Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Saturday November 10 2007

Every few months I get an email from someone wanting to use one of my photos.  I say, yes go ahead, give me a credit and please tell me about it when you use it, preferably sending me a copy.  Sometimes I dig up the big original version of the picture and send them that.  And then I forget about it.  If someone “steals” my photo, how am I going to know, and what could I do if I did?

So anyway, it turns that somebody at UNESCO found, here, this doom-laden picture:

image

... and they used it in this, on page 15 (where I duly get my credit) and on the front cover, no less.  Topical.

I don’t think the interesting story here is the flood barrier itself, or that I am aiding and abetting UNESCO, although this is an organisation that I do regard as rather sinister.  I think the real story here is how easy it is for an amateur photographer like me to take a quite nice picture, how easy it is for photograph users to find out about our efforts, and how savagely amateurs like me are now undercutting the Real Photographers.

I didn’t know it was going to be such a prominent report.  Maybe I should have charged them.  But, how much?  And if I had, would they have used it?

Ever thought of uploading your work to a microstock photography site?

Posted by Lysias on 10 November 2007

Well, this is how competition works, isn’t it? The Real Photographers will just have to prove to potential clients they are better artists and can present technically superior effects.
In many cases, they are. Like these, by a professional, compared to mine, of the same subject.

Amateurs are the engine of perfection, though. I anticipate incredibly glorious photography from the Real Photographers...or they would have to go the way of dodo.

Posted by Tatyana on 10 November 2007

"Amateurs are the engine of perfection, though. I anticipate incredibly glorious photography from the Real Photographers...or they would have to go the way of dodo.”

So I suppose that by the same merit, now that power tools are available and affordable for every amateur then craftsmen of all trade, plumbers, masons, cabinetmakers, etc, have gone the way of the dodo?

Just because everybody has a kitchen, then there is no such thing as Chefs anymore?

I know the cult of the amateur is all the vogue, and make a lot of people feel good about themselves, but the notion that professionals in any field that requires both skills, technics and talent will be seriously “undercut” by any single “billion monkey” and dilettante with a camera or a jigsaw is just preposterous.

Thus, the key to this apparent miracle of the common citizen-artist is contained in the answer to Brian’s last question:

“Maybe I should have charged them.  But, how much?  And if I had, would they have used it?

No. You only pay a professional (though you may sometimes tip an amateur).

Posted by Admirable Nelson on 11 November 2007

Admirable Nelson

You are seriously out of date.  Lots of professional photographers are already in severe trouble, because of digital amateurs.

The point is that this is not a straight shoot out between one pro and one amateur.  The pro will almost always win that contest.  Your mistake is talking about about the dilettante amateur in the singular, and as a result you miss the big point.  The efforts of the amateurs, in aggregate, which are what the internet makes searchable and usable, are what matter.

The assumption that if I had asked for money I would not have got it is quite possibly wrong in this case.  (It’s a good picture, and just what they wanted.) Your judgements are what you wish were true, rather than what is true.  And I suspect that you are uncomfortably aware of this fact.

As for the comparison between what a rank amateur can do with a jigsaw, and what a rank amateur can do with a digital camera, well, the comparison reveals not the similarity, but the extreme difference between these two devices.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 12 November 2007
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