Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful? Yes, and No

Yes, we have a lot to be thankful for this year. Below are several of the positive things personally and professionally that are worth noting and being thankful for. After that, are the things - like when a car splashes a huge puddle of water on you as you wait to cross the street, and exclaim "yeah, hey, THANKS for that..." followed by some form of an expletive.

The Brighter Side:

  • THANKS for GIVING me and my family health this past year
  • THANKS for GIVING me a profitable year this past year
  • THANKS for GIVING me great new friends and the time to maintain old friendships
  • THANKS for GIVING me so many great clients and amazing experiences while making photos
  • THANKS for GIVING me the time and mental space to produce a second edition to the book that was an instant bestseller on Amazon
  • THANKS for GIVING us one less Getty Images department to produce wholey owned content
  • THANKS for GIVING us one more year without the headache of Orphan Works legislation
  • THANKS for GIVING us one more Flickr photo mis-use to further demonstrate to clients the risks of Flickr photos, eventually ALL respectable and responsible ad agencies and design firms will self-ban Flickr photos (one can dream, right?)
The Darker Side:
(Continued after the Jump)

  • THANKS for GIVING us a Copyright Office that has an all-but-non-working electronic Copyright Office online submission process because no group registration filings are allowed, and then hiding the Form VA so almost no one can find it on the Copyright Office website.
  • THANKS for GIVING us an economy that blows
  • THANKS for GIVING us more and more clients who don't value good photography
  • THANKS for GIVING us more microstock crap to further devalue stock photography
  • THANKS For GIVING us more people who call themselves "professional photographers" but who are anything but.
  • THANKS For GIVING us photographers who think that a few dollars is plenty for a magazine cover or a book cover.
  • THANKS For GIVING us clients who think that working for free is reasonable.
  • THANKS for GIVING us clients who want to do their own post/retouching, and then cry in their soup when it blows up in their face.
Feel free to add your own brighter or darker side THANKS in the comments.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Microstock Creates New Markets? - No, It Devastates Existing Ones

I hear all to often that "microstock creates new markets". Ok, so let's take that statement at face value, and agree with it, but break it down to see what monster has actually been "created." defines market in several ways, the most applicable to this statement is "a body of existing or potential buyers for specific goods or services."

To say "microstock creates new markets" makes it appear is if this is a good thing. However, not all markets are good, or even legal. "easy access to Pseudoephedrine creates new meth markets", or "the decline in police patrols created new open air drug markets." The cash-for-clunkers program grew the market for new cars. Yet, that program not only damaged the used car market for buyers who could never afford a new car and now have fewer used cars to choose from (thus raising the prices of those still available) but also spiked the new car market in the early part of the year at the expense of later-in-the-year sales, according to some reports.

(Continued after the Jump)

Microstock didn't come into the market to serve high school children who need school report images, or even the mom-and-pop corner store. They came in like a drunk bull in a china shop with careless regard for the devastation on the existing market. Jonathan Klein, co-founder of Getty Images, on justifying the acquisition of iStockphoto, suggested all the new markets they could go into. Yet, iStockphoto is going to kill off the golden egg goose that was Getty Images. Sources suggest iStockphoto will be spun off in 2010 and go public.

Microstock has taught image buyers that most photography is worth pennies on the dollar of what it used to be worth. Yet, time and time again, normally responsible buyers get burned by the use of microstock and create confusion when the same image they chose is one that the competition is using (or has already used.)

Every time an entrpreneur turns around with some hair-brained idea, they have usually surmised "there's a market for X", and then proceed to demonstrate how they can actually serve that market. Yet, the reality is that the market must be sustainable. The dot-com boom era is a wasteland of non-sustainable markets where billions were lost. The money in the gold rush was not in the actual gold, but the suppliers of the tools and equipment that the miners used. The money in microstock is not in the images, but in aggregating the content of people who don't care about getting paid, and then taking a fraction of a dollar for the image license. The profits in microstock are like end products where the pollution dumped into fragile eco-systems as a part of the process is simply disregarded. Today, countries like China who don't give a hoot about their environment or worker satisfaction are polluting the skies and streams with the post-manufacturing waste, and living wages are not paid to workers there either. As a result, US manufacturing can't compete, and irreversible damage has been done. In the same vein of thinking, microstock photographers have little to no regard for the damage they are doing to the photographic environment, causing immensely talented photographers to close up shop. A few pennies for a book cover or national magazine cover is just enough for a latte, and beyond that, the digital-camera-toting enthusiast couldn't care less.

Stop saying "microstock creates markets" and instead try "microstock markets are devastating existing profitble markets."

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

W Magazine - The Case of the Missing Hip

The blogosphere is abuzz about whether or not Demi Moore's hip has been photoshopped in the latest cover of W magazine. Here are some resources for you to check out

Boing Boing's article - Was Demi Moore Ralph-Laurenized on "W" mag cover, with missing hip-flesh? - takes one look at it, and the Consumerist chimes in with - Somewhere, Out There, A Piece Of Demi Moore's Hip Is Looking For Its Home, and follows up with Fashion Photographer Offers $5,000 Reward For Demi Moore's Hip.

Interestly enough, Demi Moore chimes in with a tweet of what she purports to be the original, un-retouched image, here.

(Continued after the Jump)

From Moore's perspective, that may well be the original image that she saw. To her, it is the image before she provided any retouching guidance. Yet, it is entirely possible that the photo retouchers either in-house or sub-contracted out, were told which the best series of images were, and to do basic retouching before presenting them to Moore for approval and additional guidance. The last thing that W would want would be for Moore to kill the entire shoot and then not be available for a re-shoot in time for deadlines.

Here though, is where the photographer, Anthony Citrano, makes a mistake. In the infamous Ralph Lauren ad, it was a retouchers error, not the photographers, that caused the outcry. Generally speaking, celebrities have specific approved retouchers that they know will make them look their best, just as each celebrity and publicist has their own approved photographers that they will use. Whether or not the retoucher in question here was a Demi-approved one or not, we don't know. However, what I do believe is that the photographer should have just stayed out of this. Yet, he hasn't. He sent Consumerist a high resolution version of the photo (which could a breach of his contract with W), and he tweeted an offer of $5,000 to charity "f that's really the original." (tweet here).

I am of the opinion that the photographer made a mistake because he's highly likely to have done damage to his reputation with W in speaking out against them and making them look bad in a public manner. He could have included some language requiring his approval of final art before it being published, however I highly doubt he would have had that kind of clout. Moore, no doubt, did, and he - the photographer - needed to have just let this go. Editorial publications can crop and manipulate images to whatever extent their editorial policies allow. Some publications allow only for contextual cropping (i.e. cropping so that the message of the image is made more clear without subverting the original context) and reasonable dodging/burning, and others allow for wholesale manipulations. W, which holds itself out as:
"W is the only pure luxury fashion and lifestyle magazine."
Might be in breach of the modifier "pure", if they allowed retouching. However, with an audience that does real-world retouching (i.e. Botox, etc) perhaps the modifier "pure" refers to something else, and their audience doesn't care? The next sentence in their advertising section suggests:
"The magazine's journalistic heritage provides the ultimate insider experience an original, provocative approach to fashion, beauty, society, art, culture, travel and entertainment."
"Journalistic heritage?" Really? That suggests a higher standard then, where retouching should be verbotten.

The continued use of Adobe's Photoshop has become so commonplace that it is becoming a verb, and Adobe isn't happy. Their guidelines state:
"The Photoshop trademark must never be used as a common verb or as a noun."
and goes on to note:
Trademarks are not verbs.

Correct: The image was enhanced using Adobe® Photoshop® software.
Incorrect: The image was photoshopped.
This makes sense, as Xerox had one heck of a problem with people saying "I need a xerox copy..."

In the end, W joins the list of publications where it is a part of the public discourse that they use Photoshop to modify images that are not honest, along with many other publications. The photographer, however, should have stayed out of the fray.

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