The sky hasn’t fallen in, but it’s looking decidedly dodgy

On February 26th I wrote about the Economic Regulatory Reform Bill and its likely effects on the ability of photographers to control where and how their work is used and whether or not any payment is exchanged for that use.

Sadly I must tell you the ERRB, including the clauses on orphan works and extended collective licensing, is now law. I say sadly because this has happened even though the moral rights of the photographer to be identified as the creator of their work has not been reinforced ahead of this change in law.

In case you’re not aware, an orphan work is any creative work of which the author cannot be found. Extended collective licensing is the selling of the use of orphan works without the creator’s knowledge or consent.

In relation to photographs, the problem with orphan works is they’re being created every second of every day on the internet. The problem with ECL is that it takes away the photographer’s right to set or negotiate their own fees based on the value of the work, or to limit use of the work, especially where exclusivity has already been sold to a client. It also ignores the rights of people within photographs not to be associated with businesses or causes with which they do not agree.

Now, before we all hit the panic button, the ERRB is primary legislation and will be subject to regulations which are yet to be drafted. In an ideal world, the orphan works and ECL clauses of the ERRB will be regulated to only encompass works held in historic archives, of which there are many and whose archivists would like the ability to digitize and ultimately make money from works held in storage whose authors have long since passed on or vanished.

Even within that framework there will be grey areas, but to gather in ALL orphan works wherever they reside would be a grave mistake, and would almost certainly result in legal actions, especially from photographers in the USA who are allowed to claim exemplary damages for breaches of their copyright. In short, it could get very messy and very expensive very quickly.

Photographers both professional, amateur and occasional all need to be very wary of what follows. It would be a good idea to write to your MP in the first instance asking what the intention of the regulations will be and whether it means any photo you take can ultimately be used by all and sundry, without your say-so and with no opportunity for you to say no or negotiate a fee.

Another area of the law which needs attention is the moral right to be identified as the author of your work. This is currently part of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act (1988), but it is weak and with too many exceptions. To be fit for the digital era it is imperative that identifying data, either in a watermark or as data embedded within the image file is protected by law.

Of itself the ERRB could be benign, but that we don’t know what the regulations and restrictions will be and the fact it can be amended without recourse to Parliament are dangerous factors and should worry everyone concerned with protecting their own creative property.

I’ve merely outlined the issues here. Far more detail needs to be worked out to ensure the ERRB doesn’t cut off the ability of creators to make a living, nor to exploit the works of amateurs in ways they could never have imagined or wanted. The creative industries in the UK are too important to our economy, and too easily harmed by badly-framed legislation.

Keep an eye on sites like and BJP online to keep up to date with developments, but remember also to contact your MP to make sure they’re aware of what’s at stake here.

Coke, girls and cameras!

Twice a year, Frome Wessex Camera Club hold a camera and photographic fair at The Cheese and Grain in Frome. Twice a year I miss it. In fact I must have missed it about 14 times by now, but I was determined to take a look this time.

Frome Wessex Camera Fair a table of Nikon cameras

Classics from Nikon and Leica to tempt the collector

I’ll confess I expected to find The Cheese and Grain stuffed to the gunwales with old guys in multi-pocketed photographers’ vests nerding over Leica MIIIs and Summicron lenses, or Nikkorflexollamas or whatever. Let’s just say, the gunwales were stuffed, the men were numerous and old and there was the buzz of nerding in the air. I even spotted one or two men wearing multi-pocketed vests, but they may have been anglers who’d wandered in by mistake.

To be fair, my age, gender and nerding tendencies mean I was in excellent company. I took the precaution of bringing my son who was going to have “none of that”. He stayed close and pulled me back from the abyss whenever my eyes glazed at the sight of a classic rangefinder camera. A tough task for any 12-year-old boy, but he did a super job and a coke in the cafe soon revived his superpowers.

Camera fair at The Cheese and Grain, Frome

Dive in, geek out and have fun

Brian Sawyer and Bill Collett try out a camera and lens

Bill Collett of Priston (right) tries his new lens on a camera Brian Sawyer of Melksham considers buying.

The fair itself is a broad mixture of ancient oddities (by which I mean the cameras, not the visitors… mostly) and present-day technology, but the emphasis is geared more to collectibles than modern equipment. I did speak to one chap who’d just acquired a very current and expensive lens at an excellent price. I was a little jealous, I must admit, but my son detected an evil glint in my eye and tugged my arm as he saw me starting to follow the man with the lens. It could have turned nasty.

There were one or two actual women there too and they didn’t appear to be there under duress. They were enjoying the fair too, and I spoke to a young woman from New Zealand who was there to enquire about adapting older lenses to fit her modern digital camera. She was impressed with the level of knowledge available from stallholders and seemed to be having a great time. She hadn’t come all the way from New Zealand just for the fair, but it would be nice to pretend she had.

For me the fair was an opportunity to find something fun to write about this week and to test a (nerd alert) Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L USM MKII lens which I’m reviewing for Wex Photographic. I know you’ll all be dying to read that review when it’s published, so I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s up.

Vicky Long studies a 500mm mirror lens

Vicky Long came all the way from New Zealand just for the fair! (I’d like to think)

The next fair is in November and I’ll probably pop along if my son will be my nerdguard. It might require two cokes next time.

The kind people have a wonderful dream

I must admit I was struggling for a topic this week. Then Margaret Thatcher died, which threw me into a quandary. I knew if I wrote about her it wouldn’t have much to do with photography; many great photos were taken of her, she was a great subject for press photographers, but I never got the opportunity to photograph her so can’t regale you with fascinating (snore) stories of the time I met Maggie.

Equally, I can’t bring myself to write about a corporate portrait session the day after such a big news event, so I find myself putting down a few, brief thoughts on Thatcher. I cannot deny, writing a political piece on my photography blog makes me nervous, but nothing else seems appropriate right now.

Ok, I never was a fan, but I won’t gloat over her death. And perhaps it would be trite to observe that she passed away at The Ritz. You may detect I’m struggling to not just “come out and say it”, so perhaps I should just say it.

The inescapable fact is she destroyed industries to an unnecessary degree. Granted, the country was a mess when she took over. I remember the power cuts, the terrible cars, and I’ll accept that British Rail was a basket case, though I was too young in 1979 to remember much about public transport, the steel industry and so on, but the headlong rush to lay waste to everything that could have given this country a sound future was frankly distasteful in its zeal, shortsighted in its goal.

Likewise, the unions were in dire need of reform, but now we’re left with very little in the way of organised help for workers finding themselves in need of a protective hand when they need it. Unfortunately, the unions were their own worst enemy and gave Thatcher the perfect excuse to have them crushed.

We could have replaced the broken, semi-Soviet economy with compassionate capitalism. This would have been achievable with patience and care, but what we’re left with 23 years after she left Downing Street is capitalism without a care, just the individual pursuit of personal wealth, resentment of success, resentment of failure, resentment of the disenfranchised and the poor.

I don’t rejoice at the passing of Margaret Thatcher because her death won’t change the route we’re on. The industries she broke can never be repaired, but maybe the next prime minister to be called genuinely visionary will be one that finds a way to nurture genuine industries and innovation (as opposed to the making of money by moving money around), make us all more understanding of each other, more genuinely compassionate and less self-absorbed… and I include myself in that criticism. There isn’t anyone in the current political class with such potential, so we’ll just have to hope hard for a future generation and spend the meantime striving to be better people despite the prevailing climate.

Portraits with Personality

One thing I’ve managed not to bang on about for a while is the importance of good quality portrait photos in business, by which I mean genuine photos, well-executed of the people within an organisation, at the very least the key people who need to be the face of the business.

I’m happy to say that fewer businesses and organisations are now using stock imagery as a way to project themselves. Of course it’s still a popular source of images for websites and brochures, but people understand more than ever the importance of including their own personalities in their marketing, but having taken the decision to commission some “real” photography, what other decisions follow from that?

The key decision is what style to go for. A portrait can be formal, informal, serious, light, it can be taken indoors, outdoors, subject looking to camera, subject looking off-camera. There are infinite angles and permutations and most clients want a selection of styles and moods so they have a library of images to call upon for different requirements.

The limiting factor to all this might be how many people need to be photographed within the time available, and how much time each sitter has before they must get back to their desk or their next meeting.

I often find myself allocated a room in which to set up my lights and perhaps a backdrop, but even this basic setup can allow for quite a variety. Outdoors shoots often take longer because the environment is less easily controlled and the location is usually some distance from the office.

It’s important to have a think about the mood and the style of the shots required and the context into which they’ll be published. I’m happy to discuss all this with clients looking for guidance, and of course I’ll talk to their designers too.

Perhaps the most important thing about having portraits done is to remember that these aren’t for the mantlepiece or the family album, they’re for communicating personality and values to clients, which is something stock images cannot do.

I’ve plucked a few random portraits from my archive to give some ideas of what’s possible. There are many more possibilities than I can ever show you.

Portrait of a University of Bath student

Using available light and a white wall

Business portrait taken in Bath

Outdoors, looking off-camera, using the available architecture

business photo taken in Bristol

Standard business portrait in colour taken using lights and a backdrop

Black and white business portrait of Jamie Borwick

Black and white, looking off-camera. This was staged to look un-staged