Sunday, 20 December 2009

Canon News: Firmware updates

Hard for me to get too excited about this post as I don't own any of the equipment, but Canon have launched new firmware, helping with compatibility with wireless controllers:

Friday, 11 December 2009

Pentax News: New weather-resistant 100mm macro lens

Pentax have just announced a weather-resistant 100mm Macro lens, the D-FA 100 mm f/2,8 Macro WR.

Nikon News: New lens and teleconverter

Nikon have updated their 300mm f/2.8 lens, known as AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II. Details are:

  • Vibration Reduction (VR II) enables sharper pictures while shooting at shutter speeds up to four stops slower than would otherwise be possible
  • Three focus modes are available — A/M mode is added to conventional M/A and M modes
  • Nano Crystal Coat effectively suppresses ghosting and flare for clear images
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM) ensures smooth and quiet AF operation
Nikon have also introduced a new verion of their 2x teleconverter, the AF-S Teleconverter TC-20E III, with an aspherical element. It will double the focal length of a compatible lens, but two stops of light will be lost.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Sony News: Firmware for A380, A330 and A230

Sony have relased version 1.10 firmware for their A380, A330 and A230 cameras. To quote their website which describes the improvement:

When the [Metering mode] is set to the [Center weighted] or [Spot] metering modes, the exposure will be locked when the focus is confirmed. (When shooting in AF mode)."

Available to download as a WIndows, or Mac compatible versions.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Canon News: 7D problem - firmware out soon ***UPDATE***

Canon have confirmed there's a minor problem with their new 7D - subtle artifacts from previous shots can be seen under certain continous shooting bursts. Details here and firmware expected very soon.

UPDATE: In fact, it's now been released, as version 1.1.0, available to download here.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Pentax News: New firmware for K-7 DSLR

Pentax have released an updated version of their firmware for the K-7. Now at version 1.02, it adds a fine sharpness setting, as well image processing performance and stability in certain situations. Available to download from here.

Microstock News: Shutterstock provides legal guarantee

In an attempt to provide some differentiation in the competitive microstock industry, Shutterstock* has announced it will legally guarantee any image/footage sale up to $10,000, against any legal costs or direct costs associated with the use of one of its licences.

Microstock News: Fotolia on the offensive

In the increasingly consolidating and competitive microstock industry, Fotolia has turned the heat up a notch - this time in trying to attract top contributors to their site, away from others. In launching 'Operation Level Ground*', if you have at least 1000 active images on another site, they will reward you with a status as if those downloads had been made on Fotolia. Only available until the end of the year (although why wouldn't they extend it?).

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Canon News: EOS 5D Mark II - new firmware and wireless conntroller

Canon have taken the unusual step of updating its users with news that they're going to be launching an update to the firmware for the 5D Mark II. It will enable the recording of high definition 1080p video at 24 and 25fps, meaning it's no longer been overtaken by the recently announced 7D. It should be released in the first half of 2010.

Alongside the Mark IV announcement and its wireless transmitter, Canon have also announced a new controller for the 5D Mark II - the WFT-E4 II. Info here.

Canon News - Canon EOS 1D Mark IV Announced

After much anticipation, today Canon announced their successor to the EOS 1D Mark III, with the predictably named Mark IV:

Although almost identical externally, there are some key new features to convince you to buy/upgrade:

  • Completely Redesigned 45-Point Autofocus System, with 39 high-precision cross-type focusing points
  • Fast 10 fps Continuous Shooting
  • 16-Megapixel Resolution
  • Outstanding ISO Sensitivity (up to 102,400)
  • Full HD Video Recording at Selectable Frame Rates

To accompany the new EOS-1D Mark IV Digital SLR camera, Canon is also announcing a new accessory, the WFT-E2 II A wireless file transmitter providing photographers with a wide range of professional digital connectivity options, details here.

Full press release here.

And Canon's micro-site here.

And their white-paper here.

As for me, I can't afford one, so I'll just upgrade my 'dream camera' from the Mk III to Mk IV version!!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Microstock News: Polylooks launches in the UK

A German microstock agency (owned by Deutsche Telekom) thinks it's seen a gap in the busy microstock industry in the UK and is launching its Polylooks brand here. It's aiming to be the go-to source for UK/European imagery, something which they say a lot of the US-based sites are not strong in.

Commission rates are 50% and 35% for exclusive and non-exclusive, respectively.

More details in their press release.

Microstock News: ShutterStock buys BigStockPhoto

Following consolidation in the microstock industry earlier this year (see my previous post), Shutterstock* is now getting in on the action, with its acquisition of BigStockPhoto*. There's a natural synergy between Shutterstock's subscription model and BigStockPhoto's credit-based model. For now, the sites will run independently, but presumably it wont be long before they'll look for marketing synergies and share collections to benefit all parties.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Sigma News: 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG OS Launched

Sigma have launched a new zoom lens, the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG OS:

The 'OS' stands for 'Optical Stabiliser' and is equivalent to the IS on some Canon lenses.

It comes with a lens hood and versions will be available to support Canon, Nikon (D), Sony, Pentax and Sigma mounts.



More information available from Sigma's website here.

Tamron News: SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 Launched

Tamron have introduced a new zoom lens, snappily called the SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di-II VC LD Aspherical (IF):

VC stands for 'Vibration Compensation' - similar to the IS with some Canon lenses.

It's for digital cropped sensors only and initially only for Nikon mount, with Canon following at end of October.

You can read more about it on their website, here.

Nikon mount available here*:

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Canon News: New lenses

Canon weren't content with launching the 7D and have also announced three new lenses:

EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens

As discussed in a previous blog post, this is Canon's first lens to include their new hybrid image stabilisation.

EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens

EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens

Monday, 31 August 2009

Canon News: 7D Launched (a D300s killer?)

Well, after months, if not years, of speculation, Canon have announced the 7D.

I'll update this post with more information and links, as and when they become available.


Here are the specifications:
  • 18Mp APS-C (1.6 Crop)
  • 8 frames per second
  • A new auto-focus system, including 19 cross-type sensors
  • ISO 100-6400, expandable to 12800
  • 100% viewfinder coverage, with horizon assist
  • Dual Digic IV processors
  • Full HD video, including HDMI output and external mic input
  • Built-in flash, with wireless sync to other flash units
  • A revised 3" LCD 920k screen
On every count, that should beat my Canon 40D nicely, especially for wildlife photography, where low-light and fast action are often on the menu.


As for a UK price-point, that's a little bit of a tricky one. It's not clear yet whether there will also be an evolution for the 50D (presumably the 60D?), or whether the 7D is the replacement. It's also serving largely different needs to 5D Mk II which suits landscpaes, weddings and portraiture, with its higher resolution and full-frame capabilities. A quick look at Camera Price Buster this evening (31st August) has the 50D body at £730 and the 5D Mk II at £1868. And the closet rival from Nikon would be the D300s (£1270) so I'm guessing somewhere around the £1600 at launch to grab the early adopters open wallets?

(update: I was close - it seems to be around £1700, albeit a lot are throwing in extras!)

UK Availability

The UK has got availability now:



Thursday, 27 August 2009

Sony News: New DSLRS: A850, A550 and A500

Just days before the expected launch from Canon of its much anticipated 7D, Sony have launched three new cameras and a new lens.


You can read more in this press release, but the highlights are:
  • Same 24.6Mp full-frame capabilities as the top of the range A900, with slightly reduced fps and viewfinder coverage - and it's cheaper!
  • Dual Bionz processors

Sony have also launched a new zoom lens, with constant f/2.8 aperture: the SAL2875 28-75mm F2.8 SAM lens


More details of the A550 and A500 can be found at this press release. They come with:
  • 14.2/12.3Mp sensors respectivity, utilising Sony's new Exmor (TM) sensor technology
  • A 3" tilt LCD
  • In-built HDR (high dynamic range) processing - I think these are the first cameras to do this?

Monday, 24 August 2009

Microstock Categories - a help or hindrance?

I'm nowhere close to earning a decent income from microstock and doubt I ever will, but it has provided me with some great positives:
  • I'm a much better photographer; I'm learning about what makes a 'commercial' shot, improving my understanding of composition and even starting to get my head around Photoshop
  • It's a nice feeling that someone is willing to pay for my work
  • I can (start to) justify spending money on new gear
What is frustrating though is the hassle (and therefore time) involved in the upload process to the various sites. Specifically, the insistence that alongside keywords, categories have to be specified. They either overlap with keywords, or the list of categories to choose from is so incomplete/patchy, there's never one which seems to fit. And as the category options are all different across sites, there's minimal opportunity to select generic categories.

I'm not a buyer from microstock sites, so would love to know how useful the categories are? My hunch would be though that most buyers know what they're after and they'll simply drop the relevant keywords into a search box. I guess microtock administrators can see from their web stats how often categories and used to search versus keywords, so I'd love to get an insight into this too...

So, I vote to remove categories from the microstock industry! Do you?

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Canon News: Six new Powershots Announced

Today Canon announced the introduction of 6 new cameras:

Canon G11Canon S90Canon SX20 IS
Canon SX120 ISCanon SD980Canon SD940

More details

My first Enhanced License Microstock sale!

Although still well behind my target of earnning £250 from Microstock this year, I had a welcome boost from Shutterstock*, where I've made my first enhanced download sale. It was for the following image:

That means my Shutterstock earnings have gained a significant lead against the other sites, although iStockphoto has moved into second place... All the stats on the right-hand side of the front page of this blog.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Alamy still profitable - but it's tough going

As the update by Alamy CEO James West says in a blog update, times are tough at Alamy, with a prediction that sales will be 15-20% down this year compared to last. James rightly points out that a significant factor has been the 'recession' and its impact on image buyers (e.g. UK newspaper industry). The other factor which I would have assumed was just as relevant is the evolving marketplace and availability of more competitive offerings from the microstock companies (iStockphoto, Dreamstime, Fotolia, Shutterstock, etc.). As well as probably being cheaper, arguably some of these companies have tigher image quality control in-place at time of submission, which could lead to a more efficient buying experience.

For the record, I'm yet to make any sales from my small Rights-Managed portfolio on Alamy, but finger's crossed one day I will!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Microstock News: Yet another proposition from Getty

As you can read about here, Getty Images have launched a new cheap option for online news and blog sites. Images from their existing creative imagery house collections and archive will start from $5. Apparently, this doesn't conflict with their microstock offerings discussed in one of my recent posts, here. Perhaps no conflict, but for me at least, further confusion!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Nikon news: Compact Camera with in-built projector

Nikon have launched the 12.1MP image-stabilised Coolpix S1000pj - with an in-built projector! More details available here. It will 'throw' an up to 40 inch image onto a wall up to 2 metres away, A great idea - not sure how battery life will be impacted in real-life tests, though.

Also launched are the Coolpix S640, Coolpix S570 and Coolpix S70.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Microstock News: Getty's customer segmentation

Well, as expected, there's ongoing consolidation in the microstock industry and Getty continues to flex its muscles as it looks like it's trying to introduce some customer segmentation into the market. It now looks like it's aiming for three tiers of microstock:

1.) Free - Stock.xchng - with explicit upselling to iStockphoto
2.) Cheap - iStockphoto*
3.) Premium - Vetta* (for selective exclusive imagery)

There are then partnership models in-place with the likes of - yes, it is very confusing!

That leaves one of its other recent Jupiter acquisitions, StockXpert* a little exposed - it's in direct competition to iStockphoto*. If it's retired/merged, it will be a real shame, as its upload interface (especially compared to iStockphoto*) is simple. Commissions at iStockphoto* for photographers are lower though, so there's an inevitability about it all. This may explain why a batch of my latest photos haven't been reviewed at StockXpert*.

Microstock News: SnapVillage closes its doors

As known for a while, Snapvillage is closing its doors - see their blog update for details. From 1st August, visitors will be redirected to instead.

New Canon 50D Firmware

Canon have released a new version of its firmware for the 50D DLSR, version 1.07. It fixes a magenta cast under certain shooting conditions and some changes to some of the menus on certain non-English languages.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

New Canon Hybrid IS System

Canon and Nikon have long been the advocates on in-lens image stabilisation - and now Canon have upped the stakes by releasing details of their new hybrid IS. Detail are available here.

Rumours are now around which lens will first feature it - some think a new 70-200 f/2.8 IS II ...

Nikon news

Some new goodies announced from Nikon today:

All well at Crestock?

As with most microstock submitters, although we're all encouraged to submit images exclusively to a particular agency (for marginally higher commissions), I've been submitting images to a variety of them, on a non-exclusive basis.

However, uploading images and keywording can be pretty tedious, so I've decided to limit my uploading to only the sites which were providing useful returns - Shutterstock*, StockXpert*, iStockPhoto*, Dreamstime* and Fotolia*. That meant leaving three other sites - Snapvillage (which is being retired soon anyway), 123RF and finally Crestock.

For both 123RF and Snapvillage, closing my account was not only efficient, it was intuitive and managed politely - credit to both. But at Crestock, my e-mail request to close my account has been ignored so far. Further still, a quick look at their forum and it looks like I'm not alone with my experience...

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Microstock News: Fotolia news - a busy May !

Is this ultimately leading to a duopoly in stock photography between Getty and Fotolia, or is there news to come from any of the other players... they can't afford to be left behind.

Microstock News: Lookstat gets funding

Lookstat is a website which claims to help take away the burden of tracking sales across multiple microstock sites. As someone that does this tracking manually, I'd certainly appreciate a tool to speed this up, although my sales are so low (in fact, have pretty much dried-up!!), I'm losing faith in microstock altogether.

They've recently received $500k of funding, which is admirable. Hopefully they'll use it to develop support from more than the two current sites - iStockphoto and Dreamstime. Long-term, the future will be interesting, as with increasing consolidation between microstock players, there may be less need for photographers to track sales across many sites. They may also have certain resistance from people who aren't so keen to share their secure logon details with a third-party.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Canon 500D Available from Amazon UK*

Body only, EF-S 18-55mm IS and 18-200mm kits also available:

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Canon News: New 270EX Flash - with zoom and bounce

Canon have also announced a new compact flash, the 270EX

Features are:
  • High power flash with a maximum guide number 27 m
  • Fast, silent recycle times
  • Manual flash output (settable via camera menus)
  • Speedlite controllable with compatible camera's menu
  • Zoom head
  • Bounce flash head

New Canon 500D Confirmed

Canon have launched the next model in the xx0D lineup - the 500D (also known as Rebel T1i and Kiss X3 Digital overseas):

The highlights include:
  • 15.1 MP CMOS sensor
  • Full HD (1080p) movies
  • High ISO up to 12800 for low-light conditions
  • 3.4fps with up to 170 JPEG burst
  • 3.0” Clear View LCD with Live View mode
  • 9-point AF system
  • DIGIC 4
  • EOS Integrated Cleaning System
  • EF/EF-S and EX Speedlite compatibility

More details here.

Stealing plenty of features from the recently launched 5D Mark II, it leaves the 50D ripe for an upgrade, although it's getting close to being squeezed out of their lineup altogether!

Body only, EF-S 18-55mm IS and 18-200mm kits now available from Amazon:

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

iStock Founder leaves Getty

As mentioned in a cnet article, iStock's founder and CEO, Brian Livingstone, has left its parent, Getty.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

New Canon Rebel / 500D ?

Rumours suggesting there will be a new Canon Rebel (DSLR entry-level) launched in the next few days... Likely to be called the 500D and the usual form is that the previous model EOS 450D*will linger around at a slightly reduced price too.

Canon's likely approach is to drop-in some specs from the higher-end cameras, so expect to see something like a 15Mp sensor, Digic IV processing, upgraded screen and HD 1080P video mode. They need enough 'sexy features' to ensure a steady supply of beginners are attracted to the Canon range... albeit, such a spec will cannibalise potential upgrades to the 50D.


*** an early image seems to suggest an articulated screen, much like many camcorders have...***

Alamy subscription update

Further to my post earlier in the week about Alamy considering a subscription model for their UK newspaper clients, a couple of things have been cleared-up by the CEO, James West:
  • UK newspapers accounted for 8% of Alamy's net revenues
  • Any subscription model may not necessarily be for unlimted downloads for a client, thereby preserving the revenue per image (and commission to the photographer); however, it's also pointed out that with falling newspaper publications/pages, there may not be as much need for a growing number of images, so an unlimited option may not be too much of an issue
  • There is an option for photographers to 'opt-out', but this will mean getting no revenues from any model that's agreed, which sounds a little worse than simply less

My first few Alamy images are here. As I haven't sold any yet, anything which puts me in a more likely position to generate a sale works for me!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Alamy pushes for a subscription model for UK newspapers

Alamy's CEO, James West, has posted a blog update which is yet another insight into the changing stock/microstock landscape. He's been talking to UK newspaper contacts, from where he's seen dramatic falls in revenues.

The printed newspaper industry is in terminal decline (or at least significant consolidation) and so, in a way to minimise their cost-base, most picture editors are turning to subscription-based models to source their photography. Alamy see little choice but to adopt a similar model to stay in the game.

Although some comments on Alamy's blog imply it's a short-term over-reaction to the recession and falling advertising revenues at newspapers, I'd say it's a needed change to match the more fundamental shift which is part of the inevitable changes which digital media brings.

As I've stated in an earlier posting, much like the music industry, the production of good quality imagery is much easier/quicker/cheaper to produce and distribute - that will inevitably lead to a fall in price (simple economics). This is compounded by the reduced demand (people are buying less newspapers and want video online) - something which the microstock business model supports. Sure, you still need talent and creativity to generate content, but that talent pool is much larger than before and everyone's got a global stage... close to what economists call perfect competition.

So, Alamy get the thumbs-up from me for not being like the large music labels in the 1990's, hoping digital downloads would go away. Unfortunately for Alamy though, as they'll be squeezed from both the contributer and buyer sides, they'll need to reduce their cut (and therefore costs), but if they follow-through on their need to adapt, they may just survive!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

First macro approved microstock photo

Well, hot on the heels of me trying out these new extension tubes, I've had my first photo approved for sale on Shutterstock. It's not very exciting subject matter (so may not sell!):

This was taken inside a very cheap light-tent, outside using bright sunshine as the only light source. I also 'isolated' the image, using a really simple technique - I'll cover that in a post soon.

Getty announces 110 (5%) job cuts

See here for more information.

I wonder, is this largely due to lower marketing/design budgets in the companies that would have happily spent lots of money buying stock from Getty?... or a more fundamental shift in the stock/microstock industry...?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

New toy - Kenko Extension Tubes

Although my plan is to see if it's possible to earn £250 from photography, I never said I couldn't invest some money too!

So, a couple of weeks ago, on eBay, I ordered a 'Kenko DG Auto Extension Tube Set'. They look a little something like:

What are they? Well, they are basically a tube, with air in the middle! All they do is move your lens further away from the sensor than normal, allowing you to have a MUCH closer minimum focusing distance, i.e. a cheap way into macro photography. And with three combinations of tubes, there's loads of variability in composition of a shot, as they can be stacked in any combination (the three sizes are 12mm, 20mm and 36mm).

The official manufacturer's website (at least I think it is!), is pretty appalling, but there is a link to a .pdf file. Here, as on most places on the internet, it suggests the tubes don't work with EF-S lenses, but they actually do now - just make sure you get the newer ones.

They cost £91 including delivery from Hong Kong, which is much more reasonable than UK high-street prices here and as there's no glass in them, I wasn't too bothered about international couriers. To contrast this, Canon sell one tube for about the same price - you get the same pass-through of focusing/exposure info from lens to camera body and it's the same air inside the tube.

Are they any good? er...nope. They are amazing! I'm genuinely impressed about how effective they work. I've tried them successfully with my 70-200 f/4 L, 24-105 f/4 L and the 50mm II f1.8. So far, the latter lens seems to be the best for me.

I've uploaded a couple of shots to some microstock sites to see if they'll be accepted... hopefully they will and I can start getting some of my investment back!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Phishiness at iStockphoto

It looks like iStockphoto suffered a phishing attack yesterday, March 3rd. Details here.

Phishing isn't a compromise of their website as such, but it was tricking users into following links via forum messages/site mail, which then led to a fake page asking for username and password.

It's confidence-inspiring that iStock discovered the problem relatively quickly and took the site offline to clean up the mess, but slightly odd that the incident and recommendation to change password is somewhat buried in their forum. I actually found out about it on a competing site's forum!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Sigma zooms along

Sigma have relased three new zoom lenses, for Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Sony, or Pentax mounts:

Acronyms are:

DC - designed for digital cameras with smaller sensors (APS-C)
EX - superior external build and image quality
OS - Optical Stabiliser
HSM- Hyper-Sonic Motor

LInks to Sigma press release below each image.

50-200mm F4-5.6 DC OS HSM

10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM

18-50mm F2.8-4.5 DC OS HSM

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Getty gobbles up JupiterImages

Following the recent announcement of Getty's succesful aquisition of JupiterImages, more details have emerged of plans.

Time will tell what that means for the StockXpert microstock site, which Jupiter had owned... And of course, Getty already own iStockPhoto

Most commentators would expect a little more consolidation/acquisition - the traditional stock agencies need to control the microstock industry - and as they can't fight it, they have to buy it!

Canon TS-E lenses available to pre-order at Amazon

Apparently released at the end of May in the UK...

Canon TS-E 17mm f/4.0 L Lens (Ultra wide 17mm focal length, ± 6.5° Tilt & ±12mm Shift)*

Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Lens ( Wide 24mm focal length, ± 8.5° Tilt & ±12mm Shift)*

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Sunday, 15 February 2009

London - a Winter Wonderland

A couple of weeks ago, London had the worst snow in 20 years. Frankly, it wasn't a lot, but as the centre of London tends to be a few degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside, it was rare for it to settle as much as it did. The night before Londoners used the snow as an excuse to stay at home, I managed to get out with my tripod and camera. Most shots were a write-off, as there was so much snow blowing into the lens, but a couple of shots made it - and I'm pleased to say they've been accepted on Alamy.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Microstock Tip - using keywords

All the microstock sites rely on keywords in order for an image to feature high-up in a search query. So, the more comprehensive and relevant the keywords are, the more likely the file will be found and therefore viewed and hopefully purchased.

I've recently found a great keywording tool - it allows you to search for similar images and extract the consolidated keywords from images you select. Using this, I've been able to find a few obvious extra keywords. For example, my best-selling image at the moment is:

Previously, I'd used the following keywords to describe it:

- Deer, Antler, Stag, Wildlife, Nature, Animal, Mammal, Autumn, outdoors, wild

But now, I've added: hunt, doe, buck, male, forest, antlers, brown, fall, game, grass,trees, woods, season, hunting, park, large, roebuck

Time will tell how useful it's been, but although a tedious job, it's a no-brainer to give it a go.

p.s. On Fotolia*, they won't allow you to update the keywords after the first submission, to "avoid keyword spamming". A shame, frankly!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

New faster Canon TS-E 24mm??

Rumours are there will be a new Canon lens out in the next couple of weeks - a replacement of the TS-E 24mm f/3.5L, this time faster at f/2.8.  Never used a tilt and shift lens myself, so can't really comment!

For me, I'd be more interested in them replacing the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS L with better IS and zoom mechanism (and slightly faster, but not heavier!?)... or bringing out a replacement to the 400mm F/5.6 L, with image stabilisation.

Microstock Industry News: Snapvillage Snuffled

Last year when I first signed-up to a few microstock sites, I wasn't sure which would be successful.  Pretty soon though, it became clear that snapvillage wasn't doing as well as the others - hardly any views for my photos logged and no sales... I soon stopped uploading new images to the site.

Well, it looks like my experience may have been a microcosm of some wider issues at snapvillage.  Its owners have now decided that snapvillage will be subsumed into one of their other stock brands, Veer and the new service will be called Veer Marketplace.  More details here.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Alamy Approval

Well, some good news from my new friends at Alamy. My first four photos have passed their Quality Control process, so they're now up and available to license!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Taking good Microstock photos: Part 1

If you'd like to have a go at microstock photography, there are three things you need to consider before you take a shot:

  1. Is the subject likely to be of commercial value?
  2. Is the camera setup to take the shot at a suitable quality?
  3. Is the composition suitably different to stand out from the crowd?

Let's look at each in turn...

1.) Is the subject likely to be of commercial value?

It's obviously in your best interest to only upload photos that have a commercial value. Luckily, the microstock agencies feel the same way, so they provide a load of useful advice to help you work out what's popular*:

You can also search using words which would describe your shot and compare the competition (this search is from Shutterstock*):

Finally, check that you're legally allowed to take the photo - there are an annoyingly large number of buildings, trademarks and such like which you can't use without permission - I recently found this with the London Underground sign, for example.

2.) Is the camera setup to take the shot at a suitable quality?

Some simple setup points can mean your shot will be in with a chance of being accepted and minimise the amount of editing required:

  • Shoot in RAW at the highest quality setting- preserving all of the detail in the image and allowing non-destructive editing of things like exposure and white balance later on
  • The lowest ISO setting you can use, avoiding noise (or grain) in the shot
  • Use the best quality lens you have available
  • Clean the lens and sensor
  • Use a tripod, cable/remote release and mirror lockup in low light conditions (or instead of a remote/cable release, put the camera onto a short self-timer)
  • Check the horizon is straight! (Although you can straighten it in Photoshop, you will then lose part of the photo)

3.) Is the composition suitably different to stand out from the crowd?

Chances are, the shot you're about to take isn't unique - others will have taken shots of a similar subject. So, as in step 1, check to see what others have done, then either build on their ideas, or even try something completely different. I'll cover composition in more detail as another topic in the near future.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Licensing images for sale - Royalty Free (RF) vs. Rights Managed (RM)

Right, it's coming to the end of January and I'm predictably not on-track to meet my target of £250 for the year. This is not unexpected of course, as at the start of the year, I'll have a smaller pool of photos in my microstock portfolio, than later in the year, as I start adding to them. In fact, as I have on average 20 photos uploaded on microstock sites, adding only 2 more each month should mean I'll hit my target (ok, so it's not that easy, but the principle holds!).

Anyway, one thing I've started to understand a little more in the last couple of weeks is licensing of photos for commercial use and whether it means there is a parallel way to generate income... (Thanks to Simon (an excellent wildlife photographer), who popped into my office recently and encouraged me to look at this in a little more detail.)

Microstock is licensed as Royalty-Free (RF) and this means although I retain the copyright, the buyer can pretty much do what they like with the image - other than sell it on. This potentially is a great result for the buyer, as they pay peanuts for an image. There is a lot of comment written about whether microstock has completely devalued the more traditional higher-priced RF business model. My view is that as supply of images has increased (amateur photographers have access to quality cameras and ability to upload), the price will inevitably reduce (as there isn't the equivalent increase in demand from buyers). No point in fighting it, as it's common sense.

Alongside RF though, is another licensing model, called Rights-Managed (RM). This is where the buyer is licensed an image for a particular usage, run (e.g. number of prints of the advert) and geography. This will work out significantly more expensive than microstock for a buyer, but they have the advantage of knowing how/if the image has previously been used (although, personally don't quite get this, as RM doesn't mean it has to be exclusive to a particular agency, so can't be that easy to track). Suffice to say, you can't license an image as RM, if it's ever been licensed as RF anywhere else... meaning my current RF microstock sales can't be sold as RM. But, I can split my portfolio across RF and RM.

The best way to try out Rights-Managed seems to be Alamy. So, as for all the other sites, a contributor has to pass their quality requirements, so I've submitted four images for them to review (ones which I always thought were a bit too special to flog via microstock!)... We'll see how far I get.

In summary then, my approach is now double-pronged:
  • Keep adding a couple of photos a month to the microstock sites as Royalty-Free - and hopefully sell at least a couple each day
  • Try and pass Alamy's quality control and then submit some images as Rights-Managed. I have no real expectation of making a sale... but a bit more hope than if they were on my hard drive!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Microstock Sales Success - 25th Jan

Some good news - a couple of the shots I took of Canary Wharf a couple of weeks ago have been accepted by a few sites and I've sold a couple already:

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Microstock Sales Success - 13th Jan

From my small selection of images I submitted on Shutterstock* late last year, a few sales in the last 24 hours:

$0.25 per sale... not a lot, but I'm hoping it adds up!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Out and about with my camera - 11th Jan

After a bitterly cold start to 2009, there was a glimmer of sun and warmth in London this morning, so I was determined to get out and about with the camera. The cloud cover came in mid-afternoon, but I still managed to get a few snaps of:

I'll sift through them when I get a chance and see if any are worth keeping!

The boom in digital photography

Not many years ago, it would have been very difficult to imagine it was possible for an amateur to even think about making money from photography - that was left to the full-time professionals, with prohibitively expensive kit and years of experience. Luckily for us, digital photography has changed all that... and here's some reasons why:

  • Digital cameras mean you can instantly review your images whilst you're still 'on location' - you can then realise what you've done wrong (e.g. really should have remembered to have taken the lens cap off), correct it and try again
  • , take 100's of images and delete the bad ones and re-use memory cards. The cards I use and recommend are SanDisk CompactFlash 4GB Extreme III Memory*. So no more changing films, waiting for processing and then realising the mistakes being made
  • The pace of technology change (helped by good competition between manufacturers) means better quality cameras are being launched all the time, with new features working their way down the range; For example, Canon have just launched the remarkable Canon Digital SLR Camera EOS 5D Mark II*, with amazing video capabilities. As this becomes mainstream, this technology will shake things up even more for the professional
  • Image editing has become mainstream software. Most (all?) new cameras come bundles with some software which will work well. (The latest version of the software I use is Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 (PC)* - there is a ton of stuff you can do to make your images more marketable)
  • As prices have dropped and it's become easier to take photographs (although perhaps not good photographs!), there are now a raft of good magazines and books out there to help you improve
  • The web 2.0 phenomenon which promotes contributions from everyone and community spirit has launched great sites to share your photos with others and admire their work - Flickr being the best known, with a specific focus on photography
  • The drop in prices for home PCs, data storage and broadband connectivity
  • Pretending credit card debt might just go away on its own

What other changes have helped make digital photography so popular?

Friday, 9 January 2009

And so the journey begins...

Hello - my name's Richard, I'm 31 and live in London, UK. Like many, many other amateur photographers with a digital SLR, I've recently started to wonder if there's a way to make a little bit of extra cash from my hobby? This blog will document my journey and if you're like-minded, I'd like to take you along with me!

Together, I think we've got a fighting chance of:

  • learning how to be a better photographer
  • sharing hints, tips and techniques about how to edit our photos (I use Photoshop Elements and Photomatix)
  • letting each other know where the most useful resources for photographers are on the Internet
  • understanding the world of stock agencies, including microstock sites
  • finding out what we should be spending money on to improve our photography and what is a waste
  • giving ourselves a real incentive to get out there and do some photography
  • building a network of friends with whom we can share our best work
  • having fun!
So, before we start, we should set ourselves a target. I'm based in the UK (and given exchange rates, I wont be leaving anytime soon!), so I'm going to set my target of earning £250 in 2009. I have no idea if that's realistic or not, except I know it's a lot more than I've earned to-date (so far, I did photos for a friend's wedding - NEVER again - and have sold a handful of photos on microstock sites like Shutterstock*, Dreamstime* and iStockPhoto*).

Why don't you set yourself a goal too and together, we'll help each other on the way to achieving it.