Posts Tagged ‘selling photographs’

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

Whatever one may think about the UK Government, it cannot be faulted for its inclusive approach to pre-legislation consultation. fotoLibra, along with other parties interested or affected by changes in copyright legislation, has been offered the chance to comment on a working document of proposals to change the UK’s copyright system.

In fotoLibra’s case this directly affects our livelihood, and, by extension, not just the income but also the rights of our member photographers. We have to make our views known, whether or not we feel it will have any effect.

First, some practical considerations. The consultation document is over 50,000 words long, about the length of a novel, though not as pacily written. Then comes the consultation response form. This has 113 questions, each of which demands a full written response — no multiple choice options here.

So we can’t fault the process. We are being given every opportunity to have our voice heard, and in depth. My only quibble is my own indolence and my lifelong fear of exams. This looks like an exam paper to me. But I’ll have to buckle down to it.

If any fotoLibra members want points to be raised within the framework of the consultation document, we will be happy to include them in our response. It would be invidious of me to summarise the consultation here, so I’ll simply give you this link to it. I will be happy to include your opinions in our formal response, which we will have completed by March 14th.

Please send your responses to me by March 7th. They must contain the relevant question number from the Consultation response form. Here is a sample question from the form:

63. What do you consider the process and threshold for non-compliance should be? For example, should Government test compliance on a regular basis (say by following Ombudsman’s reports) or on an ad-hoc basis? What evidence would be appropriate to demonstrate non-compliance? Please give reasons for your response.

Any response without its relevant question number and any responses received after March 7th will not be included in our submission, and that includes comments on this blog. UK subjects only, please.

We get more questions about copyright from fotoLibra members than almost anything else, and we are no position to answer them definitively. Copyright law is complex and difficult to interpret without expensive legal assistance. Although lawyers and other people (such as us) may offer views on the meaning of the law, only the courts can set precedents through their judgements; and as we all know, the law means great expense. However well-meaning and fair-minded the new law intends to be, justice will go to those with the deepest pockets.

There’s no cloud without a silver lining. The pathetically low fees now being paid by picture buyers mean that few people are making enough money from their image sales to attract the attention of predatory lawyers. So for the time being this copyright law, such as it is or will be, probably may not be troubling us unduly.

When we become rich and successful, that’s when we can expect Mr Lionel Hutz to come calling.

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.

The Cost of Complacency

September 26th, 2011

There was an interesting blog posting by Paoga’s Graham Sadd recently on the perils of ignoring cyber crime.

For the last four weeks someone based in China has been registering as a buyer on fotoLibra.com.

Not once, but approximately every four minutes throughout the Chinese working day. It seems like a manual attack rather than an automated one, because although the fake addresses are all the same — Cherry Street Room 318 Atlanta Georgia USA 30332, which I think might be a lie — there are occasional spelling mistakes. It’s easy for us to block the attacks. But despite failing every time, they continue to trundle in every four or five minutes.

We hope we’re not complacent about online security. We do what we can to protect ourselves against such attacks, but what we can’t get our heads round is what can they hope to achieve through multiple registrations as a picture buyer on a picture library site?

At the very least they ought to try and buy a picture from us.

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.

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.