Goodbye white sky…

With cloud covering much of Britain and our own home territory in near the North Sea coast shrouded in featureless white for days, remember that post-processing can transform landscapes

This was just a few days ago when the promise of a sunset disappeared. The sky was taken ten minutes before I expected the best sunset, and shot without any ground – it had potential for use as a stock sky to compose into other shots. The ground, a field of wheat taken from the highest point looking north-west a short distance from our office, was shot hand-held with a 1/5th exposure, stabilisation providing a sharp image from the 17-28mm Tamron FE Sony lens – but the wind blowing the crop selectively, so some ears show contrasting movement.

And that, above, is what a straight conversion from the raw capture looked like (you can also see how the sky had not morphed into a lovely sunset but instead lost any colour and became a neutral dusk). The point is that even a shot like this, in conditions like this, can be turned round by adjustment from raw and combining two frames. The almost square result is also a 170MB file, big enough for an acceptable print the size of some living room walls.

Landscape Pro as a solution when the weather lets you down

We used Photoshop for this but if you don’t have a full Mac or PC editing program, Anthropics’ Landscape Pro is purpose-designed for even more complex fixing-up and comes with its own library of royalty-free sky images (you can add your own). Here’s an example from Anthropics:

This one uses the masking functions of Landscape Pro to fit the sky to the shape of the rocks, and its controls to define water, mountain and trees as separately adjustable zones. There is also an intelligent function to create reflections in water with a realistic density. Notice that the water-weed in the foreground remains intact in the processed image and the sky reflection has been very accurately masked at the left hand side.

Using the program is well explained in a series of short videos on the Landscape Pro website. These are not the tedious kind of how-to vids you tend to find on YouTube which seem to aim to take several minutes to get to the point, maybe to enable advertising to appear. They are short and very clear in their message, and there’s a good selection (screen shot below).

There is a discount offer of 50% at the moment and an additional 20% off with our code CC8L – this code was not working when this post went out on August 16th due to a technical glitch, it is now working and can be used up to Sunday August 23rd.

Save on Landscape Pro & Portrait Pro using Cameracraft code CC8L

Code valid on any Anthropics software (PortraitPro, PortraitPro Body, LandscapePro or Smart Photo Editor), new editions, upgrades, or bundles. Download your free trial today! 50% OFF sale now on + for an EXTRA 20% OFF use the code CC8L.

Thirty keys to stock photography

Well, I asked for it. Ten years ago I suggested on one of Alamy‘s forums that stock photography was nothing like art, photo club or personal photography. You might have pictures which have won contests, pictures good enough for a friend or two to have asked for prints and still have them on the wall. You might have pictures from a decade or two during which you have happened on some wonderful sunsets or visited great places at just the right time.

But you might not have anything which would work in the stock image market for unreleased editorial or released royalty-free, the two big volume markets which exist.

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Alamy hits 24m images with added celebrity collection has further strengthened its collection with the addition of over a million celebrity images, and now has over 24 million images on line. The company represents over 570 of the world’s leading stock and specialist agencies and over 25,000 photographers worldwide.

Rachel Wakefield, head of sales at Alamy, said: “We are extremely popular with newspaper and magazine customers and this additional entertainment and sports content cements our appeal. TV and film stars, royals and sporting celebrities will always be sought after”.

Alamy is well known for its quality and variety of imagery, from the obvious to the obscure. The combination of high profile stock agencies and 25,000 individual photographers gives an extraordinary blend of world class imagery, with a myriad flavours and themes. For these reasons, the company is considered the first, and often only, port-of-call for customers who value this mix.

Alan Capel, head of content at Alamy added: “Our collection has both freshness and variety and our customers appreciate that much of this imagery is unique to Alamy”.

Top ten most photographed buildings

Independent stock photo agency, Alamy, has the largest collection of images online. Here, the company provides its inaugural list of the top ten most photographed buildings across the world[1]. And, there are some surprising results.

Eiffel Tower (Paris) – currently 15,536 images on the Alamy website. No visit to Paris is complete without a trip to the world-famous Eiffel Tower and every visual of France is likely to include an image of the monument. The Eiffel Tower also has romantic connotations – from proposals to romantic weekends away. Unsurprisingly it is top of the list.

Big Ben (London) – currently 14,896 images on the Alamy website. From the world’s most visited city, Big Ben is sure to appear on nearly every London tourist postcard.

Empire State Building (New York) – currently 13,637 images on the Alamy website. The world’s second most visited city’s famous building, stands at 1454ft. Getting a close up just isn’t possible!

London Eye (London) – currently 12,734 images on the Alamy website. A surprisingly high entry on the list, which is dominated by traditional buildings. The London Eye opened in 1999, but already its image is embedded in the London skyline.

Statue of Liberty (New York) – currently 9,573 images on the Alamy website. We can all recall images of this monument standing tall where the East and Hudson rivers converge, with the famous New York skyline as its backdrop.

Great Wall of China (China) – currently 8,907 images on the Alamy website. Given China’s growing strength as a world economy and an increasingly popular tourist destination, are we going to see this creep up the list again next year?

Taj Mahal (India) – currently 8,544 images on the Alamy website. The finest example of Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal became a World Heritage Site in 1983. We suspect it will follow in the footsteps of the Great Wall of China and become an even more popular building to photograph in the years to come.  India is growing as an accessible destination and the structure of the buildings and composition of the landscape  is a godsend to photographers

Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris) – currently 8,185 images on the Alamy website. Another famous monument of the Paris skyline, and widely considered as one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.

Brooklyn Bridge (New York) – currently 7,990 images on the Alamy website. One of the oldest suspension brides in the United States, which was completed in 1883, and spans the East River. However, a surprising entry on this list.

Sydney Opera House (Sydney) – currently 7,848 images on the Alamy website. No image of Australia is complete without a picture of its world-famous opera house, which was conceived and built by a Danish architect in 1973. One would have thought this would appear higher on the list.

Commenting on the top ten most photographed buildings, Alan Capel, Head of Content at Alamy, said: “As you would suspect, many of the buildings listed are predictable, particularly when we look at the world’s most visited cities and tourist destinations. However, there are a number of entries which came as a surprise – The London Eye, for example, is now hot-on-the-heels of Big Ben. Also would your average man in the street be able to name the Brooklyn Bridge, but it’s so popular because almost every image of it has the distinctive New York skyline in the background.

“And, when it comes to monuments you would expect to be most photographed, I was surprised not to see The Pyramids featuring. On reflection, their desert location and the consistent climate of Egypt may provide the answer to this – there are only a certain number of photographs you can take.

“This list clearly indicates that photographers should not be afraid of clichés. They are clichés for a good reason; they are iconic and instantly symbolic of a country or city. When photographers visit a tourist destination, it goes without saying they should take a photo of the most photographed monuments – no matter the time of day, or the weather. Today, people are more widely travelled and more adventurous, travel photography has grown in breadth and diversity to reflect that. Remember, next time you take a shot of the Eiffel Tower, why not take one of the ticket guard at the bottom too, or the person selling souvenirs and ice creams. This will capture the essence of Paris without disregarding the world’s most photographed monument.”

A representative from Lonely Planet Images which supplies Alamy added: “Digital photography and high quality cameras have revolutionised our attitude to taking photographs.  Where once we would send a postcard (with a picture of an iconic building on), now we’re creating our own postcards.

“The world is becoming more accessible and with it more visual, as we share our photographs with the online communities.  You don’t need to leave your house in order to see exotic landscapes, festivals, and insights into other cultures.

“Professional travel photographers have had to step up their game, and now work even harder to get unique imagery.”

WHSmiths threaten to axe most travel guides

The Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild (OWPG) has written to the Office of Fair Trading expressing concern over WH Smith Travel’s plan to make publisher Penguin the sole supplier of foreign travel guides in its airport, motorway and railway station outlets.

The deal would mean only Rough Guides, Dorling Kindersley and Sawday guides would be stocked at the 450 stores, while popular names such as Lonely Planet, AA, Berlitz, Thomas Cook, Bradt, Time Out and Michelin would disappear from the shelves.

According to industry magazine The Bookseller, Penguin is offering WH Smith Travel a 72 per cent discount on the cover price of its imprints.

“By creating a monopoly situation in a very significant section of the retail guidebook market, this deal is manifestly anti-competitive and will reduce choice for consumers,” said Jon Sparks, travel photographer and secretary of the OWPG.

“Although our members’ prime focus is on the outdoors, there are many among us who also produce travel guides, and many more who produce walking, cycling and other outdoors guides for overseas destinations. This move places other publishers at a serious disadvantage and thereby directly undermines our members’ future earnings potential.

“It also appears to be wholly at odds with WH Smith’s well-publicised corporate responsibility policies.”

His sentiments were echoed by guidebook author and editor Sue Viccars (CORR), who is also a member of the OWPG. “This unprecedented step will limit choice for the consumer,” she said. “Customers have – quite rightly – grown to expect a broad range of guidebooks at popular sales points such as airports.

“The industry owes its diverse customer base – family, trekker, independent traveller, retired couple and the rest –  this opportunity. Limiting the number and range of authors used will not give a sufficiently broad view of those destinations covered, and many destinations will be excluded altogether.

“This move will severely curtail customer options, and will be highly detrimental to the potential development of the guidebook industry as a whole.’

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 🙂 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

Microstock analysis

We have come across this site which presents an exceptional analysis of microstock sales:

Not that, in your editor’s opinion, the results are all that wonderful – it would be easy enough to secure the same monthly earnings from a single direct sale to any publication, and it’s more interesting by far to try to place work directly with clients, talk to them, deal face to face or by email. But this is the best and most detailed analysis of microstock we have yet seen.