What can we do?

May 21st, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

I’ve just had Jacqui Norman almost in tears.

Jacqui sends out our Picture Calls. She tries to be as precise and as accurate as possible.

On May 12th she sent out a call for aerial portrait format photographs of the North York Moors. This is what she wrote:

The TOUR series are all oblique aerial shots. You will need access to an aeroplane or helicopter. Even if you don’t have one, this is not impossible if you have enough chutzpah. Yvonne Seeley blogged about how you can do this yesterday on the fotoLibra Pro Blog.

The next image needed is a TOUR map series image of North York Moors, wanted by Monday, May 25th.

The images that have been submitted so far? Every single one of the 22 images submitted so far (4 days still to go to the deadline) has been taken with the photographers’ feet solidly planted on terra firma. And four of them are even landscape, not portrait.

None of these images will be shown to the client. They’re not what she asked for. We might as well send her pictures of the Great Pyramid At Giza for all the relevance they have to the precise requirements Jacqui laid out.

What can Jacqui do? How can she make the brief any clearer?

Our photographers aren’t stupid, so clearly Jacqui is, or we are, doing something wrong. I asked Nick Jenkins what he suggested and he came up with the idea of colour-coding these OS calls. So we’ve tried that, and it hasn’t worked.

Any more ideas?


Add your comment


20 Responses to “What can we do?”

  1. Frances Kay says:

    Maybe in order to ensure that people have read and understood the ‘brief’ – get them to ticck a box before being allowed to upload? eg when uploading or clicking on the ‘trumpet’ there is a mechanism for them to check their submission is not only for the right photo call but in the right format/subject etc?

  2. Gary says:

    Hot tongs applied to the offending photographers’ testicles.

    That will do the trick. That will “learn ’em” as the young ‘uns say.

    I often look at what is submitted to the picture calls and cannot for the life of me see how some pictures meet the brief.

    Ps I can almost guarantee you someone WILL submit a Statue of Liberty pic to the New York picture call.

  3. Paul Groom says:

    Poor Jacqui, we can’t have her in tears!!! What a useless bunch (we?) are not to understand her very clear instructions. They are clear, I’m not being sarcastic. She does a good job. It can hardly be a language problem, or can it?

  4. My interpretation is that some photographers do believe they have “the next best thing” to the required image and that “it’s worth a chance submission”. It may be tedious but perhaps those submitting such images should be contacted and told they are inadmissible and those images removed to an “Inadmissible Box” linked to the Picture Call so that its clear those images and ones like them wont go forward. Direct personal and positive public feedback.

  5. A follow-up note as like Gary I look at the submissions. So far my favourite inept submission or maybe the photographer is taking the Michael- is the submission of “decorated elephants” to the US Magazine cover call wanting images of serene and spiritual women!

  6. Jon Lees says:

    There has been a couple of recent pic calls which were not as clear as they could have been and i admit to adding photo that I was not sure I should have. But i noticed about 80% of the submissions to the Gardens (sorry can’t rem exact title) call which asked for gardens scenes not individual close ups of flowers are in fact photos of flower close-ups!!! I think ‘we’ are all a little lazy, I like the idea of check point when you up load to a call as Frances suggests. Can you recall a picture you send to a call without deleting it from your collection?

  7. Philippa Wood says:

    Jacqui does a great job and it’s hardly surprising that she has been stressed by recent submissions.

    Make it clear that ‘the next best thing’ is just not good enough. To submit landscape format when the brief is for portrait is inexcusable. Pictures with people are requested and many submissions don’t even have a human even in the distance. Let’s face it, there are far too many ‘mistakes’ being made.

    Come on members, double check before we submit and bring back Jacqui”s smile.

  8. Ben Shipley says:

    I’m just glad that the client isn’t seeing the off-the-wall submissions. In a few picture calls where we made an extended effort to submit relevant material, we were worried that our photos would get lost in the chaff – or worse yet, that the client would see all the chaff and run for the hills. Apparently not, thank you. Not much you can do about people ignoring instructions on an open site. Jacqui could not be more clear, so it definitely is not that.

    We do have a photo of a serene and spiritual female elephant on something that looks like the North York Moors, if you think it will sell. What if we got it parachuted out of a plane?

  9. Jason Sloan says:

    I know this is a problem as I have seen it myself. I don’t submit to many picture calls but do have a look from time to time. I have submitted some to the Beer picture call and although this seem as clear as day some people have uploaded pictures of wine or baileys irish cream……..

    I wonder if it would be possible to have a shame the submitter button where by the members of fotolibra could tick a box on a picture which is obviously not what was asked for. That person would have say 24 hours to remove the picture before a bright red border appeared around that image.
    The when it is deadline day all the red bordered pictures could be viewed and removed it is felt needed.

    The problem is if a library gets a rep for not sending out the right pictures would it stop clients from looking at the site due to the extra work of sifting?

  10. Ian says:

    Maybe I can help shed some light on this phenomenon and perhaps be of some help…
    I have been involved with photography for over 30 years. I have been using computers only for the for the past 20 years or so. I don’t recall commonly encountering the terminology of “portrait” and “landscape” when referring to picture orientation until I started to use computers. Common equivalent terms in photographic circles used to be “upright” and “horizontal” (I seem to remember “vertical” and “view” were also often used to the same end). As everybody knows, the terms “portrait” and “landscape” both have common alternative meanings, especially in the field of photography, as does the word “format”. I have always thought that “portrait” and “landscape” were unfortunate choices of words for this (orientation) purpose. (Why not “tower” and “bus” or “tree” and “hedgerow”? – these are equally flawed.). To avoid this confusion a lot of software interfaces use graphical representations of upright and horizontal orientation instead of words.

    Jacqui’s instructions are as clear as day to me but they won’t be so clear to everyone, especially those members who don’t have English as their first language. If you ask for “landscapes” you’re going to get landscapes – whether they be horizontal or upright images and maybe the odd pyramid thrown in for good measure. I know this because I have been building user interfaces for software and websites for many years and I am always amazed at how there will always be someone who manages to misinterpret even the most basic instructions or fails grasp a concept, however simple or detailed the explanation. What is plainly clear and intuitive to one person can be utterly baffling to another. This is not (always) due to stupidity on anyone’s part, it is due to the natural and inescapable fact that different people see things in different ways.

    The checkbox idea proposed by Frances is good but maybe members should also be required to complete a once-only short training course and test to establish that they are au fait with the terminology. As regards the aircraft requirement being ignored, I would put that down to either skim-reading and somebody’s assumption that the mention of aircraft was somehow meant as a joke (“Oh yea, I think I’ll rent a helicopter this afternoon!”). You could have said “Don’t submit any pictures that weren’t taken from an aircraft” but I imagine you could possibly get equally suitable shots from a tethered kite or blimp (or a catapulted camera with a parachute – anyone tried this?).

    My suggestion… repeat all the key points using slightly different terminology and/or graphical images. To prevent this from resulting in verbose paragraphs put these repetitions in a bulleted list or checklist and/or use wiki-style hyperlinks on technical terms so readers can see a detailed explanation in a pop-up box.

    Also, without being too harsh, send a reasons for rejection email to ‘offenders’ – nobody wants to waste more time making similar mistakes again. A response email to all picture call submissions (i.e. “accepted” or “rejected”) would also let people know that their pictures were at least looked at and whether or not the brief was followed. These emails could on the whole be pretty standard so with some needn’t involve a lot of work (a click of an accepted/rejected button on your custom built software + some optional comments text.).

    P.S. I don’t know if Fotolibra sends any such emails but I’ve submitted pictures to some picture calls in the past and got no response at all. I don’t know whether they made the shortlist or not. I then, perhaps incorrectly, assumed that the submission deadline was within a few days of the final date for picture selection, so shortly after the deadline, maybe prematurely, I marked the pictures as royalty free or removed them for sale elsewhere. An ‘accepted’ response email saying something like… “Thanks for the pix, a decision will be made in the next 7 days.” would be helpful and perhaps encourage more (good) submissions.

  11. Jacqui says:

    Bursting into floods of tears is not how I normally behave, but bashing my head against the wall in frustration for weeks on end was starting to get pretty painful! I really appreciate the comments posted in response to the DL’s blog, especially all the support and encouragement. We plan to discuss the many suggestions and come up with a formula to get the submissions message across as succinctly as possible. That should put the smile back on my face.

  12. Kim says:

    Why don’t you keep a record of repeated offenders and “suspend” their ability to submit to picture calls, for say, X number of months? Honestly, I believe some people are aware that their photos don’t meet the guidelines but submit them anyway, as Antony says or don’t bother to read the fine print. I think this is much more common than someone not actually understanding the language. Also, stock photography really is becoming the domain of the amateur. If people are paid like amateurs, they’ll behave like amatuers, in my opinion. Lots of folks do this part-time and for fun, so the motivation to go above and beyond, or even meet the set requirements, simply isn’t there.

  13. Gary says:

    I’d second Kim’s suggestion – suspend ability to submit to picture calls for repeat offenders.

    I would add some pearls of wisdom here but I need to get off and dig out my Statue of Liberty photos for the New York picture call….

    Oh, and not forgetting my Empire State Building pictures.

  14. Mark Goodwin says:

    I can imagine how frustrated Jacqui must be!

    1. I was also surprised to see the Elephant, not to mention the many pix that were submitted to one of the ‘calls’ that specifically said “must be people in the shots!” that were just regular landscapes.
    2. I have also been involved in photography for more than thirty years, and I must say that I can’t remember a time when the definitions Portrait and Landscape were NOT used. However, I did work for CBS the American company for a long while in the 70’s and through to the 80’s and maybe, being an American company they used that terminology.
    3. I think along the same lines as Anthony (4) That any photos that are very clearly ignoring the detail of the ‘call’ are to be classed as delinquent! Therefore, moved out from the ‘call’ and put into a rejection box which, in turn triggers an automatic message to the photographer, informing him/her that there picture did not meet the necessary standard for the following reasons….
    4. I have mentioned before that, it would be nice to see those pix that were successful and those that were not. I think it would inspire those togs who are not making sales to, maybe take a look at the ‘sellers’ to see how they could improve their performance.
    5. Finally, maybe a Members’ Forum for members to speak to each and share ideas etc with each other, and to administrators. Where an immediate response to the call can be made by both the photographers and Jacqui. As for the language thing…. with the greatest of respect, if the non-English speaking togs were able to register and join Fotolibra and, respond to a written picture call I’m sure they can understand the detail of the call. And if they can’t then maybe they should find a friend or colleague who can help them. If I see a call for a pic in German, I try to understand the best way I can and then, call in the help of a friend who speaks the language fluently, after all, I want to make the sale, I want to get it right and I don’t want to waste my valuable time submitting pics that no one wants!

  15. Julia Rich says:

    I sympathise with Jacqui – she is up against the scenario of “legislation for sheer idiocy” plus a high degree of optimism that the submitted photo will after all be chosen, regardless of the brief. Its like taking exminations – read the queston and answer it, or you will fail the exam. But this isn’t the politically correct view, in which unreality, no one must be allowed to fail. So, perhaps a small, pithily worded, especially concocted note via email to the offending contributors reminding them that in the real world they need a reality-check concerning what they submit, ending with the school report words “could do better”. If nothing else it might relieve Jacqui’s, and the team’s, feelings somewhat. I cannot for the life of me think of any way she could be clearer in her instructions. On a slightly different tack, it would be good to include the latin name for anything like plants (especially) or animals, as the common names can mean a variety of different species, which means a hit or miss submission.

  16. Gwyn Headley says:

    Thank you all for your contributions and feedback. I keep telling Jacqui that she’s a nice person doing a good job and that I don’t care what everybody else thinks, and she bursts into tears again. Women, eh?
    Seriously, there’s a lot of useful stuff here. We will consider every suggestion, and as we’re astonishingly democratic here at fotoLibra (despite the quips about the Dear Leader) the ones we think we can do and are really worth doing, we will do.
    I’ll report back in due time. Although I favour Gary’s proposal I can’t see it getting past Yvonne and Jacqui.

  17. Nick Jenkins says:

    Is it possible to do a daily trawl through the submissions lightboxes and just remove all the offending submissions to calls? Don’t explain it, just do it, but make it clear this will happen if the brief is NOT met – state this in the Newsletter AND the Picture Call?
    I know this happens anyway but by doing it daily, and with the new visibility of the submissions, persistant offending photographers will hopefully get the message and the chore will reduce. Also, daily might keep the exercise more manageable?
    The nature of how off whack some of the submissions are does beggar belief!!
    Good luck Jacqui and team.

  18. Sue Leonard says:

    I have a good remedy for folk that can’t be bothered to read submission requirements properly – have some mechanism whereby you can exclude ALL there work from all photo calls for the next couple of months. A bit like a footballer gets banned for a period of time if he gets a red card or some such ruling that footballers have. That will teach the offending submitters to stop wasting your time.

    Maybe I’m harsh, but hey if folk don’t follow the rules, there has to be consequences. Do it right, or we’ll stop you doing it at all.


  19. Chris Sherratt says:

    Now that Submissions to calls are viewable all submitted images that do not suit the required brief should be placed in a viewable folder with a title explaining thet these images do not apply to the brief and therefore will not be passed on to the buyer, perhaps this may embarass the photographer enough to make them be more carefull in future.

  20. David Williams says:

    Having yesterday and today browsed the various offerings for picture calls, I can only say I am absolutely staggered how careless contributors are. In the follies picture call, there are so many images that are not of a folly.

    Even more amazingly, in the National Geographic call, there are image so follies, some that are not even follies and even some of Macedonia – not one of the countries listed. Many of the images do not in any way meet the brief. Extraordinary!

    It is not rocket science. How can any contributor not bother to check that they have submitted to the correct picture call? They don’t deserve to sell anything. Open access is great – BUT it seems to attract everyone – even those with only a quarter of a brain!

    Happy New year to all and lets hope it brings a much higher standard!