Emerging trends, from print to electronic

We have a unique opportunity these days that prior to the 1990s only existed in commercial environments. Who could have foreseen the wider implications of networking home computers. Microsoft was slow to see its’ value and if they were slow, what hope did the ordinary citizen have of seeing this. Well those behind the World Wide Web had vision! Thanks to them we now have an interactive multimedia communications network for social and business use, right from our own homes and offices. While networking had been common in commercial environments, home computer enthusiasts just had to wait.

Not only do we now have high-speed connectivity wherever we have a phone along with technology to allow our PCs to connect, we now have it wireless, just as we now have mobile phones that are wireless. Our focus has shifted from isolated islands of information to central repositories (clouds) on a world-wide network, all under the control of its’ owners from remote locations. This has all happened in the last two decades.

One of the best things to come from this is the ability to share images and sounds remotely from our homes with our friends or clients at theirs. We have cut out a lot of travel and inconvenience, freeing up more time for ourselves while maintaining, or even increasing productivity. It is becoming easier and easier to produce pictures, videos, audio and animation that can be sent, stored and made available on-line to a select audience or the public. It presents a great opportunity to promote yourself and your creative talents through samples, examples and presentation portfolios.

Jobs can be advertised on-line through employment agency websites and even social networks, while respondents can post resumes on-line expressing interest in these positions. Job seekers can place resumes on-line that are available for potential employers to read at any time. No doubt some might already be producing resumes in multimedia format, so potential employers can view an audiovisual presentation instead of just reading text! The day might come where half the population make audiovisual documentaries of their vocational experiences as they happen. Call it personal vocational profiling to build up a professional multimedia portfolio as a central component to future resumes!

Looking at where we have come from, first there was the computer, followed by networking, the PC, the World Wide Web, new wireless technologies, followed by social networking sites open for all to join, then there was the digital revolution in media. The digital revolution paved the way for multimedia documents to take advantage of this instant interactive networking. Suddenly artists, journalists and media content developers had a new medium to seek recognition from an international audience. Not only that, but employers, contractors and customers alike could be at the opposite ends of the globe to you—we have overcome the hurdle of distance. The marketing potential is fantastic!

The financial sectors have been keeping up as well. Thanks to them you can do even more business transactions on-line. These include invoicing, credit checking, paying accounts, banking and trading. A financial system known as PayPal has been developed. You take out an account to become a client of PayPal, send out your PayPal designed invoices on-line to your customers, which contains a link to the PayPal “make payments” web page where customers can pay using their credit or debit cards, or if they are also PayPal clients, do a PayPal to PayPal funds transfer—all on-line from their home or office.

For photographers, you once use to put photos in an album to show friends when they visited, or career pictures in a professional portfolio that was taken and presented to agencies. Now you can put them in electronic albums, and galleries so all you have to do is tell people where to find them on-line, so they can view them at their leisure any time, from anywhere in the world. The same goes for those who like to record audio and video.

Diligent people saw the potential for this and created these on-line sharing sites for everybody to subscribe to free of charge. Many used them as a means of promoting other products and services they were involved in and later the potential for advertising on these sites was realised providing these diligent site operators with an income stream from what was initially a novel passion. In conjunction with this, image stock libraries saw the potential. These are libraries of images provided by professionals to the commercial world who use images every day. You want an image of Alaska to put on your tins of salmon, you search the available image stock libraries for one rather than pay a photographic team to do a shoot in Alaska! You’re writing an editorial on an article about cameras and need some complementary images for illustration, you search the image libraries rather than go to the expense of employing a photographer to reinvent the wheel! You’re producing an educational text-book, or website content that needs illustration, you search these image stock libraries for something suitable before commissioning a photographer or studio to get your images.

On-line image stock libraries work on a similar platform to social picture galleries in that you subscribe to them to become members. As members you can create your own space within the site to upload your digital pictures for display to a selective or public audience world-wide. You can also view other members pictures and arrange to get copies that you can download to your own PC and printer. You no longer need to attach them to emails, just put the address or hyper-link to where they reside in the email instead. Email recipients can then get to them on-line via these links themselves.

The difference between social image galleries and image stock libraries is in their intention. Image stock libraries are commercial and out to make profits based on customers paying a licence fee for the download and use of copies of these image stocks. This is where e-commerce comes into play on these sites. They all have on-line trading facilities built into the sites so you can go on-line shopping for your images. Most buyers downloading images are not going to print them from their PC and domestic printers. They are either going to be used as content on websites, or printed as part of their graphic art through commercial printers.

However there is still a demand for pictures, as in prints for conventional home albums as mementos of personal life, or for posterity and as art décor to adorn your walls. So a new breed of on-line image galleries are emerging, which add the e-commerce capability to these social image gallery sites, thus allowing on-line shopping for prints and finished works of art to adorn your walls. These sites obviously go one step further than the original social image gallery sites in that they must provide printing, framing, mounting, packing and international shipping services as well. The biggest response to these new all-inclusive sites has come from artists wishing to exhibit and sell their works, along with professional photographers dealing with groups hoping to make their income from multiple sales.

The next stage I imagine is to see image stock libraries also offering prints with these mounting and framing options, so they serve both the commercial and personal markets. All this has come about thanks to the digital technology revolution that followed computer networking.

Some social image or photo sharing sites include:

Esnips
Flickr
Photobucket
Picasa web albums
Fotki
Smug Mug
Zenfolio

On-line Photo art gallery sites with member subscriptions, providing printing and complete finished artworks and a community of artists include:

Redbubble
Fineartamerica
Imagekind

On-line image stock libraries include:

Corbis
Global Eye Images
Jupiters
Getty Images
istock photo
Shutterstock
Dreamstime

For a more comprehensive list visit:
Image stock library sites

Most image stock libraries receive their image stocks from their supplying members. If you are a photographer you can apply for membership. In most cases there are no fees but the library owners will only pay you a percentage of what they charge the image buyers whenever a sale in made. With enough sales your image stock library account accumulates these funds until you have sufficient to seek a withdrawal or PayPal transfer.

All images you submit are scrutinised by the library to meet their criteria and quality standards, so rejects are common place until you become experienced with their needs, criteria and quality of production. They are aimed at professional photographers, not only in the sense of quality, but also the business of photography—familiarity with copyrights, privacy laws, model and property releases, management of royalty payments etc. While a professional photographer soon learns the law and legislation regarding privacy and restrictions to carrying out photography, especially since the introduction of a lot of new laws addressing terrorism after Sept 2001, all you really need to know for submission to image stock libraries is their rules and requirements and some are very protective of their liabilities. For instance many will not accept images showing people without a model release for every person in the image. If it is a crowd that is incidental to your image, you are never going to be able to get a model release from everybody. As ridiculous as it sounds, that is their rule so don’t even submit such images to that library. Some will not even accept an image with a person in it with their back to the camera without a model release, even though you have no hope of identifying the person. Again as ridiculous as that sounds, it is their rule. They may have a blanket rule: No images containing people whether you can identify them or not without model releases. Of course there is nothing stopping you from becoming members of multiple image stock libraries, all having a variation on the rules, so what one rejects the other accepts. The cloning tool in Photoshop may soon become your best friend!

I hope you find this article enlightening. It has gone from general to a little specific in direction, but that paves the way for further articles, especially on the rights of photographers in today’s society!

Researched and written by Gavin Lardner © 2011

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