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When a Japanese Baby is Born

This video speaks for itself. :)

The Photographer’s Challenge: Profiteering Off Digital Piracy

rebekka's Photographs

Pictured above are eight beautiful scenes photographed by an Icelandic photographer, Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir. Her photographs were recently resold — not under her identity, of course — and the company has profited nearly $5000 off her work without her knowledge.

From her Flickr page:

They were all taken , without my permission, by the London based print-selling company Only-Dreemin. This company prides itself on offering its customers only the best quality canvas prints of the finest photos , by top artists.

What they fail to mention is that some of the photos they’re selling prints of have been illegally obtained, and are being sold without the artists consent or knowledge.

As photographers in the digital photography realm, we are faced with challenges by people lacking ethics who wish to profiteer off of the work of others. This is not the first time I have noticed this. Another extremely talented photographer, Trey Ratcliff (aka StuckinCustoms), has had his photos resold at a Kodak store.

It is never right to profit off of someone’s hard work. We photographers need to take extra care of our work to ensure that they don’t end up in the wrong hands. However, when such things happen, there’s always recourse.

This story made it to the front page of digg.com, a social news site. After several disgruntled users complained to the company, they wrote back with the following:

Can I start by saying there are 2 sides to every story and I will try to tell you our side.

In August 2006, we were contacted by “Wild Aspects and Panoramics LTD” a company based here in London, they offered to show us some imagery, that they stated would be high resolution and we would have sole reselling rights.We were visited by a salesperson from the company and we liked what we saw

Anyway 2 weeks passed, emails were sent back and forth,basic research was done by us to enable us to resell them and then the paperwork was signed and a considerable amount of money was paid(£3000.00)by us , for us to start selling these images in the form of canvas prints.

6 months later we had a letter from a law firm in Iceland, stating we were using someone’s images, we googled the claimants name, lo and behold we found we had been duped!.

As requested we immediately removed the images from the internet and destroyed any copies of the images we had.

We emailed the law firm to state we had dealt with these requests and to apologise to their client.

We took legal advice, they told us say nothing more than we had, not reccomending we contact the claimant and tell her what had happened, by the way we were very keen to do that, but we were told to avoid all contact.

In the meantime we started our own investigation into the above company’s contacts and sources but have since found nothing more because the telephone doesn’t get answered, mobiles are permanantly off and emails are getting bounced back, it seems we were conned too.

As digital artists and designers, we know the importance of integrity, hence the immediate halt and removal of images from the internet, if we had no morals, surely we would still be selling them to recoup our costs?.

As Rebekka has now decided to make this public, we can set about explaining to her why this has happened and of course, to apologise.

Many thanks O-D

I’m sorry, but “told to avoid all contact?” An apology was definitely in order from the start. My guess is that there are no two sides to the story as they claim but they needed to cover themselves after they got caught.

The Internet age makes it easy to “profit” off of someone’s hard work, but it’s also easy to bring these issues into the forefront. Besides this blog, there are numerous other blog posts, thousands of page views about Rebekka’s photo theft, and this is just the beginning.

In any event, it is never right to steal a photographer’s hard work. But it looks like there will be consequences to those who do.

Update: In case you were wondering where Rebekka’s photos and flickr post went, Flickr apparently removed itThomas Hawk has more.

Amazon.com Acquires dpreview.com

DPReviewJust got word that Amazon has acquired dpreview.com. This is huge news. A big congratulations to all involved, especially dpreview.com founder Phil Askey.

From the press release:

Today marks an exciting milestone in the history of dpreview.com, everyone here is very much looking forward to being able to do more with Amazon’s help. We’re aiming to expand our product coverage and deliver new site features for our readers and our daily community.

I’m not sure how much more expanded dpreview.com could ever get — they’ve surpassed my expectations years ago.

Again, congratulations!

Photo of the Day: Times Square at Dusk

Sorry for the minimal amount of posts lately.  I am somewhat out of commission (illness, out of town, etc.) but didn’t want to leave you all hanging for much longer.  I’ll be back soon!

Times Square at Dusk by Stuck in Customs on Flickr

Daily Photography Comics: WhatTheDuck.net

Want more comic relief? Check out Aaron’s site at www.whattheduck.net.

Use Stock Photography Websites to Make Some Spare Cash

Working PhotographerTo older photographers, this idea is not very novel. But they also know of big names, like Getty Images. The Internet and the rise of digital photographers has brought forth a revolution in photography and the need for photos for websites (and blogs, like this one), and newer sites have been created to deal with the supply (photographers) and demand (advertisers, web developers, etc). See that banner ad on Yahoo? The picture used in that ad could be yours.

Three sites have been making waves around the ‘net:

Beginner photographers love knowing that they could utilize their photography skills to make some money. With some skills and a high megapixel camera (4MP or more will do, but some sites have different restrictions), you could be well on your way to making a few bucks (or more) every month. And you won’t have to do it on sites that have rigorous acceptance procedures either; Shutterstock, for example, has over 1.5 million photos from thousands of photographers — you simply have to read their manual closely to get an understanding of what they’re looking for, submit a few photos for consideration, and you will hopefully be well on your way to getting money from your talent.

The process of selling photography in this capacity is known as stock photography. More recently, given the lowered costs of cameras and rise of photographers, stock photography has become a relatively affordable endeavor. If you have some high-quality images that you don’t mind giving up, stock photography is a definite consideration for your photographs.

How much time should I dedicate to stock photography?

Unlike another recent article on this subject matter, you don’t necessarily have to contribute 4 hours a week to stock photography — unless you are depending on a steady flow of income from the practice of stock photography. For example, I personally have seven photos in one of my accounts, and while I’m not necessarily making a great amount of money, I’m not losing out either. Still, however, if you browse the photos on such sites, you may see that some of them are of a higher quality than photographs you may have taken, so photo editing is something you might want to become more familiar with if this is not your strong suit. Even if it’s not for stock photography purposes, this is something you should brush up on to build your own personal photography portfolio, if that’s the direction you are headed. With that, depending on how many photographs you want to submit and if you rely on post-processing your images, it can take a few minutes a week to several hours. This also depends on how much money you want to make from this. The more money you are looking for, the more time you’re going to end up spending.

What photos are suitable for stock photographs?

Each site has its own set of criteria for suitable stock photographs. You must be the photographer of the submitted photo, and in many cases, due to royalty considerations, you cannot submit photos that include copyrighted material or brand logos. A portrait of a person wearing an Old Navy shirt would be rejected. There are other restrictions as well. iStockPhoto, for example, doesn’t need any more pictures of pets. A picture I took of a dog was accepted by ShutterStock and has received a good number of downloads. You could always review what is needed on each site. When I first began, I browsed through my library of pictures and saw a good amount of photos that were of good quality and I submitted those. You don’t have to have a diverse portfolio of photographs, but that can help.

What about submitting photographs of people?

This is something that is new to every beginner photographer. Any photograph that has a recognizable human face within the photograph is subject to a model release form. Sites will not accept photographs without a signed model release, which allows for publication of the image, due to legal considerations. Earlier this month, a woman sued Yahoo! for $20 million for using a picture of her without her permission. This is exactly what these stock photography agencies prevent against by requiring signed model releases so that each individual in the photograph consents to the photograph’s reproduction or publication.

What is the minimum criteria for my photographs?

This is something that differs per site, but generally you’re going to want to meet the minimum megapixel requirement (4MP, but some sites have a minimum of 6 — check each site’s submission guidelines for details). You’ll want to strip your photo of any EXIF information (you can “Save for Web” in Photoshop to remove these details).

How can I improve my photographs for submission?

It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with a few key photo editing techniques. If you have a great photograph but a flailing arm in the bottom right hand corner of the photograph, you’d want to Crop the image. You don’t necessarily have to submit a full-sized image to these sites! If your photograph is not properly aligned and the horizon is off, you might want to Rotate the image. You may also want to become familiar with Brightness and Contrast as well, and for softer images, you may want to Sharpen the image to define the edges more clearly.

How do people find my images once submitted?

An important consideration for photographs is to understand what people might be searching for when they’re looking for your image. Therefore, a clear description is helpful. You also want to label the image appropriately with something called tags, which are essentially keywords. Some tags for the image below are: carnival, fair, ferris wheel, colorful, bright, nighttime, celebration, and festivities. You don’t have to stop there, but don’t spam the keyword fields either.

Ferris Wheel

Is there anything else I should know?

Be forewarned: with rising photographic talent in all corners of the globe, your initial application on these sites may be rejected at first. You might have to submit the application again and again. You might find that your gear is not sufficient. Take the advice provided to you by the stock photography team if your photo is rejected (and don’t let this daunt you; persistence pays off!). Just work harder for it next time, and consider submitting your best photographs to get a clearer definition of what’s needed and what isn’t.

If you are willing to commit some time and invest in new gear on a regular basis, you could very well make this a secondary source of income. In fact, if your photographs are selling like hotcakes, you might want to look into doing more paid-photography shoots like my friend Chris, who focuses his talent on shooting racecars.  Listen to what people say about your photos, be objective about your photographs, but above all, have fun.

(Top photo credits: Working by Casa de Darnoc on Flickr. The other photo of the ferris wheel was taken by yours truly.)

Photo of the Day: Clouded Day Today

Clouded day today taken by G.A.O. on Flickr.

Photo of the Day: Church Interior

Church Interior by kyllwtr on Flickr

Why Can’t I Take Good Photos at Night?

I remember when I bought a “superior” camera of its time, a compact point and shoot no more than four years ago, and I figured it was the “perfect” camera for night shots. Little did I realize that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to night photography.

Bear in mind that there are a lot of important things to consider when photographing at night. Here are some important tips:

  • You won’t want to use flash. The rule of thumb in photography is that flash only affects the foreground subject. In fact, the flash coverage of many cameras doesn’t go far (9-13 feet). As a result, a distant building 50-60 feet away (or even a closer building 20 feet away) won’t be captured at all that clearly. If anything, the entire image will be grossly underexposed. The resulting image will be very dark with minute amounts of light or even black.
  • A long exposure is important. Because the light from the distant subject needs to reach your lens, you need to use a long enough exposure to let the proper amount of light in. This is why, as I discussed in my previous post, you need to focus on the exposure time and will most likely want to shoot your night shots in “Shutter Priority.”
  • Use a tripod. Unless you are a statue, despite your “calm composure,” you need to have a stable device to prevent against camera shake on long exposures. When taking long exposures, the slightest motion can cause the camera to shake, so having a sturdy tripod is essential. Otherwise, your resulting image may come out undesirably blurry.
  • All blur is not that bad. In general, you want a crisp night shot, but some blur can be good. Consider a car zooming by at night. You might see a blur of headlights in the photo, but essentially this can be seen as a creative approach to your outcome.
  • Get a remote control. If your camera has an external remote control, use it. It is best to minimize pressing the shutter directly to eliminate any possible camera shake.
  • Shoot wide if you can. Because most lenses have a larger aperture at the widest angle (larger apertures allow more light in), you’ll likely want to shoot with a wider angle. If you have a tripod, this isn’t essential, but most lenses were built in such a way that zooming in closes the lens opening a little more (larger F number), so you’ll likely force the camera to increase the exposure time because the camera has to somehow compensate for the smaller aperture.
  • Take note of your ISO settings. The ISO settings of your camera may come in handy when you shoot. Because the picture isn’t as clear at a higher ISO (e.g. 1600) than a lower ISO (e.g. 100), photographs taken at a higher ISO don’t take as much time to compose as they do at a lower ISO. This is helpful, but the cost is a photo that has a lot of noise. An image that takes 1/15 seconds to shoot at ISO 1600 may be very grainy. This is why you want a tripod at night; the same photo might take 6 seconds at ISO 100 but you will have a clear noiseless photo. Consider the photo below that I took in London earlier this year (EXIF information is intact):

London Tower Bridge at Night, ISO 800

This photo was taken at ISO 800 and was shot in 1/10 seconds.
On the other hand, take careful note of the image below:

London Tower Bridge at Night, ISO 100

This shot above was taken at ISO 100 and the exposure took 6 seconds.
Note the “smoothness” or “blur” of the Thames river below because of the length of the shot.

  • Dusk photos are great too! It’s dark around sunset, but not too dark that you still cannot take handheld shots. I took the photo below at ISO 800 and 1/60 seconds with the light that was available to me.

London at Dusk

In the end, practice makes perfect. Night photography is an acquired skill. It takes a lot of patience to achieve desirable results. You will want to experiment (ISO, shutter speed, and even aperture modes might help here) to see the perfect combination for a great photograph. You don’t want to use the flash; it doesn’t travel far and you will be disappointed in the results. The most important thing to consider is a long exposure time; the correct amount of light that can travel to your camera is essential. Without that, you might as well reserve to photography during the daytime.

Don’t get discouraged (and don’t be embarrassed at the prospect of walking around with a bulky tripod)! Just remember that while our eyes capture the beauty of a building or landmark at night because we can see the proper amount of light, the camera is just not as sophisticated as we are, and you will need to make the proper adjustments in order to create successful night photos.