Stock Emo

The stock image library Alamy has just launched Stockimo, a new app for the iPhone which allows users to upload their phone pics directly to the library, and in spite of myself I’ve been using it.

Railway lines out of Exeter, filtered to look hip

Mmm Exeter suddenly looks more interesting don’t you think?

I say in spite of myself because I’m not a huge fan of stock imagery to start with. I have about 500 images on Alamy, and I’ve had that same number of pictures there for quite a few years. To make any decent money I’d probably need upwards of 4,000 images there. I rarely add to my collection because stock isn’t how I generate income from photography. I’ve always worked best when on commission to produce a particular set of images for a specific client, and I find going out to shoot stock just doesn’t inspire me.

So why am I playing with Stockimo? Partly because I thought it would just be interesting to see how the app worked, partly to see what sort of images Alamy are after.

The app works pretty well, you can take a photo from within the app or choose an image that’s already on your camera roll. You caption it, add tags (which are the words clients will use to find the image), answer some model/property release questions and upload it. After a variable wait from a few hours to a day or so, you get an update to tell you whether or not the image has been accepted.

Here’s where Stockimo is a bit different from the regular Alamy image submission process. With iPhone photos they’re not looking at technical quality (it’s much lower on an iPhone of course) so much as the content and “emotional impact” of the photo.

Most of what I’ve uploaded (36 images so far) have been accepted, but I learned some early lessons. The first being not to be too light-

Landscape view of a section of  a section of Cley Hill near Frome

Making the colours a bit hyper gets a higher rating, though I still won’t touch HDR

handed on filters. Alamy want you to batter your image with the hipster-filter-stick until it’s begging for mercy. Vignettes, light leaks, desaturated (or massively over-saturated) colours, retro textures, you name it. Throw enough effects at your image and chances are they’ll love it.

The images are rated by a mysterious group of “experts” who rate it’s emotional impact (ie how many filters used) and it’s saleability. Top score is 4, bottom score 0, and as long as your image scores above 2 as an average of all the judges’ scores, it’ll be accepted.

Angled photo of a boy on a bike on a cycle path

This first version failed to pass

I’ll be honest, I’ve found it interesting to trawl my older images, re-edit them and see whether they get accepted or rejected and what scores they get. Some scores surprise me while others seem low, but the scoring does give a guide on what to aim for and what to avoid.

Hipster photo of boy on a bicycle on a cycle path, filtered with muted colours and orange light leaks

Feel the emotion! This version passed

The question is whether I’ll take fresh images to upload on a regular basis. From my view as someone who isn’t a stock fan, at least this is minimal effort for the small returns stock image licensing delivers. I don’t see it damaging my commissioned work, so on balance I probably will. In reality I doubt I’ll upload enough to ever have any more than a homeopathic ratio of images within the many many thousands of images which will be uploaded, so it’ll be interesting to see if I ever sell anything. So I’m going to treat it as a bit of fun, see where it goes and not get too emotional about it.


This week’s blog is going to be mercifully short because today I’m working feverishly behind the scenes to get my newly designed blog and website up and ready (exciting and scary!)

However, I hate to disappoint all the beautiful people out there who like to swing by every Tuesday in search of some nugget of information, entertainment or um… can’t remember what the third thing might be, so I’m taking this opportunity to give you an early alert to one of the changes you’ll see on the site.

Angled detail view in black and white of cobbled street, Frome

Now available to buy as an enlargement

It’s all a bit work-in-progress at the moment, but if you look at the Personal Project Photography gallery you’ll see that the images there are available to buy as prints or enlargements. New options will be added and updated, as will images from my archive and (in time) new images which I’ll add as and when they’re ready.

You’re welcome to have a look, and if you see something you like you’ll be welcome to order it! If you see a photo you like which isn’t available in a size or finish you’d want, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

For technical reasons, not all photos will be available in all sizes because I want to ensure that whatever you buy looks fantastic on your wall.

This is just one feature of the new site which will have a different look and will incorporate this blog far more seamlessly, making it easier for everyone to see and access the bits they need.

So exciting times all round! I’m hoping that by the time you read my next article, the new site will be finished and live. Wish me luck, and thank you for your patience during this construction work.

Where JP fail, others choose to follow

I had promised myself I wouldn’t re-visit the subject of Johnson Press or anything else quite as depressing for a while. The reaction to that article was incredible, receiving over 360 hits in two days which, for a modest blog such as mine is quite a big deal.

Indeed I had every intention of keeping things upbeat for a while, but then I got one more reaction to the article which I just couldn’t ignore; an email from someone whose situation perfectly illustrates the insanity which has overtaken newspaper publishing in this country. The victim of another publisher taking a short-term view and discarding both staff and reader loyalty in the hope of bigger margins.

There’s really nothing I can add to what this photojournalist says, so I’ll let their email speak for itself. Reproduced with permission…

Great to read your blog about Johnston Press.

Days after their announcement the publisher that I work for as a retained photo journalist also announced that it was going down the free content route and will no longer require my services!

The new model is to copy and paste press releases, and the associated pictures, thus removing my position.

I gather that everything is now geared towards ad revenue and pleasing PR people and press officers in the hope that they will advertise with said publishing group. As a result, all critical reporting has been banned in case it upsets said PR departments and everything will now be portrayed as sunny, regardless of the reality.

On the odd occasion a picture is needed from an event the ad man or webmaster will go along with their tablet, iphone etc and take a picture that is “good enough”. The parting shot was “with digital photography nowadays, we don’t need a retained photo journalist”

An editorial policy where PR people dictate content, as that’s what will happen, is an odd policy to adopt for a news publication. But hey, got to keep those PR people happy!

I was retained for 10 years and they just cut me adrift as if I never mattered. Over that decade the publisher would constantly apologise for not being able to pay me more (1k a month), but when they abolished my position this figure suddenly became a “considerable amount” . Loyalty, what ever happened to it?

It’s good to talk

After last week’s article (rant) about the Johnston Press photographic staff redundancies, I feel the need to chill and talk about something a little warmer and fluffier. I could have another rant, this time about the new powers UK police might soon have to seize press photographers’ images, but since there won’t be any press photographers left soon I suspect the law will be redundant by the time it hits the statute books.

I could have a rant about the latest European Union copyright review, which could very well be another attempt by big business to grab photographers’ rights, since these reviews never seem to centre on ways of strengthening copyright law. And on this matter, I urge all creatives to make submissions to the review, the deadline of which has been extended in to March 5th.

Yes, I could rant about all of that, but while rants get hits to my blog, it also gets boring. In any case it’s likely I’ll have to have another go at these subjects later, so rant lovers needn’t despair entirely.

Instead I’m going to tell you about a rather fun Friday evening last week when I addressed members of the Frome Wessex Camera Club and spent a couple of hours talking about the work I do now, and the experiences I had working for the News of the World from around 1998 to 2001 when I left abruptly due to unpaid expenses.

A milkman delivers a crate of milk to 10 Downing Street, London

Sitting overnight in Downing Street in case Cheri Blair went into labour, I captured a shot of the milkman delivering and broke the story that this delivery is a national secret

I’d not previously addressed a room full of people on this subject before, and it was kind of cathartic for me. I’d prepared a presentation with lots of photos from the period, each with its own back-story, and while I was nervous in the build up to the evening, once the house lights went down and I got started it was like I was flying. I’d made presenter notes, but barely referred to them for the entire talk. Everything just seemed to flow naturally.

Queen Elizabeth II rides out in a horse-drawn carriage at the start of the Trooping the Colour ceremony and parade in London in 2001, protected by a transparent umbrella to protect her from the rain

Some stories I covered were more conventional, such as Trooping the Colour, 2001

The audience of club members (plus my son who I’d dragged along under mild protest) did a very strange thing too; they laughed at my tales of celebrity chases, brushes with bodyguards and sitting in the backs of vans waiting so long for a particular scallywag to appear I’d have to pee in a bottle or risk blowing my cover.

A group of black ladies laugh heartily at the end of a march in honour of murdered teenager Damilola taylor

Marking the anniversary of the death of Damilola Taylor not with sadness, but unity and joy

And when the house lights went up at the end of the presentation, the image which will stay with me forever is the look on my son’s face because this was the first time he’d heard many of these stories. I’d assumed he would have been bored to tears, but his expression was a mixture of happiness and pride. Of everyone in the audience, he was my most important critic and it seems I passed the test.

Supporters of the National Front are escorted through the streets of Bermondsey by police officers.

A National Front march in Bermondsey, London. A lot less laughing and joy than the Damilola Taylor march which happened on the same day.