May 2010 Posts

Auto-Generated Online Ads Use Some Web Images

Last Friday, the New York Times ran an article titled, “An Ad Engine to Put ‘Mad Men’ Out of Business” which talked about an online service called PlaceLocal that automatically creates online ads. From the article:

“New software called PlaceLocal builds display ads automatically, scouring the Internet for references to a neighborhood restaurant, a grocery store or another local business. Then it combines the photographs it finds with reviews, customer comments and other text into a customized online ad for the business.

The program, developed by PaperG, an advertising technology company in New Haven, Conn., is aimed in part at small businesses just beginning to advertise on the Web sites of local newspapers or television stations, said Victor Wong, its chief executive.”

I was immediately intrigued about how the service works so I went to the site and created an ad for a my favorite deli here in Detroit, The Russell Street Deli.  The ad it created in less than two minutes was fairly basic, but included moving images (using Flash) gathered online, and testimonials presumably from reviews on the internet:

OK, so it’s not the sexiest ad in the world, but for someone with a limited budget that precludes hiring a photographer, it would certainly work online.  The user can select from a number of sizes including vertical and horizontal banners and the site creates the new ad instantly.  Being a photographer, I was interested in how they were selecting images and whether any respect being paid to copyrighted content. My query to them in a form on their website:

I am curious as to how you eliminate findviagra copyrighted images from ads that are created on the fly, or if you do.  If not, how are the creators being compensated for the licensing of their images?   Cheers, Blake Discher,

Less than an hour later, Victor Wong himself responded. His answer:

Hi Blake:

Thank you for your interest in our product. We are definitely respectful of right holders, and make best efforts to make sure the elements used to create advertisements follow comply with copyright regulations. Specifically, we have taken the following steps to address copyright concerns:

.    We use content from our partners who have secured content rights
.    We use content from the websites of advertisers so they can reuse their existing content in their advertisements
.    We offer a library of stock photography as an alternative to customers without their own photos
.    We strictly adhere to restrictions of photographs offered under the Creative Commons or other relevant licenses
.    We require users to certify that all the elements used do not infringe intellectual property of others
I hope this is helpful.


A few thoughts…  It’s refreshing to hear that Mr. Wong is mindful of copyright issues and has created a system in which safeguards are in place to protect rights holders. Aggregation of internet content began with news gathering sites and it’s no surprise to see it move to this sort of use.  Because this model is sure to expand, it’s even more imperative that before images are placed online, they be registered with the copyright office, watermarked, and contain full metadata including your contact information for licensing.

What do you think of this service?

Flickr Image Stolen in Less Than 24 Hours

It took less than 24 hours from "upload to illegal download" for the daily Mexican newspaper Frontera to steal an image posted to Flickr by Illinois-based photographer Mike Boatman.  The newspaper serves the conurbation of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. That's the image over to the left, but shown here small enough so as to not add salt to Mike's wound should anyone be contemplating its theft again. (This article could very well turn up at a future date in a search for "Paola Longoria".) Posting to the Advertising Photographers of America's (APA) Yahoo group, Mike wrote: "I was reading this article in Photoshop User magazine about Flickr and how some photographers are selling images; how corporations are using Flickr as a research tool, and that Flickr has adequate usage rights protection." He continued, "Up to now I have personally been very conservative about what I post online because the internet does not have a delete button, and anyone can steal your work, or will steal your work.  So until now I have only posted images that I use for personal marketing that I assume will be stolen. I had a little extra time while on an assignment on May 19th; my shoot was not due until late afternoon, so I set up a Flickr account.  I post two very sale-able, exclusive images from the 2009 US Open Racquetball Grand Slam of players Paola Longoria and Rhonda Rajsich, the number one and two professional players as just a test."

They were posted with proper copyright notice and "All Rights Reserved" checked. But on May 20th (the next day!), Mike's image of Paola showed up in print, in Frontera. He was not contacted for permission to run the image; it was, plain and simple, an unauthorized use of a copyrighted image. And as if to insult him even more, they failed to provide a credit line.

Mike graciously gave permission to write about his experience, saying, "Looks like I did the Flickr posting wrong and did not safeguard my work.  If you want to write about my experience as an example of what not to do that is fine. What ever is the best way to get the word out so no other photographers get their work ripped off is great. It was purely a lack of knowledge on my part. Hopefully others will not make the same mistake of posting too large a file and relying on the Restricted Usage tag on Flickr to be a substitute for a watermark in the center of the image." Mike says he figures it's a waste of time and money to go after a Mexican newspaper. And he's probably correct. This from then United States Ambassador to Mexico Antonio O. Garza, Jr. in a 2005 report still present on the US Embassy website:

"The United States Mission in Mexico recognizes the imperative of strong intellectual property rights protection (IPR) for American business, and is working to help the Government of Mexico find ways to improve IPR enforcement in Mexico. We know that stolen, pirated, and counterfeit goods undermine investment opportunities and can significantly impact market share for U.S. companies. We are also aware of the considerable efforts Mexico has made in recent years to improve IPR protection, although a lot of work remains." (Full report.)

We've all heard that old maxim, 'First time shame on you, second time shame on me.'  Mike has made some changes to his Flickr photostream. Specifically, he's updated each of his images to include a very visible watermark: The lesson in all of this of course, is to upload low-resolution, watermarked images to Flickr or any other photo sharing portal.  If an honorable company wants to use it, they'll contact you.  For a very thorough review of the terms and conditions of Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace, check out the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) "Best Practice Recommendations for Social Networking Sites" report. Do you use Flickr to market images? Please share your experience in the comments. Thanks!

In the meantime, if you represent Frontera and care to fairly compensate Mike for the use of his copyrighted image, I'm sure he'd be willing to take your call.

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Crucial for SEO: A Good Title Tag

This post has been moved to my new SEO-only blog Click the headline above to be taken there!

But We’re a Non-Profit!

At one time or another we’ve all received this call. Usually the conversation goes something like this:

Client: “We have a project coming up, we saw your website and absolutely love your work. We’re looking for a photographer we can build a relationship with.”

Me: “That’s great, thanks for the compliment, tell me a bit about your project.”

The client gives you the details, closing with, “And as you probably know, we’re a non-profit, so please give us your non-profit rate.”

It’s at about this time I want to blurt out in response to their, “but we’re a non-profit”: “WELL, I’M NOT!”

A Potential Client’s Website Speaks Volumes

When a new potential client calls on the telephone, one of the first things I do is look up the caller’s website.

What I’m looking for are two things: their level of design sophistication and how they’re currently using photography. These two bits of information can give valuable clues to what sort of budget he or she might have for photography.

Lack of pleasing design and imagery might be a good indicator that I am talking with someone who has likely not historically spent money for higher end professional design or art. It might mean they’re used to working with budgets that are small or doing the work in-house.

Ideally, the client’s website makes good use of color, makes use of an attractive font, and it’s navigation is intuitive. It will also look as if it was created specifically for them instead of being made from a template.

Most of all, I’m trying to determine to what extent they use excellent photography. Does it look as though they’ve done a lot of it in house using a point-and-shoot with no lighting? Does it look professional? Do they credit the photographer?

This analysis takes just seconds and can be done during the initial part of the conversation. If it appears they haven’t worked with a photographer of your skills, you’ll know you have to spend a lot of time talking about the value you bring to the project. Put another way, you’ll need to convince them that you’re the correct person for the job and worth the money.

Remember, if you focus the conversation of price, the price will likely go down. Instead, focus the conversation on value, what you can offer that everyone else cannot, the price will likely go up.

Good luck!

(This article originally appeared on ASMP’s Strictly Business blog. Photo copyright 2010 Mary DuPrie, used with permission.)

Page Load Speed a Metric in Search

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Video: The Vendor Client Relationship

If you haven’t seen this yet, I think you’ll like it. I sometimes open my “I Stink at Negotiating” presentation with this clip. I’m sure everyone reading this can relate. On with the show…


Good luck!

How Do You Answer the Phone?

I know a photographer here in Detroit who answers his phone, “Studio.”

We get one chance to make a first impression. Don’t make it sound like you’re rushed and bothered to be taking a potential client’s call. I remember working in a toy store back in High School and thinking it was silly how they wanted us to answer the phone, but now I get it. In this age of “good enough” be grateful that your phone is ringing and the client didn’t go out and buy a Canon G10 so they could take their own photographs!

Answer the phone with a smile, the caller will “hear” it on the other end. I’d suggest something like, “Firefly Studios, this is Blake.” It lets the person know they’ve reached your studio and who they’re talking to. Then let the conversation start. Two tips: be a good listener, and if you get in over your head, you can always let the FedEx guy save you!

Photograph by Tambako licensed under a Creative Commons license.