Saturday, September 29, 2007

Atlanta Panel Discussion - Roll the Videotape!



When PhotoShelter wanted to announce their PhotoShelter Collection (which I discussed here) they decided to travel the country doing a town hall series, and since I was already scheduled to be in Atlanta, I was asked to be on the panel discussion they had there.

If you'd like to see the video of that panel discussion, check out the PhotoShelter blog entry - Do the Wright Thing: PhotoShelter Town Hall in Atlanta.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

SportsShooter's Protecting You Against Image Theft!

When you travel with the President, you're inside a very tight protective circle, and it seems fairly calm, relatively speaking. However, what you don't realize is that if the President is on a boat, there are scuba divers below the water, if he's in a helicopter, there are other aircraft on the horizon, and high above protecting his every move. You never see these protective measures, and I'm not revealing anything that's not obvious when observed from the outside, but when you're inside, you just might now see everything. Today, I'm "inside the bubble" as security is preparing for the PBS Presidential Debate outside of Baltimore, so security is top-of-mind for me right now, thus, the reference to security as above.

Earlier today, I made a post about an article on SportsShooter Worth The Read - "I Shut Down The Little Rock Airport", and rather than copy their logo over to my site, where the URL would look like this:

http://66.39.113.170/images/sslogo6.gif

I simply copied the link from SportsShooter's home page, and it looked like this:

http://www.sportsshooter.com/pix/sslogo6.gif

If you're a frequent visitor to Sportshooter, as I am, that image is in my cache, and so it loaded without a problem. But with over 1,000 people viewing the blog today alone, the protective measures of SS kicked in, protecting their logo, just as they would protect someone from hot-linking to a photo you have in your portfolio on their site. Further, it just wasn't a "no image found" broken link, but rather, the genius behind the Sportshooter programming is that when they see heavy hits on a single image, they actually swap out the hot-linked photo for this graphic:






Nice huh? So, if you're worried about your images being hot-linked, rest assured that they've not only got your back covered, but have a nice little message for the thiefs. These are protective measures that, as with the President, you never know exist, but are none-the-less in place to keep your images secure. In my case, it was their logo, about their story, I've since fixed the issue, but I think you'll find it reassuring that they're looking out for you in ways you may not be aware of.

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Worth The Read - "I Shut Down The Little Rock Airport"

Eileen Blass of USA Today writes

Airline travel is a pain these days. I have been a staff photographer with USA TODAY for the last 18 years and I fly frequently. I've had my share of airport delays. Haven't we all? Lost luggage, long security lines, canceled flights, the works. Since 9/11, the two words I have heard most are "bag check". My travels on Friday August 24, 2007 gave the words "bag check" a whole new meaning. ...After checking in at the Delta counter,...I was enjoying my roast beef sandwich, when 20 minutes into our meal we --- and all others in the restaurant --- were told to leave immediately and proceed to the terminal exit. ...I was standing in the parking lot...Who was that official with Andrea...I was ready to ask questions, but he had a few for me. "Are you Eileen Blass" Yup, I said. "Are you flying out on Delta?" Uh huh. "Did you check a large black bag?" Yes. Then I heard my heartbeat in my head. Andrea and I looked at each other. Huh? This was my entire fault?




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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Redefining Image Resizing - "Content Aware"

When I first saw Microsoft's Sea Dragon technology, I was blown away. A demo of the application of that technology can be seen here. I am similarly amazed at how the videos below demonstrate a whole new world of resizing, whereby "priority" is given to certain items, either automatically, or via optional user interaction. Called "seam carving", or "content-aware image resizing", these techniques are sure to make it into Photoshop CS4, and are the new phrases to describe the techniques.

One concern I have, is how the resizing can alter perspective, and there are a few examples, where perspective changes are altered in the video.

Alternatively, the ability to also delete content by marking it as a first to delete, is very interesting indeed. This gives rise to the whole Getty $49 issue as it relates to the resizeability of those smaller files.


(Videos & Comments after the Jump)



Below is another example of content aware resizing (no audio on this one), using several images. For the image of the White House, you can see how the algorythms are "thinking", in keeping the White House itself the same, and diminishing the green lawn in the foreground, for example.



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Monday, September 24, 2007

A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Introduction

There are a number of people who complain about the copyright office’s turnaround times. The return time can vary from a quick turnaround of 1-2 months, to 9 months. It’s necessary to remember that the copyright office is processing thousands of requests at any given time, but more importantly, your registration date is effective when their office receives your completed application, fee, and deposit, not when you get the final form back.

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What follows is a pictoral display of every step of the registration process, including one or two you don’t want to know about personally (because you made a mistake), but are non-the-less integral to the system.

The Copyright Office (or, CO) is undergoing sweeping changes in terms of how they serve the public. Modernization of systems for electronic receipt of submissions to the imaging of forms, checks, and correspondence, means that the CO is always looking at how they can better serve the public. These images may be a bit dated as they were made at a point where modernization was taking place, however, they are, in my opinion, a revealing insight into all that goes into your registration, and why it was reasonable that the registration fee increased from $30 to $45 awhile back.

When the CO completes the process, we look forward to bringing you another look - behind the scenes - at the Copyright Office, of how their new, more automated world, brings it, and thus, your registrations, into the 21st century.


A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Your Registration Arrives

There are two ways for your registration application to find it’s way to the copyright office for registration. Soon, you’ll be able to submit electronically, but as of now, there’s only two ways.

The most common way is to mail/ship your registration. Sending the package via US Mail is one way, however, it’s recommended that you do that with a method which allows for you to receive a notification that it was received. Certified/Return Receipt Requested is highly recommended. However, solutions like Priority Mail, FedEx, DHL, or another overnight service is our preferred method for shipping.

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All packages go through a central receiving facility, where they are irradiated to ensure the shipment is safe. This protection was put into place following the 2001 anthrax attacks on the US Capitol, and since the Library is a part of that complex, all of it’s deliveries became subjected to that protective screening. One challenge that has arisen, is that CD’s may become damaged or non-readable by this process, and the CO may contact you to ask for another CD to be sent.

Once the packages have been processed for biological agents, they are then sent over, in rolling bins (as shown above), to the receiving station, officially called the Reciept Analysis Control Center, located in the Madison Building of the Library of Congress, to begin their processing.

A Walk Through The Copyright Office:

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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Come On In

If you are within driving distance of the Copyright Office, I highly recommend you deliver your registration by hand. There is just something fulfilling about walking in, presenting your application, and receiving a receipt for that registration. The office staff there are friendly and as helpful as they can be.

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When you arrive, there’s a fair amount of street parking to the East of the building, metered, and with a 2 hour limit where non-metered around the residences. Park, and head to the fourth floor, and coming off the elevators, you can’t miss the double doors right off the foyer. You can arrive as late as 5pm, but you can’t do credit card transactions after 4:30. I recommend you have a Deposit Account anyway (click here to learn how to set one up and maintain it), especially for ease of consistent registration. They’ll check your DA to ensure there is sufficient balance on the account to cover the registration(s) you’re dropping off, and hand you a receipt, and you’re done.

It's worth noting that the Copyright Office has begun their beta testing of it's "electronic Copyright Office", or "eCO", and participation is open to the public. If you're like to participate, check out Hot Topics at www.copyright.gov.

A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Step 2

Here, in the Reciept Analysis Control Center, items which are photocopies of items (as seen to the left) to be registered are deemed to fall into the “nonsecure" category, and are transported in open cases. This doesn’t mean they are being mis-handled, but rather, the items are considered to not be as fragile as other items that come into the office.

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So, rest-assured, the Copyright Office is handling your registration with care.

Items such as cassettes, valuable photographs, valuable CD's or CD-ROM's, video cassettes, film reels, adult materials, etc, are determined to be “secure" and are delivered in locked rolling carts to the Copyright Office (as seen, on the right.)

A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Step 3

However the CO receives your application, the first thing that has to happen, is someone has to ensure that you have a full and complete application. That’s where the Incomplete Claims Handling office (ICHA) comes in. The ICHA is looking for your registration to include 3 things – 1) A completed form (with your signature); Payment for the application (either a check, money order, DA account, or credit card receipt); and 3) the required deposit of the item(s) being registered.

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If the application is missing one of these items, the application gets set aside. Here, a Copyright Office staff person prepares to send a notice to the person registering their copyright that they did not provide all three of the required items are a part of the package that is presented. 1) Payment, 2), the proper registration form, and 3) the representations of the item to be copyrighted, whether printed, electronic, or recordings. If the item has not been published previously, all the items that were recieved are returned. If the item being presented for registration has been published, the Copyright Office retains the item(s), and sends along a special letter.


If the item has not been published previously, all the items that were recieved are returned, as is the case with this cover letter reading “SORRY, but you didn’t send us everything we need to register your claim to copyright, and we’re going to have to start all over". You’ll get this, and need to take care of whatever the problem was, and send it back. The CO sends detailed instructions as to how to do that.


If the item being presented for registration has been published, the Copyright Office retains the item(s) (as is the case with those filed on the shelves in the photograph below), and sends along a special letter, (as seen above and to the left). The letter essentially says the same thing, however, they are just making it easier for you (and them) by holding the already published items.

Time is of the essence, as the CO has a limited space for holding material, so address their concern, and get your response back to them.

A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Step 4

Next, an examiner reviews the contents of the registration request, to determine if the applicant's registration contains copyrightable authorship to be registered, has not been previously registered or published, or any other reasons why a registration should not be granted.

If the registration is granted, the examiner dates and signs the application on the front and back, and forwards it on.

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A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Step 4A (Optional)

This area is the Correspondence Control Unit. Here, should there be a problem with your registration, your paperwork will be placed on hold until you respond the correspondence sent to you from the copyright office.

Questions range from inquiries about the date listed as published, a concern about images on a CD, and so forth.

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A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Step 5

This area is the Data Processing Unit. The CO staff affix a bar-code to your registration, assigning it a number. This number is entered into the Library of Congress copyright office database, which is accessible both from the card catalog area of the Library, as well as via the Library's online services.

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A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Step 6

Nearing the end of the process, a Copyright Office staff person images (i.e. scans from analog printed sheet to a digital file) the completed form, once all the appropriate registration numbers have been applied to the form, and sends the item to be printed with the color logo of the Copyright Office.

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A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Step 7

The final registration form, complete with color logo, are sent to the person who has registered their work, after final inspection by a Copyright Office staff person.

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A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – All Done

Here, a Copyright Office staff person, or the general public, can look up a specific registration, and review and print an electronic version of the form, which is accessible from the card catalog area of the Copyright Office (as seen here). While you may get your form within a few months, they may not appear online for a few more months following that.

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A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Special Circumstances (For You)

There are a number of steps involved in the process of completing a copyright registration. The Copyright Office offers an expedited service, where you can have your entire registration completed within 5 to 10 days. A person is assigned to personally shepherd your registration through the many steps of the process, traveling to the many offices with your registration in hand, seeing to it that it gets done. This is a premium service, costing several hundred dollars per registration.

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A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Special Circumstances (For The CO)

There are a number of steps involved in the process of completing a copyright registration. Here, in the Materials Control Unit, librarians are asked to come in and review selected items presented for registration which the Library feels it would like to have both copies of the item being registered for the Library's collection. It is a rare case that the Library of Congress would request a photograph, but it retains the right to do so. Here, the Library has selected, and will correspond with the authors of a number of books to request copies for the Library's collection.

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A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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A Walk Through The Copyright Office – Closing Thoughts

This article should not have given you any instructions as to how to register, what is registerable, or the legality, or validity of any registration. To find information on how to register, head over to www.copyright.gov.

What it hopefully has done, is provide you with an understanding of just how the Copyright Office has done work in the past, and how it continues to serve the public moving forward. It’s no easy task, as there are thousands of applications that are made during any given month.


This piece was made possible, in part, by the in-roads that the Advertising Photographers of America made, and we thank them for those arrangements, and for all they continue to do for photographers on the copyright front.

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A Walk Through The Copyright Office:
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Sunday, September 23, 2007

It's Impossible to Charge Too Much

It's impossible to charge too much. Period. If you provide a client a figure for your services, and you outline all of the upcharges, add-ons, rush fees, and so forth, regardless of the price, and your client accepts the fees and expenses, then you are not charging too much, as they have agreed to pay that amount. If they don't want to pay that much, then, well, you can't charge them for that. Thus, while a bit of word play, it's impossible to charge too much.

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Dialing that back a bit, take a minute to examine what you're charging. First things first though, it's important to remember, that the main goal of being in business, is not to be doing lots of work, but, instead, it is to be profitable. For whatever you are charging, if you were to double your fees and licensing, and that resulted in a drop of 50% in your work, not only would you be earning the same in fees, but you would have more free time, and have to carry much less in expenses for each job. Now, this is a risky proposition, and, frankly, much too risky for me, but there are many photographers out there, at the $15/hr, $25/hr, and yes, even $50/hr, or, doing assignments for just $200-$400, that could easily do this, with much less risk.

Surely, a raise in rates will cause your more price conscious clients to drop off. That's ok, that just makes room for better paying clients who are less price conscious. I can't recall the last time a colleague said to me that he was slow and didn't have any money because he or she was charging too much, but I hear all the time from friends who aren't making any money because they arn't charging enough.

Further, low rates will wreak havoc on your profit margins and will damage your credibility. More than once, I was the only photographer, among three considered, that was priced appropriately, the others were so far below me that the client knew - they knew - the assignment could not properly be completed for those low figures, so I recieved the assignment. In addition, when you expect clients to hire you because you're the cheapest, you'll have just that - cheap clients - wanting to do business with you. That's no way to succeed, let alone, get ahead.

There is a general rule in business, which is that if 20% of your clients are not complaining about your fees, you're not charging enough. There's a very interesting article here about pricing and client ratios. The article discusses Pareto's Principle, " It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., '80% of your sales comes from 20% of your clients.'" The article posits "Many businesses put up with clients that consistently pay late, change their minds or appointments, expect miracles in terms of timing, insist and haggle over discounts and are just downright stressful to work with. It should be a privilege to do business with you; not a right."



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Photographer's Choice Chance

A few years agoor so, Getty (GYI) introduced Photographer's Choice, whereby Getty's contributors were paying $50 to have their image considered for inclusion in the Getty archive. By paying this, you didn't get premium page position, you just got included.

A number of photographers justified this in their mind by looking at the average sale of $500 for online sales, and much higher for print sales, felt that it was a worth it to take a chance at spending $50 to do so. Photographers were very selective in what they posted, because it had a direct cost to them. They looked at the numbers - if one sale of $500 was made, and they earned their 40%, that generated about $200 for them. Thus, it would be a zero-sum game if, for every four images they uploaded, one sold. It was slightly better for an average $900 print sale. Now, the tables have been upended. The $50 cost to photographers remains, but in order to cover the cost of just one, the revenue of $12.50 or so that the photographer gets has to be earned over 4 times, in order to cover the cost of one upload. Surely now, it's not Photographer's Choice, but rather, it's more aptly titled Photographer's Chance. What's also not discussed, is the abismal "all you can eat", or "subscription model", that Getty has had ongoing. One photographer I've spoken with reviewed their statement with me recently, and showed their share of a subsciption sale as $2.16 for an image that went online.

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According to the $49 FAQ, the "500KB 72 dpi file...depends on a few variables such as color versus black and white." Ok, so we'll presume that the 500kb file is color, and they say " this is designed as an ongoing product, not a limited-time offer." The files are listed as "web res", not "for the web only." So, "Royalty-free images may be used multiple times for multiple projects", thus, any RF image can be used repeatively in both print and electronic. This may not be explicitly stated, however, when it's said that " Rights-ready images may be used in web or electronic media for commercial or editorial projects such as websites or email for three months" that specifically stipulates electronic only, it becomes more clear. Further, this isn't about a high school book report. IBM or General Motors can use the files for the same price, with millions of impressions. And then there's "Rights-managed images may be used in one commercial or editorial website, email or mobile project for three months." Here's my bet on this three months concession they made. They either won't enforce it, or, they will piss of their clients when, 90 days after download an e-mail goes out to the clients saying they have to pony up again, or delete the file from their site, or, the Getty legal department will become overburdened with chasing all these $49 unauthorized uses, that they won't have time for anything else, and then, in turn, they just won't pursue all the overdue payments, and clients will get the idea that it's open season on paying once for Getty images, and never bother to renew. Or, when they do pursue the claim, and end up in court, a opposing counsel will claim selective enforcement, demonstrating that the claim before the judge is just one of only 1% of the infringements that Getty is pursing, and thus, since Getty doesn't agressively pursue all claims, that the one in question should be either dismissed, or diminished. It's a downward spiral to be sure.

And While Getty is saying here, "This means you can get your hands on any creative, news, sport, entertainment or archival image for just $49.*", that asterisk directs readers to the "fine print", which reads "*This pricing may not be combined with any other offers, discounts or pricing agreements and does not include images from Image Source or Arnold Newman Collection, or select editorial images." So, somehow, Arnold Newman got exempt (and deservedly so), so did Image Source, and where they refer to "select editorial images", I draw the educated assumption that they are referring to breaking news event images and those which they have exclusive rights to, among others. This image of Brad Pitt on People's website is $49 to People, unless, of course, it falls into the "select editorial images" category.

Boy, there sure are several windows of exception there. But, consider carefully the stipulations, "72 dpi", which is "web res", and further, has a maximum of "500kb." How does that math work, in reverse? Well, a 150dpi file, which can be used in newspapers and other print outlets, allows easily for a 2.3" x 3" file. A 300dpi file is 1.2" x 1.6". To give you an idea, here's a file of mine that I sized to fit the 500kb size, and that's not a small file to be sure.

According to a press release dated 9/21/07, "The Association of Photographers (AOP) have joined forces with an international coalition of photographic trade associations, led by The Stock Artists Alliance (SAA), to protest at Getty Images plan to launch a $49 web use (500 px wide, 72 dpi) across all licensing models (RM, RR, RF)."

From the release, AOP Awards Gold Winner and IPA Professional Photographer of the Year 2007, George Logan, said:
"I have been becoming increasingly disenchanted with Getty for some time and this $49 'promotion' is the final straw. I find it truly insulting that I might receive approx £12.50 per image sold. I do not want to be associated with a company who would sell off my work in such a cheap and crass manner.

This is not what I got into photography for and I know I am not alone...every other photographer I have spoken to, including many of their major contributors, feels the same way.

I shall no longer submit images to Getty and will withdraw my existing collection at the soonest opportunity.
Well respected photographer, and AOP Member, Jo Sax, said:
"$49 for a digital media license is an affront to the time, funding and energy that goes into producing a high quality creative photograph.

I am not prepared to have my work devalued this way.

Additionally, negotiating for a fair digital media fee on commissioned work may become a real sticking point. I work with several agencies that also license stock from Getty. The disparate pricing this new Getty 'product' introduces will confuse the market at every level.

I am terminating my contract with Getty Images, and I would like to ask other GI photographers to examine this situation carefully and then respond appropriately.
So, it seems that Getty's decision to do this will diminish, in a qualitatively and quantitatively significant way, the content in their archives. I have spoken with several Getty contributors stateside, and their tact is the same. They're ceasing providing the high quality images they're known for, and also are considering (and some planning on) yanking their images, and Getty's right to license them to photo buyers. Some are going to Alamy, others to PhotoShelter, or Digital Railroad, others to other solutions.

Note to Getty's hard drive suppliers, your orders will be slowing down. Note to Getty's scanning and keywording services - you will soon have more time on your hands. And, note to the Getty photo editors - a few of you should be polishing your resumes, as it's belt-tightening time at GYI.
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