Saturday, January 9, 2010

Stock Photos That (Don't) Suck

Stock Photography Sucks...Or Not!
How many times have you heard that stock photography sucks? I know I have heard it far too many times, and I think that complaint is just wrong. A more accurate statement, in my humble opinion might be, “I hate how long it takes me to find a really good, creative and appropriate stock photo!” Another sentiment that kind of rubs me the wrong way is “Stock photos cost too much!” I would suggest rather a more accurate statement should be, “I don’t have the budget to license appropriate imagery”.

Some Alternatives To Stock Photos That Suck

Let me put humility aside and offer a few of my own alternatives to “Stock photos that look like stock”, that do exhibit creativity and relevance, and offer a superlative value (the licensing fee is far less than the time, effort and money that would be required to think up the idea (hey the ideas do take time and work to come up with), hire the models, find the locations, secure the props, make the exposures and labor over the digital manipulations.

The Social Media And/Or Networking Photo

Teamwork (or lack of it…)

Health And Beauty Products

Anxiety, Stress or Fear (you gotta love the expressions!)

What The…?

I have to admit, that last photo isn't mine, though I do represent it for stock. It was shot by a friend of mine, Ginna Fleming.

Incredible Stock Photos, Keywording And SEO
All kidding aside, there are an enormous number of incredible stock photos out there. The trick for those who need stock is to find the darn things. I am attempting to help out art directors and designers, art buyers, and everyone who needs quality imagery, by getting my images online and doing a good job of keywording and SEO. Am I a nice guy or what?

Friday, January 8, 2010

My Introduction To Shooting Slow Motion Video

Watching a dove being released and taking flight shows the extraordinary in the ordinary that is part of the allure of shooting super slow motion video.

 Balloons, Butane, and Balls of Flame
This was a test, so I only filled the balloon about half full of butane. I ignited my long handled butane lighter, the kind you light barbecues with, and slowly advanced it to the balloon. I'm not sure if there was any sound or not, I was too fascinated by the ball of flame that engulfed my arm in a flash, then melted away leaving only the smell of burned hair, to hear it. Hmmm, I think maybe I should come up with a different way of igniting that butane filled balloon!

Slow Motion Video At 1000 Frames Per Second
David Fischer, a friend of mine and long-time still photographer and motion director, and I, were in David's studio in the middle of a slow motion video shoot. We were shooting footage using the Phantom HD High Speed video camera. This amazing camera can capture HD footage at 1000 frames per second. When the video is played back at slower rates, say 30 frames per second, you have ultra slow motion video. We were also beta testing Grand Vitesse Systems software with the new user interface and the next generation hardware of the GVS9000 2XU 444 VTR which is due to be released in January 2010.

Flight Of A Ladybug In HD
The combination of the Phantom and the GVS9000 VTR made shooting truly a breeze. The camera shoots in 4 second bursts (32 gigabytes of data) and captures continuously. This means you can set the capture time to actually start at up to, well, almost four seconds, before you hit the record button. That is hugely important when shooting action that can be impossible to predict, such as the flight of a ladybug from a finger. Before you capture a scene you can set the frame rate from 24 fps to 1000 fps, or even much higher if you don't need the HD resolution. Once you've captured your four seconds it only takes a couple of moments to play it back. A simple slider allows you to set the play back speed, which is then color-corrected and converted to the desired codec, or format, on the fly. The whole process is incredibly simple and efficient and really allowed us to focus on the creative aspects of our shoot. Like figuring out how to ignite the gas-filled balloons with out injuring ourselves!

 Phantom HD, GVS 9000, And Ease Of Use
Using the Phantom with the GVS9000 2XU 444 VTR was incredibly easy. My experience with video prior to this shoot was limited to a Panasonic HVX-200. While I have been shooting still images professionally for over thirty years, I am still very new to motion. I found using the Phantom with the GVS9000 system to actually be easier than shooting with the Panasonic!

Custom Soft Boxes And Lots Of Light
One challenging aspect of shooting ultra high-speed (slow motion) video is that of lighting. To shoot at such high frame rates requires a lot of light. Most of our clips were shot with 10,000 watts of tungsten light. Our primary light source was a custom built soft box with five 2000-watt lights mounted inside. Depending on the shot, we would sometimes throw an additional 4000 to 6000 watts of light onto the background and or add some 1000-watt lights back on the subject for a rim light or highlight effect.

 Monitor Calibration And Exposure Confidence
An important consideration is monitor calibration. The GVS 9000VTR software provides a histogram, Waveform, Vectorscope and many more options to facilitate accurate exposures. It even offers the ability to capture RAW to compressed format to see a visual difference in quality before you save your shots. Because we were using a dual monitor set up and did not go through the calibration process, the result was a rather large discrepancy between our two monitors, and resulted in a less than comfortable confidence in our exposures. It needs to be mentioned that exposure is very important when shooting with the Phantom and frequent white balancing is a good idea. Fortunately both white and black balancing are simple to execute.

 Vast Storage Capability
Another feature of the GVS9000 VTR that really helped our production efficiency is the vast storage capability in such a compact and portable unit. We were able to shoot RAW all day without interruption and without fear of running out of hard drive space. The configuration we were using featured a storage capacity of 4,000 gigabytes with hot-swappable drives and RAID level 5 protection. The GVS solution can transfer massive amounts of data at incredible speeds.

The Extraordinary In The Ordinary
Shooting with the Phantom was truly a case of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. In one case we decided to shoot tumbling dice. I dropped a single die, from two or three inches high, onto a marble surface. I had to drop them from a low height because if the die moved an inch closer or further from the camera, we would lose our focus. The die clattered about for just an instant and stopped. David and I looked at each other, agreed that there wasn't anything exciting about that particular bit of action, but decided to play it back anyway to check focus. It was mesmerizing! The die hit the marble surface, rose up and almost out of the frame, came down with a slow, lazy spin, hit the marble popped up, and just hung there spinning for what seemed like forever. Totally cool!

Water Balloons And Woman's Hair
Whether it was a water balloon bursting and leaving a teardrop shaped body of water hanging, seemingly frozen in the air, a cat twisting to land on it's feet, or a woman's hair undulating in the wind, the Phantom allowed us to see things as we had never seen them before. The GVS9000 VTR gave us the capability to quickly see our captures and make adjustments without interruption in our flow. It is hard to stress how important that is for both our creative process and the bottom line.

Ruggedized Video Recorders And Media Management
GVS is a Leading developer and manufacturer of ruggedized digital video recorders (VTR) and media management for the broadcast, defense, digital cinema, post production, and live event. Utilizing their broad experience they have created a series of configurations including complete hardware and software systems that are self-contained in industrial flypack cases.

If you have an interesting project that you would like to try out on the 9000VTR, you can contact GVS directly at 415-777-0320 or online at

This slow motion experience is a great example of my approach to stock video (read more here), that shooting video for stock makes sense if you have passion for what your shooting, and/or you can take advantage of an appropriate still shoot by adding video, or as in this case, an unusual opportunity presents itself.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pro Photography-A Vendor's Perspective; Interview With Karen McHugh

Photo©Karen McHugh
Karen McHugh shot this "Renaissance" self-portrait when she was teaching herself the 4x5 camera. Karen explains "I would shoot early in the morning before going to work at Samy’s. I shot this off of Laurel Canyon, with a bulb release. A comical sight, no doubt, for the cars driving through!"

Teamwork is more than just a concept when it comes to producing stock photography. The top producing, and most successful photographers, whether it is assignment or stock photography, have put together a strong team. When you think of a photographer’s team you generally think of assistants, reps, studio managers, digital experts, make up artists, producers and so forth. But there are other important “team” members that one often doesn’t think about, but that can also play an important role in your success.  One such member of my team is Karen McHugh. Karen is actually employed by Samy’s Camera in L.A., while I am located in Northern California, but I count on her for most of my equipment needs.  My experience has shown me that having someone you can turn to, and count on, when it comes to camera equipment, is truly an asset. Karen, for example, saves me time and stress in purchasing, and can prove invaluable when I have an emergency need. With that in mind I felt it would prove valuable, and interesting, to interview Karen and get a view of our industry from her vendor’s perspective.

Karen, I have had a number of situations come up in my career where a good relationship with a vendor has really paid off. I am thinking of such things as emergency loaners or parts replacement, knowledgeable answers to urgent questions, and trust that I am getting good value for my money. I first started working with you after some very high recommendations from some of my fellow Blend photographers, and I certainly haven’t been disappointed. As I reflected on the importance of our relationship it occurred to me that it could be both interesting and informative to see a little of our industry from your perspective.

When did you first become interested in photography?

I have always been a visual person.  My father and my step-father were both interested in photography.  I remember being fascinated by my father showing my sister how to develop prints in the bathroom.  My step father was interested in macro photography. 

Can you give us a brief synopsis of what led you to your current position?

I have worked for Samy’s Camera for nearly twenty years. I started as a film clerk, in what I thought was a temporary job.  As the years went by I took on more and more leadership roles at Samy’s.  I developed strong relationships with clients and took great pride in doing a good job for them.  They began to ask me to get things from other departments and I soon had a following of loyal customers. 

I didn’t like the quality of digital when it first came out, and did not learn all necessary tools for creating digital imagery. When my major clients started using digital backs, and were no longer using film, is when I knew that it was time to join the digital crusade.  I transferred into the Corporate Sales division of Samy’s, but also maintained my relationship with my loyal client base. I created a job within Samy’s; what I like to call a glorified personal shopper.  I am the producer on the inside, making sure that you are getting all the equipment that you need, at the right price, without having to call five or more different departments. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

My favorite part of my job is my relationship with my clients. A great deal of them are more than clients, they are my friends.

What is the biggest challenge for you?

I would say that one of the biggest challenges for me is being able to be competitive with pricing. Some Internet companies sell things at cost or below.  A lot of photographers think that there is great profit in camera equipment, but there is not.  People want me to give them a “good deal” when we are already down to our cost. 

Getting consistently good value for my money is more important to me than making sure I get the very lowest price. I’d much rather be spending my energy on my craft rather than researching products and prices. When I have asked you for recommendations you have always come up with good advice for me. How do you stay on top of what’s new and good, and what would be a good value for a given photographer?

I try to stay current on equipment by going to trade shows, and reading the photo magazines.  I use the internet and my customers as my guide.  My customers are out in the field and using the equipment everyday and therefore know what they need far better than I do.  Through my clients I have access to a lot of first hand, real world experience. Many of my customers are leading the way in the change of technology and how equipment is being used.

The pace of innovation and change in the photography world just seems astounding to me. You have to deal with new cameras, media, computers, video…how do you keep up with it all? 

I try to keep up by listening to my customer’s needs and complaints, I try to keep abreast with all the new equipment.  Quite often equipment is made and not necessarily designed to be used how photographers use it out in the field. For example, Samy’s has a customer who takes Profoto heads under water to shoot sharks and athletes. Another example: with Polaroid and film no longer a viable resource, photographers want a high-end 4x6 printer to substitute for test Polaroids. These printers are made for home or office use, and not to print 100 prints a day.

The Internet seems to be making everything into commodities. Are you finding that price is the biggest factor in working with photographers, or are there other aspects to your job that seem to take precedence, or at least play a large role, in completing a sale? 

Price is often the bottom line.  I sometimes work with large companies who purchase equipment with a bidding process. If you are off by a nickel, it will go to the lowest bidder.  I try to combine both low prices and great service.

As I mentioned earlier, vendors such as you have helped me out of tight spots more than once. I remember once having liquid spilled on a monitor in the middle of a digital shoot. The only way we could continue was to have an immediate replacement, which my vendor rushed right over. Several times I have had you get items to me overnight for a last minute shoot or trip.  Do you have any stories of unusual requests that you have had to fulfill? 

One of my favorite parts of my job is being the hero and saving the day. I hate to say no, and to tell someone that something cannot be done.  I take it on as a personal challenge on how we can fix the problem. 

I had a customer who needed an iMac computer for a job out in the dessert. They wanted the computer configured a particular way and loaded with Photoshop, and they needed it within a very short time frame. Samy’s did not have the computer, so I drove down to the local Apple store, purchased the computer, and was on my way back to the store.  The ironic or funny part was that I was in such a great rush to get it all done that I forgot where I parked my car!  The producer kept calling me about when it was going to be ready. I finally had to have the security man drive me around the parking structure so I could find my car. However, I was able to deliver and get the job done in time.  I have a fair amount of customers who actually live in my area and pick up equipment from my house. I have even left computer ram on my windshield for someone to pick up while I was at the gym.  There have been countless last minute trips to Federal Express.

I assume the recession has been as hard on you retailers as it has been on us photographers. What kinds of things have you, and Samy’s, been doing to deal with that situation?

Samy’s Camera had to cut back on employees and our hours of operation. We have five retail locations all in the Southern California area.  We did not have to close any of our stores, but we had to reduce the amount of inventory we were carrying. 
We also had to explore social networking, reaching out to customers in different ways.  We co-sponsored a great workshop on hybrid photography.  We have expanded our educational classes and other services such as bookmaking. We even had a traveling photo booth this year. 

Do you have any thoughts on when it might be more prudent to rent and when to buy?

If you are going to make your money back within a short time frame then I recommend purchasing.  If the equipment cannot be used for multiple jobs, or will not hold its value, then I recommend renting the equipment.  Additionally, if you are not sure the equipment will do the job properly, I recommend renting it. Samy’s offers customers the option to try out the equipment for one day, and if the customer decides to purchase it, then we will deduct the price of the one-day rental from the purchase price.

How about when to lease and when to buy? 

If the customer can make more than the amount he is spending on the lease, and then either buy out the equipment or trade it in for newer equipment, I recommend leasing.  I also recommend leasing for high dollar equipment that gets out dated quickly. Most leases start at ten thousand dollars and above. Digital backs are definitely a good item to lease. 

Is there ever a situation when you would recommend used equipment?

Samy’s sells a lot of used equipment as well as a lot of refurbished equipment. Refurbished equipment is a great way to save money.  The customer can buy an extended warranty that even covers accidents.  I have owned many refurbished cameras over the years.

Are you utilizing social media in your work?

Facebook, Plaxo, and LinkedIn are the only social networking that I use.  I have signed up for Planet Illogica but have not been very active on it.  Facebook is both personal and professional and sometimes those lines get a little blurry.  Samy’s has a blog, and fan page and more, but I am not the one representing the face of Samy’s. I was doing product of the day on Facebook and although it did create interest, it did not seem to generate any sales. 

To what extent do you use the Internet in your work, and how?

I use the Internet daily and all day!  I cannot live without it.  I use it to check out the competitors, for product information and to stay in touch with my clients.
How can photographers make your job a little easier?

It is important for photographers to have a perspective of the retail environment, which includes price, and supply and demand.  Tell me exactly what you are trying to accomplish, share any research that you have already done. If the photographer can provide part numbers for merchandise or links to products that they might want, it can be a great help. Also, time lines, if the photographer has a deadline, and there is a need to obtain information, pricing, or equipment by a particular date. The more information you can tell me the better.  It helps me plan out my day. If something does not appear to be urgent, then I might let some else take precedence over it. I might add that I am a big fan of email; that is a great way communicate your needs with me.

Can you share some of your photographic journey with us, what you like to shoot and other details about your personal photography?

Although I started taking pictures when I was young, I fell in love with photography when I was in high school.  I studied photography at San Francisco State.  When I moved to Los Angeles I took courses at Art Center, but I would claim to be primarily self taught.
I married a lighting gaffer and so I am completely spoiled when it comes to having a great assistant and someone to help with lighting. I shoot portraits mostly, but I do love to travel and photograph the world as I see it.

Are there any photographers that particularly inspire you?

I love vintage photography and love Julia Margaret Cameron. I am big fan of Avedon and Penn. I know so many amazing photographers today.  One of my favorites of modern day is Frank Ockenfels III.  I work with the American Society of Cinematographers and am constantly amazed at their work, not only in cinema but still photography as well.

Are there any final words you care to leave us with?

Thank you for your patronage. I appreciate all the recommendations and referrals that I have received over the years.  Keep on shooting.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tips For Creating Silly Pet Pictures For The Consumer Market

Silly Pet Pics, like these "Razor Cats", appeal to a large portion of the consumer market.

Cats, Dogs, Mice, Elephants And Other Animals

For those of you not familiar with my “Animal Antics” series of silly pet pictures, it is one of my sub-specialties. I create these pictures of cats, dogs, mice, elephants, cows and other animals by combining photography with digital compositing and manipulation. I use Photoshop to combine numerous photos and create anthropomorphic scenes and situations of our animal friends. Part of the idea is to bring a bit more humor and fun into the world by treating others to the unexpected delights of LOL pet pics (I get e-mails weekly from appreciative people…something that I have never had happen with my other work), and part of the series is to enlarge my photography market to effectively include the public…all those millions of people that search for funny pictures, funny pet pictures, funny cat pictures and so on, and that buy calendars, greeting cards, coffee mugs, mouse pads and…well, you get the idea!

Limit The Rights You Grant
The images are also available for licensing for advertising, editorial, corporate and promotional uses. For those of you moving into this arena, it is good to keep in mind that when a company wants to license an image, be sure and limit them to only the rights that they need, and in which they are competent. I have had enough experience now to understand that a company that does a great job at moving greeting cards might be terrible at distributing calendars or posters. Do your homework and makes sure you are not handicapping yourself by giving away rights to under-performing publishers/distributors.

Get Advances!

I also think it is very important to get advances. In thirty years of professional photography I have only been stiffed about three times…and the most recent was by a calendar company that talked me into supplying images without an advance. They sold the calendars, then, through a series of financial maneuverings, have made it pretty much impossible for me to get a penny. And this was a company I trusted! If a company doesn’t have enough faith in their venture to pay an advance, then you are better off passing on the deal.

Have A Collection And Create Mock Ups

If you are going to be successful in this arena you will need a collection. Have at least a dozen, preferably two-dozen completed images, to show to prospective publishers. If they are greeting cards, get them mocked-up complete with captions. If you have a book idea, get it mocked up too. I once showed a book idea to a publisher by showing them a couple of dozen of the greeting cards and explaining the story line. They commented that I didn’t have a book, just a pile of greeting cards. When I had a designer put those same images into book form, that editor gave me a contract and published three books.

Cats And Razor Scooters

In the above photograph of three cats zooming down a walkway on razor scooters, I first found a location that featured a meandering path alongside some rolling hills green with spring grass. Next I arranged to have an animal trainer bring several "professional" cats to my photography studio. I worked from a layout that is a drawing, of what the final image should look like. I might add here that the image was originally created for a greeting card company and their art director drew up the layout. Using the layout, I made sure I photographed each part of each cat in the position and lighting that I would need to put the final photograph together. When we do our shoots for these images, we make sure we also have on hand any props and/or wardrobe apparel that we might need. In this case that was only the scooter. After photographing the cats, the scooters, and the location, I use Photoshop to put all the images together into one final photograph.

Animal Trainers And Professional Talent

When photographing animals for specific pre-visualized images it is a good idea to have an animal trainer that is familiar with the animal talent. I am always impressed with how a good animal trainer can get the most out of animals without stressing them. A stressed pet is not a good model! As it is it takes a tremendous amount of patience to work with animals, particularly when you need to get all the very specific angles and parts that I need to get in order to complete one of these photos. A good trainer, a professional animal (one who is used to these environments and is chosen for their tolerance of such things) and lots of time can usually be counted on to produce the results we need. But not we tend to arrange, whenever possible, to have back-up animals on hand. An important point about a good animal trainer (we use Bow Wow Productions) is that they usually have back-up animals. That is, they can bring two or three cats that have a very similar appearance, so if one cat just doesn't feel like working on a given day, they have one or more that can be substituted.

Ganging Up Your Animal Shoots

This all doesn't come cheaply. We make our dollars go further by ganging up our animal shoots. We try and shoot enough animals at once to provide for a dozen or more images. Usually this means about three consecutive days of photographing animals, two days for shooting props and wardrobe, and a day or so for shooting locations...and that doesn't even account for location scouting, finding props and wardrobe, and casting for the right animal talent. On top of that, it takes me at least a day of digital imaging for each of our photos.

Cows Are Harder Than Elephants

We now have over 200 hundred of these silly animal pictures in our collection...and we are still adding more. Recently we have added a number of elephant and cow photos. As you can imagine, cows and elephants are much more difficult to photograph than cats and dogs. Cows are harder than elephants. You can have an elephant sit, stand; lift its feet, etc. Cows, well, they just stand there and look at you like you are an idiot!

Mice Are Tough…And They Bite!

Mice are also difficult to photograph. They are so small that you have to move in tightly to get a good image to work with. If you need to have them holding something, then it is necessary to get a tight shot of their little hands…and as cute as those little hands are, they are very difficult to get in focus and in the correct position. The mice don’t exactly pay attention to our requests…and they have this habit of moving quickly and unexpectedly. Trainers don’t like to work with them either…they have nasty little bites!

Give It Time
But whether you are shooting mice or elephants, remember to shoot for a collection, to grant only the rights that a client needs and/or is good at distributing, create high-quality mock-ups, get an advance, and don’t assume that other people are going to do their jobs correctly. Oh yeah, and give it time. It was three years before my greeting card efforts finally began to pay off.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Stock Video vrs. Stock Stills

Disclaimer: The idea and the derriere were provided by my partner Stephanie Roeser!

Stock Video Plans In 2010
Recently I was asked what my plans for video, specifically stock video, are for the coming year. I have to say that most of my intention for video, at least for the foreseeable future, is wait and see. In 2009 I submitted close to two hundred clips to my already existing fifty or so clips with Getty Images. Getty has put up about a hundred of those clips thus far, and I expect probably another thirty to fifty clips will go up in the coming months. The new clips were all slow motion videos shot with a Phantom HD camera at 1000 frames per second. To rent the equipment for shooting those clips would run around $5,000.00 a day, but I was fortunate enough to be able to use the equipment as part of a beta-testing project for GVS Systems and their GVS 9000 2XU 444 VTR hardware/software set up for capturing vast quantities of data at very high through put rates.

No Photoshop, No Room For Mistakes, Less Production

This Phantom shoot is a perfect example of how I intend to pursue stock video. When the right situations come along I will take advantage of them. I do not plan on investing in stock video the same way I approach stills. With video there is not room for mistakes, I can’t save things in Photoshop, and I get a lot less done. The editing process is slower too. So for the same amount of effort I produce a lot less video material than I can with stills.

Fewer Sales, And A Passion For The Single Image
From what I can gather about my own motion sales, and the sales made be others I am in touch with, videos still do not return as much as stills. Sure, a clip can sell for a lot, but at least with my own experience, there are way fewer sales. There is a lot of hype about the exploding use of video, and lots of excitement about even greater use with hardware developments like tablets and so forth. Everywhere you turn video is being used; on gas station pumps, on cell phones, in the bank while you stand in line for a teller. But I have little faith that I know what to shoot, and that I can do as god a job as people who are either video pros or have a passion for it. My passion is still for the single image.

Limited Stock Productions

I have truly enjoyed shooting the slow motion video. Heck, for that I might even have a so-called passion. But it still doesn’t make financial sense for me to pursue it. A year from now I might know whether shooting more of it will be worth while; but at the current cost of shooting truly slow motion video, and until I get some idea of the returns, I just can’t see diving in any further. If you do have a passion for video, then I would recommend adding it into still shoots for which it would be appropriate. If you intend to add video to your assignment work, then that might be another reason to engage in at least some limited stock productions.

Submission of Video Material Is Exploding

Another factor for me to consider is that the submission of video material is exploding. Getty sent me an email explaining that in the last several months they have become overwhelmed with submissions…from hundreds of clips a month to thousands. I bet the same thing is happening in micro as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the supply of video is now burgeoning much faster than the demand!

Cool Slow Motion Clips
At any rate, if the right situation, or the right shoot comes up, I will engage in some video production. But as far as planning on shooting video in 2010…it is a wait and see game for me. In the meantime, check out some of the cool slow motion clips that I shot with my video partners Stephanie Roeser and David Fischer. I have only uploaded a fraction of them, but will continue to upload them, so check back from time-to time!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dan Heller And PicScout CEO Offir Gutlezon Clarify Interview Points

The following is an exchange between stock photography industry analyst Dan Heller and Offir Gutelzon, CEO of PicScout,  clarifying points in my interview of Offir's Gutelzon. Original interview excerpts in bold type.

"...images for Image Tracker must be Rights Managed..."

Dan: This is a mis-statement.  A better way of saying this is that, historically, most ImageTracker clients have been agencies, and they made a business decision to only submit Rights-Managed images because of the difficulty in tracking whether any given use of a royalty-free image is, in fact, an infringement.  However, this anecdotal fact is not a requirement of ImageTracker. Since the system merely reports on the images it finds, this can be used for more purposes than just finding infringement. Clients could track image uses just to see the kind of distribution it's getting, among many other reasons. –

Offir: I totally agree with Dan's remark, about the technology capabilities, however the current implementation and business model of the image tracker is relevant for Rights managed images

Dan: It's also not entirely true that it's impossible to track and pursue RF infringements either. Despite the fact that multiple agencies could license the same images, tracking sales is still possible because those agencies are the sole distributors. Therefore, if an RF image is on a site that has does not have an accounting of where they got it from, this is as persuable an infringement as an RM image.  In fact, the music industry does this things way now that there are unlock songs being sold. Copyright law is very frank and basic here: unless you can show where you got the image from and demonstrated that you've licensed it legally, it's an infringement. Courts have never ruled differently on this count.

Offir: Again, this is purely a business decision to go after RF or not, our current clients have decided not to.

"The primary image usages should also consist of commercial web sites in order for the product to be of value in terms of revenue recovery."

Again, this is a statement based on historical behaviors of agencies, not necessarily the reality on the ground. Editorial infringements are not only possible, but are more lucrative when you combine statutory damages with the frequency of multiple uses. There are problems with tracking editorial-based websites beyond the scope of this discussion, but the quoted statement above is not actually true. –

Offir: Again, a business decision for the ImageTracker clients.

"If your images are represented by one of the agencies working with us, you are safe."

This is not quite accurate, and can be quite misleading--potentially to a point where you can misrepresent your own agency clients. Just because an agency may use PicScout to track its images doesn't mean that the agency will pursue a claim against any given infringer. They may choose that it's not worthwhile, or they might not have the time or resources to deal with all found infringements, or they might even negotiate some sort of other deal with the infringer that may not be in the best interests of the photographer. The reality is that far more infringements are "found" than are actually pursued, and it can be very misleading to suggest to photographers that they are "safe."  (One might sign up with an agency that a photographer knows uses Image Tracker, learns that his image infringements are not being pursued, and then files a misrepresentation claim against PicScout based on Offir's statement above.) 

Offir: By safe I refer to a level of security – PicScout provides the means, but the action rests with the agency.  In context of the entire business, ImageTracker provides the ability for photographers whose images are represented by an agency to have claims pursued by the agency – so it does require the agency to pursue.  The photographer should be aware of his/her own images and talk with agencies about their infringement follow up. 

Dan: Furthermore, different agencies have different terms in their agreements with photographers--some of the major agencies have full and exclusive "rights of representation" to photographers, such that they are the only ones who can pursue infringement claims. Other agencies give photographers the right to pursue infringement only if the agency chooses not to. In this case, it is perfectly within the rights of the photographer to sign up with Image Tracker, find infringements, present them to the agency, and if they choose not to pursue them, the photographer can pursue them himself.

Offir: PicScout is continuing to expand its partnerships and will announce a relationship with a large photographer platform.  Part of this announcement will be to evaluate a business model that will enable PicScout to offer ImageTracker directly to photographers.

Dan: One of the many reasons why I, personally, never signed up with an agency is because of their lack of assertiveness and strength of conviction in pursuing infringements. In short, agencies don't have a strong spine. I think Image Tracker is an excellent way for photographers to regain control of their own domain. Which leads to this quote:

"If you want to get reports directly from us, you should be aware of the efforts you'll have to make on your own behalf and the necessary fight you face to prove your rights, even when a case may seem clear."

Dan: This sounds more onerous and off-putting than it actually is. I'm not sure PicScout should be making statements about how easy/difficult it is to pursue infringements.  If your images are registered with the copyright office, and the infringement is bona fide, then a good copyright lawyer will take this on contingency, and the process is technically simple.  Now, that said, the real question is how much you want to scale up this kind of business model. Going after an infringer here and there is one thing, but if you're going to sign up for ImageTracker, chances are you're going to make a full time job out of this.  It's up to every individual to make that assessment without being influenced by PicScout on what is or is not worthwhile.

Offir: We encourage every photographer to evaluate what business approach is best suited for themselves – PicScout is committed to every image getting it’s credit and we applaud agencies and photographers who choose to pursue and protect their images through proper use.