Posts Tagged ‘selling pictures’

Christmas Chimney Sweep

Christmas Chimney Sweep

Isn’t this pretty?

We thought so. So did a small American company, who felt it would make a great Christmas card.

It is our ambition to make fotoLibra the most user friendly, intuitive and simple site from which to buy pictures. But from reading the following correspondence, I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

We received this a couple of weeks ago at 14:28:

HI Gwyn,
We would like to purchase the following image to use on a Christmas card, that we would be printing in United States.
FOT510763      Chimney Sweep
Arnie Varah

Yvonne (not me) replied immediately, writing

Hello Arnie,
Thanks for your message which has been forwarded to me by Gwyn.
I notice that your colleague Jim Schuco has just registered with us, so the easiest way to purchase image FOT 510763 is via our website. You/Jim would need to sign in to www.fotoLibra com and price the image as follows, e.g.:
Merchandise > Greetings cards;  Continue
Print Run: 1000 > Duration: 1 year
As soon as you have gone through the purchasing process, you can download the high res image file immediately.
Kind regards,
Yvonne Seeley

Then at 19:01, this arrived:

HI Yvonne,
We would like to purchase the following image to use on a Christmas card, that we would be printing in United States.
FOT510763      Chimney Sweep
Jim Schuco

Yvonne replied as follows:

Thanks for your message. Here a copy of the email I’ve just sent to your colleague Arnie Varah:

and enclosed her previous email.

Jim replied:

Hi Yvonne,
We are just looking for one picture not 1000.

which prompted Yvonne’s response:

Will you only be printing one Christmas card? Stock agencies sell rights managed images based on the size of the print run and the duration of the license.
Hope this clarifies matters.

Jim came right back. He was baffled. So Yvonne responded:

Hello again Jim,
Here’s the explanation I sent to you earlier yesterday evening:
“Will you only be printing one Christmas card? You’ll find that stock agencies sell rights managed images based on the size of the print run and the duration of the license.
Hope this clarifies matters.”

I’m sorry this didn’t fully explain the situation for you. The image of the chimney sweep is a rights managed image. This means that you need to purchase the specific usage rights you need. So if you want to print a number of Christmas cards from this one image – up to 1000, for example, to send out to your customers – you have to go through the purchasing process I outlined earlier.

Jim and Arnie thought for a while. Then Jim asked

Hi Yvonne,
If we decide to print the Christmas cards with your company, would the
1.       Material used are card stock
2.       The image would be color
3.       Can we add a greeting inside
4.       Would envelope come with the cards
Let me know

Incidentally we’re talking £50 for the cost of buying the picture here. Not a fortune.

Yvonne replied:

Hello Jim,
fotoLibra is a stock picture agency. We license the use of images to picture buyers and researchers for reproduction in their publications – books, calendars, magazines, greetings cards and so on. You would buy the image license from us, download the high resolution picture file, and then get the Christmas card printed to your design using our image, as you advised in your first email.

Jim responded:

Hi Yvonne,
We usually send out about 100 cards, how much would it be for the image.
Jim Schuco

We’re always happy to negotiate. A price for 1,000 has to be different to a price for 100. But we cannot account for every eventuality in the pricing matrix. And we want to make sales for our members. So Yvonne replied:

Hello Jim,
Our base price for usage in a print run of up to 1000 cards is $234.00. On this occasion, sInce you are only planning 100, we can offer you a 66% discount. This would bring the price down to $80.
Please let me know if you want to go ahead at this discounted price and I will apply the percentage to your account.

On 3 Dec 2010, at 20:52, Jim Schuco wrote:

Hi Yvonne,
I am not sure I understand your previous email and this one. Can you print the cards also or you only provide the image for us? Let me know
Jim Schuco

By now Yvonne is getting a little terse:

Hello Jim
We supply the image; you arrange the printing.

Silence for five days. Has she mortally offended Jim?

Then on 7 Dec 2010, at 18:16, Jim wrote:

Hi Yvonne,
We are willing to pay $75 for the image. Let me know.
Jim Schuco

Yvonne’s final email:

Hello Jim,
Thanks for your feedback.
OK – you will need to sign into and type FOT510763 into the quick search box (top right).
Then click the $ Price Image link in the left hand column.
As soon as you have completed the purchasing process you’ll be able to download the high res image file. We will also send you a revised invoice confirming the actual rights bought.

The credit card payment went through and the image was downloaded an hour later. Will we be getting a Christmas card from them?

That was sixteen emails, and a lot of hassle, to make a $75 sale. Our worthy fotoLibra member will get £23.78. So will we, before we pay bank charges and taxes,.

I wonder what Tahiti is like at this time of year?

Guess we’ll never know.


It came to me in a flash. At a BAPLA Picture Buyers’ Fair (remember them?) I was barking and shilling on the fotoLibra stand. OK, I admit it, I was pretty desperate. “Roll up, roll up, leddies ‘n’ gennelmen, come and see our fabulous photographs, so beautiful they’ll bring tears to your eyes etcetera etcetera.”

A harassed-looking woman was walking past quickly, head down, eyes averted.

“Come and avva gander at our bee-yootiful pickchars, darlin’!” I bellowed.

She stopped — she had to stop, I was blocking her path — and looked at our elegant display.

“They’re lovely,” she smiled sadly, “but I don’t buy lovely pictures. I buy photographs of things people don’t see.”

Now the tables were turned. I was the one who was stopped in his tracks. “If people don’t see things, how can they be photographed?”

“Well, they do see them, well enough to avoid them, but they don’t notice them. And photographers don’t notice them either. As a result, there aren’t many pictures of them.”

“But what are THEY?” I persisted. “What is it that people don’t see?”

“All sorts of things. Roadworks, men in fluorescent jackets, bus stops, rubbish bins, pavements, overgrown signs, health clinics, everything you don’t really notice as you go about your everyday life.

“All I see here are sunsets over the Maldives, the Taj Mahal by moonlight, palm-fringed beaches — and I work for Eborum District Council.

“We have a picture of the Taj Mahal in our canteen, but I didn’t buy it. I need access to pictures of the stuff we live, work and have to deal with. Parking meters, for instance. Even dog poo.”

“Dog poo?” I asked tentatively.

“Yes, dog poo, or IPSV2603 and 2604 as we refer to it. IPSV is the Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary — the code councils and government use to talk to each other. Virtually everything you can think of has an IPSV code — model soldiers, jogging, ex-servicemen’s associations, even UFOs and the U3A.”

That’s great, I thought. Here are fotoLibra’s 10,000+ photographers busy recording glorious sunsets all over the world and the customers want doggy doos. So I grinned my best grin and said “You’ve got it.”

And now she has.

I went back and rallied the fotoLibra photographers. Oyez, Oyez, I blogged, please add IPSV codes to your UK images. I posted a list of all 8,000+ IPSV codes on the fotoLibra site, at With varying degrees of reluctance and enthusiasm, many of them complied. Subjects of previously unimaginable banality were uploaded to the site, and we broadened our reach to encompass the trite and the commonplace as well as the rare and majestic.

In my Damascene revelation that a picture doesn’t have to have a pretty subject, I forgot to take our reluctant visitor’s name, but if that lady ever stumbles across the site again she will find over 17,000 images of everyday stuff, carefully labelled with the correct IPSV codes  from religions to town parks, from skips to lifeguards, from pills to parking meters.

And just because the subject is humdrum, everyday or boring, it doesn’t mean a photograph of it will be. As a result, at we now have images that are practical as well as beautiful.

Thank you, local authority lady. You helped us open our eyes.

This article was written for Montage, the magazine of the Picture Research Association


Here are the most popular subjects photographed on fotoLibra, ranked by size.

fotoLibra's Most Popular Image Categories

It would be pleasant and profitable for all of us to see many more of the less well featured subjects, such as
Law and Order
Third World
Sub Aqua
Gay & Lesbian
Old Age


After buying the spiffy new camera, the first accessory most photographers want to get their hands on is a mighty new lens.

It ain’t necessarily so.

This is a list of things photographers should buy in order to improve their sales. It is in the order of our suggested priorities at fotoLibra.

Remember, as a picture library / stock agency we’re not necessarily reading from the same page as our photographer friends. Most photographers want to create beautiful, stunning images, and of course we want to see those as well, but above all we want photographs that sell.

And if that interests you, then here is what we suggest you need to acquire.

  1. A decent DSLR or large format digital camera. The make is unimportant, as long as you’re comfortable with it. One famous old tip to get comfortable is to put the camera in a bag, then put your hands in and spend days looking odd and learning how to use it blindfold. Feel your way round the apparatus. Learn to use it without thinking, so it becomes an automatic, natural extension of your eye. Nowadays the camera back should deliver a minimum of 12 mexapixels.
  2. Adobe Photoshop, Elements, Corel Draw, GIMP, Irfanview or some other photo editing software. This is your digital darkroom. You must always shoot in RAW and then post process. It’s no use having a digital camera without photo editing software.
  3. A tripod. Your hands shake, I promise you.
  4. A subscription to fotoLibra. “Yeah, yeah, what a surprise,” you smile, but this is where you get regular lists of the photographs that buyers need, hints, tips, blogs and newsletters. A huge amount of storage space for your images. And all your sales and back office admin taken care of, leaving you to get on with pressing that shutter.
  5. Lighting, unless you plan only to photograph landscapes by available light (a very small market). At the very least, a separate and moveable flash unit. The flash built in to the camera is strictly for amateurs.
  6. A large roll of white paper to act as a neutral background, such as this. Professional picture buyers like plain backgrounds and cut outs. Cut outs are virtually impossible to achieve successfully without starting with a plain background.
  7. And of course Goalposts, on which you put the paper. You get to move them, as well. Properly called a “background support system’. Here’s one.
  8. Books from the fotoLibra Bookshop. I like the intelligent and elegantly designed Rocky Nook titles. You will never, ever stop learning as a photographer. Even Snowdon, one of the twentieth century’s most famous photographers, admits he’s still learning at eighty.
  9. Photography courses, such as those offered by Nick Jenkins at Freespirit Images. You will learn tricks and techniques which would never have occurred to you on your own.
  10. Apple Aperture or Adobe Lightroom. Post processing taken to new heights. I know it will hurt to spend money on bits and bytes before lovely, smooth, hefty glass and metal, but would you prefer to collect kit, or make a name for yourself as a photographer?

NOW you can start to splash out on more expensive lenses, camera bags and all that other non-essential kit. But armed with the Top Ten, you will have what you need to take photographs that SELL.

And my lens suggestion for when you finally buy a second?

Go for the widest aperture you can afford.

And if you don’t agree with this list, please post your own in the Comments!


Property Releases

August 19th, 2010

We recently posted a blog about Model Releases.

Reading Jacqui Norman’s August Newsletter to fotoLibra members this afternoon I noticed she repeated her advice not to photograph National Trust properties as they wanted to reserve the rights to themselves.

As far as I know, this “right” hasn’t been tested in law. I’m a staunch supporter of the National Trust, but their unilateral ban on photography of our national heritage does get up my nose.

I’m also a supporter of personal privacy. Not so long ago someone complained because a photograph of his unusual (and ugly) car had been posted on fotoLibra. With the agreement of the photographer, we removed it, simply because it wasn’t worth fussing about. The complainant had absolutely no right to prevent its use, but as he asked nicely enough and we saw no early prospect of a sale we took it down.

The National Trust and other owners of heritage and interesting buildings deserve protection from exploitation. Images of their properties should not be used for promotional purposes without their consent. They shouldn’t be used to endorse commercial products without some sort of fee being paid.

But I absolutely defend the right of people to photograph what they will, and sell those photographs if they can, if they are to be used in an educational, illustrative, informative or editorial function. If you’re publishing a book on Castles, you’ll be including a number of National Trust properties. The book will be about those properties. There is no way anyone should only be allowed to use pre-approved images of these buildings.

It’s down to power and control. Celebs in the pupal stage will do anything to court publicity. Once they achieve imago they need to control publicity: vetting photographs, checking journalists’ credentials, only being photographed from one side.

The National Trust’s position is looking increasingly fragile. It only needs someone with a little spare time and a little spare money to challenge their stand, and I suspect the edifice will go the way of the walls of Jericho.

A recent case in America will illustrate the point. I may say that in this instance I am firmly on the side of the property owner.

Douglass Robinson lives in a startling yellow house of the Painted Lady style in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, fondly remembered by all old ’60s potheads. He’s accustomed to having the house photographed, and he normally puts up with it.

But he finally drew the line when his venerable old pad featured as the solus lead on a leaflet advertising mortgages for an international bank. Sympathetic neighbors asked if he was going to sell, or if he was running into financial difficulties?

So he did what every red-blooded American does in times of crisis: he sued. On seven counts.

And the HSBC Bank (for it was they) won every one of them.

You can read the whole sorry saga here. The blog is headlined “A House’s Right To Publicity”, but surely it should have been “A House’s Right To Privacy.”

HSBC should not have gotten away with it. Apart from anything else, it was discourteous in the extreme not to request permission of the owner. (I can hear the lawyers whispering in the back of my head: “such permission not to be unreasonably withheld”).

American law is based on precedent. This judgement is going to make it harder for property owners to claim visual rights over their buildings.

Unlesse the owners are large American corporations, of course.


Mature Times

August 13th, 2010

Keen on your hobby? Why not turn it into a business?

I don’t know much about the magazine Mature Times, but I do know they’ve got EXCELLENT ideas. Because the nice people there have written an article about fotoLibra photographer Linda Wright (she of the wondrous Birds of Prey photographs) in which they say very nice things about the part fotoLibra had to play in Linda’s success.

Aw shucks! (scuffles foot shyly behind other heel).

Hovering Eurasian Kestrel ©Linda Wright / fotoLibra


The Dictionary Game

August 4th, 2010

Before I tell you about this wonderful and enjoyable challenge, just a word on the new fotoLibra Version 4.1.

We launched it a couple of days ago and the reaction from both buyers and sellers has been extremely positive, once users discovered where to access all the new features. If they still elude you, please check out the comments in the last blog posting, where all is revealed.

Now for the The Dictionary Game.

It’s summer, time for fun and frolics (it’s raining hard as I write this), and this is an amusing if cerebral pastime.

I used to do this for fun as a kid, but I’m not a photographer, simply a man who takes photographs.

Flip open the dictionary. Find a word you don’t know (come on, there must be one).

Read the definition.

Now photograph it.

Do you see? It makes you think very hard about how you convey the meaning of a word visually. It’s even more of a challenge — and therefore much more satisfying — if the word is an abstract concept. Or a verb.

When you upload the resulting image to fotoLibra, imagine the pleasure of getting a fotoLibrawhack — your picture being the sole one returned when a search for ‘glabrous’ is made, for example.

Here are some words that have sent me scurrying for the dictionary recently:

  • aboulia
  • gremial
  • eirenicon
  • cagot
  • lepid
  • manyplies
  • temulent
  • paneity
  • lucubration
  • zoilism
  • lek
  • coper
  • hamfatter
  • copacetic
  • autochthon
  • luculent
  • epicene

Have fun!


New fotoLibra

July 30th, 2010

Say hello to fotoLibra 4.1!

As well as being faster, it’s got a host of new features:

autoFocus is a rolling newsfeed with all the top stories to interest photographers and picture buyers
• You’ve all been asking for it — the Recent Sales tab shows a random selection of recently sold images so you can see what the market is buying
• Our new Thumbnail Size option allows you to view Thumbnails 400% larger than the default size
• The Latest News tab now sits at the top of the page so you can access it immediately without digging down deep into your Control Centre
• Your Hide Sidebar feature lets you view five thumbnails in a row — more pictures per page
• You now have the data option of flipping between Thumbnail and Records View, which will show you the photographer, pixel dimensions, caption and reference number for every image
• At last (many members will sigh) you can see if one of your images has been selected for a lightbox. As far as we’re aware no other stock agency / picture library offers this feature — but there is no guarantee that this will lead to a sale.

There are many other enhancements such as a speedier registration page — new members can sign up in seconds. Little things like the transition when you submit an image to a Picture Call have been smoothed out. You will notice several other detail changes.

BROWSERS: However you won’t notice any of these enhancements if you are using Internet Explorer 7 or earlier as your browser. You will see doughty old fotoLibra 4.0 chugging away as normal. Speedy new fotoLibra 4.1 works best on Windows, Mac and Linux platforms using Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome and IE8. Even Microsoft is recommending you should upgrade from IE7: please read this.

We recommend that Windows users should perform “Windows Update” regularly.

We hope you enjoy the new fotoLibra and find it even easier to use. Please let us know what you think


Model Releases

July 26th, 2010

We’re always asked if we want model releases with the photographs we sell.

The short answer is Yes. It’s much easier to sell a photograph with a model release than without one.

But given that the great majority of fotoLibra’s images sales are for editorial use, it’s not always absolutely essential. It merely restricts the possible markets for the photograph. You don’t generally need a model release for an image used editorially.

Now here is a terrible example, an awful warning. Someone took a picture of a very photogenic Greek shepherd complete with luxuriant beard. It was uploaded to a picture library. No names, because I don’t know them.

A Swedish yogurt manufacturer bought the photograph from the picture library and plastered it over his pots of “Turkish” yogurt. Unfortunately the shepherd’s cousin happened to be living in Stockholm and spotted his kinsman being passed off as a Turk. This is an offensive concept to many Greeks.

What was more offensive is that the subject of the photograph hadn’t given his permission for it to be used in advertising. He hadn’t signed a model release. Almost all shepherds have smart cosmopolitan lawyers these days, and the yogurt company was slapped with a £4.5 million lawsuit.

Our simple, bucolic countryman apparently settled later for £150,000, which is a lot more expensive than buying a properly licensed image from a company such as fotoLibra.

You can read more about this story (and see the offending yogurt pot) on the BBC site (so it must be true) and you can download and print off as many fotoLibra Model release forms as you like from here, and of course property release forms from here. When you use these, keep the signed piece of paper as a record of your contract with the subject and tick the ‘Model Release’ and ‘Property Release’ boxes on your Edit page with a carefree heart.

We will of course double check with you should we be about to sell one of your images to a yogurt pot manufacturer or other commercial organisation.I don’t know where the fault lies here — if the yogurt company had revealed the end use of the image to the picture library and they had authorised the sale without clearances, then the library is to blame. If the yogurt company just bought the picture without revealing what it was going to be used for, then the yogurt company is to blame.

The shepherd and the photographer would seem to be the only two innocent parties here. Unless the photographer misrepresented the image to the picture library, claiming it was model released.

Oh, I don’t know. Just be careful, that’s all.


Pro Blog Index

July 12th, 2010

This is the Index to the fotoLibra Pro Blog postings since January 2010.

If you’re new to fotoLibra, welcome! — and may we suggest you read through the HINTS & TIPS section, and if nothing else read Great Expectations from the 2009 blog. It still holds true.

In fact there are a lot of interesting posts in the 2009 blogs, and you can see an Index to them here.

Comments are welcome, even on old posts, and will be read and often responded to.