Workflow

I know the title of this post is a bit hokey, but I’ve been watching the imaging industry and trends over the last few months and have come to a fairly simple conclusion on the state of play ….

Unless some changes are made soon, the general freedom of photographers and artists to create their work will slip out of the hands of many of those that rely on their art and creativity in order to make a living.


Can you be arrested for killing an industry?

Fairly broad statement, but I feel it reflects the truth of the industry as it stands today.

If we were to split the market into 2 with Social on one side Commercial on the other, I’d say the social photographers are surviving better than the commercial photographers.

Wedding/portrait photographers lament about amateurs undercutting the pro prices so they lose out on weddings or portrait sessions and they blame the influx of consumer digital cameras and the plethora of photographers that do workshops and share their knowledge (sometimes for free).

Really, I don’t think this is that great a problem and sharing information only leads to better results for those willing to learn and apply the information.

There have always been keen amateurs and digital has made it more accessible to them as they no longer have to pay for film and processing, but If an engaged couple don’t recognise the quality and value in hiring a professional service, then they surely know that they risk not having the story of their day delivered well.

There will always be someone else getting married or wanting family portraits tomorrow and as long as that continues then there will always be a need for competent and professional photographers. If you’re worried about amateurs taking more jobs away from you, than I’d say you need to look at the quality of your work (yea I know that sounded a bit harsh)

Commercial photography is another matter – and it is in more dire straits than the social market. Not only are the commercial guys contending against amateurs, but they also have to contend against social photographers widening their scope (tends not to happen the other way) as well as a mass of press photographers being thrown into the already saturated marketplace as printing presses shut down and redundancies are handed out.

Typically a press photographer earns (and subsequently bills) 1/3 of the value of commercial jobs and this undercuts the existing commercial market. Added to this many large corporations now try to get as much content for free as they can (e.g. BBC or Redbull). What would be bread & butter work is fast dissapearing.

Despite all of that ….. I still don’t see it as the #1 cause of the decline in the industry today.

Its Stock Libraries

Getty/iStock, Alamy, ShutterStock, DreamsTime to name just a few – all those heavyweight agencies are efficiently killing this amazing industry in a way that no army of hobby photographers ever could.

Collection of Stock Images

And the sad thing is – photographers are helping them stick the knife in further.
What used to be the photographer’s pension is now being sold to the lowest bidder through these agencies.

I’ve observed news feeds from various sources telling of Stock agency X cutting it’s contributor’s percentage by yet another 10% or some microstock dropping prices and selling work at a penny per picture and so on.
More recently Getty/iStock announcing that it’s changing it’s contracts so that any Rights Managed image that they ‘manage’ that hasn’t sold in 3 years will automatically become Rights Free and open to syndication (I think they’re forgetting who owns the pictures).

I’ve seen many reports from photographers saying their stock sale incomes have halved or quartered in the last year or two, despite the same number of sales being made.

This, I believe, is the core of the problem in the industry.
Value is being eroded by these billion dollar companies undercutting each other in order to try to retain a majority market share. This then bleeds into to public/corporate consciousness. "Why do you cost X amount when we see images in libraries for sale at a fraction of the price?"
As I read in a recent BFP newsletter, it’s become "a race to the bottom".

How can these companies claim to be struggling when their commodity is given to them for free to sell for a 60-90% share of the item’s value?
Instead of dropping their prices, they should be increasing them and improving the quality vetting standards to ensure quality images. This will attract more quality photographers and therefore more clients and help boulster the value of our service.

Perhaps if they had to make their commodity themselves they would be less keen to drop their prices? 😉

A traditional Agency will try to sell your value and should(?) work towards improving both you and your subsequent sale value.
If they start asking for better quality and then start underselling you and tell you (not ask) that they’re increasing their percentage, then you’d sack them off in a heartbeat.

That’s exactly what the stock libraries are doing and yet they’re still being blindly fed new images every day.
They cite "If you don’t like how we work then dont use our service"
And I think that’s the solution (and hence my "Jerry McGuire" moment)

I see 2 workable solutions:

1) If one of the big agencies were to increase their picture costs by 33%, then they only need to sell 66% of today’s volume to make the same profit.
Photographers will swarm to it. The clients will get better images as the good photographers will leave lesser paying agencies.

Chances are low that (1) will happen, so here’s a better long term solution:

2) Photographers make 100% of stock sales (at the price they set) by self hosting their stock library.

Simple eh?

We already pay for webhosting, and online diskspace is becoming much more affordable.
e.g. 1,000Gb of space and unlimited bandwidth is not uncommon for around £50/year in the USA, so why not use all that space to host and manage your images.

Get rid of the middle men and sell to clients direct?

Personal/Online Disk Space is Cheap
Personal/Online Disk Space is Cheap

I’ve actually been looking for a simple solution to this for a long time, before caving and purchasing a 30Gb Photoshelter account so I could at least set my own prices with Photoshelter taking 10% of all sales (despite me paying about £250/year for the privilege).

PhotoDeck offer a very similar service (which I found later) that’s cheaper per year, they offer 25% more diskspace and they take 0% commission

However …. I’ve finally found a workable solution for self hosting/management which is a one-off cost of $49 (£35), and if you’re vaguely tech savvy (or have someone that manages your website) then you can easily set this up by yourself.

The website app I found which will run alongside your existing site (if you have one) is called "PicSell"
Website: http://vm.xmlswf.com/picsell
Demo: http://www.xmlswf.com/picsell

People click to add the images to a ‘lightbox’ and then pay at the end to get an instant download of each images at the size purchased …. just like the service stock libraries offer 🙂

It’s still fairly early days, but it will be refined over time and it already seems to do pretty much everything a photographer needs to sell digital images online to clients without having to manage and monitor your library through the process. Go on holiday and it will be quietly and efficiently serving your clients while you’re away.

Best of all, it’s built on an open source website content management system called Joomla.

So the only real cost is for a one-off PicSell license and the time it takes to set up a folder or subdomain (e.g. http://stock.mysite.com) to manage your images. A good webdesigner should have it running in well under a day with the majority of time coming from customising the look of the site/library.

I build my own websites and I’ve yet to look further into this, but I know for a fact that when my PhotoShelter account expires, I’ll have everything in place ready to switch to my own hosted library – for the same cost as a meal out.

So all you pro image makers out there – let’s leave the stock agencies to the holiday point ‘n shoot brigade and retake our industry’s future back into our own hands 😀

A long time ago I posted about the G20 protest which I attended to photograph the events as they unfolded.
I was (un)lucky enough to be at the place where Ian Tomlinson was pushed to the ground by PC Simon Harwood and I photographed the first shots of him lying on the floor before I ran off to get medical help.

The picture I took when I returned to him was the main one used by The Sun the next day.

The case is now coming to a close and I’ve just read today that the jury concluded that "Mr Tomlinson had been unlawfully killed and that PC Harwood had used "excessive and unreasonable force"".

My G20 Stock Images

Is Simon Harwood the evil face of the Police force as the Media and protest groups would have us believe?
Doubtful. Most police that I know just want to help and protect the public.
I guess there are exceptions to any rule, but only his friends and family know his true character.

Should he pay for his actions on the 1st April 2009?
Two regular guys go to a pub on a Friday night and during the night a scuffle breaks out.
One of the guys gets caught up in the fight and hits someone who falls, smacks their head on the ground and doesn’t get up.
The guy will go to court and, even though it was an accident, he will be tried and charged for manslaughter.

Pretty much what happened at the G20. An action that was the catalyst for an unfortunate death.

Time will tell on the final result, but I’m hoping that justice will run it’s course.
What’s good for the goose and all that 😉

What is unusual is that, for the first time, the misconduct hearing of a police officer will be held in public. It looks like they’re offering the lamb up for public slaughter in order to appease the image of the police force (look – we’re reprimanding our own).

On a positive note – the ‘blood money’ I received for my picture in the sun which I gave to the Guide Dogs for the Blind has matured and Otis (the black lab I helped sponsor) is now with his new owner 🙂

As it’s the end of the month I thought I’d ask your opinion – Are backups important?

For me, the answer is twofold:
1) Can I afford to lose any of my data? [No]
2) How long do I want to spend repairing/recovering any missing data? [As little as possible]

For many people backups aren’t important and they don’t care about re-building their PC or MAC now and again when it get’s screwy.

As a photographer I’m fairly paranoid about my data (both business and pictures), but I’m fortunate to come from an IT background so I thought I’d share with you my backup procedure as part of my workflow.

If I’m on location then I’ll no doubt have my laptop with me, so I’ll transfer data from my memory cards to my laptop before I head back. The Laptop has an SSD so the data on it is pretty safe 🙂

Once back in front of my Editing PC I’ll import all the cards into a folder [yyyymmdd_client] and I won’t erase the cards until they’re about to be re-used, which ensures an extra level of recoverability.

I’ll immediately backup all the untouched RAW and .XMP files onto DVDs (which are stored off-site) and at the same time kick off a copy to my on-board secondary data disk and also to my server.

That’s 3-4 backups already and I haven’t even seen the files yet.

In addition to the DVD, local and server backup, I also have an external RAID box which I back up to when I’ve either finished editing and/or at the end of the day. There are 2 disks in there which mirror each other (RAID0). Every month I rotate out the second disk with a third disk which I keep in a top secret off-site location (my mums :)) and with the fresh disk in it’ll automatically re-build the Mirror.

When these disks are full, all 3 go into storage and are replaced by 3 brand new ones 🙂

So all in all I have 5-7 backups of my data. If the primary source fails then I have multiple redundancy methods to recover what I need 😀

My Laptop (which I use mainly for business use and an emergency editing PC) is backed up weekly to the server plus 1 extra external disk.
At the end of the month I have 3 off-site disks which I do another set of backups.
If that wasn’t enough I also run a Ghost of my system drive every 2 months, so if I get a virus or some new software or an update breaks the laptop, then it’s easy to re-install the last image and get back into action pronto.

So far I’ve had to recover the Laptop twice from rubbish applications messing up my system, but the Ghost recovery takes literally about 10 minutes, which is no-time at all compared to a complete re-install from scratch.
If my SSD was to go kaput, then I have spare disks at the ready and I can be up and running in 15 minutes flat.

Worst case scenario – all my machines are attacked by ninja squirrels and trashed beyond repair.
My data is still safe in the HDD backups I keep off-site as well as the DVD’s which I can use as a last resort for recovery should I need them.

In the future I see data being stored in a Cloud System, but current DSL is still too slow to upload at a decent speed 🙁

So, do you back up or don’t you believe it’s worth taking the time to do it?

A little while back I made a call out to various car forums offering a free photoshoot. I was looking to take some shots of some hyper exotic or rare cars to add to my portfolio and I had a good response.

The advantage of doing this was that I could pick and choose the cars I was shooting …. and one of these cars was this… the KTM X-Bow owned and driven by Richard Hallam of RRH Autos.

While this car isn’t an exotica in the same way as a Pagani Zonda or Ferrari F450, it is extremely rare. Even more rare is Richard’s BDM:300 which is stoooopid fast (0-60 in under 3s).

On the day of the shoot we were losing light fast. I was hoping for an extra hour of daylight, but over the winter time it was in short supply.

We borrowed a neighbours garage to do some of the shots and then headed into Guildford to do some of the tracking shots. Pics below

 

 

 

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