Archive for the ‘News’ Category

$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!

One-Off

January 26th, 2016
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

It didn’t make the News at Ten but a seismic news event has just occurred in the picture industry,

Corbis, the picture library set up by Bill Gates, has been sold to Visual China Group and henceforth will be distributed by their former arch rival Getty Images.

I’m not really an industry commentator, more of an industry worker, but I can see this will have a massive effect on the picture buying world, and not necessarily all bad. If you want an industry commentator, Will Carleton of Photo Archive News is the tops.

Minnows like fotoLibra can’t possibly compete with this megabehemoth on price or range. We have nearly a million images, a number which when we went into business a dozen or so years ago would have made us a monster.

And unless we stop paying contributors — we have no intention of so doing — we can’t compete on price with microstock agencies or with special deals done by Messrs. Corbis and Getty.

Where we can make a difference is with unique one-off images, photographs which can’t be taken again, the reason we set up fotoLibra in the first place. We wanted to access the photographs in your attic, your shoe box inheritance, the stories of all our lives.

Of course we were swamped by the digital revolution, but we struggle gamely on. We do tell all you fotoLibra contributors that historic images are really popular and remember, anything taken before the year 2000 can be uploaded to fotoLibra without any charge. At all. Ever.

If it’s in a box in your attic, you’re paying its rent. If it’s in a digital file on fotoLibra, it could be helping to pay yours.

We sold a photograph to News at Ten last week. It was an old photograph of a castle before the recent floods. Getty and Corbis hold huge curated collections, not one-offs like that.

Who’d a thought it?

Welsh Government Grants

September 2nd, 2015

We’ve just been asked by the Welsh Government, as a recipient of a Welsh Government grant between April 2012 – 2015, to fill in a survey.

The survey wanted to know our experience of receiving Welsh Government grants and the support services around that.

Fine, but we haven’t actually received a Welsh Government grant for over ten years. The last time we applied, in 2013, this is what happened:

We were promised a grant by the Welsh Government towards a conference and exhibition in Berlin. Fortified by the promise, we booked the conference. When we returned we filled in our documentation, and we were then informed precisely how much we were going to be awarded in grant aid towards our costs.

However when it came to paying out the promised grant aid, the Welsh Government saw that we had booked half-price airline tickets just before the grant had had final approval. If we had waited we would have had to have paid more in air tickets than the grant covered. But this allowed the Welsh Government to renege on its promised grant.

So unless you’re a wealthy Chinese or Korean company who can afford to pay experts experienced in squeezing grant aid out of provincial governments, there’s no point in trying to apply for a government grant. Small businesses will never create bulk minimum wage jobs in order for civil servants to be able to tick boxes, so you’ll be pleased to know we won’t be wasting your time with any more such applications in the future, neither will we be wasting ours.

So that’s what we told them in their survey. I wonder if anyone will pay any attention?

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

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.

Selling Your Images

January 2nd, 2013

A Happy New Year to you!

We’re always looking for new outlets to which to sell fotoLibra members’ images, and between Christmas and the New Year we had a very interesting meeting with an extremely high-powered yet friendly executive who lives close by fotoLibra’s Hertfordshire office.

There is a vast European educational and public sector out there which is largely untapped by normal picture libraries because like most organisations funded with public money, Accountability & Transparency in Procurement are their watchwords. This inevitably means routes to market are not so much Jude The Obscure as Jude The Invisible — there is no way a company such as ours can ring up a representative from one of these monolithic organisations and mutter “pssst! wanna buy some images?” We couldn’t even find out who to talk to.

Everything has to take place through bureaucratic procurement procedures, grim, inflexible ordeals which are less concerned about the quality, range and variety of the images we have to offer than discovering the number of ethnic Welsh people we employ and our policy towards recycling hard disks.

By the simple expedient of not paying taxes, global corporations can afford to employ the sort of people who love ticking all these boxes, so they get flooded with grants, incentives and bonuses as well as three-yearly contracts to be exclusive coffee and image suppliers to the Ruritarian Public Affairs Ministry.

We struggle on. Thanks to our executive friend, we now have at least an inkling of the riches lying out there, just beyond our reach at the moment. But we have more contacts who understand this world far better than our simple viewpoint, and we believe they may be prepared to help us.

Like every other picture library, our sales have fallen over the past three or four years, and we are doing everything in our power to restore lost revenue and explore new possibilities. If our photographers aren’t making money, we’re not making money, so we need to find out about these overseas procurement procedures fast. Even so, our friend warned us “Don’t expect anything to happen for three years. This is the world of bureaucracy, after all.”

We went on to the website of one of these organisations and found this rather good and clearly explained guide to copyright for picture users in the EU. I should point out that this was discovered on the English-language subset of a foreign-language quango’s website:

Information for image users

    When will you have dealings with us? Virtually every publication, every website and every television programme uses images. Copyright law stipulates that the author’s permission is required for this. That permission is usually linked to a financial payment: image creators must, after all, live on the income from their creative labours. 
Apart from a couple of exceptions, publishers and producers are obliged to trace the creators of the images in order to ask permission for publication. The fact that this is not always easy does not detract from this obligation. Our agency enables the user to arrange this effectively in advance. Over 50,000 image creators both in this country and abroad are registered with us and we issue licences on their behalf. Our rates are harmonised with sister organisations abroad. Our agency arranges permission for publication.


    Asking permission is compulsory
 Users are often confused as to what they can and cannot do under copyright law. The golden rule is: anyone who wants to publish someone else’s image must ask permission for this from the creator or their heirs. This obligation only lapses 70 years after the death of the artist. Hence the work of Rembrandt is rights-free, but that of Picasso is not. Anyone who publishes a picture of a painting by Picasso in a book or leaflet without permission runs the risk of having to pay damages.

That’s nice and clear and straightforward.

Not every government announcement has to be draped in the cobwebs of obscurity. And this was English as a foreign language. I wish I could write as clearly. I think we could work with these people.

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?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/apr/23/olympic-park-security-guards-journalists-photos

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

After every cock-up, politicians appear on our TVs to hang their heads and admit that “Lessons Have Been Learned.”

Well, now it’s my turn. As many of you will be aware, the fotolibra website suffered a calamitous collapse last week, and as it fell it brought the Heritage Ebooks site down with it, as well as all our back office tools — admin, banking, invoicing, Datacash, payments, mailing systems and more.

The good news is that the only thing we actually lost was time. No images were harmed in the making of this booboo, no data was lost and no accounts were compromised.

I’m delighted to tell you that fotoLibra is back up and running after our calamitous crash. Everything is back to normal.

You can upload images again!

If you use fotoLibra DND, please quit the application and restart it before attempting to upload.

Two questions: how do we stop this happening again, and what are we going to do about it?

Well, Lessons Have Been Learned. We are studying a cloud computing model to run in tandem with our physical array of servers and RAID 5 disks which live in a server farm in Manchester. If one system goes down, the other has to be there for it. That’s redundancy.

Redundancy (which has a different meaning in the computing world to what it used to have in my chosen career path) must be at the forefront of our plans. When a system fails, another system must step seamlessly into its place.

What are we going to do about it? Firstly of course we must apologise to all our users, buyers, sellers and browsers. We let you down, and we are very sorry. I am personally desolated — the fotoLibra website has been live since March 2004 and in that time it’s never been down for longer than ten minutes, and then only for service upgrades. I was rather proud of that; but then pride comes before a fall.

Enough breast-beating. Let’s look to the future. Assuming we have an even more robust system, we still have to have a contingency plan. As for the images, which were unharmed in this little unpleasantness, as well as our existing RAID 5 storage and possible future cloud back-up I am planning to physically secrete caches of hard drives full of images in various undisclosed locations in Snowdonia. Just in case.

One of the worrying things about last week’s crash is that it took our mailing system down with it, so we were unable to tell everyone.

There needs to be a line of communication with fotoLibra users set up outside our inhouse systems. And it appears some kind Americans have already thought of this, and have created things called LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. In exchange they want our souls for all eternity, but it’s just the price we have to pay.

fotoLibra has opened a Group on LinkedIn, which will be my preferred way of reaching you. It’s a professional networking group, and I promise I will link with you if you ask me.

There is also a fotoLibra Facebook site, which will be run by our redoubtable web editor Jacqui Norman. She will link with you, but I won’t, as I have reserved my Facebook visits for keeping an eye on my extended family.

Finally, there is Twitter. Now I am not a chatty man, so this will be difficult for me, but I will try and post something every day. The content will most likely be taken from my commonplace book, so it will largely consist of wise thoughts, pithy sayings and the world according to my friend Dede. I hope that sometimes you will find it fun and amusing. From time to time there will be something of interest to fotoLibra users. Please follow me @fotoLibrarian.

This way, if there ever is another problem, we’ll be able to let everyone know — and you will know where to check if you think you are having problems with the fotoLibra site.

So join the new fotoLibra Group on LinkedIn
and join and ‘Like’ the new fotoLibra Group on Facebook
and follow my Twitter feed.

Please sign up to join these groups — if you can also put up with my disconnected ramblings, of course.

And please stick with us. We’ll be even better as a result of this crisis.

Rebuilding

March 31st, 2012
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

As hundreds of you are aware, the fotoLibra site suffered a catastrophic failure on Wednesday afternoon. I haven’t been to our server centre, but I have been dreaming of smoking, charred lumps of metal every night.

Damien, our Technical Development Director, is on site and we think he has been sleeping in our data shed in Manchester. He’s been there three days. New servers and hard disks were delivered yesterday,

The site is painstakingly being rebuilt — it was a major crash — and you will be notified when it’s back online.The Heritage Ebooks site has now been restored, and you can buy ebooks to your heart’s content.
The fotoLibra website is also up and running now, but we have to rebuild 600,000 Thumbnail and Preview images from the original assets and as you can image that takes a very long time, even for extremely fast (and brand new) servers. When that is completed, we can allow access to the site again.
All the photographs uploaded to fotoLibra are safe, of course. But we have been unable to trade for four days.
No one is more embarrassed than me, I can assure you.