Archive for the ‘Customers’ Category

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.


Big Jobs

June 26th, 2009

No, this is nothing to do with Steve.

fotoLibra was given a tender document from a large organisation. We read it carefully, and with respect, because the business has a fine reputation.

They wanted
a) a digital asset management system
b) a secure web hosting service
c) digitisation of 6 million images in varying formats from glass plates to transparencies
d) complete metadata applied to each image

In return for all this they offered “a licence for a limited period of time to exploit the photographs commercially.”

No cash. No other form of payment at all.

And by the way the 2,000 existing users of the archive must continue to be able to access and download the content for free, including all the newly digitised and keyworded assets. They’re not included in the commercial licence.

I believe they may have to rethink this proposal. The cost of digitising and applying metadata to 6 million images would be north of £20 million.

This is a huge job, and a massive investment. Commercial exploitation would be unlikely to recoup a twentieth of this amount. The length of the licence would have to be in centuries in order to claw back the original investment.

Not for us — but thanks for thinking of us!


Lovely Clients

June 25th, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Here at fotoLibra we love our clients. They buy our member’s images, they pay us, they keep us in business.

Love is an inadequate word to be nestled among the glories of the English language. The Ancient Greeks had at least four words to describe different types of love*, whereas we just have to muddle through with plain old Love.

But our love for our clients is, shall we say, storgéan*. A new client bought a total of two pictures off us and threw a tantrum when he couldn’t have them at the same price per image he was getting from MammonPix, with whom he had a £50,000 p.a. contract.

Another sent us a picture order with the following ominous rider:
Upon payment of this fee, the design copyright and all other rights throughout the world in this material will be vested in us.

Umm … I’m no lawyer, but that reads curiously like a rights grab to us. We have demanded clarification.

The copyright in all fotoLibra images is asserted by our photographers. It’s not our business to sell their inheritance for a mess of pottage.

* OK then, I’m glad you asked:
αγάπη :
AGAPÉ : Love as in ‘I love you.’ This is the ‘charity’ of ‘faith, hope and charity’ in I Corinthians XIII.
ερως : EROS : Love as in ‘I fancy you something rotten and I’m going to do terrible things to you.’

στοργή : STORGE : Love as in ‘My bloody teenage son came home pissed again last night.’

φιλία : PHILIA : Love as in ‘You’re my best mate, you are.’ PHILAdelphia, the City of Brotherly Love.

Breaking news: we demanded clarification, and they have charitably removed the clause from the picture order. I wonder if we’ll ever hear from them again? I need faith.

And hope.


Why Pay More?

April 15th, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Old business model for start-ups:

1. Think of name
2. Employ expensive graphic designer and picture library to supply corporate theme and visual content
3. Trade happily ever after

New business model for start-ups:

1. Make up name not already registered as a dot com
2. Run competition to choose images and graphics
3. Award winner of competition the honor of seeing his work used by new megacorp
4. Save $000s

Clever it certainly is. But sustainable? Surely designers and photographers will come to their senses? Or is this solely aimed at the sub-graduate sector?

Whatever; if this really catches on there won’t be any jobs for them to graduate to. Designers and photographers need the protection of agencies such as fotoLibra to save them from themselves.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

In early December last year we had a frantic request from a new buyer (who worked for a long standing client of ours) who wanted a detailed list of images of India. She had to have them within 24 hours, absolute latest.

We worked overnight. The following afternoon we sent her a lightbox with 90% of the images she asked for — nearly 900 of them. She was effusive in her thanks.

Then silence. A month later she emailed to say she’d just created new lightboxes from the material we’d sent, but they were empty. She hadn’t signed in; she’d simply clicked on the thumbnails she liked and assumed that would create a new lightbox. (We must look in to that). So we created the lightboxes for her and transferred the images. Once again, many thanks were received.

Then silence. It’s now March, and it’s time to send her a little reminder. Just before I did so this morning, she sent in a password reset request. So she’s just about to start over. Three months have passed since that frantic, urgent, desperate overnight deadline. Not one image has yet been purchased.

Members rightly ask why they submit images to Picture Calls then don’t hear anything. There’s the answer.

Clients. We love ’em.


Small print

March 3rd, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

We regularly send out sample lightboxes to our registered buyers to demonstrate the depth, range and quality of images on the fotoLibra site.

Sometimes we get a number of out of the office auto-responses back (I am out of the office for the next six years, please address any urgent enquiries to but most mid-sized companies will send a boilerplate reply.

These often link through to their Terms & Conditions, and it’s worth reading them for the sheer gall they display.

Here’s one, verbatim from a London magazine:

By submitting Material to the Picture Desk you grant to us a perpetual non-exclusive royalty-free licence to publish or otherwise use the Material in any Publication.

Just by submitting them! In other words, “thank you for showing us your pictures. They’re ours now. So sod off.”

Ryanair is rumoured to have a clause in its T&Cs which reads “What part of NO REFUNDS do you not understand?” But I couldn’t find it.


Pricing conundrum

January 21st, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Setting prices, billing and collecting the cash is one of the most important services fotoLibra provides to its members.

Apparently for rather more than the cost of fotoLibra’s Pro Membership you can buy a software program that suggests prices if you’re selling photographs in the United States. That’s about all it does.

Unlike fotoLibra, it doesn’t store your images, promote them, sell them, deliver them, invoice, collect or pay you money. It leaves all that to you. I am lost in admiration for its business model.

We have 1,447 set prices for rights managed images, derived from a complex algorithm that takes into account Size, Circulation and Repetition. Embedded in this are other licences such as territory and duration. We cover most bases, but occasionally we find we’ve missed something out.

Like today, when we were asked for a price for an image that covered the following rights: editorial use; book; 5 year licence; single territory; 5,000 print run; half page; eight languages.

Straightforward — till you get to those eight languages!

What’s the answer? I’ll post our price here as soon as somebody makes an educated guess.

I wonder how that software program would have coped?



October 10th, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

One of the advantages of having members in 150 countries is that there’s usually a fotoLibra photographer on the spot if needed.

We don’t market this service aggressively, concentrating on selling our archive of stock images and our Picture Call service.

But infrequently a magazine might come to us and say “We need a photograph of an interviewee in Vladivostock,” so off we send Vitaly with his trusty Zenit.

We’ve done it just three times this year, supplying photographs of individuals in Chicago, Illinois; Seattle, Washington and Bala, North Wales. Each time the photographer has been paid a good fee and we have taken a small percentage.

So when I saw a plea on LinkedIn, to which I’m a casual visitor, for a photographer to do an assignment in Rio de Janeiro, I thought that’s right up our street. We have 40 members in Brazil (invite me over, if you’re reading this) so I contacted the ones in Rio, and Humberto offered to handle the job.

All good so far, till our LinkedIn chummy came up with his offer. €75. That’s $100, or £60, to be divided between us and the photographer. In London, that would barely cover the fare on public transport to the location. So we told him to boil his head (we have a winning way with clients).

Now we will happily sell an existing image off the site for £60, providing it has restricted use, but to ask a guy to get up, assemble his kit and lighting, travel across one of the most dangerous cities in the world, meet the customer, calm him, take high quality images suitable for full page repro and then upload them to fotoLibra — I don’t think so. That’s worth more than £60, wherever you live in the world, and what about fotoLibra’s cut? We’re not a charity, although sometimes I think … never mind.

The labourer is worthy of his hire, the Bible says, and I believe photographers should be properly paid for what they do. That’s why I’m so against microstock — it offers photographers dreams of riches just like the lottery, and with a similar likelihood of getting them. And it diminishes the value of photography and photographers.

Which is why LinkedIn Chummy probably thought €75 was a helluva tempting offer.


Ugly as a Picture

May 19th, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

A picture buyer stopped by our stand at the BAPLA Picture Buyers’ Fair the other day.

With pride I showed her samples of our members’ finest, as good as if not better than any of the images the other picture libraries had on display.

“Isn’t this stunning?” I enthused.

“Of course,” she replied. “All the pictures I’ve seen on every stand have been absolutely stunning. And you know what? I’m looking for practical, unfussy, clear, everyday pictures of everyday things. I need to see pictures of wheelie bins, bus shelters, street furniture, Japanese knotweed, chewing gum on pavements, that sort of thing. And not one stand has them on display.”

I gulped and swallowed. “We can get them for you!” I offered bravely.

She smiled sadly and moved on.

I vowed we really could do something. So when you get Jacqui Norman’s next Newsletter, please read about the IPSV — the Integrated Public Service Vocabulary. It’s a big project, and fotoLibra is ideally placed to handle it.

Next time you see a fantastic sunset, turn your back and look at the litter bin.


Educational images

April 3rd, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Every day we talk to picture buyers from all disciplines. It makes me smile when I remember how we started fotoLibra, trawling round banks and venture capitalists to try and raise money. “People buy pictures?” they asked in disbelief.

There are a lot of buyers out there, and we have to try and connect to them. Recently we’ve been targeting education book publishers, a massive market, especially in the UK where the vestiges of an empire (and the hegemony of the world’s greatest and most functional language) mean that those faceless rectangular office blocks on the outskirts of former county towns are now filled with solemn young people searching for images of happy, healthy African schoolchildren to feed the ceaseless demand for schoolbooks.

Actually, what they all want are images of people undergoing instruction. Groups with teachers. People learning. Black, white, multi-racial — it doesn’t matter, as long as the photograph comes with clearances and it is located precisely. “School” won’t do, but “Merton House School, Penmaenmawr, North Wales” will do very well.

Here’s a typical request:

1) Young group of musicians in jazz band with T-shirts that share same logo or band name printed on drum kit for example, or similar picture to suggest the usefulness of establishing a team identity.
2) A school council team at work — a mix of students and teachers around table
3) Group of teens (or adults) being taught survival or bushcraft skills on a bushcraft course, i.e. learning to build a shelter.
4) Pic of family meeting of two siblings with an aunt-type figure (adult younger than parent) acting as mediator — or — as near to this as you can possibly find! -— must look like a serious family discussion involving a group of more than 3 people
5) Pic of teens talking in a support/therapy group, i.e. children of divorced parents, discussing how the situation has left them very angry? OR teen talking to a therapist.
6) One teen shouting at another teen friend, looking angry (not screaming in a ‘cool’ way)
7) Group debate in a school – showing a team, or debate in a hall or classroom

Please don’t go out and take these exact photographs; this was in the past, and is just an example to show the sort of thing these educational publishers are looking for. They all want PEOPLE INTERACTING WITH EACH OTHER. The joy for fotoLibra members is that scenes like this can be taken anywhere in the world, from Penmaenmawr to Phetchaburi, from Pretoria to Peoria.

If you have a spare child of school age, why not get it and its friends to set up some of these scenarios? You can buy them pop and buns while you pocket your new-found wealth from all the pix you’ll sell.