While the local german heroes are still stuck between a rock and a hard place (catchword: image database interface standardization and protocols) which of the local image databases and related software selling companies is John Wayne and which is not and while the rest of the world outside has fortunately decided not to care about that domestic Kraut affair at all and not to listen to that same old local song any longer, other organizations with a more global and intergalactical focus continue in their efforts to make the world a better place for you and me in the digital image age.
With this in mind, BAPLA has launched the BAPLA Digital Guidelines v1, and the BAPLA Metadata Panel v1.4., two new initiatives to encourage consistency when working commercially with digital images.
When AlamyintroducedAlamyRank and Diversity Algorithm in July this year, the company also said "it has applied for patents for these two key technologies
that make the new search approach unique in the stock photography
Digital Railroadannounced today a partnership with the Advertising Photographers of America (APA), following an earlier cooperation with the local NYC chapter of APA. The company noted in a statement that its services will
enable APA members to better manage their workflow, increase their
image sales worldwide and that new programs as well as new services
will increase market opportunities for APA membership.
Google introduced yesterday Google Trends, another Google Labs product in an early stage of development. With Google trends, you can see the search volume of a given keyword over time. The tool "analyzes a portion of Google web searches to compute how
many searches have been done for the terms you enter relative to the
total number of searches done on Google over time" (About Google Trends) and displays the result in the search-volume graph.
One of the major disadvantages of printed magazines is certainly the fact that you´ve to wait for the next issue to be published if you want to add an update and secondly that your contribution is always limited to four or five pages, so you can´t really address all the subjects in-depth, especially if a huge part of an article refers to customers talking about their own experiences with certain products and services.
In that article I outlined products and services offered by confessMEDIA, DiASystems and picturemaxx (alphabetically) and the advantage for photo agencies and picturedesks through the creation of virtual photo portals for photo sellers and photo buyers using middleware technologies. Middleware technologies can administrate several
image databases of various picture suppliers and different image
database manufacturers and lead to a "look and feel" like if it would be only one image database.
From the viewpoint of a single professional photographer, companies like Digital Railroad, IPNStock, PhotoShelter and StockPipeline (in alphabetical order and named here despite of all the differences between these companies), are grabbing the headlines today if he starts to think about: "Where should I turn to?". Except for IPNStock I had been writing a lot in the past about these companies.
These are all US-based companies and for the moment they mostly (except for two) have a strong focus on the US market. Any international audience (like the members of StockPhoto.net) clearly tends to listen to what is going on in the US for being able to judge about what are important news and developments in the international picture business at all. Even if they are thus missing what it is happening in the "rest of the world". But as we all know, in these times foreign local news might become global news pretty fast.
After VII Photo Agency, eyevine,Redux Pictures and a bunch of other photo agencies and photographers, the famous italian photo agency Grazia Neri, the main source for editorial content in the Italian
market, has selected Digital Railroad to become its premiere ASP.
Executive Director Michele Neri said: ""We selected Digital Railroad’s technology
because of how easily it enables us to distribute and manage content. Ultimately, Digital Railroad will enable us to minimize costs
and significantly ease the process of selling our images online, thus
making them even more attractive to buyers". Details here.
"Stockphotofinder has gone nowhere and produced nothing ... they were all hot and heavy about their Alexa stats until they tanked
after showing a tiny bit of success. I haven't heard anything about
sales coming from the site".
Yesterday Randy Taylor of StockPhotoFinder/StockPipeline reponded in a series of five emails (1; 2; 3; 4; 5) from his private email account in the StockPhoto.net Yahoo Group. He is writing about StockPipeline, Alexa, Google Searches, "Search Methods At Stock Photo Agencies & Search Engines" and "Technology Providers vs. Marketing Channels".
His answer is long, interesting to read, so here´s what he responded in a nutshell, compiled from his emails:
In its first ten months since launch, the use of the industry's stock photo search engine [StockPhotoFinder.com] by professional researchers rose from zero to a quarter million searches monthly.
SPF launched new marketing September 1st, which includes in-office demonstrations to corporate clients and its new ad campaign on Google.
Using Google is a definite trend amongst people looking to license images, especially low-cost ones. The first I heard picture buyers talking about "Googling" was at a PACA conference two years ago (PACAoffice.org). I remember thinking it would be great if one could "Google" prequalified collections of images from professional suppliers and have a more suitable tool for professional picture research than other search engines.
It is my belief that stock photo agencies will ultimately adapt their search methods to those of Google, which has become the defacto training ground for future researchers.
Getting serious: in a nutshell, StockPipeline, as a completely automated,
artist-controlled business platform for the licensing of stock photos, links photographers and picture buyers, providing what is necessary to completely control ecommerce, licensing and hi-res image fulfillment. Photo sellers receive 100% of the licensing fees, Stock Pipeline the transaction fee ($25), with zero commissions on sales.
Multiple price lists that you can select from or create to your ability to limit usage restrictions and countries of access per image
Eight language search
Client-controlled resizing "on the fly" upon download
You can band together several photographers and operate as a company or cooperative (PhotoShelter offers the same feature)
Image suppliers benefit by maintaining of their brand and direct
relationships with their clients, and from online keywording and
Drag & drop image upload that automatically extracts IPTC/File
Info captions and keywords and creates your thumbnails, previews and 56
One year minimum, starting at $50 a month for up to 1,000
high resolution images, monthly rates increase at $5.00 per 100 images.
The one-time setup fee is $200.
StockPipeline.com is technology sales tool, not a marketing channel. To
assist the essential need of marketing, it has made special
arrangements with StockPhotoFinder.com, the stock photo search engine
that is rapidly growing marketing for image suppliers with its 100%
royalty model. Those who leverage their direct marketing via the Stock
Photo Finder will receive a $100 discount on the setup fees at
StockPipeline.com, as well as the perfect fit of an e-commerce platform
that is ideally suited for direct marketing.
Just aside, for the usual lame ducks, Randy Taylor noted earlier at Mactribe:
Footage is also the future. We are implementing the process for
footage. It’s just a matter of time before we will have available
footage for a search. The process has a common lightbox and all the
same functionality as still imagery. It will be here by the end of the
year. We are already searching millions of pictures. We expect to be
searching 10’s of millions of pictures and footage clips.
Similar to Getty´s efforts with the Media Management Services and the recently in May 2005 launched Digital Asset Management System Media Manager, Corbis today announced that it has acquired eMotion, "a leading provider of hosted solutions for managing and distributing digital media assets and marketing content." Corbis said "our clients are increasingly seeking ways to manage the still and
moving imagery they use in their creative projects ... we are meeting this growing demand with the acquisition of
eMotion’s asset management systems, offering one of the industry’s best
tools for managing digital assets – whether they be images, footage, or
related marketing material." Details here.
What is not mentionend in the press release is that eMotion is also busy in the broadcast industry. According to a recent research project on my desk, eMotion is an active player in the field of Broadcast MAM (Media Asset Management) installations, but still remaining a litte one after other companies like Virage, Convera, Omnibus and BlueOrder and others. eMotion previously owned industry portal FOOTAGE.net.
At least for the mid-sized footage archive owner the worlds of traditional image database vendors (which are adding video features and capabilities to their software), DAM- and MAM-vendors are merging. New companies like Visono are starting to compete with products like the Media Workbench of industry giant Blueorder. But that´s currently off the topic, another playground and is not to be discussed here. The coming IBC is a better location.
Something I totally forgot to mention here is OpenRAW. Leave your wife, get rid of your kids, but don´t forget to sign up for OpenRAW if you care about the future of your digital image files. Remember: if you bought a Canon EOS D30 for a lot of bucks in the year 2000, you won´t be
able to open your old files with the actual version of Canon´s
professional DPP software 1.6.1.
OpenRAW is not a company, it´s a very fresh movement like OpenSource or the Wikipedia:
This site was created to give photographers and everybody interested in
an open documentation of proprietary RAW formats a place to voice their
opinion and to encourage camera makers to openly document their
proprietary RAW formats. In the short history of digital photography, manufacturers have
released numerous cameras with constantly evolving RAW formats. This
has lead to the existence of a vast number of RAW "dialects," even
within each major brand, that store image and camera setting data in a
different manner. In some cases manufacturers have even encrypted the data within
newer RAW files. Intentionally or not this encryption has placed full
access to the images stored in these files out of reach of the
photographers that took them. Unless, of course, they limit themselves
to tools sold by the camera manufacturer. To date, this vast number of RAW formats has been hidden by the
transparent support offered in RAW converter software, provided by both
the camera manufacturer and various third parties. At the time of
writing, the open source dcraw converter currently supports no less
than 163 formats. However, as manufacturers lose interest in their
discontinued products, and drop support for them, the true impact of
all of these "dialects" will be felt. Photographers will find their older images inaccessible, as future software versions lose support for older cameras. In the worst cases, entire brands may disappear, as has already happened with Contax.
Shortly, these problems include:
Limiting processing choices and creative freedom
Reducing choices for software that matches workflow needs
Increased probability that as time passes a RAW file will be unreadable or cannot be used to reproduce the photographer's original interpretation
Increased costs and slowed development of image processing software
The OpenRAW solution wants camera manufacturers to publicly document their RAW image formats -- past, present, and future -- and the adoption of a universal RAW format.
Currently the Adobe DNG format does not meet the goal of OpenRAW. At
this time (May 18th, 2005) no available cameras write DNG format files.
To use DNG files, existing RAW formats need to be converted.
Unfortunately, since most current RAW formats are not fully documented,
the conversion from RAW to DNG is still based on reverse engineering of
undocumented metadata (tags). Therefore it is possible to misinterpret
or lose critical information. Billions of existing RAW images have
already been archived. Only open documentation of past and existing RAW
formats can ensure full utilization of these archived RAW files.
DNG also allows "private data" to be stored in the DNG file. This
private data is only known to the camera company that wrote the private
data. Third party software that reads and/or writes DNG files will
ignore private data recorded by the camera. Only the software written
by the camera maker will read the private data written to the DNG file
by its camera. Some of this private data might be important or useful
information needed by a RAW converter. Adobe's DNG format does not
eliminate the problem of undocumented RAW files but transfers the
problem into another "container", the DNG file. By allowing private
(undocumented) data in the DNG file, DNG does not meet OpenRAW's goals.
OpenRAW encourages you to "Act now!": sign up the Open Letter of OpenRAW and send it to the camera maker of your choice, or each of them listed.
PS. Personally I´ve stepped back to film. From the image processing lab, I get prints, an overview print, a CD with all the files and -- negatives/slides. The problem is that it has become hard to find a lab capable of processing B/W-films. But that´s another story.
Digital Railroad, the company that went online last year with an impressive broad range of services for professional photographers and photo agencies, today announced that it has secured a $5.2 million in venture capital from Morgenthaler Ventures and Venrock Associates (Venrock is also the VC behind Digit Wireless). I wrote earlier about Digital Railroad, the idea, the concept, the small history of some other companies who acted rudimentary in this special business field earlier and finally how the customers, especially the single professional photographer, might benefit. Yes, the single professional photographer, the mysterious person that had been totally forgotten in the present Stock Photo Industry game of "G. buys ABC" and "C. buys XYZ". Shortly after I published this story in August 2004 Stock Index Onlinepublished an article about Digital Railroad which was apparently wrong on some points. Finally, after some back and forth, Stock Index Online changed the article. The internet party of 1999 is over. Remember, this company does not deal with possessing huge image libraries or vast collections of heritage images like Heritage Partners/Contentmine. Getting funding in today’s rough economic climate is a clear sign of trust and makes me think where this company might stay in two years... . Among others, new Digital Railroad members are Eyevine and CalSportMedia.
Regarding companies selling software and related services to the Stock Photo Industry, there are presently only five companies with venture capital in the background (maybe shortly six, but more about this later, after the CEPIC photo trade show).
Update: If you read the last but one paragraph here at PDN, don´t forget that the parent company of PDN, VNU USA, is also the parent company behind IPNStock.
to facilitate searching the databases of stock photography agencies and commercial photographers". [...] Similar in functionality to a web browser, the Widget is faster, more direct and easier than other options for searching commercial imagery. It leverages the dynamic, new Dashboard technology from Apple Computer. 59% of StockPhotoFinder.com users search for stock imagery on Macintosh computers. [...] StockPhotoFinder’s Widget offers image users the ability to conveniently search for databased images, download and try out watermarked previews in a design layout, and then directly contact the rights holder for e-commerce or assisted licensing.
Today Adobe revealed plans "to launch the Adobe Photographers Directory, a listing of professional
photographers accessible directly from within Adobe's creative
professional products". ASMP states "The Adobe Photographers Directory will be searchable by geographic
location and by photographic specialty, and it will include portfolio
"In addition, Adobe will work with the Advertising Photographers of
America (APA) and other associations to ensure the Adobe Photographers
Directory is a comprehensive professional photography resource." (Link)
More here and here (ASMP: "Adobe, ASMP Cooperate in Assignment Photographer Directory").
Three brands and one address? Same people, same technology? Someone (perhaps Randy Taylor) out there to set us straight? Clarifying this subject might help some readers who are in two minds how to act.
[To someone obviously related to ShutterPoint: spam commenting this blog every single day won´t work.]
How to sell you photos globally if you´re just the middle of nowhere? The February 2005 Issue of The Digital Journalist covers the subject "Afghanistan Through Afghan Photojournalists' Eyes". Geographic photographers Reza and Manoocher created the first photo agency in Kabul called Aina (Cookies on!), working out of an ex-taliban prison (Link). Aina was created in 2002. The technique they are using is Digital Railroad (Cookies On! See also here), a system "that simplifies work, streamlines marketing, and expands revenue opportunities for photographers and agencies".
"The contrast between technology at work and at home is stark -- most photographers do not have access to electricity or running water in their homes."
Two other new companies: Konrad Dienst and Artur Krüger over at confessMEDiA finally have launched their first and new website (sorry, no english version so far) some days ago. Their main product, the Communication Server, creates virtual photo portals for photo buyers and - together with their partner agencies - for photo agencies. But as always: the clients in Europe and US are top of the line but the dumb traditional media in our industry won´t listen. Not even one single word. Why? Is it just because the mighty German Press Agency (Deutsche Presse Agentur) bought APIS Picturemaxx through one of their subsidiaries three months ago? There are rumours regarding pan-european anti-trust laws and how they might apply to reality.
BTW: Getty had revenues in 2004 of $ 34.2m from footage sales (5.5% of the total revenues of $ 622.4m), the average license fee for a clip of stock footage was $ 629 with a final 2004 quarter rise of 25.5% compared with the last quarter of 2003. Corbis instead is unable to give figures breaking down revenues between footage and photos (Link).
The first time I found out about IT Conversations and listened to Tim O'Reilly in The Software Paradigm Shift
in 2003, I thought: how brilliant, mp3s for my ipod, great listening
material for plane trips and excellent learning materials but then IT
Conversations just continued to get better.
From IT's website: "IT Conversations is a network of high-end tech
talk-radio interviews, discussions and presentations from major
conferences delivered live and on-demand via the Internet. It's a
one-person labor of love. Doug Kaye is ITC's host, producer, developer,
writer, interviewer and engineer. He launched IT Conversations in June
2003 and produces three to five programs each week." Some of the great
- The Software Paradigm Shift by Tim O'Reilly, old but still relevant
- Open Source Code: Managing the Opportunity
Is open source ready for prime time? Can you bet your business on it?
Would you invest in a business that has done so? In this panel
discussion, an investment banker, a Red Hat executive, two lawyers, and
a software developer address the issues.
with Doc Searls, senior editor, Linux Journal. Doc Searls presents a
number of case studies in open source. Great stories about what
customers can do for themselves. Includes his slides.
- Open Source: Capturing the Upside While Avoiding the Downside by Clayton Christensen,
Professor, Harvard Business School. This keynote presentation was
recorded at the Open Source Business Conference 2004 held in San
The interviews are organized by topics. The Software Development and Open Source
sections include some great nuggets. One last great thing: most of the
interviews include supporting materials such as slides and references.
Adobe announced yesterday at the Photokina a new file format (DNG, Digital NeGative Specification) and
"hopes that the new [single file] format will solve the problem of multiple formats and multiple software packages by introducing a single format that can store information from a diverse range of cameras.
Adobe, who will be offering The Digital Negative Specification free of any legal restrictions or royalties, hopes that in doing so integration of the .DNG file format into digital cameras, printers, and software products will become widespread.
Where it sees the strength of the new file format is in a set of metadata that must be included in the file to describe key details about the camera and settings.
Of course the .DNG format is immediately supported in Adobe Photoshop CS as part of an updated Camera Raw Plug-in, as well as Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0" (Pocket-lint.co.uk: "Adobe tries to unify digital camera market with new file standard").
Raw file formats are becoming extremely popular in digital photography workflows because they offer creative professionals greater creative control. However, cameras can use many different raw formats — the specifications for which are not publicly available — which means that not every raw file can be read by a variety of software applications. As a result, the use of these proprietary raw files as a long-term archival solution carries risk, and sharing these files across complex workflows is even more challenging.
The solution to this growing problem? The Digital Negative (DNG), a new, publicly available archival format for the raw files generated by digital cameras. By addressing the lack of an open standard for the raw files created by individual camera models, DNG helps ensure that photographers will be able to access their files in the future. (Link)
The cumulative effect of numerous manufacturers producing dozens of new cameras a year, each one of which has a slightly different raw format, has lead us to the point where there are now a huge number of different raw formats. This places a burden on photographers, as well as a concern about the accessibility of these images in the future. It is easy to imagine a day when a photographer turns to his or her raw files taken ten or twenty years previous, and finds that they are unreadable. This has nothing to do with physical media, but simply whether or not the files can be read by then available software that can interpret them. (Michael Reichmann/Luminous Landscape)
"Camera lens company Carl Zeiss has partnered with Dialog Semiconductor to built what they claim is the next generation of miniature cameras for mobile phones. Their first joint project is a camera module for phones that measures smaller than a pea, yet, they claim, delivers "a very high image quality". The companies plan to start selling the modules to phone manufacturers soon.
The companies believe that with the right application of technology, 10 megapixel camera phones are within reach."
[infoSync World, via "Digital Cameras to have built in cell phones in the future?"]
A nice post recently discovered (via Anders Jacobsen´s Blog) in gisle's blog (Gisle Hannemyr works at University of Oslo, Department of Informatics) regarding "Metadata (EXIF, IPTC, DC) for the PNG format":
PNG is my preferred format for archival storage of photographs. It is lossless and more compact than TIFF and TIFF-LZV.
While the creators of the PNG format anticipated that metadata should be embedded with images, by the provision of allowing a single file to consist of several “chunks", there is yet no standard for embedding metadata in PNG image files. (Link)
Gisle mentions some research papers he discovered.
Four years after the Internet bubble burst, the venture-capital industry is stirring back to life. Investments by venture firms rose 22 percent in the second quarter of this year, to $5.8 billion.
For all of 2004, analysts project an 11 percent increase in investments, to $20 billion, from $18 billion in 2003.
That is a far cry from the $108 billion in the heady days of 1999, and nobody in the venture-capital business is predicting a return to that flood of cash.
The competition among venture capitalists to get their foot in the door of promising companies has also heated up. The time that elapses for a deal to close has been cut by more than half, from six to eight months two years ago to two or three months today, said Bill Ericson, a general partner with Mohr, Davidow Ventures, another Menlo Park firm.
Perhaps the most encouraging development for entrepreneurs is the increase in venture-capital investments in early-stage companies, to 231 in the second quarter of 2004, the highest number in two years.
At the same time, it is unlikely that start-ups will see a return to easy-money days anytime soon, in part because many firms are not raising the kind of funds they did during the bubble.
The real test, then, is whether company management has already proved its mettle with appropriate industry and small-company experience. "Even if they were unsuccessful, at least we know they tried and learned from what they did before," Mr. Brown said. Recently, he said, the firm added a psychological test to the last step of the decision-making process "to sort out the wheat from the chaff."
Rumors has it that recently a new and young company in the Stock Photo Industry received a first round of $12.7 million USD (today, this is a incredible high amount). When we asked some people over there, their CEO said what seemed to be exactly what David Sifry replied when asked by Om Malik whether or not Technorati got funded: "I'm sorry, it is our policy not to comment on questions on funding" (Link for Om Malik). More to report when they go online.
For the freaks: IPTC.org (Matadata for News) today has updated the Subject Codes (IPTC topic set to describe the subject of a news item) to Version 14 and the Subject Qualifier (IPTC topic set to add qualifiers to the subject of a news item) to Version 11.