Picture of the Day – Mini Hippo

I’ve had itchy feet lately and, a couple nights ago, while contemplating the fact that I couldn’t responsibly head to the airport and get on a plane to, say, Tanzania to shoot some wildlife, I decided to go with the only option I had in the house: a toy hippo. Sure, it’s not as exciting as watching a real hippo, not by any stretch, but when you have no real hippos available to you in the evening, few other options remain.

One little tub of water and a few speedlights later and you get this, a portrait of a miniature hippo. Click for a larger version:

Miniature Hippo

A little bit of fun, and really, I wouldn’t be have been able to fit a full-size hippopotamus into the kitchen.

Lighting info: One speedlight on the background with a blue gel. One just left of camera with blue gel. One camera right with a grid to light the hippo.




My Flickr Is Alive (Again)

I’ve decided to give Flickr another try. It was about two years ago that I was at my most active there and while it was a bit of fun, I got a little bit bored of it.

This time, however, I am treating it as a bit of an experiment. With the community’s ever growing visibility, more and more success stories, (just see last month’s American Photo story about flickr superstars if you don’t believe me), it makes sense to see what kind of opportunities an active participation can yield.

I certainly don’t expect any over night fame, or really, any fame at all for that matter. I’m mostly just curious about whether regular flickr usage can do a few simple, positive things like drive traffic to my site or result in a stock sale or two. Perhaps a commission here and there? Who knows. I personally know people who have done just those things.

Besides, if nothing else, I’m bound to e-meet (and real-life meet) a few people and make some contacts or even friends. So, without further ado, my first new addition to my Flickr stream is right here:

Sunset Over Edinburgh

And please visit my photostream.

Lastly, is you are interested in licensing this image or purchasing a print, contact me here.




Don’t Let Schmap Flatter You

I was recently contacted by travel e-guide publisher Schmap because they wanted to use one of my photos on my flickr stream for their guide to the city of Calgary. I quickly declined their offer of no pay whatsoever, especially after reading that they were asking for a world-wide, royalty-free perpetual license. That’s mighty generous of you, but no.

It’s always flattering to have someone appreciate my work enough to use it for a publication, but it’s hardly fair for this commercial publication to be making money from my photos.

A quick google search of Schmap later and result number six lead me to this piece from EPUK that nicely sums up my feelings on the issue.

If the first Dotcom bubble was all about selling imaginary businesses to stupid venture capitalists, Dotcom 2.0 seems mostly to comprise ingenious new methods of grabbing free photos from gullible amateurs on the wide-eyed web and re-purposing them to make a corporate mint.

The comments of the article are also worth reading as they contain a rebuttal from the editor of Shmap. In a series of points, he argues that the inclusion of a given photographer’s photo in a Shmap guide is a marketing opportunity. I’m not sure how telling people that I give away my work is a means of monetizing my images, but there you go…

And by the way, I have not linked to the Shmap web site not only because I disagree with their practices, but also because, when I visited their page to see if any of their guides might be useful, Shmap crashed my browser!

Flickr Photos Used by Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile seems to have just made a potentially big ‘oopsie.’

In a current outdoor advertising campaign, the giant media corporation grabbed a photo off flickr (from user chewywong) and slapped it onto a billboard. That’s not where the issue lies. The photo was licensed under the creative commons and all that was required for use of the photo was the printing of a link back to the source material and Virgin complied with this license.

The problem lies in that the image featured an unreleased minor. Using this photo without a model release opens up Virgin to a potential claim by the model. Currently, the model and her family are investigating their legal options in a claim against Virgin. They’re not pleased about the use and probably won’t have a big problem finding a lawyer to pick up the case for them.

The usage was originally discovered by a flickr user (sesh00) who hoped to inform a fellow user about the use of the photo. He saw the billboard in Australia and took a photo which he posted here (see that link for much of the commentary from the model and her family). He has also posted this thread that discusses the situation.

Instead of paying a photographer and model to produce a shoot, Virgin looks like it may be paying even more both in terms of cash and in public opinion.

EPUK on Flickr, Censorship and Stolen Photos

Editorial Photographers UK have written their take on the flickr fiasco that I have covered here, here and here. Their story not only talks about Rebekka Guðleifsdóttira’s stolen photos and flickr’s initial mistaken censorship of her problem, but also details the situation of the catalysts of this incident, the Only Dreemin poster company:

Essentially their defence is: ‘We’re not crooks, just really, really dumb.’ Briefly, their story is that a company called Wild Aspects and Panoramas Ltd offered them the images; they made some basic research on the deal, signed, and went ahead with their business. When contacted by Rebekka’s lawyers they immediately destroyed the images, and on legal advice avoided any further contact with Rebekka.

But, as EPUK points out, a good portion of their collection of posters are made up of Lichtenstein works and film stills for which they likely did not have permission to reprint. Perhaps the lawyers of the holders of those copyrights are a little bit more high-powered than the one Rebekka was able to hire and Only Dreemin may soon be quickly cooking in the hot water they boiled for themselves.

Flickr Apologizes for Censorship

One of the co-founders of flickr has apologized for the censorship situation that occurred yesterday.

Admitting that it was a mistake to delete the photo posted by Rebekka Guðleifsdóttira, co-founder Stewart Butterfield said that he and his staff were sorry for the error. Rebekka originally posted a photo detailing which of her works she claims had been illegally used by a London-based poster company.

Butterfield explained the rationale behind the deletion:

It’s important to be clear why the photo was deleted: it had nothing to do with a desire to silence Rebekka from calling attention to the outfit which had reportedly sold copies of her photos without knowledge or permission and without compensating her (in fact, even before her photo was deleted, we were investigating ways in which we could help Rebekka in this situation and prevent it from happening to others).


The photo was deleted — again, mistakenly — because of the direction the comments had gone, which included posting the personal information of the infringing company’s owner and suggestions for how best to exact revenge. It is an emotional issue and most people were there to support Rebekka in a positive way, but some of the angry mob behavior crossed the line.

Butterfield also mentioned that “several policies which will be changing as a direct result of this incident and the goal is that nothing like this ever happens again.”

The backlash against flickr has been substantial – Butterfield’s apology should go a good way towards smoothing over relations with an angry community. Now I just hope that the original problem that lead to this issue can be resolved. The copyright infringement of Rebekka’s work is still up in the air. Hopefully the support that has been given to her already will now be bolstered by flickr and a resolution can be worked out sooner than later.

Flickr Censorship? Stolen Photos Followup

Yesterday, I wrote about Rebekka Guðleifsdóttira and her claim that a poster company had stolen her photos. The case has taken an interesting and, in my view, unfortunate turn.

The flickr post where Rebekka had originally made her case and posted images of the stolen photos has been removed by flickr (owned by Yahoo) for the following reason:

Flickr is not a venue for to you harass, abuse, impersonate, or intimidate others. If we receive a valid complaint about your conduct, we will send you a warning or terminate your account.

Rebekka, on her blog, tells her side of the censorship story:

i don’t believe i was harrassing anyone. I was doing the only thing left for me to do when i had tried to seek legal assistance, after being victim to having my copyrighted work stolen and resold for profit by a dishonest company. I was told by my lawyer that i should just accept the fact and move on. Im not a big fan of giving up. I simply told the truth.

the fact that people sent harrassing letters to only-dreemin was a direct result of my post, but I myself wasnt harassing anyone. I was simply making it public that someone did wrong by me, and i think that’s a pretty far cry from harrassing some innocent party directly.

Seems unfair that flickr has decided on this course of action. That poster company must have a good lawyer on its side…

Thomas Hawk has lengthy editorial post about this subject for those irritated with flickr/yahoo’s decision.

Stolen Photographs

A couple of sites have taken up the case of photographer and flickr user Rebekka Guðleifsdóttira who claims to have had photos stolen from her by a London-based print selling company called Only Dreemin.

Read more about Rebekka’s plight here and here. Hopefully Rebekka can come out on top in the legal battle that is bound to ensue from this and that she gets what’s due to her for her photographs.

PDN on Flickr

The Photo District News site has a feature discussing users of Flickr who have had their work discovered leading to assignments and sales of images. It details yet more examples of the giant photo-sharing site proving to be a boon to emerging photographers and their work.

NY Times on the Future of Corbis

If you have a NY Times password, this article details some of their plans for the future including the following plans from Gary Shenk, president and incoming chief executive at Corbis:

In that vein, Mr. Shenk said Corbis would make its service as easy to use as the iTunes store of Apple and hinted that Corbis would also be following the crowdsourcing model.

“More interesting and innovative things are happening on the pages of Flickr these days than on Corbis and Getty,” said Mr. Shenk, referring to the photo-sharing site owned by Yahoo. “If we can use this type of opportunity to find the next great group of Corbis photographers, that also makes it a great opportunity for us.”

Here’s another example of the line blurring between professional and amateur. My only hope is that the photographers that end up being a part of these arrangements get a fair deal (and that they are licensing their photos for more than a dollar a pop.

Flickr User Becomes Pro for Microsoft

Flickr user Hamad Darwish is one of a small group of flickr users who were approached by Microsoft for either use of their photos or commissioned to to create new images for the desktop backgrounds that are included in the new Windows Vista operating system. Read an interview with him here.

This is an interesting example of the line blurring between professional photographers and amateurs/enthusiasts. Hamad, whose photos are indeed lovely, is not a pro nor does he intend to become one. Photo sharing sites like flickr make visible the photographs of amateurs in an unprecedented way. It is no longer only professionals whose work is exposed to photo buyers.

I count myself among flickr’s users, (but my modest photostream cries out that I neglect it), and I too have been approached through flickr for the use of one of my photos. This client didn’t have a photo budget for this project and was hoping to get the image for free, so I had to decline this time, but there may be a point in the future (when they actually have a proper photo budget) where we work together.

Too bad it wasn’t Microsoft that came knocking! While I don’t know what Microsoft paid the amateurs that they commissioned, I gather from Hamad’s interview that it was a fair fee. It’s good to know that they didn’t take advantage of enthusiast’s zeal to merely be published with low or no pay.

EDIT: It has come to my attention (see the comments) that the photographer may have shot the images on a work-for-hire basis and surrendered all the rights to Microsoft. In no way do I support this practice and if that’s true, then it’s a shame that Microsoft has taken advantage of an eager amateur while also devaluing the work of professionals in general.

Sorry if I mislead anyone into believing that I support that kind of practice.

EDIT #2: It’s looking less likely that the images were bought on a work-for-hire basis. Long Zheng, the author of the interview has been kind enough to post and it seems that Hamad got a fair deal.

Hopefully I don’t need to edit again!