Back in the Seventies and Eighties I founded and ran several Fleet Street photo agencies specialising in stock images of celebrities from pop stars to politicians. These were syndicated to the National and International press and Television. These days I am active in the Microstock world and this blog charts my journey as well as, hopefully, providing inspiration and ideas to others. Image buyers should also find this blog useful with links to my portfolios and regular updates on new uploads. Unless otherwise stated all images are my copyright and may not be reproduced or copied. Comments are very welcome but will be reviewed before publication. Enjoy your visit. Regards, David.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A is for.......Alamy:

Passed -Flora the Singleton Giant
I have recently started to upload some images to British agency Alamy. More premium priced than microstock they are probaly best described as a Midstock agency. Though they take any kind of stock subjects they are probaly best known for travel and editorial images -with frequent credits in the British national newspapers.

Now, this is not a new sign up for me. I opened my account at Alamy in January 2008 back when my only other agencies were Snap Village (deceased) and Picture Nation (deceased). They were British, took editorial and anybody could upload on line. It all looked good until I started to see their frankly Byzantine upload requirements. You couldn't just upload your images as you could with other agencies. Instead a curious upsizing was required for which you had to buy special software (Genuine Fractals was their recommended one). Cue lots of instructions about compressed/uncompressed sizes which I didn't really understand then (and still don't!). Alamy went on hold before it even began for me. Anyway, years passed and all that kerfuffle was eventually scrapped. Now you just need a 6 megapixel (or more) camera and you're good to go. Provided your camera is on their "Approved Camera List" that is. My Nikon D80 is, I'm pleased to say.

So, start uploading then David? Well, no because about that time microsite Yaymicro announced a
Failed - chromatic aberration
partnership deal with Alamy - I was happy for them to take their cut for saving me all that time uploading and keywording. This would have been a sound plan if they had ever actually put any of my images on Alamy. After a year or so I emailed them and they assured me they would get there eventually but it would take time. I'm guessing they were cherry picking best images for Alamy and not just mirroring their whole library there. More time passed and still no Alamy action and in the meanwhile Yay have virtually sunk into oblivion (for me) so I'm not sure how much longer I'll even be uploading to them.

Right, time to upload direct. Start with uploading four images as a test. Just upload (you only have to add captions/keywords after approval). My test came a cropper when one of the Eiffel Tower failed their Quality Control (QC) for chromatic aberration (fringing). It had been approved at every other site I belong to. However, there was no wait period and I was free to upload another four images. I just re-uploaded the passed ones from the first batch and added another hopeful. These passed and I was in. Once in you can upload as many images as you want at any time. At this point you can add your data and wait for the next server update for them to go on sale.

Now for the important bit: Alamy rules do not allow you to set a different license type (for the same image) to what you are selling elsewhere. If those images are Royalty Free on microstock then you must set a Royalty Free license on Alamy. This throws up another problem because Alamy require editorial images to be Rights Managed - ruling out a large chunk of my portfolio which are Royalty Free on the micros. You could, of course, shoot some editorial just for Alamy and that would be fine.****
Passed - Pigs head with apple

The second important thing is their Quality Control (review) system. They do not check every image but if they do reject just one they also reject every other in that batch AND in all other batches awaiting approval. Harsh, but there it is. My strategy for now is to literally upload one image and await the outcome. Reviews are usually a day or less. Once I get a feel for their standards I'll up my
numbers. Be aware that if you get a sufficient number of QC fails you will be suspended from uploading for a while or ultimately face account closure.

My image choice strategy, for now, is to choose a few images from each area of my port (e.g. each Greek island etc). I'll report back how it all goes. Regards, David.

****EDIT: RF Licensing is coming. See my post here Alamy update

August Sales Updates:

Prevelis ferry docked at Halki island
As with every other month there are no prizes for guessing that Shutterstock took top place in August. Sales were slightly down from recent months and this is one instance in which I would have narrowly missed payout under the old payout limit. Luckily I had changed mine to the new $35 level in my account settings. On Demand sales were good but I only received a couple of small Single Downloads which brought the total down.

Istock came in second with 5 credit sales and 36 sub/PP downloads.

In third place were Picfair with, at last, my second sale there! An image of the Red Arrows was purchased by a design agency to use in a clients project. They had originally gone to Istock but found the editorial restrictions prevented the use they needed. Picfairs license (which allows for some commercial uses) fitted the bill. I know this because the purchaser contacted me directly and, pleasingly, said they would certainly look at Picfair for future projects.

Photogenic pile of stones on Ftenegia beach, Halki
123RF achieved fourth place with 13 downloads. I am still awaiting review of all my editorial images uploaded in August although two commercial images were reviewed and accepted. This is strange as 123
used to have lightning fast reviews for editorial (often within minutes) so I am not sure what has changed.

Dreamstime disappointed with 9 downloads all of which were subs. Especially frustrating as I am only a fraction off payout level :(

Bigstock ranked sixth with 10 downloads (mainly subs). Once again, six of those images were related to my local area of Hastings.
Kent Air Ambulance at St.Leonards-on-Sea

Bringing up the rear in seventh place were Fotolia with 5 downloads. However, the good news there is that all 5 were in the last few days of the month suggesting an uptick in activity on my small portfolio there. This may well be due to parent company Adobe launching their new Adobe Stock site which mirrors Fotolia images. That will certainly be one to watch in coming months.

Shooting and uploading in August included further images from my June trip to Halki island in Greece as well as the awful events at Shoreham detailed in my last post. An unexpected photo opportunity arose when the Kent Air Ambulance landed in the public park in front of my flat. This was the second time this has happened but what made it especially strange was that I had literally just edited and uploaded my image from Shoreham -with the same Kent Air Ambulance pictured landing at the tragedy. Weird or what? Regards, David.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Shoreham Airshow Crash:

Shoreham crash scene
Regular readers will know that I enjoy photographing aviation subjects and always try and get to an airshow each year. This year I was set to go to the Airbourne airshow at Eastbourne but bad weather on the day I was going led to the cancellation of all flying. The excellent Dunsfold airshow which I attended last year was out as I wasn't free to go that weekend. This really only left the annual airshow at Shoreham-on-Sea in my area. This became a must see event when it was announced that XH588 -the last flying Vulcan bomber would be displaying on Saturday 22. This is the last year of flying for the Vulcan and, although I have seen it twice before, I was delighted to have the opportunity for one last chance to see it in the sky.

Archive image of a Hawker Hunter
The weather was perfect both as a spectator and as a photographer. Plenty of sunshine and blue skies -ideal for airshow photography. Late morning saw a number of aerobatic displays including Tiger Moths and the RAF parachute team The Falcons. The real action of the day got going just after 1.15pm with the arrival of the Hawker Hunter jet fighter. This fifties vintage jet is a favourite of mine having seen a number of Hunter displays at various airshows. A low level high speed run down the display line was followed by a steep climb and loop to bring it back to the display area. Because of my position this is where I lost sight of it behind the grandstand area as I poised my camera to capture the return run.

The rest is tragic history which has made the news around the world as the Hunter lost altitude before crashing on the busy A27 road next to the airfield. I sensed something was wrong when the aircraft hadn't reappeared as expected. There was then the sounds of gasps followed by a loud explosion. I moved my position a few feet in time to see a large fireball go up followed by plumes of thick black smoke. At this point the thousands of spectators simply fell very quite. The Hunter had been only seconds into its display and there was a sense of disbelief and shock at what had just happened.

Archive image of Vulcan XH588
Initially, most thoughts were for the fate of the pilot but it was only later that the full horror of what had happened emerged as the death toll from the A27 road reached eleven with the pilot (still) in critical condition. Needless to say, the rest of the airshow was cancelled. The one exception was the Vulcan. About an hour after the crash XH588 made one very slow and very quite flypast over the scene in what was a very moving and poignant tribute to those lost in the crash. That, sadly, will be my last memory of seeing the Vulcan in flight.

It truly was an appalling experience and not one I would want to repeat. Far worse, of course, for friends and family of those that died. You always have an awareness at airshows that something could go wrong but, in reality, never actually expect it to happen. An investigation into the crash is underway and currently in the UK all Hawker Hunters are grounded with restrictions placed on displays by other vintage jets.

Will I still visit and photograph airshows? Certainly - I cannot imagine I'm likely to witness something like this again. Regards, David.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

July Sales Updates:

The Red Arrows -Extended License at Istock
Somewhat later than I had hoped here are my updates for July. Expect August updates to follow soon to get things back on track :)

In first place (of course) were Shutterstock. A good number of On Demand downloads and a handful of Single Downloads pushed July over the payout limit. In an interesting move SS announced that the minimum payout is to drop to just $35 (from $75). Just go into your account settings at SS and change the figure. This move prompted some cynical speculation that SS anticipate a drop in sales for contributors. I do not buy that theory. Why would they care if contributors had to wait a bit longer for payout? My belief is that as a public company they simply want to clear all that debt (unpaid commissions) off the balance sheet. It doesn't benefit them to have all that money (which isn't theirs) sitting there. In practise, I usually make the existing payout each month but I will now get the certainty of a monthly payment even if I haven't quite made the old limit.

Tentertainment festival - illustrating festivals, summer, events
In second place came Istock with an excellent month consisting of 5 credit sales (including an EL on one of my Red Arrows images) and a remarkable 46 sub and PP downloads. My mainly Editorial portfolio (which now stands at 983 images) seems to be attracting the interest of the sub package buyers.

Third place went to Dreamstime with 8 downloads boosted heavily by a IEL (Increased usage) and a UEL (multi seat) on my image of the Italian street party in Clerkenwell, London.

123RF made fourth place with 5 downloads. They still seem to be having issues getting new uploads reviewed in a timely manner.

Italian street party - EL at Dreamstime
Bigstock made fifth place with 8 downloads -virtually all subs. As noted before, Hastings related images continue to be downloaded here.

In sixth place came FineArtAmerica with a single greeting card sale of my Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast image.

Bringing up the rear in seventh place were Fotolia with just 2 downloads earning 0.72 credits. On the plus
side I contacted them to increase the prices of my Extended License sales. Bronze level contributors can place these sales at 60 credits rather than the default 30. You can change each one manually but much easier to contact Fotolia support and they will do it for you. Whilst I do not expect that many EL sales it is nice to know that I will get a decent amount of commission for them.

Of note amongst the non sellers was the lack of action from Redbubble which had got off to such a promising start in May/June. Maybe I had benefited from a new contributor bounce and things have now settled down? I have continued to upload and hope for better things in the future. Also notable was that is now a full year since my last sale at Cutcaster. A total of just 8 sales ever on a portfolio of circa 1400 confirms my decision to cease uploading new images to them was the correct one (for me).

Octopuses drying on Nisyros - classic Greek image
Shooting in July mainly centered on the annual St.Leonards Festival -a community arts and music event which yielded excellent crowd and festival images. I have yet to edit and upload these but the images from last year continue to sell steadily. I also covered the Tentertainment music festival once again and have already seen sales from these. This local event has proved to be a constant seller over the last few years as an illustration for festivals/summer/outdoor events etc. A Google search finds these images of Kent being used across the world!  

Other uploading in July included my first images from my June trip to the lovely Greek island of Halki. One of my favourites included one from the nearby island of Nisyros of Octopuses drying on a line. In terms of Greek island images it's a real "classic" image which I have seen used many times. Sadly, until now I had never actually seen any drying Octopi in real life to photograph. I was excited, to say the least, when I spotted these on the seafront at Mandraki. As well as several early sales this image recently got chosen by Picfair for their weekly pick of top images -resulting in hundreds of views. I have high hopes for this image :) Regards, David.