Rob Hornstra is a dutch photographer whose current project is to document the city of Sochi, Russia before the Winter Olympics of 2014. His method is one of slow journalism that involves visiting and re-visiting areas over the course of years instead of days, weeks or months.
There’s some good behind the scenes time spent on him working on location and getting the locals comfortable in front of the camera as well as insight into how he has financed his projects and brought them to fruition in this age of self-publishing.
And I get a special bonus when watching this one. At about 14:30 of this video, Hornstra is shooting a lounge singer whose last name is not too far off from mine: Sasha Savchuk. I’m told that Sawchuk derives from Savchuk, so, Sasha and I are probably very distantly related. Very.
Via Gill Moore’s twitter.
Lawrence Kim has written a detailed article on why photography isn’t the best choice for those hoping to pursue the American dream. He and his MBA make some good points, but fortunately, he doesn’t stop at doom-and-gloom discouragement (even though that’s how you might feel when you finish reading). He also gives a few pointers to those stubborn enough not to take his advice, so have a read and try to keep your chin up.
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Flickr’s massive collection of photos has already received plenty of attention from photo buyers, but there has never been any official system in place for the completion of transactions.
It looks like that’s about to change. On this short FAQ page, Flickr has announced that it will partner with Getty to “build a platform that will enable the creation of a first class collection of royalty free, rights ready and rights managed photographs that will debut later this year.”
Details are scant at this point, but it’s safe to assume that the images of regular flickr users will soon be seen side by side with the work of established Getty photographers and the line between amateur photographers and pro stock shooters is all but obliterated.
It will be interesting to see how the two businesses will integrate with each other, but it may be something as simple as: Getty editor sees flickr image he/she likes. Getty editor contacts photographer and asks if they want to sell the image and under what rights system. Photographer opts in and on that image’s flickr page, there is now a “License This Image” button. Presumably, photo buyers will be able to limit flickr searches to images that are on sale. And a new kind of stock agency is born.
I can only hope that the photographers end up being treated well and get a fair payment for their work.
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!
There’s a show in the UK called The Real Hustle in which con artists demonstrate their ruses. It’s done in the context of warning people not to fall for these scams, but I bet aspiring criminals use the show as a resource for new tricks (a strobist for miscreants, if you will…). Hopefully, this EPUK list doesn’t just serve to give publishers ideas! Fellow photogs, watch your backs!
One could probably start a daily blog on cases of unlawful uses of photos, but in the case of travel photog Robert Burch, this one has a happy ending for the photographer. His photos were unlawfully used by a US travel agent and when the case went to court, he won a $64k settlement.
This story from PDN states that, “A federal judge recently awarded Burch a $63,866 judgment against a New York City travel agency, finding that the site used four of Burch’s photographs on its Web site without permission.”
The story says, “[Burch] is confident he and his attorney will be able to collect on the payment.”
It’s nice to see one of these infringement cases quickly resolved in favour of the photographer.
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.
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.
Sports photographer Thomas E. Witte’s Sports Shooter article about his experiences shooting Bobby Martin, a legless high-school football player in Ohio, is worth a read both for its human interest side and for its photo business side.
Witte explores the challenges of paying due respect to his extraordinary subject and then dealing with the flood of suitors for his photos after they appeared in Sports Illustrated. His conclusion leaves us with the following advice:
At the moment of writing this, the combined resales of what I sold and my split from SI Picture Sales total a few bucks shy of twelve grand… for a photo from a high school football game. If that’s not reason enough to maintain your copyright, I don’t know what is.
Sigh. Another doom and gloom article about how amateurs and hobbyists are making life difficult for professional photographers.
The Demise of Professional Photographers from Mail and Guardian online takes a quick look at how photojournalists and stock photographers are seeing declining business due to the rise of the amateur (but somehow manages to do it without mentioning the penny stock agencies and only focusing on flickr).
While it is true that things are a bit more difficult now, the article also points out the following:
These developments may have diminished the value of a professional photographer’s skills. But they couldn’t eliminate the need for professionalism: the difference between a professional and an amateur is not that the amateur never takes really good pictures. It is that the professional will always come up with usable ones.
A talented, hardworking and lucky amateur can produce wonderful pictures on the best days. But that will be one picture in a hundred. A professional can produce something that is nearly as good as their best 50 times in a hundred. That’s why they are worth employing.
Some skills are difficult for the amateur to and it’s there that the pros can excel. Whether it’s through technical accomplishment through lighting, logistical savvy, or just general dependability, pro photographers should remain the choice for those customers who want to be sure they get the job done and done well.
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.
The ever-informative Strobist has begun a series of articles on the future of flickr as a business platform for photographers that should prove interesting.
Every week, there seems to be more and more buzz about flickr’s role in giving someone their big break and how image buyers are finding new material there. Add to that the speculation of flickr developing a licensing model for its users’ images and it becomes hard to keep up with the site’s developing importance. All this makes me think I should start putting a bit of effort into my tiny photostream – who knows who might be lurking there.
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 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!
Digital photography has done wonderful things for some photographers, however, this article by Tony Sleep discusses how it is doing a lot to drive a lot of photographer’s businesses into the ground.
I suspect this may be a trend that continues and that what may occur is a sort of widening rich-poor gap for quality photography. Larger publishers who value photography will continue to pay good money for quality photography while mid-range and smaller publishers will be ever more drawn to penny stock and free photography. That kind of environment will make it that much more difficult for photographers to run a viable business as the only way to be profitable is to be among the top shooters (a position that is already difficult enough to achieve).
Of course, all my conjectures are just that, conjectures. I confess to being relatively new to this industry and more years of experience may make my foresight that much clearer. In fact, on this issue, I would love to be proven wrong!
More than once a day, I wonder if I am working my way into the right business. As though the travel photography market wasn’t already terribly competitive, the rise of crowdsourcing has made the business that much less profitable for professionals.
This Wired article on crowdsourcing explores the issue of micro stock photography’s role in the diminishing profits of professional stock shooters. This is a central issue right now in the world of stock photography and I have often witnessed heated debates on message boards when the the two sides have met.
Good discussion on the issue can be found at the site of author of the above article (Jeff Howe): crowdsourcing.com. In particular, a good discussion can be found in the comments of the site’s mission statement.
As a professional photographer, I have a bias against the micro-stock sites, but it’s not merely because of the smaller profits for the pro shooters. Just as outsourcing tends to have an exploitative side to it with third-world citizens being paid a pittance for their work, the crowdsourcers, in this case the amateur photographer, gets a similar pittance. Hobbyists are content with $1 sale and the knowledge that their image has been used by someone else. What many of them either don’t know or don’t care about is that their images could fetch much higher prices for similar uses.
The amateurs, however, do not rely on the income generated by their photos. Their day jobs pay the bills. Extra dollars from micro-stock sales are a happy bonus. Too bad there seems to be so many cases where these bonuses are snatched from the hands of the professional photographers whose livelihood depends on traditional sales.
The Online Photographer has an article linking a number of sources whose overall point says that being a photographer will not earn you much money. Though I suspect that the National Geographic quote might be a little inaccurate, the other numbers seem realistic.
There is also some worthwhile commentary on this article over at dslrblog.com.