Archive for the ‘About fotoLibra’ Category
The customer doesn’t want a quarter-inch drill. He wants a quarter-inch hole.
The drill itself is merely his instrument of delivery, just as the cameras of fotoLibra photographers are theirs.
That’s the sort of insight that delights management consultants, and it does have a certain seductive logic. If you concentrate on what the customer actually wants, instead of dressing up your product to fulfill your own desires and aspirations, then the road to fortune and fame will be open to you.
That was the disruptive thinking that lay behind the concept of fotoLibra. We are neither photographers nor critics. Who were we to judge one photograph over another? It would be purely our personal taste. It would have no reference to what the market wanted.
Our solution? Let the market itself decide. In fact, we would go a step further — the market would detail what it wanted to buy, and we would tell our photographers through regular Picture Calls. How simple is that?
Then fotoLibra found itself in that awkward position between overbearing boss and nagging wife. All our photographers wanted to do was buy spiffy new lenses, and there we were hectoring them about the photographs they should be taking, not the ones they wanted to take.
Happily I hope we’ve matured a bit. We’re more relaxed about the choices our photographers make. And going back to our drill imagery, our picture buyers don’t care if the photograph has been taken with a Coastal Optics 60 mm f/4 UV-Vis-IR APO Macro or a pinhole camera, as long as it matches their imagination.
So in our regular Picture Calls we describe the “quarter-inch and other-sized cavities” our customers are looking for to our army of photographers, and with the tools at their disposal they go out and Drill Dem Holes.
And it works very well.
And because the burden of fortune and fame is not yet an intolerable weight on the shoulders of fotoLibra, we’d welcome a little more of both.
After every cock-up, politicians appear on our TVs to hang their heads and admit that “Lessons Have Been Learned.”
Well, now it’s my turn. As many of you will be aware, the fotolibra website suffered a calamitous collapse last week, and as it fell it brought the Heritage Ebooks site down with it, as well as all our back office tools — admin, banking, invoicing, Datacash, payments, mailing systems and more.
The good news is that the only thing we actually lost was time. No images were harmed in the making of this booboo, no data was lost and no accounts were compromised.
I’m delighted to tell you that fotoLibra is back up and running after our calamitous crash. Everything is back to normal.
You can upload images again!
If you use fotoLibra DND, please quit the application and restart it before attempting to upload.
Two questions: how do we stop this happening again, and what are we going to do about it?
Well, Lessons Have Been Learned. We are studying a cloud computing model to run in tandem with our physical array of servers and RAID 5 disks which live in a server farm in Manchester. If one system goes down, the other has to be there for it. That’s redundancy.
Redundancy (which has a different meaning in the computing world to what it used to have in my chosen career path) must be at the forefront of our plans. When a system fails, another system must step seamlessly into its place.
What are we going to do about it? Firstly of course we must apologise to all our users, buyers, sellers and browsers. We let you down, and we are very sorry. I am personally desolated — the fotoLibra website has been live since March 2004 and in that time it’s never been down for longer than ten minutes, and then only for service upgrades. I was rather proud of that; but then pride comes before a fall.
Enough breast-beating. Let’s look to the future. Assuming we have an even more robust system, we still have to have a contingency plan. As for the images, which were unharmed in this little unpleasantness, as well as our existing RAID 5 storage and possible future cloud back-up I am planning to physically secrete caches of hard drives full of images in various undisclosed locations in Snowdonia. Just in case.
One of the worrying things about last week’s crash is that it took our mailing system down with it, so we were unable to tell everyone.
There needs to be a line of communication with fotoLibra users set up outside our inhouse systems. And it appears some kind Americans have already thought of this, and have created things called LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. In exchange they want our souls for all eternity, but it’s just the price we have to pay.
fotoLibra has opened a Group on LinkedIn, which will be my preferred way of reaching you. It’s a professional networking group, and I promise I will link with you if you ask me.
There is also a fotoLibra Facebook site, which will be run by our redoubtable web editor Jacqui Norman. She will link with you, but I won’t, as I have reserved my Facebook visits for keeping an eye on my extended family.
Finally, there is Twitter. Now I am not a chatty man, so this will be difficult for me, but I will try and post something every day. The content will most likely be taken from my commonplace book, so it will largely consist of wise thoughts, pithy sayings and the world according to my friend Dede. I hope that sometimes you will find it fun and amusing. From time to time there will be something of interest to fotoLibra users. Please follow me @fotoLibrarian.
This way, if there ever is another problem, we’ll be able to let everyone know — and you will know where to check if you think you are having problems with the fotoLibra site.
Please sign up to join these groups — if you can also put up with my disconnected ramblings, of course.
And please stick with us. We’ll be even better as a result of this crisis.
fotoLibra photographer Peter Bardsley enjoys visiting dive sites in England, unlike me. I refuse to enter the water unless I’m south of the 30th parallel. Recently he uploaded this atmospheric image of Hodge Close Quarry, an abandoned flooded slate mine in the Lake District, to fotoLibra:
Icy cold and 150 feet deep, with a viz of about 30 feet, it’s the sort of bleak,miserable and frankly terrifying dive hole so beloved of the British diver. My diving preference consists of floating among the pretty coloured fishies at about 10 metres then surfacing to chug copious quantities of decompression juice in the sun.
But places like Hodge Close Quarry exert a manic pull on the typical British diver. The Italians have one aim in diving: that is to get as deep as possible as quickly as possible, then erupt back up through the surface like a rocket and spend the rest of their vacation in a hyperbaric chamber, whereas the thoughtful, contemplative Englishman prefers to drift through mazes of freezing unlit underwater tunnels and drown quietly at the back.
There have been many diving deaths at Hodge Close Quarry. The old mine workings, the adits and galleries to be found deep underwater are an irresistible lure to English divers. If only they’d take time to pay attention to their surroundings before they softly slip under the surface for the last time. Might they not notice some sort of a warning? Just turn the photograph on its side:
Unlikely partners? Not really.
A Google search on Martin Scorsese (a name his parents made up) returns 15,600,000 results.
A Google search on fotoLibra (a name I made up) returns 1,760,000 results.
So we’ve got a way to go yet. But we’ve only been going since 2004, and he’s been around since 1942 (happy birthday for Thursday, Martin).
I’ve just watched Scorsese’s documentary Living In The Material World about George Harrison, and there, buried in the credits at the end (you had to have very sharp eyes), is the acknowledgment line “Denis O’Dell / fotoLibra”.
It’s not much, but it’s a credit in a Scorsese movie. They paid well for the picture usage, too. Congratulations, Denis!
And I can’t keep the grin off my face.
Over the past year we’ve been working hard to build our website traffic on the simple belief that more visitors = more sales.
And it seems to be working. In the first three weeks of May we’ve sold images to seven different countries, all to new customers who have bought straight off our site. A very warm welcome to you all!
They’re not just small sales either. One was for over £400 / $635 / €458, and three others were in three figures. This is remarkably good, given the present state of the picture stock market, and as a result some of our photographers will be getting a pleasant surprise in a few days time.
We can’t help feeling this must have something to do with increased traffic to the fotoLibra website. On the Web ranking site Alexa.com, fotoLibra stands as the fourth most visited general picture library in the UK.
If this doesn’t sound great to you, remember there are over 450 picture libraries in Britain.
fotoLibra.com now ranks as the 110,000th most visited website in the world. Laughably low, I know, but just go to Alexa.com and input the URL of any small business you know. Then compare it with the fotoLibra ranking.
Surprising, isn’t it?
If you are a photographer, it makes commercial sense to post your images where more people will see them. And if a photograph is one of 500K, it will have more chance of being seen than if it’s one of twenty-five million.
I forgot to tell you about my last blog, Be Careful With Google Image Search, so here’s a link to it.
And if you wonder why we sometimes seem stressed and spaced-out, read my latest personal blog!
By the way, if you contacted anyone at fotoLibra in the last 10 days and haven’t heard anything back, please contact us again as we’ve been having an intermittent email problem which we hope is now sorted.
First thing I do every morning is check the fotoLibra website to make sure it’s up and running.
Over this weekend I confess I’ve only shot a cursory glance at it because I have been immersed in rugby, exulting over Italy’s first 6 Nations victory over mighty France, delighting in Wales’s rule-breaking defeat of Ireland and secretly but vainly hoping Scotland might derail England’s remorseless progress to the Grand Slam.
So on a beery back-to-work morning I powered up my (now obsolete) MacBook Pro and went through the site. I checked the Home Page.
And double checked again.
We’ve gone past the half million mark. We have over half a million images on fotoLibra.
When fotoLibra was just a glint in my eye in 2002, I took Anne-Marie Ehrlich, the doyenne of picture researchers, to lunch. She said one couldn’t really take a picture library seriously until it had about 25,000 images. “No problem,” I scoffed, “we’ll have that many in five years, easy.”
And now here we are. We’re not the biggest picture library in the world — there’s the microstock rabble, and of course Getty, Corbis and Alamy (which has about 40 times as many images as we have) but I think we can say we’re now big enough to count. And our images are the images of fotoLibra members, not compilations of portals of images like the three I’ve just mentioned. With the largest image libraries, the same picture may appear from three or four different sources. I can’t say that never happens with fotoLibra, but you are more likely to find a unique image on fotoLibra than with most other image collections.
If you look at the rankings table in my last blog, you’ll notice that out of twenty leading picture libraries exhibiting at fotoFringe, fotoLibra has many more site visitors than any of the others — excluding the two celebrity stock agencies, because we don’t do slebs.
When I had the fotoLibra concept, I was forced to go ahead with it on the grounds that if I didn’t do it, someone else would. And I would have been kicking myself for the rest of my life. “I could’ve been a contender,” I would have been muttering thickly into my beard.
Well, now we’re contenders. Please raise a glass!
That’s the headline that greeted me when I opened the BBC Home Page just now.
I clicked on the link and I found this.
Mixed emotions, I guess. This is the drum we’ve been beating since we started fotoLibra in 2004, and the media — even the photo press — has steadfastly refused to listen to us.
In desperation we appointed a slick London PR agency, and last week they got us this great feature on the BBC Leeds website.
But the people who place the stories where it matters — on the BBC’s Home Page, for crissake — know nothing about us, despite our daily bombardment of letters, emails, flowers and phone calls.
They’ll write all day about American web sites, but they can’t believe that there’s a British company which would be doing as well as Flickr or Facebook or Picasa or any of the others if we could only receive the same level of international coverage. National exposure would be good. We’re even pathetically grateful for snippets of local coverage.
Facebook has had a movie made about it, already, So, fotoLibra: The Movie. I can see it all now. Obviously Brad Pitt would have to play me, Keira Knightley Yvonne, Daniel Auteuil would play Damien, Llinos’s part would be Uma Thurman, Graham is Colin Firth, and Jacqui? What about Quentin Tarantino?
Why was I looking at the BBC Home Page when I should have been working? Well, I hate to admit it, but we’ve had a little problem with the fotoLibra site, and although it can be seen and used, members and buyers can’t log in at the moment. There’s some sort of corrupted data table; we’re working to restore it and we expect the website will be up and running again by the time you read this.
Apologies if you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog.
No, this is not a complaint I suffer from, but a situation has arisen at fotoLibra which we’d like to sort out.
Here’s a new title from the highly regarded travel publisher Bradt Guides, who publish guide books for Serious Travellers, not tourist lubbers like me.
Notice the cracking front cover image which fotoLibra sold them. It’s always good to get a front cover sale, not just for the money but also the prestige, especially by being associated with an imprint such as Bradt.
The evocative photograph of “Dune 45″ was taken by fotoLibra member Tjaart van Staden. We emailed him the good news and he took it very calmly.
So calmly in fact that he didn’t respond. So we emailed him again. No reply.
We wrote to him. A real letter, with a stamp. No answer.
We checked his website. It had been taken down.
Now Tjaart van Staden is not a common name in Wales, but it may well be in Midrand, Gauteng, South Africa, where Tjaart abides — or abode.
We tried again and again, but we can’t find him.
So we can’t pay him.
I’m putting this blog up in the hope of tracking him down. If Tjaart ever succumbs to the old ego trip of Googling his own name, he’ll find this blog post and get in touch with us. But in case there’s a whole band of Tjaart van Staden impersonators out there, just be aware that a) there’ll be some questions asked to establish his identity and b) don’t put the deposit down on the Maserati just yet Tjaart, because the payment won’t cover it.
Hello, TJAART VAN STADEN, formerly of MIDRAND, GAUTENG, SOUTH AFRICA — please contact fotoLibra, where you will hear some news to your advantage!
We don’t need to tell you it’s a tough world out there economically, especially in the picture business. People are buying fewer photographs and paying less for them.
There’s an American photographer whose work I admire enormously. His name is Mike Yamashita and he shoots mainly for National Geographic Magazine. I met him a few years ago at the Frankfurt Book Fair when they built a large gallery showcasing his photographs in one of the halls at the fair. He had traced the footsteps of the thirteenth century Venetian explorer/ trader Marco Polo, documenting his journeys in a stunning series of images.
Great photographer through he is, Yamashita is not the most Pollyanna optimist you’re likely to meet. His glass is rather more than half empty. For some time he has been pronouncing with gloomy relish that “Stock is dead.”
Well, this is simply not true. The proclamation may have been triggered by three of his picture agencies closing their doors over the past year. What is true is that the old established market has been well and truly disrupted. Photo sales used to be the preserve of an elite few, many specialising in one field — jazz, aviation, cricket, ethnic populations — and because communication was twentieth century in its slowness, and photographs existed as physical, analogue objects, they had a scarcity value of their own.
Now of course — and fotoLibra is very much responsible for this shift — anyone can take and sell a photograph. Just before Christmas we were asked for photographs of specific situations in Kazakhstan. Twenty years ago this would have involved the buyer telephoning a series of picture libraries with the request. Each picture librarian would know, firstly, if they had photographs of Kazakhstan or if the buyer was barking up the wrong tree. If they did have pictures, they would charge a search fee to look through the files to see if there were any images that fitted the bill. If there were, they would be despatched in sealed clear envelopes to the client. If the seal was broken, the client would be deemed to have used the image, and would be charged accordingly. If the images were lost, which happened frequently, it would be simultaneously a disaster and a bonanza for the photographer — £400 for each lost transparency, for example.
Today fotoLibra has a number of photographers living in Kazakhstan. We can contact them instantly via email at no cost. One of them is an airline pilot by trade and a keen (and good) amateur photographer by inclination. He is on the spot, and can take precisely what the client wants. We supply the images to the client within the unfeasibly short deadline of 48 hours he has given us. There’s no special thanks — it’s what the client expects. Twenty years ago this would have been completely and utterly impossible.
We break our backs to provide an unsurpassed client service. It’s expected. But it’s still really hard to make a sale.
So we have devised a scheme to make more money for our photographers, with less outlay for our clients at the same time. Impossible? Having your cake and eating it? Barking at the moon? We don’t think so.
We want to make dealing with fotoLibra as easy, as painless and as simple as possible. But Simple and Easy are among the most difficult things to achieve well. Look at the simple Google interface. You don’t need to learn how to work it — it just works. That’s because a large fortune has been spent in making it simple. Underneath it’s very, very complex, like fotoLibra. If you buy a picture from fotoLibra, four simple choices take you to the price. Underneath that is a matrix of 1,447 price points. But you never have to see that. We’ve made it simple and easy.
And our new Micro Royalties initiative follows the same thought process. We want to sell more pictures. We want to pay our photographers more money. How do we solve this? We would move more images if we gave them away. But that wouldn’t benefit us or our members. How about this — instead of selling image rights for a flat fee, how about hire purchase? Deferred payment? Pay nothing now, and the rest over four years? That’s how they sell furniture. Why should pictures be different?
Here’s the plan. We can write a routine so that instead of publishers being billed for image usage in one great lump on publication, they are billed micro royalties six months after publication, when royalties become due. The amounts may be small, but they will come due again every six months. The image providers share in the success of a book. If it sells and sells, the photographer will earn much more for his photograph than if a straight sale had been made.
Of course our normal way of business will be dominating our trading for years to come. This Micro Royalties proposal is simply an alternative option, it’s only designed for book publishers which are one section of a picture library’s business. We don’t expect the take-up to be enormous, until people have tried it and found that it works for them. Maybe it won’t work for them at all. We’ve subjected the plan to all the various SWAT analyses, and we have pinpointed just one downside — if a book doesn’t achieve the publisher’s expected sales, then the photographer’s income will suffer. We’ll make adjustments to the percentages in the next sale to that publisher to allow for that. But this scheme is configured to appeal to the rapidly expanding, untested and as yet illustration-light eBook market, and the joy of eBooks from a publisher and author’s point of view is that they never go out of print. The drip may be small, but it is constant.
Picture libraries invented the Royalty Free image. They created Microstock. Neither of these plans favoured the photographer particularly — they were skewed in favour of the buyer. The creator of the image was outside the loop, the unwanted presence, the cow in the milk bar, the author at the book fair. This new fotoLibra plan rewards the photographer for his part in the success of a publication. If the writer gets royalties, why not the illustrator? The labourer is worthy of his hire.
No publisher has yet taken us up on this proposal, so we will be running a couple of experiments this year to test how easy this is to implement. Then we can tell them about it and demonstrate how it works.
We wish you a happy and profitable New Year.