Using filters in Lightroom helps bring out the best in what are often fairly ordinary photos. I like the image below. It has a glow/finish/saturation that appeals to me. It appeals much more than the original. It’s one of a set of photos that’s been sitting in Lightroom waiting for some post processing for a few months. I purchased a bunch of presets from Stuck in Customs a while back, and recently got an email telling me to go download them again – there’s a new pack of filters waiting for me. At no extra charge. So I put those filters to good use. You can see the set of photos I ran through these filters on Flickr by clicking here.
Category Archives: Photography
I like taking photos. It’s probable that you, whoever you are, also take photos, either with a camera or cell phone. It’s just as probable that you upload them to the internet. To Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, Instagram and other photo sharing sites. We all own our own photos. If your photo was taken after 1978, it’s automatically copyrighted for as long as you live and then a further 70 years after they put you in the ground. Which, incidentally, I hope is many, many years from now. So, in summary, the photos we take are our property. Except, they’re potentially not. Not anymore. Not in the UK.
I took the photo below, and shared it on Flickr. Now I’m sharing it on my blog. Want to use it? Fine. I’m pretty easy going. All my photos are licensed on Creative Commons, and anyone can use my photos for non-commercial purposes for free. Want to use it for a commercial purpose? I’ll probably be ok with that. Get in touch, and we’ll agree a price, providing I’m happy with who is using it and how. Actually, the image above perhaps isn’t the best example, because it’s a photo of artwork by Damian Hirst, and he might have copyright issues if I sold it commercially!
What if someone uses my image for commercial purposes without telling me? Well, that’s called theft and I will seek recompense, and plenty of it. Far more recompense than had they just asked in the first place. But here’s the problem. There’s every chance that in future I might find myself unable to negotiate or demand a fee or damages. I may not even be able to get them to stop using the image. Why? Because, under the UK Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act, they may well be using the image legally. Yes, it is still my image, yes it is still in copyright. But no, copyright doesn’t actually mean anything.
Here’s the issue*. Random people out there in the world do have a habit of using images that don’t belong to them. Let’s say a chap called John Doe decides to start a blog. He writes a half dozen posts, and then gives up. In one of those posts he used your photo. Can John Doe be contacted? Nope, he used a pseudonym and never did get round to putting contact info on his blog. Anyway, along comes some ad company, and they see that photo on his blog. They like it. They try to contact him and, of course, fail. At that point, the photo is considered ‘orphaned’. And now that it’s orphaned, the ad company can use it. They have to pay a fee to a Collective Licensing Organisation. But you, the owner of the photo, get nothing.
Your photos can become orphaned almost instantly. The moment you upload them to the internet, they are exposed. If one is used under the new Act, then it’s your job to find that out and to claim a fee from the Collective Licensing body. And as I understand it, they’ll tell you what you get paid. And if you don’t like it, then tough. And if you don’t want it used in the way it is being used, there’s a big question mark over whether you can put a stop to it. This is a genuine and serious issue. I know for a fact that dozens of my images have been used across dozens of sites on the internet. These are just the ones I’ve found or come across and therefore know about. Some of them credit me, many don’t. Some asked my permission (technically unnecessary), many didn’t.
As a photographer, this irks me, to put it mildly, on three main counts. Firstly, as a point of principal. If the photo isn’t yours and can’t be purchased from the owner, then don’t use it. If it’s a digital image, then it’s clearly been taken after 1978 and is therefore still in copyright – fact. Secondly, I may well not want a particular organisation to use any of my photos. For example, if the English Defence League, or other extremist group, found a photo of a flag that I’ve taken and decided they liked it, I would reject their offer. Thirdly, every time an orphaned photo is bought through Collective Licensing, potentially two photographers are robbed of their rightful dues. The guy or gal who took the photo. And the photographer of an alternative image that would otherwise have been purchased.
*There are actually many issues. I’m not going to pretend I’ve gone into all of them, let alone understand all of them. I still have many unanswered questions myself. Many of those questions, it appears, currently have no answers. Some parts of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act are poorly defined, and we will have to wait and see how it works. How will this work internationally? If an orphaned image belongs to an American, for example? How on earth would any one know the nationality of a photographer? There are positive benefits to the bill too, though, in that cultural entities such as museums and libraries need legislation in order to allow them to preserve important photos.
But it seems to me to be another shoddy piece of legislation, part of the Digital Economy Act, that’s been rashly thought up by people with little concern for their constituents and maximum concern for big business. It’s been rushed through parliament without proper debate and it’s just yet another sorry chapter of government and business not understanding what the digital age is or means. There’s plenty of research you can do if you’re interested. There is an organised protest group called Stop 43 (Clause 43 is the relevant part of the Act), and articles on the BBC and New Statesman. The Act has been referred to as the Instagram Act.
I do wonder how the photo above stands in copyright law. Of course, I did not take it. That’s me in the photo. It was taken prior to 1978. But I scanned it, with permission, and processed it through Photoshop, creating a new and discernibly different image.
I like taking photos. Our world is so thoroughly photographed today, that we are recording history in real time in a way that has never happened before. Not that this means anything as far as how history will be written or viewed. I mean, look at 9/11 and the JFK assassination. They were caught on film, which is supposed not to lie, and yet we have more conspiracy theories about them than any other murder or terrorist attack.
There’s a type of photo that I rarely capture. A lot of my photography is so structured or thought out or overly framed. I’d like to take more photos of a spontaneous nature. To capture a moment. A photo that will carry emotion, meaning a sense of occasion with it down the years. Where am I heading with this? I’ve found an absolutely fabulous blog called Vintage Everyday. It’s full of fascinating photography from down the ages. The image below is from a concentration camp, shortly after liberation. In colour. Quite rare.
There’s a quality to many of the photos posted in the blog that is impossible today. Has digital photography become too perfect? How much further will the technology advance? Enough so that one day in the distant future our digital photos taken today will look as old as they are?
Flickr is very much a permanent fixture in my photography life. Not least because I have invested so much time and so many photos (11,065 at last count) that a move elsewhere would take a huge amount of effort. But I’m happy with Flickr. It remains the best value photo storage site on the net. It also remains the most powerful photo organised And retains the largest and most active following of all dedicated photo sharing sites. Development had become stale, but in the last year Yahoo has started reinvesting resources into the site.
Every now and again I do ‘shop around’ though, just to see what alternatives there are. Just in case I want to move. There are some of the same old faces, some of which are better than others. Photobucket has improved. From absolutely awful to sub par. Picasa is still there, and still has a split personality. Smug Mug is great but pricey. Only for serious pros who are really there just to show off their own stuff. There are the relative newcomers too. Google+, which is the other half of Picasa’s split personality. Why can’t they just turn the two of them into a single offering, and ditch the hideous Picasa interface?
Slick Pic in also fairly recent to the scene, having caught my eye last year, and looks nice. Looks can be deceiving. Their free offering allows uploads at smaller resolutions than even two year old cell phones produce. Even the next step up on the price scale will shrink (thus partially destroy) images that most compacts will produce. Their Pro offering? Geez, we’re on Smug Mug money. Slick Pic subscribers, perhaps, are more Mug than Smug. But that’s a little unfair. For the casual amateur or novice who isn’t too fussed what happens to their images in the long run, it does a job. But it’s a big step down from Flickr, so it’s not for me.
However, Flickr isn’t quite enough. I need other places to share my photos. Two other places. One for my mobile photos, and I’m currently weighing up the pros and cons of Facebook v Google+. They both have their pros and cons. Secondly, I like to keep a site for my best photos. My own little Gallery to showcase my successful efforts. For the last couple of years, and the foreseeable future, that place is 500px. The free option limits you to the number of photos you can upload, rather than by damaging your shots. The interface is nice. The community is quite lively, and my fellow 500pxers are a talented bunch. It’s pretty easy to lose time browsing through recent uploads.
There are pro options, at $20 and $50. The $20 option is Flickr territory and whilst the photo management tools aren’t as powerful, they’ll do the job for most photographers out there. My 500px profile is here. I keep intending to take up the $20 plan, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Soon. Perhaps. Till then, I leave you with one of my ‘better’ shots that made it to my 500px collection, from Marrakesh. We’re off again tomorrow on another whistle stop city tour. We’re heading east this time….
If you looked through my recent photos from Marrakech, you probably noticed that the majority of them had had filters applied. Or, more accurately, Lightroom presets. There are pros and cons to this treatment. They can make an image look better. They can rescue an image that was otherwise blurred or imperfect enough to normally warrant deletion. On the other hand, the effects can sometimes look not so good when the image is viewed on bigger monitors. I noticed some of the Marrakech shots, which looked great on my laptop, did not look quite so great on our 37″ TV. I don’t buy into the purists argument that filters distort an image, disguising the photographers flaws and therefore ruining the photo. At least, I don’t buy that it ruins the photo.
But when looking at those Marrakech shots, do they remind me of what I saw with my own eyes? No, they don’t quite match what I saw. That does trouble me a little. But fortunately, Lightroom doesn’t ‘destroy’ the image. In other words, you can always go back and remove the filter. Even years later. Providing you’ve backed up your catalog. If you haven’t backed up your catalog? Then it’s the changes you’ve made that you lose, not the original photo.
The snap below of Mrs P is, she tells me, the best I’ve ever taken of her. There is a preset applied, although in this instance a very mild one. I have hundreds of presets installed, but there’s about twenty that I use regularly. My favourites. Do you want to try them out? You’ll need Lightroom, of course. Then you can download my Top 20 Lightroom presets by clicking on this link. Save them in a folder somewhere safe. Then, in Lightroom’s Develop module, right click on the User Presets bar on the left of the screen. Import. Point it to the folder of presets. Select them all. Voila. For those of you who are not fans of presets or filters, then I have this set on Flickr, from our recent trip to Marrakech. They all feature Mrs P, occasionally me too. And whilst a couple have had ‘the treatment’, at least half of them are out of the box images. Another 45% have only been cropped or rotated.