Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Week 3 Assignment

Assignment: "In ten years’ time, more people will be living in cities than ever before in human history. If we want to live in a sustainable and inclusive world, we must commit to promoting the development of sustainable and inclusive cities.." Produce a single image to illustrate Urban poverty in your community to be published in Oxfam publications. Please refer to the example Terms of Reference to get information on how Oxfam works with photography and consult their website for corporate image style. The question of subject dignity and ethical photographic practice should be a major factor in the way you go about this assignment.

This time it’s urban poverty. Not too difficult you would think, not in northern England anyway.

Crucially though with this week’s assignment there was a subtle twist. It had to be a photograph in keeping with those used by Oxfam. Quite a few people on the course missed this.

Oxfam’s images, apart from being sparse in the area of UK poverty (there’s plenty abroad), lack grit and realism. Instead they try and show the positive side of its charitable work with images very pristine, sort of Getty-fied, Americanised, sanitised.

My image was positive (reasonably) but lacked any impact or ‘wow’ factor (but I do think it was Oxfam-friendly).

One other point of note is the comment system we use on the course. We have to caption our pictures, like you would as an agency, then leave an open explanation. Four, five or possibly twelve of our fellow students then leave their own critique of my image in relation to the brief. And I must do a final, concluding comment.

Thing is, some students are captioning their photographs with what I consider lengthy and irrelevant personal information. They are then doing the same with their opening comment.

A lot of the conclusions are also short story-esque, though admittedly they do stick to relevant analysis more than the first comments. The problem for me is that I’d like to have a life outside of this course and having 40-odd monologue style comments to read is too much. There’s just too much waffle.

It’s impossible to read everyone of them, and I think this detracts from the course because students will end up missing the good points which will improve their understanding of photography.

I could take this up with the ultra-friendly Mr Beesley, or I could just get him to read my blog. Problem is, he’d have to wade through too much waffle to get to the point.

This is the point – this particular blog has gone on way to long.

The Problem With Alamy, or It’s Difficult To Fix When You Don’t Know Why It’s Broke

Alamy is the accessible photo agency where professional photographers or enthusiastic semi-pro’s can start earning dosh.

It looks like the perfect site. Easy to register, a seemingly straight-forward image submissions process and a fairly high hit-rate selling their stock.

The site is well designed and purports to be user-friendly, but too may photographers are finding this not to be the case.

In fact, a growing number appear to have given up selling their photos to the agency after falling at the first hurdle - failing to overcome the Quality Control Test.

There are two major problems a contributor faces with his first Alamy submission.

First is the site’s own submission guidelines. At first glance they are well laid out, thorough and descriptive, a step-by-step guide which should eliminate any problems before you start.

There is a lot to read in the commission guidelines, but this is a professional outfit and that’s as it should be. If you can’t be bothered going through the rules, log off.

The problem is the guidelines lack some important details and facts which could simplify the whole process.

Alamy’s own guidelines do not actually make it clear what type of files it accepts, and if Tiff files are acceptable. The process of interpolation – upsizing of file size – is not clearly explained either.

The other nagging annoyance dragging Alamy down is its impersonal dealing with contributors.

It’s automated email system does keep the contributor informed when a QC Test CD has been received. It also informs the contributor what will happen next, and the expected timescale.

But when that email drops stating that every image on your submission has failed the QC Test there is no further explanation as to why.

For an initial or second submission this is fair enough. The potential of a novice contributor to get things wrong is high and I understand Alamy not having the time to give detailed reasons for failure.

But when the contributor is on his fourth or fifth submission of the same 10 images and is convinced he has got everything spot on (like I was) then surely a nudge in the right direction would benefit both parties.

I did at one point get an email from a named sender, which explained my photos were rejected for technical reasons but didn’t tell me what I actually needed to do. I had submitted interpolated Jpegs – sending Tiffs instead was the answer I was not given.

It was only after doing my own research that I conquered the problem.

So, those of you still bamboozled over the Alamy QC test – this is how to pass it.

1. Use a Tiff file.
2. Zoom into your photograph at 100 per cent and slowly check for any dust marks. Clone them out if necessary.
3. Check if your Tiff is 8bit or 16bit.
4. Install the genuine Fractals plug-in into Photoshop CS or CS2. Use this programme to upsize your photograph to 50mb if it is 8bit or 100mb if it is 16bit.
5. If the Tiff is 16bit, change it to 8bit. It should now be around 50mb.
6. Save it. It’s ready for the QC test.