Tuesday, 30 August 2011

'Low-fi' stock photos and prints

Ever more stringent quality control standards have become a way of the stock photo industry filtering out photographers who don't have higher end cameras and don't apply themselves to the correct processing of images in preparation for sale on the web. But this has the effect of also filtering out lots of images that buyers may be looking for, images that are perfectly good enough quality to be used on a blog, small scale in a brochure or even as a 10" x 8" print on a wall.

Over the years I have discovered a demand for photo subjects I captured in the early days of digital cameras - images that were acceptable to online stock libraries then, but are no more. In running my own site here at Light Touch, I want to be able to continue to make these images available.

To reflect the 'low-fi' status, these images are not available at the largest sizes and they are priced at about 25% less than the regular stock photos. You'll see the term 'low-fi' in the description or keywords area.

As well as images from the early days of digital, 'low-fi' images may include scans from negatives and even an occasional bang up to date mobile phone image.

Importantly, you'll always see a large preview image so you can easily assess the quality of what you are buying.

As a result of an enquiry received this morning, this is the first 'low-fi' image I've just put on the site. More will follow.

Bycicles on Neal Street, Covent Garden

This was captured in Covent Garden in 2004 on a Nikon 4500 digital camera which cost £600 in those days! This is recognisably low-fi. It has a 'toy camera' feel about it only because of the conditions in which the photo was made. However other images captured on the same camera have finished up in national newspapers and magazines and one has earned me close to £1,000 in royalties. So 'low-fi' does not necessarily mean low quality and if it's an image you want then it's an image you can now get.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Starting with Tournai, only 600 pics to go......

I'm back after 15 days, mainly in the Netherlands, spent touring in the VW camper. Here's the first few pics from dullish weather in the dullish tow of Tournai, Belgium. Sorry people of Tournai, I wasn't looking too hard and I guess I didn't find the exciting bits!

Photos of Tournai - Belgium by Scott Hortop

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

13 Wish Road

Right now I'm 90% of the way through a fiction novel, THIRTEEN, set in Brighton & Hove, written by Sebastian Beaumont. In the novel a depressed taxi driver picks up a ride on a weekly basis from 13 Wish Road. Things happen to him related to this address which are either part of his insanity or supernatural. It's a key part of the book when he finds that 13 does not exist, in the real world there is only 11a.

A few days ago on a mission to buy some fish (long story....), I for the first time ever in Brighton asked a bus driver where to get off a bus in order to get to a destination - Hove Lagoon. I was carrying the book. The reply, out of the blue, was Wish Road. Since this was the sort of absurd occurrence that would happen in the book, I asked him to repeat it. I heard correctly, "Wish Road".

I had assumed that the street was fictitious, but no..... I walked down Wish Road, just as the taxi driver in the book had driven down it, expecting to find 13. But it was not there, there was only 11a.....

11 Wish Road is the house on the right, next door to 13.... I mean 11a Wish Road.

The additional weird coincidence here is that about a year ago, when I lived in London, I did a commercial shoot in 11 Wish Road, completely unaware of the significance of its neighbour, because at the time I was not reading the book.  (I did not even know the name of the street because I was taken there by the client.)

It would be obtrusive to show images from that shoot here, but I have used them in my commercial portfolio. And now I've finished the book it's good to see..... no, I won't say, that would spoil it for you.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Photography at an inner city school (always a pleasure!)

Yesterday I visited the Inner London 6th form college for perhaps the fifth time in the last three years to allow them to fill some gaps in their prospectus with some new photos, concentrating in the main on activities outside the classroom. I only shot for three hours on this visit but seemed to get a lot done compared to a visit last month which was not as well organised in terms of making sure that students would be available in the right place at the right time.

With students, a few props and location in place, left to my devices most of the time to come up with something, this sort of shooting is challenging but fun. It may be an inner city school, but it's always struck me how the place seems to be a pleasure to be in, both for staff and students. And I really don't think that everyone is on best behaviour just because there is a photographer about!

It was when I was doing the library shots that my Canon EOS 5D gave up on me, the viewfinder mirror falling off and rattling around inside the camera. It was only on Monday (because it was a much smaller job and I was using public transport to London) that for possibly the first time in 5 years I had gone to a job carrying only one camera body. So that was a lesson painlessly learnt because yesterday I had backup everything!


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Shooting Young Enterprise

I've been covering the annual awards ceremony for the East of England region of Young Enterprise for a number of years now. It's always held at one of the Cambridge colleges which makes for a pleasant experience for all; this year it was held again at Queens College.

Young Enterprise has been around in the UK as a charity promoting entrepreneurial activity in schools for a damn sight longer than Sir Alan / Lord Sugar has been berating the higher profile, older and frequently untalented individuals who we make fun of on television in The Apprentice.

Unlike their TV counterparts, these entrepreneurs get to run real companies. The awards day is an intense experience for the entered teams who get to face a panel of judges, invited guests at their stalls and do a stage presentation all in one day.

The winning team this year were from Colchester High School for Girls who came up with a product - a security pouch hidden within a bra cup - which one suspects was inspired by bitter experience, but is a truly original idea to meet a real need for security. A fact which was not lost on the judges.

My photography aims to cover every aspect of the day, giving students images to remember the day by (available for secure download from my Photoshelter hosted site), Young Enterprise photos to use for PR purposes and finally photos of young people engaging in enterprise activities which Young Enterprise can use on their website and brochures. The nice thing is that I'm largely left to my own devices - other than getting those damn formal presentation photos at the end  - I did get them, but none here because as ever they're just not as interesting as the rest.

Here's a selection from the day, starting with the winners:

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

New microstock launch - get ready for the Digital Copyright Exchange!

The Hargreaves report on copyright came out today. It seems that the whole nation will be humming Newport State of Mind.....

(So head over the water
On the Transporter)

And as the mainstream media concentrates on the effect on the music industry, the huge potential impact on almost every photo that you see in front of you on the web will probably never get a mention.

"a work should only be treated as an orphan if it cannot be found by search of the databases involved in the proposed Digital Copyright Exchange..."

"in most cases the fee for use of orphan works would be nominal"

So on the face of it a Brit wanting to use a photo on the web has to check that it's not on the Digital Copyright Exchange and if it's not it's an 'orphan' and for a quid or whatever he gets to use it.

Suddenly it seems to me that the Digital Copyright Exchange could take over from the profusion of microstock sites as the place to get a photo for a dollar.

I'm not sure what the microstock sites, foreign photographers with images copyrighted in the USA or Sindy with her holiday snaps will think of this idea. But I'm sure it will all sorted out by the time Newport next get a chance to bid for the Ryder Cup.


Twinned with Guangxi, Province in China
There’s no province finer

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Copyright is boring....

.... but is vital to artists / creators to be able to keep their meagre living.

Put simply, big organisations (eg Google, News Corporation, BBC) would love to be able to pick images off the web and use them without having to fuss about copyright and such trivia. But you watch them protect their own creations!

In a BBC website article "Shedding light on copyright confusion" Will Gompertz chats to his mates and declares "the people to whom I have spoken regarding the issue of orphan works all want to see them put in to the public domain" which is all fine and dandy until you get down to specifics.

Such as that through no fault of my own but the actions of others there are hundreds of my photos on the web that are 'orphans'. Indeed the BBC itself very probably and unnecessarily made an 'orphan' of the image on that page, an action which is unlawful (see Paul Ellis's comments, it breaches CDPA 1988 Section 296ZG: http://bit.ly/kqjq5M.

So unless the new legislation does not enable others to make money out of my work without payment then you can expect me and other photographers to go on banging on about copyright.

Like I just did in my comment on that BBC page - Will, more of your mates should be photographers!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

From the streets of Paris

Yesterday I put up some rather more recent images from France, however it reminded me of how so few of my available photos of France were currently online, which drew me to some images from Paris 4 years ago when I visited on my birthday and to this image in particular.

For this photo I have to be thankful for the man, who is perhaps the owner of this Parisian street cafe, sitting where he did to do his sums and paperwork. The curtain separates him from the street emphasising a different world inside and out.

One of the photos in my gallery of images from Paris - and for the moment I like it so much that I've made it the featured image on my stock and art print site's home page.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Euro Jaunt (3) - Photos from Metz, France

This is the church of Temple Neuf, on an island on the River Moselle in Metz.

One of the little delights of the Euro jaunt occured in Metz. We had turned up relatively late in the afternoon searching for a campsite. The one marked on the Michelin map did not seem to exist so we asked in a boulangerie of its whereabouts. A customer behind me told me to follow him, which I did, assuming that he was at the site we were aiming for. We followed him (with his wife), drove into the city centre, strange route going past all the sights before finishing up at the municipal campsite which is in a great location right in the centre a couple of minutes walk from Temple Neuf.

Then they waved goodbye and drove off. They were simply locals to the boulangerie who had taken it upon themselves to get us to the campsite, throwing in a guided tour of Metz en route.

A nice memory from a city where the stay to get photos was only an hour or so the next morning before we had to move on again into Belgium on the way home.

See more stock photos of Metz

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Euro jaunt (2) - photos from Heidelburg

The first big stop on our European voyage was Heidelburg where we stayed with Shirley's friend Carina and her partner Jack. Right now Carina lives in the UK and she was over there on an extended two week stay and we diverted ever so slightly from what would have bee our natural route through Germany to the Black Forest to meet up with them. In fact we didn't even stay in the camper when in Heidelberg but were put up for two nights in Jack's apartment, a walk from Heidelberg's town centre and an excellent base to get some images.

Jack was more than keen on enabling our sightseeing and on one excursion he took us to a little visited viewpoint which allowed me to get this stunning cityscape of Heidelberg Castle and the Old Town (Altstadt) in the evening sun.

Click through to see more photos of Heidelberg.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Euro Jaunt (1) - Photos of Maastricht

Not a typical shot from Maastricht but probably my favourite. The definite reds in the dress clash with the pastel pinks elsewhere; the aloofness of the woman contrasting with the inevitable casualness of her dog. The backdrop of an industrial area in the centre of Maastricht seen across the River Maas.

This was the last full day of eight taking the camper van down to the Black Forest and back. Don't ask me why I've decided to post images in reverse order....

More Photos from Maastricht are online at my image library - we were only in town for 90 minutes - had a ferry to catch!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Roupell Street - The way home

photo of City of London commuters

This photo may bring to mind up a vision of the British working class in times past but this was only last week. In the evening, this small street of terraced houses swarms with City of London staff who know it as the shortest route from the City to Waterloo to get their trains on the commute home.

Nowadays it would be difficult to spot anyone working class - but it is relatively easy to play spot the banker.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Google, photo copyright and the promotion of confusion

Google has made its submission to the UK's "Independent Review of Intellectual Property and Growth". You can read Google's view on UK copyright law at the link.

Whatever happens to make the situation different, copyright is still for many going to remain a complicated issue. The review covers all sorts of content and of course Google's interests are served by changes which open the way for it to make money out of other people's innovations or creations.

Looking at photography, there is one simple change that would improve clarity for everyone. Google and other search engines should voluntarily, and if not voluntarily, be forced by law to present the truth about copyright in its search results.

Perform any search on Google's image search engine and you'll see the following statement should you click through to a larger version of the image:

"This image may be subject to copyright."

I originally made the point in my blog post The myth of the copyright free photo - "found it on the web" . This statement by Google introduces confusion in a world where the legal reality is:

"This image is almost certainly copyright and you should should contact the copyright owner before making use of the image."

Then Google should provide a link to information on how to find the copyright owner. Yes, there are ways, but I'll not go into that here.

This will make people think twice about using a photo - particularly commercial use which it the use which undermines my livelihood as a photographer. The words "may be subject to copyright" bring into play wishful thinking and the convenience of a "I thought it was copyright free" defence for those who wilfully want to make money for themselves out of other people's creative efforts.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

So "Catfish" was real

About 3 weeks ago I saw the DVD of "Catfish", an excellent moving account of Facebook identity fraud (oops, have I just spoilt it for you?).

Yesterday I had my own Catfish moment. I got an email from nowhere from someone who for some reason had done a "Tineye" search on a profile pic and come up with one of my images - a photo by me of a good friend of mine - being used on the profile of someone called "Leah xxxxxxxxxxxx" who lives in California.

"Fair warning: this person is kinda nuts, may have multiple personalities, and when people call her on her lies she tends to come out with guns blazing (in the past six months, she's accused at least three guys of psycho-stalking her."

Anyway, I filed an official DMCA copyright violation notice with Facebook and within 12 hours had a response that the account had been deactivated.

Now I've no idea whether Leah or one of her "friends" will turn up at my door in the next few days with an axe.....

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Rearranging the deckchairs....

Deck Chairs in Eastbourne

Deck Chairs in Brighton

The SS Great Britain sits in a dock in Bristol. The Titantic's location is best known to James Cameron. Yet now it's Great Britain's deckchairs that are being rearraranged in the endless quest to find the money from you and I to patch up the mess the banks created.

Brighton may be brash in its commercialism compared to Eastbourne (just compare the piers) but when it comes to resting one's bum it's curious how Eastbourne appears to have sold out.

And what could be uglier than having logos all over deckchairs? Easy, an advert saying "Your logo here"?

These images may be found in the Brighton and Hove and Brands galleries at my image library. Do you see how Eastbourne misses out on a link?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Any excuse to put up a photo #5 - Basque mountain summit

I found this image when making sure that some of my older images were properly catalogued. It's the summit of Mount Urregarai in the Basque region of Spain. You'll see a stone building - some sort of sanctuary at the summit, and in the foreground a model house representing the same building on its own mini-mountain, carved out of stone and painted.

I could have put up an alternative photo of me leaning against the model house and giving the thumbs up. But thought better of it.

This is part of the Spain - Basque Region photo gallery at my image library.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Any Old Excuse to Put up a Photo #4 - Battersea Power Station

Another from a gloomy day in London. This time last Friday - on the way into Victoria station I noticed the way that the sun's rays were coming through the clouds - so hot footed it to the Thames. This is actually not quite up to what I saw from the train but still a nice result.

This photo is part of the London gallery at the Light Touch image library.

Friday, 21 January 2011

I don't shoot weddings (#2)

More of Elaine and Jeremy on a cool March day. Great fun!

This image is part of portfolio - weddings; (but I don't shoot weddings).

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Vintage at Goodwood (not any more!)

Hmmmmm..... Vintage at Goodwood is becoming Vintage on the London South Bank. You only have to take a look at the photos from last year's festival to realise that there isn't remotely the outdoor space to recreate last year's event. And without the camping the 'festival' experience will disappear.

I'd worry about high ticket prices for individual events in the South Bank concert halls and droves of visitors to what may be free outdoor spaces ignoring the Vintage dress aspect that made it a pleasure last year.

At least we'll have the photos to remember the experience. A few here, lots more at the links above.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

I don't shoot weddings....

and this wasn't a wedding, even if it was a wedding shoot for Elaine and Jeremy on a cool March day. Pretty cool venue too ;-)

This image is part of portfolio - weddings; (but I don't shoot weddings).

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Photo for free (?) #1


I am a working copywriter for an ad agency based in India. We need some images to adapt our ads in different media. I don't want to use images sourced through Google for the fear of copyright infringement. Your image will be used for presentation purpose only. I have attached the link of the image we need.


Expecting a favourable reply. Note: We will send you the finished artwork in which your image is used


Thank you for your interest.

For your use and location, if you pay in advance then I will go to my lowest price point - £25, Please let me know if you would like to proceed.

I guess you value your pictures highly. But sorry I could not pay such big amount. And the image I needed will be used only for a presentation. So I don't think I can spend such a big price for a small assignment. Anyways thanks for taking the time to reply.


This is the photo:

The photo may be unglamourous subject matter but nevertheless is obviously subject matter needed by businesses. That day, 8 months ago I went out and took photos of a particular unglamourous area of London. The nature of the images I took is that even if they were made available free then only 10 say would ever be used. With another day processing, to make the sums work I have to charge prices which reflect the rarity of the image and the rarity of the buyer and my need to pay the bills. This is not "microstock" which is a whole different market and an image like this will not anyway be available there.

Other stock photographers selling images will think I'm rather cheap. But this was a sale to India. On the other hand if photos like this were available for free or little cost then they would not be available because it would be madness to go out and shoot them.

Anyway, aside fom my own perception of the price of a stock photo, if my photo would help win an advertising firm a big contract then it would be well worth the money! In India because of the relative low wages it may be better for the buyer to search on, but in the UK (say) it would not be cost effective unless the business places no value on the time its employees spend searching for a less suitable substitute.

This is #1 of what could become a series inspired by the flow chart Should I work for free? by Jessica Hische - which came to my attention on the same day I received the enquiry but did not influence my reply!

This photo of a modern electronic advertising hoarding is available at my image library.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Any Old Excuse to put up a photo - #3 - Romance!

'Photo of the day' being out of the question this is the third image to be pulled from the archives under the 'any old excuse' banner.

Pulled from the archives? Well I actually took this yesterday on a gloomy day in London. But sometimes photo opportunities emerge from the gloom....

Sorry the watermark is so big - it's better if you click through.

This photo is part of the London gallery at the Light Touch image library.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Photo of the Day (?) - Newport Transporter Bridge

Having put up one of my favourite images on Monday (but with good if self-congratulatory reason) and today happening across this photo I wonder if it's time to start a 'Photo of the Day'? Immediately you may spot the issue with this because no image was posted yesterday - and indeed I know that there will be other days when no image gets posted so I'm going to shy away from the "Photo of the day" title & will have to think of something else. How about....

"Any Old Excuse to Put up a Photo - #2 - Newport Transporter Bridge"

That may be no good because I'll have to think of an excuse every time, no matter now lame! Anyway, that will do for now and, whatever I go for in the end, there will not be one tomorrow because I'm off shooting in London.

This, by the way, is the most impressive Newport Transporter Bridge. I've fiddled with the image a bit and think it would make an excellent photo art print as a gift for the admirer of 100 year old engineering or things Welsh (or both) in your family!

This photo is part of the Wales image gallery at the Light Touch image library.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Image selected to help stock library push into USA

I've been contacted by Alamy, the major player in the UK editorial photo market place, to tell me that one of my images will be used by them to help their push into the US stock photo market place following the opening about a year ago of their New York office. It's been selected for it's natural feel - it's available on Alamy and in the People - Model released stock photo section of my own site.

I know that it was shot using daylight only about 6 years ago and, because these were the days before noise free sensors at high ISO, at a low shutter speed. Sales on Alamy have been a bit quiet of late - but at least it's good to have them using my images.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The myth of the copyright free photo - "found it on the web"

With the launch of a new Twitter group "BoycottGetty" campaigning against Getty Images "extortion" of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting individuals or businesses using photos without permission I thought I'd explore the murky world of the legalities of using photos from the web for your own purposes.

Recently Dover council wanted an image of the White Cliffs to use on their website. They made the mistake of using a photo in which the white cliffs actually turned out to be in Sussex, 50 miles away. The story hit the newspapers. The Town Clerk, a person who you'd expect to know better said....

'The web designers were asked to provide a photo of the white cliffs, which they did. Part of their remit was to keep costs to a minimum, therefore nothing with a copyright was used. This caused its own problems, since it was hard to find a copyright-free photo taken with a professional, high-definition camera.'

So, here we go - let's blame the web designers. Well, they are to some extent to blame because they should have turned around and said "Can't do. There's no such thing as a copyright free photo!"

You see, every photo is taken by someone. And within the laws of the USA, UK, EU countries and in fact virtually every country on the planet, with one or two exceptions where the copyright is owned by an employer say, the person who took the photo owns the copyright.

And when they put it on the web, they still own the copyright. Copyright doesn't disappear! If a photo exists on the web then someone took it, therefore it is copyright. Simple. Except if you are in denial.

There are one or two wrinkles here -  perhaps the photographer's been dead 100 years. There are also come "public domain" images, for example, those taken by NASA of the moon. But otherwise every photo is copyright, like it or not, that's the way it is.

So why do people have this complete misperception when it comes to photos on the web? I've heard people say "I found it on the web" to explain why they think they can use a photo on their website.

The Daily Mail article compounds the folly of the Dover Town Clerk's statement by intepidly going off to find a random member of the public, taxi driver Terry Marshall, who said "If the town council really couldn't afford to spend money on finding a decent copyright-free picture, they should have asked for one before this embarrassing blunder happened." The reporter, who should know better, does not explain to the Town Clerk the error of his thought patterns on copyright but goes off into Kent to find someone to backup the Town Clerk's dodgy views that a copyright free photo of the white cliffs is there to be found.

So there you have it - Dover town council staff are out there spending hours searching for something that does not exist. You can only wonder why rather than waste all the time they don't save taxpayer's money paying their wages by going out and spending a few pounds on a decent stock photo from a reputable library.

A quick final example. Let's suppose for you want to use an image of a cute scotty dog puppy - why not skip off to Google Images and do a search on "scotty dog puppy". Gosh! 119,000 to choose from - you're spoilt for choice.

Click on an image. Google tells you "this image may be subject to copyright". What they should say is "This image is copyright". In 99.99% of cases they would be right. But by using the wet statement "may be subject to copyright" they are still correct and preserve the impression, shared by many, that unless there is a copyright notice next to or on the face of an image then it is fair game to grab it and use it. That impression, which preserves Google Images as the web's number one tool for finding images,  is what this article is intended to debunk.

So, are all those cute scotty dog images really copyright?  Well, if one was taken 100 years ago then it may be copyright free, or maybe the photo was taken in a third world country with no copyright laws. But the unfortunate reality is that copyright free is a concept too far, wishful thinking on the part of people who would like something for nothing.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

The undercliff from Saltdean to Rottingdean and a spot on curry

It was a short but spectacular walk today from Saltdean into Rottingdean via the undercliff walk to savour a wonderful carribean curry and pint of Sussex at the Queen Victoria. A great experience on all counts!

PS Welcome to 2011!