Archive for November, 2012

Smile Please!

November 26th, 2012
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Say cheese!

What do other nations say when taking a photograph of people? Maybe some of our fotoLibra members in 161 different countries can enlighten me?

One person who’ll be smiling tonight is David Douglas Duncan, the great American war photographer. I must confess that as I’m not a photographic historian, I hadn’t heard of him, but his photographs of WWII and the Korean war brought him fame.

When he was 40 he introduced himself to Picasso, and went on to publish seven books of photographs of the great artist.

Now his camera, a Leica M3D, has just sold at auction in Austria for a record-breaking £1.4 million. Leica made the M3 from 1954 to 1966, and the D suffix was because this particular camera was made specifically for David Douglas Duncan. He wasn’t exclusively a Leica man; Nikon gave him the 200,000th Nikon F in recognition of his help in popularising the camera.

In 1986 you could pick up a Leica M3 with double-stroke advance in excellent condition for $125. What would it be worth now?

The most expensive camera ever sold was also a Leica, the prototype Leica O-series from 1923, also sold in Austria in May this year for €2.16 million. That fetched $25,000 in 1986.

How much will your prized Canon or Nikon be worth a few years down the road? I’ve got my eye on another Leica M3, a gold jobby as distinct from the common-or-garden chrome or black versions. I think I know where it is, too — it’s inside Buckingham Palace, property of HM The Queen.

I wonder how much THAT would be worth?



Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

“Pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap” was the old Tesco motto, and that’s how buyers get seduced by microstock. All you can see when you first look is A DOLLAR PER PICTURE. Irresistible, thinks the picture buyer’s boss or client. Use them.

Look what happens if we pick a fotoLibra picture at random. Let’s chose FOT373296. I’m throwing a dice to get this number, which is why there’s no zero in it. It turns out to be a photograph of Rowley Waterfalls in Lancashire by Simon Wimbles. Now say I am a publisher and I need a photograph of Rowley Waterfalls. Let’s try Shutterstock. They have none.

Let’s try a few other big name microstock agencies.

iStockPhoto (owned by GettyImages): none
fotoLia (wonder what inspired that name?): none
Dreamstime: none

OK, that was too hard. It seems that the only picture of Rowley Waterfalls you can buy is from fotoLibra. And it will cost you more than a dollar.

Let’s try FOT432625. This is an aerial shot of Heathrow Airport by Michael Webberley. That’s better — the microstock agencies are sure to have Heathrow. And they do:

Shutterstock: 43 images, 2 aerial shots
iStockPhoto: 37 images, 1 aerial shot
fotoLia: 31 images, no aerial shots
Dreamstime: 54 images, 2 aerial shots

I swear to you that this image was chosen at random. Tiddly fotoLibra, by comparison, has 183 photographs of Heathrow.

So if I want an aerial shot of Heathrow for a double page spread in my glossy magazine, here’s my selection from Shutterstock:

Neither of these are very good. They don’t show me Heathrow Airport. Let’s try Dreamstime:

Two like this. Portrait, not landscape.


More reservoir than airport. Anyway, I’ve had enough, the boss has told me to buy from those places which have pictures for a dollar, so here goes.

I don’t want to subscribe to buying 1,000 pictures a month, I only want one high-quality aerial shot of Heathrow Airport. Once I’ve waded through all the options, these are the prices I think I can get these images for:

Shutterstock: Not allowed to buy a single image. I can however buy an enhanced licence for two images for £119. So this picture will cost me £119.
iStockPhoto: I need to buy credits. This costs 20 credits. I can’t buy 20 credits, I can only buy 26 credits for £31. So this picture will cost me £31.
fotoLia: Nothing that I wanted, but if I needed an image at this size, it would cost me 16 credits. 20 credits are £21, so that’s what it would cost.
Dreamstime: 54 images, 2 aerial shots


Bigotry Or Pragmatism?

November 5th, 2012

One of fotoLibra‘s unique features is the Picture Call sent out to all members, listing the photographs our clients are actively searching for. If you’ve been a member for a while, you know that it would be hard to create a more diverse and random set of image requests. There’s something for everyone, from landscape photographers to people pix.

And because Britain is home to the world’s most internationally-minded book publishers, we have requests to supply images in books produced for every market, every culture. In multicultural Britain we are inured to butchers selling kosher or halal meat; in monocultural societies any deviation from the prescribed pattern is seldom tolerated.

So when a large and well-established publisher comes to us with a big picture call on to which is bolted a few strange (to our British eyes) conditions, we shrug and send it out. We don’t condone the request by doing so; we are agnostic as far as our clients’ requests go (although we will exclude pornography).

One recent request asked that in the images there should be:

  • • no women and men together
  • • no women looking at the camera
  • • no bare arms, legs or chests

for images to be used in a textbook designed for the Middle Eastern market.

This doesn’t trouble me unduly, although personally I do find it sad that there are people who still think like this in the twenty-first century.

But one fotoLibra member found it too much to bear. He wrote to Jacqui Norman, who had sent out the Picture Call:

Hello Jacqui,
I have been thinking about your picture calls and really do not have a polite way of responding to some of them. I am Jewish, Israeli, liberal minded, not bigoted, and strangely professional. I do not understand or want to understand your requests for what are bigoted, probably Moslem countries. I may be the only one who finds them ridiculous but I would appreciate not being part of this stupidity. I do not remember ever refusing work to anyone with such or under such conditions. Having such requests is insulting and I prefer not to play the bigot’s game.

Colour or gender or religion cannot be a part of my metier or behavior. Please refrain from sending me any more such requests. I would not mind at all if you review my request, find it lacking or maybe even agree and publish it on your blog. All the racial insinuations on the list of requests are not a figment of my imagination. After many years in the business I can read between the lines as can so many others.

Jacqui replied:

Thank you for your message and for sharing your thoughts with us. One of our major customers is a very large European educational publisher which supplies text books and learning materials to countries throughout the world. We feel that helping them to produce reference and teaching tools for Middle Eastern students may ultimately improve their understanding of different cultures and peoples in other parts of the globe.
Through our picture calls we seek only to tell photographers what images are being sought at the moment, not to judge or express our own opinions. We regret that you consider a few of these requests insulting or racially inappropriate; they are most definitely not intended to be.

Our member responded:

Dear Jacqui,
I have no intention of educating the world or making anyone amenable to my point of view. I do not “doctor” photographs or “stage” them in order to please the bias of a customer. I have found that loss of credibility is infinitely more important than a few cents in my bank account. Your customer is, I doubt, as naive as you make them out to be. Doctored or staged images will only confirm a biased view of the world to those asking for such and will be found out.

Please exclude me from such requests. People’s bias or their points of view are their own concern. I have no intention or presumption improving my customers’ understanding.

I have no problem in ending whatever relationship I have with your company. I cannot afford to be included and find my credibility to be more important. Please refrain from offering any of my work to any of your customers.

Jacqui answered:

I apologise that our picture call and my subsequent email seem to have given you the wrong impression. Of course we are not asking you or any of our photographers to doctor or stage images, nor would a respected publisher consider using such images in an educational book. At the beginning of the picture call, we simply mentioned things that photographers should avoid when selecting images for submission to this particular project.
We can exclude your images for sale to or for use in the Middle Eastern market if you wish us to do so. If you prefer to cancel your membership of fotoLibra and remove all your images from our archive as a direct result of this, then we should be extremely sorry.

The photographer replied:

Hello Jacqui,
Maybe you did not understand me. I do sell a great deal of my work in the Middle East, even to countries which do not allow me to visit them. But my relationships are not only cordial but very correct. They know that my images are not staged or doctored in any way, even if the subject does not flatter my country. I cannot understand losing this credibility. They have never asked me to enhance or change the truth of the images I send them, knowing full well that would be the end of our relationship. When my images are different to their expectations they always acknowledge and thank me for showing a different point of view, which they do not usually expect.
I would prefer to cancel my membership and please remove all my images from Fotolibra. I have never qualified my work with any sort of exclusion zone and do sell and present my work without and preconditions.

And there it rests. I thought Jacqui expressed the situation well. And before I posted this blog, I showed the text in its entirety to our photographer, to solicit his comments. They are included as the first comment to this blog, posted by me to preserve the member’s anonymity.

I think that a request such as

  • • no women and men together
  • • no women looking at the camera
  • • no bare arms, legs or chests

does not require staging or doctoring in any way, nor does it breach many peoples’ view of human rights. Like most of these requests, it’s just a cultural thing, and seldom has any basis in the scriptures of the adherents.

What do we do? fotoLibra has over 20,000 registered photographers, and this Picture Call has provoked one complaint. We don’t want to lose him, but we can’t forego the possibility of making 300+ picture sales for our members because one person is offended by the terms and conditions in a Picture Call.

I don’t think these conditions are particularly onerous or indeed unacceptably bigoted. I may be wrong. I’m sure there could be some requests where Jacqui would draw the line, but I can’t imagine any valued client ever asking us for such things.

What do you think?