Monday, June 25, 2018

Closing the Door on TV - How I am Going to Try to Cut the Cable and Actually Do Real Stuff Instead

Those of you who know me personally know that I have had my ups and downs with Time Warner Cable Company (now Spectrum.) Now, I will try not to bore you with the day to day issues I have faced but, suffice it to say, Spectrum has really gotten me this time. I won't go into too many details, as I would like to keep this somewhat photography related but, yesterday, I was all set to pop on my exercise bike and sit down for a long ride while watching a TV show I had been wanting to see for a while. Just as my show was coming on, I was greeted with what I like to call "the black screen of death." My TV basically responded with a blank screen containing the words, "This channel is not available right now, please try again later." Since I pay more than $200 a month for cable, I was highly disappointed and really snapped at the entire setup. I decided right then and there, while sitting on my bike peddling away, that it was time for me to just pull the plug completely and get rid of the entire cable TV setup I currently have. No, I'm not even going to "cut the cord" as they say, I'm actually going to go TV-less for a little while. I'm going to try and see how that goes for a short time anyway.

As you might have guessed if you follow me regularly, there are a lot of projects I want to do. There are a lot of things I want to accomplish. I am almost setup with a home studio. It's about 90% of the way there but, no, I have not quite finished it. I've been cleaning out my closets and trying to just rid myself of clutter, this too is an ongoing battle which I have been losing. Then there is the matter of that book I have been meaning to publish. Yeah, yeah, I know, "How's that coming along?" Right. You get the idea. In somewhat photographic news, I have decided that it might be best for me to rid myself of TV for a while in an attempt to focus on some of these projects. My attempt is already paying dividends. Today, I sent off some work, I'm now writing a blog post to share the news of my cable-less ways, and I'm doing a few other things. While it remains to be seen if I can keep up the momentum, I am enjoying the new quiet house so far.

In the past, when I went on photo journeys, I always came back with a sense of accomplishment. When I travel, be it for a workshop, location shoot, or whatever, I seem to have a renewed sense of who I am as a photographer. I think part of this stems from the lack of TV. When I travel you see I watch little to no television. Sure, sometimes I will check out a brief newsflash here or there and sometimes I'll even tune into see what the locals pass off as entertainment for the great unwashed masses and all but, generally speaking, for the most part I happily avoid the idiot box when I'm on the road. Avoiding television allows me to really sink myself into the local environs and try to absorb the local culture, to try and really connect with the people. There is a real connection too, for me anyway, between avoiding all that television has to offer and getting things done, especially things you really want to finish. I am now going to opt for the getting things done side of this equation, at least for a little while, to see how far I can push this. Maybe, if I'm lucky enough, I can feel like I'm away even when I am at home, at least in terms of getting things done and being more connected to all things photography.

As an aside, I've been completely shocked at how many people have responded to my recent online rant against Spectrum and my choice to rip out my cable service. There are many, very many indeed, people out there who have ripped out their cable and have offered up advice. It's astounding to me how many people are going this route, so much so that I'm starting to wonder if, by this time next year, Spectrum will have any customers at all. Really, I have heard from so very many people on how bad their customer service and their service in general actually is and how easy it is to just rid yourself of their unneeded nonsense so you can go about enjoying life again, without the hassle.

In case you are wondering, my immediate plans are to use what I've now been calling "the quiet time" to try to tackle some of the projects I have piled up in my photography world. Perhaps more mid term, if the projects start to get more in line and I find I can knock some of them out, I will take some of the monies saved from the big cable bill and put them towards an iPad, which I can use as both an entertainment console and, perhaps more importantly, a tablet upon which to make digital art. I have always wanted to do more with my iPhone photography but have found not having a tablet on which to work is quite limiting. If, after all of this, I'm still bored with it all, perhaps I will invest in a streaming service for some limited entertainment. We shall see how this plays out but, until then, I guess you can call me, "Cable-less Carol." Wish me luck, please, on this new road and please do continue to reach out with suggestions and advice you might have followed on your own personal journey away from the dreaded cable cord.

Until next time...

PS While this might look like Mexico, it's actually one of the last frames I shot in Guilin, China. I guess everybody the world over loves themselves a bright, colorful door.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Opportunity Weekend - June 23, 2018

It's time to lay your hands on some golden opportunities. Are you sick of my crazy puns yet? No? Well, here are some opportunities for you anyway:
That's a lot of opportunity for one hand, but I hope you can get after it and make it happen.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Getty Photographer- You Keep Using That Word

There's a line from "The Princess Bride" where Inigo Montoyo comments on Vizzini's use of the word "inconceivable." Montoyo says, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Buttercup references aside, there's a trend nowadays for Getty Images to partner with a lot of the web sharing sites for images. On the surface, this sounds like a wonderful idea. It's great for lots of photographers to be able to license and sell their work through the Getty Images engine. If you are unfamiliar with this, the Getty Images engine I'm talking about here, why, it's easy to spot out in the wilds. Look at almost any newspaper, popular website, or for that matter, anyplace really where images are displayed in print (or on the web) and you will probably come across the phrase "Getty Images" in small type somewhere along the bottom, the edge of the image, or quite often appearing as a watermark. Getty Images is one of the largest stock photography agencies in the country, probably the world actually. It's quite a big engine with deep pockets and a lot of resources, both in terms of being able to pay photographers and being able to secure rights to images for reproduction. Many popular newspapers use Getty Images to secure images and, over the course of time, many photographers have been very successful using Getty Images as a means of showcasing and selling their work. I'm not going to knock Getty Images, that's not the point of my post, but I have noticed something about the more recent acquisitions. 

In recent years, the microstock trend has resulted in some photographers getting paid pennies on the dollar for their images. For a time there, the entire stock photography market sort of dried up as well. Most photographers were no longer making money from stock images. When I started out exhibiting my work and shooting regularly as a photographer, back around 1992, a good photographer could make possibly between one and two thousand dollars a month if signed with a stock agency. In those days, this was really enough to live on without having to secure a day job. Of course, you had to be a good enough shooter and, perhaps more importantly, you had to shoot what the clients were requesting at the time. For example, I got signed to a stock agency at one point and they told me they wanted celebration/parade style images from Austin downtown, specifically Juneteenth celebration images. (An interesting note, these images are still in high demand but that's a blog post for another day.)  Since we've had several economic bubbles and the publishing market has fallen apart, it's almost impossible to make that kind of money in stock photography nowadays. Oh, I'm sure somebody is doing it somewhere but, the average Joe or Jane with a camera and a weekend addiction? Yeah, that's not going to happen. Along the way, you see, the microstock trend happened. This was where some agencies thought it might be a good idea to sell images very cheap. Instead of a photographer selling an image for, say, $400, they would now sell one for $5, with the idea being that lowering the price would drastically increase the number of sales. For a while this panned out. In fact, I know some photographers who made some decent money in the early days of microstock but, again here, the market got flooded and the money became too spread out for most people to earn a decent living from this type of work. 

In the early days of Flickr, when the web sharing was really at its peak, Getty had partnered with Flickr to make some Flickr photographers Getty Image photographers. This too worked for a while. I know of some folks who signed with Getty Images from their Flickr accounts, and some who made a lot of money, in fact, became professional just from sales earned through Flickr/Getty, while others made some money but most did not see enough to launch or sustain a career. This arrangement was not without its controversy as well. At one point, Getty Images paid some Flickr photographers something like $12 for images (note the microstock pricing) and then re-sold the images to Microsoft at a grand profit. There was also a famous case of Getty Images getting sued and losing over copyright violation as some of their practices were overreach at best (again, this is a blog post for another time.) 

Having said all of this, the real issue I see here is that, frankly, nowadays, what does it really mean to call oneself a "Getty Photographer?" It used to be a name of prestige. When I first listed with a stock agency, I had to send them a slide deck of 200 slides. They took more than six weeks to get back to me with a yes and, only then did they send me a tear sheet with some suggestions, such as the Juneteenth celebration I mentioned. The stock agency I listed with wasn't even Getty Images, it was a smaller, regional agency. It was hard to get listed in those days and the difficulty was rewarded in terms of sales. Stock photography has always been a matter of providing what the client wants when the client wants it. If you can deliver, you get the sales and sales in stock used to really rack up over time. Then too, once you racked up a bunch of sales, the agencies, in turn, would feed you the plum assignments. To be a successful stock photographer really carried some clout as well as some dollar signs behind your name. I once had a noted photographer tell me he put his son through college on stock photography sales. Yeah, it was that kind of money if you could deliver the goods. 

While the "Getty Image" moniker might live on in terms of prestige, I have to question if it's really worth it. I mean, just being able to say, "My names Jane Smith and I'm a Getty Photographer" used to carry a lot of weight. Nowadays, I have to wonder if it's really the same thing? Frankly, I don't think so. When I was on Flickr anyway, I opted to avoid the Getty Image partnership, mostly because I have always considered myself more of a fine art photographer and not really a stock shooter. Yes, I had been signed to a stock agency in the past but my past also revealed to me the error of my ways. I realized selling stock is not all it's cracked up to be, so I never really hotly pursued the Flickr/Getty Image relationship and, frankly speaking, I'm not sorry about that. I don't feel like I missed any great opportunities, although, in hindsight, sure I might have been able to make a few coins had I gone that route. 

Now though it seems my avoidance with Getty Image is about to catch up with me yet again. The popular web sharing site 500px is going to partner with Getty Images. Since they were founded by the folks who originally started Flickr, I'm not surprised by this turn of events. I had originally signed up for 500px because I liked their model. They didn't pay microstock prices, instead came up with a fixed pricing structure that, at least to me, seemed fair for both the photographers and clients. Any images sold through the old 500px garnered the photographer a fair but not exorbitant payment. I could live with that. It was fair. Most images were at a fixed price too, so the stock "stars" were not treated to more money, giving everybody a fair shake at getting an image picked up by buyers. It was a fair system at least it seemed so to my untrained eyes. Now, however, it would appear the Getty Image wolf is knocking upon the 500px door. The folks at 500px have partnered with both a Chinese company and Getty Images in an attempt at selling more images. It remains to be seen if this will translate into more sales for the 500px photographers or if we will go the way of the microstock photographers. I am not hopeful but I do like the site and intend to stick with it, at least for now anyway. 

Still though this means that, at some point, I might too become a "Getty Photographer." This really has me in a bit of a tizzy, as I've carefully avoided that label for quite a while. I don't consider myself a stock photographer and so being listed on one of the major stock player's sites is not really what I anticipated I'd be. It's not my wheelhouse, as it were, but I am left wondering now if I have any choice in the matter, as Getty Images seems to be gobbling up everything in sight. And, like the darlings who once hung out with Buttercup, I really question if being a "Getty Photographer" even means anything anymore, given that almost everybody, it would appear, is destined to become one sooner or later. 

So you say you're a Getty photographer? I do not think that means what you think it means. At least, I don't think it really means anything anymore but, go ahead, keep using that word anyway. Somebody, somewhere might just be impressed by it. 

Until next time...

PS This image taken in Portsmouth. How I love a good fire escape.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Opportunity Weekend - June 15, 2018

Gazing into some great opportunities this weekend. My apologies, as I am a total freak for mannequins. I love them and shoot them all of the time. This one hails from the quaint little lovely town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I hope you enjoy it as you get after some great opportunities this weekend. Here they are for you:
That's a bunch of opportunities to get your started this weekend. Good luck!

Until next time...

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Opportunity Weekend - June 3, 2018

Even a delicate flower can leave its mark on the world. If you're ready to leave your mark, here are some opportunities that might be ready for you:
That should be enough opportunities for you to leave you mark. Good luck!

Until next time...