Posts Tagged ‘stock agency’
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.
We’re busy with our final preparations for fotoFringe London 2012, the picture buyers’ fair which is being held tomorrow in King’s Place, a newish office block and conference centre where The Guardian have their offices, near King’s Cross.
And it’s an article in The Guardian that I want to write about. A friend in Euskadi alerted me to this one (thank you Peta) because it’s one of my favourite topics — the freedom of photographers to use their cameras.
Stonehenge, Trafalgar Square, National Trust properties, a whole bunch of places in the USA — the list of places where photography is banned or restricted lengthens daily. Now, unsurprisingly, we can add the Olympic park in East London to the list.
I’ll never get to see this place because all my ticket applications have proved unsuccessful. However I am permitted to contribute substantially towards it through a hike in my London rates over the next ten years. So I’d like to see some pictures of it.
The Olympic venues are technically private property (purchased using our money, but when did that ever restrain our dear leaders?) so control can be asserted over what can and can’t be photographed within the precincts. But not on the public spaces surrounding the venue, of course.
The Guardian thought this could be interesting, so they sent a couple of photographers and a video to test the temperature of the waters. They struck lucky straight away when they ran into an incompetently and incompletely briefed security guard whose debating skills and command of English were no match for the fiercely well prepared Guardian hacks. He simply attempted to stop them filming in a public place. They refused. Reinforcements arrived.
And here — well, you know I’m on the side of the photographers, but this was outright provocation and harassment. The Guardian hacks were milling around, pushing for a reaction. But they came up against an intelligent, articulate and reasonable security supervisor who conceded they had a right to photograph on public land but as this was a sensitive area — the Olympic Park’s security centre — it would be most awfully kind of them if they could possibly desist.
The Guardianistas hectored and interrupted. They tried to photograph the armband name badge of an old fart security guard who looked worryingly like me, and he tore it off to prevent them. Bad move. The hacks loved it.
I want photographers to be able to photograph what they want when they want where they want, within reason and without causing offence, upset or danger. Yes, there are security concerns. Yes, there are privacy issues. I’m less impressed by the “we own it, therefore we should profit from it” brigade. I personally find papparazzis distasteful, and I believe they were the major contributing factor in the death of Princess Diana.
Our cause isn’t helped by photographers manufacturing an incident where none existed. But every movement needs an obnoxious vanguard.
Doesn’t it? What do you think?
The New Year is traditionally the time to herald new things, starting with the Epiphany of the Christ Child on January 6th and the chance to play and replay my Desert Island carol, Peter Cornelius’s “Three Kings from Persian lands afar”.
So a happy New Year to you all. At my age things no longer occur, they tend to recur, and it’s rare to encounter something that appears to be completely new. Continuing the religious references, the Preacher in Ecclesiastes thunders “Is there any thing whereof it can be said, See, this is new?”
What I’m writing about today is a camera. That’s not new. But a light field camera is new to me, that’s for sure.
A light field camera? A field camera is one of those bulky great things with bellows, a permanent tripod, and a hood so the photographer can view the upside-down image on the 10×8 plate in darkness. Great for architectural photography, less useful for sports.
A light field camera is nothing like that. ‘Light field’ is the word phrase, and it refers to the way the device captures light data. The ‘light field’ is defined as the light travelling in all directions through all points in space. In conventional cameras — digital or film — the image (or light data) is captured on a flat plane at the back of the box. This can either be film or a digital sensor. The rays of light are combined and recorded as a single unit of light and shade.
In a light field camera, it is claimed that its sensor can capture the colour, intensity and vector direction of all the rays of light in a scene, providing much more data from which to compile an image.
What does this mean? Well of course the science is beyond me, but what I really need to know is what does this mean for the photographer, and obviously as a picture librarian, for image sales? In what way is the resulting picture different? Note that I didn’t say better. It’s not a field camera, after all, which is the gold standard for image quality.
My first thought is lots of data means big file sizes. And what do we do with all that extra data? The answer is nothing, at the moment. We’re back to 1950s Britain, where you couldn’t buy garlic or olive oil because “there’s no call for it.” At the moment, there is no call for it — there is no commercial need for the additional data a light field camera can produce. Here in 2012 fotoLibra has the ability to supply 8 bit, 16 bit or 32 bit images; we can supply HDR images. We don’t, because we’re not asked for them. At the moment professional picture buyers are content to buy 8 bit JPEGs.
I didn’t see the point of an HD television until I got one. But I can totally see the point of a professional quality light field camera to create images of record for museums and archives. Imagine being able to focus and study every plane of Nefertiti’s head. Wow.
Because here is why an image taken on a light field camera is different. You can refocus on any part of the image — after the picture has been taken. This is not the same as an Ansel Adams image at f64 where every part of the image is pin-sharp; these are images taken at f2 with a very shallow depth of field — which you can subsequently vary at will.
It is fascinating. I can play with these images for hours.
A light field camera has just been launched for the consumer market in the United States. Its brand name is Lytro, and I guess that could go the way that Hoover and Biro (and Kodak once did) to become the generic name for a light field camera. The first Lytro has an 8x optical zoom and an f2 aperture lens. It doesn’t look much like a camera, more like a square tube, and it comes in three colours and two storage sizes, 8 GB and 16 GB — 350 or 750 photos. It costs $399 (£255, €206) and $499. The aperture stays constant across the zoom range, which allows comprehensive light capture in the foreground, the mid ground and the background. The images it produces are 1.2MB JPEGs, which are at the lower end of the quality scale.
Do I want one? No, not yet. Remember, I’m not a photographer, I’m just a bloke who has a camera. Will it be more than just a curiosity? It’s hard to say. It’s certainly cheap enough for many people to be able to buy on a whim and play with, experiment with. Would I recommend you get one? If you’re a curious and inquisitive photographer who’s not strapped for cash, then yes, definitely. I would love to see what real photographers can achieve with such a tool.
At the moment the Lytro doesn’t meet the fotoLibra quality standards set out in our Submission Guidelines.
But I think we’ll make room for it.
Even though ‘There is no new thing under the sun.’
Yesterday we sold an image for a large amount of money, bought off the site by credit card.
As always, we were delighted — until we saw the image. It was a very jolly and colourful cartoon in a style reminiscent of the 1970s. I thought Blimey, this photographer is talented! He can’t half draw!
And then a little shadow of suspicion crossed my mind. This cartoon looked like the work of a commercial artist from the 70s, not a talented photographer from the 20 teens. We looked at the photographer’s portfolio. As well as his photographs there were several images which demonstrated a bewildering variety of artistic talent, from etchings to cartoons. In a number of different styles.
Now fotoLibra prides itself on being an open access picture library. Anyone can upload anything as long as it passes our technical Submission Guidelines (and isn’t porn, of course) and the photographer adheres to our terms and conditions.
One paragraph reads as follows: (The Member warrants that) it owns the Intellectual Property Rights in the Images and licencing of such rights shall not infringe any third party’s right to privacy.
In our expensive lawyerspeak, this means fotoLibra members are only allowed to upload images which are their copyright, or in the public domain. In the UK, copyright persists for 70 years after the death of the creator of the work. So the work of artists who died before November 24th 1941 can be sold on fotoLibra, unless their estates have extended the copyright.
We go on to say that if someone sues, we’ll dump them faster than Gaddafi shot up a storm drain, or in more lawyerspeak: fotoLibra shall in no way be liable for any breach by the Member of the warranties and the Member hereby indemnifies fotoLibra from and against any and all claims, liabilities, damages, actions, proceedings (including reasonable legal fees and expenses) that may be suffered or incurred by fotoLibra which arise out of or in connection with such a breach.
Our chastened member has removed the offending images. In turn we have grovelled in front of the innocent purchaser, rent our garments and refunded his money. He has been more than magnanimous in his understanding, and we hope he will be buying a different (and even more legal) image from us.
How wonderful some people are.
Please please PLEASE do not upload images for which you do not hold the copyright. And immediately delete from your portfolio any such images. We’ll delete them when we find them, as well.
But it’s YOUR responsibility.
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.
There was no BAPLA Picture Buyers’ Fair this year. The lovely and redoubtable Flora Smith of Topfoto decided to do something about it.
With the help of Will Carleton of Photo Archive News she created fotoFringe. 55 picture libraries (curiously no Getty, Corbis or Alamy) piled into the plush King’s Place development on a highly gentrified canal basin at King’s Cross and prepared to tout their wares to the picture editors and researchers they hoped would attend.
And attend they did. I can’t speak for other picture libraries, but at the show yesterday we had 58 — count them, 58 — fruitful meetings. (We would have had more had not at least three photographers managed to evade the armed guards and got to chew the fat over a leisurely few hours with us while we agonisingly watched trains of real live picture buyers, weighed down with credit cards and price agreements burning holes in their handbags, steaming past us. There’s a time and a place etc etc and You Know Who You Are. No — we love you really. It’s just that we went there geared up to talk to picture buyers, not sellers.)
I can speak for other picture libraries, actually. There wasn’t a single voice of dissent. Everyone had a great day. It wasn’t expensive (except for all the bars of chocolate we handed out to picture buyers) and in terms of cost per head per meeting it was perhaps the most successful expo fotoLibra has ever attended.
Let’s do it again!
One interesting point (to me) is that 14 of our visitors had come to a trade show without bringing any business cards with them. Is it just me, or does that seem odd?
If you want to see more (and considerably better) images and read more about fotoFringe, here’s a link to Photo Archive News’s report for May 12. You can see fotoLibra’s stand and Yvonne’s and my cheery faces in the fourth image down.
Meanwhile my only quibble was that as we were in the second wave of bookings for the show along with 18 other picture libraries, our black felt-covered fotoLibra trestle table was placed below water level in the windowless basement. It was interesting to note people’s reactions to the space: the under 25s said “This looks like an exam room;” the 25 to 60s said “This looks like a gymnasium;” and the over 60s said “This looks like a morgue.” Ah, the preoccupations of age.
Here’s the stand when we set it up:
and here’s the rest of the room (or The Morgue, as my age group called it).
It really was a cheerful, positive, feelgood sort of event. Let’s hope this leads to more sales for us all.
… if you don’t want to see a particularly gruesome image of the assassinated Osama bin Laden.
I’ve put it at the bottom of this blog so you don’t have to look at it without scrolling down, not for any vicarious pleasure, but for the simple purpose of showing what can be achieved with digital image manipulation software such as Adobe Photoshop (other digital image manipulation applications are available).
What purports to be the shocking photograph of the dead bin Laden which President Obama deemed too disturbing for public view has of course cropped up all over the place, mainly on right-wing conservative American websites. And they are truly scary (the websites, that is).
You will have read in previous postings on this blog that US courts do not allow digital photographic images as evidence because of the ease with which they can be manipulated. Actually as anyone who has battled with Photoshop will know, it’s not that easy, but a truly skilled Photoshop artist can make it look simple — and realistic.
The image is indeed shocking — until you look at the image on the right.
On the left you will see a purported photograph of Osama bin Laden after he stupidly opened the door to some visiting American gentlemen. On the right you will see a much nastier image — Osama bin Laden alive.
Compare the two images.
Look at the angle of the head.
Look at his ear; look at the highlight inside it.
Look at the highlight on the tip of his nose.
Look at his mouth hanging slackly open, doubtless in the process of delivering some deranged spittle-flecked invective.
The images are identical, except that in one he appears to have met with an accident.
It’s the same image. The one of the left has been Photoshopped — it’s a completely fraudulent image. I’m not suggesting for a moment that this is the image that Barack found too disturbing to release; that one is undoubtedly real and I’m sure it’s profoundly unpleasant.
But in lieu of having the real thing, some talented Photoshop artist has been employed to provide slaughter pron for slavering right-wingers. It’s very good — until some clever chappie like David Hoffman unearths the original image.
Unless of course Hoffman has been even smarter and recreated the image on the right from the original on the left!
Now you can see why American courts don’t permit digital images as evidence. The camera lies through its teeth.
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!
4 Corners, Alamy, Arcaid, Arenapal, BAPLA, Bridgeman, Camera Press, Corbis, Country Life, fotoFringe, fotoLibra, Getty, Heritage Images, Image Source, John Walmsley Education, marketing photographs, Mary Evans, Mirrorpix, Nature Picture Library, Photo Archive News, photography, Photoshot, picture library, Picture Research Association, picture sales, Robert Harding, Ronald Grant Archive, selling photographs, Specialist Stock, Splash, stock agency, Topfoto, View, WENN, Writer Pictures
When fotoLibra was just an ickle bitty new picture library we scraped all our pennies together and took a stand at the BAPLA Picture Buyers’ Fair. We thought it crucial that we should hang out our faces in public, and meet all those radiant people who would (we were convinced) shortly be buying shedloads of photographs from our wonderful members.
It hasn’t quite worked out like that, although we haven’t done too badly. We’re nearing half a million images online, which although it doesn’t yet match the behemoths of Getty, Alamy, Corbis and the microstock rabble, is still a respectable amount of superb images.
So it was with sadness that we learned that BAPLA would not be holding a Picture Buyers’ Fair this year.
Full marks therefore to the lovely Flora Smith of Topfoto who reasoned “If they’re not going to do it, then we will”. She hired a room and some trestle tables, called the event fotoFringe and invited a few friendly picture libraries to exhibit with her. “What a great idea,” I thought, and emailed Flora to say “Count us in!”
It was by invitation only, and she’d filled it already. 21 picture libraries, plus media partner Photo Archive News, will be exhibiting at fotoFringe — but not fotoLibra. We’re on the waiting list for a table, but we’re not holding our breath. Of course we’ll be there in person(s) (Flora said we could come), prowling round the room like hyenas and jackals, but we won’t be sitting at the top table.
Sleepless nights haven’t resolved the question of why Flora and Will Carleton of Photo Archive News didn’t think of us when choosing 20 picture libraries to exhibit with them (is it my tendency to dribble? my flatulence? my general nastiness?) but there we go. We will just sit on the sidelines and wait.
fotoLibra strongly supports the idea of fotoFringe, and hopes that every picture researcher worth her salt will attend, despite the formal absence of fotoLibra, Getty, Alamy and Corbis. There’s a website for the event at http://www.fotofringelondon.com, and it takes place on May 11th at the spiffy new Kings Place venue just north of King’s Cross. See you there!
One thing the fotoFringe website doesn’t do is link through to the exhibiting agencies’ websites so you can see what they offer, so as a service to picture buyers I thought fotoLibra could contribute that here.
And rather than list the libraries conventionally in alphabetical order, I’ve listed them in the order they appear on Alexa, the website ranking index standard, to see how close they get to Google, Facebook and Youtube. The lower the number, the more people visit the site.
Although fotoLibra isn’t exhibiting at fotoFringe, it would be invidious to leave my own company out of any listing. So here we go:
|Photo Archive News||Trade News||824,236|
|Nature Picture Library||Nature||940,390|
|Picture Research Association||Industry Body||2,080,000|
|Ronald Grant Archive||Cinema||8,012,000|
|John Walmsley Education||Education||22,800,000|
|Writer Pictures||Authors||no data|