Posts Tagged ‘picture library’

Coals to Newcastle

August 17th, 2011

We don’t normally comment on sales we make at fotoLibra, but here’s one that caught my eye: we’ve just sold a photograph of the Eiffel Tower to … a Parisian fashion house.

Result!

Update — half an hour later — we’ve just sold a photograph of a Mauritian helicopter to a communications company in … Mauritius.

I love this.

Over the past year we’ve been working hard to build our website traffic on the simple belief that more visitors = more sales.

And it seems to be working. In the first three weeks of May we’ve sold images to seven different countries, all to new customers who have bought straight off our site. A very warm welcome to you all!

They’re not just small sales either. One was for over £400 / $635 / €458, and three others were in three figures. This is remarkably good, given the present state of the picture stock market, and  as a result some of our photographers will be getting a pleasant surprise in a few days time.

We can’t help feeling this must have something to do with increased traffic to the fotoLibra website. On the Web ranking site Alexa.com, fotoLibra stands as the fourth most visited general picture library in the UK.

If this doesn’t sound great to you, remember there are over 450 picture libraries in Britain.

fotoLibra.com now ranks as the 110,000th most visited website in the world. Laughably low, I know, but just go to Alexa.com and input the URL of any small business you know. Then compare it with the fotoLibra ranking.

Surprising, isn’t it?

If you are a photographer, it makes commercial sense to post your images where more people will see them. And if a photograph is one of 500K, it will have more chance of being seen than if it’s one of twenty-five million.

I forgot to tell you about my last blog, Be Careful With Google Image Search, so here’s a link to it.

And if you wonder why we sometimes seem stressed and spaced-out, read my latest personal blog!

By the way, if you contacted anyone at fotoLibra in the last 10 days and haven’t heard anything back, please contact us again as we’ve been having an intermittent email problem which we hope is now sorted.

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

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.

Christmas Chimney Sweep

Christmas Chimney Sweep

Isn’t this pretty?

We thought so. So did a small American company, who felt it would make a great Christmas card.

It is our ambition to make fotoLibra the most user friendly, intuitive and simple site from which to buy pictures. But from reading the following correspondence, I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

We received this a couple of weeks ago at 14:28:

HI Gwyn,
We would like to purchase the following image to use on a Christmas card, that we would be printing in United States.
FOT510763      Chimney Sweep
Regards,
Arnie Varah

Yvonne (not me) replied immediately, writing

Hello Arnie,
Thanks for your message which has been forwarded to me by Gwyn.
I notice that your colleague Jim Schuco has just registered with us, so the easiest way to purchase image FOT 510763 is via our website. You/Jim would need to sign in to www.fotoLibra com and price the image as follows, e.g.:
Merchandise > Greetings cards;  Continue
Print Run: 1000 > Duration: 1 year
As soon as you have gone through the purchasing process, you can download the high res image file immediately.
Kind regards,
Yvonne Seeley

Then at 19:01, this arrived:

HI Yvonne,
We would like to purchase the following image to use on a Christmas card, that we would be printing in United States.
FOT510763      Chimney Sweep
Regards,
Jim Schuco

Yvonne replied as follows:

Thanks for your message. Here a copy of the email I’ve just sent to your colleague Arnie Varah:

and enclosed her previous email.

Jim replied:

Hi Yvonne,
We are just looking for one picture not 1000.
Regards,

which prompted Yvonne’s response:

Will you only be printing one Christmas card? Stock agencies sell rights managed images based on the size of the print run and the duration of the license.
Hope this clarifies matters.

Jim came right back. He was baffled. So Yvonne responded:

Hello again Jim,
Here’s the explanation I sent to you earlier yesterday evening:
“Will you only be printing one Christmas card? You’ll find that stock agencies sell rights managed images based on the size of the print run and the duration of the license.
Hope this clarifies matters.”

I’m sorry this didn’t fully explain the situation for you. The image of the chimney sweep is a rights managed image. This means that you need to purchase the specific usage rights you need. So if you want to print a number of Christmas cards from this one image – up to 1000, for example, to send out to your customers – you have to go through the purchasing process I outlined earlier.

Jim and Arnie thought for a while. Then Jim asked

Hi Yvonne,
If we decide to print the Christmas cards with your company, would the
1.       Material used are card stock
2.       The image would be color
3.       Can we add a greeting inside
4.       Would envelope come with the cards
Let me know
Regards,

Incidentally we’re talking £50 for the cost of buying the picture here. Not a fortune.

Yvonne replied:

Hello Jim,
fotoLibra is a stock picture agency. We license the use of images to picture buyers and researchers for reproduction in their publications – books, calendars, magazines, greetings cards and so on. You would buy the image license from us, download the high resolution picture file, and then get the Christmas card printed to your design using our image, as you advised in your first email.
Regards,
Yvonne

Jim responded:

Hi Yvonne,
We usually send out about 100 cards, how much would it be for the image.
Regards,
Jim Schuco

We’re always happy to negotiate. A price for 1,000 has to be different to a price for 100. But we cannot account for every eventuality in the pricing matrix. And we want to make sales for our members. So Yvonne replied:

Hello Jim,
Our base price for usage in a print run of up to 1000 cards is $234.00. On this occasion, sInce you are only planning 100, we can offer you a 66% discount. This would bring the price down to $80.
Please let me know if you want to go ahead at this discounted price and I will apply the percentage to your account.
Regards,
Yvonne

On 3 Dec 2010, at 20:52, Jim Schuco wrote:

Hi Yvonne,
I am not sure I understand your previous email and this one. Can you print the cards also or you only provide the image for us? Let me know
Regards,
Jim Schuco

By now Yvonne is getting a little terse:

Hello Jim
We supply the image; you arrange the printing.
Regards,
Yvonne

Silence for five days. Has she mortally offended Jim?

Then on 7 Dec 2010, at 18:16, Jim wrote:

Hi Yvonne,
We are willing to pay $75 for the image. Let me know.
Regards,
Jim Schuco

Yvonne’s final email:

Hello Jim,
Thanks for your feedback.
OK – you will need to sign into www.fotoLibra.com and type FOT510763 into the quick search box (top right).
Then click the $ Price Image link in the left hand column.
As soon as you have completed the purchasing process you’ll be able to download the high res image file. We will also send you a revised invoice confirming the actual rights bought.
Regards,
Yvonne

The credit card payment went through and the image was downloaded an hour later. Will we be getting a Christmas card from them?

That was sixteen emails, and a lot of hassle, to make a $75 sale. Our worthy fotoLibra member will get £23.78. So will we, before we pay bank charges and taxes,.

I wonder what Tahiti is like at this time of year?

Guess we’ll never know.

It came to me in a flash. At a BAPLA Picture Buyers’ Fair (remember them?) I was barking and shilling on the fotoLibra stand. OK, I admit it, I was pretty desperate. “Roll up, roll up, leddies ‘n’ gennelmen, come and see our fabulous photographs, so beautiful they’ll bring tears to your eyes etcetera etcetera.”

A harassed-looking woman was walking past quickly, head down, eyes averted.

“Come and avva gander at our bee-yootiful pickchars, darlin’!” I bellowed.

She stopped — she had to stop, I was blocking her path — and looked at our elegant display.

“They’re lovely,” she smiled sadly, “but I don’t buy lovely pictures. I buy photographs of things people don’t see.”

Now the tables were turned. I was the one who was stopped in his tracks. “If people don’t see things, how can they be photographed?”

“Well, they do see them, well enough to avoid them, but they don’t notice them. And photographers don’t notice them either. As a result, there aren’t many pictures of them.”

“But what are THEY?” I persisted. “What is it that people don’t see?”

“All sorts of things. Roadworks, men in fluorescent jackets, bus stops, rubbish bins, pavements, overgrown signs, health clinics, everything you don’t really notice as you go about your everyday life.

“All I see here are sunsets over the Maldives, the Taj Mahal by moonlight, palm-fringed beaches — and I work for Eborum District Council.

“We have a picture of the Taj Mahal in our canteen, but I didn’t buy it. I need access to pictures of the stuff we live, work and have to deal with. Parking meters, for instance. Even dog poo.”

“Dog poo?” I asked tentatively.

“Yes, dog poo, or IPSV2603 and 2604 as we refer to it. IPSV is the Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary — the code councils and government use to talk to each other. Virtually everything you can think of has an IPSV code — model soldiers, jogging, ex-servicemen’s associations, even UFOs and the U3A.”

That’s great, I thought. Here are fotoLibra’s 10,000+ photographers busy recording glorious sunsets all over the world and the customers want doggy doos. So I grinned my best grin and said “You’ve got it.”

And now she has.

I went back and rallied the fotoLibra photographers. Oyez, Oyez, I blogged, please add IPSV codes to your UK images. I posted a list of all 8,000+ IPSV codes on the fotoLibra site, at http://www.fotolibra.com/about/seller/ipsv.php. With varying degrees of reluctance and enthusiasm, many of them complied. Subjects of previously unimaginable banality were uploaded to the site, and we broadened our reach to encompass the trite and the commonplace as well as the rare and majestic.

In my Damascene revelation that a picture doesn’t have to have a pretty subject, I forgot to take our reluctant visitor’s name, but if that lady ever stumbles across the fotoLibra.com site again she will find over 17,000 images of everyday stuff, carefully labelled with the correct IPSV codes  from religions to town parks, from skips to lifeguards, from pills to parking meters.

And just because the subject is humdrum, everyday or boring, it doesn’t mean a photograph of it will be. As a result, at fotoLibra.com we now have images that are practical as well as beautiful.

Thank you, local authority lady. You helped us open our eyes.

This article was written for Montage, the magazine of the Picture Research Association

Yesterday I posted a word cloud showing the most popular subjects to be found on fotoLibra.  Alan Myers commented that he’d like to see a word cloud for the top selling categories on fotoLibra.

It’s a good idea, but I imagined I’d have to gather the info manually and it would take me months.

Not a bit of it. Damien, our Technical Development Manager, dashed off an SQL script that delivered the data in 0.0091 seconds. Then of course I had to spend 24 hours printing out each word in different colours and sizes and carefully glueing them into place.

Here’s the result. Of course I know this means everyone is immediately going to go on holiday and photograph historic churches in the landscape. Please don’t do it. This is done for fun and there’s no real significance to it. I’ve also limited the number of categories appearing to 150, as we have 255 categories in total and the resulting Wordle was very messy.

The reason PEOPLE don’t loom much larger as a category is that we are constantly asked for photographs of people, and we can’t always provide them, as many fotoLibra members show a marked reluctance to photograph other humans. As a result we don’t sell them. And we could.

So please try and overcome your understandable inhibitions and let’s see photographs of people chatting, eating, drinking, interacting, working, playing, talking, laughing — doing People things. All ages, all races.

Here are the most popular subjects photographed on fotoLibra, ranked by size.

fotoLibra's Most Popular Image Categories

It would be pleasant and profitable for all of us to see many more of the less well featured subjects, such as
Age
Extreme
Invertebrates
Customs
Law and Order
Civilisations
Humour
Military
Engineering
National
Lifestyle
Motherhood
Plants
Antiques
Cartoons
Astronomy
Finance
Cacti
Fitness
Ferns
Physics
Tools
Dance
Transport
Ecology
Heritage
Cycling
Family
Aesthetics
Adventure
Arts
Transport
Running
Books
Chemistry
Horse-drawn
Geology
Toys
Third World
Royalty
Textiles
Glass
Forestry
Amphibians
News
Tennis
Hospitality
Parties
Wine
Ceramics
Camping
Showbiz
Furniture
Indoor
Protest
House
Crafts
Marine
Prehistoric
Folklore
Sub Aqua
Media
American
Computers
Sport
Collecting
Jewellery
Biology
Lichen
Country
Clubs
Disease
Design
Private
Society
Places
Events
Tunnels
Hospitals
Drama
TV
Olympics
Zoology
Manuscripts
Cinema
Botany
Gay & Lesbian
Typography
Gyms
Disability
Science
Health
Archaeology
Maps
Hotels
DIY
Old Age
Entomology
Anatomy
State
Topography
Genetics
Anthropology