Archive for October, 2008

Digital Railroad Closes

October 30th, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

We’re sorry to hear that the picture library portal Digital Railroad has had to close down.

An announcement on their web site reads:

“October 28, 2008
To our valued Members and Partners:
We deeply regret to inform you that Digital Railroad (DRR) has shut down.
On October 15th we reported that the company had reduced its staff and was aggressively pursuing additional financing and/or a strategic partner. Unfortunately, those efforts were unsuccessful. Therefore Digital Railroad has been forced to close all operations.
Digital Railroad has attracted a loyal set of customers and partners, and we regret this unfortunate outcome. Without sufficient long-term financial support, the business had become unsustainable.
Thank you for allowing us to serve the photographic community these past few years. “

If you have placed picture requests or searches with Digital Railroad, please remember that fotoLibra has 20,000 photographers in 150 countries who are able to supply images of any description.

Please contact me with your picture research needs:, +44 20 8348 1234.

We’ll do what we can to help.

If you know of any photographers who have been affected by the closure, please tell them that fotoLibra offers the same service as Digital Railroad did, at less than half the price.


Off the rails?

October 24th, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

I was sorry to hear on my return from a very successful Frankfurt Book Fair that one of our fellow picture libraries, Digital Railroad, is feeling the pinch. In an announcement dated October 15th they wrote:

“For the past few weeks, Digital Railroad (DRR) has been seeking additional funding required to sustain its current level of operations.

“To date, those efforts have been unsuccessful. As a result, effective October 15, 2008, the company has initiated a reduction in staff and expenses while it continues the funding effort. Nevertheless, Digital Railroad is committed to the continued support of its customers through this period and has retained adequate staff to support both member archives and image licensing sales.”

It’s a tough world, and Digital Railroad has burned its way through a massive amount of cash since they launched with a big fanfare a couple of years ago, following the model created by fotoLibra. Alas when we started we were unable to raise anything like the prodigious sums DRR later claimed, so we had to trim our coat according to our cloth.

We made sure our site worked. We made sure the right sort of buyers knew about us. We have expanded and expended carefully. We remain poor. We’ll always be cautious, because we can only guess at what awaits us in the future, and we won’t know for sure until we get there. But we made sure our foundations were as solid as they could be before rushing into rapid world-domineering expansion.

And we’re still not rushing. We intend to be around for a long time to come. We’re not actively seeking additional funding (though a little would be nice, if you fancy it) but we are steadily growing. I believe we now have more photographers on our books than any other picture library.

Digital Railroad charges $50 (£31.15) a month for membership, or you can get a 30 day free trial.

fotoLibra is free in perpetuity, although the precise equivalent of the DRR membership, fotoLibra’s Platinum Membership, costs $24.07 (£15) a month. Which is less than half the price.

Either they got their maths wrong, or we did.



October 10th, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

One of the advantages of having members in 150 countries is that there’s usually a fotoLibra photographer on the spot if needed.

We don’t market this service aggressively, concentrating on selling our archive of stock images and our Picture Call service.

But infrequently a magazine might come to us and say “We need a photograph of an interviewee in Vladivostock,” so off we send Vitaly with his trusty Zenit.

We’ve done it just three times this year, supplying photographs of individuals in Chicago, Illinois; Seattle, Washington and Bala, North Wales. Each time the photographer has been paid a good fee and we have taken a small percentage.

So when I saw a plea on LinkedIn, to which I’m a casual visitor, for a photographer to do an assignment in Rio de Janeiro, I thought that’s right up our street. We have 40 members in Brazil (invite me over, if you’re reading this) so I contacted the ones in Rio, and Humberto offered to handle the job.

All good so far, till our LinkedIn chummy came up with his offer. €75. That’s $100, or £60, to be divided between us and the photographer. In London, that would barely cover the fare on public transport to the location. So we told him to boil his head (we have a winning way with clients).

Now we will happily sell an existing image off the site for £60, providing it has restricted use, but to ask a guy to get up, assemble his kit and lighting, travel across one of the most dangerous cities in the world, meet the customer, calm him, take high quality images suitable for full page repro and then upload them to fotoLibra — I don’t think so. That’s worth more than £60, wherever you live in the world, and what about fotoLibra’s cut? We’re not a charity, although sometimes I think … never mind.

The labourer is worthy of his hire, the Bible says, and I believe photographers should be properly paid for what they do. That’s why I’m so against microstock — it offers photographers dreams of riches just like the lottery, and with a similar likelihood of getting them. And it diminishes the value of photography and photographers.

Which is why LinkedIn Chummy probably thought €75 was a helluva tempting offer.


Canon EOS

October 8th, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

I’m going to bang on about resolution again.

The only reason we ask for all uploaded images to have their resolution set to 300 ppi is for consistency. We deliver product to professionals, and if they know that every image they download from us will always be 300 ppi and will always have its profile set to Adobe RGB (1998) then we maintain the image of being A Reliable Source in their minds.

Hang on, I’ve just thought of a second reason. It’s a little hurdle for members to step over. If anyone could upload anything to fotoLibra (which they can) without thinking (which they can’t) we would, as several Eeyores predicted, be hosting a lot of dross, instead of what is probably the most eclectic, creative and visually satisying collection of images to be found on the web.

We had members complaining that their perfectly legal 300 ppi images were being rejected by fotoLibra on the grounds they were 0 ppi or 72 ppi. The problem seemed to have no pattern. Some members have never had a moment’s worry uploading to fotoLibra. Others were cursing and screaming with frustration, with every photograph being rejected. We asked to see samples and although some were perfectly legit, many of them were very clearly 72 ppi.

Then two members in a row mentioned they were using Canon EOS cameras. Desperate to seize on any coincidence, we emailed everyone who had suffered difficulty uploading in the last few months.

You guessed it. They all had Canon EOS cameras.

So Damien reconfigured the site and as far as we can tell, all those EOS uploads are now being magically accepted. I hope the problem is over.

Wait a sec. Reason #3. This is the most cynical, exploitative and political reason of them all. And I’m confessing to it? Yes, because I’m not cynical, exploitative or political. In Britain during World War II houseowners were encouraged to make a visible public display of their sacrifice and commitment to the war effort by giving up their iron railings to make Spitfires.

But Spitfires weren’t made from wrought iron. The rumour persists that it was all a scam; the metal was never used, it was merely a political device to bond the country in sacrifice. And I’ve said all along that resolution isn’t important or even relevant as an indicator of the quality of the image — it’s the pixel dimensions that count. So fotoLibra members can bond together by uploading 300 ppi images.

It’s good for you.