The death of RM ?

24 10 2007

no dumping please

Digital Disciples make up the second-largest group (35%) and consider themselves serious amateur photographers“. According to The Kodak Photo Futures Report, the same Disciples are “the most likely to explore photo editing software and have ambitions to make money from their hobby”. Who knew ?

First who knew that Kodak was still in the photo business and then, according to their report on amateurs, that the second biggest group of snappers where busy finding ways to generate some income from their photography. This means there is a Tsunami of photographers out there ready to break open the gates of microstocks, midstock and traditional stock. Currently, because of a pretty effective brainwashing, they mostly think Creative Commons is the only way to get published. Created by sympathizers of the Orphan Bill and believers in the Free internet (EFF), (“Creative Commons was founded in 2001 with the generous support of the Center for the Public Domain“, boast their website), it creates an incentive to give away rights for free. Supported by Flickr, it has quickly become the only license option most amateurs know. These San Fransisco based free thinkers mix free, as freedom of expression, with free, as I will not pay for it.

And unfortunately, while they themselves ask for donations, they do not provide any education on how to truly license an image for money.

Now, the professional trade association like ASMP, APA and so on could help . But there two issues: they are too buy figthing internal political battles or finding sponsorships, and most important, what would be the purpouse of a professional trade association if they started helping amateurs ?

The PLUS coalition could be a great candidate, but it is currently so complicated that ones needs a PhD ( doctorat) in advanced licensing to figure out how it works and what it does. Furthermore, with a board and committees almost exclusively made up of commercial stock veterans, it seems to lack a thorough knowledge of the editorial licensing world.

So where does that leaves us ? Well, once again, we see the microstock and midstock taking charge of these amateurs looking to reap some benefit of their hard work. Not only in offering a simple platform to license their images but also in educating them . The only issue here, is that their are all solely RF, making it seem like the only license available is royalty free.

By not exposing themselves to the general public, the RM and editorial agencies are taking the risk of becoming an exception rather than the rule and let the RF model become, de facto, the universal and only model of licensing. Since no one is required to have any type of degree to purchase images, not even have a full knowledge of licensing options, or even copyright laws, there is a good chance that future photo editors will not fully comprehend the RM concept.

Furthermore, agencies, by not implementing DRM ( digital rights management) solutions or being blind to the necessity to have an image monitoring system will probably feel that RF is just an easier and cost effective way to license of image and completely drop RM. That would be incredibly destructive to an industry that currently makes most of its revenue from RM.

The solution: create a standardize, automated, very easy to use ( a la CC) rights managed tools that could would make it appealing to use. Embed DRM into images or at the very least, generate auto reminders that licenses are about to expire. Go out and evangelize photography newcomers on their licensing options. and mostly, for the photo industry to stop behaving like an old gentlemen club.

Drowning in images

9 10 2007

The next big thing in the web 2.0/prosumer/crowdsourcing will be the user generated photo agency. It has become quite easy to purchase software, of the shelf, that will anyone with little programming skills and a lot of patience to create a mini photo agency. Obviously, the first market to be targeted will be Royalty free as it is the simplest to automate and requires little to no maintenance. With a small investment and some photo buff friends, anyone will soon be able to coop a sizable amount of images and put it up on line. Regardless of quality we have to be prepared for more volume of imagery brought forth by unexperienced amateur that will soon realize that there is more money to be made being the owner of a microstock than a contributor.This will make it extremely difficult for the current leaders of this part of the industry to continue to grow as market shares will be eaten by its own contributors. A reasonably talented part time photographer could tomorrow create a microstock in Turkey, for example, making the content and the functionalities extremely well suited for its market. before any of the big 5 find the time and the resources to enter the Turkish market properly, it will be too late. Take this scenario and extend it to thousands of countries worldwide and you can quickly realize that it is impossible to compete.

The big winners, and some of the microstock guys might want to do this, is those that will supply a starter kit to anyone, anywhere, willing to launch his own microstock. Start, a la McDonalds, a microstock franchise business. The Image Bank was quite succesful with this business model and it is extremely well adapted to the microstock model.

Otherwise, and as one can already see in some microstock forum, contributors will start their own competing organization, creating an extravagant amount of micro microstock sites. Obviously most will fail, but the ones that do not will start grabbing valuable market share to a business that can only survive with high volumes. And the more this volume is segmented, the more damage. Microstock is not the photo El Dorado .

EBay of Photography

6 10 2007

In an interview to PDN magazine, master blogger Dan Heller offers the photography world a new idea : Create an Ebay of photography. People, that is everybody and anybody, would upload images to a site where image buyers, other people, would purchase them for an settle upon price. That would allow for the overhaul market to grow from the estimated market of $2 billion to what he estimates to be $15 billion.

A couple of thoughts come to mind here. First, there are already platforms that offer this service, like Drr or Photoshelter. For a monthly fee, these sites allow anyone to upload their images to be purchased on line. One, Drr, handles the transaction for you, the other Photoshelter, lets you handle the transaction. Both take a small percentage on any succesful agreement and allow to license either RF and RM. Both, albeit still new on the market, do not seem to have exploded into an e bay size platform. At least not yet.

There is also Flickr, whose founder just decided to go on paternity leave ( good for him) after announcing at the start of 2007 that his platform would enable users to license their images . Something we have yet to see happen. In its shadow, there is the crash prone, geotagging happy Zooomr, who also announced with big fanfare, that it would revolutionarise the stock photo industry by empowering its users to price their images. It has yet to be launched. It seems its CEO is more busy photowalking around the West coast than really concerned about making it happen.

Finally, there are the Scoopt, Spymedia and other citizen journalists dumb dumb platform that are waiting to exhale.

If an Ebay of photography is a good idea, than why not create an Ebay of drawings or music. After all, anyone can draw or paint and anyone can compose music ? Or an Ebay for idea: Buy and sell any idea.

and why didn’t EBay think of that already ?

Photography is not a second hand Mario’s Brother video game and will never be. It cannot be sold like one. It still is, in my book, an artform, done by professionals for a very good reason. It needs talent. It is not because it is easy to create that it is as easy to sell. I can draw but I am not a Picasso. This reasoning has to stop as it is insulting for the thousands of pro photographers that either risk their lives to show us remote conflicts to those who can generate millions of dollars in revenue without ever slashing their prices. An E bay of photography would somewhat look like a result from Google images, a useless junkyard on uninteresting images. It would also be, like Flickr, a magnet for copyright infringement. And finally, it would not serve much purpose as most photography is extremely timely and tends to be obsolete very quickly.

I would love to see someone break its teeth on such a project so that maybe, just by living proof, the those San Fransisco based web 2.0 twitter happy pseudo entrepreneurs would move on to other spheres of quick money making scams.


I read this article twice and have yet to understand what it has to do with photography.

reality is not a fact, it’s an interpretation

1 10 2007


It is funny how keywords have become the new verb. It is no more about what you are looking for but what is available. Keyword search ahs been elevated to new highs as photo agencies fail to replace the old “call me and let me find what you are looking for”

Case and Point. Getty Images, a few months back, launched its new website. Unfortunately for them, this was announced while the community of bloggers and other on line photo industry watchers was in turmoil over the announcement of bad results for the second quarter. Few took the time to play around with the new tools as the lights of Wall Street seemed much more important to them. Needless to say, most photo agencies would love to have a year’s revenue look like a bad quarter of Getty. Regardless, that is not the point here.

Part of the site had been in beta for a while so most assumed that Getty was just making official something that was about to be official. Not at all. Inside is a very interesting approach to search, called Catalyst. After you are prompted to enter one, and only one keyword that you forced to select from a drop menu, you are brought to a page that displays from left to right 3 columns. Remenber, we read from left to right

Far left is a keyword cloud . The more a kewyord appears in images, the bigger and bolder it gets. The central column is , at first, empty and the right column has the image thumbnails corresponding to your initial search. What this page asks you to do is to select a keyword or more from the cloud, drag it in the central column and the corresponding images appear almost on the fly. A very web 2.o interface, with drag and drop functionalities and round edges.Getty Catalyst page

What is captivating is that you can only select keywords that already exists and have associated image. Thus it greatly reduces what you can search for and forces you to either find synonyms or a similar word or concept. This could fool an image buyer in thinking that this is an intelligent search, only because any combination will yield a result, and quite fast.

But all it is, really, is a huge amount of searches already cached with images already indexed. Not only it is not very creative, it literally forces you to search within a defined list. What I find captivating, outside its limitations, is two fold:

One is Getty’s attempt to convince an image buyer to think like it does, instead of the opposite. That is, if i do not want any human beings in the picture, I have to use the “no people” keyword. or drag it. Not what would I have put in personally, or “leisure activity”, whatever that means. Thus the catalyst becomes really an inhibitor, seriously limiting how far you can expand your wings.

Second, Getty forces you to use their keyword and not yours, suggesting that they know better than you how to define what you think. They are now taking control of your mastery of language. And only because they, and not you, have limitation on how they can successfully achieve a search.

A perfect example of technology setting the rules for the humans and not the opposite. Speak the machine language should you wish to interact with it. Well, I am sorry, but I say no.

Already a keyword or a sequence of keyword is an awful way to search for an image. Now I am forced to use a pre defined and limited vocabulary, thus limiting my thoughts ? double no. Its up to the machine, and their programmers to elevate the technology to comprehend me, not the opposite. I should be able to express my search in a long sweet phrase that relates more to emotion than objects and the website should return one exact image. That is the way it should work. Just the same way as if I called in and talked to another human being, he or she will immediately understand what I am looking for.

This is keywording gone crazy, this is the word trying to control or be better than the image, this is the attempt to install a Word “dictatoriat” over the image. Thus leading us to a situation where if an image cannot be described, it cannot exist.

If the Getty Searchmasters had paid a little attention, they should have noticed that images are used to enhance a text message, whether it is an advertisement or an editorial. It actually picks up where text fails to explain. It has more depth and signification than a few words.Yet, the search Getty is trying to impose does the opposite, reducing images to a bunch of pre-assigned and imposed keywords. I pick on Getty because they are much more advanced than other photo agencies, but lets not get fooled, everyone is working hard in the same direction.

Let’s liberate the image from its wordily chains and reverse the search process. Let’s start searching in colors and shapes, emotions and impressions, in feelings and memories. Lets educate the machine instead of educating the people.

Try and get your catalyst here.

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Top Photo : Kevin Abosch. All rights reserved