Saturday, February 24, 2007

UPDATED: Getty Infringement

Ok, so, just as I hate it that people are stealing Microsoft's Windows, and Adobe Photoshop, I too get upset when the Galactic Empire's IP gets (allegedly) stolen. Worse yet, it's by an organization I really admire -- The Consumerist.

To the right, you see this story about CompUSA closings, and the Getty Images watermark. Here, I am writing a commentary about the (alleged) theft of the image and the story, and, as such, it is fair use, however, The Consumerist is using the photo to illustrate the story, something Getty should be paid for. Getty's browse results return images with the watermark, and images for which a fee is paid and license granted have the image available without the watermark.

Now, perhaps, this is a diabolical scheme whereby Getty opts not to pursue the infringement, because it's a free ad on a really popular site whereby their name appears prominently, or, perhaps they are allowing for the free use because the watermark is so prominent....hmmmm...


Ok, so, one of you intrepid readers took the bull by the horns and called our friends at Consumerist on this, and, according to what I can only presume is a true/complete transcript of the dialog with them, reveals that there may well be some diabolical relationship, or, perhaps, it's just an oversight on the part of the good people of Consumerist.

If that's the case though, then why is this now the article? It's the same article, but the photo has been removed entirely, not replaced with a non-watermarked one.

On the heals of that photograph however, comes a bit of history. A search of The Consumerist yields these results showing that, somewhere, the image is in a cue/database/archive, and is still in there, with the watermark, yet when you click on it, the above article appears, sans photo.

It gets potentially more diabolical looking....
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Friday, February 23, 2007

Pathetic Item of the Day

From our friends at the, comes this little insight:

Greeley Tribune has agreed to end a years-old practice of copying stories from competing newspapers and falsely labeling them as Associated Press stories, the newspaper’s publisher said today.

“That’s clearly a very bad journalism practice,” said Steve Weaver, the Tribune’s publisher...Weaver said the practice began several years ago when Chris Cobler was the newspaper’s editor. Cobler is currently overseeing the paper’s online operations and announced this week that he was leaving to take a job with the Poynter Institute, a St. Petersburg, Fla., organization that provides training programs for professional journalists.
Read Entire Article

So, he's now going to train the next generation and teach existing professionals that, well, now it's okay to infringe and miscredit articles - especially from your cross-town competition. I'd just love to see this happen between the New York Times and New York Post, or, the Washington Post and Washington Times. Nice. Lawyers, start your engines!

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Your Desktop

When you're taking your laptop (or, maybe desktop for a big shoot) on location to an assignment, what does your desktop look like? Is it professional? Helpful?

Typically, when the laptop - which is technically referred to as our "Digital Imaging Workstation" on invoices, comes out, the client is incuring charges for the convenience of having an imaging workstation on site, where they can preview images, edit captions, and via high speed wireless immediately deliver images, while still on site. It's akin to a client hiring a videographer, and having a satellite truck on site to accomplish that task. In that case, Sat trucks start at about $5k and go up. The point is, when providing that service, there is an appropriate charge, usually quantified per e-mail, that accompanies that use. So, you want to ensure that the client isn't seeing images of your family, you on vacation somewhere, or something otherwise unprofessional. Plus, it takes like 30 seconds to switch the desktop to a professional look, so just do that when heading out on an assignment.

If you have dozens of files on the desktop, clear it off! Make a folder titled "Desktop Files - as of Feb2907" and just put everything in there. You can always move it out afterwards, but a client looking over your shoulder at the screen could see files you don't want them to - like other client folders, or other ad agency/magazine folders.

Your desktop should serve as a backdrop and tool to help you accomplish your work. Colored backdrops can throw your eye off, so I took the standard backdrop that I liked, and made it greyscale, I then added my logo, and a 10-step greyscale. This ensures that I can see that I can render all the levels of brightness, and, is often a question asked by the client -- "What's that?" I respond "Oh, that is a greyscale that ensures that while we are editing your photos, that we can faithfully see the entire scale of brightness as we are working on them." Clients respond well to that.

Here's the logo/greyscale that appears on my desktop:

By clicking on the graphic, my entire desktop graphic comes up, which is 1,600 x 1,024 pixels, properly fit for my laptop. I have different sizes for each my my machines. When you create your own custom desktop, whether for a 12" laptop, or a 30" LCD, do so at whatever resolution settings you have chosen.

It's the little things like this that add to a clients' overall perception of you as a professional, and one that knows what they're doing.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Save the Date: February 26th (Next Monday), Chicago Bound for Free Presentation!

I'm headed to Chi-town! The last time I was in Chicago it was for a guerilla-style photo shoot along the shoreline, no permits, no plan (as the client dictated), and, at one point, no subject! (ask me about that at the presentation.) I am looking forward to my trek there to talk business with a bit more advance planning! Each time I gather with a group of people who are so focused on growing their knowledge about the somewhat confusing side of the business of photography, I get excited. If you've got a copy of my book, and feel it'll be worth more when you sell it on e-bay with my signature, bring it down and I'll be happy to sign it, as it's not for sale there.

Here are the details, as set forth by our friends at Apple, and the Advertising Photographers of America, who are jointly sponsoring this free lecture series.

Pro Sessions: The Business of Photography

Program description:
If you had your way, pro photography would be all about the photographs. But how you handle copyright issues, releases, and marketing is just as important to your success. Catch the current series of Pro Sessions—presentations that let you hear firsthand from creative professionals—to learn how top photographers manage the less glamorous side of things.

Program begins: 7:00pm

Directions to the store: Apple Store North Michigan Avenue, Chicago
Other lecture series details:

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Client Deliverables - Part II

So, how many times have you had a client call to say "the color is too dark", "to pink", or they otherwise object to how it looks on their screen?

There are several factors causing this - screen age, viewing environment, calibration, and gamma. "That's not my problem!" you say. Yes, it is your problem if you want to keep the client happy. Just as it was our problem to ensure that the prints we delivered back in the days of analog was our problem (which usually meant we pressed our lab to print things right, meaning color balance was their problem), or we ensured that the E-6 lab (may they rest in peace) processed the slide film accurately, and we further chose film that did not have any color cast (rue the day you shot Velvia with any type of flash -- hello 30 points magenta!), it is our problem that what the client sees on their screen is as faithful a rendition as possible of what we saw on our screen. So, let me explain the above factors.

If you''ve ever seen a non-flatpanel (i.e. old school screen type) where you can see that something's been displayed on the screen for a very long time, that's called screen burn in, and is a demonstration of the fact that the screen's phosphors age and wear out. That is why screen savers were invented - literally, to save the screen from constantly displaying one image, thus causing that image to burn into the screen. Where items and objects move (like the flying toasters, or the manufacturers logo) the burn won't happen. On an LCD screen, there is much less likeliness that you'll get screen burn, what you usually get is " temporary image persistence", meaning that the image looks like it's burned in, but most of the time, it goes away after a short period of time. A typical LCD lifespan is 50,000 hours of use compared to 15000 to 25000 for a CRT. Lifespan, however, is referring to when it will no longer function, not when it can no longer be calibrated. I would submit that those figures are about half of the above numbers. So, for a CRT, where someone has their computer on 10 hours a day, that's about 2.8 years on the short end, and when left on continuously, that's a lifespan of less than 1 year. For the LCD, at half-life, that's 2.85 years before you can expect your LCD to fail.

To that end, when I am talking to a concerned client, I will ask them casually how long they've worked at their job. When they say "oh, I've been hear four years", and I then ask "have they given you a new computer since then? New Monitor?" When they say "no", I know the culprit immediately.

Another factor that could cause the client to express concern about the image quality is the environment a monitor sits in (and that means, the desk where your client is reviewing your images) affects how the image looks. Reflections from windows, lights, and so on will cause the image to look different. Further, while it may be possible to have an infinite range of color on an analog monitor, a computer can't deliver on that capability, since the ratio of intensity between brightest white and darkest black is called the contrast ratio and it changes for each environment. Images presented using an analog slide projector has a contrast ration of approximately 80:1, however, because of overhead lights, window light, and so on, most office environments have a limit of about 5:1.

One more point to be concerned about is the fact that images on a PC look darker than on a Mac. Why? Read Gamma Correction for Macs and PCs for a really great explanation of the issue of Gamma on each machine. Suffice to say, it IS different.

Lastly, if you've ever walked into a Circuit City or Best Buy, and looked at a wall full of monitors, displaying the same image, but some looking better than others, while brand can be a point, the more germaine point is that none of the monitors were adjusted and calibrated to look their best, they were unboxed, and plugged in. Further, I've heard of sales managers going in and making the "on sale" monitor look it's best by making adjustments to the color/sharpness and so on causing the buying public to gravitate to the one on sale. The point is, you must calibrate your monitor using the Pantone Eye-One Display 2 or the ColorVision Spyder2PROcalibrators so that you have set your monitor to a known industry standard scale. Once you've done that, whatever you deliver, will be independantly "perfect", and when someone looks at the image on a non-calibrated monitor, you will have some ground to stand on, and a review of the image(s) on the monitor in the clients' art or graphics departments (where hopefully they are calibrated) will alleviate your clients' concerns.

Once you've gotten yourself squared away, the next thing to do is square away your client. I created a faux-calibrator that gives me some standing with the client. Below is the image, and you are welcome to click on it to see the image larger (and thus, more readable), that accompanies EVERY client deliverable we send out.
So, when the call comes in, I simply ask the client to go to the first image they see, which is the image above. I then ask "At what point along the bottom do you begin to see a shift where there is a line between the numbers?" When they say "between 3 and 4" I know there is a problem. (oh, and for those of you saying "yeah, that's where I see the change", you need to be calibrated! Click above and spend the $200 on a calibrator, I own the Eye One brand. On the scale, there is a change in darkness, by 10%, from 1 to 2, 2 to 3, and so on.) Then, when they say something about the background looking slightly pink (ususally preceeded by my saying "does the background of the image look a little pink?" I then help them with some very basic adjustments to their monitor, usually resulting about 99 times out of 100 with them saying "oh, the images look so much better now....", and that client is no longer believing that I was the problem, but realizing that it not only was just their monitor, but, more importantly, I was willing to walk them through fixing the problem, and that I knew how to fix it.

For a really valuable client, I have been known to bring my software and hardware down, and calibrate their monitor for them, or, on one occasion, I spent the $200 and bought the client the calibrator, installed it, and showed them how to calibrate it themselves. This client has come back to me time and time again, as I am a trusted "vendor", who cares to go the extra distance to serve their needs, and has, far and away, paid me for the nominal investment of the give-away calibrator.

Many years ago, well regarded boston photographer Stan Rowin gave me permission to replicate his more advanced screen calibration that he has on his website, on mine. Here's mine: and as you can see, that counsel - encouraging any clients with a problem, to visit that URL on my site, is in each deliverable. Stan has a link on his home page whereas my link is not, it's just a URL that the client can enter if they are so inclined.

When you can address this issue right off the back, you can can alleviate any client complaints about image quality as a result of work done on your end.

also, with the filename "0-set-screen-color" it always places that file at the beginning of the image catalog delivered, or at the top of the folder directory, so I am always sure they've seen it.

With this, I hope that you find you are able to better serve clients, and more importantly, help them resolve image quality concerns.

Next on this topic of calibration, is my desktop graphic...stay tuned.

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