BAPLA Shock Horror

October 28th, 2009

Yesterday was the Annual General Meeting of the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies, our trade body. BAPLA represents the interests of picture libraries large and small, and fotoLibra has been a member since before we started trading. There is a link to the BAPLA web site on every single page of the fotoLibra site.

Nothing prepared us for what we heard at the AGM. Times are tough for everyone, BAPLA as well as fotoLibra. They’ve lost about 50 members over the past year or two, and as the annual fees are substantial, that makes a hefty dent in their finances.

So they have cast around for a way to improve their cash flow. And they’ve come up with the same idea that we came up with seven and a half years ago.

They’ve invented fotoLibra.

More precisely, they have created something called the BAPLA Academy. The idea is that photographers pay an annual fee and get to upload their images to the BAPLA web site where they can be viewed and made available for “non-commercial sales” (a wonderful oxymoron on a par with business ethics, or military intelligence).

I don’t have all the details to hand, because all this came from the BAPLA Director’s presentation and we don’t have a hard copy. But as I stared slack-jawed in amazement at the screen he blithely described the business plan of fotoLibra — except we provide commercial sales; our members make money from their photographs. That’s the whole point of fotoLibra; otherwise they might as well be on Flickr.

The concept of fotoLibra was to provide a platform for any photographer to make money selling his pictures. No tortuous submission procedure, no minimum upload, no “professionals only” barriers, no elitism — just raw market forces. Display and sell. And we provide all the advice and tools the photographer needs to achieve that aim. Jacqui Norman does an astounding job of advising, chivvying, helping, correcting, and pushing fotoLibra member photographers to make their images as saleable as possible. The web site and the Submission Guidelines are packed with information, advice, hints and tips.

Now our own Trade Association — the guys we pay to represent our interests — have announced that they are setting up in direct competition to us. Yvonne and I could not believe what we were hearing. Up went Yvonne’s hand. She was ignored. From personal experience I knew that was a bad move on BAPLA’s part — you ignore Yvonne at your peril. And indeed after the AGM she cornered the BAPLA President, the BAPLA Chairman and the BAPLA Director and subjected them to a withering blast. If they’d forgotten about fotoLibra — as they obviously had — then they were left in no doubt whatsoever that one section of their happy community was disaffected by news of the BAPLA Academy.

They attempted to placate us. The BAPLA Academy was no threat or competition to fotoLibra whatsoever. They’d trialled it with focus groups, and it wasn’t going to be a problem. But looking into their troubled eyes, we could see this was going to be a BIG problem. They simply hadn’t thought of us.

We’ve done this. We’ve sweated blood to set fotoLibra up and it has cost us a fortune. We know how hard it is. It’s a full time job for eight people. And there are only five of us. Without the help of a company like ours, a company that has already ploughed this unique furrow, BAPLA with its 2.5 staff and its capital derived entirely from member subscriptions is going to have a hell of a hard time running this Academy.

The BAPLA Academy will be directly competing for the subscriptions of the same photographers who supply fotoLibra with its top images. The same graduates, keen amateurs, semi-pros, wedding and studio photographers we work hard to attract, encourage and foster.

It’s not about print and mousemat sales versus rights sales, it’s about diverting a body of good, keen and potentially great photographers to ally with BAPLA rather than fotoLibra. That’s not BAPLA’s remit.

But if they’re determined to do it, then they should talk to us — once we’ve overcome our horror and dismay. We are better placed than any other organisation to help them.


Add your comment


70 Responses to “BAPLA Shock Horror”

  1. Chris K says:

    Does BAPLA have it in its constitution to run as a commercial business? Mugs and mouse mats is just a smoke screen, money is money.

  2. Ian Shipley says:

    Lets start with a basic business decision for fotolibra, does the cost of membership in BAPLA and the time associated with meetings etc deliver direct revenue, my guess is that you may be hard pressed to quantify sales as a direct result of membership.

    All associations exist for one thing, to generate revenue to the association, I think that with the hard work already undertaken by the team at fotolibra that you have a strong database of image buyers, so do you need BAPLA to service this customer base I would think no. I know from personal experience that being a member of any association has yet to deliver me revenue, What does deliver is my getting my name, service and images in front of buyers, editors and other picture commissioners.

    Let BAPLA and all the other sites fight for the stack them high sell them cheap (or even give them away) market, what people will pay for is an easy to use service, well key worded image library and the ability to converse with the supplier.

    A recent new client of mine commented that he did start down the route of low cost sites such as flickr, i stock etc but got fed up with having to trawl too large a collection of images to even short list some images, he has now reverted to a select group of photographers as first pint of call along with going back to traditional libraries that will provide him with short list thereby saving him time (which costs).

    There is a lot of panic in the industry at all levels photographers, image libraries, associations, but with some recent copyright legal cases coming down on the side of the photographers then my guess is that as this gets more widely publicised corporate clients will want to work with credible supply sources that will give them an element of comfort that images are cleared for the required usage.

    With so many images copied around the web with EXIF data stripped out I would not like to be a publisher seeking images that are “cleared” for use.

    The main issue here is that again an organisation is looking to make money from the photographer.

  3. Mark Goodwin says:

    Firstly, forgive me if I am repeating what other contributors have already posted, but I really don’t have the time to read every one at this moment, although it is my intention to come back and revisit.

    A couple of things.
    1. Gwyn say’s that the annual fees for membership to BAPLA are not insignificant. If it were me, I would looking at the Terms and Conditions of BAPLA and, if this new move by them contravenes those T&C’s I would ask for a % refund on my annual dues and proffer my resignation.
    2. If BAPLA is what is says on the tin i.e an association of PICTURE LIBRARIES and AGENCIES, there must be dozens of their members out there who are in a similar position as Fotolibra? If not BAPLA couldn’t have been much of an Association if they only had one member who sold pictures! So what are these other members doing about it? This is THEIR representative body, for goodness sake start telling them How, What, Where, and When you wished to be represented. Talk about the tail wagging the dog!!
    3. This reminds me of a not too dissimilar situation with the Music Trades Ass. way back in the 1970’s.

    4. Get in contact with all BAPLA members and agree that you will all quit en-masse if this so called plan goes ahead. Don’t waste anymore of your valuable time over this Gwyn, and certainly don’t pass on any of your ideas to Simon Cliffe, that they may profit from, as they obviously have no original ideas of their own.

    What a Joke!

    BAPLA my A**E!


  4. Simon Forty says:

    As someone who buys images rather than sells them, I’ve followed this debate with interest.

    BAPLA members supply most of the images I use in books and any way of getting good (and, where possible, cheap) images is worth examining. So, if BAPLA’s new academy were touted to me as somewhere I could find these things then I’d be foolish not to look into it.

    BAPLA hasn’t done that … yet.

    I can understand the fotoLibra outrage: if a trade organisation competes with its members then there must be something wrong. The litmus test will be if BAPLA tells purchasers like me how we can use/buy material from the academy.

  5. Ian Murray says:

    Bapla should never allowed your membership in the first place. The fact that you mention it on every page rings alarm bells to me ( who else does that?).

    You trade on your association with Bapla to suggest your legitimacy in charging subscriptions.

    The suggestion that Bapla are exploiting Fotolibra rather than the other way around is hysterical.

    I hope that they kick you out.

    Ian Murray

  6. […] Someone posted something like “Way – Hey! R E E E S P E E E C T!” on the BAPLA Shock Horror blog posting the other day, so as it added nothing to the debate I deleted it. Back came a […]

  7. Gwyn Headley says:

    I am thrilled and delighted by the support everyone has given fotoLibra. I am very grateful to all of you. I hope to meet with Simon Cliffe of BAPLA next week, and will report back in a new blog posting.
    And in case you’re wondering why we allowed the unsupportive post #55 to be published, it’s because there will always be differing points of view, and they should be shown — unless you’re the poster of #55 in which case fotoLibra will always be cast as the villain!
    I’ve been asked to explain what this individual’s grudge against fotoLibra is, and I will tell the reason as a comment to the “Unpleasant Comments and Spam” blog posting.

  8. C.B.Osborne says:

    I have read a majority of the comments but feel, no matter how much members adore fotoLibra, that fotoLibra is throwing a hissy fit. Why are you so concerned? You have been operating successfully for many years so you have the advantage, and competition is legal. You speak as though you consider BAPLA is guilty of stealing your intellectual copyright: in which case you can resort to legal action. However as BAPLA is the body that represents the picture stock industry, it is a very strange move on their part. And what`s all this about mug, and t-shirts? And the extremely disparaging list of age-groups being marketed (44.Tessier) as likely candidates for the `academy`? If fotoLibra feels so strongly about the issue, they should resign from BAPLA. Although, as above, it is a very odd thing for a trade organistion to become involved in. I cannot imagine its members approve. How will it benefit them? I had posted a short article on my blog on the decline of the picture industry, before receiving this information from fotolibra today. Perhaps someone might be interested. I run an independent, specialist library and resigned from BAPLA nearly 12 months ago because I considered the fees were excessive for a small business. Thanks.

  9. Call me old fashioned but I would not subscribe to BAPLA on principle. I dont make much money(still learning the trade) but the conflict that BAPLA has created stinks. Where would it end if everyone behaved in this way?

  10. Gwyn Headley says:

    Christine (#58): our sole concern is that our trade association BAPLA, the organisation set up by picture libraries to represent picture libraries, is contemplating setting up IN BUSINESS to raise revenue — which we acknowledge it sorely needs, due to the state of the industry — in competition with our business model. Any commercial organisation that offers the same service we do is welcome to do so, it and to compete fairly with us. But surely not our non-commercial representative body, which we fund!
    We do not subscribe to an organisation in order for it to compete with us. We subscribe to it so it can fight our corner, and defend us.

  11. Ian Murray says:

    Bapla surely has to do something to ensure its future. I assume that we all agree that Bapla having a future is important to all of us? Okay. Now we have several comments about the expense of membership and also the fact that the ‘state of the industry’ is a problem. I have posted a suggestion on the Bapla forum about opening up membership to include photographers selling direct but at nearly £500 a year the current membership fees are prohibitive even if one wants to be supportive.

    If some form of Academy were to be established allowing sole traders and all varieties of individuals to join and become involved in the stock business, accessing training courses, becoming involved in Bapla committees and the rest of it, I would think that a major step forward. I could imagine that happening without subsciption but understand that they might want to go down that route because it is the one that they already have in place in terms of membership fees.

    I do not see any reason why Fotolibra should object to that. I don’t see any conflict. Fotolibra is a stock photo agency which should mean that it’s income is based on commission from stock photo licences. The only thing unusual about Fotolibra compared with nearly all other Bapla members ( PictureNation is the other that I know of) is that they charge a subscription fee to its members. Personally, I find that situation rather alarming for a stock photo business. It shouldn’t be necessary to charge if the busines is making sales.

    Gwyn, through your objections do seem to be openly admitting that your business model is based on subscriptions rather than image licence commissions. If so, you are not primarily a stock photo agency are you? More like some variant of the vanity publishing market.

    Have any other Bapla members raised any concerns at all?

    Ian Murray

  12. Gwyn Headley says:

    “you are not primarily a stock photo agency are you? More like some variant of the vanity publishing market.”
    Ian, you were almost making sense until you got to your favourite rant.
    We’re an open access picture library which gives everyone the chance to sell pictures. We charge for storage, just like PhotoShelter, but unlike PhotoShelter we also actively market and sell our members’ images.
    “Have any other Bapla members raised any concerns at all?”
    Yes; if you read through these responses you’ll see three are from BAPLA members.
    Ian, as you have fruitlessly spent the last few years on a one man Jihad to denigrate fotoLibra in every way you can, I will now block postings from you — unless you honestly admit to us how much you are paying PhotoShelter (or a similar company) to store your images.
    And if you don’t, I will publish the humiliating reason why we ejected you from fotoLibra. The only person ever to be thrown out of “some variant of the vanity publishing market”, as you describe it!

  13. Ian Murray says:


    The fact is that you charged a subscription fee before you offered storage. Bapla are offering neither storage nor licensing so will not be competing with you. You can’t possibly object simply because they want to offer services to photographers, such as their current training program on digital workflow, and want to base some of this on membership fees. I posted on the Bapla forum in early October hoping that they would do exactly that when I had no idea of any academy. In my view it would be extremely regretable if a Bapla academy was blocked from going ahead simply because it doesn’t suit your interests.

    I only noticed this little flap because I am interested in Bapla and visited their site to come across your extraordinary and misdirected attack. I promise you that I do not otherwise read your blog.

    You asked about storage. I pay $500 a year for my Photoshelter storage ( 1000Gb) and have been a paying member since October 2005. It also provides me with a web presence, online e-commerce, and a distribution channel multiple agencies.

    Feel free to publish whatever you want about me, and I will feel free to reply not here but on Stockphoto, my own blog and others. Are you talking about ‘Lore of the Land’ by any chance? Perhaps I will publish my correspondence with the publisher. Most of my sales, as were my ones to Penguin on that occasion, have come through Alamy. An open access, free, stock portal just celebrating its tenth anniversary.

    There I have satisfied your demands I think.

    I have no real interest in Fotolibra but I do have an interest in Bapla. The fact that you have decided to self-harm by attacking the industry’s trade organisation is entirely down to yourself.

    Ian Murray

  14. Gaz says:

    Is anyone going to explain the background to this Fotolibra v Mr Murray issue? I’m intrigued.

  15. Ian Murray says:


    I’m happy to explain but don’t think I’ll get a fair say on Mr Gwyn’s own blog. Basically, he feels that I ‘cheated’ him and Fotolibra photographers over a picture call for ‘Lore of the Land’ published by Penguin in 2005. The list of pics wanted was only available to those signing up as paid subscribers. I signed up, was genuinely excited, put in loads of effort locating often obscure sites ( the growing stone of Blaxhall etc) and photographing widely between North Norfolk and London. When asked about what to upload for the client, file type, image compression, pixel dimensions, it was clear that FL didn’t really understand the questions let alone know the answers. The answer was essentially ‘it’s entirely up to you, but bigger is always better’. Not so easy with the amount that I had on a rural dial up connection. Time was passing and it was suggested I send pics on CDs to Cardiff for them to upload. This I did. Weeks past, the deadline was looming ( only be extended again. Ha!). Then I was asked to pay a charge for having my pics uploaded – so much per CD, perhaps £5 each, I can’t remember. Of course, FL had used this ‘photo-call’ covering all of England to draw in heaps of new subscribers. I started to question the whole way that it was being handled and the possible reasons behind it ( using the call to build subscriptions where there were still gaps – and there were certainly gaps where my pics should have been). I lost confidence in FL and their rather offhand, unbothered, customer service. In the end I sent all my pics to Alamy, wrote to the publishers saying that I knew that they were dealing with FL, but if they had any gaps from the list I enclosed Alamy was where they could find be found. And I left it with the picture researcher. In the end only seven of my pics were used, and as far as I recall none of them overlapped with those on FL, though to be honest I had given up checking by then and washed by hands of the whole sorry saga. I will add that the Alamy fee was higher than FL’s and the commission more generous. I also had reprint fees some time later.

    FL had a forum during this time and I tried to express some of my frustration there, also asking questions. As I recall any mention of Alamy became banned ( the word substituted by ‘an ordinary picture agency’ ), my posts were frequently removed, I was castigated as a villain and as Gwyn says eventually kicked out ( after I had stopped paying my subs!!).

    That’s enough for starters.

    Ian Murray

  16. Ian Murray says:

    Can’t Gaz.


  17. Ian Murray says:

    I wrote a long explanation Gaz but it wasn’t published – perhaps because I added my webiste? Basically, in 2005 frustrated that I couldn’t get a large number of pics up on to the FL site for a photo-call I sent them to Alamy, informed the picture researcher where they were if they were wanted, and explained the problems I had faced with FL wanting to charge a fee for uploading my pics from CDs. Gwyn, thinks I cheated FL. I think differently. I couldn’t get my pics on the site having extensively researched and photographed between north Norfolk and London in response to the ‘wants’ list. I had started very motivate and excited and ended up completely disillusioned by FL and the inept, even manipulative way I felt that this ‘call’ was being used to recruit subscription paying members.

    Storm in a teacup?

    Ian Murray

  18. Gwyn Headley says:

    I think these postings have rather gone off message and have instead become a forum for poor Mr. Murray’s little jihad against fotoLibra.
    He claims his “explanation wasn’t published”. Look above.
    He claims he doesn’t “think I’ll get a fair say on Mr Gwyn’s own blog.” Look above.
    He claims he’s “banned.” Look above.
    I promise that when I do get time I will post the humiliating reason why we ejected him from fotoLibra on the relevant “Unpleasant comments and spam” blog, not here, but I really have other more important things to worry about right now!

  19. Ian Murray says:

    Such as rich Mr Headley’s jihad against Bapla?

    I’m off.

  20. Gwyn Headley says:

    OK, i’ll respond the next time I’m feeling sour and resentful and find I’ve got time on my hands. The boiler’s broken down terminally and I have no central heating or hot water. So it may not be that long.