Category Archives: General

Thoughts on the Flickr updates

So, yesterday, Flickr changed…well, basically…everything. Layout, pricing structure, the whole ball of wax. I’ve had a chance to sleep on it and think a bit about it now, rather than just reacting with predictable geek rage like the 100+ (and growing!) pages of angry comments on the Flickr help forum.

First thoughts? I don’t dislike the new layout. OK, I really don’t like the default “contacts photos all huge and in your face yo” view. I like my contacts, but this is not how I want to view their work. Seriously. Still I can always change my bookmark to take me where I want to start. On the other hand, the uncropped thumbnails “flow” layout used elsewhere works nicely though it could sure use some more space between thumbnails, and the single photo view does showcase the image nicely. It’s all rather resource intensive though.

Everything else about the design is just moved cheese. I’ll deal with it.

Most of the Internet Rage has focused on the design issues, but I think they’re all missing the real problem.

The real problem is that Flickr seems determined to become the place for snapshots, to outdo Facebook and Instagram. Their 1 terabyte of space for everyone is an open invite to dump everything they ever shoot up there, a cloud-based storage and backup solution for photos.

My problem with that is I’m not there for snapshots. I’m not there to wade through your backup copy of Every Photo Ever. I don’t want the equivalent of Mad Uncle Ernie’s Endless Vacation Slideshow of Doom just to get to the one or two decent photos out of the lot. Not every photo which plops out of your camera is worth sharing; I’m happy if I get more than a couple of good shots for every dozen I expose, but then I edit out all the crap and variants on the same subject because as the photographer, that’s my job, not the viewer’s job. You really don’t need (or want) to see my off-cuts and I really don’t need them diluting the impact of the stuff I do deem worthy of sharing.

I’m there because I enjoy good photography and take it somewhat seriously. I’m there because it offered a good place to show the best of my work. I’m already struggling with the uneasy feeling that I’m pouring chocolate syrup into the middle of the ocean and hoping someone at some beach somewhere notices it; that feeling just got 100 times worse now that there’s nothing left to stop people just uploading everything without bothering to edit at all.

Then, there’s the very clear push toward free, ad-supported service. No new pro accounts (but you can pay $50 a year just to remove the ads from your own viewing experience? No, I’ll find some other way, like AdBlock Plus, and put that half-a-C-note toward something useful). Existing pro accounts are grandfathered in but have lower limits on maximum individual file sizes than the freebies now do, and really only differ from the free accounts in that they have unlimited storage (like 1TB isn’t enough? How many photos do you need to share online anyway? Every photo I’ve ever shot wouldn’t begin to fill that space!)

Free accounts appear to have the same limits on groups and sets now as the old pro ones did. There’s really no good reason left to be a paid subscriber and given their current offer of a prorated refund for people who revert from pro to free, it’s clear they’d rather you see the ads they want to push into the experience.

I have significant misgivings about that since I want my photographic work to be taken seriously. Sticking random advertising alongside it and making it essentially pointless for anyone to opt out of the ads feels cheapening, really, like they only want my (freely donated) photography as a vehicle to market other stuff to viewers. I much prefer the arrangements over at 500px, where the free account is limited (not to the point of being useless and crippled, but enough so that the reasonably priced paid options are worth paying for) and nobody sees advertisements.

Of course right now, 500px is likely to be one destination for the enraged and disenchanted of Flickr. Already this morning, I had to wade through nearly 200 pages of utterly mediocre photography in the “fresh” section because one idiot had decided to upload some 2,500 photos without bothering to edit down to the good stuff (if there was any; I couldn’t find his “good stuff” among it all). One of the defining things about 500px is it really hasn’t been a dumping ground for just any old stuff. People, mostly, do seem to abide by the recommendation that you only upload your best work. I hope that doesn’t change too much because of a sudden stream of Flickr refugees looking for somewhere to dump years’ worth of photostream content without taking the opportunity to cherry pick their best quality work first.

I’m not planning to abandon ship and move everything elsewhere, yet. But I’m going to have to see how things pan out and how obnoxious the planned advertising will be.

Hasselblad 503CW; Kodak Film division

And now, the news…

First up, a sad day, the end of an era; Hasselblad has just discontinued the last of their classic all-manual line of 6×6 cameras, the 503CW. I have to admit I was entirely unaware of their still being sold new, which speaks poorly of whatever effort Hasselblad might have been making to market the line.

Besides, they were effectively having to compete with their own excellent product, available in great numbers and at (relatively) reasonable prices in the used market. The ‘Blad is still in high demand among discerning film shooters with a bit of money to spend but it was a huge seller in its day, built to last, and now all those bulletproof, everlasting cameras are on the used market while their former owners mortgage off assorted internal organs and excess offspring to keep up with whatever new digital gear they need to buy this month.

It will be interesting to see what this does to used prices (my guess: approximately bugger all, unless a bunch of people who are still using the system professionally all get spooked at the same time and dump their gear into the used market). As I write this, one can assemble a quite complete used system for maybe $2,000 if really long, really wide and macro lenses aren’t your thing and you don’t mind buying what KEH rates as “BGN” condition (you have nothing to fear here, in my experience). A little less if you can deal with a 500C instead of a C/M.

keep-calm-tri-x-printableOn a different note, there’s Kodak, who have just sold their film division to their own UK pension plan.

Eastman Kodak Company today announced a comprehensive settlement agreement with the U.K. Kodak Pension Plan (KPP), its largest creditor, with respect to its Chapter 11 Plan of Reorganization.

So, if I understand this correctly, Kodak owed it’s UK pension plan a ton of money. Probably best not to ask how that state of affairs came to be.

Under the agreement, which will be filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Kodak’s Personalized Imaging and Document Imaging businesses will be spun off under new ownership to KPP.

That doesn’t much clarify what exactly the folks at KPP now own. Luckily Kodak’s press release tells us later on (emphasis added):

The Personalized Imaging business consists of Retail Systems Solutions, the world leader in retail photo kiosks and dry lab systems, offering retailers a competitive advantage in the photo services market; Paper & Output Systems, offering photo specialty retailers, professional and wholesale labs, and photographers the broadest portfolio of traditional photographic paper and workflow solutions; Film Capture, offering consumers and professionals an award-winning range of still-camera film products; and Event Imaging Solutions, offering theme parks and other venues a total solution in souvenir photo operations.

So Kodak PI includes their still film lineup and photo paper, which are the parts of interest to people like me (the photo chemicals division was sold off several years ago and still makes the familiar products in the yellow packaging).

What does this mean for the future of Kodak film? Well, they could try to operate PI and DI as profitable businesses, spin them off as going concerns, or asset strip them for some quick cash. What does the PR say (my emphasis added again)?

The businesses that we are acquiring will deliver long-term cash flows to support the plan’s obligations. The financial stability that KPP will provide for the Personalized Imaging and Document Imaging businesses will be beneficial to those businesses’ employees, customers and partners.

So they want long-term cash flows from these bad boys. That implies running PI and DI as profitable businesses in the long term; you don’t get a “long term cash flow” from a company by selling it off or parting it out. Also backing this up there is a (subscriber only) report on the Wall Street Journal which is quoted at PDN Pulse:

KPP plans to hire new executives to run the Personalized Imaging and Document Imaging businesses so they can generate cash flow for the pension plan, rather than finding a buyer for the businesses.

Sounds like they’re in it for the long haul, indeed. This is entirely feasible, as proven by Harman Technology/Ilford Photo’s continued success, and it seems fair to assume that Kodak PI is in rather better shape than Ilford was immediately prior to their turn-around and resurgence.

My read on the “financial stability” part is that Personal Imaging and Document Imaging are now free of the uncertainty of the parent company’s fate, where financial stability presumably meant “we are in a downward trajectory which will remain stable until such time as we arrive at the ground”.

I believe this bodes well for Kodak’s film lineup. Time, of course, will tell.

A brief civics lesson, courtesy of Vermont H.223 (2013-14)

I saw an article earlier on PopPhoto, “Vermont Bill Would Make Street Photography Illegal“. Initial reaction: wait, WHAT?! *cough* *splutter* I’m not much of a street photographer, but really? This is a dumb idea.

But it’s easy to hate on “stupid politicians” and most people will just stop at that point and call it done, so I did a little more digging. The short form bill in its entirety can be found on the Vermont Legislature’s website at (PDF document). There isn’t very much “entirety” to report:

Statement of purpose of bill as introduced: This bill proposes to make it illegal to take a photograph of a person without his or her consent, or to modify a photograph of a person without his or her consent, and to distribute it.

This Green Mountain Daily article is especially interesting for some of the commentary, the most insightful of which picks up on the “by request” nature of the H.223 (2013-14):

From time to time almost every legislator winds up introducing a bill “by request”. When you see that, particularly coupled with a short form filing, it’s a sign that nobody really expects or intends the bill to go anywhere.


Typically, we complain about politicians who embarrass their constituents. This appears to be a case of a constituent embarrassing their representative.The bill in question … was submitted “By Request.” This likely means that Rep. Nouvo has a constituent who feels strongly about an issue and is seeking redress in the General Assembly. It is one of the quirks of our representative government and the only issue is where does a representative place their “reality” filter in acquiescing to these requests.

An earlier example of a similar situation is described (emphasis added by myself):

Under the ‘Statement of purpose,’ the bill reads, “This bill proposes to prohibit public nudity on public land.”The bill was read the first time earlier this month and was referred to the Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs, according to The Vermont Legislative Bill Tracking System.

Rodgers said the individual who requested the bill has been e-mailing all the legislators seeking support for it. He said he knows the person who requested the bill and submitted it on his behalf.

. . .

When bills are by request, the drafts people put them in short form. So, basically what it is it’s the basic idea, and it goes to committee, and if the committee is interested, they would take it up and develop it,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers said with the state’s many pressing issues, he does not see the public nudity bill taking on priority at the House.

Mostly, Rodgers said, he is taking ribbing for having his name attached to the nudity bill.

“I’m getting mostly jokes, people teasing me, ‘You’re against nudity?'” Rogers said. “Tons of my colleagues are teasing me. They’re having lots of fun with it. If all it does is provide people with a little bit of humor, at least it does some good.”

What this suggests to me is that some constituent of Rep. Nuovo has a personal beef with photographers or photography in general and has been contacting (perhaps even “hassling”) their elected representatives to “do something about it, there oughta be a law against this sort of thing”.

If I had to guess, I’d say that “something” is the introduction of this “by request” bill, with the sole intention of killing it stone dead after suitable debate on why it’s a completely stupid idea. Assuming it isn’t left to die in committee before ever finding its way to the floor, which would also demonstrate to the constituent that “no, your idea will not become a law any time soon, so get over yourself”. All done according to due democratic process on the public record, of course.

Also, just look at the thing. It’s a short form bill with almost no real substance to it. This might just represent the minimum effort needed to introduce a bill that the sponsor knows full well isn’t going anywhere.

And indeed, even as I wrote this, Pop Photo updated the article I linked to above with an official quote from Rep. Nuovo:

“This bill, H-233, is BY REQUEST it states it right on the bill, look it up under the Vermont Legislature. What that means is that it is not my bill, it is a bill REQUESTED by a constituent who really wanted it so it is a constituents bill, every Vermont Legislator knows this. I do not believe in it  but legislators do put in bills that are REQUESTED. This bill is not going to be taken up by the Legislature.  Rep. Betty Nuovo”

An interesting lesson in how our democracy works, and a reminder not to assume that a wrong-headed bill is the actual work of its sponsor.

Why laws like this are not needed.

Individuals are already protected from having their likeness used commercially without consent. They can sue and they will surely win. Using a photo to promote something is not OK unless the subject gave consent. Editorial and artistic uses are OK here (this is a very simplified overview by the way).

It’s not actually a legal requirement to get a model release from your subject, but it does protect everyone involved should there be a legal issue with the commercial usage of an image.

The other concern is stalkers with cameras harassing people. That’s what a restraining order is for, folks.

Unintended Consequences.

The obvious one is editorial photographs. A photojournalist would have to be very careful with such a law in place. And by “careful” I pretty much mean “hang up their camera and find a new line of work, or get used to being hauled into court”. Plenty of people get photographed for news purposes without consent and in many cases would be malicious enough to go after the shooter for embarrassing them.

So, consider this scene: I’m out for a walk with my wife one pleasant evening. She is beautiful, and so is the light as the sun sinks gently toward the horizon. My photographer instincts kick in and I pull my cellphone out of my pocket to make a quick posed portrait of her. With a few taps of the screen, I pull it up in Instagram, crop to a square and pick a filter which enhances the warm sunlight. Seconds later, it’s posted with a few hastags (#Kelli #sexy #beautiful #lovely).

Somewhere not far behind her, a complete stranger is walking toward us. My cellphone camera, focused on Kelli 5 feet in front of it, has everything from a few inches to infinity (and well beyond!) in focus, so the stranger is clearly identifiable, even on Instagram.

I just broke every aspect of the law as worded in H.223 (VT 2013-14): I photographed someone without their consent (inadvertently, but that doesn’t make a difference; they were still photographed). I modified the image (square crop, filter). Then I distributed it (Instagram).

All this is, thankfully, not an issue here, as clarified by Rep. Nuovo herself. This was, effectively, a “get over yourself, ya whiner” backed by due process.

Traffic Observations

graphI finally, after some 6 years, pulled the trigger on a 3 month Flickr Pro upgrade. Mostly, I was interested in seeing the stats Flickr provide, because without any statistics on where and when photo views happened, it’s hard to know where to concentrate effort.

Well, first off, it’s surprising how few of my initial views were from Flickr. It was also surprising how few views were coming from some rather large groups, and how many from some smaller, more niche groups. Of course the smaller groups have fewer posts and the larger groups get posts continually, so they might just be vanishing quickly into the oblivion of page 2 and beyond. Either way this is useful information telling me that many groups simply may not be worth posting into. I’m seeing suggestions that posting to too many groups may not be such a great idea, at least initially.

Secondly, a lot of views were incoming from Twitter. Suddenly, I’m looking at that social network with a whole new attitude. I link all my photo uploads from Flickr to it, but didn’t quite realize the level of click through I was having.

Thirdly, almost no views from links posted on Google+ or Facebook (my “Paul Glover Photography” page, my own personal timeline and a film photography group I post to). In light of that discovery, I’m reverting to posting the image directly on those services.

Finally, a blast from the past which I’d overlooked but is still going: StumbleUpon. I’ve had an account there for years, but had long since forgotten it. I only remembered because I noticed 500px has a direct posting link for it. So earlier today I decided to try adding a handful of photos to that, from both Flickr and 500px. One photo on Flickr, a recent favorite of mine (my Blue Ridge Parkway thistle from the previous post here) had been languishing at 149 views with only a half dozen in the last month. Within 30 minutes of posting to StumbleUpon it had jumped up by another 86 views. Other photos saw similar bumps on Flickr, interestingly enough the bumps in viewers were much less marked on 500px, but still a noticeable difference.

Now, I’d perhaps question the “quality” of these views. None resulted in any comments, faves or votes added. But it’s inbound traffic, and that’s never, ever a bad thing.

Roanoke Kite Festival 2012