for £50,000 a year and they won’t be dealing with anyone else thank you very much. Then they decide they want a particular picture that only we have and are puzzled that we’re reluctant to sell it to them at the same unit cost that they pay Global MegaPix. So eventually they condescend to allow us a price agreement policy whereby their 1,447 picture researchers are permitted to search for images on fotoLibra. They usually turn out to be perfectly decent people, paying a fair price per picture as long as they can use it how they like.

The Dealer is constitutionally unable to pay the quoted price. “Can I have a discount on that?” or “What’s the best price you can give me?” or some similar tweet is its standard calling cry. No reason for this favour is provided. An offer of 10% often mollifies it, but slamming down the phone always works for me.

You can hear the Mendicant wringing its hands on the other end of the phone. “We’ve got a really low budget on this job, I know it’s a lot to ask but it will be terrific publicity for fotoLibra. Just this once? I know it’s difficult for you, it’s difficult for all of us at this time, heh heh, it’ll be so good for you, I’ll make sure there’ll be a big credit to fotoLibra, you’ll get lots of business …”

The Great Honour is the almost indistinguishable opposite of the Mendicant; it’s like looking in a mirror. “This is going to be so huge, you’re so lucky to be one of our favoured suppliers, now of course we can’t really pay you anything but we can give you a credit on 10 million copies in fifty countries, now you couldn’t buy that sort of coverage, go on, could you?”

The trouble is that apart from slamming down the phone I personally have no real mechanism for dealing with these approaches. I think I’ve worked out a strategy when all of a sudden the Dealer I’m talking to metamorphoses into a Global Megabuck before mutating into a Great Honour. Maybe I just don’t react fast enough.

My simple philosophy is that you get what you pay for. The only trick the microstock folk have taught us is that you persuade people you’re selling pictures for a dollar, then instead of doing that you sell them five thousand Credits — which may or may not be worth a dollar each. Yes, if you buy 5,000 crappy one credit images, they may cost you a dollar apiece. But who needs that many low-res, low-quality images?

It’s damn clever, there’s no denying it. There’s an offer to satisfy everyone. But the basic premise is misleading. It’s like the £5 flights on cheap airlines. They do exist, but it’s harder than you can imagine to profit from them.

You — almost always — get what you pay for.


The following blog posting was written by Chris Barton, managing director of You can read the original post plus the comments it has triggered here.

We’re posting it on the fotoLibra Pro Blog (with his permission) because Chris has articulated the basic flaw in microstock and low value photography, and his blog needs to be read by photographers and picture buyers alike. When people don’t care — as these picture users clearly don’t — then cost becomes the sole criterion. Value means nothing.

Chris writes:

I was looking at a company website today, with the possibility of putting some business their way, when something I saw there made me cringe involuntarily.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, this one has a lot to say. It says microstock. It says perfect-people perfect-world lowest-common-denominator cookie-cutter pile-them-high sell-them-cheap image.

Why would a reputable company want to be associated with those words?

The problem with this image is that it has that…. ‘Deja Vu’ feeling to it, and for a good reason.

So, do these guys come as a package? Have they moved on from “Best of the Web” to form the Corporate Team at “123 Greetings”?

As you would expect from such a high powered team, they speak fluent German…

… and some oriental language – you could probably find out which one if you bump into them at the:

and of course they come with a:

Now, this may all just seem a bit of a joke, just poking fun at the short-sightedness of companies using cheap microstock images to represent their… well, image, but when it gets visibly misleading:

About us? They didn’t do a very good job of spotting this trouble on the horizon…

maybe financeme needs better financing if they don’t have any headshots of their own staff and can only afford microstock images…

I think that should read ‘Company Oversight’

…you end up questioning the credibility of the company itself.

I don’t believe these people really work at Targetti Poulsen…

…so why would I trust anything else that Targetti Poulsen have to say?

And if I am wrong and they do work there, are Targetti Poulsen aware that their ‘people’ moonlight at:

On a side note, ‘Bad Credit Cosmetic Surgery Loans dot co dot uk’ wins this month’s prize for “dodgiest domain name”.

My final example I think rounds off this topic in an appropriate way:

from their track record, getting these ‘good people’ to stay does not look promising…

Okay, so HireView Magazine used the same silly microstock image. But that photo at the top? That’s them. That’s the team at HireView. I am confident about that because it isn’t a perfect-people perfect-world lowest-common-denominator cookie-cutter pile-them-high sell-them-cheap image that has spread across the internet like a nasty virus. It is an honest picture, and because of that, I think I can trust HireView Magazine.

Which is more than I can say for the rest of these companies.

Companies need to think more carefully about the images they use. I suspect many businesses are unaware that the photos their designer has sold them are spread a-dime-a-dozen across the web. There is a good reason that microstock’s original catchphrase was “the designer’s dirty little secret”.

At the very least, reputable companies should look at using rights-managed rather than royalty-free images, so they will KNOW if the image is being used elsewhere and whether a competitor (or sometimes something even worse: “Cosmetic Surgery for mens, Get your Dream Shape like stars”)  is using the same ‘team’ to represent their company. Or maybe they should follow HireView Magazine’s lead and actually hire a photographer to take real pictures of real people who work at their company. They may not be perfect, they may cost a bit more, but they will look genuine, and honest. And not just… cheap.

Thank you Chris — firstly for your permission to reproduce your blog here, and secondly for your righteous indignation at the short term, penny-pinching attitude of so many organisations. To mangle John Donne: “Every microstock sale diminishes us, because we are part of the photographic community.”

Standards? What standards?


Mountains into Molehills

April 1st, 2010

fotoLibra member John Cleare is a world-famous mountain photographer who made his reputation long before fotoLibra was even a gleam in my eye, so we can claim no credit for his fame, alas. Indeed, I handled the publicity for one of his mountain books back in 1979, so he knows whereof he writes (and shoots).

Brocken Spectre, Lochnagar   ©John Cleare / fotoLibra

He sent me an email yesterday, lamenting the decline in standards of captioning, and I agree with every word.

I’ll share with you my indignation at the use, all too frequent these days, of wrongly captioned pictures by the media. It’s my current pet gripe, and I could recount a series of ghastly gaffs that I’ve noticed since digitisation became the norm.

Only the other day the Daily Telegraph ran a major travel feature on skiing at Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies, illustrated by a (very nice) picture of Moraine Lake, which of course is somewhere else and is well known and easily recognisable to boot.  Naturally I take note of the many pictures of Everest that I come across in the media — from the Times, to the BBC, to my wife’s magazines. Some 30% or more are not Mount Everest, yet are captioned as such. Colleagues tell me such happenings are all too frequently seen in their own fields too.

Is it that the photographer doesn’t caption the material properly ?  Is it that Mr Getty doesn’t care ? Is it that the Picture Editor doesn’t care ?

I can’t see it happening with the fotoLibra system !

I’ve moaned about the matter to BAPLA many times over recent years but of course they can do little about it except to encourage “TRUTH”.

At the risk of blotting my copybook, I’ve moaned to guilty (?) picture editors and researchers in several really blatant cases. Even when we’ve known each other by name, in only one case has there ever been a response — and that was claiming the caption supplied was incorrect.

It may well have been true, but it’s as good excuse as any.

Thanks to digitisation, the whole picture industry has changed so much in recent years that the days of the small, specialist independent are in the past, perhaps fortuitously at a time when folk seem surprised that I’ve not retired long since. But of course like mountaineering, making pictures is a way of life from which one can never retire — I’ve done five books in the past eighteen months and led one excellent small expedition, although I suppose I shall gradually fade away in due course.

I do like the fotoLibra system, and for someone busy like myself, responding to specific picture calls is a convenient way to operate, besides airing pictures that no one would ask me for in the normal way, given my specialist reputation.

John has hit the nail on the head. There is a lot of sloppy work out there, and I don’t know whether it’s because people are too busy, overworked, stressed, tired, drugged, drunk or because they simply don’t care. Forty years ago if you did something wrong you got sacked. That can’t happen now.

And thank you John for your very kind comments about fotoLibra but the unpalatable truth is that it could occasionally happen. I don’t think many of our staff could readily distinguish between Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, so we have to rely on the accuracy of our members. We’ll correct errors where we’re sure we’re right (the Eiffel Tower is not white, circular and leaning), and thanks to the brilliant Colin Smedley our aviation photographic captions are the most accurate in the picture library world — but in the end we have to rely on the photographer.

Let’s work together to turn this picture captioning mountain into a molehill. For our part, it’s down to us to ensure the captions and keywords we give to our images are as precise and as accurate as possible. After they’re sold, publication is out of our hands — we can’t afford to go to the printers and stand over the Heidelbergs — but if the final image appears wrongly captioned or attributed, we can and always do make our displeasure strongly known to the buyer.

Don’t mess with fotoLibra members’ photographs!