Category Archives: Advice

Studio 5 Graphics Year in Review 2015

Bre Projector NSFW
Bre Projector NSFW

Studio 5 Graphics Year in Review 2015

 

I know I have not posted since April of 2015, but it has been interesting even if I don’t write amazing things every day about taking pictures. These year end reviews are important to me to help me bench mark where I am and what I have done over the year. One of the hallmarks of 2015 was the reduction in picture taking because of you know life and things like that. 2014 I took somewhere on the order of 28,000 pictures, 2015 saw about 18,000 pictures taken, but the pictures that are coming out are cleaner, brighter, and jacked up, I’m finding my signature now, and you can tell a S5G picture just by looking at it.

 

It is funny where my pictures end up, that will not stop I think.

 

The biggest changes that came this year was watermarking, with the sheer amount of appropriation and borrowing I decided in August to start watermarking everything and pushing up the low res images rather than the full high end images online. This caused no decrease in traffic, but a wad of name recognition that would do a porn star proud. It is just a simple watermark, easily removed by those who chose to do it, but with the amount of meta data in the images now a person has to be really dedicated to remove all the watermarks as they are embedded throughout the image and metadata now.

 

Now to the numbers, we know that was what you are reading this for; image views are how I am measuring success in getting my name out there. Sales are how I am measuring success in turning this into a full time gig.

 

Flickr, starting number 30,631,971, ending number today 53,726,372 comes out to 23,094,401 million picture views this year. Good times on that one seriously. I did not post to Flickr as much as I could have, and keeping somewhat steady with last years 20,408,331 million picture views is a small gain of an 11.64% increase in picture views with some 10,000 pictures uploaded. I also saw a sharp increase in followers, almost doubling going from 700 to 1,587 followers now. Flickr continues to be the top performing site I post at, with a great group of followers the community is strong on this one. We have won awards on Flickr this year, which was new and exciting to experience. As always we really honestly wish that we had a way to sell pictures on Flickr.

 

Smugmug, total for the year comes out to 11,092,337 million picture views, which is just a tad lower than last year’s 13,500,000 million picture views. A 17% decrease in picture views. This year we did not have the great Smugmug boudoir hack, but because of that hack, we have a small and loyal following going on for our work. We also had some sales on Smugmug this year that was nice to have. We posted almost everything into Smugmug this year and used it as a drop site warehouse as we have done almost since inception.

 

Deviant Art – meh, it’s dead, we still have it, but not really using it, we posted maybe a 100 pictures this year and got 17,520 picture views. Time to shut this sucker down. It’s not really an art site anymore, it’s a site where children post their crappily drawn My Little Pony Friendship is magic shit that would be better on their parents refrigerator. Seriously if you are 13 DA is probably awesome and edgy, but it simply is not a place for anything else at this point.

 

Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook – we really tried to use them this year and are seeing a little fame, just a few hundred followers and some likes. Most of what we do is not safe for work, so Tumblr really has been a key for us as we really do not want to spend time in limbo while having our Instagram and Facebook accounts shut down. We would dearly love to have a space that we could post our stuff without having to worry about the morality patrol. You know it is just skin folks. You are all naked under your clothes.

 

This years total, 34,204,258 picture views, with book sales going strong over the year and being a primary source of income. Not many new titles this year, it’s been one of those times where I wanted to cut back and try other things, but 2016 promises to be even more interesting as I have my ideas back and have some amazing photo shoots set up in my head. 2016 is going to be an interesting year.

 

 

Even for a TFP shoot why model releases matter

Miss Katie Mae Liquid Light ShowEven for a TFP shoot why model releases matter

 

Some of this is a total trigger for me, and one of the reasons I really detest doing group shoots. I generally just want someone to sign the model release, and then lets go take pictures. But sometimes you run into people who want to negotiate a separate release than the one the photographer usually uses. Most of us use a Getty Images release or an ASCP release, some of us use a 2257 release, and there are a ton of variations on the theme.

 

A model release expressly grants and limits what can be done with the images the photographer creates. This is important, it grants in general the photographer full rights to the images that are created while the model gets nothing, other than the right to use the pictures to promote themselves.

 

In a TFP shoot, it is generally agreed that some of the pictures will be used to promote the model’s own career, and most photographers will be fine with that.

 

Sometimes models will want a variation on that release for full rights or equal rights as the photographer who takes the picture.

 

I have done this in the past, and it was a horrible experience for me. At times models have so re-imaged the picture in Photoshop that I wanted my name taken off it. Generally photographers will go in with an idea of what they want, and when the image is re-imaged or redone in Photoshop it can be a process of cognitive dissonance with the photographer and the model. Sometimes it is a horrible experience.

 

Another issue comes in when money gets involved. The model is inherently going to have a bigger following than the photographer, and it is super important that the model keeps the watermark on the picture. Full rights allow the model to remove the watermark. In this age of the Internet it is so easy to crop out a watermark, it happens every day everywhere, that it is very easy for the photographer to never be credited for the picture by the model, or the models fans, and not boost their career. Honestly if I was busy shooting super models, I would want my watermark all over that image because I want to leverage my fan base for the model, and I would want the models fan base to check out my other work. I would totally sell an unwater marked image to a magazine, but I need my watermarks intact.

 

Granting a model full right to the images allows the model to sell the picture to their fan base without anything back to the photographer. Photographers can also sell that picture with no money back to the model for their time or effort. So in that respect it is fair, people can use the picture to make money, but nowhere in there does it state the money will be shared equally. This can be a huge problem as the photographer has expenses that the model does not have. Models don’t pay for the studio or location, the gear, often the costume, and otherwise, even for a TFP shoot. The photographer has costs, the model might have costs, and it is very important that money be shared or we stick to the standard release.

 

I won’t even mention the auditing overhead for making sure everyone plays this honest. People do weird things when money is involved.

 

Full rights also grants the right to take down the picture, if they can do everything that the photographer can do, they can say that the picture isn’t flattering, or legally take down the whole gallery. If the picture set is popular (and some of my sets reach into the quarter million picture views), having the model request a take down because they have full rights can be problematic. Suddenly the photographer has to deal with the issue of very popular against the models rights that the photographer gave them.

 

Suddenly a model has regrets and wants the gallery down. With full rights, they can do that, with a standard release they can’t and you can keep your popular gallery going.

 

I am not against sharing, I am against full rights or equal rights for any kind of shoot for a model. And nothing personal, I do have costs like the studio, makeup artists, gear, clothing, and other things that brings the average cost of a TFP shoot to somewhere around $200.00 per shoot. It might be free for the photographer to have the model there, but there are other costs associated with the shoot that the model does not see.

 

This doesn’t even include processing and rendering time.

 

What are your thoughts on this, should models get full rights to the images that the photographer creates, or are we opening a can of worms here that will be the end times of photography?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flickr’s Camera Roll Beta rocks

Flickr Camera Roll BetaFlickr’s Camera Roll Beta rocks

 

It is not every day that a photo dumpsite comes up with something interesting, let alone helpful for the photographers. But the new camera roll beta from Flickr actually helps solve some of the problems that photographers might have with understanding how their pictures are consumed or viewed.

 

Before camera roll, finding out how people were consuming pictures was to say the least painful. Camera Roll solves this problem for me in an elegant and beautiful way to determine what pictures are popular, how many times they have been viewed (because I am much more interested in specific picture views than full gallery views for weeding purposes) and which ones are the most popular in a given set.

 

This is a great way of seeing how many picture views each individual picture gets. The tabular format is pretty sweet for seeing how many people like a specific picture that you have and then working backwards from there to work out which pictures are the most popular in a gallery. With the one terabyte limit, this makes weeding out pictures so much easier, you simply drop the ones that have the fewest picture views.

 

The ones with the most picture views stay, the ones with the least get deleted off the system in favor of the better ones, or the ones with the most picture views.

 

I am also finding out that with camera roll some of my experiments of “less is more” or “more is more” in terms of driving picture views, this makes the data pulls much more intuitive than digging through the pictures bit by bit, piece by piece.

 

I am really digging on the new camera roll, and I really hope that the Flickr product management group keeps this feature as part of Flickr.

 

The only other feature that I would really love to see come out of Flickr is a shopping cart so that people can purchase pictures from me directly and I get to use their site to make money. It would totally turn Flickr from a dump site into a portfolio site if they were to do that.

 

If you have not had a chance to take a look at the Camera Roll Beta, and start incorporating it into your statistical view of how your pictures are consumed. Now all that remains is a shopping cart, I really want to see people have the ability to purchase pictures from me there. My stuff is not the kind of stuff that is going to show up in a Getty image search, but it is the kind of stuff that someone might purchase.

 

Advice on taking pictures in a riot

Occupy SeattleAdvice on taking pictures in a riot

 

This is probably one of the most dangerous things that you can do as a photographer. When the press gets shot at, and photographers get arrested for taking pictures of Ferguson, you know that you are entering a dangerous environment. While Photography is not a crime, there is a wide held belief in law enforcement that taking pictures of the police in action is illegal.

 

Plan on not resisting what ever the police tell you to do.

 

First things first, make sure your camera is connected to the Internet so that as you take pictures they are uploaded to a secure cloud service like Flickr, Smugmug, Zenfolio or other service that can take the storage of pictures as you go. I also highly recommend taking advantage of the Comcast XFinity public WIFI and carrying your own cell hot spot for your camera. You can expect jamming or at least the use of Stingray equipment so do not contact anyone on your phone just use it to upload your images to the net. Police will have a copy of everything you send when they use Stingray, and it might not transmit to the Internet depending on how Law Enforcement has the system set up.

 

You might want to transfer data laterally using Blue Tooth to a number of connected devices (more below).

 

In some ways it would be better to use an IPhone or something else that connects automatically to the internet, however you can set up your camera to use a WIFI enabled card on your camera like EyeFI and/or Transcender cards that way you have your local copy and one that is already on the internet. It is possible to jam the signals from your camera, which was seen in Hong Kong during the recent protests, but you can always use Blue Tooth to share the pictures laterally amongst a number of cell phones or connected devices.

 

If you transfer data laterally via Blue Tooth, carry a spare cell phone on you to store data, or travel with a friend that can also try to upload the pictures for you onto the Internet. The thing to remember is that you can have 7 devices connected, and that there is one master node with six slave nodes, however, the slave nodes can be masters in another mesh. This does work, but requires set up before you get to the event, and understand that you will want to have an in-depth mesh for this process to work. However it worked in Hong Kong to successfully get data out of the local Law Enforcement jamming of cell phones and networks.

 

Use twitter as a sending channel as well on the spot understanding that the signals can and probably are being intercepted. What you share with the Internet Law Enforcement will also be keeping an eye on.

 

If you are independent, hang out with a local news crew; some of the pictures I have taken have been from right behind a local news crew. We hung out, we talked, I told them I was an independent stringer, and I sold pictures to the local TV station while I was at it. This is one safeguard, as Law Enforcement will see you with a local news crew and make the assumption you are news and leave you alone along with the news crew. Don’t be an idiot about it, move around the crowd to get the pictures you want, but when it gets hairy, be close to a news crew.

 

Use professional equipment; using your IPhone to take pictures immediately says you are not a pro. Take professional DSLR gear with you; use your IPhone in your pocket to get the images onto the Internet. Your DSLR gear can take video as well as stills, you goal is to make sure you have access to the images and video you took off your devices in case you are arrested and have your gear confiscated.

 

Always cooperate with Law Enforcement requests, if they want you on the sidewalk get on the sidewalk.

 

Don’t argue, don’t complain, just do it.

 

A number of times Law Enforcement has after the protest asked me for copies of the pictures, that one is up to you. Your goal is to sell the pictures; you can sell them to Law Enforcement as much as you can sell them to the press. That one is up to your own ideas, but as long as they are in a public gallery Law Enforcement can also download them unless you have set up to sell the pictures first.

 

Cooperate with Law Enforcement, if they tell you to move on, move on. Find another vantage point to take the pictures from.

 

Stay out of the way, your goal is to document, not get arrested. Have a camera for close in, but if you are moved out of the way along with other media, find a roof top vantage point, and a super fast F1.8 200MM or 400MM lens to work with.

Try not to look like a sniper, police will have an issue with that, I highly recommend an orange reflective vest and a sign that says “PRESS” so that the police do not thing that you are a sniper.

At least you will get some good long distance shots. Shoot RAW to get as much data as possible, but if not shoot JPG Fine. The problem is going to be the upload and distance from the picture. Make sure you have plenty of remaining room on your cell phone or hot spot plan to cover the event. If you think you are going to shoot a full 32 Gig card, plan accordingly with your data plan so you don’t get over runs and the higher cost associated with that.

 

Be careful about flying drones around the area if you are using one. The FAA might have declared it a no flight zone. Make sure you are streaming the video to a storage system in case the drone gets shot down or gets interfered with or jammed. Use a cheap drone with a cheap camera because it will be likely that you will lose it. Fry’s electronics has a good collection of sub $100.00 dollar drones that have enough lift for a small video camera. You can hack a small video camera like the $20.00 Bang Good HD video camera and connect it to the drone and transmitter. You need to transmit it and connect it to power, but that won’t be hard to do either. Have a separate power source for the camera so you don’t interfere with the battery life of the drone you are using. In all you can cobble a good video drone for under $100.00 if you are of the type. You will need to be aware that they run on the same frequency as Cell Phones WIFI 2.4GHZ, and also subject to jamming. Some transmitters have multiple channels and work in the 5.4 GHZ range, so test your drone before you fly to make sure audio and video is coming through and not being jammed.

 

However, cheap disposable drones are an exciting advance in photography for covering important events. That cannot be understated, it keeps the photographer safe and somewhat untraceable, while capturing amazing photography and video of an event.

 

While the goal here is not to antagonize Law Enforcement, being an independent stringer for covering riots and other actions carries its own risks. If you are detained expect your devices to be gone through, and in some cases the video will be copied or erased from your devices. It is easy to recover the data using commercial off the shelf forensics tools, but you might need help with using them, or pay for the data recovery.

 

Be prepared, be realistic, and above all be safe when doing this. There is something sweet about close in photography, but the inherent danger might require that you move out of the way and go remote.

 

Kickstarter for your photography project

kickstarterPhotoKickstarter for your photography project

 

With the news today that Kickstarter was moving from Amazon payments to Stripe Kickstarter is back in the news. In the photography category there are some 1259 photography projects that have been successful, while there are 759 that have not been successful.

 

The good part about moving over to stripe is that the payments experience suddenly got a whole lot easier, and you don’t have to leave the Kickstarter web site. Stripe looks like a fairly solid company, and if my own experience with trying to use Amazon payments it might be time to review my application to run my own Kickstarter for Projektor. I got hung up in Amazon Payments, I am a company, I have my own EIN, but Amazon payments would not accept it, and not let me have access to it to make sure I typed it in correctly. There is nothing more fun than a logic loop in a program that says something is wrong, and then does not let you fix it. Since then my own Kickstarter has not been deployed because of that.

 

On the idea of running my own Kickstarter for Projektor I went and did some homework, you can pull up funded and non-funded projects on Kickstarter and review the ones that were successful or non-successful. From the initial data pull it looks like books, unique projects that have a value, and some gallery shows were successfully funded

 

What does not look like it was successfully funded were requests to purchase new gear, start a photographic company but there were also some really interesting projects in their like photography for breast cancer, 3D objects, and other items that would have been interesting.

 

I think that in a lot of ways what matters is how well you interact with people on projects. I know that in my history of backing Kickstarter projects the folks doing this are all doing the same thing.

 

Weekly updates.

Marshaling their friends to raise the noise level

Last week push (most projects get a lot of funds in the last 24 hours)

Develop a flash community of backers; get them to share on their social media

Show production work in your kickstarter

Offer exclusive content to your kickstarter backers only

Answer questions from the crowd

Keep the project alive by not being too annoying but every couple of days, checking it and seeing what is happening with it

 

Stripe payments are a good thing as it might open the door for more people who get suck in Amazon Payments like we did. But having a successful Kickstarter project is even better. If you want the list of successful projects click this link, if you want the list of unsuccessful projects click this link. Let us know if you are doing a kickstarter, we might just help you plug it.

 

 

 

 

Using Deviant Art for Stock Photography

Fantasy Couple Using Deviant Art for Stock Photography

 

Some photographers end up using a lot of stock photography, and sadly many of the stock photography sites out there can be pretty lame. The pictures are not what you want to use, the keyword system does not cough up what you are looking for, and in other ways they simply don’t have what you are looking for.

 

The good part is that there is an excellent alternative to stock photography sites for some of the work you want to do. One of them is Deviant Art, especially if you are looking for fantasy backgrounds for your images like the one we used for our cover picture for this article. It is a stock background from Shinobinaku from deviant art who left this beautiful arch for people to use for their stock photography needs.

 

Below is a short video on how to use deviant art for stock photography.

 

 

Some ideas though you need to be aware of.

 

Not all stock photography is free for any use, sometimes the people who make the images want final editorial approval of the image, other times they want to make sure you are not using it for any commercial purposes (this includes advertising on your web site if you use it). There are other restrictions that people put up that can kill off the creative flow.

 

While at times you want to just say screw it, it is better to ignore any stock photography that comes with any encumbrances to your creative output. If they want final creative say so, or no commercial purposes, respect that and move on even if it was the best background creative image you could imagine. In the longer run it is not worth the hassle.

 

I hope you like the video, the audio is a little weak, so you might need to turn up the volume.

 

Follow up to the Great Smugmug Hack of 2014

example of geolocation of IP AddressFollow up to the Great Smugmug Hack of 2014

 

Earlier this year we talked about the exposure of boudoir pictures on Smugmug, and I was one of the lucky winners. 8 months or so later it is still happening, people are still not password protecting their galleries, or making the passwords easily guessable. I get a report from Smugmug almost daily (early on it was a report 3 times a day) about people trying to get to the galleries.

 

Needless to say that we have implemented a much stronger password policy on the naughty bits so that they do not end up on “hot or not” or some other web site that ends up rating the person in the picture. Believe me there is nothing more unfriendly than a call from a model wanting to know why their pictures are on a “porn site”.

 

What is interesting is that the methods that the “hackers” are using have changed from exterior links (many of the voyeur web sites cracked down on that when it went public on much more public web sites than mine) to using Smugmug’s own internal search mechanism looking for those pictures we have posted, and made them Smugmug searchable.

 

Usually when you mark a gallery with a password it will not be indexed in Smugmug search, but the gallery keywords will be. So if you want to really annoy someone, post a bunch of pictures of cats, and keyword them with nude pussy. I am not above pranking people using Smugmug’s internal search mechanism to annoy someone.

 

If you use Gallery (Folder, Page) Key wording (like we should be doing to get more attention on the site, and in Google) then those will show up even if the gallery is password protected (as much as I can tell, for naughty pictures I stopped using Gallery, Folder and Image keywords and most of the “hacking traffic” has dropped to nill) and there will be a result in the search if they are looking for galleries.

 

This is one of the more interesting aspects of what we think we learned about Smugmug internal search.

 

The internal search tool is amazingly good, and absolutely relies on the keywords and text that you wrap around your images. Again you should be using text captions, you should be using key words when setting up your images either in Lightroom or photo editor of choice, and then going through and making sure that Smugmug picked up the keywords by looking at the images after the upload. A lot of photographers I have noticed do not use this function, it is critical if you want your stuff picked up by internal or external search engines.

 

But it is also a double edged sword, if you do not set a password on your gallery, or your pictures, then it is easily picked up by Smugmug internal search, and the “hackers” have resorted to using that tool to keep up to date on all the groovy naughty stuff being posted to Smugmug.

I have to applaud Smugmug though for their efforts to help photographers understand what was going on early on in the year. Indeed voyeur web sites and some amateur porn sites had picked up the boudoir and other pictures that were being posted online because of faulty use of the Smugmug system.

 

The bad part is that the “hacks” are still happening, but based on what we are seeing inside our Smugmug and Google Analytic statistics, 90% of all the attempts are being driven by the Smugmug internal search feature now, rather than the majority of this coming from outside sources.

 

Let us know if you have any questions, we would love to hear your side of the story.