Friday, 31 December 2010

A photographer made a plan!

Back on 1 February I made a long post entitled "Social networking? A photographer make a plan.....". I thought I'd go back and review it.

First thing to jump out of me is that I left an 's' out of the title. 'Makes a plan' is much better - but leaving that aside what exactly has gone on?.

Going straight to the end of the post, Photoshelter did something about the lack of print provider in the UK and in September I decided to dive in and do just what I only regarded as a possibility and that was to centre my web presence on a Photoshelter site which you now see at

The time and effort in setting this up has dominated the last quarter. That and setting up house in Brighton after a move down here from London. So there's been the knock on effects of sorting that move out on the web too. But what happened to all that social networking?

The blog - Well, here I am. Tick.

Twitter - this blog should be automatically tweeted. Tick.

Facebook - 'Fan Page' or is it "Facebook page" too. Tick.

Linkedin - Still a mystery, but hanging on in there....

Flickr - With Photoshelter on tap, this is social networking too far. Untick.

I wrote "if I don't get one new client directly recruited from the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn axis then I'll be very disappointed". Well, there's a fail on that score. But it's easy to see that I did not give myself a chance because although I wrote the post in February I did nothing substantial about it until after I moved to Brighton and set up the Photoshelter site in September.

One can be too contrived about social networking. The professional tweeters are turn offs; but yes, I know they can be my friend. I've a sound base but I know that I need to do much more.

Here's to 2011!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Saatchi Online and other blasts from the past

I have just discovered a portfolio belonging to Scott Hortop at the Saatchi Online gallery. It's not really a portfolio - it's two images...

Yet another long forgotten outpost for my work! It's moved on and got a lot slicker than when I last looked at it. I'm unsure what to make of it for the future but like many others needing updating I've now established myself at my new location in Brighton and updated the link that was to my long lost website at to the newer one at Light Touch.

Then there's Scott Hortop at Acclaim Images, a portfolio of stock images that looks to be faded and needs to be tidied up.

It's a bit lazy not to have dealt with such stuff previously - it just serves to confuse search engines and even.... people!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Photos of Bath - updated

Before today the Bath photos in my photo library were languishing rather - only 4 and considering there's a home page link to those images that's a bit of a pathetic showing. Anyway, I've started to do something about that and pushed on there now a bunch more images.

That of course is the Royal Crescent. So far I've more or less been sticking with the big sights, but there's more to come along.

So why is a Brighton photographer setting up a Bath photo gallery? Well. my son happens to be at University there and I visit often enough to build up a useful library of images. Similarly my daughter is in Birmingham - now only a few photos but expect a grittier collection of images to be uploaded for that city soon!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Artwork on the beach at Aldeburgh, Suffolk

A large scale sculpture on the beach at Aldeburgh, Suffolk - "Scallop" was conceived by Maggi Hambling and made by Aldeburgh craftsmen Sam and Dennis Pegg. Despite it being (to me)so impressive, it has been the subject of some controversy for being out of place, disturbing the otherwise continuous sweep of pebble beach on the Suffolk coats away from the town of Aldeburgh.

See other photos from the UK coast at Light Touch.

Photos from Burning the Clocks - Brighton 2010

Burning the Clocks was cancelled last year because of the weather, but surprisingly a window opened and in 2010 the parade went ahead. Good thing because this is my first Christmas in Brighton and this Winter Solstice celebration is something to write home about.

Sadly I had to miss the big burning on the beach. Perhaps next year.

Photos from Burning the Clocks, Brighton 2010

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Party photos, familiar territory, new methods

Here's a few images from my most recent company party shoot on a boat on the Thames in London about a week ago. The request was for photos in the relatively short period between guests arriving and the time that they sat down to eat, so to maximise imact I worked with my usual co-photographer Meeyoung Son.

I set up a gallery of the images which were available on the Monday morning when they returned to work. Guests were able to download images to share online or create their own prints. For maximum convenience they also had the option to directly order images online.

This was the first time that I'd used my photoshelter library site to deliver photos. It seems to have worked without a hitch. See the link below for the wider party photography portfolio and details of the packages I now make available.

Party photographers - Light Touch

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The rewards of photographing a different generation

Those familiar with my work will notice quite a few photos of young people, in education or partying, so it's a little different to be asked to shoot at a care home for the elderly. In the end the approach that I took was the same, trying to get people to relax, even forget I'm there, as opposed to organise them into place for my benefit.

It was not only the elderly - on the same day for the same organisation (OrioneCare) I also spent a short time at a home for individuals with learning difficulties. Some of the results from the shoot are gathered in the slideshow below.

This was a curiously rewarding experience. Firstly very few seemed to be camera shy. Secondly I was really pleased in both locations to observe a genuine caring relationship between the staff and those they cared for. And finally when I got home and saw the images I just could not help smiling.

Photos by Scott Hortop

Monday, 6 December 2010

Duplicating website content - always a bad idea

This is a slighly techie post for photographers with sites at Photoshelter but may also be of interest to anyone who thinks that putting up two identical sites at different domains is a good idea. (It's not).

Google has an easy way of sorting out people who put up the same content in two or more different web domains - it simply chooses to ignore one of them and index the other.

That may be a little over simplified but in effect that is what happens. I've just been careless and stumbled into the position of setting up duplicate websites without appreciating what is going on.

How? Well, in using to set up a website at their sub-domain and then using a facility that they provide to run the site from my own domain at, I omitted to observe (or get told), that would continue to exist as a complete duplicate of

There are many other photographers in this position (using a CNAME to run a site off their own domain or sub-domain) and several may be wondering why their efforts to get their sites noticed by Google are not yielding the results they should.

Simplifying something which is no doubt very complicated, Google quite sensibly detects that is a far bigger and more authoritative presence on the web than my little site It would also note that almost immediately after hitting the links on that site direct traffic to

So behaving as any rational robot backed by an algorithm would, it pays attention to the pages at and more or less ignores the pages at

The upshot is that most of the work put in by photographers to help with a site's Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a waste of time. There could be more issues issues, but if there are others, I believe this will still be the biggest.

Why? Photoshelter educates photographers to link to their sites from blogs, social media such a Facebook and garner links from third party sites. It kindly sets up gizmos to make this a bit easier. It provides the ready made links too - but those links are directed to the photographer's own domain, (in my case, the site which Google is most likely to ignore!

So in the end the photographer's efforts mean little or nothing. Some traffic still goes to the site hosted at photoshelter, because the domain is indexed by Google without a duplication penalty, but there could be much more traffic if the SEO efforts were directed at those pages.

It seems that this is something that Photoshelter, in all their SEO wisdom, should be smarter about. It seems to me they could do one of two things:

1) Educate photographers about the existing situation: perhaps photographers should do what I have just done and make sure that all inward links go to the sub-domain (I've gone through all the links I can find amending them)

2) Set up the domain at so that Google is told to treat the photographer's domain as the site to have precedence. Those that know more about this than I do say this is is apparently possible but this seems to have been either overlooked or for some reason not adopted by Photoshelter.

I've raised this issue on the forums at Photoshelter and in doing so learnt some more about how Photoshelter works, but in all the noise (I'm by no means the first to raise the issue) the issue seems to be lost. If and when it's sorted out I may have to redirect my links again, but at least now I'm in a bit more control of my SEO destiny while those who know about will continue to find a site there.

Friday, 3 December 2010

More snow in Brighton!

Living in the somewhat uncool sleepy neighbourhood of Bevendean does have its advantages and other than easy access to the city the other is easy access to the South Downs....

It was not far to this expanse of nothingness...

I've added these and several images to the Brighton and Hove galleries at my photo library

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Snowy Brighton scene

I went down to the Brighton beach yesterday armed with a 20 year old brick of a camera that runs on something called 'film'. I also had a wee digital with me and took a few with that and have now added some snowy Brighton scenes to the Brighton photo collection at my image library.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Finally - photos from Dungeness

I posted the first one a couple of weeks ago. Finally I've processed more and found myself favouring black and white and am pleased with the outcome.

Sorry no slide show - photos are now here:

Photo Art Prints - Dungeness - Images by Scott Hortop

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Stock photos for small businesses

If you are a small business and that is looking for images for your website or for brochures then at the Light Touch Library we have set up a straightforward mechanism for you to get at those photos with minimal fuss.

Before getting onto the detail of that, why not take advantage of savings of at least 10% that are made available from time to time to all those who follow Light Touch at Facebook or Scott Hortop on Twitter. There may be a saving that is current now but if not and your need is not urgent then by following us then one should come along in a matter of days.

Back to the photo you wish to purchase. Here's what you need to do:

1. 'Add to Cart'
2. Select the Download tab
3. Choose the "Personal Use" option. Disregard what you otherwise see on this page.
4. You'll now see important text that you should read and understand. It's reproduced below. If you are in any doubt, what's in capital letters is also explained below.
5. Make your selection from the sizes available and click "Add to Cart" if you might want to add other images or "Add and Checkout" if you are done.

When you buy an image through this route with its advantageous pricing you will note the following explanation at checkout:

This image is for your PERSONAL USE only or use as a RIGHTS MANAGED IMAGE on your SMALL BUSINESS WEBSITE or in BROCHURES. You must not use in other ways and THE USE MUST NOT CONFLICT with the interests of INDIVIDUALS OR BRANDS seen in the images.

IMPORTANT! This is not a 'ROYALTY FREE' image. YOU AGREE YOU ARE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WAY YOU USE THE IMAGE. Please read the STOCK PHOTO HELP link. If in doubt, take legal advice.

If you need further explanation of the terms in capital, see below:

You may download this file to use it to make prints to display at home. Read the PERSONAL USE conditions in the Content Licensing Agreement  - also available at checkout.

You may download this file to use in your small business website or in brochures. Read the RIGHTS MANAGED IMAGE conditions in the Content Licensing Agreement  - also available at checkout.

In the content licensing agreement is the following term:

2.2 Use of the Licensed Material is strictly limited to the use, medium, period of time, print run, placement, size of image, territory and any other restrictions specified in the Invoice. Licensee may utilize the Licensed Material in any production process that may be necessary for the intended use specified in the Invoice.

For avoidance of doubt, the website and brochure uses may not be mentioned in the invoice but are specifically allowed when an image is purchased through this option.

A company with turnover not more than £5.6 million & number of employees not more than 50 and not part of a group of related companies that in total exceeds these numbers.

The web presence promoting the goods or services of the small business.

A paper handout promoting the goods or services of the small business.

Just because an image is made available on this site does not make it appropriate for use by any business. Many images on this site are not suitable for commercial use - they are made available for use editorially only by newspapers,magazines or book publishers. If people or brands are featured then they may take exception to your business using their image. This is a complicated area - you should use common sense. See When can you use photos featuring people or businesses commercially?

A way of licensing images that allows you great (but not complete) freedom in how you use an image.

You are not purchasing a ROYALTY FREE image. You are purchasing a right to use an image on you small business website or brochures. If you use the image in other ways then other fees will be payable for that use as shown in our BASE PRICE COMMERCIAL USE calculator - an example is applied to this image.

When can you use a photo featuring people or businesses commercially?

In my previous post I highlighted how a small business might prefer to use this image:

rather than this one.....

But if the former type of image is not available from the any Royalty Free ("RF") image libraries and if that's because the image is not suitable for commercial use (in the eyes of those libraries) then how could your small business possibly use this image?

What you have to remember is that RF suppliers know they are in the main selling to people who do not want to know about image licensing. But whether they want to know it or not, when someone buys an RF image they are signing up to a huge agreement that allows the RF image library, model or photographer to sue them if the image is misused. If you don't believe me read an RF license agreement!

The issue of releases

As a user of a Rights Managed image, you have to pay more attention to what's going on. So what is the starting point for the business that wants to use this image?
  1. Is there a model release? Does the seller of the image vouch for the people in the photo giving written permission for the photo to be used commercially? If so, life is easier. More people can use the image in more ways. But there is no model release.
  2. Is there a property release? Does the seller of the image vouch for the businesses in the photo giving written permission for their names and logos to be used? Again, if this is the case, life is easier. But there is no property release.
Basic stuff. So with no releases let's now think about one uncomplicated way in which the image can be used - editorially. Indeed the expectation of me, the photographer, is that this is how the image is most likely to finish up being used.What does editorially mean? Here's examples:
  • In a newspaper or magazine - to illustrate an article
  • On television news 
  • In a blog on the internet 
Just like for a commercial use, payment has to be made for a license to use the image in these ways. Yes - that includes in a blog.

So how about commercial use? Advertising? On a website?

If I have to generalise, the answer is 'no' - but I don't like generalising because that is what the RF libraries have to do and there are exceptions and if as a business you really want to use the image then there will be ways if you are the right business using the image in the right way.

First of all, it's normally pointless approaching the photographer. How you use the image is about you and the content of the image.

Let's assume that you are a business in the Lanes area of Brighton, not competing in any way with the businesses whose signs feature in the image. There are two approaches you can adopt:
  1. Go ahead and use the image. The hotch potch of commercial signs implies nothing. The way in which you use the image should mean nothing too other than "Come to Brighton Lanes, see our shops, soak up the atmosphere" - because that is the way in which you intend to use it. (I'll deal with the people below).
  2. Pop around to your neighbours and let them know what you are doing, hoping to get more people to your business, to the lanes, to use their businesses too. The nature of people having a bad day means that this can sometimes go wrong but at least you've tried. Now, I'm not a lawyer (I'll repeat that I'M NOT A LAWYER!) but even if they say no then I think you could use the image anyway because if they are stupid enough to take you to court you'd win, but really it's not worth the hassle because you are being stupid if you then brazenly provoke a confrontation!
For this image, I'd favour approach 1. The fact is that the businesses featured would probably never know about the image and if they do see it they'd think nothing of it. If there was one business prominently featured over the others and the image was primarily a photo of that business rather than the street scene then it would be a different kettle of fish. Go and get permission!

So what about the people? It's important that the image - and the way you use it - is in the context of a photo of the Brighton Lanes rather than the people featured. You should not be selling a product that might suggest in any way that the people who are incidentally featured in the image support or are modelling for the product. Having considered the situation sensibly you again have two options:

  1. Go ahead and use the image. You may make the unsafe assumption that the people featured will never know anyway, but importantly if they do see the image then again they probably won't mind in the slightest. Of course you could be unlucky; but in UK law they anyway would be most unlikely to be able to claim damages. It's been tried - they are incidental to the scene and really what damage is being caused? Again, I am not a lawyer and you should consider the specifics of the situation. For example, if you happen to be a major UK retailer using this image in national advertising then the story may be different.
  2. Try and find the people and ask!
In all this use on a website or in a brochure is going to be probably less of an issue that use in an advertisement. In all this I come back to the words "Be sensible!".  Think about how reasonable people and businesses would act. What if it was you? Or your business?

If you want to be totally safe in life then use RF libraries. And don't drive a car or cross the road.


It is possible to use images with character rather than blandness. You do have to think about what you are doing but if you are blessed with common sense that should not be too taxing. And the photos may cost more, but you'll get over that when they start benefiting your business.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Spot the difference! (Or, why's that damn stock photo expensive?)

You hear it all the time - you want a sparky image for your website and the web designer says 'Oh, we'll just stick in a few cheap stock photos". Then when you see the photos they're either irrelevant to your business or they are the same bland images you see on everyone else's site. What's going on? Welcome to the restricted world of Royalty Free stock photos.

Restricted? Royalty Free images can be used as I wish (you may say). If you bother to look at the huge license agreement you sign up to when buying a Royalty Free photo then you'll realise you're wrong, but that's another story.

The restricted world that I'm talking about is the people free, banner free, logo free world of Royalty Free. Here's an example of what I mean......

Brighton's Lanes is a tangled web of narrow streets with businesses and shops and shoppers and tourists squeezed into an atmospheric area which pulls in the crowds. Let's suppose that you run a business on those streets and you want a photo for your website that shows a little of what the area's all about because people will then make a special journey to your business rather than go to a more boring area. You want a photo that's as cheap as possible naturally, but at the same you want a good photo because if that photo makes the place look as if it's worth visiting then that photo will help sell lots of your stuff!

You've heard of istockphoto as a source of quality images. And indeed it can be. But when you go along and search on Brighton Lanes Shops you'd be surprised to find only one photo. And that's a rather disappointing image of a dirty looking street sign.

Now, if you pop along to Light Touch's library and searched on Brighton Lanes Shops then you'll see at least five images - and they even feature the lanes and shops! There's nothing special about this image but for you, in your location, you might pick this image as being cool to use:

You 'Add to Cart' and how much????!!! Why were you expecting to pay a dollar? Well, here's the same image that has been subject to a few changes that would allow it to be sold on one of those dollar a photo sites, if they allowed it on. (istockphoto certainly wouldn't because of fundamental quality issues as a result of the alterations).

Can you spot the differences? Other than instant blandness.

That's a game for you to play at home - but answers below!

What's going on? Well fundamentally if photos are royalty free and the general perception is that then means that you can use the images how you wish then the suppliers of those images have to be ultra cautious about which images are made available. And since permission can't be obtained from random shoppers to feature their faces, and businesses to use their names and logos, well that means that this sort of image simply isn't available royalty free.

Which means it's never going to sell in tens or hundreds. In fact it will probably never sell. However it's the sort of image that can be sold in the alternative 'Rights Managed' photo marketplace where the buyer has to specify how the image is to be used and the large business pays a lot more to use the image than a small business.

With images like this, rather fewer than one in ten will ever be sold in any shape or form. And that's why that damn stock photo is expensive. It would not exist if the photographer had not gone out and speculatively shot, processed, prepared, uploaded, keyworded many more images, most of which will never sell, and then spent marketing time and dollars to try and get those images in front of buyers.

But an important point is it CAN be sold as a Rights Managed image. And on that basis it (maybe) CAN be used by your business. Maybe. Whether it can be used by your business is another story which I'll deal with separately (see the link) but let's assume that it is OK to use the image - you've then got a choice:

1. Use a cheap royalty free image and put a lot of words beside it trying to explain what the Brighton Lanes are about, or...
2. Use an image which tells the whole story.

People surfing the web are fickle. If it looks boring, they're off. Use an image that captures their interest and their in. What are those additional sales worth? Suddenly the alternative image can seem very cheap indeed.


  • All the shop names have been blanked out.
  • Logos too
  • The faces have been blurred.
  • Because many RF image suppliers would insist that the people could still be recognised, fancy bags have been obliterated and clothing altered.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

London Christmas Lights 2010

Yesterday I went to the British Journal of Photography's Vision event in London. Before returning to Brighton I took off to the West End to see what this year's Christmas Lights had to offer.

Photos of London Xmas Lights 2010

Thursday, 18 November 2010

On the road to Dungeness

When one has a camper van and it starts getting cold it's easy to forget that it needs a little exercise, so that's what it got on Monday when I took off out of Brighton and headed East finishing up at Dungeness.....

On the way there I passed a large static caravan park at Camber Sands and was struck by the turbines of the wind farm looming in the background. The wonderful pastel tones were violated by that wheelie bin so if you click through to the final version (Art photo print - Camber Sands Holiday Park) then you'll see how much better it looks.

I'm not really a pastel person (well, look at the colour of the camper!) so when the sun finally came out as I hit Dungeness I was immediately struck by the opportunities that were on tap. In retrospect I think I could have made more of them but I was pressing myself to get back to Rye to grab some images in the narrow streets there before the sun went too low.

So here's some primary colours of Fishermen's Huts at Dungeness:

While at Dungeness I was surprised to see only one other person sporting a camera - if there ever was a destination for a photo Meetup group then this was it! But don't tell anyone, because I want it to myself.

Of course I got many more images than these & will be getting around to getting them online in some shape or form. As it happens I never did get to Rye in time to get any decent photos, I kept stopping far too often on Walland Marshes chasing cows....

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Walberswick to Alamy - sales? Am I mad?

This is one of those posts for stock photographers obsessed by statistics and wanting to know what other stock photographers are up to, so everyone else should avoid - other than to look at the photo of course!

Over the half term holidays my wife and I visited friends in Suffolk on on the way back took a small detour to visit the village of Walberswick, just outside Southwold. I took photos on our stroll around and, the skies and light being pretty good, have just processed and keyworded them from the point of view of getting them online as stock or art prints.

The first place to consider is Alamy. But oh dear, no less than 1,148 images are already there! I really should have done some research on this because let's get real, how many photos of Walberswick are going to be sold off Alamy in a year? Any at all?

"Alamy Measures" tells me that there have been 20 searches in the last year that include the word "Walberswick". But it reports zero sales. I'm inclined to believe this but instead let's conjecture that each search resulted in a sale. This is rubbish, but it's a good game.....

With typical returns per image sale at Alamy now being about £30 the ten images that I'm adding to the mix have the statistical likelihood of earning 10/1158 * £30 * 20 or £5.18 in the next year. If I spent an hour processing these images then I'm still not up to the minimum wage. And 20 sales is a fantasy anyway.

But having processed the images I may as well upload them, adding to the gross overpopulation of Walberswick photos on Alamy.

So where else shall I put them? Well, first place is my own library at The setup at Photoshelter is such that there is very little prospect of a stock sale there - but these are just the sort of images which should go down well as prints so if you are after photo prints of Walberswick to spruce up your walls then go and take a look!

And another place? I shall put two on I have been experimenting with images there and one thing I have learned is that if the images get through quality control (tougher than Alamy) then for these two images (not ten) my statistics tell me that I will earn more than the £5.18 per year I fantasise about earning through Alamy. They will not be sold at rock bottom prices - at least not the $1 per image which is often touted. Once I've priced them a decent size file will be sold for £10 - £25 - not a lot of money, no, but within the budget of small businesses who would rather steal images than pay the silly prices in the Alamy calculator.

Oh, what? Wait a minute! Should I worry about the Alamy calculator? - even Alamy are selling images for $5.Yes, silly prices......

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A favourite view in Lewes....

Breweries are not always the most scenic subjects but this photo of the Harvey's Brewery in Lewes - see it bigger at the link, has that glimpse of the South Downs that makes more than a little difference. Of course I'd rather be inside....

Photos from Vintage at Goodwood festival now online

It's been a while since August but I've finally put my photos from this year's first Vintage at Goodwood festival onto my new online library for stock and print sales at

I hope that these photos capture a lot of the atmosphere, from the people and the stages, the first evening at Goodwood racecourse through to the final performance of Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures by Peter Hook. For those who attended who'd like to be reminded of the event, this slide show can be shared, and for those who'd like a more tangible reminder prints can be ordered, lovingly produced by Spectrum here in Brighton.

Stock photos and prints from Vintage at Goodwood Festival

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Get it right in camera - but don't dump and run

In carrying out my party photography (or any photography for that matter) I make a big deal of the amount of time that I will take to process the images. In looking on the web I've noticed that there is a myth propagated by some that if you have to post process photos then it means you have not got it right in camera.

The people who have the most to gain from perpetuating this myth are the 'dump and run' photographers, some of whom even shoot weddings.

The sales pitch is something like:
  • I've got a really expensive pro camera
  • It and my skills mean that I get every shot exposed and focused right
  • So after you've cut the cake I can burn your images to disk and project your wedding images during the disco
  • And you can take home that disk at the end of the evening
  • And look - I'm cheaper than the guys who make you wait!
I don't do weddings so I'm not interested in discussing them any further but the reason I have mentioned them is that entrusting a wedding to 'dump and run' photographer is the tip of an iceberg in professional photography. I've seen enough truly awful PR photos to know that the practice is endemic there but then with the amount PR agencies are willing to pay for photography they deserve what they get. But a wedding?????

To avoid work in processing images, dump and run photographers get the camera to do the processing for them. At the more skilled end of 'dump and run' a 'picture style' (that's the Canon term) is chosen to try and get as much out of the RAW data collected by the sensor as possible and the camera then produces a .jpg file with which we all are familiar which usually looks better than the RAW - but not always.

(An aside, this auto processing using a 'picture style' in camera is different to auto exposure. In fluid situations almost all professional photographers will use some form of auto exposure - selecting the right form is another story. If you shoot and process the RAW files, you don't have to think about 'picture style' - and most people reading this who shoot .jpg will not anyway realise that a default picture style is being applied and that this on many cameras can be modified. This is part of what happens when you play with scene modes on a decent point and shoot camera; the processing for landscape will be different to portraits.)

The fundamental problem with all this is that if the camera processing is set to produce a punchy image then in many situations the result is over-saturated or too contrasty and looks awful. If the processing is set to a different setting then images can come out dull and lifeless.

Those that preach 'getting it right in camera' and use .jpg are simply relying on a trick performed by the camera processing and most of the time it will do it well enough to get a reasonable result but rarely will it get the best result, a result that truly makes the image 'pop'.

Many cameras can produce .jpgs while at the same time preserving the RAW image data. So two files are produced for every shot. The former will normally look better than the latter initially - but once a skilled photographer has sat down in front of a computer screen and worked on the RAW image file, an image can be produced to knock spots off the camera .jpg.

Why am I writing this? Because I've been asked about my party photos why my "photos look great, not flat like with most flash cameras". There are three reasons:

1. See the above, and
2. Different environments need fundamentally different techniques; experience of many parties allows me to select the right technique to get the best out of different light conditions - for example, the last party I was at was shot almost entirely with the camera set to manual exposure and manual focus.
3. I get it right in camera, but I'm not anal about it!

The reason I'm making the third point is that it's the technique (point 2.) that allows me to get shots which are natural and often missed by the photographer who is still fiddling with the dials to get things right or waiting for the camera to focus when the subject is moving.

I'll get around to technique another time but to give you a teaser, here's some more party images that could not have been obtained using auto exposure or auto focus on the camera and would not look so great if I'd not sat down and processed the RAW files....

Saturday, 9 October 2010

South Downs, Rottingdean, Brighton Marina

Following Thursday morning's excursion along the South Downs Way followed by a stroll from Rottingdean to Brighton Marina, I've posted the better images to my Brighton and East Sussex Stock photos.

There are other images to be seen if you use the word search facility because I've decided not to crowd out the main galleries, which I probably am doing already!

Here's a couple more images:

Brighton Marina

Roedean School

My father was billeted at Roedean school during the war.

I'm going to start a gallery or two soon for what I consider to be the best of my fine art prints - I originally thought that some of the South Downs images should have potential but I'm less certain now.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Just a walk away

The South Downs Way is one of the major walking routes in the UK and runs the length of the South Downs National Park. I'm not sure of the boundaries of the park but the South Downs Way itself passes a short walk from where I live in Brighton. So with my landscape photographer hat on I used the break in the weather today to get out there and grab some images.

These are the first ones to catch my eye:

Unusual scarring on the landscape

That's Lewes in the background

South Downs Way crosses the Falmer - Rottingdean Road here
At this point I should make a small admission - I cheated and took the campervan to the site of the last image, too lazy to walk the mile to get there.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Brighton to London party photography....

The recent party shoot in Worthing a day after moving home to Brighton was a nice drive along the Sussex coast on the A27. It was at the Worthing Dome cinema - a room above the main entrance is ideal for parties with a verandah overlooking the pier. I remembered the location as featuring in the movie Wish You Were Here which I probably saw in another cinema about 15 years ago.

A huge age range at this party - it was Pete's 40th birthday. Starting the photography when there was still some daylight, plenty of space inside and out, moving towards darkness with a band playing there was opportunity to try out a range of styles, with and without flash.

A real location contrast for Tom's 30th birthday party in Soho this weekend. Club Milk & Honey in Soho, London was almost impossible to find - fortunately I'd read as much in doing a little research ahead of the event and found the tiny doorbell which said M & H - all there was to advertise its presence. Inside I discovered a dark and cramped basement cocktail bar with Tom (who did not have a clue I was coming) thrilled to have me join the great atmosphere of his party.

Flash is the essential tool in this environment. While it's great for posed shots, unfortunately the red focus aid that shines onto the subject alerts the person who might otherwise be the subject of a candidly taken shot that a photographer is out there. So for many shots I resorted to manual focus, not that I could see enough to focus in the dark but have set a particular distance I then used my experience to make sure the subject was in the right place. A little risky but the instant response from the shutter means that I nail some great shots.

What I have not mentioned it that I was using the same slow shutter flash technique in all these images except the obvious external shot in Worthing. You'll see the contrast that the background lights make in results from the two venues.

I didn't mention the rain. The only way of getting into Tottenham Court Road station after the event was to wade through an almost ankle deep puddle. Two bootfuls for the journey home. Squelch.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Brighton beckons..........

Two more nights in London and then when the words Brighton Photographer pop up on the screen there'll be a new option at the end of the search. I'm looking forward to the new challenges and hoping that this rain will stop so that if I'm not too busy on moving in then I can at least feel on holiday by the seaside.

Special mention for wasting a whole pile of time this week must go to Ulster Bank for making it so difficult to get  money to buy the house out of an instant access account and the Royal Mail for prnting off postal redirection forms online which aren't accepted when you get into the post office one hour later because they are out of date. Yes, the counter staff said, it's really stupid isn't it...

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Photos from Vintage at Goodwood

Scene at the funfair in the evening

King of the World
Jessie and the Orbits

Yes, it rained

Had a great weekend away at Vintage at Goodwood, the new festival on the Goodwood estate in West Sussex. (Yes, it rained). An evening at Goodwood races gave the opportunity for some photos from one of the most stylish race meetings I've ever been to while the following 3 days of the festival proper allowed for catching up on some music I'd missed in my youth (The Damned especially) and some fantastic photo opportunities.

You can see many more images in my Vintage at Goodwood photo collection on flickr

The Faces
The Caezars
Captain Sensible of the Damned

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Revisiting old ground - The Royal Oak, Fritham, New Forest

Shirley is someone who likes to go back to places previously visited, whereas I'm the opposite. Usually anyway. But I made the exception today to come back to the Royal Oak, a lovely small pub in the middle of nowhere which we visited this time last year. I had a fantastic pint of Barbury Castle ale from the Three Castles micro-brewery in Wiltshires Pewsey Vale. Wonderful little "Wanted" sign inside the pub about a donkey rustler who has a dangerous car and poisonous powders.....

Monday, 2 August 2010

Employee discretion advised

Our second site is a 'Forest Holidays' campsite at Ashurst in the New Forest proper. Unfortunately arrival was spoilt by one of those really annoying clashes of the voice of reason (ie me) with authority (ie reception staff at the campsite....)

I'd booked ahead on the web and ticked all the boxes in line with our status and as far as I was concerned fully paid up for us to have a pitch with Wendel in his small tent.  It was explained that Wendel being 18 needed a separate pitch for himself and his tent. Now just about anywhere else we'd be able to share a pitch. But not at Forest Holiday sites. We'd have to pay £20 per night for his own pitch.

OK I asked, remembering how things work elsewhere, is there a backpacker price? Yes, £6.50. OK I said, he can walk in separately from us with his tent on his back. Ah, but we've seen him in your campervan now.....

I asked if they had any discretion. No, the rules have to be followed.

So there you have it. A group of 5 adults all with well paid jobs with a huge SUV and a mammoth caravan finishes up paying the same as a family of three with small camper and tiny tent.

Organisations that leave their employees no discretion to use their brains are doomed to fail. Add Forest Holidays to the long list.

Anyway, here's another pic of Wendel putting up his tent. The horse was later seen to be carrying off Wendel's sleeping bag in his mouth.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Photographer on the road

Equipped as I am with wifi in my pocket (a 3G mobile wifi thingy), a new wifi enabled 11.6" laptop with enough oomph to run Adobe Lightroom, a campervan, a digital camera and a bottle of Marston's Pedigree, I can sit in a field on this campsite in Verwood just outside the New Forest and post a photo captured a few seconds ago (OK a couple of hours) for the world to enjoy or otherwise.

So there's Wendel admiring his handiwork at erecting a tent newly purchased after we discoved that the one we'd brought with us was missing a flysheet. Shirley's hiding away in the camper. Or maybe in the tent.

Now, let's hit the send button and see if this works.....

Friday, 2 April 2010

Identity crisis

With Virgin Broadband giving up the ghost for 36 hours I decided to get out and take some photographs in central London. This 'bistro' in Shepherds Market, Mayfair clearly can't decide whether it's French, Polish or Mexican - one of the strangest examples of 'fusion' cuisine you're likely to come across.

Actually it's a wine lodge.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

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Lessons from "The Fall Guy, the Politician and the Photographer"

Because most people don't have time to read through the 3 longish blogs that follow about the Orphan Works legislation in the UK's proposed Digital Economy Bill....

The Fall Guy - the end user of an image who somewhat innocently finds himself in hot water.

LESSON: Any so called Orphan is someone's copyright and most of those copyright holders will be overseas. There's every chance these copyright holders will want to disregard UK legislation that misappropriates what is theirs and act against innocent UK users of their images.

The Politician - the subject of an image who finds his orphan image being used in a way that would be embarrassing or hurtful to him

LESSON 1: Any image containing recognisable people or property should be absolutely excluded from being able to be used commercially as an orphan. Better still, all commercial use should be excluded. To be really safe, all use. Exclude photography from this legislation.

LESSON 2: Never rush through legislation, particularly when those rushing it through seem glibly unaware of the ramifications

The Photographer - the professional creator of many marvellous images who is in the digital age is taken for granted

LESSON 1: The UK legal system is already weighted against photographers getting fair compensation for the abuse of their intellectual property. Many dishonest people know that it pays to pilfer images.

LESSON 2: The Orphan Works proposals would make it totally time inefficient for a photographer to seek out compensation for Orphans used. If ever enacted, compensation should be at a multiple of the market rate to reflect that while many Orphan's will generate income for the government, few payments will have to be made to photographers.


What's interesting about this story is that everyone in a different way is a loser. Except the government. And time is never valued - except that of the lawyers.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Orphan Works - the Fall Guy, the Politician and the Photographer - Part 1

Derek - The Fall Guy

Once upon a time the Times Online ran a piece on political makeovers which linked to a larger version - this image.

The larger image was 'borrowed' in 2004 by Terry who found it is a search on Google Images. Terry operated a local men's grooming website in the USA - he had no interest in who the guy in the photo was.

The guy in the photo was none other than Peter Mandelson (Official title The Rt Hon Lord Mandelson, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council) now (in 2010) sitting in the UK government's cabinet, a well know figure in the UK but not abroad. Terry also had no idea that Mandelson was one of the new breed of gay politicians who no longer hid details of his private life.

Flash forward to 2012..........

Derek, a 23 year old fashion graduate setting up his own business was desperate for an image for his website. Short of funds he could not afford to hire a model and photographer. He spent a couple of hours looking through the dollar an image 'microstock' stock websites searching on "handsome man moustache" and he saw no image that was right for him. He switched to Google Images and stumbled across Mandelson's photo that had been picked up by Google on Terry's website.


Derek wasn't interested in politics - he had a vague idea what Gordon Brown looked like & that Brown had surprisingly won the 2010 election but that was about it. He had been reading some designers' discussion boards on the web and some people there who were complaining about having to pay to use photos had heard of something called "Orphan Works".

He had read that Orphan Works was the new cheap way to get images that may otherwise cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds to use if acquired from legitimate sources.

He right clicked on the handsome man's image, looked at 'properties' and sure enough there was nothing there about any copyright holder. His first thought was 'perhaps there isn't one', but he wasn't that stupid. Off he went to the Orphan Works website and found out that the image would cost £30 at the size he wanted it for his website. This was far more than the dollar an image sites, but far less than the other sites where photos were far more expensive.

He discovered he had to do a 'diligent search' and the Orphan Works site provided some guidance. So off he went....

1. Google Images. He searched on "handsome man moustache" again - 157,000 results - and there it was, in the place he had already found it about 10 pages, 200 images in. But yes, this is where he got the image in the first place, Terry's site. He looked at another 20 pages, that's 600 images, thought to himself that's diligent enough and moved on to....

2. Getty Images - 81 images. Nothing. At least that was easy.

3. The dollar a photo 'micro' websites - 224 results, 330 images, 1566 images - he remembered he'd already looked there, and moved on.

4. - 328 images

He was getting a bit bored now and went on to try 5 more sites. He'd been diligent for 3 hours. He went back to the Orphan Works site, paid over his £30, ticked the "I've been diligent" box and took the image. He had read somewhere on an obscure page on the Orphan Works site that the image may have no 'model release' allowing commercial uses, but Derek thought to himself that any guy this dashing and handsome must be a male model and so must have allowed permission to use the image.

So Derek planted the image on the home page of his website for his new range of men's underwear aimed at the family man - his site's slogan was "Underwear to transform your sex life".

Three day's later he couldn't understand where the thousands of website hits were coming from. But no one was buying underwear. In fact the following week there were no less than 265,000 visitors. Wow, he thought, I've gone viral!

And then a letter from a big London law firm representing some guy called Lord Mandelson arrived on his doormat. And another from a US law firm babbling on about statutory damages of $50,000 under US copyright law......

This is fictional. The lessons are real.

> The Politician
> The Photographer

Orphan Works - the Fall Guy, the Politician and the Photographer - Part 2

Peter - The Politician

Mandelson was furious. The Intellectual Property Office was the government organisation that ran the Orphan Works website and they reported to him. All through the passage of the Digital Economy Bill the IPO had assured Mandelson that the worries of photographers were completely over the top. In enacting subsequent legislation Mandelson had taken them for their word, after all the stuff about 'embedded metadata' was really all too complicated and there was a real economy to rescue. He demanded to know how his photo could have been used in this way.

It was explained to him (gently) that not everyone knew who he was. People could be diligent about searching without being all knowing. Yes, searching on "Peter Mandelson" in line with IPO guidelines MAY have found the photographer's details but searching on "handsome man moustache" while arguably being sensible enough to be diligent (but in reality pretty stupid) plainly did not work.

Mandelson demanded to know whether the IPO had carried out controlled tests on real examples of "Orphan Works" to see whether the owner of the copyright of images stood a fair chance of being found, even say a 50% chance. Photographers had after all warned of the lack of any effective tools to do this. The IPO explained that the chances were nearer 0% of an image being found in a 'diligent search', the technology did not exist.

This started Mandelson worrying about other of the claims he remembered photographers making. He wanted to know about how successful photographers might be in locating an image on the Orphan Works register once it had been sold as an orphan.....

"Well", he was told, "there are 324,543 images already in the register so every photographer could expect to see some of their images there."
"So," he said, "how long might it take a photographer to look through all these images for one that may have been used?"
"Well, approximately 3 working days".
"And how much may they receive for their effort?"
"We decided on 50% of the fee we received sir"
"So in the case of my image, the photographer got £15"
"That's right sir"
"£15 for 3 days work for a photographer! That's about right."
"But photographers do have other facilities, sir. They can do a keyword search"
"You mean we keyword the images so that photographers can find them"
"Well, yes we keyword them but photographers don't find them - you see a photographer with 5000 different images would have to perform 5000 different searches using different terms to find a few actually used. After all they don't know which images have been used. That sort of search actually takes about a working week"
"So why keyword them"
"Well sir, image buyers who want an image of one subject usually have one search to make"
"So we are sort of running a photo library?"
"Yes minister"
"And does it make money?"
"Indeed minister. With more and more orphans, more and more people are giving up on traditional sources and coming to us to get their photos instead And so few photographers reclaim any money that we've been able to refurbish all the IPO's offices"
"So in fact it seems the scheme is working really well"
"Yes sir."
"Working well in every way except one. For me. HOW DID I FINISH UP BEING MADE A LAUGHING STOCK?"

This is fictional. The lessons are real.

> The Fall Guy
> The Photographer

Orphan Works - the Fall Guy, the Politician and the Photographer - Part 3 - The Photographer

Brian - the photographer

Somewhere in this story there is a real photographer. It would be nice to find him or her.

I've done a slightly more intelligent search on Getty Images editorial collection on Mandelson - 2437 results - Mandelson moustache - 0 results! Everything in colour and running five pages from the back and five from the front not a moustache anywhere to be seen. I tried Alamy - only 121 results - again no moustache.

Now that's not a diligent search. There is a real photographer out there but I'm going to have to create a fictional photographer and I'm going to call him Brian. And he's an American. Brian had for 5 years lived in the UK during the eighties and that was when he took Mandelson's photo. He was now represented by a large US based agency.

In 2012 Brian had been worried about the erosion of his income for years. He sensed that hundreds of his images were out there on the internet being used by people in many ways but there was no way to put a number on this and with billions of images on the internet and with rarely any 'metadata' telling search engines what they were about he know that searching was folly. When people copied and used his images they either purposely or accidentally stripped out this metadata.

Brian fully understood the economics for the casual image thief. He sensed that rather less than one in ten of all images stolen would come to the attention of the photographer. He knew that if pursued in the UK then the legal system worked in a way such that he only was able to recover the market value of that image after huge efforts in court. And the thieves always started from the viewpoint that such images were available for $1 on the 'micro' sites.

Brian reckoned that for the casual image thief with 10 images on a website, the off chance of one day having to pay market value for one image was a bargain. Orphan Works legislation had for him made no difference to this because like everything else it failed to place a proper value on his images (all were non-generic one offs) or his time. It failed to recognise that the statistics were stacked up against the photographer both in terms of a 'diligent' searcher's chances of finding him and his own chances of ever knowing that one of his images had been used as an orphan.

Under normal circumstances Brian would have no means to know that his image of Mandelson had been used without spending vast amounts of time on speculative searches - including the UK's Orphan Works Register. And if after all this time spent searching he found an orphan that was his then he had to go through a bureaucratic process to recover a fee. And because of the IPO's take on market value, the fee he received did not even properly allow Brian to recover the time costs of the form filling.

All he knew was that the UK government could take his intellectual property and sell it for a fee, taking the income which was rightfully his. The Orphan Works mechanism gave him no return for the time spent speculatively searching the register or even the real value of his image. And why should he have to think about all this anyway - it's another country!

Brian wondered how anyone could imagine that the Orphan Works legislation could help photographers even in the UK. Prior to the legislation the honest photo buyer would have at least have purchased a second best image from a library. Dishonest image users would not be influenced one iota and carry on as they always have, time spent in 'diligent' searching to be followed by a fee would hardly appeal to an image thief.

Brian understood the economics and statistics. It seemed evident to him that the whole pool of funds from the use of orphan images should be allocated fully to people who were able to claim copyright. But the reality was that the costs of the new bureaucracy would mean that the pool would be tiny.

The image was registered as copyright with the US copyright office. He and his agency would never have known about the use of Lord Mandelson's image had the story not gone viral. Brian occasionally discovered unauthorised uses of his images. And knowing that so few would be detected he followed up abuses vigorously using the strength of the US system.

A joint action was launched by Brian and his Agency to obtain compensation and statutory damages for the abuse of his copyright image. In the US such statutory damages could be $50,000 or more.....


This is fictional. The lessons are real.

> The Fall Guy
> The Politician

Friday, 5 March 2010

Per image returns from Alamy slumping (or for me crashing!)

Following on from the last post, I've realised that the slow start to sales I've seen in 2010 (not talked about then because I thought it would turn around) is going to be set in place for a while yet. The reason? Not Alamy's decline this time but Alamy's system for ranking contributors' photos (Alamyrank) and I've noticed that just about every one of my images is now in the bottom rank, at the back end of searches. Shafted by an algorithm!

Perhaps other contributors have been feverishly slaving away improving the prioritisation of their keywords and have simply gone by me in the rankings while I've been sitting watching the money come in. With a re-ranking about every couple of months, on the showing so far my income may be one tenth of last year's unless I get back to where I was.

A month ago I made plans for increased effort on social networking and wrote about them here. The overhaul of my stock photo site is almost complete and I was preparing to substantially increase my efforts but now it seems that there's hard graft ahead sorting out Alamy. It may be 2 or 3 days work, which will probably take me 10 with all the other stuff going on, but there will be a substantial return, assuming I get it right.....

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Per image returns from Alamy slumping

The stock photo portal Alamy have announced their trading results for the quarter to 31 December 2010, reported on in the British Journal of Photography. Their chief executive, James West, is pleased that the year on year decline in gross revenue is 13% against a background of an expected decline of about 15% to 20%, but it's worth looking behind the numbers, in particular one which Alamy do not publish, the revenue per image per annum.

I made a note of the 13.8m images online in October 2008 - today there are 18.03m stock photos up for licensing from the site. That's an almost 31 % increase in image numbers in just over a year. James West says nothing about what is expected for the current year but if sales stay flat (the final quarter's results being repeated throughout 2010) then Alamy will generate US$7.42m of sales.

Year.......Sales.......No. Images........Revenue per image p.a.

2009.......8.385m........15.6m............. US$0.54

I've done some back-of-the-envelope time averaging in there but these figures show an approximate 24% decline in revenue per image. With just over 40 cents going to Alamy for every image online, and at least 40% of that going as commission to Alamy, the return to the photographer is now about 24 cents per image per annum.

In Quarter 2 2008, Alamy sales peaked at US$2.937m. I then made a note of 12m images online. At the then Alamy commission of 35%, the return per image per annum to the photographer was about 64 cents per image per annum.

A decline from 64 cents to 24 cents per image per annum online in the space of about 2 years is a dramatic fall of 62.5%.

Alamy itself is still apparently profitable, costs being kept under control no doubt, but for the photographer who considers the time and costs invested against the likely return, this decline is substantial and I certainly have been submitting a lot fewer images in the last year or two.

My own return for 2009 on about 3,600 images was $1.20 per image, a sad decline from what was close to $3 per image in 2007. There must be an awful lot of photographers earning less than 24 cents per image per annum and that must mean an awful lot of disappointed people. But still they submit....

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Dealing with a day's stock shoot (and a pricing diversion)

Yesterday I went to Fulham to cover an area of London for which I have no stock photos - I finished up choosing 95 images which I've processed today and set up a Fulham stock photo collection on photoconnect which I'll be adding more photos to as I get time to upload them. The 95 images include some nice ones from Earls Court and a few from neighbouring Chelsea and I'll be dealing with those separately.

But beyond photoconnect - my own website which does really well on the search engines - what happens to the images? Firstly, I'll put them all on Flickr at high resolution as an online backup - that will be a long upload happening overnight. (Remember that these high resolution images cannot be accessed by Flickr pilferers!)

Next, I'll be selecting perhaps about 30, maybe 40, to go on Alamy. Why not all the images?

Well, some I know will not pass Alamy QC even though I can see they are perfectly good for most uses. If you supply images directly yourself then you don't have to be quite so anal about QC - if someone tells me that an image is wanted quarter page for a newsletter then almost anything will do and if I've got what somebody needs then I'm not going to withhold it because it would not make some external entity's QC test. If the client's happy that's fine by me.

Other images will be of marginal sales potential, even on Alamy. They are very quick to get onto Photoconnect but Alamy, well I judge they are just not worth the effort.

Finally there may be 4 or 5 suitable for iStock. I've been running a little experiment to really understand what microstock is about and one thing it's taught me is that it's really quite difficult to get suitable images for microstock in cities because of their rigid criteria for the absence of people, logos etc. And also quality control is rather tighter than Alamy and image loading is a pain, so although I'm now pretty confident on the what makes £'s on micros front it's not many images that makes the extra effort worthwhile.

[A stock photo pricing diversion - the fact that 90% of the images I get could never be acceptable to microstock agencies underlines the value of regular RM imagery. I'll return to this theme again and again in future posts but to just hint at what is happening in the market I'll run a search on 'Fulham' on iStock and on Alamy....

iStock - 5 results
Alamy - 1160 results (without mine!)

This effect can be seen in many, many subject areas. It's the total oversupply of RM images which pushes down the value of RM images, not microstock prices. Of course this does not apply in the case of the RF photo of the nice, smiling girl wearing a headset against a white background, but that's a nasty commercial image. For regular editorial stock it's the RM editorial agencies competing against each other that are to blame. Not microstock.

And so to return to Alamy. Because no other Agency has the range of images that Alamy has, it should not have to have its RM prices sucked down endlessly by microstock (for sure) or even by the RM collections of the Gettys of this world. Or at least this should not happen to the truly rare images that are in the collection. But Alamy is an an automated selling machine that cannot differentiate the one off from the mass. If as a photographer you know you've hit gold with an image then you don't take it to an agency with standardised pricing models. You deal with it some other way - if you can find the buyer..... ]

Anyway, no gold in yesterday's shoot, but hopefully enough to make the day worthwhile!

The image above is a random one I like (but will probably never sell) from Earls Court at the end of the day.