Saturday, August 23, 2008

PhotoSynth - The Landscape of Photography is about to Change

Two years ago, I was blown away by the demonstration I saw during a visit to the Microsoft campus of the PhotoSynth application. I wanted so much to get my hands on it.

Then, when speaking this past July at the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit, they announced it would be coming out this Fall. I was SO excited to get my hands on it.

Now, they've announced its' available immediately for you to use with your own images.

So, what do their Terms of Use say?

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In relevant part to rights:
Except for material that we license to you, we do not claim ownership of the materials you post or provide on the service, and you reserve all other rights (including copyrights) in your materials. However, with respect to content you post or provide you grant to those members of the public to whom you have granted access (for content posted on shared and private areas of the service) or to the public (for content posted on public areas of the service) free, unlimited, worldwide, and nonexclusive permission to:
use, modify, copy, distribute and display the content solely in connection with the service;
publish your name in connection with the content; and
grant these rights to others.
These rights do not allow Microsoft or anyone else to use your materials separate from the service. The service may enable you to include licenses that allow Microsoft or third parties to use your materials separate from the service, but such licenses are not applicable to use of your materials in connection with the service. Microsoft is not responsible for third parties violating the license you provide.
All rights granted herein terminate when you remove your content from the service.

Whew! That last sentence is especially positive. It's clear here that Microsoft wants to share whatever you create on PhotoSynth, but not trample on your rights.

Sadly, I am stuck for the next few days in the Baltics, with a very slow internet connection, or I'd be uploading images right now. They've got a blog here, and you can begin to set up an account and work with it here.

I had expected I could download an application, and synth the photos locally, but that's not the case. I hope that will the case in the future. Speaking of the future, If you saw Blade Runner, this technology might look familiar - Deckard used something very similar in the movie - hit this link to see the segment that's on YouTube about it. Strange to see movies predict the future, except that PhotoSynth is so much more!

The application requires Windows, and, thanks to my trusty Parallelsapplication, I can use it within a window on my Mac.

Since July, I've been dreaming of ways to use this application to serve my clients with an immersive experience either of what I do, or what their product or service does for the public. I see the landscape of photography and its' experiential nature changing as a result of PhotoSynth - photography will be much more interactive, and this will give viewers/users an experience that video cannot, because the user can explore within the scene - a radical new concept.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Weakened Copyright Thanks to an Old Fogel

No greater example that I can think of comes to mind when photo consultant Leslie Burns-Dell’Acqua (soon to be lawyer!) writes on her blog - It’s not whether you win (8/21/08) - "In law school, one of the very first things they teach you is that the law is not even close to black and white–it’s an interpretation of meanings and previous decisions" than the latest news on the Copyright front smacked down by the judicial fiat of U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel where we copyright owners now have to

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consider "fair use" before we send a DMCA Takedown Notice to someone for stopping the infringement of our works online.

Wired reports in Judge: Copyright Owners Must Consider 'Fair Use' Before Sending Takedown Notice, 8/210/08:
"In the nation's first such ruling, a federal judge on Wednesday said copyright owners must consider "fair use" of their works before sending takedown notices to online video-sharing sites...The DMCA requires removal of material a rights holder claims is infringing its copyrights. If it isn't removed, legal liability can be placed on YouTube or other video-sharing sites."
See Carolyn Wright's post - Using the DMCA Takedown Notice to Battle Copyright Infringement - 8/1/08 , for more information on how you do that.

This judge's fiat takes the notion of the law not being black or white and makes is fuchsia!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dispatches From the Edge: Avoiding Excess Baggage Charges

One of the things that I hear often from colleagues is about the cost and logistics of travelling with photo and computer equipment. Nowadays, travelling with a digital workstation is almost always a given.

I am on assignment (today) in Stockholm, and will be doing heavy image processing and backups for the duration of the trip, so having a computer in the rooms wherever I am is critical.

Taking a computer safely and securely is an absolute necessity, so we have cases made that do just that. Today, we're highlighting our VersaFlex case that we use to transport - domestically (and now internationally) our 24" iMac.

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Dispatches From the Edge: 40,000 Feet

When I talk to friends and colleagues, every once and awhile the conversation turns to how I accomplish whatever multitudes of projects I am juggling. Many friends get emails from me at 3am, others via my iPhone midday, many wonder about the intern program I maintain year-round, juggling speaking and answering e-mails from a variety of colleagues about their own negotiations, running the blogs, and, oh, right, shooting (which is what actually pays the bills).

The answer to how I do it is:

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Time-slicing and multi-tasking. Above is a photo of my workspace at 40,000 feet, enroute an assignment overseas for 14 days. Normally, the time from when someone leaves the office to when they board the plane to arrive at their final destination would be down-time. Here's what transpired during that time for me:

Depart Office - 11:45 am - Took assistant with me to discuss what she's doing and the analog-to-digital project she's working on. The ride was 45 minutes. 35 minutes was spent discussing that, and 10 minutes was spent on the phone with a photographer in the midwest who was looking for advice on how to handle pricing an assignment he was being asked to do. I'd previously taken his call before leaving the office, and asked him to call me at 12:30, which he did.

Arrive at airport - 12:30 - Once past the TSA checkpoint, an e-mail came in from a client looking for an estimate for a job mid-September. I forwarded that e-mail on to my post-production manager to do the estimate, and gave her guidance on the fees for it. When I called to confirm she'd gotten it, I was in line for lunch near my gate. She informed me that she was on the line with a photographer in New York who needed some job pricing a job that was shot on spec and now the possible client wanted the images. Grrrr. No Spec! Anyway, I walked her through that while waiting for the order I placed to be made.

1:15 - Waiting to board plane - checking e-mail another estimate request came in for an assignment the day I get back. Call the office, and use the iPhone to conference in the the prospective client (editorial) and confirm their budget, and other details. Hang up from conference, and get onboard plane at 1:30. While waiting for other passengers, re-connect with post-production manager about the estimate, and have her prepare the estimate. 1:44 - update Facebook status. 1:45 - Wheels-Up Washington enroute JFK.

1:55 - 10,000 feet. Begin Season 1, Episode 1 of Entourage. I know, I know, you Entourage fans. I am late to the game. I downloaded the whole season from iTunes, and will time-slice and watch what I can when I can. I get through 21 minutes of the first episode (already hooked - Jeremy Piven is awesome in the Sushi restaurant scene where he talks to "pizza boy" about a $4M deal for the actor they both are advising. Preparing for landing, so gotta shut it down for now.

2:35 - Arrive JFK, and head to wireless access point (WAP) and power source. Connect online, and call office. Review estimate that was sent to me while in-flight. The PLUS language on the contract was not consistent with this assignment, and so I asked my office manager to make the changes to the paperwork, and then it was okay to send.

3:10pm - Prior to departure, my assistant who had driven me up had done copywork (Returning to the (Digital) Darkroom, 6/5/08) of 302 medium format images we're sending off to JaincoTech to get scanned and keyworded. The 302 images were in about 47 files. At the WAP, I reviewed all 302, and had to write captions for about 110 of them. I used my PhotoMechanic software to edit the images. Each image was easily viewable and had 9 separate small images. I was able to put the captions into each file for nine images at a time.

4:15 - mid-September client changes timing for assignment from 7am-11am to 5am - 10am, and wants a revised estimate, and wants to know if that changes the price. (Answer: Yes, it does!). Call office and have a revised contract sent.

4:30 - Video conference with post-production manager about questions she had for work she was doing. Handled that at the same time as continuing to caption.

4:45 - Reviewed the liveBooks website that will go-live in the next 24 hours for my post-production manager. It looks great. (Yea - it went live while I was in-flight - check it here!)

5:05 pm - from the WAP, I emailed back the 47 files using PhotoMechanic's handy and automated "e-mail files" feature. I had to end the video conference because of bandwidth issues, and the files went to her via e-mail and she got them all.

5:10 - A call from a colleague needing help with e-mail language because her client was saying she was too expensive, so we had to justify the value she brought to the assignment.

5:15- Video conference with colleague who will be changing jobs soon and we discussed the landscape that they are entering (and also that they're leaving.)

5:30 - Head to gate. E-mail comes in from mid-September client wanting to extend the rights package and add in advertising. I responded that we'd get her two new estimates in the morning. She tries to tempt me with "this will be an annual thing" but she wants longer than a year for the use. In my response, when justifying the added rights package costs, I explain that with the extended time, that diminishes her need for me next year.

5:45 - On plane, doors still open. E-mail comes in on iPhone responding to my e-mail. I respond to hers.

5:55 - (10 minutes late). Doors close. I inadvertently leave my phone on, and while we're sitting on the tarmac holding for 30 minutes, I get another e-mail from her. Convinced that sitting on the tarmac and not moving at all, I respond to her e-mail, CC-ing my office so they are in the loop on the entire conversation.

6:45 - We reach 10,000 feet. All devices ok to be turned on. Laptops come out. I have a portrait of Ludacris (left screen) to edit (including DNG processing) note the PNY "Eyes of History" thumbdrive in the photo below, and on the right screen I have about 1,500 or so e-mails to wade through - about 98% of which are spam, but I need to find the 2% that I want to keep. I like to take my in-flight time to clean up all my inboxes, migrate files to folders for archiving, and so forth.

7:45 - Appetizers served (see behind laptop). I pause to pull out the Nikon D700 I am getting used to, as it will be an integral part of this trip. The camera is new to me, and I am excited to check it out, since it just arrived earlier this week. I decide that making a frame or two of my in-flight office would be of use, so that's how the above photo came to be. DNG processing is going along just fine on second laptop.

8:29 - Finish up with the D700 (yes, somebody will check the EXIF data to confirm that, I know.) Flight attendant is hassling me about finishing my appetizer, so I do. Open up the files I shot of my workspace and make them look their best. Feel free to click the image to see it larger. Nice how the D700 holds up at 6400 ISO, and gotta love that FX-Full Frame! (Click photo at top to see it larger).

8:45 - Begin writing this blog entry. Not sure how to approach it, at first. I know people will give me crap about my accommodations, but it's workspace people. Can't you tell I am working here? Salad arrives. I choose both chicken and vegetables to accompany it.

8:55 - Flight attendant hassling me about being ready for my main course. So I pause to finish the salad.

9:02 - Dinner arrives. Work on this blog entry some more. I know you have high expectations.

9:26 - Flight attendant hassling me (seemingly after every bite) "are you done with that". I guess most people don't take 24 minutes to eat a small plate of food.

9:30 - Finish dinner. Much to my pleasant surprise, he offers a hot fudge sundae, then, he offers butterscotch. Damn. That's like choosing Kirk or Piccard! Make my choice, and he whisks away my dinner and 2 minutes later, the sundae arrives.

9:35 - Finish sundae, DNG's finished processing. Head back to killing spam e-mail. Note I didn't linger on the time it took to consume the dessert! Hey - the ice cream would have melted!

10:25 - finished with spam, all mailboxes nice and neat and tidy.

10:26 - Settle in to the end of Entourage 1:1. My mind needs an interlude.

11:10 am - Crack open my ASMP 7th Edition Professional Business Practices in Photography that arrived (A Must Read - ASMP's Professional Business Practices in Photography, 8/2/08). I am excited about all the fresh content. I am especially excited to revisit advice from Emily Vickers and Elyse Weissberg, who were mentors of mine from 15 years ago. Their pieces are re-purposed here even though Elyse has passed away - her genius lives on, and I am excited to re-read her counsel which is just as valuable today as it was then.

12:05 am - Crashing. Not the flight. Me.

Changing to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). That's DC + 5 hours. It's now Wednesday.

6:07am - Landing. The flight. Not me. (that would be 1:07am Eastern Time for those math-impaired).

7:10am - Though security, and looking for the lounge where I can get to a WAP. A big thank you to my intern John Birk, who noticed that I was using for my day-to-day travel around the US the ThinkTank Airport Security. John commented that I needed the ThinkTank International because it was just an inch smaller on two dimensions. So, the day before I left, we stopped by the local camera store to pick one up. Sure enough, spying my bag as I rolled through security, I was asked to put my bag into the form to see i it was oversized. I took a deep breath, and slipped it in. It fit so snugly that when I lifted the bag to remove it, it was slightly wedged into the form and the form actually came off the ground before I was able to slide the bag out - and I was allowed to proceed. Damn those ThinkTank people know what they're doing!

7:20am - Get to a WAP. Connect, and let my laptop update all the deleted and moved e-mails I worked on offline thanks to the beauty of IMAP. Outbound messages get sent.

8:00am - Post this blog entry.

Nap until flight at 11:15am to Stockholm. Gotta sleep somewhere. It might as well be a lounge in LHR. They do have showers here.

So, that, friends, is multi-tasking and time-slicing. The above is, to answer the rhetorical question that friends and colleagues keep asking, how I do it.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ask And Ye Shall Receive

Just the other day, a colleague of mine called to ask for some advice. He'd photographed a group portrait, and one of the people in the group portrait needed a headshot, and wanted their headshot isolated out from the others in that group photo, for their own use.

Separate use for separate company, distinct from the company that hired my colleague for the group photo. How did we talk through the pricing?

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First, my colleague was using a large chip camera - a EOS 1Ds Mark III, so cropping in was no problem. Second, he wasn't obstructed by other people in the picture, and could easily be isolated. So, what to charge?

Well, I first asked him what he'd charge for the portrait for PR purposes, and the number that came up was about $800, all in. Ok, so the argument goes - when you're shooting something, there's a chance that the final photo won't be exactly like you want. With an existing image (i.e. stock), you know exactly what you're getting, guaranteed, so the price for that stock shot should reasonably be concluded to be higher because there is no risk, and you are getting exactly what you want. So, we determined that relative to $800, a figure of $975 is fair, not to mention the fact that the subject doesn't have to be inconvenienced by the timing and efforts involved on their part for the portrait. Further, I was of the opinion that a figure over $1,000, relatively speaking, would be a barrier this client would not get past.

So, did the client agree, when we cited the above information as a justification for our pricing?

Yup. $975 - check is in the mail.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

APhotoEditor Launches "APhotoFolio" Service

Wildly popular for his irreverent commentary during his stint as a salaried employee at Mens Journal as a Photo Editor for his no-holds-barred opinions about photographers, photography, and the business in general, the formerly anonymous APhotoEditor has launched a website design service - APhotoFolio - and he makes some insightful points about just how important having a top-quality website is, and he details what he offers:

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4 Things Every Client Wants - "I’ve spent enough time as a Photography Director hunting for a phone number or “gadzeeks” even the link to the portfolio to know these things need to be available the second a client visits your website."

The Window of Opportunity - "How much time will a potential client spend on your website? I’ll bet the average is around 20 seconds, but I’ve spent as little as 1 second and as long as 10 minutes on a site. The first impression is critical (that’s where the 1 second comes in) because if the design, logo and the first image I see don’t add up to a certain taste level, then I’m probably wasting my time."

Why Our Control Panel Kicks Ass - One commenter wrote - "in my eyes, the control panels and administrative interfaces are what make or break an application for me. A product can have a beautiful design, but if I have to do too many manual steps to get work done, the work won’t get done."

10 Reasons Photo Editors Will Love These Designs - Among them - 3. Email a photo option - If the Photo Editor sees the perfect shot and wants to send it to the Creative Director, they can click the email a photo link and it’s done; and 9. iPhone and html ready Ever visited a flash website on your phone. It’s like it doesn’t exist. Our websites automatically create html and iPhone mirror sites that load when they need to.

10 Reasons Photographers Will Love Our Websites - among them - 2. Switch once for Free and $100 each time thereafter. - If you get tired of your design no worries just switch. How’s this for a sweet deal: after a year you want to freshen up your look, switch for free and only keep paying the $17/month hosting fee. We will have at least 4 more to choose from a year from now, if not more; and 5. Wordpress Blog included - You don’t have to get one when you start either, we’ll add it whenever you ask. Having a blog on your url is an excellent way to get seen in google searches.

Rob's service, with a $1,000 one-time set-up fee and $17/mo has a higher initial cost than, say, SiteWelder, but is less expensive over time on the annualized costs; and then there's the cheap (and it shows) route of BluDomain, with their $100 and $400 sites.

One question I know Rob will get (and I've addressed the importance of - It's Google's World, You're Just A Small Part of It, 11/28/07; and SEO - Wild Wild West or Reason & Logic?, 3/4/08) will be how do his sites handle SEO and crawl-ability, and thus, how do they rank on the search engines? How they're designed (i.e. how they look to Google's spiders) is one thing that can be learned in short order, the other - ranking, will be something that we can learn over time. From a design standpoint - I think they look awesome, and are worth a look.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

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PDNPulse - A Sweet Makeover

Over the weekend, an evolution occured. Photo District News' website had a major makeover. This isn't just a new skin, it's a whole new site (Pardon Our Dust, 8/11/08), and it's really very cool.

I was poking around and checking under the hood, and

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My first stop was their COMPASS feature - which allows you to search for people by location and the dates they will be in that location. Tuesday, for example, I head overseas for 12 days of assignments, followed by assignments state-side in New Orleans, North Carolina, Texas, and then I will be in New York for PhotoPlus in October. The Lightstalkers site has been the closest I've seen to this ability to keep track of people, in their "On The Move" section, but it's textual, and not by date. I am able to go in and update, extend, delete, and otherwise customize my travel schedule that can be seen by someone who might be looking for a photographer in a particular location - or by people who may want to meet-up with their colleagues overseas. I can easily see COMPASS - which is free, being used as a tool by photo editors looking for photographers in a specific city (or even nearby) as well as fellow photographers.

Once you've entered in those dates, you can also see them geographically on a map:

Further, when you mouse over one of the red push-pins, whomever that pin represents brings up information that you can click in to learn more about. (click to enlarge the image)

Also of very cool note is the entire new Multimedia section, where all the videos they've done can be seen:

Kudos to PDN for their new site - it's got a lot more features than I've highlighted here, but it's worth taking some time to browse around in, so check it out - PDN Online.

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