The revealing pixel

Libraries like Alamy are demanding model releases even for crowd scenes now, if the image is to be sold as Royalty Free or offered with Rights Protection for commercial advertising. Either way, they want signed paper! This restricts all street scenes and many place-shots to Licensed (normal, editorial-only) status. Other libraries or portals will not accept unreleased people shots of any kind at all

The latest DSLRs – notably the Pentax K20D, Samsung GX20 and Sony Alpha 350 – offer over 14 megapixels in the small 1.5X factor format. Later this year we get 24 megapixels in full frame, but 14 on APS-C is higher density and will reveal more detail in the cropped area of the shot.

Puerto Rico beach on a Spanish bank holiday

Here, snapped with the Pentax K20D (14.6 megapixels) is a crowded beach in Gran Canaria on a Spanish bank holiday Sunday before Easter. At this stage it is relatively empty šŸ™‚ No-one gives a second thought to a camera with an 18-55mm kit lens. It is not as if this overdressed British tourist is waving a big white tele at them.

What they do not realise is that every single person on this beach is identifiable right down to the wrinkles on their cellulite, and worse things. Today’s DSLRs can pull out a section worthy of Breughel (though parts look more like Bosch) and show as much detail as you would once have expected from rollfilm:

Moving in unfairly on targets

This is cropped and reduced from an export using Adobe Camera Raw from the original .PEF file up to 6144 pixels wide (75 megabytes file size) – to view the full size crop click the image. It is exported with Sharpening set to 0, NR set to 0, and no post processing is applied to enhance detail. It is, as you would expect, slightly softened by the anti-aliasing filter and de-Bayer process but with a wealth of detail present.

Ten years ago you would have been happy to see an 640 x 480 digital camera picture looking as sharp as this crop. So, given web use of images, the picture libraries are right. A model release is needed for any commercial use of any scenes with people in, no matter how many people and how far away.

Today’s and tomorrow’s digital SLRs are going to capture scenes the photographer is not even able to spot when composing the shot, and may cause anything from embarassment to lawsuits because of the clarity of their information.

Be warned! And remember, too much sunbathing is damaging. Cover up…

– David Kilpatrick