Posts Tagged ‘fotoFringe’

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.

Coming down and calming down from two hectic days at the London Book Fair, I’m sitting in our Harlech office looking out at the waves and the wind and the sunshine, and contemplating the immense power of books.

There’s no doubt the publishing world is in turmoil, with fewer people buying books, ebooks taking an ever larger slice of the pie, bookshops closing every week and a general air of uncertainty hanging over everything. This of course adds to the excitement, and there is, as always in publishing, this sense of ambiguity — are we in the right business? Should we be looking forward? Or over our shoulders?

Two companies expressed an interest, however veiled, in acquiring fotoLibra. Of course there’s a world of difference between acquiring and buying, but it’s interesting to see that some firms are discreetly expanding, and not necessarily in their core disciplines. I should add that these are the first signals of this type we’ve seen in nine years. Flattering, I guess.

To get an indication of the measure of hope in the business, I posed a theoretical question: “If you personally had fifty thousand to invest, would you put it in a firm making printing machinery or a firm making screens?” No one answered directly. Everyone nodded slowly.

There is a rearguard action. At the fair advertising king Maurice Saatchi launched his Books Are My Bag campaign, claimed to be the biggest ever promotion of bookshops. Who doesn’t love a bookshop? But we’re all buying online, and condemning them to a slow, lingering death. Asked to name my favourite bookshop, I hesitated — there used to be two in Crouch End, now there are none.

It’s not because everyone is buying ebooks. An ebook is still a book; it’s just presented differently. And the only ebooks that are selling are fiction. Illustrated ebooks, as we have found out to our cost, are hard to shift. Heritage Ebooks, which we launched with great hope and wonderful images from fotoLibra photographers, has struggled to find a market. We did a deal with The Folly Fellowship, an organisation concerned with the history and preservation of this curious aspect of Britain’s architectural heritage, to give their members a thumping great discount on the purchase of any of our forty Follies of England ebook titles. How many folly enthusiasts took up the offer? None. Not one. Zilch. That is disheartening.

But The Guardian tells me they’re now doing a feature on our Heritage Ebooks, illustrating ten of our ebook covers. That would be nice. I’ll believe it when I see it. BREAKING NEWS: They’re not doing it. Our ebook covers are Portrait format, and they said they needed Landscape. The covers have lettering on them — the book titles, actually — and they wanted them without lettering. It turns out what they really wanted was ten free photographs of follies.

Despite all this doom and gloom, the London Book Fair was humming. Large companies had dozens of tables, each one with four people talking intently with heads bowed. Business was being done. Smaller firms were concentrating just as hard. The only oases of quiet were to be found in the Arab quarter: huge, lavish, glittering, empty national stands, as depopulated as the deserts.

I captioned this piece The Power Of The Word. The word has more power to stimulate the imagination than the image, I regret to admit. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “People remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and 50% of what they see and hear.” But we’re not told what sort of people they asked. These aren’t book people.

Book people feed on words. I’ll give you an example. I’ve known my old pal Mike for over forty years. We haven’t been in touch a lot since he left publishing, but we hooked up last Christmas and resumed normal service. For a Significant Birthday he was planning a tour of Japan. His highlight was going to be queuing outside a bookshop to be the first to buy Haruki Murakami’s new novel. That was, to borrow a phrase from Gilbert Harding, his Sole Purpose of Visit. What power can there be in words to drag a foreigner halfway around the world — literally! — to join (or in Mike’s case, form) a queue outside a Japanese bookshop? I wish I had readers like that. He’s still out there, by the way, and blogging about it as he travels around the country. You can read his adventures here. Oh — and he left book publishing to become a film-maker. Images for words.

So this week was the book fair. fotoLibra’s major source of income is from book publishers. Next week will be the picture buyers’ fair, fotoFringe in King’s Cross. It will be a busy week for us. And there will be some interesting NEWS from fotoLibra.

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

Our latest analytics tell me that 9,328 unique people visited the fotoLibra Pro Blog in the last month and it had 19,999 pageviews. Damn. Only one to go.

Today I want to tell you about fotoFringe 2012. Now you’re all unique, and you’re all lovely — but I don’t actually know who many of you are. I inform fotoLibra buyers and sellers when I’ve posted a new blog, as well as most people I know. My high-flying niece Shân always obliges with an out-of-office auto-reply — “I am out of the office on business in the US / Switzerland / Australia / Chile / Singapore (insert exotic location here) and will only have limited access to e-mails.”

67.76% of you are from the UK, 9.42% from the USA, 22.82% from elsewhere. What I would have expected. I don’t know if these visiting figures are good or bad, or what to compare them to.

But from the comments that are made, most respondees are photographers.

So this blog posting isn’t for you.

This one is for that rara avis, the professional picture buyer.

Now because we are so cripplingly shy at fotoLibra, we never get out of the office. We seldom dare to speak in the office either, we just email each other. Jacqui never even leaves her eyrie in Snowdonia. So we are terrified of picture buyers and very nervous about meeting them. But we want to and we need to, because the ones that we do meet are all so sweet and kind to us, not frightening at all. It’s just that … well, have you ever tried cold calling? Have you ever received an unwanted telephone call? It is the most disheartening, dispiriting experience for both sides. Even if the caller is offering something the answerer may want, now is almost always not the right time.  Today I’m sitting here in Harlech, baking in sunshine, and the phone has rung three times in the past 30 minutes. I am alone in the office, and because of the vagaries of Welsh telephony the phone is four rooms away from my computer. I can choose to be with one or the other; not both. Three times I have jumped up to answer the phone; three times a bland recorded voice says “Our records show you may be owed thousands from Personal Protection Payments.” There’s not even anyone to shout at. So I rant to a keyboard which dutifully records my raging fingers.

Get to the point, Headley. We do have a chance to meet professional picture buyers, and it’s called fotoFringe. The first event was last year. We gulped, we set up our trestle table (this is not major league stuff) and we were astonished and delighted by the picture editors, researchers and buyers we met and by the number of them! I calculated we made 58 good contacts during the day. It was the best exhibition we’ve ever done.

Until April 26th this year, of course, when fotoFringe 2012 takes place at King’s Place in King’s Cross, London. It’s bigger than last year. We hope it will be even better, although it’s hard to see how it can be bettered.

We will be able to look picture researchers in the eye (we hope), shake their hands, and show them the wondrous imagery our talented members have assembled. We can tell them about Picture Calls. We can tell them about advanceImages. We can show off our extremely user-friendly new website (we keep hoping).

Maybe we’ll make 59 good contacts. So if you are a picture editor, or researcher, or buyer, we hope you’ll find time to come and see us at fotoFringe. If we’re hiding under our table in terror, there are 89 other picture libraries to meet there. Entry is free; all you have to do is register here. The show is only for professional picture users, so photographers aren’t allowed — the fotoFringe organisers, led by the redoubtable and lovely Flora Smith, say:

“This is a privately created and managed networking event for professional picture users and picture libraries, conceived, created and managed by TopFoto as fotofringe London.
“It is not a forum where we are seeking new contributors. This private one day only event is not open to photographers, service providers, nor the general public.”

Sorry about that. But you can email us at fotoLibra at any time, or ideally participate by commenting on the blog. After all, 19,999 pageviews can’t be ignored.

Oh —  but by reading this, YOU must have personally taken it up to 20,000 pageviews. Thank you very, very much!

fotoFringe

May 12th, 2011

There was no BAPLA Picture Buyers’ Fair this year. The lovely and redoubtable Flora Smith of Topfoto decided to do something about it.

With the help of Will Carleton of Photo Archive News she created fotoFringe. 55 picture libraries (curiously no Getty, Corbis or Alamy) piled into the plush King’s Place development on a highly gentrified canal basin at King’s Cross and prepared to tout their wares to the picture editors and researchers they hoped would attend.

And attend they did. I can’t speak for other picture libraries, but at the show yesterday we had 58 — count them, 58 — fruitful meetings. (We would have had more had not at least three photographers managed to evade the armed guards and got to chew the fat over a leisurely few hours with us while we agonisingly watched trains of real live picture buyers, weighed down with credit cards and price agreements burning holes in their handbags, steaming past us. There’s a time and a place etc etc and You Know Who You Are. No — we love you really. It’s just that we went there geared up to talk to picture buyers, not sellers.)

I can speak for other picture libraries, actually. There wasn’t a single voice of dissent. Everyone had a great day. It wasn’t expensive (except for all the bars of chocolate we handed out to picture buyers) and in terms of cost per head per meeting it was perhaps the most successful expo fotoLibra has ever attended.

Let’s do it again!

One interesting point (to me) is that 14 of our visitors had come to a trade show without bringing any business cards with them. Is it just me, or does that seem odd?

If you want to see more (and considerably better) images and read more about fotoFringe, here’s a link to Photo Archive News’s report for May 12. You can see fotoLibra’s stand and Yvonne’s and my cheery faces in the fourth image down.

Meanwhile my only quibble was that as we were in the second wave of bookings for the show along with 18 other picture libraries, our black felt-covered fotoLibra trestle table was placed below water level in the windowless basement. It was interesting to note people’s reactions to the space: the under 25s said “This looks like an exam room;” the 25 to 60s said “This looks like a gymnasium;” and the over 60s said “This looks like a morgue.” Ah, the preoccupations of age.

Here’s the stand when we set it up:

and here’s the rest of the room (or The Morgue, as my age group called it).

It really was a cheerful, positive, feelgood sort of event. Let’s hope this leads to more sales for us all.

 

First thing I do every morning is check the fotoLibra website to make sure it’s up and running.

Over this weekend I confess I’ve only shot a cursory glance at it because I have been immersed in rugby, exulting over Italy’s first 6 Nations victory over mighty France, delighting in Wales’s rule-breaking defeat of Ireland and secretly but vainly hoping Scotland might derail England’s remorseless progress to the Grand Slam.

So on a beery back-to-work morning I powered up my (now obsolete) MacBook Pro and went through the site. I checked the Home Page.

And double checked again.

We’ve gone past the half million mark. We have over half a million images on fotoLibra.

WOW!!

When fotoLibra was just a glint in my eye in 2002, I took Anne-Marie Ehrlich, the doyenne of picture researchers, to lunch. She said one couldn’t really take a picture library seriously until it had about 25,000 images. “No problem,” I scoffed, “we’ll have that many in five years, easy.”

And now here we are. We’re not the biggest picture library in the world — there’s the microstock rabble, and of course Getty, Corbis and Alamy (which has about 40 times as many images as we have) but I think we can say we’re now big enough to count. And our images are the images of fotoLibra members, not compilations of portals of images like the three I’ve just mentioned. With the largest image libraries, the same picture may appear from three or four different sources. I can’t say that never happens with fotoLibra, but you are more likely to find a unique image on fotoLibra than with most other image collections.

If you look at the rankings table in my last blog, you’ll notice that out of twenty leading picture libraries exhibiting at fotoFringe, fotoLibra has many more site visitors than any of the others — excluding the two celebrity stock agencies, because we don’t do slebs.

When I had the fotoLibra concept, I was forced to go ahead with it on the grounds that if I didn’t do it, someone else would. And I would have been kicking myself for the rest of my life. “I could’ve been a contender,” I would have been muttering thickly into my beard.

Well, now we’re contenders. Please raise a glass!

fotoFringe, May 11

March 11th, 2011

When fotoLibra was just an ickle bitty new picture library we scraped all our pennies together and took a stand at the BAPLA Picture Buyers’ Fair. We thought it crucial that we should hang out our faces in public, and meet all those radiant people who would (we were convinced) shortly be buying shedloads of photographs from our wonderful members.

It hasn’t quite worked out like that, although we haven’t done too badly. We’re nearing half a million images online, which although it doesn’t yet match the behemoths of Getty, Alamy, Corbis and the microstock rabble, is still a respectable amount of superb images.

So it was with sadness that we learned that BAPLA would not be holding a Picture Buyers’ Fair this year.

Full marks therefore to the lovely Flora Smith of Topfoto who reasoned “If they’re not going to do it, then we will”. She hired a room and some trestle tables, called the event fotoFringe and invited a few friendly picture libraries to exhibit with her. “What a great idea,” I thought, and emailed Flora to say “Count us in!”

No room.

It was by invitation only, and she’d filled it already. 21 picture libraries, plus media partner Photo Archive News, will be exhibiting at fotoFringe — but not fotoLibra. We’re on the waiting list for a table, but we’re not holding our breath. Of course we’ll be there in person(s) (Flora said we could come), prowling round the room like hyenas and jackals, but we won’t be sitting at the top table.

Sleepless nights haven’t resolved the question of why Flora and Will Carleton of Photo Archive News didn’t think of us when choosing 20 picture libraries to exhibit with them (is it my tendency to dribble? my flatulence? my general nastiness?) but there we go. We will just sit on the sidelines and wait.

fotoLibra strongly supports the idea of fotoFringe, and hopes that every picture researcher worth her salt will attend, despite the formal absence of fotoLibra, Getty, Alamy and Corbis. There’s a website for the event at http://www.fotofringelondon.com, and it takes place on May 11th at the spiffy new Kings Place venue just north of King’s Cross. See you there!

One thing the fotoFringe website doesn’t do is link through to the exhibiting agencies’ websites so you can see what they offer, so as a service to picture buyers I thought fotoLibra could contribute that here.

And rather than list the libraries conventionally in alphabetical order, I’ve listed them in the order they appear on Alexa, the website ranking index standard, to see how close they get to Google, Facebook and Youtube. The lower the number, the more people visit the site.

Although fotoLibra isn’t exhibiting at fotoFringe, it would be invidious to leave my own company out of any listing. So here we go:

LIBRARY SPECIALISM TRAFFIC RANKING
Wenn Celebrities 44,438
Splash Celebrities 90,218
fotoLibra General 149,195
Image Source General 307,297
Bridgeman Art 312,278
Heritage Images Heritage 367,724
Photoshot General 386,375
Topfoto General 442,985
Robert Harding Travel 581,251
Photo Archive News Trade News 824,236
Nature Picture Library Nature 940,390
View Architecture 1,179,000
Camera Press General 1,904,000
Picture Research Association Industry Body 2,080,000
Mary Evans History 2,138,000
Arcaid Architecture 2,216,000
Mirrorpix News 2,424,000
Country Life Heritage 2,667,000
4 Corners Travel 3,590,000
Specialist Stock Environment 7,590,000
Ronald Grant Archive Cinema 8,012,000
Arenapal Performing Arts 9,170,000
John Walmsley Education Education 22,800,000
Writer Pictures Authors no data