I’ve got a paid account to 3 of the bigger photo sharing sites out there. Every year I pay Flickr £16 for a pro account, £25 to Blipfoto and last year for the first time, I forked out approx £24 for an Awesome account on 500px.
Now, I don’t grudge these costs. With Flickr I get unlimited uploads which means I really use Flickr as unlimited storage for all my shots and over the years, Flickr has been pretty good to me in terms of exposure. I’ve had a fair few enquiries about using my pics after being found on Flickr so £16 isn’t a massive expense.
Blipfoto is the most expensive of the 3 and it’s the most restrictive but I don’t grudge it to Blipfoto at all. Paying for an account keeps the site ad free and the few extra features are nice even though I don’t really use them that much, but Blip is a friendly place and it’s nice to in some way support a site like that.
500px was the new kid on the block that exploded last year. Immediately I started using it I was pretty blown away by the whole look of the site, pictures just looked so much better over on 500px. It was a pretty slick website and after a couple of months I went for the “Awesome” account.
All was good until a recent update on 500px. Over the years I’ve seen Flickr change, but it’s been gradual, little bit at a time, nothing too drastic. Blipfoto has largely been kept the same over the years but again has had a programme to simple feature adding while retaining the look and feel of the site.
500px though went for big one, a full change of the site. From one day to the next the website I signed up for changed totally. What’s more, I don’t like it. I really don’t like it.
Facebook changed recently too, people spoke about it as if it was the end of the world and it was pretty subtle changes. Google too change regularly, they’ve overhauled everything recently, the old Gmail I’ve used for years changed overnight. So has Twitter, it’s website constantly making big changes but I’ve never uttered a word about any of these.
Any why? Because I don’t PAY to use any of them. They provide a FREE service that I choose to use. I can walk away at any time and it’s not cost me a penny. If I don’t like it I’m free to take myself elsewhere. It’s their baby and they can do what they like with it. Same goes for everyone who has their own website, you can do what the hell you like with it.
So what’s the issue with 500px? The issue quite simply is I had a paid account, I liked what I saw and on that basis I signed up to use 500px. Now with 3 months of paid for time left on my account they have changed the site, I don’t like it and I’m not going to continue using it. Had it been like this when I first signed up, I wouldn’t have paid for it.
And this brings us to the big question, do these sites have any right to make changes if they have paid subscribers? More so, do they have the right to make whole scale changes to the entire look and feel of a site with paid subscribers on board?
It’s a tricky balance, on one hand yes, of course we want websites to evolve and take account of new styles and technology, it’s one of the underlying building blocks of the internet. On the other hand, do we sign up for a product and have a right to expect it to remain largely unchanged while we pay for it?
It’s a tricky one.
For my part, I would expect a website to evolve but not totally change if I’ve paid for it. The look and feel of a site should remain and changes should be subtle and if they are not, the paying customers should have some say or even the ability to shut their account and be refunded the remaining outstanding credit if they feel strongly enough. The whole game changes as soon as you start asking for payment to use a site or offering a paid alternative.
If B&Q showed you a kitchen and you liked it so much you paid them to put it into your house, would you be happy if you got home to find they installed a different one because they liked that one better?
This has bugged me since yesterday.
While skimming through the “I’m off for a shit” and tweets that describe a scenario and then say “That” at the end of it on Twitter yesterday I came across this from the @photobox account.
“You’ll be left startstruck with this stunning ‘space rainbow’ shot… magical!”
A what? A “Space Rainbow”? Now that’s a new one on me, I’ve heard of lunar rainbows but a “Space Rainbow”? This must be worth a look.
The link in the tweet take you to this page on the Daily Mail website.
Now, what’s even funnier here is that they have changed the wording of the article to refer to the “rainbow” as a star cluster and have removed the line that referred to the picture as “time-lapse photography”.
The “Space Rainbow” is in fact a panoramic shot of the Milky Way (go check Flickr for panoramic shots of the Milky Way”, which is obviously done with a fairly short exposure since the stars are pin pricks of light and not trails.
And better still, the Mail goes on to say, “The Italian snapper regularly takes pictures of space but has never seen – or heard of – a rainbow being captured in space before.”
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but if this guy is in a dark sky area (which he must be), and he regularly does this kind of photography would he really be amazed by this capture and would he really refer to it as a “Space Rainbow”? Of course he wouldn’t, to capture something like this is a skilled photographer, someone who knows exactly what they are doing, it’s not been a chance capture, it’s been planned and the photographer knows exactly what he’s captured.
What we have here is a classic example of a clueless journalist making up their quota of stories for the day by using the pics and fabricating most of the story around their own ignorance to fill a page which in turn makes the photographer look like a complete dick.
The moral of the story? If the Daily Mail come asking for your pictures, unless they are being generous with the cash, tell them to get fucked!
I’ve enjoyed imparting knowledge as I’ve gained it through this blog. In fact, I really enjoy helping people with photography. Many’s a time I’ve been stood explaining to a confused tourist why their pics are turning out like they are. They do tend to ask a lot when you’re stood next to them with a big camera, tripod, remotes and bag full of lenses and filters.
I actually enjoy the imparting of knowledge thing so much I’ve decided why not make it an actual “thing”? I’ve been asked in the past for lessons but have always declined the requests, until now at least.
There’s nothing worse that seeing shots in Flickr or elsewhere and thinking, “I must give that a try”, but having no idea where to start or getting a shot nothing like what you expect. I’ve been there and been through that learning curve and came out the other end and now I’m in a perfect position to help others and hopefully save some lovely people some of the frustrations and financial faux-pas I made along the way. Equipment isn’t cheap and you don’t want to be buying the wrong stuff!
You could of course do some night classes and learn all about exposure, aperture and all that stuff and it’ll work well for you, but what these courses won’t show you is how to get that glassy surface water, how to get those star trails, or how to compose those flower macro shots. I’ll show you all this stuff in real world situations, getting the shots YOU want to get.
Sorry, I’m starting to sound like a marketing drone there.
Anyway, I’ve added a new page to the blog to expain the process, which you can read more about here.
You might also notice some of those other new pages? Since I’ve decided to ditch my old website I’ve moved some of the content over to here, this blog always got more traffic than the prints sales site ever did anyway. You can also get here now with the domain, www.photosofedinburgh.co.uk which now redirects to the blog.
Remember, if your star trails are wonky or your long exposures just aren’t long enough, drop me a line and start out on the road to brilliant pictures!
Valentines Day this year saw the start of another series of visible passes from the UK of the International Space Station, which if timed correctly can provide a nice photo opportunity. Lot’s of satellites are routinely visible from Earth but with sheer size of the ISS makes it a worthwhile subject to hunt down.
When it’s visible essentially what you will see if a very bright dot in the sky moving at a fair pace. You won’t confuse it with aircraft as it doesn’t have any flashing lights, it’s a steady white light similar to a bright star moving across the sky. For it to be visible though you need to catch it when it’s not in the Earth’s shadow as the light is provided by the sun reflecting off its surfaces, if it’s out of reach of the sun, you won’t see it.
Predicting where it will pass is pretty easy if you have access to app’s such as Star Walk on the iPhone, or any similar night sky tracker that show’s satellite positions. With Star Walk you can locate the ISS and then fast forward time to see where it will be at any given time, what it won’t show you though is if it will be visible from your location or not.
To determine visibility you’ll need the Heavens Above website. Simply select your location in the configuration settings and then look at the ISS predictions for the next 10 days, this will show you all the visible passes. Remember to deduct 1hr from the time for current UK time. Also check how long it will be visible for, it might be only a handful of seconds, it might be minutes depending on the position of the Earth shadow. The lower the mag value, the brighter the pass will be.
Armed with this information, what you need now is a nice dark location with a good view to the West and South and a clear sky, the ISS will arrive from the West travelling east. On a shorter visible pass your best bet is to setup the camera looking approx South-West, if you have access to the Star Walk app, try to see which easily identifiable star constellation it will pass near, that will help you decide where to point the camera. At the moment, it’s passing very close to Orion, one of the easier constellations to find.
Usual star photography settings apply, you want to be (in a very dark location) around ISO1600, lens as wide as you can get it (f3.5-4.5 is fine) and exposure should be enough so the sky looks light but not blown out, you can darken the sky back down again in post processing but for now we want to be sure we’re picking up as much image data on the stars as we can. In more light polluted area’s you’ll have to drop the ISO to maybe around ISO400 to stop the image blowing out.
After that it’s a case of watch and wait. Take a few test exposures so you know what field of view you’re going to capture in the shot, as you see the ISS (it’ll be fairly obvious) approach your field of view, hit the shutter (with a remote obviously) and keep taking exposures until it’s gone or you’re sure it’s out your field of view.
You can always combine multiple exposures in a programme such as Startrails.exe or StarStax to get a full trail of the ISS over the frame later.
This is an example of pointing the camera to much to the South and not enough to the South West, the little streak on the bottom right is the ISS but despite having watched it for a good 20s before it went into the shot it then went into the Earth shadow and that was it, gone for the night! There are loads of opportunities though over the next few days so if you don’t get it first time, try, try and try again!
If you get a dark enough location you might also be lucky enough to get some decent star shots in general just now, with the moon well out the way of the early evening night sky the stars are nice and bright to the point it’s even possible to pick out (faintly) the Milky Way just a few miles outside light polluted Edinburgh.
After 2 years online with my own website aimed at selling prints of my work I’ve decided to give it up. On 20th of Feb this year, Photos of Edinburgh will cease to be, in it’s current form at least. I’ll retain the domain and maybe even just point it towards this blog but I’m ceasing trying to make print sales any more.
The reasons is simple. There’s no market at all for an amateur to make any decent money from print sales. In an age where anyone can buy a SLR, set up a cheap WordPress website and register their name with “photography” at the end of it as a domain, it’s a crowded market of dreamers and chancers and not a dead horse I want to keep flogging.
I licenced an image to an advertising company last year, in that one transaction (which came via Flickr) I made more profit than I did in 2 years, 4 redesign’s and god knows how many hours trying to promote my own little corner of the web. I’d be lucky to have even covered the cost of 2 years hosting and domain name renewal if I’m brutally honest.
I think most amateurs, when they get hooked on photography, go through that “I could make some serious cash here” stage. Unless you’re very lucky, I’d estimate 99% of people end up disappointed. A touch of realism is actually what’s required. Think about it, you’ve gone out and bought your fancy new camera. You’ve taken a few nice pics. Now you want to punt them for a decent price, but wait! Stop and hink about it, you’ve gone and bought that camera and taken that pic, what’s to stop anyone else doing the same? I mean, who doesn’t have or have access to a half decent digital camera these days? Click, trot off to Asda, stick the card in the machine, order the print for a fraction the cost of yours. Might not be as good but a fiver for a A3 print or £30+ for one of yours, the average punter will be more than happy with their own.
From here on it I’m stopping the self promotion with a view to profit. In the last year I’ve been shafted by a magazine, let down by others wanting work and ended up disappointed trying to get a deal to punt printed images locally. It’s simply not going to happen and it’s pointless to keep on. From here on it, photography is about the fun of it for me, not the potential profit. That’s not to say I’m going to pass up any opportunities that might fall into my lap but I’m certainly not going to going out looking for them in future.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily wish “insert your name” Photography out there all the best with their endevours but unless you’re a full time pro photographer who’s very living depends on making those sales you will likely never put the effort in to make the sale as the need for it isn’t there. The pro who’s job it is will pull out all the stops to generate the income, me? I’m a web developer, that’s what pays the mortgage and puts food on the table, that’s where I’ll concentrate the effort, photography will be my escape from that, not an extension of it.