Archive for the ‘General’ Category

SSL Certificate

September 3rd, 2018
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Apologies for any strange warning notices you may have seen recently. The fotoLibra website has been secure since we started 14 years ago, but last month we saw warning signals asking us if we were sure we wanted to go any further exploring this ‘untrustworthy’ site.

The site is secure, safe and solid. So what was the problem?

In order to be classed as safe and secure, a website that trades online has to have an SSL Certificate. This stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and we have to buy this certificate from a Certificate Authority after we’ve proved that we exist, that we are a real company, that we are legitimate, that we are solvent, that we are established, that we are registered with our national authorities etcetera.

We buy our SSL Certificate from a British company,, and we have to renew it every two years. We renewed it last year, on 25th August 2017, for two years.

Three weeks ago our certificate was revoked. denied all knowledge of it, saying the fault must be with our servers, and that our account was up-to-date and in good standing. We went frantic, checking our servers, our server farm, our domain names, everything.

It was’s fault after all. They arbitrarily revoked our two year certificate after less than a year.

By cancelling our paid-for SSL certificate 123-Reg rendered our trading website untrustworthy in the eyes of the public and therefore unusable for seven days.

After a week of complaints they supplied us with a new SSL Certificate, so the warning signs have now gone away, and once again we are a Trustworthy Site.

We told them we would be looking for compensation. They refused to even consider compensation.

That’s no problem. We just write a letter to the MD telling him that if we don’t get satisfaction we’ll take them to court. We’ll let the law decide.


From Russia With Love

August 8th, 2018
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

We were excited when Russia Today showed interest in a fotoLibra contributor’s images.
But they contacted him direct (how DID they find his address?) so he put them on to us, and this is how the exchange went:

Hello Sima
D— T— has asked me to contact you regarding your enquiry about using some of his Soviet Era Russian images.
fotoLibra handles the licensing, invoicing and image file supply for our contributors, so if you tell me the image rights you require and for how long, we’ll be able to confirm a price.
Yvonne Seeley

Dear Yvonne, thank you for getting in touch with us.
We’ve been interested in using a few images of Soviet Moscow in photo gallery on the platform with description.
Unfortunately the budget isn’t planned for publishing material RBTH, so I was wondering if there any option we could publish few photos of D— T— with his and courtesy fee free?
Thank you for your time!
Kindest regards,

Hi D—
I’ve just looked up Russia Today and it benefits from annual government funding in 2016 of $307million. That they claim to have no budget is clearly nonsense.
I’ll reply accordingly.

Hello Sima
Thank you for your reply.
No, we will not supply Russia Today with free images.
I imagine you get paid for carrying out your job as do your journalists and website developers. Photographers need to be paid for their work too.
If you find a budget, do come back to us.

She is so polite! I would have started mentioning Novichok and other such gifts from the Russian people. But this is the way the world is going, not just Russia. You do all the work, they don’t expect to pay. Remind Yvonne to tell you about Sir Peter “I don’t pay anybody for anything” Hall one day.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

When we ask fotoLibra contributors to rummage through their attics to find old photographs that can never be taken again, this is what we hope they’ll come up with. FOT3028 is just an average, everyday shot of a mass funeral in Hawai’i.

Boy Scouts funeral  Hawaii

Boy Scouts funeral Hawaii

It was taken by the grandfather of our next-door neighbour in London. He was a travelling organ builder, and this was taken from his organ loft at the funeral.

But look carefully at the yellow circles. What he wasn’t to know, and which has only later been uncovered by posterity and diligent research, is that this is the only known photograph showing Elvis Presley and the Emperor Hirohito of Japan in the same picture!

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Emperor Hirohito

Emperor Hirohito

What a find. This will rewrite history.



London vs. Bradford

March 18th, 2016
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

I’m London Welsh, fiercely proud of both Wales and London WGC*, but even I sometimes get the feeling that Great Britain Ltd pays a little bit too much attention to the Great Wen.

London Wasps play their rugby in Coventry, 100 miles from Charing Cross. When Yvonne was flying, she flew me into London Lydd, which is 80 miles from Charing Cross in the opposite direction. That is a BIG city.

Wouldn’t it be easier for all concerned if England was renamed London? Just a thought. After all, the rest of the world knows this sceptred isle as England, with not a thought for poor Wales or Scotland.

I was driving through Belgium last October when I heard a radio sports announcer previewing the forthcoming Belgium – England Davis Cup tennis tournament. I wondered how the Murray brothers would like that.

Where am I going with this? It’s the news that the Royal Photographical Society’s archive is to be moved, along with 400,000 other photography-related items, from the National Media Museum in Bradford to the V&A in London, to be replaced by a light show.

Whatever the merits or demerits of this move, we can be sure that the 400,000 objects out of the NMM’s 3 million strong collection being taken from Bradford will be the pick of the crop, leaving behind assorted knurled focussing knobs from a few old Thornton Pickards and a couple of Box Brownies.

When the NMM opened in 1983 it was called the National Museum of Photography, and it was hailed as a brave new initiative to devolve a part of Britain’s artistic heritage out of London. I worked with them on a number of projects, notably with Brian Coe and the Kodak Gallery (there’s a Harlech connection for you — Kodak’s first UK boss George Davison built his summer house in Harlech).

Now the best of the best is being shipped to London, which already has more and better museums, theatres, art galleries and entertainments than anywhere else in the world, leaving Bradford with a light show, an IMAX and a couple of curry houses.

As a proud Londoner, I say it’s simply not fair. We’ve got enough down here. Why do we have to have more? Make Bradford a destination for all photographers!

London’s got it all. It doesn’t need this. Bradford does need it. Please think again.

*World’s Greatest City

$ocial Media

March 15th, 2016

Not being a great user of social media personally,  I find it mildly offensive when people bump into me in the street because they’re too intent on reading their screens.

However when I was their age, I used to bump into people as I hurried down the street with my nose buried in a book — so where’s the difference?

The difference is that the boors who bump into me today are communicating with their own user-defined communities, which definitely does not include portly old gentlemen meandering down the street.

But as the great New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner pointed out, ‘On the Internet, nobody knows you’e a dog.’ So I don’t know if these hurrying, bustling, busy people might be picture editors, photographers, or any other members of a community which could be interested in fotoLibra, in the wonderful variety of images we hold, and in the great opportunities for reaching picture buyers around the world.

Shortly after we started up fotoLibra we approached what we recognised as social media blithely and without fear. We set up this fotoLibra Pro Blog, we set up Facebook and LinkedIn identities, we fed them with content and … not a lot happened. So we asked around, and people told us “Oh, you should be on

  • Picasa
  • Google +
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Reddit
  • Tumblr
  • Snapchat
  • Flickr
  • Twitter

and so on and so on and so on.

Keeping a visible profile on a dozen or or so social media sites (all American, of course) is hard maintenance for a small English-speaking (as opposed to American-speaking) business. In fact it’s almost a full-time job.

But it’s not impossible. So I started checking them out. The first one I looked at was Picasa.They closed it down today, Tuesday 15th March, after 13 years.

That would have been annoying, pumping thought and effort into something which has the cord yanked just as you get it up and running.

All these SocMed sites seem to follow the same pattern — smart young entrepreneurs start them up, they achieve quick success, a larger corporation buys them out, it doesn’t have the same drive and vision as the founders, the division lurches from new initiative to desperate new initiative until the enterprise is quietly remaindered. Whatever happened to Bebo? Myspace? They still exist, albeit as husks of their former selves. Friends Reunited? It was closed down 18 days ago.

When Facebook went public, 18% of the listed value of the company would buy you Belgravia. At the time, I commented I’d rather have Belgravia. Now more teenagers are signing up to Snapchat than Facebook, and who knows what they’ll be joining in 25 years time? Whereas Belgravia will still be there.

All this was partly prompted by coming across a New York photographer who started taking photos in 2008, now has 400,000 followers on Facebook and no, she doesn’t post naked selfies. I am lost in envy and admiration. My NYC chums have never heard of her. fotoLibra rather fewer followers on Facebook. Our challenge is to multiply ours a thousandfold.

Whether the SocMeds are on the rise, or in graceful decline, the more people who are aware of what fotoLibra offers, the better it will be for contributors, picture buyers and of course us.

We’re asking around again. Naturally, all advice will be gratefully received!

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director


For over 40 years psychologist Merrill Elias and his team has been tracking the cognitive abilities of over 1,000 people in the north-eastern United States. The study basically observes the relationship between blood pressure and brain performance.

There have been seven waves of research so far, each one lasting five years, and in the sixth wave, 2001-06, Elias’s team decided to ask participants what they ate.

Researchers compared cognitive tests on participants who reported eating chocolate at least once a week with those who ate less.

The results were remarkable. The chocolate eaters had significantly superior visual-spatial memory and organisation, working memory, scanning and tracking, and abstract reasoning.

In other words, people who eat chocolate are better at multi-tasking, looking at things, remembering numbers and a host of other benefits.

“Our study definitely indicates the direction is that chocolate consumption affects cognitive ability,” says Elias.

It’s clear that if chocolate consumption enhances visual awareness, then photographers and picture editors should be bolting the stuff down.

We are well known in the picture business for handing out large bars of chocolate at trade fairs to picture editors in exchange for their business cards. It seems we were doing right all along.

Stand by therefore for the fotoLibra Enhanced Visual Perception Chocolate Bar, coming as soon as the highly qualified fotoLibra team has conducted extensive empirical research by scoffing as much chocolate as we can find.


25 million images for a dollar each!

Yet another ‘stock agency’ has bulk-emailed the world (why should spam trouble them?) to tell us we can buy images from them for a dollar each.

Of course you can’t actually buy a picture from them for a dollar, despite what they promise. You have to start by paying a minimum of ten dollars, at which point they’ll throw in nine extra pictures (which you may or may not want) for free.

The pound, the euro, the yen and the rouble don’t concern them; they only want your dollars.

The business model is to blind buyers with price and quantity, and gloss over content and quality. Pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap. It’s a well-used model.

But talking of content and quality, the balance of image subjects seems wrong for a website which appears to be US-based and aimed primarily at American buyers. Compare these eastern and western cities, all with populations around the million mark. Here are the number of images Pictures For A Dollar (not its real name, natch) has of each location:



As for my headline, I have no idea if this site has anything to do with our Russian friends. But there does seem to be a definite Eastern flavour to the content. As the table above demonstrates, there are ten times as many images of former Soviet bloc cities than of American cities. Which is very useful if you are publishing to the Eastern European market.

Check out these two tourist destinations:


Where did this Pictures For A Dollar site acquire its images, do you think? From all the figures quoted, it certainly looks more Eastern than Western.

I assume they own all these images, so they don’t have to pay the photographers. Therefore all the business costs are pumped into marketing the static stock. There is no indication that there will be new additions to the 25 million images they hold — the website baldly states “Pictures For A Dollar is not accepting contributors at this time.”

Why does this upset me? Because this has nothing to do with photography. Photographers are not welcome on this site.

This is a commodity sale, which will directly affect the livelihood of yet more photographers. I very much doubt that the photographers who supplied the majority of images which ended up on Pictures For A Dollar are going to see a cent for their work. And I don’t think that’s fair.

What worries me is how can a picture library (British usage) or stock agency (American usage) like fotoLibra compete?

I hope it will be by providing well-keyworded, precise, high-quality, up-to-date AND historical images that people actually want and need, not a dubious flytip of cheaply acquired bulk collections that might pass at a pinch.

Or do you have other ideas?


Quora is an interesting web site. Questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its users. And its users seem more intelligent and less abusive than the average troll one encounters online.

Here’s a good one: What are some of the reasons that stock photos look like stock photos?

This is an excellent question. Alas, so far there are only four answers, none of them particularly illuminating.

Let me have a go. First of all, let’s forget photography and look at economics — the law of supply and demand. The four basic laws of supply and demand are:

  1. Demand increases, supply remains unchanged: a shortage occurs, leading to a higher equilibrium price.
  2. Demand decreases, supply remains unchanged: a surplus occurs, leading to a lower equilibrium price.
  3. Demand remains unchanged, supply increases: a surplus occurs, leading to a lower equilibrium price.
  4. Demand remains unchanged, supply decreases: a shortage occurs, leading to a higher equilibrium price.

Unfortunately in the picture library / stock agency business we have involuntarily created the fifth law of supply and demand:

  1. Demand decreases, supply increases dramatically: a massive surplus occurs, leading to a far lower equilibrium price.

That’s where we stand at the moment. Twenty years ago if you wanted a sunny photograph of a couple running happily down a beach hand-in-hand, you either commissioned a photographer at considerable expense, or you trawled through transparencies at a picture library (and paid a hefty fee for doing so). Now they’re so common you can scarcely give them away.

I went into the Spar store in Harlech yesterday, hoping to buy a packet of frozen broad beans. What they had in the freezer was:

  • Frozen oven chips
  • Frozen roast potatoes
  • Frozen potato wedges
  • Frozen hash browns
  • Frozen French fries
  • Frozen jacket potatoes
  • Frozen Smiles (??) potatoes
  • Frozen garden peas

That was the extent of their frozen vegetable range. Now I’m as anti-eating green things as any ordinary man can be (although peas and broad beans are sort of OK) but even I felt that this was an overwhelming bias in favour of potato-based products.

Potato-based products are heavily marketed, so people buy them. At first we don’t notice the broad bean chicks have been ousted from the freezer nest by these cuckoo brands.

It’s the same with microstock and rights-managed images. Microstock is heavily marketed, like supermarkets, with a loss leader — $1 for an image! And that’s all that buyers remember, until they’re suckered in to an annual deal where they’ll pay as much for their images as if they’d bought them from us without any trade agreement. They don’t notice they end up paying at least the same, and probably more.

The boon and the benefit of Microstock is that everything has been ironed down to the lowest possible common denominator. Welcome to a perfect world, where everyone lives exclusively on potato-based products and sugary drinks, yet keeps a trim figure and teeth like the grille on a Cadillac. Nothing has ever gone wrong in these people’s lives, and that’s what the client wants. So endless numbers of photographers endlessly reproduce the same image with infinitesmal variations, like this:

Happy couples running hand-in-hand down the beach

Happy couples running hand-in-hand down the beach

Oops — the last one is embarrassingly much better then the rest. Oh, it’s not a microstock image at all, it’s a fotoLibra Rights Managed image (thank you, Peter Phipp!).

When I was a kid we rebelled against conformity by growing long hair and wearing blue jeans. We all wanted long hair and blue jeans. We all looked the same. We conformed.

The point is that stock photos look like stock photos because that’s what the market wants. Conformity. And potato-based products.

You get what you pay for.


Wedding Cake Blues

February 10th, 2014
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Until fotoLibra Version 6.0 was launched in December our site didn’t actually say that we sold images — we just assumed that people would know.

It seems not everyone understands. In November we sold usage rights in a photograph of a wedding cake decorative topper  — Personal Use (One-Off) — to a lady in the mid-Western United States.

Here is a photograph of a wedding cake topper. The image rights are avaibale on fotoLibra.

A photograph of a Wedding Cake Topper, ©David Knowles / fotoLibra

Last week we had a querulous email from her. “I ordered and paid for a wedding cake decorative topper last November, and I still haven’t received it.”

We looked at each other in horror (although I could barely suppress a grin). She had bought image usage rights when she thought she was buying an actual item. I was flooded with pity, because I could put myself right in her place. I knew just how she was feeling.

But we’d already paid the photographer for the sale. We could hardly ask him to give the money back. So we tactfully explained the situation to her, that we were a picture library (US = Stock Agency) and not a fancy goods retailer, that it was clearly pointed out on the website, and that she now had the right to get this picture printed out as a huge poster and stuck on her wall. She accepted the situation.

We get regular calls from gentlemen with thick, impenetrable accents who are interested in the derelict petrol stations you can see on fotoLibra. They’re not interested in images of them — they want the actual sites, and they rumble threateningly when we try to explain we only sell pictures of the sites.

The nadir was reached when one man rang up to order some bollards. Once again we patiently tried to explain we sold images of bollards, not actual bollards. The enquirer was an Englishman, with a fluent and rapid command of the language, albeit with an extremely limited vocabulary. He informed us at length (in Neville Shute’s terminology) that we were Fugging Muggers and also, weirdly, Bunts. The invective was foul, sustained, vicious and a total waste of time. God knows what he was planning to do with the bollards once he got hold of them. We had a satisfying, if impractical, suggestion for him.

I’m really very sorry for the Mid-Western US lady and her wedding cake decorative topper. But we shouldn’t have to pay for other people’s mistakes, even a small amount. And after Chris Holifield of the Writer’s Services website pointed out that we didn’t say what we did, we rectified it. Now introduces itself with HOW TO BUY IMAGES | HOW TO SELL IMAGES.

No more confusion then. Thank you, Chris!


West Sea Bubble

October 31st, 2013

I’m not that old — God is old — but I clearly remember the South Sea Bubble, when credulous investors pumped hundreds of pounds into shadowy companies which made extravagant promises of riches beyond the dreams of aviaries, most notoriously one which was incorporated for “carrying on an undertaking of Great Advantage, but no one to know what it is”.

The tables have turned. Today’s must-invest-in companies make no profits and no promises at all, yet they have to fight investors off with sticks.

Snapchat is in talks for funding that values it at $3.6 billion, even though it doesn’t appear to have figured out how to monetise its service yet. When we launched fotoLibra we wrote up very detailed plans on how it was going to make money, plans that we have carried out with some small degree of success, despite the appalling financial climate and the plummeting value of images. Nevertheless investors stayed away in droves.

It doesn’t seem to matter that a company has no idea how to make money. Today you make money by selling your concept to investors. Snapchat points to 9% of American youth having used its service. But 9% of American youth used to buy Eddie Fisher records. They don’t any more.

These companies are new and exciting, like hula hoops and yo-yos. I wonder how long their shelf life will be. Snapchat’s unique selling point is that it allows people to exchange photographs which then disappear. So it really is selling smoke.

When Facebook made its public offering I commented that if the Duke of Westminster decided to sell the freehold of the whole of Belgravia he’d be able to buy 18% of Facebook. I advised him not to, and I’m glad to say he appears to have heeded my advice. I believe Belgravia will be substantially more valuable in 50 years’ time than whatever the rump of Facebook will be. As for enterprises like Snapchat, Pinterest and Tumblr, I think they will be footnotes in internet bubble history.

fotoLibra, on the other hand, should be on course for world domination.