Case Study: The Rebrand

When Somerset-based document storage company Filebase changed its name to Filofile, the time was right for a new website and corporate photography too. And I was delighted to be contacted by an equally Somerset-based design agency Cognique to do the honours with my camera.

I met Filofile’s MD Simon Barber at the premises on a lovely Autumn day last year, he showed me around, and then while he was being interviewed for a video for the new website, I set to work gathering images that would populate the new site as well as promote Filofile through all their printed and electronic media.

When a company consists of not much more than a former cheese storage shed full of boxes and some security equipment, it’s not easy to come up with a wide choice of images, but I managed to pull some interesting shots out of the bag. You can see the finished website here, but I’d also like to show you some of the shots that didn’t make the website, but which will be useful to the company for their other promotional publications.

data storage boxes

Boxes on the move (I pushed them to achieve the effect).

Filofile boxes on trolley

Showing Filofile at work moving documents for clients.

Simon Barber of Filofile

A portrait of MD Simon Barber, but with more of a "business pages" feel to it.

Sorry, you can’t shoot here, here, or here…

A moment of reminiscence: About a year before I finally broke into photojournalism, I applied for a photography course at Bournemouth College of Art and Design and during the interview I was asked: “What would you do if photography was banned tomorrow?” I was caught off-guard, and hadn’t really made any plans for the following day. I’d assumed I was going back to work in the camera shop, but if photography was to be banned there didn’t seem much future in that. Caught off-guard I mumbled something about being keen on the music industry, and so lost the chance to get a place on the course.

Had the lecturers with their sneaky interview questions really known how desperate I was to become a photographer, they would have offered me a place on the spot – but with hindsight, I wasn’t ready to do the course and my fluffed answer proved it.

The question that scuppered my early career might seem like a daft one, but in more areas of life, and in more areas of the country, it’s becoming difficult to just go and take pictures.

Despite the popularity of sites like Facebook, people are often more guarded about having their photo taken than perhaps they were just a couple of decades ago, and sometimes understandably so, but it’s starting to look as if a back-door privacy law may be in development in our courts (mostly geared, it has to be said, to protecting the privacy of the rich and influential). This is an area I know I’ll have to revisit in more depth at a later date.

Meanwhile, many areas of town and city centres are now privately owned, with over-zealous security guards ready to pounce on anyone who looks like they might be taking photos. Canary Wharf in London is quite notorious for photographers being stopped by security bods and police on the lookout for potential terrorist scouts, though quite why a terrorist would go around with a bulky DSLR and lens is anyone’s guess. People with camera phones seem not to get stopped in quite such numbers.

Taking photos in public parks and gardens isn’t without risk of intervention either. When I needed to take a portrait of an elderly gentleman sitting outside on a park bench (which, excluding myself, elderly gentleman and park keeper, was empty) I was approached by the friendly-looking parkie who wanted to know why I was taking pictures, saying “I can’t be too careful, you might be one of them peadophiles.” I didn’t punch him as that might have been misconstrued  as a terrorist attack.

Thankfully it seems the poor record of photographers turning out to be members of terrorist cells (and the banning of the use of S44 powers) has meant the police have reduced the number of stops being made under anti-terror laws, and the insane fear of anyone with a camera being a “peterfile” appears to have subsided a little. For now.

english woodland mushrooms

There's not "mushroom" for photographers these days.

But while parks, shopping centres and internationally vital financial districts might need the cautious approach, what now of the proposed sale of over 900,000 acres Forestry Commission land? It could mean that taking pictures in the countryside will become more restricted. Of course it’s harder to police such areas, and if a landowner doesn’t want you to take photos on their land they can only ask you to leave and use reasonable force to remove you. You’re unlikely to get arrested, unless you do something really stupid, but it’s another possible hassle.

You might be wondering why I’m even mentioning this, but if landowners start to restrict public access to their woodland, and maybe start to get heavy-handed about it, they may not be able to do much in a legal sense, but it could be yet another area where photography becomes restricted.

Could we see a time where property and privacy law come together to mean we can only take photos from public footpaths of scenes with no people in? Maybe I should have taken that college question more seriously after all.


Update: If you would like to sign a petition against the UK Governments’ proposed sell-off of publicly-owned forest land, head over to the 38 Degrees website and add your voice.

Goldilocks and the photo.

Can brilliant corporate photography save a failing business? No. BUT it will be part of what makes success easier to achieve. Conversely if a business is using snaps or stock imagery, this can be, as an American business guru might put it, a drag coefficient on your success rocket. *blech!*

I don’t pretend that the photos I take will turn you into an overnight sensation and put you in contention for The Sunday Times Rich List, but it’s fair to say that when marketing departments go to the trouble of getting a lively, engaging web design together with compelling text and a user-friendly interface, what often lets the whole project down is the lazy or cheap approach to the accompanying imagery.

call centre staff on telephone

Quality photos say “quality business”.

Head shots of key staff needn’t be cheesy, and they certainly mustn’t be low quality just because they’re going to be used small. You never know when you might need to reproduce one to a larger scale and in print, and that’s when poor lighting and composition as well as poor resolution really start to show up. The purple gargoyle look doesn’t suit anyone. Neither is it helpful if an over-compressed file leaves you looking like you have some kind of skin disease.

Photographs of products and processes, people, places (and all the stuff not starting with p) all require a level of quality. After all, shot once you can use these images over and over again and they’ll pay for themselves in time, whereas low-grade, badly taken images will simply remind potential clients how little you care for quality every time one of these photos shows up.

Equally, if you get great imagery but either don’t use it at all or don’t use it properly, you’ll be wasting your money and you’ll think it wasn’t good value. This comes back to using a quality photographer who can give good after care, and a marketing specialist who knows how to use pictures for maximum impact.

Where’s all this going? Well I believe it’s possible to overstate the importance of photography in business, but what’s happened since the mass-accessibility of digital is that things have swung too much in the other direction. General opinion is often that photography has no, or very little importance. Often I’ve seen web designers refer to the photos in their designs as “eye-candy”. If the photos are just eye-candy, why bother with any imagery at all? And why do I have so many clients if what I do has no impact on their business?

If your business uses photography it should be as a way of communicating something to existing and potential clients. Not just showing that which is in front of the camera, but the quality, composition and presentation of the photo will all be shorthand for the kind of business you are.

Now, that’s not going to save a business which is already circling the drain, but dismissing photography on your website and in your literature as “so much fluff” won’t help you to the top of your market either. As Goldilocks might have said, you need to get the balance just right.

Groundhog Year for Photographers

Another year, another copyright review. When have we been here before? It’s like Groundhog Day, but on an annual basis. Ok, maybe not quite yearly but there have been quite a number of reviews and proposed changes to legislation in recent years. Of course for the purposes of this article, I’m concentrating on copyright as it relates to photography.

Most reviews look at copyright in the round, and often the photographer’s concerns are drowned in the din of discussion about whether or not Cliff Richard should continue to make money from his sound recordings long after he’s gone into cryogenic suspension.

copyright stamp

Is copyright really so outdated?

The latest copyright review, currently underway, aims to bring UK copyright into the 21st century. My only problem with this concept is that copyright is fine, but what is lacking is education and understanding. And yet again photography will be seen as some hobbyist’s side-show and not worth considering, but I suspect this is because the professional photographic industry is less vocal than the music, movie and gaming software industries. Plus photographers tend to be solitary souls working in isolation and aren’t seen as a coherent industry.

It doesn’t help that many professional photographers don’t understand basic copyright or licensing, and many are reluctant to speak out, favouring the approach of leaving it all to someone else to lobby and campaign to save their means of income.

Neither does it help that those bodies which are meant to represent professional photographers don’t seem to understand the issues either. The Royal Photographic Society slipped up badly during the debate of the Digital Economy Bill in 2010 by supporting the orphan works clause so let’s hope they and others have learned from that experience.

In fact orphan works is bound to raise its head once again in this current review. Just to explain, orphan works are creative works which become “orphaned” from their creator through the stripping of any identifying information. It’s easily done on the internet, and all too easy for those wishing to steal photos for their own gain.

Orphan works also include anything currently lounging in museums, libraries or other archives which have no traceability back to a “parent” creator, and there is a case for making these works available for research or inclusion in other culturally beneficial works. The problem is, lobbyists want any legislation that releases those works to also cover any photo taken by anyone at any time. Including the photos you’ve taken or will take in future. And they want to be able to exploit or licence those photos for any use they can think of without having to negotiate fees and usage with you. This would happen under a system known as Extended Collective Licensing.

This would ride roughshod over copyright law, which allows a creator the final say on how, where and when their work is used as well as, of course, at what price. For commercial and social photographers this would cause a nightmare as much of what we shoot is commissioned exclusively for clients. How can we protect that exclusivity if orphan works legislation allows unfettered access to images which may have been stolen in the first place?

Unless photographers, amateur and professional, pull together we are going to get lumped with legislation that will make it virtually impossible to protect our work. For more information on the current review, click here. Even if you’re not a professional, it’s worth signing up to blogs like mine and the EPUK Weekly News which will aim to keep you informed of developments, because there will come a moment when you will need to lobby your MP and MEP on this issue.

Funny Tim is away this week. He’ll be back again soon.


Thanks to for the Photoshop effects brush I used in this week’s illustration.

Barmy Boycott

If you’re on Twitter, you’ll know what I mean when I say that some new follows can be a little odd and surprising. Take my recently acquired new follower @BoycottGetty as an example.

At first glance I was hopeful that this was a new movement formed from designers disillusioned with the banality of stock imagery; a return to the values of using real images of real people for truly interesting design. URR! URR! WRONG!

It turns out @BoycottGetty is an anonymous twitterer with an equally opaque identity at an online petition hosting site (see Boycott Getty Images!) with a mission to get Getty Images to change their approach to dealing with people who, wittingly or otherwise, use Getty-managed photos without paying for them. Quite why they’d want to follow me, I can’t work out.

Boycott Getty Images (BGI) don’t like the current tactics used by Getty to chase copyright infringers because they feel they’re too belligerent. This may be so, and I’m no fan of Getty or its micro-payment subsidiary iStockphoto (anyone who has followed my blog for a while will know I don’t much like stock photography in general), but the alternative solutions suggested by BGI make no sense, unless one assumes that the person or people behind BGI have been caught using unlicensed Getty images and are a tad hacked off at being asked to pay up.

Let’s look at a summary of what BGI are demanding, then you’ll see what a nonsense his/her/their campaign is. From BGI’s petition website:

“This petition demands that Getty Images immediately cease its highly unethical extortion practice before another innocent US citizen is intentionally harmed, and announce the implementation of new copyright protection technologies & business practices that are consumer friendly, protect their photographers copyrights and benefit the general public at large.”

The petition sets out these points more fully on the site, but this is a pretty good precis of the thrust of their arguments, so let’s unpick what they’re saying here.

For one thing, I suspect the author of this petition decided to remain anonymous due to the  “legally dancing on thin ice” nature of the opening sentence. Using phrases like “unethical extortion” and “intentionally harmed” strikes me as dangerous, considering how readily Getty likes to threaten legal action, but perhaps they’ll let this go as the angry ramblings of an irrelevant campaigner with an axe to grind.

The author mentions the “implementation of new copyright protection technologies,” but as of the writing of this blog article no such technologies exist, and even in the paragraph dedicated to this point the author doesn’t seem to know what these technologies might be. Furthermore any technologies that do exist are useless once a paying client has bought, unlocked and published a photo on their website. From thenceforth the photo is subject to the same copy and paste problems as any other image on the internet. Getty would still have to search out and demand redress for images used without payment.

BGI demands that Getty adopt business practices which are consumer friendly. Does that mean like making millions of photos available at penny prices for anyone who wants to legally buy them? Or are they seriously suggesting Getty should stop demanding payments from people who steal their assets?

And here’s a contradiction; BGI wants Getty to “protect their photographers copyrights.” They say they don’t know if the compensation moneys collected by Getty from infringers is shared with the photographers, but firstly I suspect it is and secondly it’s not any of BGI’s business. That’s between Getty and its contributors. What they actually call for is wider use of Take Down notices, which would mean photographers get nothing for the infringing use of their photos, except the hassle of having to deal with infringements. No protection there then.

This final point is quite strange: “benefit the general public at large.” Ignoring the tautology in that sentence, is Getty Images some kind of humanitarian organisation now? What other corporate giants should we demand general public (at large) benefits from? Microsoft? Walmart? The Zimbabwean government under Robert Mugabe? Dream on, Sunshine.

Although the Boycott Getty Images name seems misleading in that it doesn’t directly boycott the buying of Getty images (just their issuing of legal letters), the site is linked to which is campaigning for people to avoid using Getty-licensed images altogether. I’d applaud this concept except that the alternative ideas put forward on that site are nuttier than squirrel shit.

So to @BoycottGetty, I say sorry, but I won’t be following you back. Your ideas make as much sense as a pocketful of baked beans, and this weakens your case considerably. You’re welcome to follow me though. You might learn something useful.


royal crescent bath UK

The only foolproof way to protect images online. Ain't it pretty?