January 4, 2011
If you’re on Twitter, you’ll know what I mean when I say that some new follows can be a little odd and surprising. Take my recently acquired new follower @BoycottGetty as an example.
At first glance I was hopeful that this was a new movement formed from designers disillusioned with the banality of stock imagery; a return to the values of using real images of real people for truly interesting design. URR! URR! WRONG!
It turns out @BoycottGetty is an anonymous twitterer with an equally opaque identity at an online petition hosting site (see Boycott Getty Images!) with a mission to get Getty Images to change their approach to dealing with people who, wittingly or otherwise, use Getty-managed photos without paying for them. Quite why they’d want to follow me, I can’t work out.
Boycott Getty Images (BGI) don’t like the current tactics used by Getty to chase copyright infringers because they feel they’re too belligerent. This may be so, and I’m no fan of Getty or its micro-payment subsidiary iStockphoto (anyone who has followed my blog for a while will know I don’t much like stock photography in general), but the alternative solutions suggested by BGI make no sense, unless one assumes that the person or people behind BGI have been caught using unlicensed Getty images and are a tad hacked off at being asked to pay up.
Let’s look at a summary of what BGI are demanding, then you’ll see what a nonsense his/her/their campaign is. From BGI’s petition website:
“This petition demands that Getty Images immediately cease its highly unethical extortion practice before another innocent US citizen is intentionally harmed, and announce the implementation of new copyright protection technologies & business practices that are consumer friendly, protect their photographers copyrights and benefit the general public at large.”
The petition sets out these points more fully on the site, but this is a pretty good precis of the thrust of their arguments, so let’s unpick what they’re saying here.
For one thing, I suspect the author of this petition decided to remain anonymous due to the “legally dancing on thin ice” nature of the opening sentence. Using phrases like “unethical extortion” and “intentionally harmed” strikes me as dangerous, considering how readily Getty likes to threaten legal action, but perhaps they’ll let this go as the angry ramblings of an irrelevant campaigner with an axe to grind.
The author mentions the “implementation of new copyright protection technologies,” but as of the writing of this blog article no such technologies exist, and even in the paragraph dedicated to this point the author doesn’t seem to know what these technologies might be. Furthermore any technologies that do exist are useless once a paying client has bought, unlocked and published a photo on their website. From thenceforth the photo is subject to the same copy and paste problems as any other image on the internet. Getty would still have to search out and demand redress for images used without payment.
BGI demands that Getty adopt business practices which are consumer friendly. Does that mean like making millions of photos available at penny prices for anyone who wants to legally buy them? Or are they seriously suggesting Getty should stop demanding payments from people who steal their assets?
And here’s a contradiction; BGI wants Getty to “protect their photographers copyrights.” They say they don’t know if the compensation moneys collected by Getty from infringers is shared with the photographers, but firstly I suspect it is and secondly it’s not any of BGI’s business. That’s between Getty and its contributors. What they actually call for is wider use of Take Down notices, which would mean photographers get nothing for the infringing use of their photos, except the hassle of having to deal with infringements. No protection there then.
This final point is quite strange: “benefit the general public at large.” Ignoring the tautology in that sentence, is Getty Images some kind of humanitarian organisation now? What other corporate giants should we demand general public (at large) benefits from? Microsoft? Walmart? The Zimbabwean government under Robert Mugabe? Dream on, Sunshine.
Although the Boycott Getty Images name seems misleading in that it doesn’t directly boycott the buying of Getty images (just their issuing of legal letters), the site is linked to www.zyra.info which is campaigning for people to avoid using Getty-licensed images altogether. I’d applaud this concept except that the alternative ideas put forward on that site are nuttier than squirrel shit.
So to @BoycottGetty, I say sorry, but I won’t be following you back. Your ideas make as much sense as a pocketful of baked beans, and this weakens your case considerably. You’re welcome to follow me though. You might learn something useful.
September 6, 2010
Don’t go looking through the plumbers section of the Yellow Pages then.
Well, that’s an easy lesson to remember, but where it gets trickier is when you search for a press photographer and you come across dozens of on-line listings for photographers who claim to do press work, but have no experience or training in the field whatsoever.
Some will be primarily wedding photographers, others will be studio and portrait photographers, but the question to ask is, “do they have a press background?” This is easily checked because they should be able to tell you where they trained and which paper or agency trained them.
You might just want a photographer to cover an event for you for PR or to set up some one-off PR images, but unless the photographer actually knows what local, regional, national or even trade press want, you could be wasting your time and money.
It isn’t just about style either. Many wedding photographers talk of offering “reportage style” photography in their wedding packages, but that’s not the same as newspaper or reportage coverage of an event destined for a journalist’s in-box.
One common error amongst the un-trained photographers doing press work is to forget to take suitable captions to go with the photo, so the desk won’t know who is in the photo, which names belong to which faces, where the event happened, why it happened… everything the desk needs to be able to use the photo.
Non-press photographers aren’t au fait with things like technical requirements either. File size is a big bugbear of many journalists as they’re either sent files which are far too small to be publishable, or the files are so huge they crash the paper’s entire email system. Not a good way to win positive press coverage.
Sometimes using someone not familiar with press best practices or even trained in relevant areas of law (as all trained photo-journalists are) can be downright foolhardy. Sometimes photographers need to know the law in order to be able to stand their ground and get the job done in the face of a belligerent jobsworth, and other times they need to know what the limits of legality are in order to avoid committing an offence. You don’t want your PR job to miss deadline because the photographer has stepped out of line and ended up in the back of a police van. You equally don’t want your published PR photo to land you in trouble over some inadvertent defamation. This too could backfire into very negative PR.
It’s a simple message this week. Press photography is a distinct and separate discipline, and not best carried out by just anyone with a camera. You’re spending money on PR, so spend it wisely and get great results, safely.
June 2, 2010
You’re shivering, but your palms sweat. You squirm on the unsympathetic chair, and squint into a spot lamp as a voice barks questions at you from the darkness beyond. That’s right, punk, you stole a photo from iStockphoto, and now they’re gonna make you sing like a canary. It’s a fair cop, and no mistake.
For some years now Getty (owners of iStockphoto) have been setting their attack lawyers on business owners and bloggers who have unwittingly (ok, let’s be honest; knowingly) stolen photos from the web to use in their own websites. Normally, a web designer or amateur site builder will trawl Google images for something appropriate to their requirements, mis-appropriate it and use it thinking “well that was easy, so maybe it’s not illegal.”
This is fine and dandy (barring the ethical question of stealing from photographers), until the perp happens to steal an image which should have been licensed through iStockphoto, because that’s when the klaxon alarm goes off at Getty HQ, and the lawyers start booking another expensive restaurant meal based on future incomes from hapless/clueless/amateur website builders.
There was the fairly spectacular case of the removals firm which ended up spending £24,000 on a photo that might have cost around £160 had they licensed it legally, and there’s been a long-running and rather overheated discussion on the Federation of Small Businesses forum which has largely concentrated on how unfair it is that anyone should defend copyright so vigorously against people who were, after all, only stealing what they wanted and couldn’t be bothered to pay for (that’s a brutal summary, but not unfair).
Getty Bad Cop has earned something of a reputation for being belligerent and heavy-handed, and even I would disagree with some of their methods, even though I support the aims of protecting copyright property as I support anyone’s right to protect their own property.
However, perhaps sensing that this approach isn’t getting them much good publicity or winning any new friends, Getty have rolled out a new weapon. Stockphotorights is the cuddly face of the mass image aggregator hell-bent on cornering and dominating the stock image industry. It’s Getty Good Cop.
I have to admit, I rather approve of the aim of stockphotorights which is deigned to educate even the most casual user of images about the dos and don’ts of using photos. I’ve been trying to help people understand copyright and licensing for years, but let’s face it, I’m not Getty and don’t have anything like their resources to reach the masses. Plus where some people will just think it’s Tim spouting off about copyright AGAIN, they might take notice of the message from Getty.
Naturally, the site is aimed purely at users of stock images and only really mentions Getty-related agencies, but the same applies to any image found on the internet, so well worth a read.
So let me get you a glass of water, a more comfortable chair; perhaps turn off the interrogation lamp and offer a call to a solicitor. I’ll ask the Guv to calm down, take it easy. Better yet, take a few minutes to read the wealth of info at stockphotorights and we can all go home early.
March 9, 2010
Hooray! You’ve decided to blow the dust off your aged and failing website, spruce it up with a refresh or redesign, and you’re planning on getting some genuine, original photography shot just for your business. What should you look out for?
Perhaps the first and most obvious thing to think about is the style of photography and photographer you’re after. If you’re promoting your business, you’ll need a specialist commercial photographer. Look at the portfolios of different photographers, and think about whether any given photographer can deliver the quality and style you need. Don’t just pick at random or use the friend of a friend who happens to have a nice camera. Remember, this is your business you’re promoting. How you present it will influence what people think of it.
Budget sensibly. Again, this is your business you’re trying to promote. If your website is your shopfront, it needs to reflect the quality of your business. That needn’t cost a fortune, and making enquiries about likely costs is free.
In my last posting I dwelled on some of the pitfalls and legalities of using stock agency photos (often referred to as microstock because the payments are very small). It’s only right then that I highlight the same for commissioned photography.
- Don’t assume you, your staff or your business aren’t photogenic enough:
A good photographer will do everything to ensure you and your staff look good, and probably better than you thought possible! Also remember, business isn’t a beauty pageant and people don’t see you the way you see yourself. The same goes for your premises and processes. There may be details and angles you’ve seen a million times and never had a second thought about, but a decent photographer will make them look interesting, and use them to help tell your story.
- Watch the price:
As with stock imagery, you need to know what the cost will be. It’s tricky to estimate this without some idea of what will be involved in shooting pictures for you, but draw up a rough brief of what you’d like photographed, how many images you hope to achieve and what the pictures are to be used for (internal comms, external PR, corporate publications and web, advertising etc) so the photographer can give some idea of likely fees. Make sure the time required to shoot the images is sufficient, and make sure the photographer’s estimate includes permission to use the images. I work out my fees based on a combination of the likely time and resources needed for the shoot, the likely number of pictures required, plus the uses the client will require of the images. I combine these elements to give an over-all figure.
- Check the T&Cs:
Again, as with stock, check the photographer’s T&Cs and that the agreed uses match your requirements. My T&Cs are based on standard UK ones, but the uses agreed vary according to the client’s requirements.
- Get references:
Ask for references from other clients. I’m certainly happy to offer references if asked (and no, it isn’t my Mum that I’ll put you in touch with!)
- If things go wrong:
The great thing about working with a specific photographer is that should anything go wrong, you have a human being you can take up the problem with, not a faceless agency. The advantage of a professional is that they will do their best to foresee likely problems and tackle them in advance, and will do their best to keep you happy if there are any issues after the shoot.
The next article in this series will look at the issues involved in taking your own business photos, or getting a friend or relative to do them for you. You can hazard a guess at what I’ll be saying about that…
March 4, 2010
When was the last time you gave your web site an overhaul? Or does it sit there, Miss Haversham-like, gathering dust, all dressed up for the big day then left to decay, alone and unloved.
Maybe it’s time to pay the old dear a visit and see how she’s doing. A neglected web site will do nothing to help your business. Dust and cobwebs building up, broken old links. Oh, and that “designed by a toddler” look, just doesn’t cut it any more.
Naturally, when it comes to a spruce up, you’ll want to add some fresh photos to the site, so this and the next article will shine a little light on your options.
As a professional photographer, I’m always going to promote the benefits of proper, bespoke photography for your site. Not just because this is my blog and I’ll say what I damn well like (though it is and I will), but because it’s true.
However, I’ll start with stock images as it is still quite a popular choice. For all its faults, I can’t single-handedly convince the entire Universe that using cheap stock is a Bad Thing, so instead, for those of you hell-bent on using the cheesiest imagery you can lay your mouse on, I’ll give you some tips on how to get more out of it, and how to avoid some common problems.
- Avoid the Generic:
You know what I mean. Those pictures of Californian business clones in suits, in executive board rooms, laptops and mobile phones at the ready, teeth shining like polished piano keys… Try to think beyond the obvious, and dig a little deeper into the archives of the stock image sites. There are only about 40 million images to choose from.
- Watch the price:
The headline price of most stock sites will tell you you can have photos for as little as £1 each. This may be true, but you’d need to be buying around 750 image credits a month to get those prices. The average stock image will set you back £10 – £20. Prices are creeping up too as the libraries struggle to turn a profit.
- Check the T&Cs:
You must read the small print before buying! Royalty Free doesn’t mean copyright free. There are very tight restrictions on how images can be used. In most cases, Royalty Free refers to the fact that you don’t have to renew image licences over time, but you will need to pay again if you want to move or duplicate an image from one project to another, or one media to another. When updating a web site, check if you need to pay to bring old images into the new site.
- Beware bogus libraries:
Sites which offer very cheap, or even free images, may not be legitimate. They will trawl the net for pictures, gather them up, and offer them as licensed images when in fact they are stolen. Make sure you know who you’re buying from, because you will be liable for any breach of copyright.
- Google Images is not a stock library:
Google images is great for getting to see a photo of just about anything you can imagine, but you need to assume that everything on the internet is covered by copyright, and using “found” images on the net is theft and you can get caught.
- If things go wrong:
If a picture on your web site turns out not to have been correctly licensed, it will be you that will get the legal letters, the court orders and the hassle. Regardless of who put the site together, it will be you and your business that will be treated as the beneficiary and publisher of the offending image. It’s then up to you to litigate against the web designer (or whoever put the site together) for any losses caused by their negligence. Seek early legal advice from a specialist copyright lawyer. It could save your business from fatal damages or court costs.