Posts Tagged ‘picture sales’

Voucher Copies

February 22nd, 2016
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Every invoice we send out for a picture sale contains the same wording: ‘Please send two voucher copies to fotoLibra at 22 Mount View Road’ and with a very few honourable exceptions it is routinely ignored. Of course we can’t enforce it; most of the time we’re more than happy just to have made the sale.

But a line has to be drawn somewhere. And this is it. We have been providing the images for the labels on a series of rather upmarket Scotch whiskies recently. Each whisky has been paired with a famous author. So far we have sold them images of Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, Gustave Flaubert and Alexandre Dumas. But not Marcel Proust. I don’ t think Proust was much of a whisky drinker, more of a crème de menthe merchant.

Here’s one of the bottles with the fotoLibra image on the label:

naked.ardbeg

And here’s what they have to say about this particular malt:

“This Authors’ Series is a range of limited edition and exclusive single malt whisky, created by the prestigious blenders and bottlers, Hunter Laing Ltd. Each whisky has been paired with a famous author, ensuring that the unique taste and character of the malt has been inspired by the author’s life and work. Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling & Edgar Allan Poe are the first three expressions that have been released.

“This particular expression is an Ardbeg 21 year old, matured in 1993 and bottled in January 2015. This limited edition whisky is one of only 120 bottles, which have been drawn from a Refill Hogshead cask, and bottled at natural cask strength of 56.4%. Ardbeg fans will not be disappointed, as this rich and peaty expression has all the typical Islay attributes, whilst the the character of Rupert Kipling shines through. Charles MacLean said: ‘Deep amber in colour with moderate beading. The first aroma is of lanolin and damp, untreated wool, even a hint of sheep dip, with roast chestnuts in the background. Oily and surprisingly sweet to taste, with fragrant woodsmoke in the aftertaste. Faintly waxy with a drop of water, backed by charred wood. Smooth and sweet, with hessian and washed out creosote.’

“Each bottle is presented in a brown leather box, embossed with gold medallic text, which adds to the luxurious feel of the product. The bottles are also individually wax sealed with a stylish monogram design.”

I’ve been sitting by the front door since January last year waiting for our two voucher copies to drop on to the mat, but bizarrely enough they have failed to materialise.

I think I may have discovered why. This particular whisky costs £900. Per Bottle! And it’s not even a litre! That’s €1,150, or $1,275. Blimey.

Because it’s not a whisky, it’s an Expression.

 

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Don’t you just hate it when the phone rings with the number “WITHHELD” and a disembodied voice (which certainly hadn’t learned English at its mother’s knee) disinterestedly interrogates you about your most intimate personal details before deigning to reveal that all they wanted to talk about was the state of your massive overdraft, which is the last thing you want to discuss?

Well I do. And what makes it even more annoying is that the traffic is always only one way. You can’t call THEM and interrogate them.

Have you noticed that broadband download speed (i.e. people selling things to you) is ten times as fast as broadband upload speed (i.e. you trying to sell your images to people)?

You can’t write to Them, either. At least I can’t. I was being unjustly bullied by a bank so I wrote to them and explained the situation. Four times. My letters were ignored. So I wrote to the Big Kahuna who at least had the grace to respond, get the situation sorted and pay me a minuscule fee in compensation before being led away in handcuffs for perpetrating financial crimes immeasurable to man.

And what has this to do with fotoLibra? Well, this morning a City firm — not a behemoth, but a known name — wanted to buy an image from us.

Let’s call the buyer Rhiannon. She finds an image she likes for a project, then finds she has to register with fotoLibra in order to buy it. Offhand I can’t think of any website that allows you to buy without asking for some form of registration.

So Rhiannon dutifully fills in our simple form and submits it.

Nothing happens.

She tries to register again. Still nothing.

Eventually she rings us up. We explain that she has to click her verification email to prove that she is who she is.

“What verification email?” She never got her verification email.

She went away to find out why. And quickly came back with the reason. Rhiannon’s coders had blocked our verification email because they had never heard of fotoLibra.com. So our confirmatory message — which she had requested — was arbitrarily dumped.

So we had to sell the picture to Rhiannon manually.

Only emails from FTSE 100 companies, Amazon, Microsoft, and other megalithic businesses appear to be allowed through. What we have to say is clearly not of interest. What hope is there for the smaller company?

We are being coded out of the marketplace.

The customer doesn’t want a quarter-inch drill. He wants a quarter-inch hole.

The drill itself is merely his instrument of delivery, just as the cameras of fotoLibra photographers are theirs.

That’s the sort of insight that delights management consultants, and it does have a certain seductive logic. If you concentrate on what the customer actually wants, instead of dressing up your product to fulfill your own desires and aspirations, then the road to fortune and fame will be open to you.

That was the disruptive thinking that lay behind the concept of fotoLibra. We are neither photographers nor critics. Who were we to judge one photograph over another? It would be purely our personal taste. It would have no reference to what the market wanted.

Our solution? Let the market itself decide. In fact, we would go a step further — the market would detail what it wanted to buy, and we would tell our photographers through regular Picture Calls. How simple is that?

Then fotoLibra found itself in that awkward position between overbearing boss and nagging wife. All our photographers wanted to do was buy spiffy new lenses, and there we were hectoring them about the photographs they should be taking, not the ones they wanted to take.

Happily I hope we’ve matured a bit. We’re more relaxed about the choices our photographers make. And going back to our drill imagery, our picture buyers don’t care if the photograph has been taken with a Coastal Optics 60 mm f/4 UV-Vis-IR APO Macro or a pinhole camera, as long as it matches their imagination.

So in our regular Picture Calls we describe the “quarter-inch and other-sized cavities” our customers are looking for to our army of photographers, and with the tools at their disposal they go out and Drill Dem Holes.

And it works very well.

And because the burden of fortune and fame is not yet an intolerable weight on the shoulders of fotoLibra, we’d welcome a little more of both.

We have come across websites which are using fotoLibra images without paying for them. They are using watermarked Preview images, which anyone is at liberty to drag off the site, but not for commercial use.

I’ve borrowed the following piece in its entirety from Jacqui Norman’s May fotoLibra Newsletter because I think an important function of a picture library is not only to sell but also to guard and protect our photographers’ assets, and if we come across any unauthorised image usage it is our duty to harry and beset the perpetrators as best we can. In Britain we have the Small Claims Court which we will unhesitatingly use — overseas it’s more difficult, but there are ways and means — one of which Jacqui proposes at the end of her article.

The benefit for fotoLibra photographers is that a complaint from a company will usually carry more weight then a complaint from an individual. A company is generally perceived to have deeper pockets and better legal support than most individuals, and will usually be prepared to pursue trivial debts which a sole person may not be able to afford, in time or money.

We’re mainly talking here about image sales in the region of £25 / $40. This is not going to rescue Greece’s economy, but if our photographers are losing money through illegal usage, then so are we. We are going to do something about it — but you have to help us by following this procedure. Over to Jacqui:

fotoLibra Member Bob Crook alerted us when he found one of his images with a large fotoLibra watermark being used on somebody’s blog. He asked if we’d made the sale, and we hadn’t —  the thief had simply stolen the lo-res watermarked Preview and posted it on her blog.

But Do Not Panic. Your original images are safe. They cannot be downloaded from the fotoLibra site without our knowledge. But anyone can drag Thumbnails and Previews off any website, which is why in our case they are protected with embedded metadata and, in the case of Previews, with embedded watermarks too. We don’t mind students using such images for free in dissertations and essays. If they want to use an unwatermarked version they have to pay, which of course outrages them because they think everything on the internet should be free.

If it’s not for student use, we charge. But how do you track down unauthorised usage of your images?

Here’s how Bob does it, slightly adapted to suit all fotoLibra members:

Open Google Images in one browser.
In another browser, go to your Portfolio in the fotoLibra Control Centre. Choose one of your images. Double click to enlarge it into a watermarked Preview image.
Highlight the image, and slide it onto the bar on the Google page.
It will take only a few seconds to search.
When it has finished you will see the image at the top of the page and a list underneath of where it is being used.

It also attempts to show you similar images by matching the colours. Sometimes this is impressive. Sometimes it makes you realise how alien a computer’s “intelligence” can be.

If you have some curiosity and spare time, please check through some of your images this way. If you do find evidence that one or more of your images is being used without your knowledge or consent, this is what we want you to do: Email me [that’s jacqui (dot) norman (at) fotoLibra (dot) com] with a) the FOT number of your image, and b) the precise, full URL of where you saw that image being used.

We will contact the abusers and demand payment on your behalf. We can never guarantee success, particularly in overseas jurisdictions, but we can certainly frighten them, and we can name and shame them.

In fact — here’s a thought — if people don’t pay up, I might publish a regular Cheat List, where we can publicise URLs where any unpaid for fotoLibra Preview images appear, and fotoLibra members and friends can then comment on the probity and honesty (or otherwise) of the offending sites. What do you think?

Well Jacqui, I think it’s a good idea. Not a great one, because at heart I’m not confrontational, but if I sit down and think about this I can work myself up into quite a state of indignation. These people — I don’t know how many of them there are — are thieves. Bob Crook has found two, and checking through ten of my underwhelming images I have already found two which are currently being used illegally. That’s 20%. Admittedly I did choose ten images I thought might lend themselves most readily to theft. Tineye is another good way of uncovering shady image use.

I’m happy to name and shame any site which uses a fotoLibra watermarked image without permission. However I won’t rush straight in whirling my bat around my head because I’ve stepped up to the plate for young Bob before, when he claimed some publisher had used a fotoLibra image without permission. We investigated and discovered the image had been uploaded to fotoLibra three weeks after the book had been published — Bob had sold it through another picture library and had forgotten all about it. We had our ears torn off by a slider from the publisher and I don’t think we’ll be selling them any images for a while.

So we’ll tread softly. And carry a big stick.

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

The New Year is traditionally the time to herald new things, starting with the Epiphany of the Christ Child on January 6th and the chance to play and replay my Desert Island carol, Peter Cornelius’s “Three Kings from Persian lands afar”.

So a happy New Year to you all. At my age things no longer occur, they tend to recur, and it’s rare to encounter something that appears to be completely new. Continuing the religious references, the Preacher in Ecclesiastes thunders “Is there any thing whereof it can be said, See, this is new?”

What I’m writing about today is a camera. That’s not new. But a light field camera is new to me, that’s for sure.

A light field camera? A field camera is one of those bulky great things with bellows, a permanent tripod, and a hood so the photographer can view the upside-down image on the 10×8 plate in darkness. Great for architectural photography, less useful for sports.

A light field camera is nothing like that. ‘Light field’ is the word phrase, and it refers to the way the device captures light data. The ‘light field’ is defined as the light travelling in all directions through all points in space. In conventional cameras — digital or film — the image (or light data) is captured on a flat plane at the back of the box. This can either be film or a digital sensor. The rays of light are combined and recorded as a single unit of light and shade.

In a light field camera, it is claimed that its sensor can capture the colour, intensity and vector direction of all the rays of light in a scene, providing much more data from which to compile an image.

What does this mean? Well of course the science is beyond me, but what I really need to know is what does this mean for the photographer, and obviously as a picture librarian, for image sales? In what way is the resulting picture different? Note that I didn’t say better. It’s not a field camera, after all, which is the gold standard for image quality.

My first thought is lots of data means big file sizes. And what do we do with all that extra data? The answer is nothing, at the moment. We’re back to 1950s Britain, where you couldn’t buy garlic or olive oil because “there’s no call for it.” At the moment, there is no call for it — there is no commercial need for the additional data a light field camera can produce. Here in 2012 fotoLibra has the ability to supply 8 bit, 16 bit or 32 bit images; we can supply HDR images. We don’t, because we’re not asked for them. At the moment professional picture buyers are content to buy 8 bit JPEGs.

I didn’t see the point of an HD television until I got one. But I can totally see the point of a professional quality light field camera to create images of record for museums and archives. Imagine being able to focus and study every plane of Nefertiti’s head. Wow.

Because here is why an image taken on a light field camera is different. You can refocus on any part of the image — after the picture has been taken. This is not the same as an Ansel Adams image at f64 where every part of the image is pin-sharp; these are images taken at f2 with a very shallow depth of field — which you can subsequently vary at will.

It is fascinating. I can play with these images for hours.

A light field camera has just been launched for the consumer market in the United States. Its brand name is Lytro, and I guess that could go the way that Hoover and Biro (and Kodak once did) to become the generic name for a light field camera. The first Lytro has an 8x optical zoom and an f2 aperture lens. It doesn’t look much like a camera, more like a square tube, and it comes in three colours and two storage sizes, 8 GB and 16 GB — 350 or 750 photos. It costs $399 (£255, €206) and $499. The aperture stays constant across the zoom range, which allows comprehensive light capture in the foreground, the mid ground and the background. The images it produces are 1.2MB JPEGs, which are at the lower end of the quality scale.

Do I want one? No, not yet. Remember, I’m not a photographer, I’m just a bloke who has a camera. Will it be more than just a curiosity? It’s hard to say. It’s certainly cheap enough for many people to be able to buy on a whim and play with, experiment with. Would I recommend you get one? If you’re a curious and inquisitive photographer who’s not strapped for cash, then yes, definitely. I would love to see what real photographers can achieve with such a tool.

At the moment the Lytro doesn’t meet the fotoLibra quality standards set out in our Submission Guidelines.

But I think we’ll make room for it.

Even though ‘There is no new thing under the sun.’

Yesterday we sold an image for a large amount of money, bought off the site by credit card.

As always, we were delighted — until we saw the image. It was a very jolly and colourful cartoon in a style reminiscent of the 1970s. I thought Blimey, this photographer is talented! He can’t half draw!

And then a little shadow of suspicion crossed my mind. This cartoon looked like the work of a commercial artist from the 70s, not a talented photographer from the 20 teens. We looked at the photographer’s portfolio. As well as his photographs there were several images which demonstrated a bewildering variety of artistic talent, from etchings to cartoons. In a number of different styles.

Now fotoLibra prides itself on being an open access picture library. Anyone can upload anything as long as it passes our technical Submission Guidelines (and isn’t porn, of course) and the photographer adheres to our terms and conditions.

One paragraph reads as follows: (The Member warrants that) it owns the Intellectual Property Rights in the Images and licencing of such rights shall not infringe any third party’s right to privacy.

In our expensive lawyerspeak, this means fotoLibra members are only allowed to upload images which are their copyright, or in the public domain. In the UK, copyright persists for 70 years after the death of the creator of the work. So the work of artists who died before November 24th 1941 can be sold on fotoLibra, unless their estates have extended the copyright.

We go on to say that if someone sues, we’ll dump them faster than Gaddafi shot up a storm drain, or in more lawyerspeak: fotoLibra shall in no way be liable for any breach by the Member of the warranties and the Member hereby indemnifies fotoLibra from and against any and all claims, liabilities, damages, actions, proceedings (including reasonable legal fees and expenses) that may be suffered or incurred by fotoLibra which arise out of or in connection with such a breach.

Our chastened member has removed the offending images. In turn we have grovelled in front of the innocent purchaser, rent our garments and refunded his money. He has been more than magnanimous in his understanding, and we hope he will be buying a different (and even more legal) image from us.

How wonderful some people are.

Please please PLEASE do not upload images for which you do not hold the copyright. And immediately delete from your portfolio any such images. We’ll delete them when we find them, as well.

But it’s YOUR responsibility.

Unlikely partners? Not really.

A Google search on Martin Scorsese (a name his parents made up) returns 15,600,000 results.

A Google search on fotoLibra (a name I made up) returns 1,760,000 results.

So we’ve got a way to go yet. But we’ve only been going since 2004, and he’s been around since 1942 (happy birthday for Thursday, Martin).

I’ve just watched Scorsese’s documentary Living In The Material World about George Harrison, and there, buried in the credits at the end (you had to have very sharp eyes), is the acknowledgment line “Denis O’Dell / fotoLibra”.

It’s not much, but it’s a credit in a Scorsese movie. They paid well for the picture usage, too. Congratulations, Denis!

And I can’t keep the grin off my face.

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.