Posts Tagged ‘Picture Call’

Bigotry Or Pragmatism?

November 5th, 2012

One of fotoLibra‘s unique features is the Picture Call sent out to all members, listing the photographs our clients are actively searching for. If you’ve been a member for a while, you know that it would be hard to create a more diverse and random set of image requests. There’s something for everyone, from landscape photographers to people pix.

And because Britain is home to the world’s most internationally-minded book publishers, we have requests to supply images in books produced for every market, every culture. In multicultural Britain we are inured to butchers selling kosher or halal meat; in monocultural societies any deviation from the prescribed pattern is seldom tolerated.

So when a large and well-established publisher comes to us with a big picture call on to which is bolted a few strange (to our British eyes) conditions, we shrug and send it out. We don’t condone the request by doing so; we are agnostic as far as our clients’ requests go (although we will exclude pornography).

One recent request asked that in the images there should be:

  • • no women and men together
  • • no women looking at the camera
  • • no bare arms, legs or chests

for images to be used in a textbook designed for the Middle Eastern market.

This doesn’t trouble me unduly, although personally I do find it sad that there are people who still think like this in the twenty-first century.

But one fotoLibra member found it too much to bear. He wrote to Jacqui Norman, who had sent out the Picture Call:

Hello Jacqui,
I have been thinking about your picture calls and really do not have a polite way of responding to some of them. I am Jewish, Israeli, liberal minded, not bigoted, and strangely professional. I do not understand or want to understand your requests for what are bigoted, probably Moslem countries. I may be the only one who finds them ridiculous but I would appreciate not being part of this stupidity. I do not remember ever refusing work to anyone with such or under such conditions. Having such requests is insulting and I prefer not to play the bigot’s game.

Colour or gender or religion cannot be a part of my metier or behavior. Please refrain from sending me any more such requests. I would not mind at all if you review my request, find it lacking or maybe even agree and publish it on your blog. All the racial insinuations on the list of requests are not a figment of my imagination. After many years in the business I can read between the lines as can so many others.

Jacqui replied:

Thank you for your message and for sharing your thoughts with us. One of our major customers is a very large European educational publisher which supplies text books and learning materials to countries throughout the world. We feel that helping them to produce reference and teaching tools for Middle Eastern students may ultimately improve their understanding of different cultures and peoples in other parts of the globe.
 
Through our picture calls we seek only to tell photographers what images are being sought at the moment, not to judge or express our own opinions. We regret that you consider a few of these requests insulting or racially inappropriate; they are most definitely not intended to be.

Our member responded:

Dear Jacqui,
I have no intention of educating the world or making anyone amenable to my point of view. I do not “doctor” photographs or “stage” them in order to please the bias of a customer. I have found that loss of credibility is infinitely more important than a few cents in my bank account. Your customer is, I doubt, as naive as you make them out to be. Doctored or staged images will only confirm a biased view of the world to those asking for such and will be found out.

Please exclude me from such requests. People’s bias or their points of view are their own concern. I have no intention or presumption improving my customers’ understanding.

I have no problem in ending whatever relationship I have with your company. I cannot afford to be included and find my credibility to be more important. Please refrain from offering any of my work to any of your customers.

Jacqui answered:

I apologise that our picture call and my subsequent email seem to have given you the wrong impression. Of course we are not asking you or any of our photographers to doctor or stage images, nor would a respected publisher consider using such images in an educational book. At the beginning of the picture call, we simply mentioned things that photographers should avoid when selecting images for submission to this particular project.
 
We can exclude your images for sale to or for use in the Middle Eastern market if you wish us to do so. If you prefer to cancel your membership of fotoLibra and remove all your images from our archive as a direct result of this, then we should be extremely sorry.

The photographer replied:

Hello Jacqui,
Maybe you did not understand me. I do sell a great deal of my work in the Middle East, even to countries which do not allow me to visit them. But my relationships are not only cordial but very correct. They know that my images are not staged or doctored in any way, even if the subject does not flatter my country. I cannot understand losing this credibility. They have never asked me to enhance or change the truth of the images I send them, knowing full well that would be the end of our relationship. When my images are different to their expectations they always acknowledge and thank me for showing a different point of view, which they do not usually expect.
 
I would prefer to cancel my membership and please remove all my images from Fotolibra. I have never qualified my work with any sort of exclusion zone and do sell and present my work without and preconditions.

And there it rests. I thought Jacqui expressed the situation well. And before I posted this blog, I showed the text in its entirety to our photographer, to solicit his comments. They are included as the first comment to this blog, posted by me to preserve the member’s anonymity.

I think that a request such as

  • • no women and men together
  • • no women looking at the camera
  • • no bare arms, legs or chests

does not require staging or doctoring in any way, nor does it breach many peoples’ view of human rights. Like most of these requests, it’s just a cultural thing, and seldom has any basis in the scriptures of the adherents.

What do we do? fotoLibra has over 20,000 registered photographers, and this Picture Call has provoked one complaint. We don’t want to lose him, but we can’t forego the possibility of making 300+ picture sales for our members because one person is offended by the terms and conditions in a Picture Call.

I don’t think these conditions are particularly onerous or indeed unacceptably bigoted. I may be wrong. I’m sure there could be some requests where Jacqui would draw the line, but I can’t imagine any valued client ever asking us for such things.

What do you think?

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!

Guitar Porn

May 26th, 2010

Three male members wrote in to complain about Jacqui’s “sexist” depiction of male readers in the GUITAR PORN Picture Call (read it here) sent out earlier this week. She was prepared to stand her ground, but on my advice she unreservedly apologises for any upset she may have caused. It was clearly an improbable assertion; the story was meant to be funny, and she is sorry people were unable to read it as such. What amuses some will offend others.

The fault lies with me. I told Jacqui about Guitar Porn, saying there was a sector of the book publishing market which aimed books at people who preferred to look at pictures rather than read too many words. This sector is overwhelmingly male, and subjects they enjoy are big breasts, Harley-Davidsons, guitars, farm machinery and so on. More granular market research reveals that these books are generally bought by women for their menfolk. What Jacqui wrote was based on what I said, and I fully approved it.

Despite some confusion about my name in foreign parts, I am a man, and I know the markets these books reach. I feel it’s perfectly reasonable to poke fun at them — unless we can’t poke fun at anybody ever again for fear they’ll take offence.

Nevertheless my comments as interpreted by Jacqui were seen as sufficiently offensive for three people to complain. That means there were at least thirty who felt the same way but couldn’t be bothered to write in. I’m sorry that I (for it was my doing) upset these people, but it was meant to be light-hearted. A flat announcement for photographs of guitars is too dull for fotoLibra.

That said, another three people wrote in to say how much they enjoyed Jacqui’s sense of humour.

That argues at least another 30 do too.

You, I thank.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

We’ve just added a new tab to the fotoLibra members’ Control Centre which helps photographers organise and assess their responses to Jacqui Norman’s Picture Calls. This is what it does:

• supplies the complete original Picture Call brief
• shows a sample line of images submitted to the Picture Call
• shows which images the member has submitted to the Picture Call
• allows members to add images directly to the Picture Call from their Portfolios
• allows members to remove images or swap them from one Picture Call to another
• shows all the images offered for each Picture Call so members can see what’s needed and what’s not

We think it’s a major improvement on the old system, and offers far more transparency which we were unable to provide until we created this interface. And from what we’ve heard so far, all our members agree with us. After the screen shots come a few sample comments. I know I’ve been accused (by Jacqui) of running a Dear Leader-style ‘democracy’, but I can honestly say the reactions have been 100% favourable.

Hold on to your seats, because there’s more to come!

Jacqui and all at fotoLibra — impressed. Superbly done! A great visual concept — I love it. —Keith Erskine

The new Picture Call tab — I think it is superb. —Philippa Wood

Yep, love the Picture Call tab. Very clever to split out all my entries above all the rest and incorporating the brief makes it entirely user friendly. Well done. —Phil Dickson

I liked the additions to the site — well done. —Peter Vallance

The new Picture Call tab looks and feels excellent. —Nick Jenkins

The new Picture Call tab is great. This was a great addition to the fotoLibra web site. Thanks for a great site that helps us market our work. —Jim Walker