Posts Tagged ‘photography’

2010 fotoLibra Pro Blog Index

January 17th, 2011

This is the Index to the fotoLibra Pro Blog postings since January 2010, and a couple from this month as well.

If you’re new to fotoLibra, welcome! — and may we suggest you read through the HINTS & TIPS section, and if nothing else read Great Expectations from the 2009 blog. It still holds true.

In fact there are a lot of interesting posts in the 2009 blogs, and you can see an Index to them here.

Comments are welcome, even on old posts, and will be read and often responded to.

HINTS & TIPS

ABOUT FOTOLIBRA

ADOBE

CUSTOMERS

E-BOOKS & PUBLISHING

IT

LAW

MICROSTOCK

MISCELLANY

NETWORKING

PICTURE CALLS

OK, never let it be said we don’t listen to you.

It would appear that a small majority of our members are threatening to leave fotoLibra if we pay them more money.

Blimey, I really didn’t make myself at all clear in my last blog, did I?  I blame the flu.

I think people saw the word MICRO and just stopped reading. Or understanding.

This proposal has nothing whatsoever to do with cash flow. It is merely a new concept to make image buying more attractive. It may not catch on. It may even not work. But the day we stop searching for new ideas and new concepts will be the day fotoLibra subsides into being just another everyday picture library.

Here’s our reasoning. Please note, this is merely for illustrative purposes only, and none of these figures are real.

With MICROSTOCK, photographers are lucky to make 20¢ for each image sold. So they have to sell 250 images before they earn a penny because payouts aren’t triggered till they accumulate $50. And all they will ever earn from that picture sale is 20¢ per picture sold.

But with fotoLibra’s MICRO ROYALTIES proposal, photographers will be paid a portion of the net sales receipts of the book per picture used, just like an author — except of course the portion will be smaller.

They will be paid after each royalty statement, which is usually every 6 months. fotoLibra payments are triggered when the member has accumulated £30 / $50 worth of sales.

The percentage share of the Micro Royalty will be based on fotoLibra’s existing average picture sale, which is $80. We pay photographers 50% (Platinum, 60%).

On our standard licensing model, the fotoLibra photographer receives an average flat payment of $40 when a sale is made.

Under the Micro Royalty system, the idea is that if a book retails at $10 and sells 10,000 copies in 6 months, the fotoLibra photographer will receive a micro royalty of $40 — the same as our standard licensing model.

When / if the book sells 20,000 copies, the fotoLibra photographer will receive a micro royalty of $80.

When / if the book sells 100,000 copies, the fotoLibra photographer will receive a micro royalty of $400.

When / if the book sells a million copies, the fotoLibra photographer will receive a micro royalty of $4,000. Per picture sold.

On our current licensing model, if the book sells a million copies,the fotoLibra photographer receives $40.

I hope this makes it clearer. It seems like fair play to us.

Micro Royalties

January 11th, 2011

We don’t need to tell you it’s a tough world out there economically, especially in the picture business. People are buying fewer photographs and paying less for them.

There’s an American photographer whose work I admire enormously. His name is Mike Yamashita and he shoots mainly for National Geographic Magazine. I met him a few years ago at the Frankfurt Book Fair when they built a large gallery showcasing his photographs in one of the halls at the fair. He had traced the footsteps of the thirteenth century Venetian explorer/ trader Marco Polo, documenting his journeys in a stunning series of images.

Great photographer through he is, Yamashita is not the most Pollyanna optimist you’re likely to meet. His glass is rather more than half empty. For some time he has been pronouncing with gloomy relish that “Stock is dead.”

Well, this is simply not true. The proclamation may have been triggered by three of his picture agencies closing their doors over the past year. What is true is that the old established market has been well and truly disrupted. Photo sales used to be the preserve of an elite few, many specialising in one field — jazz, aviation, cricket, ethnic populations — and because communication was twentieth century in its slowness, and photographs existed as physical, analogue objects, they had a scarcity value of their own.

Now of course — and fotoLibra is very much responsible for this shift — anyone can take and sell a photograph. Just before Christmas we were asked for photographs of specific situations in Kazakhstan. Twenty years ago this would have involved the buyer telephoning a series of picture libraries with the request. Each picture librarian would know, firstly, if they had photographs of Kazakhstan or if the buyer was barking up the wrong tree. If they did have pictures, they would charge a search fee to look through the files to see if there were any images that fitted the bill. If there were, they would be despatched in sealed clear envelopes to the client. If the seal was broken, the client would be deemed to have used the image, and would be charged accordingly. If the images were lost, which happened frequently, it would be simultaneously a disaster and a bonanza for the photographer — £400 for each lost transparency, for example.

Today fotoLibra has a number of photographers living in Kazakhstan. We can contact them instantly via email at no cost. One of them is an airline pilot by trade and a keen (and good) amateur photographer by inclination. He is on the spot, and can take precisely what the client wants. We supply the images to the client within the unfeasibly short deadline of 48 hours he has given us. There’s no special thanks — it’s what the client expects. Twenty years ago this would have been completely and utterly impossible.

We break our backs to provide an unsurpassed client service. It’s expected. But it’s still really hard to make a sale.

So we have devised a scheme to make more money for our photographers, with less outlay for our clients at the same time. Impossible? Having your cake and eating it? Barking at the moon? We don’t think so.

We want to make dealing with fotoLibra as easy, as painless and as simple as possible. But Simple and Easy are among the most difficult things to achieve well. Look at the simple Google interface. You don’t need to learn how to work it — it just works. That’s because a large fortune has been spent in making it simple. Underneath it’s very, very complex, like fotoLibra. If you buy a picture from fotoLibra, four simple choices take you to the price. Underneath that is a matrix of 1,447 price points. But you never have to see that. We’ve made it simple and easy.

And our new Micro Royalties initiative follows the same thought process. We want to sell more pictures. We want to pay our photographers more money. How do we solve this? We would move more images if we gave them away. But that wouldn’t benefit us or our members. How about this — instead of selling image rights for a flat fee, how about hire purchase? Deferred payment? Pay nothing now, and the rest over four years? That’s how they sell furniture. Why should pictures be different?

Here’s the plan. We can write a routine so that instead of publishers being billed for image usage in one great lump on publication, they are billed micro royalties six months after publication, when royalties become due. The amounts may be small, but they will come due again every six months. The image providers share in the success of a book. If it sells and sells, the photographer will earn much more for his photograph than if a straight sale had been made.

Of course our normal way of business will be dominating our trading for years to come. This Micro Royalties proposal is simply an alternative option, it’s only designed for book publishers which are one section of a picture library’s business. We don’t expect the take-up to be enormous, until people have tried it and found that it works for them. Maybe it won’t work for them at all. We’ve subjected the plan to all the various SWAT analyses, and we have pinpointed just one downside — if a book doesn’t achieve the publisher’s expected sales, then the photographer’s income will suffer. We’ll make adjustments to the percentages in the next sale to that publisher to allow for that. But this scheme is configured to appeal to the rapidly expanding, untested and as yet illustration-light eBook market, and the joy of eBooks from a publisher and author’s point of view is that they never go out of print. The drip may be small, but it is constant.

Picture libraries invented the Royalty Free image. They created Microstock. Neither of these plans favoured the photographer particularly — they were skewed in favour of the buyer. The creator of the image was outside the loop, the unwanted presence, the cow in the milk bar, the author at the book fair. This new fotoLibra plan rewards the photographer for his part in the success of a publication. If the writer gets royalties, why not the illustrator? The labourer is worthy of his hire.

No publisher has yet taken us up on this proposal, so we will be running a couple of experiments this year to test how easy this is to implement. Then we can tell them about it and demonstrate how it works.

We wish you a happy and profitable New Year.

After buying the spiffy new camera, the first accessory most photographers want to get their hands on is a mighty new lens.

It ain’t necessarily so.

This is a list of things photographers should buy in order to improve their sales. It is in the order of our suggested priorities at fotoLibra.

Remember, as a picture library / stock agency we’re not necessarily reading from the same page as our photographer friends. Most photographers want to create beautiful, stunning images, and of course we want to see those as well, but above all we want photographs that sell.

And if that interests you, then here is what we suggest you need to acquire.

  1. A decent DSLR or large format digital camera. The make is unimportant, as long as you’re comfortable with it. One famous old tip to get comfortable is to put the camera in a bag, then put your hands in and spend days looking odd and learning how to use it blindfold. Feel your way round the apparatus. Learn to use it without thinking, so it becomes an automatic, natural extension of your eye. Nowadays the camera back should deliver a minimum of 12 mexapixels.
  2. Adobe Photoshop, Elements, Corel Draw, GIMP, Irfanview or some other photo editing software. This is your digital darkroom. You must always shoot in RAW and then post process. It’s no use having a digital camera without photo editing software.
  3. A tripod. Your hands shake, I promise you.
  4. A subscription to fotoLibra. “Yeah, yeah, what a surprise,” you smile, but this is where you get regular lists of the photographs that buyers need, hints, tips, blogs and newsletters. A huge amount of storage space for your images. And all your sales and back office admin taken care of, leaving you to get on with pressing that shutter.
  5. Lighting, unless you plan only to photograph landscapes by available light (a very small market). At the very least, a separate and moveable flash unit. The flash built in to the camera is strictly for amateurs.
  6. A large roll of white paper to act as a neutral background, such as this. Professional picture buyers like plain backgrounds and cut outs. Cut outs are virtually impossible to achieve successfully without starting with a plain background.
  7. And of course Goalposts, on which you put the paper. You get to move them, as well. Properly called a “background support system’. Here’s one.
  8. Books from the fotoLibra Bookshop. I like the intelligent and elegantly designed Rocky Nook titles. You will never, ever stop learning as a photographer. Even Snowdon, one of the twentieth century’s most famous photographers, admits he’s still learning at eighty.
  9. Photography courses, such as those offered by Nick Jenkins at Freespirit Images. You will learn tricks and techniques which would never have occurred to you on your own.
  10. Apple Aperture or Adobe Lightroom. Post processing taken to new heights. I know it will hurt to spend money on bits and bytes before lovely, smooth, hefty glass and metal, but would you prefer to collect kit, or make a name for yourself as a photographer?

NOW you can start to splash out on more expensive lenses, camera bags and all that other non-essential kit. But armed with the Top Ten, you will have what you need to take photographs that SELL.

And my lens suggestion for when you finally buy a second?

Go for the widest aperture you can afford.

And if you don’t agree with this list, please post your own in the Comments!

Mature Times

August 13th, 2010

Keen on your hobby? Why not turn it into a business?

I don’t know much about the magazine Mature Times, but I do know they’ve got EXCELLENT ideas. Because the nice people there have written an article about fotoLibra photographer Linda Wright (she of the wondrous Birds of Prey photographs) in which they say very nice things about the part fotoLibra had to play in Linda’s success.

Aw shucks! (scuffles foot shyly behind other heel).

Hovering Eurasian Kestrel ©Linda Wright / fotoLibra

There’s been much contention recently over the  deal made between the snapshot sharing site Flickr and the behemoth of the picture library stock agency world Getty Images.

A couple of years ago the companies agreed that Getty could have their pick of the millions of images uploaded to Flickr. Of course not all of them are snapshots — some probably approach professional standards. But now Flickr has announced their “Request To License” programme. This is what they said:

“Starting today in the Flickrverse [bleagh!] Flickr members and visitors can work with each other through a new program with Getty Images called “Request to License”. We’ve built this program on the success of our launch of the Flickr Collection on Getty Images just over one year ago.

“So, how does it work? Under the Additional Information heading on your public photo pages you’ll see a “Want to license” link. Only you see this link. Visitors to your photos won’t.”

There is whipped up concern that Flickr members have no idea how to value their images and that Getty will rip them off. This is very, very unlikely.

Our concern at fotoLibra is that it’s Getty who have no idea how to value their images, as this week a Getty spokesperson was quoted by Amateur Photographer as saying:

“Flickr contributors will receive 30% of the fee and the average price for Rights-managed images is around $500 (£335). Royalty-free images are licensed at set prices based upon the file size the customer purchases. Flickr contributors will receive 20% of the fee and the average price for RF is around $200 (£134).”

(Incidentally fotoLibra member photographers get 50% of the sale fee and Platinum members get 60%.)

Well, that’s news to us. Getty’s ‘average’ prices, that is. I have lost count of the number of potential clients who have refused to deal with fotoLibra because “you’re so much more expensive than Getty Images.” Yet our average price for Rights-managed images is around $76 (£51), compared to their quoted $500 (£335).  So maybe someone isn’t telling the full, entire, unvarnished truth here. And it’s not me.

If those quoted prices really are true, why hasn’t fotoLibra been swamped with buyers? Our photographers are every bit as good as theirs, and our average price is 15% of their quoted average price. That is a staggering difference.

I very much doubt that Getty Images averages $500 per rights-managed image sale. How I wish that were true! Perhaps it’s all smoke and mirrors, like those famous microstock offers of a dollar for a picture.

Every day hundreds of thousands of innocent fotoLibra photographers are hauled off the streets of London and incarcerated in foul, dank dungeons with no hope of release for simply snapping a cop brutalizing an illegal immigrant, or some other harmless pastime.

OK, that may be a mild exaggeration but it’s nothing to what might happen if [insert name of your most loathed political party here] comes to power.

In the event of this happening — or in any event — fotoLibra members might like to read the Metropolitan Police’s official line on taking photographs in public places.

It is not what the scaremongers would have you believe. In general, you’re allowed to do pretty much what you like. And the police have NO POWER AT ALL to delete your photographs.

All the same, if you’re taking photographs in London, better print it out and keep it in your camera bag.

Types of Buyers

April 13th, 2010

Every business offers discounts for bulk purchases, and fotoLibra is no exception. Workers can’t be expected to make decisions for themselves, however, so management usually imposes a sliding scale of acceptable discounts — 5% off for a dozen, 10% off for a gross and so on to tares and bushels and other wonderful weights and measures.

All very well, but some people are always compelled to try and knock the cost down further, whether by pleading, demanding, bullying or negotiating. Whether that’s in their nature or they are commanded to behave like that by their bosses, I have no idea.

A price is a price, and I feel it should be respected. I am deeply uncomfortable in souks and other environments where you are expected to haggle. My haggling skills are zero. Yet I have a good friend who proudly boasts he has never paid full price for anything in his life.

I am also deeply suspicious of ads offering me “50% OFF!” 50% off what? A price which was inflated by 100% in the first place?

But at fotoLibra I’m a seller, not a buyer, so because we know the process can be uncomfortable, we try to make it as easy as pie to buy. I have gradually discovered there are five distinct buyer types:

1. The Wham-Bang

2. The Global MegaBuck

3. The Dealer

4. The Mendicant

5. The Great Honour

The Wham-Bang comes to the fotoLibra site, finds what it wants and buys it. Job done. We love them and we want to have babies with them. All Apple customers are Wham-Bangers. You don’t see many discounts on an iPad.

The Global MegaBuck won’t even deign to notice our existence because it already has tied up an exclusive contract with their pals at Global MegaPix to supply all their image requirements for £50,000 a year and they won’t be dealing with anyone else thank you very much. Then they decide they want a particular picture that only we have and are puzzled that we’re reluctant to sell it to them at the same unit cost that they pay Global MegaPix. So eventually they condescend to allow us a price agreement policy whereby their 1,447 picture researchers are permitted to search for images on fotoLibra. They usually turn out to be perfectly decent people, paying a fair price per picture as long as they can use it how they like.

The Dealer is constitutionally unable to pay the quoted price. “Can I have a discount on that?” or “What’s the best price you can give me?” or some similar tweet is its standard calling cry. No reason for this favour is provided. An offer of 10% often mollifies it, but slamming down the phone always works for me.

You can hear the Mendicant wringing its hands on the other end of the phone. “We’ve got a really low budget on this job, I know it’s a lot to ask but it will be terrific publicity for fotoLibra. Just this once? I know it’s difficult for you, it’s difficult for all of us at this time, heh heh, it’ll be so good for you, I’ll make sure there’ll be a big credit to fotoLibra, you’ll get lots of business …”

The Great Honour is the almost indistinguishable opposite of the Mendicant; it’s like looking in a mirror. “This is going to be so huge, you’re so lucky to be one of our favoured suppliers, now of course we can’t really pay you anything but we can give you a credit on 10 million copies in fifty countries, now you couldn’t buy that sort of coverage, go on, could you?”

The trouble is that apart from slamming down the phone I personally have no real mechanism for dealing with these approaches. I think I’ve worked out a strategy when all of a sudden the Dealer I’m talking to metamorphoses into a Global Megabuck before mutating into a Great Honour. Maybe I just don’t react fast enough.

My simple philosophy is that you get what you pay for. The only trick the microstock folk have taught us is that you persuade people you’re selling pictures for a dollar, then instead of doing that you sell them five thousand Credits — which may or may not be worth a dollar each. Yes, if you buy 5,000 crappy one credit images, they may cost you a dollar apiece. But who needs that many low-res, low-quality images?

It’s damn clever, there’s no denying it. There’s an offer to satisfy everyone. But the basic premise is misleading. It’s like the £5 flights on cheap airlines. They do exist, but it’s harder than you can imagine to profit from them.

You — almost always — get what you pay for.

Mountains into Molehills

April 1st, 2010

fotoLibra member John Cleare is a world-famous mountain photographer who made his reputation long before fotoLibra was even a gleam in my eye, so we can claim no credit for his fame, alas. Indeed, I handled the publicity for one of his mountain books back in 1979, so he knows whereof he writes (and shoots).

Brocken Spectre, Lochnagar   ©John Cleare / fotoLibra

He sent me an email yesterday, lamenting the decline in standards of captioning, and I agree with every word.

I’ll share with you my indignation at the use, all too frequent these days, of wrongly captioned pictures by the media. It’s my current pet gripe, and I could recount a series of ghastly gaffs that I’ve noticed since digitisation became the norm.

Only the other day the Daily Telegraph ran a major travel feature on skiing at Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies, illustrated by a (very nice) picture of Moraine Lake, which of course is somewhere else and is well known and easily recognisable to boot.  Naturally I take note of the many pictures of Everest that I come across in the media — from the Times, to the BBC, to my wife’s magazines. Some 30% or more are not Mount Everest, yet are captioned as such. Colleagues tell me such happenings are all too frequently seen in their own fields too.

Is it that the photographer doesn’t caption the material properly ?  Is it that Mr Getty doesn’t care ? Is it that the Picture Editor doesn’t care ?

I can’t see it happening with the fotoLibra system !

I’ve moaned about the matter to BAPLA many times over recent years but of course they can do little about it except to encourage “TRUTH”.

At the risk of blotting my copybook, I’ve moaned to guilty (?) picture editors and researchers in several really blatant cases. Even when we’ve known each other by name, in only one case has there ever been a response — and that was claiming the caption supplied was incorrect.

It may well have been true, but it’s as good excuse as any.

Thanks to digitisation, the whole picture industry has changed so much in recent years that the days of the small, specialist independent are in the past, perhaps fortuitously at a time when folk seem surprised that I’ve not retired long since. But of course like mountaineering, making pictures is a way of life from which one can never retire — I’ve done five books in the past eighteen months and led one excellent small expedition, although I suppose I shall gradually fade away in due course.

I do like the fotoLibra system, and for someone busy like myself, responding to specific picture calls is a convenient way to operate, besides airing pictures that no one would ask me for in the normal way, given my specialist reputation.

John has hit the nail on the head. There is a lot of sloppy work out there, and I don’t know whether it’s because people are too busy, overworked, stressed, tired, drugged, drunk or because they simply don’t care. Forty years ago if you did something wrong you got sacked. That can’t happen now.

And thank you John for your very kind comments about fotoLibra but the unpalatable truth is that it could occasionally happen. I don’t think many of our staff could readily distinguish between Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, so we have to rely on the accuracy of our members. We’ll correct errors where we’re sure we’re right (the Eiffel Tower is not white, circular and leaning), and thanks to the brilliant Colin Smedley our aviation photographic captions are the most accurate in the picture library world — but in the end we have to rely on the photographer.

Let’s work together to turn this picture captioning mountain into a molehill. For our part, it’s down to us to ensure the captions and keywords we give to our images are as precise and as accurate as possible. After they’re sold, publication is out of our hands — we can’t afford to go to the printers and stand over the Heidelbergs — but if the final image appears wrongly captioned or attributed, we can and always do make our displeasure strongly known to the buyer.

Don’t mess with fotoLibra members’ photographs!

autoFocus

March 18th, 2010

In her latest Newsletter Jacqui Norman reveals another new fotoLibra feature which is actually still on the drawing board.

It’s called autoFocus, and it’s envisaged as a rolling newsfeed of stories of interest to to picture buyers and photographers. I want it to appear as a tickertape band rolling across the screen but apparently there are technical problems with that which, though surmountable, are too development time intensive to commit to. We will see.

In whatever form it eventually appears it will feature stories drawn from a glittering variety of sources, from our favourite personal blogs to authoritative statements and declamations from industry bodies. Of course it will have to be selective simply because of the sheer volume of information available on the net, but it will not favour money, influence and brand loyalties over iconoclasm, plaudits, discoveries, brickbats and advice, or indeed vice-versa. It will not take sides on Canon vs. Nikon debates (or Exakta vs. Thornton-Pickard for our Heritage members).

But as you will realise these are all fine thoughts during work in progress. What we finally release may be quite different, but whatever happens it will only be as good and as useful as its source material. We want to make this as broad ranging as possible.

If you enjoy a photo blog, forum or website, and better still if you run or write one, please let us know so we can add it to autoFocus. Obviously it must have an RSS or Atom feed enabled, but don’t you worry your pretty little head about that, we’ll check it out.

We very much hope you’ll all enjoy it and find it useful, and we also hope you’ll tell us what you want to see.