Archive for the ‘Customers’ Category

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Every retailer knows that Price is King. People will always choose the cheapest option, and that’s perfectly understandable when it’s the same product.

If I see a litre of Famous Grouse for £20 in the Coöp, Sainsbury’s or Waitrose and there’s a litre of the Grouse for £15 in my local Londis, I’ll buy it there, thank you very much.

Of course there are exceptions. Louis Vuitton brand their luggage with a particularly plebeian design which is enthusiastically copied around the world. I imagine that less than 1% of the Louis Vuitton luggage you see is the real deal, unsurprisingly when the real bags are north of £5,000 and you can get a serviceable replica for £50. As my friend Jennifer says, Why pay less?

I have a friend who is so embarrassed by the big fat gold Rolex his wife bought him that he carries around the Watches of Switzerland receipt to prove to disbelieving friends that it’s real. We now have fun casting doubts on the authenticity of his receipt.

But images are different. You rarely see an image on fotoLibra which you can also see on Getty, Magnum, Corbis, Alamy etc., so comparing prices is much harder.

We’ll match or beat any price from any of the big picture libraries for the same usage and a similar deal. If you’re buying a photo from Getty Images for £10 it’s because you’ve agreed to buy 999 other images from them at the same price. We’ll happily match that. And you only need to commit to 99 images.

2017 has started well for fotoLibra. We’ve made a few big sales. But trickling on and on are the small purchases, people buying here and there for the same — always the same — reason: Editorial> Personal Use> One-Off.

The reason is that this is the cheapest easily discoverable price on fotoLibra. If you’re going to advertise your fizzy drink around the world, then you’d expect to pay big bucks to use one of our photographs. If you just want to print it off and stick it on your wall, then we’ve created a price just for you: Editorial> Personal Use> One-Off.

The snag is that some people will always choose the cheapest option they can find, even if it means not exactly telling the whole truth. So when they come across this bargain basement price they jump at it.

A year or so ago we saw a nice little earner. A lady had fallen in love with some of our photographs of English rivers. So much so that she bought 86 of them for herself; Editorial> Personal Use> One-Off. She put her address down as Interior Decorations Manager, Grande Hotel Splendide, Salford and paid with a corporate credit card. The Grande Hotel Splendide was just about to open an 86 bed hotel in Salford and we were struck by the coincidence.

We got in touch, and gently explained the situation, and to their credit the Grande Hotel Splendide forked out the correct price (which on a quantity deal wasn’t such a big difference).

The problem is that if we’re selling images online, we have to trust the buyer. Regular customers are no problem — they can download whatever they like and they account to us at the end of the month. But anyone can come along, register as a buyer, search the site for the cheapest price then buy a picture and walk away. It’s human nature, after all.

This doesn’t happen often enough to become a worry. But we’re aware of it, and we haven’t a clue how to police it. When it’s blatantly obvious then of course we’ll do some heavy chasing, but when M Zuckerberg of Dullsville, NE buys an image for $35 how do we know it’s NOT going to appear as a promotion for Facebook?

Any suggestions?

Oh — and a Happy New Year to you all!


Voucher Copies

February 22nd, 2016
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Every invoice we send out for a picture sale contains the same wording: ‘Please send two voucher copies to fotoLibra at 22 Mount View Road’ and with a very few honourable exceptions it is routinely ignored. Of course we can’t enforce it; most of the time we’re more than happy just to have made the sale.

But a line has to be drawn somewhere. And this is it. We have been providing the images for the labels on a series of rather upmarket Scotch whiskies recently. Each whisky has been paired with a famous author. So far we have sold them images of Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, Gustave Flaubert and Alexandre Dumas. But not Marcel Proust. I don’ t think Proust was much of a whisky drinker, more of a crème de menthe merchant.

Here’s one of the bottles with the fotoLibra image on the label:


And here’s what they have to say about this particular malt:

“This Authors’ Series is a range of limited edition and exclusive single malt whisky, created by the prestigious blenders and bottlers, Hunter Laing Ltd. Each whisky has been paired with a famous author, ensuring that the unique taste and character of the malt has been inspired by the author’s life and work. Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling & Edgar Allan Poe are the first three expressions that have been released.

“This particular expression is an Ardbeg 21 year old, matured in 1993 and bottled in January 2015. This limited edition whisky is one of only 120 bottles, which have been drawn from a Refill Hogshead cask, and bottled at natural cask strength of 56.4%. Ardbeg fans will not be disappointed, as this rich and peaty expression has all the typical Islay attributes, whilst the the character of Rupert Kipling shines through. Charles MacLean said: ‘Deep amber in colour with moderate beading. The first aroma is of lanolin and damp, untreated wool, even a hint of sheep dip, with roast chestnuts in the background. Oily and surprisingly sweet to taste, with fragrant woodsmoke in the aftertaste. Faintly waxy with a drop of water, backed by charred wood. Smooth and sweet, with hessian and washed out creosote.’

“Each bottle is presented in a brown leather box, embossed with gold medallic text, which adds to the luxurious feel of the product. The bottles are also individually wax sealed with a stylish monogram design.”

I’ve been sitting by the front door since January last year waiting for our two voucher copies to drop on to the mat, but bizarrely enough they have failed to materialise.

I think I may have discovered why. This particular whisky costs £900. Per Bottle! And it’s not even a litre! That’s €1,150, or $1,275. Blimey.

Because it’s not a whisky, it’s an Expression.



We regularly send out mailings marketing your images to registered picture buyers. We don’t send them to people who haven’t signed up to fotoLibra, because we’re terrified of being seen as a spammer by some robot in California.

Choosing subjects is fun. Our Taxonomy Matrix (at the back of our User Manual) covers 256 aspects of life and stuff in, on and out of this planet, so we never run out of interesting and topical things to tell buyers about. Occasionally we’ll feature one of our leading photographers, and with the Tour De France starting in Yorkshire tomorrow, we thought we’d give Nick Jenkins a turn.

Here’s what we sent:

fotoLibra mailing

A fotoLibra buyer mailing

We had this reply from the Picture Editor of a famous magazine, one of the best-known and most venerable magazines in Great Britain:

They are fab – are they free to use, sorry we do not have a budget

Words failed me. So I resorted to expletives. Luckily I wasn’t allowed to reply, as I’m recovering from an op and as a result all my opinions are censored.

What do they think we are? Who do they think you are? How do they imagine we feed our little ones? I assume they all work for free and give the magazine away?

As Jesus said, the labourer is worthy of his hire, so if you missed Italian photographer Enzo dal Verme’s video in this blog post we made in May, now’s the time to watch it.


Bada Bing!

April 4th, 2014
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

As an Apple user of 23 years’ standing, I obviously prefer to use the Bing search engine from Microsoft rather than any goggle-eyed alternative. It has a very rigorous porn filter, so when I search for Gwyn Headley (come on! don’t we all?) I get 31,000 results as opposed to 64,000 from a rival search engine.

But the main reason I like to use Bing is that it looks so nice. And one of the reasons it looks so nice it because they buy photographs from fotoLibra to use on their home page. Here are two fotoLibra images they’ve recently chosen:

Three baby scops owls, by Linda Wright

Three baby scops owls, by Linda Wright


A herd of Oryx

An oryx herd, by Paul Benson


Congratulations to fotoLibra contributors Linda Wright and Paul Benson.

And what’s more, Bing pays decently as well. Full marks.


Every week fotoLibra gets requests from companies, charities, bloggers and individuals who want to use photographs — your photographs.

This of course is a wonderful thing, but unfortunately for you and me they have one thing in common. They all want them for free.

Oh, the reasons they give are wondrous and manifold; way above ‘the dog ate my homework’ level. They plead to our better nature, they claim poverty, they cite numerous examples of unparalleled generosity from picture libraries who modestly (and surprisingly) request anonymity, and, most common of all, “we’re a charity so we shouldn’t have to pay anything”.

I’ve just seen a correspondence between a Large Wealthy Production Company and a struggling musician. It makes fascinating reading.

I have redacted the copy to remove any direct references to the LWPC because their lawyers are undoubtedly larger and wealthier than ours, and anyway they don’t need the free publicity. ‘Xena’ is a made-up name. The only indicator I haven’t changed in the name of the musician, ‘Whitey’ N J White. I can’t find his blog at the moment, but I’m sure he would appreciate any messages of support you may care to offer. This material came from the excellent PetaPixel newsletter.

All I want you to do when reading the following correspondence is substitute the word ‘photography’ for ‘music’. Then see how you feel.


Thanks for emailing me, I have emailed your label but not heard back yet so thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately we don’t have any budget for music but would be great if we could use the track but it is up to you, but would appreciate anything you could do?

Many thanks,


and now Whitey’s reply:

Hello Xena

Firstly, there is no label — I outright own my material, so I’m not sure who you’ve been emailing.

Secondly, I am sick to death of your hollow schtick, of the inevitable line “unfortunately there’s no budget for music”, as if some fixed Law Of The Universe handed you down a sad but immutable financial verdict preventing you from budgeting to pay for music. Your company set out the budget.

So you have chosen to allocate no money for music. I get begging letters like this every week — from a booming, affluent global media industry.

Why is this? Let’s look at who we both are.

I am a professional musician, who lives from his music. It took me half a lifetime to learn the skills, years to claw my way up the structure, to the point where a stranger like you will write to me. This music is my hard-earned property. I’ve licensed music to some of the biggest shows, brands, games and TV production companies on earth; from Breaking Bad to the Sopranos, from Coca Cola to Visa, HBO to Rockstar Games.

Ask yourself: would you approach a Creative or a Director with a resumé like that, and in one flippant sentence ask them to work for nothing?

Of course not. Because your industry has a precedent of paying these people, of valuing their work.

Or would you walk into someone’s home, eat from their bowl, and walk out smiling, saying “So sorry, I’ve no budget for food”? Of course you would not.

Because culturally, we classify that as theft.

Yet the culturally ingrained disdain for the musician that riddles your profession leads you to fleece the music angle whenever possible. You will without question pay everyone connected to a shoot — from the caterer to the grip to the extra — even the cleaner who mopped your set and scrubbed the toilets after the shoot will get paid. The musician? Give him nothing.

Now let’s look at you. A quick glance at your web site reveals a variety of well known, internationally syndicated reality programmes. You are a successful, financially solvent and globally recognised company with a string of hit shows.

Working on multiple series in close co-operation with Channel 4, from a West London office, with a string of awards under your belt, you have real money. To pretend otherwise is an insult.

Yet you send me this shabby request — give me your property, for free. Just give us what you own, we want it.

The answer is a resounding and permanent NO.

I will now post this on my sites, forward this to several key online music sources and blogs, encourage people to re-blog this. I want to see a public discussion begin about this kind of industry abuse of musicians [and Photographers — Ed.]

This was one email too far for me. Enough. I’m sick of you.

N J White

And the one thing Xena from LWPC Inc left out was “Of course, we’ll give you a credit. It’ll be great publicity for you, because we’ve sold this project to 597 planets across the universe. You should be SO grateful to us!”

What can we say? Thanks A Lot.

And well said, Whitey! N J White is hereby awarded the 2013 fotoLibra Award For Speaking Out.


Payment Requests

April 4th, 2012
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Whoa! All the bits of the fotoLibra site seem to be springing back to life, particularly the fotoLibra Payment Requests. Poor Yvonne has been flooded over the past hour with fotoLibra members cheekily asking for money for their picture sales.

This is outrageous. How dare they demand the money that’s owed to them? Why can’t they be happy with the postcard from sunny Rio de Janeiro, as traditionally sent by fleeing accountants?

But no, they want to be paid, and as we have sold their pictures, I suppose we’d better shell out.

I’m the one who suffers, you know. She doesn’t like writing cheques, so she takes it out on me.

She’s much happier making bank transfers, so if you haven’t already fed in your bank details, do it now — sign in, go to Control Centre> Account> Payment Preference (5th button down in the LH column) and fill in the three boxes. Simple. And the money will go straight into your account.

If you’ve sold a picture, that is.

As you can probably guess, this is me marking time until we get the go-ahead from Damien that it’s safe for fotoLibra members to start uploading images again. So I thought I’d do a little housekeeping, such as asking members to set up more bank transfers. It makes life immeasurably easier for us — well, for Yvonne, and by extension for me. I don’t normally have time for it.

I’m expecting the go-ahead any minute, but I’ve been expecting that since last Friday. I suspect it will be sometime tomorrow.

I promise I will let you know!


Memento Mori

January 23rd, 2012
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

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:

Christmas Chimney Sweep

Christmas Chimney Sweep

Isn’t this pretty?

We thought so. So did a small American company, who felt it would make a great Christmas card.

It is our ambition to make fotoLibra the most user friendly, intuitive and simple site from which to buy pictures. But from reading the following correspondence, I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

We received this a couple of weeks ago at 14:28:

HI Gwyn,
We would like to purchase the following image to use on a Christmas card, that we would be printing in United States.
FOT510763      Chimney Sweep
Arnie Varah

Yvonne (not me) replied immediately, writing

Hello Arnie,
Thanks for your message which has been forwarded to me by Gwyn.
I notice that your colleague Jim Schuco has just registered with us, so the easiest way to purchase image FOT 510763 is via our website. You/Jim would need to sign in to www.fotoLibra com and price the image as follows, e.g.:
Merchandise > Greetings cards;  Continue
Print Run: 1000 > Duration: 1 year
As soon as you have gone through the purchasing process, you can download the high res image file immediately.
Kind regards,
Yvonne Seeley

Then at 19:01, this arrived:

HI Yvonne,
We would like to purchase the following image to use on a Christmas card, that we would be printing in United States.
FOT510763      Chimney Sweep
Jim Schuco

Yvonne replied as follows:

Thanks for your message. Here a copy of the email I’ve just sent to your colleague Arnie Varah:

and enclosed her previous email.

Jim replied:

Hi Yvonne,
We are just looking for one picture not 1000.

which prompted Yvonne’s response:

Will you only be printing one Christmas card? Stock agencies sell rights managed images based on the size of the print run and the duration of the license.
Hope this clarifies matters.

Jim came right back. He was baffled. So Yvonne responded:

Hello again Jim,
Here’s the explanation I sent to you earlier yesterday evening:
“Will you only be printing one Christmas card? You’ll find that stock agencies sell rights managed images based on the size of the print run and the duration of the license.
Hope this clarifies matters.”

I’m sorry this didn’t fully explain the situation for you. The image of the chimney sweep is a rights managed image. This means that you need to purchase the specific usage rights you need. So if you want to print a number of Christmas cards from this one image – up to 1000, for example, to send out to your customers – you have to go through the purchasing process I outlined earlier.

Jim and Arnie thought for a while. Then Jim asked

Hi Yvonne,
If we decide to print the Christmas cards with your company, would the
1.       Material used are card stock
2.       The image would be color
3.       Can we add a greeting inside
4.       Would envelope come with the cards
Let me know

Incidentally we’re talking £50 for the cost of buying the picture here. Not a fortune.

Yvonne replied:

Hello Jim,
fotoLibra is a stock picture agency. We license the use of images to picture buyers and researchers for reproduction in their publications – books, calendars, magazines, greetings cards and so on. You would buy the image license from us, download the high resolution picture file, and then get the Christmas card printed to your design using our image, as you advised in your first email.

Jim responded:

Hi Yvonne,
We usually send out about 100 cards, how much would it be for the image.
Jim Schuco

We’re always happy to negotiate. A price for 1,000 has to be different to a price for 100. But we cannot account for every eventuality in the pricing matrix. And we want to make sales for our members. So Yvonne replied:

Hello Jim,
Our base price for usage in a print run of up to 1000 cards is $234.00. On this occasion, sInce you are only planning 100, we can offer you a 66% discount. This would bring the price down to $80.
Please let me know if you want to go ahead at this discounted price and I will apply the percentage to your account.

On 3 Dec 2010, at 20:52, Jim Schuco wrote:

Hi Yvonne,
I am not sure I understand your previous email and this one. Can you print the cards also or you only provide the image for us? Let me know
Jim Schuco

By now Yvonne is getting a little terse:

Hello Jim
We supply the image; you arrange the printing.

Silence for five days. Has she mortally offended Jim?

Then on 7 Dec 2010, at 18:16, Jim wrote:

Hi Yvonne,
We are willing to pay $75 for the image. Let me know.
Jim Schuco

Yvonne’s final email:

Hello Jim,
Thanks for your feedback.
OK – you will need to sign into and type FOT510763 into the quick search box (top right).
Then click the $ Price Image link in the left hand column.
As soon as you have completed the purchasing process you’ll be able to download the high res image file. We will also send you a revised invoice confirming the actual rights bought.

The credit card payment went through and the image was downloaded an hour later. Will we be getting a Christmas card from them?

That was sixteen emails, and a lot of hassle, to make a $75 sale. Our worthy fotoLibra member will get £23.78. So will we, before we pay bank charges and taxes,.

I wonder what Tahiti is like at this time of year?

Guess we’ll never know.


Mature Times

August 13th, 2010

Keen on your hobby? Why not turn it into a business?

I don’t know much about the magazine Mature Times, but I do know they’ve got EXCELLENT ideas. Because the nice people there have written an article about fotoLibra photographer Linda Wright (she of the wondrous Birds of Prey photographs) in which they say very nice things about the part fotoLibra had to play in Linda’s success.

Aw shucks! (scuffles foot shyly behind other heel).

Hovering Eurasian Kestrel ©Linda Wright / fotoLibra


Picture Perfect

May 1st, 2010

Another politician gets into trouble on the run-up to the UK General Election, to be held next Thursday, May 6.

The Liberal Democrat candidate for Arfon in Wales (that’s Bangor & Caernarfon to you and me) illustrated her campaign leaflet with photographs sourced — let’s be kind — thoughtlessly.

The slogan “Regenerating Welsh Towns” was accompanied by a photograph of a derelict building in the very English city of Bath, Somerset.

Her concern for jobs was illustrated by a Job Centre in Sidmouth, Devon. Another photograph showed a team of builders in Barnet, North London.

We must praise candidate Sarah Green for her international outlook, but when a campaign is fought on local issues, she really ought to source local pictures. There is an excellent picture library based in her county Gwynedd, I believe. We Welsh are particularly sensitive about such matters!

When Labour launched its campaign with an image of sunrise over a cornfield, I contacted them via their website to ask where they sourced the picture. It looked somehow American to me (yes, sunrise is sunrise, and a cornfield is a cornfield, but if you study a lot of images every day, as I do, national differences such as colour preferences become more marked).

Strangely enough, I haven’t had a reply. I would love to know where the British Labour Party purchased the picture. It would be great if it was a British picture library, a British photographer and a British field.

I wonder.