I've written about BusinessWeek before ( Diversification and A Variety of Clients, 2/11/07), and usually in more positive terms. A piece datelined July 28, 2008 - Cheap Photo Sites Pit Amateurs Vs. Pros - sub-titled "Graphic design and photography pros are scrambling to stay viable as barriers to entry fall and stock agencies buy from hobbyists", misses it's mark in several places.
When author John Tozzi writes:
Affordable digital cameras and desktop design software unlocked the tools of these trades, but the dilemma isn't unique to visual professionals.He misses an important point. Unlocking the "tools of these trades" is like handing a pipe wrench from aisle 3, or a voltmeter from aisle 18 of your local Home Depot to a weekend warrior, and then calling those Jacks a plumber and an electrician. Fortunately, because their work runs the risk of flooding a basement, or burning down a house and killing someone, both fields have licensing requirements for them to practice their trade, and the sides of their vehicles read "Licensed, Bonded, and Insured."
Where's the license to call yourself a photographer? We should consider the idea (most recently) put forth by New York State, that wedding photographers obtain a license to do their jobs, and put up a $5,000 bond. (Proposal here).
Then the article goes on to suggest:
The line separating professionals from dabblers blurred a little more on July 8, when leading stock photo agency Getty Images partnered with photo-sharing site Flickr (YHOO) to bring select Flickr users into the Getty collection.No, that's not quite right either. The line that separates professionals and dabblers wasn't blurred, the professional business of Getty Images sought to sell (i.e. monetize) the images of these dabblers. The dabblers aren't all of a sudden (even slightly more) professionals, a professional business is now looking to sell the works of "select Flickr users".
Instead, it might have been said "The largest stock photography business in the world sought to pick the best images from the dabblers who upload their images to Flickr, allowing Getty Images to round out their library with images they don't have sufficient holdings of, and incorporate images that are already ready to be licensed, and who's producers are not as knowledgeable about what their images are worth."
Then the article just doesn't get it, when they write:
So how much do the new Web offerings really hurt these pros? Defenders argue they've created a new market at a lower price range for customers who never would have paid the fees professional designers or traditional photo agencies charge. "The great thing that we see in the emergence of microstock is that it's significantly expanding the pool of people paying for imagery," says Getty Chief Operating Officer Nick Evans-Lombe.Nor does Getty get it. Yes, I agree that a person working on a term paper will now be able to incorporate a photo for $1 that they might not have. But gone is the inquiry "is this for a term paper, or an annual report?" This contemplating that the production of the term paper takes the image producers photograph and it benefits one person, and for the annual report, that image benefits tens of thousands (or millions) of people. If I could be certain to a significant degree that my images priced at $1 (maybe $5?) would only go to term papers, and in a family scrap book because they just couldn't find a postcard (or take their own photo) to memorialize how they remembered a location they visited, and my image did that for them, I might just consider that license - provided that I didn't have to make any of my own effort to affect the transaction.
Evans-Lombe is just missing the point here. If there were 100 people licensing images before, and now there's 1,000 because the per-image price has dropped from an average of $200 to an average of $1, those additional 1,000 people won't make up for the lost revenue from the 100 people from before. In fact, stories about about photo buyers who are buying those $1 images and charging the same to their end client as before - pocketing a difference that is rightfully due the photographer.
Here's where the article really starts to go downhill in it's credibility (no, it hadn't hit rock-bottom yet) - they cite Derek Powazek, who identifies himself as "designer, photographer, and CEO of Pixish". All Powazek has to do is add Ms. Daisy's driver, Beatnik, and rabble-rouser to his list of things he "is", and I think he's got a double trifecta. Maybe though, it depends on the meaning of what "is" is?
We previously wrote about Pixish (Pixish - Stupid Is, As Stupid Does, 2/12/08), and the article notes that "Powazek argues that the people posting jobs on his site, who generally offer rewards of $100 or less...", but did the author bother to check some of the silly "job" postings? Powazek himself offered:
"Fray's Geek Issue - Winners will be published in Fray issue 2. Winners will get a few copies of the book, credit and promotion on the website, and our eternal thanks."ETERNAL THANKS? But wait - it gets more laughable. Another request from Powazek -
A Leaf in the River Tattoo - The Details - I want your work on my body - I will paypal the winner $100 and email them a photo of their work on my arm upon completion.Other "rewards" we highlighted
"The winner will get a hearty pat on the back"; and then there's "The prize is priceless: My love and admiration. ... But really, do prizes and goodies drive your craft? Are you in this game because you love to see a grown man smile?"; or try this one - "You'll bring serenity, hope and joy to people who really need it. Isn't it great?"No, actually, it's not great, Derek. Yet no doubt, Dereks' venture capitalists will be pleased to see their little gem (my VC friends, that's CZ you're admiring, not a FL/4Ct/D/Trillion you've spotted) cited in BusinessWeek. Yet, Pixish will be a part of the roadkill of Web 2.0. Bet on it.
Then, on a (supposedly) hopeful note, they cite PhotoShelter (yes friends, an advertiser here on the blog)
"One company positioning itself as a photographer-friendly alternative to microstock sites with its PhotoShelter site is Bitshelter."Yet after citing it, they are more than happy to find the photographer who hasn't made a sale, " San Francisco freelancer Lane Hartwell said she never made a sale on PhotoShelter, nor had any colleagues she knew of."
Yet, Hartwell's site shows she has 98 images (search results here) on her personal site, and just FORTY-TWO available for sale/licensing on the PhotoShelter site she's complaining about (see graphic). but of course She has 24 of Barack Obama (here), 14 of Ted Kennedy (here), and FOUR random others (here). The search of ALL of her images can be seen here.
Apparently, Hartwell could well find herself a Flickr/Getty Images photographer? Or, perhaps not. This Wired Article (Why Lane Hartwell Popped the 'Bubble' Video, 12/14/07), refers to her as "A constant chronicler of the local technology and art scenes, she's about as "wired" as a photographer could be, documenting everything from colorful geek parties to the annual Burning Man festival."
The article starts "When one of Lane Hartwell's photographs showed up without her permission in a popular viral video, she wasn't flattered. She was frustrated... she switched her Flickr account to private, pulling most of her 5,000 images out of public view.", because prior to that "A magazine plucked an image from her Flickr account, and many websites have stolen her images", and "Gutting her public Flickr account was a simple act of self-protection, said Hartwell."
I will say this though, in defense of Hartwelll, when the article suggests "She admits some people react like she's a "crazy cat lady" when she stands up for her right to protect her works, an unpopular stance in certain online circles", I say go get more cats. Go get more crazy. But she'll have to have a lot more than 42 cats up for sale to generate revenue from PhotoShelter, so complaining when you have that few isn't a valid complaint - especially for subjects so over-photographed as Obama and Kennedy! Worse, why didn't the BusinessWeek reporter ask her questions like "how many photos do you have up for sale?" That would seem like an obvious question to ask.
Grover Sanschagrin, Co-Founder and VP of Business Development of PhotoShelter notes, "if people expect to sell images like crazy and take business away from Getty, they're gonna have to whole-heartedly participate in the movement that displaces them. Photographers who stand on the sidelines with a 'wait-and-see' mindset have no right to complain about the state of the industry."
Sounds to me like somebody's got some keywording, captioning, and uploading to do, post-haste.
Dan Heller, who's blog (Dan Heller's Photography Business Blog) has gone dormant since mid-May, noted at the end of the piece "Selling yourself is not selling your photos," Heller says. "You can't say, 'My images are worth a premium,' but you can say, 'I am worth a premium.' " Well said, Dan.
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