February 25, 2014
I say in spite of myself because I’m not a huge fan of stock imagery to start with. I have about 500 images on Alamy, and I’ve had that same number of pictures there for quite a few years. To make any decent money I’d probably need upwards of 4,000 images there. I rarely add to my collection because stock isn’t how I generate income from photography. I’ve always worked best when on commission to produce a particular set of images for a specific client, and I find going out to shoot stock just doesn’t inspire me.
So why am I playing with Stockimo? Partly because I thought it would just be interesting to see how the app worked, partly to see what sort of images Alamy are after.
The app works pretty well, you can take a photo from within the app or choose an image that’s already on your camera roll. You caption it, add tags (which are the words clients will use to find the image), answer some model/property release questions and upload it. After a variable wait from a few hours to a day or so, you get an update to tell you whether or not the image has been accepted.
Here’s where Stockimo is a bit different from the regular Alamy image submission process. With iPhone photos they’re not looking at technical quality (it’s much lower on an iPhone of course) so much as the content and “emotional impact” of the photo.
Most of what I’ve uploaded (36 images so far) have been accepted, but I learned some early lessons. The first being not to be too light-
handed on filters. Alamy want you to batter your image with the hipster-filter-stick until it’s begging for mercy. Vignettes, light leaks, desaturated (or massively over-saturated) colours, retro textures, you name it. Throw enough effects at your image and chances are they’ll love it.
The images are rated by a mysterious group of “experts” who rate it’s emotional impact (ie how many filters used) and it’s saleability. Top score is 4, bottom score 0, and as long as your image scores above 2 as an average of all the judges’ scores, it’ll be accepted.
I’ll be honest, I’ve found it interesting to trawl my older images, re-edit them and see whether they get accepted or rejected and what scores they get. Some scores surprise me while others seem low, but the scoring does give a guide on what to aim for and what to avoid.
The question is whether I’ll take fresh images to upload on a regular basis. From my view as someone who isn’t a stock fan, at least this is minimal effort for the small returns stock image licensing delivers. I don’t see it damaging my commissioned work, so on balance I probably will. In reality I doubt I’ll upload enough to ever have any more than a homeopathic ratio of images within the many many thousands of images which will be uploaded, so it’ll be interesting to see if I ever sell anything. So I’m going to treat it as a bit of fun, see where it goes and not get too emotional about it.
February 18, 2014
This week’s blog is going to be mercifully short because today I’m working feverishly behind the scenes to get my newly designed blog and website up and ready (exciting and scary!)
However, I hate to disappoint all the beautiful people out there who like to swing by every Tuesday in search of some nugget of information, entertainment or um… can’t remember what the third thing might be, so I’m taking this opportunity to give you an early alert to one of the changes you’ll see on the site.
It’s all a bit work-in-progress at the moment, but if you look at the Personal Project Photography gallery you’ll see that the images there are available to buy as prints or enlargements. New options will be added and updated, as will images from my archive and (in time) new images which I’ll add as and when they’re ready.
You’re welcome to have a look, and if you see something you like you’ll be welcome to order it! If you see a photo you like which isn’t available in a size or finish you’d want, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.
For technical reasons, not all photos will be available in all sizes because I want to ensure that whatever you buy looks fantastic on your wall.
This is just one feature of the new site which will have a different look and will incorporate this blog far more seamlessly, making it easier for everyone to see and access the bits they need.
So exciting times all round! I’m hoping that by the time you read my next article, the new site will be finished and live. Wish me luck, and thank you for your patience during this construction work.
February 11, 2014
I had promised myself I wouldn’t re-visit the subject of Johnson Press or anything else quite as depressing for a while. The reaction to that article was incredible, receiving over 360 hits in two days which, for a modest blog such as mine is quite a big deal.
Indeed I had every intention of keeping things upbeat for a while, but then I got one more reaction to the article which I just couldn’t ignore; an email from someone whose situation perfectly illustrates the insanity which has overtaken newspaper publishing in this country. The victim of another publisher taking a short-term view and discarding both staff and reader loyalty in the hope of bigger margins.
There’s really nothing I can add to what this photojournalist says, so I’ll let their email speak for itself. Reproduced with permission…
Great to read your blog about Johnston Press.
Days after their announcement the publisher that I work for as a retained photo journalist also announced that it was going down the free content route and will no longer require my services!
The new model is to copy and paste press releases, and the associated pictures, thus removing my position.
I gather that everything is now geared towards ad revenue and pleasing PR people and press officers in the hope that they will advertise with said publishing group. As a result, all critical reporting has been banned in case it upsets said PR departments and everything will now be portrayed as sunny, regardless of the reality.
On the odd occasion a picture is needed from an event the ad man or webmaster will go along with their tablet, iphone etc and take a picture that is “good enough”. The parting shot was “with digital photography nowadays, we don’t need a retained photo journalist”
An editorial policy where PR people dictate content, as that’s what will happen, is an odd policy to adopt for a news publication. But hey, got to keep those PR people happy!
I was retained for 10 years and they just cut me adrift as if I never mattered. Over that decade the publisher would constantly apologise for not being able to pay me more (1k a month), but when they abolished my position this figure suddenly became a “considerable amount” . Loyalty, what ever happened to it?
February 4, 2014
After last week’s article (rant) about the Johnston Press photographic staff redundancies, I feel the need to chill and talk about something a little warmer and fluffier. I could have another rant, this time about the new powers UK police might soon have to seize press photographers’ images, but since there won’t be any press photographers left soon I suspect the law will be redundant by the time it hits the statute books.
I could have a rant about the latest European Union copyright review, which could very well be another attempt by big business to grab photographers’ rights, since these reviews never seem to centre on ways of strengthening copyright law. And on this matter, I urge all creatives to make submissions to the review, the deadline of which has been extended in to March 5th.
Yes, I could rant about all of that, but while rants get hits to my blog, it also gets boring. In any case it’s likely I’ll have to have another go at these subjects later, so rant lovers needn’t despair entirely.
Instead I’m going to tell you about a rather fun Friday evening last week when I addressed members of the Frome Wessex Camera Club and spent a couple of hours talking about the work I do now, and the experiences I had working for the News of the World from around 1998 to 2001 when I left abruptly due to unpaid expenses.
I’d not previously addressed a room full of people on this subject before, and it was kind of cathartic for me. I’d prepared a presentation with lots of photos from the period, each with its own back-story, and while I was nervous in the build up to the evening, once the house lights went down and I got started it was like I was flying. I’d made presenter notes, but barely referred to them for the entire talk. Everything just seemed to flow naturally.
The audience of club members (plus my son who I’d dragged along under mild protest) did a very strange thing too; they laughed at my tales of celebrity chases, brushes with bodyguards and sitting in the backs of vans waiting so long for a particular scallywag to appear I’d have to pee in a bottle or risk blowing my cover.
And when the house lights went up at the end of the presentation, the image which will stay with me forever is the look on my son’s face because this was the first time he’d heard many of these stories. I’d assumed he would have been bored to tears, but his expression was a mixture of happiness and pride. Of everyone in the audience, he was my most important critic and it seems I passed the test.
January 28, 2014
It’s hard sometimes to write a post and not be completely ranty, but I’ll give it my best shot this week even though I think I have good cause to vent.
In 2010 Michael Johnston, Johnston Press Scotland divisional MD, was being scrutinised by a committee of Members of the Scottish Parliament about the state of the newspaper industry North of the border.
I quote from Mr Johnston’s submission to the MSPs, “We possibly did not invest enough in journalism. Looking at the here and now, and moving forward, I want to ensure that the businesses that I am responsible for are sustainable and can continue to function in a viable way.
“Journalism is fundamental to what we do. I recognise journalism as being not only a significant cost but a significant attribute of our business.”
So what are Johnston Press playing at now? It emerged yesterday (Monday, 27th Jan 2014, via HoldTheFrontPage) that JP are to axe all the staff photographers from their Midlands division in favour of reader-generated content. It’s quite hard to see how this tallies with an ethos of investing in journalism. I guarantee that whatever state those Midlands titles are in now, their readerships, sales and advertising revenues will all see an accelerated slide once the papers are populated with submitted images.
The problem Johnston Press have is that after a long programme of acquisition and asset-stripping in the 1990s and early 2000s, they racked up large debts at the same time as fatally damaging the newspapers they bought.
Under-investment in journalism and photography has meant their readership and advertisers have run away to the internet. Had JP and other publishing groups like them already been AT the internet, ready and waiting with quality online content from the get go, they might not be in the terrible position they’re in now. But time and again, JP management have proved themselves to be woefully incompetent. So here we are, yet again hearing about the wholesale redundancies of photographers.
To many people this is just seen as inevitable change. A consequence of the internet, the digital revolution. This is lazy thinking and doesn’t take into account the loss of democracy that comes with quality reporting supported and enhanced by quality imagery. The Midlands group of newspapers affected by these redundancies will be expected to rely on images sent in by readers. In other words, the daily and weekly agendas of newspapers are to be set by whatever free pictures are sent in, not by reporters and photographers digging up stories which really matter to the communities in which they live and work. This harms democracy.
And no, this state of affairs would not have been inevitable had publishers taken a different course early on, but as Mr Johnston admitted, journalism is expensive and twenty years ago, when they were making more money than they knew what to do with, they could have invested rather than push for ever greater profit margins. This might not have pleased shareholders looking for quick returns, but this lack of foresight means that companies like JP are among the “zombie” companies we’ve been hearing about of late. Their debts and years of under-investment leave them prey to the banks who control the finances and make them desperately un-attractive prospects for potential buyers who might have had the means to save them if things hadn’t gone to terminally dire.
Guardian columnist Prof. Roy Greenslade commented that these redundancies are inevitable and just a result of newspaper economics. Well, bless the dotty professor for forgetting to mention that current newspaper economics are a direct result of massive mis-management around 20 years ago. All this might be inevitable now, but it’s as a result of reckless greed, not out of a need to have rubbish newspapers filled with rubbish content. I don’t think anyone truly needs that.
There, I just failed to not rant.
Update: Professor Greenslade follows-up after photographers argue back. He says he’s right, then goes on to prove he barely has a grasp of newspaper economics. It’s quite worrying really.
January 21, 2014
When I was a wee lad, photography was one of my hobbies. I also played guitar (badly). I still play guitar (badly), but until I was given a prompt to think about it, I thought I’d lost the other hobby because it became my career.
It’s true though that ever since I took up photography professionally, I’ve always enjoyed having a hobby camera to swing about and use for off-the-cuff shots. I still own a Yashica T3 Super, an excellent compact film camera with a Zeiss T* f2.8 lens, though I never use it.
Before people started paying me to take photos for them, I was always interested in using recent photographic experiences to inform my next outing with the camera. Looking through the prints from my first 35mm film camera, a Voigtländer, I would work out what I’d done right and wrong (and why I needed a better camera), and use that knowledge next time I went out.
These days for “fun” photography I generally carry my Fuji X20. I know it’s not going to give me the quality of my big camera, but it does give me a quality which looks great on a screen (and sometimes an old timey print!) and still lets me twiddle the dials I get to twiddle on my big camera, so I can have some creative control too.
My iPhone is also handy, but apart from picking a subject and an angle, the only creativity I can have with that is with in-built filters, and I prefer my photos to be seen as close to their original state as possible (ie, little or no filtering). It’s also not so great in tricky lighting. The iPhone doesn’t allow me to skew the exposure much or play with depth of field either, so although I’ve taken some pictures with that of which I’m quite fond, it’s the X20 which I routinely use out and about.
The X20 has limitations as does any camera, but it’s particular mix of them forces you to see and record things differently than you would with an SLR. Sometimes I find the experience frustrating, sometimes rewarding, and sometimes it’ll feed back into what I do for my professional work.
When a client recently asked me if photography was still a hobby I struggled to answer, but now that I’ve thought about it a little more I can see that it is still a hobby, but one that informs my professional work. It ties in nicely with my cycling hobby sometimes, but I can’t say it’s improving my guitar playing.