One of my photos

Now everyone’s a paparazzo!

July 22nd, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Life/Technology · No Comments · Life, Technology

It was announced on the Flickr blog on July 8th but I only knew about it from this story in the Guardian’s media section today (so score one for the ‘dead tree media’ I suppose).   The plan is that Getty Images will trawl through the photos on Flickr to look for ones they think are marketable, which they will then buy off you for the same rates they pay established journalists.   Darryn Lyons and his Big Picture are also soliciting photos through their Mr Paparazzi website.

The Big Picture scheme looks a bit more tacky than the Getty Images one, but probably a lot more lucrative if you actually get a celeb shot.  It depends on you submitting pictures to them, so you have to go out and get some candid shots of a celeb and actively seek to promote them.   You will probably feel a strong urge to take a shower afterwards.

The Getty Images thing is more passive.  You carry on using Flickr to store and share photos as normal and one day somebody pops up and asks if they can buy your images.   I don’t how that works when a lot of them (all of mine) are under a Creative Commons licence and they could just use them for free anyway.  But the point is that it would feel like a sort of windfall rather than something you chased.

I have had a few mails about my photos in the past – people asking if they can use them in a book or on a website.   As I said, they are all CC so they could have just taken them (as long as they attributed them to me) but it was polite of them to ask first.  I usually say yes, so it would be business as usual except there would be a (probably small) payment involved.

So why don’t I like it?

It seems to be bit of a corruption of the open, sharing ethos of the web, where a lot of amateurs of varying abilities indulge a hobby and a large stock photography company comes along and harvests the results.  There are worse things in the world, and I would no doubt be dead chuffed if they offered me a few quid for one of my shots, it just seems like another small erosion of the idealistic spirit of the web.  A loss of innocence if you like. Or is it another small step towards maturity?

I am interested in the mechanics of it all though.  There are thousands upon thousands of pictures uploaded to Flickr every day, maybe even every hour.  How will these editors go through it all?   I half-heartedly predict (because my predictions are so consistently wrong I will only do so half-heartedly now) that some sort of black art will evolve around the naming and tagging of photos to make them more likely to come to Getty’s attention.  It will be analogous to search engine optimisation and eventually you will get bombarded with Flickrmail spam offering to sell you advice on power-tagging your photos.

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