Archive for the ‘Hints & Tips’ Category

Tergiversation

February 13th, 2017
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Don’t know the word? Neither did I until I searched for a way to describe the way fotoLibra contributors preferred to photograph people.

Tergiversation means the literal turning of the back — that is, the tendency of most photographers to photograph people from behind, primarily because they don’t wish to cause offence or go through the tedious hassle of obtaining model releases.

I ranted and railed against this — and I Was Wrong.

There. I’ve said it. I admit it, and I apologise.

But I hedge my apology with numerous sub-clauses and conditions, provisos and reservations. In normal life PLEASE photograph people so we can see their faces, and if you seriously want to sell people photographs in this litigious world, you must get a model release. It’s as simple as that.

So why do I now say I was wrong to forbid photographs of people’s backs?

For the simple reason that it’s rare today to find a novel that doesn’t feature a photograph of someone’s back view on the cover. Have a look at these recent publications:

Back View Covers

What’s the reason for this? Well, fashion as much as anything. Book publishers are ovine in behaviour — as soon as one of them gets a bestseller, others stumble over themselves to mimic the success story as closely as possible. Clearly there was a recent bestseller with a haunted, lonely figure on the cover, so now everyone else has piled in on the act.

Please note that these are not simply photographs of people from the back. They are solitary, anguished, haunted folk, struggling with inner and outer demons. And another reason is that they probably don’t require model releases!

So more of these please. Not group shots, just wild, mournful, tragic heroines. And the odd hero, of course.

I secretly wish that on the back covers we could see the front view of the haunted, lonely figure.

Tergiversation, by the way, in case you’re as interested in words as I am, has a darker meaning: the action of ‘turning one’s back on’, i.e. forsaking, something in which one was previously engaged, interested, or concerned; desertion or abandonment of a cause, party, etc.; apostasy, renegation. Also an instance of this; an act of desertion or apostasy.

Real people

May 26th, 2016
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

It’s hard to deal with real people. They smile, they laugh, they have fun, they have temper tantrums, they storm out of the room, they are unforgivably rude and then utterly contrite. They make no sense.

Sometimes they don’t do the work they’re employed to do. For no reason at all.

That’s why, when you send an email to, say, customer services or Support for a large organisation, you’ll get an email back almost the instant you click the Send button.

Now THAT’s customer service. No human involvement whatsoever.

fotoLibra only employs real people. It’s hell in here, folks.

Which is why we’ve always promised we will answer emails sent to Support within 24 hours (but give us a break at weekends).

Your support query will have been read by a human being and answered by a human being. If you haven’t heard back from us within 24 hours, there’s a simple reason: We Did Not Receive Your Email.

It happens. It happens more often than we would like. Just as letters used to go missing in the post, so emails can vanish into the ether. Sometimes it’s the fault of the spam checker at our email provider — which pulls out 400 junk emails a day from my account alone — and sometimes it just happens.

If you want to speed up our response time, put your Member ID in the subject line. (Hint: Sign in> Details> Member ID)

If you haven’t heard from us within 24 hours, send it again.

From one real person to another!

How To Be Cool

April 29th, 2015
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Last Thursday fotoLibra exhibited at fotoFringe at London’s King’s Cross. fotoFringe is the leading picture buyers’ expo in the UK, now that BAPLA has relinquished the Picture Buyers’ Fair after losing half its members to the recession. Over a hundred picture libraries exhibited.

We only had four definite appointments booked, relying on a lot of passing trade and the fact that we were offering a huge bar of chocolate in exchange for business cards.

None of our four scheduled appointments showed up.

It would not be an exaggeration to say we were disappointed. But the following day we were pleasantly surprised to see that Photo Archive News report’s lead image featured Yours Truly in full flow with a bemused picture buyer.

However one drop-by meeting came with an interesting story. Julian Jackson, a writer and PR for green and technology businesses, recently blogged about an academic study at the University of Minnesota funded by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), an American professional photographers’ organisation, which showed that professional photos create much more of an impact on readers than amateur ones. They used eyetracking to get an objective measure of how long 52 people looked at photographs from newspapers and news organisations. They discovered that professionally taken photographs scored a surprising 90% more ‘eyeballs’.

Meanwhile fotoLibra’s Yvonne Seeley told me that a couple of times last week picture buyers had muttered something along the lines of “wurra wurra wanna instagrammy sorta pickcher like, wurra, innit, yoknoworramean, like.”

This is not to decry the educational achievements of picture editors, all of whom appear to have double firsts in Art History, but rather to express their embarrassment in having to ask for “poorer-quality-style” images (albeit still at 300 ppi) in order to try and attract a younger audience.

We all know about level horizons, fill-in flash, f-stop effects, exposure — but some buyers are now actively searching for converging verticals, lens flare, focus failure, in a tragic effort to capture teen spirit.

It’s doomed. As an old fart, I can tell them. I remember very clearly being a teen, and one of the things that stands out in my memory is our instant group ability to spot (and laugh at) a fake. There is nothing an elderly 25 year old could write, say or do to make us believe he or she was 18 like us. It was sad, the way they tried to be cool, to ingratiate themselves with us.

They couldn’t take our pictures. We’d know right away. And we’d pity them.

And now it seems they were barking up the wrong tree anyway, because professionally taken pictures really do attract more attention.

Don’t pretend to be cool. Do your own thing, and be cool in your own way.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Last night a brilliant idea came to me in my dreams. Why not program the CCD sensor in your camera to mimic the effect of your favourite film stock? (if you can remember what film was.)

As is often the case, someone else had not only had the same idea but had done something about it, and what’s more, many, many years ago and far more intelligently than me. Instead of the insanely complex reprogramming of hardware, people have created Photoshop plug-ins that can mimic the film stock of yesteryear. But by experimenting with the Channel Mixer settings, you can replicate these yourself.

Years ago I set the fotoLibra subscription level at £6 as month because that was the cost of a roll of Fuji Velvia, the finest film for recording buildings in the British countryside because it loved doing greys and greens. And that’s all I photographed really, because as you all know I am NOT a photographer, I am just a bloke with a camera.

If you went to a fairground, or visited New England in the fall, or went on a beach holiday, the Velvia would be useless.  Instead you’d be taking boxes and boxes of Kodachrome, incomparable with reds and yellows and oranges.

And now there are plug-ins, or Actions, or Channel Mixer tips available for many of your favourite film stocks. To show you how they work, I’ve hacked a couple of my own images about. Criticism of my work is NOT solicited or even permitted; these are simply examples to show the effects these Channel Mixers can achieve.

I am awed by the quality of work produced by fotoLibra’s contributors, and I’m diffident about offering any hints or tips to you, but some of you may have forgotten these tricks and might enjoy playing with them.

Original Image

Original File

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Velvia Effect

Velvia Effect

Pontcysyllte Acqueduct

Kodachrome Effect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VELVIA EFFECT USING CHANNEL MIXERS

1. Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Channel Mixer> Click OK
2. Make these changes to each of the red, green, and blue sliders for each
output channel
3. These changes are guides which you can vary, but try and make sure the Total always = +100%

Output Channel: Red
> Change Red Slider to: 141%
> Change Green Slider to: -20%
> Change Blue Slider to -21%

Output Channel: Green
> Change Red Slider to: -21%
> Change Green Slider to: 144%
> Change Blue Slider to -20%

Output Channel: Blue
> Change Red Slider to: -21%
> Change Green Slider to: -20%
> Change Blue Slider to 144%

Original file

Original file

 

FOT70.jpeg

Velvia Effect

Kodachrome Effect

Kodachrome Effect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KODACHROME EFFECT USING CHANNEL MIXERS

1. Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Channel Mixer> Click OK
2. Make these changes to each of the red, green, and blue sliders for each
output channel

Output Channel: Red
> Change Red Slider to: 140%
> Change Green Slider to: -20%
> Change Blue Slider to -20%

Output Channel: Green
> Change Red Slider to: 10%
> Change Green Slider to: 80%
> Change Blue Slider to 10%

Output Channel: Blue
> Change Red Slider to: 0%
> Change Green Slider to: 0%
> Change Blue Slider to 100%

I don’t think anyone has managed an ORWOChrom effect yet but I will tell you the moment I hear about it.

The last time I had a brilliant idea in my dreams I briefly woke and wrote it down. When I awoke, the piece of paper by my bed read “Rubber Hammers”.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Is it August already? Where does the time go? And where does the money go?

Greg Lumley's $35,000 photograph

Greg Lumley’s $35,000 photograph

In a week where Greg Lumley, a South African photographer, made the news by offering a unique ultra-hi res print of his gorgeous photograph of Cape Town for $35,000, an influential photo magazine despondently commented that “Photography as a business is competing in a race to the bottom. Photographs are regularly devalued by people who steal them, agencies that sell them for a pittance, and photographers who are willing to work for free.”

It is very true that it’s a rough time to be in the picture sales business. Clients have lost interest in the quality of the image; their sole concern is price. National newspapers are a closed shop — management won’t allow picture desks to use anyone other than their contracted agency, unless the paper’s readers give them up for free, an acquisitions policy energetically pursued by the BBC among many others. And the agency’s photographers are up in arms because their images are being traded for pence.

Meanwhile photographers spend more and more on kit which makes their already great images even better, and still no one is buying. Tiny publishers who 20 years ago would come cap in hand for permission to buy from the lordly picture libraries now want to pay prices for RM images that you’d expect to see on a £50,000 a month contract. Mind you, they don’t get them; not from us at any rate. It’s like being bullied at school. Once they start picking on you, even the weediest gurly will fancy his chances chiz chiz.

Yesterday I came across this eye-opener of a website, Who Pays Photographers?

It’s a crowd-sourced spreadsheet of publishers around the world who pay — or don’t pay — for photography. It makes riveting, if clunky, reading. Everyone who’s ever sold a picture, or tried to, should have a look at this. And contribute, if you can.

It's not all good news

Part of a very large spreadsheet

 

The site owner writes: “[This is] a space to list how much — and how little — magazines, newspapers, websites, NGOs and corporations pay photographers. Editorial, commercial, advertising, entertainment — any and all presented. Listing based on anonymous submissions. This is intended as an exercise in sharing, rather than shaming — but feel free to warn your fellow photogs about deadbeats.”

The creator of this fascinating site prefers to remain anonymous, but gives credit for the idea to Manjula Martin, who devised the ‘Who Pays Writers?‘ website. I’d remain anonymous too if I came up with the bowel-tinged background colour of the site. Maybe it looks OK in Windows. It certainly doesn’t on a Mac.

I remember reading last year on several photographic forums that more than one American photographer was claiming recent $10,000 sales for book front cover image usage. But to a man they were too bashful to reveal the names of the books, the publishers, or even to show off their expensively purchased images.

Oddly, those sort of claims don’t appear on the Who Pays Photographers? site. But reports of offers of “picture credits” abound.

DON’T give your pictures away for a credit. You know what a credit is worth. As my friend Mike Shatzkin used to say, “That, and 10¢, will get you a subway token.” I’ll update him — “That, and £4.70, will buy you a tube ticket to travel the 260 metres between Covent Garden and Leicester Square.”

Shatzkin’s is pithier. Mine is scarier. But they’re both true.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Ace picture librarian Philip Enticknap (now retired, luckily for us) posted a link on the Picture Editors & Researchers group on LinkedIn to a short video made by Italian photographer Enzo Dal Verme. It’s a quiet, gentle way of dealing with a situation we often address in the fotoLibra Pro Blog — the inability of some people to realise that photographs cost money, and photographers need to be paid.

 

Dal Verme’s blog appears to be offline at the moment, so I hope it helps if I post his video here. It’s been going the rounds for the past two years, but I hadn’t seen it before. It’s well worth watching. Thanks for finding it, Philip.

 

 

I can’t let a link go by without clicking it, so I discovered that Enzo acquired his unusual surname because an ancestor of his killed a dragon that had been terrorizing the inhabitants of Verona. Hence he was named Dal Verme — The Worm. Cf the Lambton Worm in Durham, a dragon killed by an ancestor of the photographer Lucinda Lambton.

 

Worms, dragons and photographers. There’s a combination.

 

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

The famous war photographer Don McCullin was interviewed in today’s Independent to promote a national amateur photography competition, Faith Through A Lens.

And what he has to say is exactly what we’ve been saying since we started fotoLibra 10 years ago.

“I love photographing beautiful things. I don’t want just a reputation for always being in among the blood and the gore. I have an amazing repertoire of landscapes in my collection.”

But he suggests that up and coming photographers cover the poorest communities in Britain, in an effort to stop them becoming further marginalised.

He said: “I don’t see enough people chronicling Britain. You don’t have to get on a plane; there are lots of social wars in our cities. There’s poverty and loneliness. You don’t have to go to the Middle East to find unhappiness and sorrow.”

McCullin is happy to judge shots taken by cameraphones. “There’s a lot of snobbery about pictures taken on phones but a vision is a vision, I don’t care how you acquire it. An artist will find any means to create a work of art.”

When contributors ask fotoLibra what they should photograph, the answer is always the same. And it’s the hardest answer.

People. Not picturesque, colourful ethnic dancers, but people going about their everyday lives. Your neighbours. Your colleagues. Your friends. Your family. The travellers who are camping at the end of the road.

People.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

On this morning’s BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme there was an interesting piece about holiday photographs. The interviewees first commented on the vast number of photographs that are taken nowadays, then went on to advise listeners to take fewer photographs and instead to enjoy the moment for what it was. Well actually they urged us to take less photographs, so we corrected their grammar for them.

The piece was directed at amateur photographers, not the pros and semi-pros that make up the fotoLibra membership, but there were still Lessons To Be Learned for us all. For a start, they urged listeners to do what we’ve been asking you to do for years — try and photograph things that are ephemeral and change, such as streetscapes. Photograph your bread. Photograph the baker’s shop. It may not be there next year.

It was worth listening to, and for the next seven days (ending Monday 5th August) you can hear it by clicking here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b037gxx1 Click where it says ‘Listen now 180 mins’ and scroll through to 2:23:56.

Some years ago in Assisi we saw two gay men photographing a stuffed toy bear in front of the cathedral. Intrigued, we asked what was going on. “This is Hector,” they told us. “He’s been photographed in front of the Eiffel Tower, Niagara Falls, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Tower Bridge — he’s been all over the world.” And they had a photographic record of his travels. I have a sinking feeling that they went on to publish a very successful book about Hector’s travels.

We never know what’s going to sell. That’s why we don’t impose our tastes on what members upload to fotoLibra. But we will ask this:

  • • Don’t photograph sunsets, photograph things seen in sunsets
  • • Don’t photograph the Taj Mahal, photograph the hawkers and vendors in the street leading up to it
  • • Don’t upload 20 photographs of the same object at fractionally different angles — ‘sisters & similars’, as they’re known in the trade. Upload only the best
  • • Please take more photographs of people — not just portraits, but people doing things

We have come across websites which are using fotoLibra images without paying for them. They are using watermarked Preview images, which anyone is at liberty to drag off the site, but not for commercial use.

I’ve borrowed the following piece in its entirety from Jacqui Norman’s May fotoLibra Newsletter because I think an important function of a picture library is not only to sell but also to guard and protect our photographers’ assets, and if we come across any unauthorised image usage it is our duty to harry and beset the perpetrators as best we can. In Britain we have the Small Claims Court which we will unhesitatingly use — overseas it’s more difficult, but there are ways and means — one of which Jacqui proposes at the end of her article.

The benefit for fotoLibra photographers is that a complaint from a company will usually carry more weight then a complaint from an individual. A company is generally perceived to have deeper pockets and better legal support than most individuals, and will usually be prepared to pursue trivial debts which a sole person may not be able to afford, in time or money.

We’re mainly talking here about image sales in the region of £25 / $40. This is not going to rescue Greece’s economy, but if our photographers are losing money through illegal usage, then so are we. We are going to do something about it — but you have to help us by following this procedure. Over to Jacqui:

fotoLibra Member Bob Crook alerted us when he found one of his images with a large fotoLibra watermark being used on somebody’s blog. He asked if we’d made the sale, and we hadn’t —  the thief had simply stolen the lo-res watermarked Preview and posted it on her blog.

But Do Not Panic. Your original images are safe. They cannot be downloaded from the fotoLibra site without our knowledge. But anyone can drag Thumbnails and Previews off any website, which is why in our case they are protected with embedded metadata and, in the case of Previews, with embedded watermarks too. We don’t mind students using such images for free in dissertations and essays. If they want to use an unwatermarked version they have to pay, which of course outrages them because they think everything on the internet should be free.

If it’s not for student use, we charge. But how do you track down unauthorised usage of your images?

Here’s how Bob does it, slightly adapted to suit all fotoLibra members:

Open Google Images in one browser.
In another browser, go to your Portfolio in the fotoLibra Control Centre. Choose one of your images. Double click to enlarge it into a watermarked Preview image.
Highlight the image, and slide it onto the bar on the Google page.
It will take only a few seconds to search.
When it has finished you will see the image at the top of the page and a list underneath of where it is being used.

It also attempts to show you similar images by matching the colours. Sometimes this is impressive. Sometimes it makes you realise how alien a computer’s “intelligence” can be.

If you have some curiosity and spare time, please check through some of your images this way. If you do find evidence that one or more of your images is being used without your knowledge or consent, this is what we want you to do: Email me [that’s jacqui (dot) norman (at) fotoLibra (dot) com] with a) the FOT number of your image, and b) the precise, full URL of where you saw that image being used.

We will contact the abusers and demand payment on your behalf. We can never guarantee success, particularly in overseas jurisdictions, but we can certainly frighten them, and we can name and shame them.

In fact — here’s a thought — if people don’t pay up, I might publish a regular Cheat List, where we can publicise URLs where any unpaid for fotoLibra Preview images appear, and fotoLibra members and friends can then comment on the probity and honesty (or otherwise) of the offending sites. What do you think?

Well Jacqui, I think it’s a good idea. Not a great one, because at heart I’m not confrontational, but if I sit down and think about this I can work myself up into quite a state of indignation. These people — I don’t know how many of them there are — are thieves. Bob Crook has found two, and checking through ten of my underwhelming images I have already found two which are currently being used illegally. That’s 20%. Admittedly I did choose ten images I thought might lend themselves most readily to theft. Tineye is another good way of uncovering shady image use.

I’m happy to name and shame any site which uses a fotoLibra watermarked image without permission. However I won’t rush straight in whirling my bat around my head because I’ve stepped up to the plate for young Bob before, when he claimed some publisher had used a fotoLibra image without permission. We investigated and discovered the image had been uploaded to fotoLibra three weeks after the book had been published — Bob had sold it through another picture library and had forgotten all about it. We had our ears torn off by a slider from the publisher and I don’t think we’ll be selling them any images for a while.

So we’ll tread softly. And carry a big stick.

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!