The slow drone of a 16 hour flight becomes a vague memory as soon as one arrives amidst the organized bustle of millions in Shibuya central station, Tokyo. In the stock photography industry we’re always keeping in touch with our associates by email, phone, and meetings at conferences such as PACA , CEPIC, Visual Connections. However nothing beats visiting these companies on their home turf, which I was fortunate enough to do recently. In a splendid mix of work and personal vacations, I made my way to my native homeland New Zealand, passing by Japan, Korea, Thailand and Australia to visit age fotostock’s associate agents, content providers and clients. Interesting, eye-opening, informative, these visits help to fortify relationships and get a real feel for how business is going.


Here’s some of the inside news:

Japanese business is based on commitment, dedication and serious relationships. Clients and agents are dedicated to one another, and once a client has established a working relationship with an agent it is very rare that they would change to work with another company.  This is one of the reasons why the microstock offer is affecting the market so slowly, as well as the fact that our agents in Japan sell mostly RM images for editorial use, and their clients need a quality of service that could never be found at a microstock level.

The weak economic situation in Japan means that business has understandably been quiet in the past years, but agents are hopeful that 2014 will be stable.

Interestingly enough, one of the highest reaching prices in Japan is in licensing for calendar use. It's a unique Japanese thing, where every year companies produce their own calendar to gift to their clients and associates. In a society where gift giving is a high art, these calendars demonstrate commitment, professionalism and status, which is reflected in the great amounts of money invested in their production and the national ‘Best Calendar’ competitions that take place every year. Covering topics such as aerial photography, islands, museums, natural parks from around the world, age fotostock’s high-quality travel images are perfect for these calendars.

Microstock has affected Thailand and Korea greatly and most agents have had to offer a subscription model in order not to lose the clients who can only afford to make smaller purchases. However, high-end clients remain dedicated to our agents, as they depend on the reliable customer service when licensing images for advertising.

Bounding back from New Zealand on the return trip to Barcelona, I touched down in Australia to meet some of our direct clients there, mostly editorial companies producing travel and/or educational material.  I was struck by the similarities each company had in terms of goals for the year – projects are becoming more universal and online products becoming more of a focus than those in print.

Australian editorial companies cater not only to Australia but also New Zealand, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Indonesia and many more countries in the Asia / Pacific Rim.  The companies used to produce different product versions with localized image content for each territory but now their projects have a global reach, and the images of people working and studying (eg. a cover for a high school study package) need to reflect our changing, global society, where people of different ethnicities work and socialize together.

In a country where the aim of having one-computer-per-student is soon to be realized, companies are moving rapidly into producing digital multimedia packages, and in many cases their publications are produced more for online use than for paper. For those photographers out there, our clients forecasted the rapidly increasing use of video in these products, and requested more video content, now!

 

As well as content such as History, Geography, Nature & Science, they need:

-    All types of images of people with mixed ethnicities.
-    Preferably Asian looking images more than European ones, since Australia and New Zealand markets cover the Asia /Pacific Rim.
-    Authentic business images with people of mixed races. Dance/choreography/stage performance.
-    Images reflecting cyber safety, bullying.
-    Authentic images of people working in Industry.
-    Locations & events in the Asia/Pacific.
-    Health & P.E, kids playing sports.
-    Adults and children in design & technology environments.


And for further inspiration, our Japanese agents requested images such as:


-    Artistic flower images.
-    Aerial images.
-   Lifestyle images for editorial use, in particular families eating, their housing, domestic routines, from all across the world.

To those of you who I met along my travels, thank you so much for your kindness & hospitality. We’ll continue to work together to keep the business a lucrative and enjoyable sector for the years to come.

See you again soon!

Julieanne Eason,
Content Manager.

Freycenet National Park, Australia.

 


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It was colorful, it was flurrying. Upstairs there were tables filling and emptying in a constant flow of meetings between agents and providers, downstairs there were talks of how to find all of the legal and illegal ways your images are being used on the web, confessions from buyers about what they really want (wonderful well-documented images with ever decreasing prices) advice on using social networks, stock photography mobile phone applications,  and the joys of wifi enabled cameras… to mention only a few of the many topics…

The PACA conference is a two day event that provides an opportunity to network with providers, agents, clients and figureheads in the stock industry, as well as featuring a full program of panel talks, discussions, words from the wise in the industry. Alfonso (CEO) and Julieanne (Content Manager) were in New York attending both events last week along with age fotostock USA head of sales Susan Jones, who charmingly chaired the PACA panels over the two days.

They were joined by age fotostock USA sales staff to greet current and potential clients with information about our collection, a bag full of goodies and some crispy apples at Visual Connections. Susan summarizes, "This year was a good year for Visual Connections. It really was a busy, productive day."

For more information about PACA and Visual Connections click here to check out one of our previous posts.


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CEPIC, Center of the Picture Industry Europe, held its annual conference here in Barcelona June Tuesday 10th– Friday 14th .

Given that Barcelona is age fotostock’s home city and that age fotostock CEO Alfonso Gutierrez was elected the president of Cepic at the beginning of the week, it was an exciting and busy week for age fotostock staff. In fact, the hubbub and CEPIC aftermath has only just now started to simmer down.

Overall, the CEPIC congress is simply the best place to stay in touch with all our partners, listen to what is going on in the industry and learn about other countries experiences and ways of doing business.

More specifically, that means 30 minute meetings from 9am until 6.30pm for three days straight, dinners or lunches with business associates who have travelled across the world to attend and despite their jetlag will do all they can to take advantage of being on the Mediterranean, walking in many directions with much purpose and many pamphlets, excel sheets, laptop under the arm, intense cravings for coffees, the odd sit down to be enlightened or angered  in one of the conference sessions and a well deserved shake-it-loose party at the end of the week. In short, it’s a photography industry meeting marathon.

My personal experience as Content Manger for age fotostock was a fortification of our relationships with current providers and agents, closing business deals which include extending distribution contracts to new territories, meeting companies representing new collections, talking with current Providers about their new content available and comparing business experience and strategies with other companies. The age fotostock team also held a small meeting for the agents who use our THP network, where we were proud to demo the new age fotostock website which will be launched soon.

News from the floor is that the market is slightly decreasing in areas of economic struggle and remaining steady in others. Smaller companies tend to be retiring from the business and those who are growing are the ones who are promoting new business strategies which take advantage of the increasingly important and inescapable role that digital technology plays in our daily lives. Clients are accustomed to the microstock product and an image selling for $5,000 is a rare occurrence nowadays. Clients globally now ask for more images at a lesser price and with extended uses and extended dates, although there is a general consensus that clients are constantly returning to agents that can provide service, which doesn’t mean only personal sales care but a trustworthy product in which the releases, caption information and sales history of the item are valid and dependable.

There is also the ever present desire for those at Cepic to learn which new markets and products are developing, but although there are many companies out there taking many different approaches, no one seems to have sprung upon anything that can lift us high and dry out of the lull left in the wake of microstock pricing. Yet.


Many attendants said it was one of their favorite Cepic congresses, and although it could have been just the influence of smooth Spanish sun after a particularly bleak winter across Europe, I believe the feeling of camaraderie in the business comes from the inherent need to pull together to unite industry standards and to spread knowledge and expertise in order to make the industry stronger.


I’ll leave you with a quote from Sol, age fotostock International Accounts Manager:


“If I should define 2013 CEPIC, I would say that it made me think about one of my favourite books: Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Everyone was in the mood of gaining a victory by losing as little as possible. Everyone was keen to negotiate symbiotic synergies. There were no big parades or miracle solutions but instead, tones of persistence, resilience and the decisive goal to catch a business opportunity, wherever it is. This is the time for creative, energetic, and simple solutions – which curiously manifested in a dish included in the catering at the Cepic opening party; a culinary innovation encapsulating the famous Spanish cockle (berberechos) sauce and a lot of tasty inspiration in one shot.”


Are we ready to fight? Certainly, at age fotostock, we are.

 


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A photographer in our chat room recently asked:


<<What is difference in missions of PACA, BAPLA, CEPIC? Are they all similar missions & only their member's locations differ?>>


Basically, yes, their missions are similar, and yes, it is their location that differentiates them. All three work closely with the others, and the P in each acronym stands for Picture:  They are all trade organizations, working to encourage the best possible standards in the stock photography industry, to protect the core principals of the industry, to become the one authorative voice in their territory.

 

PACA, the Picture Archive Council of America is a Digital Media Licensing Association in North America that represents the vital interests of stock archives of every size, from individual photographers to large corporations, who license images for commercial reproduction. Founded in 1951, its membership includes over 100 companies in North America and over 50 international members.


PACA strives to foster and protect the interests of the picture archive community by monitoring new laws and court rulings that affect the stock photo industry and provides vital information on legal issues that are important to the business. They work to develop useful business standards and promote ethical business practices; actively advocate copyright protection; collect and disseminate timely information; and take an active role in the picture community by building relationships with organizations from related industries.


PACA holds an Annual International Conference. This is one of the main industry events of the year, providing opportunities to meet others in the business, discuss important issues, participate in seminars ranging from salesmanship to new technologies, and make connections with potential trade partners and vendors from around the country and the world.


The British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies, or BAPLA, has been a trade body since 1975 and is the trade association for picture libraries in the United Kingdom


BAPLA Represents picture libraries and agencies of all sizes and types. Its members include the major news, stock and production agencies as well as sole traders and cultural heritage institutions. Bapla deems to:
•    Encourage best practice within the industry.
•    Lobby at UK and international level to ensure the core principles of our industry are protected.
•    Develop and deliver solutions on 21st Century copyright.
•    Channel the knowledge and expertise of the wider picture community.
BAPLA is steered by an elected voluntary Executive Committee of 12 officers, supported by two permanent office staff, a freelance senior lobbying consultant and a number of subcommittees. Their work is funded by membership fees to whom they provide day-to-day business support.

And last but not least, we have CEPIC, Center of the Picture Industry Europe, for which our very well known CEO at age fotostock,  Alfonso Gutierrez, has just been elected President.

CEPIC federates nearly a thousand of picture agencies and photo libraries in 20 countries across Europe, both within and outside the European Union. It has affiliates in North America and Asia. CEPIC's membership includes large and smaller stock photo libraries, major photo news agencies, art galleries and museums, video companies. The aim of CEPIC is to be a united voice for the press, stock & heritage organisations of Europe in all matters pertaining to the photographic industry. This includes consolidating copyright protection for photography and ensuring that it not be weakened by the process of the harmonisation of copyright laws, fighting for comparable trade regulations and ethical standards which will guarantee the protection of rights for all photographers, copyright holders and agencies, and devleoping guidelines for a fair business competition.

With an annual congress since 1995, CEPIC has become a central meeting point for agencies from all around the world centered on Europe. The website has a wealth of information on copyright issues, legal battles, changes in law and how they affect the picture industry, changes in technology, and upcoming events.


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We have recently heard some disquiet comments on how images turn up on Google without any information. While it is debatable whether Google is helpful or a hindrance to the stock photography industry (keep reading) it is certainly our responsibility to make sure that all images shown in photo library websites contain the authors name in the EXIF (IPTC section) data of the image. The only place that Google can extract data from is the EXIF data, and obviously, Google is not going to show an author’s name if the image doesn´t contain it. As the images that are available to download from Google’s search results are often large and plentiful, copyright infringements are becoming more and more rife, and are impossible to track if the photographer's name is nowhere to be found.

Remedy? Protect your images, use your EXIF!!!!

age fotostock will never remove the EXIF submitted to us, but it’s up to you to include it in your image data. Click here to read more about submitting your photos with EXIF.

Facebook however strips the EXIF data of the content you post there.  So if you download an image either from facebook directly or from facebook via a google search result, there´ll be no EXIF data found at all.  Is this a blessing or a minefield? Facebook states:

While you are allowing us to use the information we receive about you, you always own all of your information… which is why we don't share information we receive about you with others unless we have: removed your name or any other personally identifying information from it.

Adios EXIF! Fine if you have privacy concerns, but a complete nightmare if someone has `published your holiday snaps on their website and you want to prove copyright infringement.

Remedy? Watermark it! Click here to see the watermarked images that age fotostock posts on facebook everyday.

On this topic, there has been another interesting blog post regarding Google in the last week, published by Cepic. It’s recommended reading on the full story of our industry's fight against the unlawful use of third parties' content in the latest features of the new Google Image search:

Google indexes and uses images for various GOOGLE services. The vast majority of those images is copyrighted material, used without any authorization by the rightholders. Recent developments relating to image search show more clearly than ever how by unauthorized indexing, ranking and displaying of images in a certain way, GOOGLE is slowly but surely turning into a large picture library for free content – without and sometimes even against the explicit will of the content owners.

- 27 May 2013 CEPIC – Center of the Picture Industry

Be savvy: protect your images, and get informed about the internet platforms that you are working with. A stitch in time always saves nine...


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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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