From Across the Pond – Pictaday

by Julian Jackson

Pictaday is a German expo similar to Visual Connections. It takes place every year, alternating between Hamburg and Munich. This year it was at the Panoramadeck on top of the Emporio Tower in Hamburg, with a fine view of the city and harbour on a grey day. I went along to meet the 60 exhibitors – mostly photo agencies with a smattering of software, consulting, legal and other organisations present.

Pictaday (c) Julian Jackson

Firstly let me praise the catering – there was a buffet in each of the three rooms, with what I would say was a fine spread of food. On this evidence the German market is doing well!

The first people I spoke to were on the table of the organisers: the BVPA, which translates as the Federal Association of Professional Image Providers, who are the German equivalent of the DMLA or BAPLA. Interestingly, they have just started providing a course on how to set up and run a photo agency. On successful completion of the program, students receive a qualification, “BVPA Certified Licensor” which they can put on their website. The reasoning behind this was that many people in this digital age find it easy to start a photo agency, but they can quickly get into trouble and fail because they don’t know the basics. This short course, while voluntary, aims to give beginning stock agencies the expertise to succeed.

Overall, the industry picture was similar to the North American and UK markets: stagnating prices make trading difficult. That said, the event was buoyant. Organiser Matthias Jahn told me that with over 500 image professionals registered to visit, this was a good turnout. Pictaday has been so successful that they are considering holding the 2019 event in Berlin as there seem to be enough potential publishers and users there to make it viable.

Picket fence hanging rack (c)Flora Press/Melli Freudenberg

On the Panoramadeck was a full spectrum of German agencies, with a wide variety of subject specialisms, from royalty to cartoons. Some global agencies like Shutterstock, Alamy, Bridgeman and Science Photo Library also had a presence.

epa (european pressphoto agency) was formed in 1985 and is a partnership between nine agencies, with over 350 staff and stringers all over the world, licensing images outside Germany. They normally distribute over 1500 per day but that can double with big events like the soccer World Cup.

Dana Press concentrates on images of royal families, including the Scandinavian, Spanish, and UK royals, as well as other less well-known royals from around the world – they syndicate both text and images. They also have a lifestyle agency which concentrates on that genre of picture.

Mato is a food, travel, and general photography agency. They are also a publisher and produce lovely coffee-table books on food, which had me salivating.

Traditional Lombard Food from Italy – (c)Massimo Ripani/SIME/MATO

Illustration was represented by cartoon specialists catprint media, who are syndicated widely in German magazines and newspapers.

Lifestyle photography included Jump, 123RF, and imageBROKER.

Artothek covers art, mainly classic collections from German museums – which looks like a good source for hard-to-find art. Flora Press is about plants, gardens and agriculture. Vintage Germany does what it says on the tin: a source for historic images of Germany.

There were some other companies and organizations present, which included collections management, archival and exhibition printing, photo research, digital watermarking, copyright infringement, and DAM software. The atmosphere was lively, and friendly, with most people speaking good English. Did I mention the food? – I think I put on several pounds that day. There were plenty of places to hold meetings – either in the main rooms, or for more confidentiality there were a couple of small boardrooms which were available.

My only criticism of the expo would be that the event leaflet just listed each exhibitor and where their table was. Most similar events I have been to have a comprehensive listing with contact details, website and an image or two. This would have been useful as I wasn’t able to talk to every exhibitor: there just wasn’t enough time. Overall, a productive day with lots of new contacts made.


Julian Jackson is a writer with extensive experience of picture research, whose main interests include photography and the environment. His portfolio is here: He also runs a Picture Research by Distance Learning Course . Linked-in profile.

Of Porridge and Pictures

Girl on ferry crossing between Ardrossan and Arran. Scotland (c)Robert Perry/ Scottish Viewpoint

Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Inverness – all these places have such an air of romance and beauty. Hard to imagine a lovelier premise for a photo library. Adam Elder saw both a need in the market and an opportunity; thus Scottish Viewpoint.

How did Scottish Viewpoint come about?

I worked as a photographer at a national newspaper in Scotland. Press organizations are always looking to new technology to distribute content as fast as possible and so I saw the onset of digital imaging quite early on – around 1993-ish. At about the same time I became aware of image libraries, rights management etc. And so gradually I put two and two together and laid plans for an image library.
At the time there was only really one bigg-ish library dedicated to Scotland and it was quite set in it’s ways (thousands of slides in cabinets, sending by post, no database etc). I spoke with the owners but they weren’t interested in digital, didn’t feel that the quality was there and probably never would be. So I decided to do it myself. I could really see the writing on the wall with being able to distribute images very quickly and efficiently. I vividly remember the first time I sent an image by mobile phone. At the time it was total black magic! But I completely understood the potential.
I knew of lots of great photographers in Scotland with lots of beautiful images on slides and prints in boxes in the homes and offices really doing nothing. I explained the idea of a digital library to them, explained that I would take on all the scanning and captioning and database etc in return for them giving me their images. And I promised them that if I sold anything we would split the revenue 50/50.
And so I went into partnership with my sister Judith who liked the idea and was looking for a new direction in her professional life. She took on all the business administration and I went out did the client finding and technical stuff. And that was it! We started making money from pretty much day one! Our tagline was that we either had a picture of almost anything in Scotland or we would be able to get one – very quickly. We never said, “No” to a request for an image.

(c)Lee Howell/Scottish Viewpoint

Are your photographers primarily from the region? How do you recruit?

Almost all of our contributors are based in Scotland. We source contributions mostly by word of mouth and also very detailed knowledge of the profession. We have some contributors who specialize in say, wildlife or portraiture, or food or landscape. If we see content gaps in the library appearing we actively seek out new image makers to help fill these.

The Rights Managed business model is perceived as a more exclusive way to license imagery. What made you decide to go this route? Any plans ever to have a Royalty Free collection?

Rights Managed is right for us and so far, right for our clients. We have always placed huge emphasis on personal contact with our clients, getting to know what they like, getting to know how they operate – getting to know their budget! We don’t have any plans to go Royalty Free at present but that doesn’t mean we rule it our entirely. As a former photographer, I personally don’t feel truly comfortable with losing control over images in the way that Royalty Free demands. We speak with our contributors a great deal and that feeling seems to be the same with most of them too.

A cowboy and an Indian enjoy an ice cream at the Millport Country and Western Festival on the Isle of Cumbrae.

How do you see the collection being positioned/growing going forward?

It’s becoming very difficult to compete against the huge volume image libraries whose models rely on selling millions of images at a lower price. To help with that we have gone into partnership with several libraries who have bigger marketing budgets than we do and wider reach than we do. We’d rather have 40% of a sale that they make on our behalf than 0% of a sale that wouldn’t have come our way otherwise.
Going forward we are currently seeking new image makers who are seeing Scotland in new ways. We are very pleased to have recently discovered The Bragdon Brothers, two guys still studying photography at college but who have a singularity of vision that is exceptional and rare. We’re also very excited to have on board Lee Howell who is an image maker with a view of the world that is truly fantastic. Being able to seek out and persuade guys like these to join us differentiates us from the volume libraries and hopefully gives our clients a great reason to keep coming back to us.
And we are always looking at ways to monetize (a horrible word, I know) the collection on behalf of our contributors. That’s essentially our job. So we are working with new merchandising partners on that front – pushing our collection more to the personal consumer as well as the business client.

(c)BragdonBros/Scottish Viewpoint

I see you also cover news and current events – in this vein, how will BREXIT change your business?

Who knows! Any attention from outwith what is a small (but great!) country has to be good for business!

Some of your favorite images and/or licensing stories?

Going back to the answer to your first question (our aim is to have a picture of anything in Scotland)… In our very early days we took a call from the Daily Mail picture desk asking for a photograph of a bowl of porridge. We didn’t have one!!!! A Scottish picture library without a bowl of porridge picture! So off I went to the shop on the street corner and bought a pack of porridge which we cooked up, took a photograph on a small digital camera (probably about 1 megapixel at that time) and sent it in. We got a call back thanking us but did we also have a picture of a bowl of porridge with cream on it? So off I went to the shop again to get the cream. Sent that picture in – got the call back from the desk… thanks but we’re actually doing a feature on how people eat their porridge so have you got one with sugar and one with honey too? A couple more trips to the shop for me! But we made the sale, 4 pictures used, a happy client and money in the bank.

What else do we need to know about Scottish Viewpoint?

Since 1996 we have always strived to do our very best for our clients and our contributors. That will never change.

The footbridge known as The Bridge To Nowhere at high tide, Belhaven Bay near Dunbar, with a view beyond to the Bass Rock, East Lothian. (c)Andy Bennetts / Scottish Viewpoint

Time for The Mega Agency

Interesting to see what happens when industry veterans and technology experts get together to build the next big offering. The Mega Agency’s  CEO, Tom Tramborg, gets us up to speed and excited about what he and his team are building for customer and contributor.

  • Give us the elevator pitch for The Mega Agency

The Mega Agency was founded by Kevin Smith, who previously founded and eventually sold Splash to Corbis. Mega is basically founded on a mantra of being “The photographers friend” rather than just an outlet for images. When we started building the agency we wanted to disrupt the market and therefore we focused more on processes, speed and functionalities that would be attractive and beneficial to photographers and clients, than we did finding a cool-looking office spaces or fancy company cars etc. In essence that means we are offering higher commissions, more transparency and insights – but above anything else faster payments delivered in a real time digital dashboard to the photographers. We are selling direct in 15 territories and with the higher percentage, photographers get a fairer, faster and better deal. That strategy seems to have resonated with photographers, as the number of high quality photographers who have joined Mega in the last couple of months – and are continuing to do so – are overwhelming. Which then again benefit the customers who get better content – and are getting it faster.

The Mega Agency founder Kevin Smith

  • In a saturated market place, when players like Corbis disappear, how will Mega stand out? 

We are a new agency and have only been live for a few months. but when you look at our executive team and staff in general, it is all veterans that brings a wealth of knowledge. We do try to utilize that knowledge to our advantage building a content base that is appealing to customers.  I do see us filling a gap after Corbis. It seems that not only photographers are looking for alternatives to the more established players. I hope we stand out as the new, fresh and disruptive agency that offers breaking news as well general quality content faster than anybody else — and with a unique service.

  • Tell us a bit about your offerings and collections. What makes Mega different from the customer PoV? 

I have often heard that we were conceived as a “boutique” agency. But nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the fact that we have only been operative for a few months, our offering is already more than 30 million images in the “news, sport and entertainment” section, due to our relationships with various media partners. In addition we recently signed a syndication deal with American Media Inc (AMI) and are syndicating their content globally. We are constantly looking for new partnerships that will further grow our content base and bring more diversion to our content mix. Currently we are uploading a daily average of 4000 images and 8000 images when including our media partners — some days are well above 10,000 new images.

  • Once you conquer the celebrity/news stills market, do you see yourself expanding into areas like motion or traditional stock(lifestyle, etc)?

You are saying once? Just joking. We have been very pleased with the interest from both customers and photographers to work with Mega and our ambition is to continue that growth trajectory, which also means that we will continue to expand our content base to eventually grow in to a full scope agency with studio-portrait, reportage photography, stock,  etc. As our nature is disruptive and based on technology, we are very focused on the new types of content that arising these days, like VR Video and 360 images/videos both from an editorial and creative angle, and will be adding those categories to the content mix shortly. Our client base is growing with double digits month over month and I have no reason to think it will slow down in the foreseeable future.

  • Favorite pictures? Scoops?

No, I really do not have a favorite set. We have several scoops that have been published on front covers globally, but I am equally pleased with a photographer delivering a set of images that is only locally relevant – and to be honest with 30 million images in the archive it wouldn’t be fair highlighting one. At the end of the day it is all about delivering quality content that brings value to the customer.

  • What else do we need to know about Mega Agency?

We have recently released our app (trailer), which allows photographers to get their images to market faster than any of their competitors, which again means that Mega will be providing breaking news and entertainment content faster than any our competitors. So if you haven’t already signed up for an account, I think you should. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

The Mega Agency’s CEO Tom Tramborg



A bit of relief for Media Professionals

Media professionals are always in great need of innovative material for editorial usage; stills, motion, sound files. And they need it quickly. Often, as we all know (with a sigh) the resources available are beyond our budgets and the available offerings fall short of the creative vision we have.

Increasingly, we are seeing distributors of visual/auditory media introducing Public Domain collections of media. One such new offering is The Public Domain Project over at Pond5.

We took a spin through the collection and found wonderful, eclectic images, clips and music tracks(many with that lovely ‘crack and pop’ of vinyl!), easily searchable. Beware, its a good place to fall down the rabbit hole on a Wednesday morning!

As valuable as the material is for a project, Pond5 has a clear tutorial to lay out guidelines. They cover usage and questions surrounding trademark, releases, copyright. Public Domain, Creative Commons do not always mean free without permissions, attribute and in some cases negotiated usage fees and the onus is on the end user to completely clear rights.

Within the guidelines, much creativity and fun is to be had while telling your story:


Spring 2017 Photo Fever

It’s time to get outside and see the blooms! Check out some of the Photo Workshops and Festivals happening this spring (and a bit beyond). This is just a sampling, drop us a line with your favorite, we would love to add it to the list.

Date stamped on verso: Mar 9 1939.
Work Projects Administration Poster Collection (Library of Congress).
Poster for the Sioux City Camera Club’s second annual exhibition of photographs at the Community Federal Art Center, Sioux City, Iowa, showing stylized man at a camera. Public Domain

  • Photography Farm – 27th – 28th of March in Brighton, UK and again on 30th – 31st of March in Glasgow, UK.
  • Smashing Conference – Okay, not EXACTLY Photo based, but very interesting looking. Developers, designers, Front End insights, UX experts. April 4th – 5th, San Francisco, USA.
  • FeatherFest 2017 – Just missed NANPA? Get your nature fix this April 6th – 9th, Galveston Island, USA.
  • Photoshop World  –  No description necessary. April 20th, Orlando, Florida, USA.
  • PEP Asia 2017 event –  April 21st – 24th, in Mumbai, India.
  • Connect 2017 – An established must see photo festival. May 7th – 12th, Palm Springs, USA.
  • Comtemphoto – for your inner academic. May 12th, 13th, Istanbul, Turkey.
  • Santa Fe workshops have some enticing offerings, ranging from Basics of Digital Photography with Rick Allred to a Workshop for Women which combines mediums, words and images.

For your calendar later in the year:

Guess its time to book some travel!


Researching? It is all a buffet!

Pixabay, a Creative Commons CC0 site, just launched this intuitive, fun search tool.

If you know how to use Google Maps, it will be very easy to find a particular Pixabay image with picsbuffet. Try it out – they are looking for feedback on this new type of image search.

In our real environment, we “navigate” visually. In a supermarket, we quickly recognize where certain products are to be found: we first get an overview, go to the appropriate shelf, then search for the desired product and usually find it. We also know this hierarchical search principle from car navigation services. For searching images or products on the Internet however, such approaches so far do not exist. Picsbuffet is a new exploratory image search system to find Pixabay’s images easily.

In order to make this image exploration possible, all images are visually arranged on an “image map” according to their similarities. The currently displayed section of the map can be interactively modified by dragging and zooming with your mouse: more similar images are displayed by zooming in and zooming out provides an overview of thematically related image concepts.

After entering keywords for a search, a region with appropriate results is displayed: The heat map in the upper left corner shows the regions where the corresponding pictures can be found. Clicking on the heat map or on one of the five images below the heat map will jump to the corresponding region. If you click on an image its preview image and a link to the Pixabay page will be shown. Alternatively, you can start a new search for similar images.

Picsbuffet offers two views: in 2D mode – as the following screenshot shows – all images are displayed in square shape, the 3D view, which we already know, offers more overview, by displaying the images in a perspective view.

If you have found a region with images that you like, you can share this view (like these sunsets) by sending the current URL of the website.

The current version of picsbuffet works best with latest desktop browsers, a version for mobile devices is in development. Soon it will also be possible to search for images similar to an example image that you can provide.

Picsbuffet was designed and implemented by the Visual Computing Group at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences (HTW Berlin). Using a neural network, all images are automatically analyzed with regard to their content and appearance, which can be described very compactly with only 64 bytes per image. In a second step, these image descriptors then are used to arrange all images according to their similarity on a 2D image map. This is done with a hierarchical Self-Organizing Map (SOM). Further information and other demos, e.g. for automatic tagging of images, can be found on the Visual Computing Group website.

Want to see more? Here is a step by step video showing a search:

Homer Sykes – British Customs and US Street Photography

by Julian Jackson

Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire, England 1973

Homer Sykes started as a photographer by grabbing his father’s camera and shooting in the backstreets of Nice in France, where they were holidaying in the 1960s. Streetlife and cultures of the UK have remained a major feature of his work. He is almost an anthropologist who instead of studying distant cultures, turns a penetrating gaze on our own people here in Britain. Street photography of the USA is another major strand of his work.

After his first teenage images of backstreets France won a local newspaper competition, he decided that social documentary photography was going to be his genre. In 1967 went to the prestigious London College of Printing (LCP) to study photography under Jorge Lewinski, Bill Jay and David Hurn, the Magnum photographer.

In 1969 he then went on the first of four photographic road trips round the USA. When his money ran out he briefly served as a janitor for Princeton University. It was there he first realised the power of documentary photography when he saw the work of Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winograd, Lee Friedlander, Bruce Davidson at the Museum of Modern Art. He thought that similar, important work should be done in the UK.

Homer says, “It was from those great photographers I learnt the mechanics of photography, not the technical processes, but the aesthetics of creating powerful images, which I used in my own images. When I left college in 1971 Bill Jay had started Creative Camera Magazine, which was at the forefront of independent, freethinking photography, looking at Britain similarly to US street photography.”

An English “sunrise” motif in a cafe Southend on Sea, Essex. England. 2006. Baileys Fish and Chip shop.

Although he had always liked black & white, he was using colour film, but realised that monochrome was superior for his type of imaging. At that time the main outlet in the UK for this sort of work was the colour supplements of the three upmarket newspapers The Times, The Telegraph and The Observer.

He had some pictures published in Creative Camera, and this led to his first joint exhibition in London in 1971 with images from Benjamin Stone (a Victorian photographer) and his contemporary Tony Ray Jones at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts).

After his second US road trip in 1971 he got married, and the necessities of earning a regular income meant he did a lot of editorial work in the UK, as well as creating his personal depiction of “UK customs” – which does include people hunting foxes in red coats, but all sorts of other cultural phenomena such a punk rock, musicians, the Notting Hill Riots, mining communities, and all types of other, some would say oddball, British pastimes. “Once a Year: Some Traditional British Customs” is his compilation of eccentric customs, first published in 1977, which was republished last year by Dewi Lewis Publishing – including more images than the original edition.

Druids celebrate the summer solstice at Stonehenge Wiltshire June 21st dawn sunrise. England. Perform traditional rituals and rites.

For the last 15 years or so he has been updating and collating his archive, with 17,500 edited images online, and regularly publishing books on his chosen subjects. His book “On the Road Again” documents 30 years of his penetrating, yet whimsical social documentary pictures of American street life.

Evanston Wyoming USA 1971. Two young cowboys, preparing for a rodeo in the car park. One sits on a horse saddle that is on the ground and pretends he is on a horse while another lights a cigarette sitting in the trunk of their automobile.

Suddenly the New Romantics of the London Blitz Club scene in 1980s are having a media revival. These music and fashionistas were a reaction against the grunge of punk at the time. A French publisher is reissuing his collection from the 1980s, launching a book called Blitz Club Blitz Kids1980, available here:

Homer is using a digital camera these days. He regards this as an advantage as there is none of the worrying about exposure. “You can have more freedom, be more spontaneous, without having to worry about the cost of film.” He continues to find new British customs to photograph, and is also retracing his steps and rephotographing ones he covered in the past.

To find out more, visit his website here.


Julian Jackson is a writer with extensive experience of picture research, whose main interests include photography and the environment. Julian also runs a Picture Research by Distance Learning Course. View his portfolio, or connect with him on Linked-in.

PICHA – Do you speak Swahili?

Many thanks to Josiane Faubert, Founder and Managing Partner of
PICHA-Stock for taking some time to talk with us about this important new offering to the stock photography world.

©DudefromSA @PICHA

Diversity and Authenticity – the need to have visual media accurately reflect the world has perhaps never been so urgent and necessary. Tell us about yourself and how PICHA Stock came to be:
PICHA, is a RF stock photo library specialized in Africa. I started PICHA in 2014 because I felt we needed better representation of Africa in this industry. I am from Gabon and from France and I was always frustrated when trying to find contemporary images of Africans, so I started PICHA with my own collection and now we have contributors from South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Morocco. My goal is to be able to get contributors from all over Africa.
What is your process for sourcing and working with your photographers to create relevant imagery? Are they exclusively from Africa or do you work with photographers internationally?

We work with photographers internationally, although our sourcing efforts are dedicated to photographers on the African continent. We get a lot of referrals, people who refer photographers they know/love, and we also scout social media a lot to see what people are producing. Word of mouth and social media are key for us.

There is also an investment in time educating on what works and what is relevant in the stock industry.


The RF business model is certainly the prevailing and most popular at the moment. Sustaining and growing business with lower price points has got to be a challenge – Where do you see PICHA Stock in the market place and how do you plan to firmly establish the collection?

Finding the right balance is a big challenge. The RF model makes things easier for buyers and is becoming the norm. Surviving in this market means finding ways to differentiate yourself. PICHA is very different, we focus exclusively on Africa. Our goal is to show Africa in many ways, especially the modern Africa. PICHA has been growing and buyers especially in Africa are starting to embrace PICHA too.

Distribution is such a vital cornerstone for any collection – what are your plans for reaching markets outside Africa?

PICHA is very careful with other channels of distribution. We have been talking with a few other agencies but we value agencies who can really see PICHA’s collection with real added value, and not just another source for more photos. We are testing a few partnerships at the moment.

Tell us about some of your favorite photos in the collection.

Recently we showcased a few photos for Valentine’s Day and they were quite funny, people’s engagement on social media during valentine’s day quite high.

I am normally fond of images that depict ‘everyday workers’, people who have small shops or who sell on the street. I feel like everyday workers are the soul of any city.

©Adama Traore @PICHA

What else would you like the readers to know about PICHA Stock?

PICHA means ‘image’ in Swahili and it is a collection of warm and rich photos of Africa. PICHA is very young and very dynamic. If you are looking for something original and out of the ordinary, PICHA is the site to check.

Gado Images – Both Preserving History and Monetizing It

Guest post by Michael Masterson

Thomas Smith is Co-founder and CEO of Gado Images, a San Francisco-based company that works with archives worldwide to help them digitize and monetize their visual history. Gado’s partner collections include Johns Hopkins University, the Afro American Newspapers, Silicon Valley Historical Association, Stuart Lutz Historic Documents, and many more.

Since it’s Black History month, your motivation for founding Gado in 2010 is particularly relevant.

My background is in cognitive science and cultural anthropology. Before founding Gado Images, I was working on an oral history project in East Baltimore, Maryland. We were gathering valuable interviews, but we couldn’t find any historical images to illustrate the neighborhood we were studying. At first, I thought the images simply didn’t exist. Then one day, I joined a researcher from Johns Hopkins University on a visit to the Afro American Newspapers. The Afro is the longest continuously operating, family-owned African-American newspaper in the world. Founded in the 1890s by a former slave, the paper has been around for over 120 years.

What I found at their Baltimore headquarters was an archive of 1.5 million photographs, including thousands of photos of the neighborhood I was studying. The Afro’s collection has been called among the best African-American history archives in the world, but the resources simply weren’t there to digitize it; when I visited, only about 5,000 images had been digitized in the paper’s entire history.

Colorized portrait of an African-American woman c.1915. Credit: JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado

I co-founded Gado Images to help organizations like the Afro digitize and monetize their archives. We ultimately worked with the paper to scan about 120,000 images from their collection. More than 11,000 are now online and generating revenue for the paper. Since 2010, we’ve expanded tremendously. We now work with institutions, photographers and collectors worldwide, and provide a turnkey service for anyone who wants to digitize, annotate and monetize their archives.

Marian Anderson during a press conference, 1953. Credit: Afro American Newspapers/Gado.

Gado digitizes and creates metadata using the CMP (Cognitive Metadata Platform) for all different types of media. Tell us about the process.

The Cognitive Metadata Platform (CMP)™ is our proprietary platform for annotating our partners’ imagery. CMP uses neural networks, natural language processing, and facial recognition to automatically find and tag significant people, places, and objects in our images. The process begins when our partner archives submit new images. As soon as the images come in, the CMP begins by using facial recognition to check them for major personalities, pulling from a database of over 60,000 personalities, both historical and contemporary.

The system then uses Optical Character Recognition to pull any text out of the image. This can be crucial; at the Afro, for example, most images had typed or handwritten notes from the original photographer pasted on the back. The CMP can read these notes automatically. It can even pull text from street signs or other sources in the image itself.

Finally, the CMP uses object/landmark recognition to find important objects (like cars or buildings), specific landmarks (like the Statue of Liberty or Venice’s Bridge of Sighs), and brands (like a Coca Cola bottle or Wells Fargo logo) in each image.

Once all these inputs are in place, the CMP uses natural language processing to condense them into a list of marketplace-ready keywords. It can even automatically write a sentence-length caption for each image. Of course, the CMP can also take in metadata from human captioners; we have a professional captioning team who add additional metadata and research to many of our images.

The end results are images that are better tagged, more searchable and more valuable on commercial licensing marketplaces.

How do you handle distribution and monetization?

We work with 20+ marketplaces worldwide to distribute and monetize our partners’ content. These include partnerships with leading media organizations including Getty Images, Alamy, and Universal Images Group, as well as niche marketplaces like Sheet Music Plus. Once our partners’ content is online, we actively promote it to image buyers and photo editors.

We pride ourselves on our free research capabilities and we can generally turn around research requests from image buyers within 24 hours. If we don’t have a particular image in our collection, we often actually acquire an original print of the image or artifact, digitize it at our lab here in San Francisco, and have imagery available to the buyer in 7-10 days. We work with all kinds of formats, from early glass plate negatives to mid-century ephemera to 8mm Kodachrome films. This means that we always have new, unique materials available for creatives worldwide.

What sort of unique content do you have in your partner collections?

We have strong coverage of African-American history, from pre-history through slavery, the American Civil War, turn-of-the-century African-American life, Civil Rights, 20th century African-American entertainers, and even contemporary images of movements like Black Lives Matter.

We also have strong coverage of medical/scientific topics, including thousands of electron micrographs, public health materials, and unique medical imagery from the Special Collections of the Johns Hopkins University. Other topic areas include the Vietnam War, 20th century Americana, California history, and military history.

Bumper sticker for Vietnam War protest march ca 1969. Credit: Stuart Lutz/Gado

Finally, how are you working with universities and other institutions through your Digital Humanities Consulting?

Through our Digital Humanities practice, we work with large organizations to develop digitization and monetization programs for their collections. We do everything from evaluating collections for their commercial potential, to recommending equipment, to developing training materials for organizations’ own staff, to placing our staff members with partner organizations to help kickstart their digitization efforts.

Our Digital Humanities services make us a true turnkey operation; even if a partner′s collections are entirely unprocessed, we can work with them to transform their materials into a modern, digital, fully-annotated archive which is used around the world and generates revenue to support their organization’s mission.

Michael Masterson has a broad range of experience in marketing, business development, strategic planning, contact negotiations and recruiting in the photography, graphic design and publishing industries. In addition to his long experience at the Workbook and Workbookstock, Masterson owned and was creative director of his own graphic design firm for several years. Masterson has been a speaker or panelist at industry events such as Seybold, PhotoPlus Expo, Visual Connections and the Picture Archive Council of America (PACA) national conference. He is past national president of the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP). He currently heads Masterson Consulting, working on projects ranging from business development for creative companies and sourcing talent for them to promoting and marketing industry events as well as providing resume and professional profile services for job-seekers. He can be reached at

Memory Lane with Vintage Stock Photos

In its section “Street Scenes”, stock photo agency Vintage Stock Photos features an intriguing image of titled “Native American Group on Float”; and it’s a classic representation of old-town Americana; with what appears to be a group of “Native American Indians” on a carnival float, complete with the legend “Heap Big Medicine Man.” Whether the group are really Native American, or Caucasian folk with a little tea-tanning, it’s certainly decades, and worlds, away from the shifting identity politics of contemporary America.

Native Indian Group Performs on towed float During Parade

Regardless of the origins, it’s a wonderful insight into an era long one; as are many other stock images in the collection, whether it be bikes chained up to railings in Amsterdam; a stunning collection of woven baskets in Greece; or mopeds circling the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

As Vintage Stock Photos observes about its collection: “We’ve all been there. An old photo – family snapshot or thrift store discard – catches your eye and you can’t look away. The image is technically a hot mess but there’s an essential, visceral appeal about the subject – a faded person or place that unexpectedly and elegantly captures a lost moment. This happens a lot around here and we fall in love with the blurry, scratched, grainy, misfit images depicting life in the middle of the 20th century.

We started Vintage Stock Photos to sell some of these great images. People loved the images, but sales were slow and it’s hard to be a niche stock site, so we decided to give away the image collection for free.”

Woman standing in front of a stall selling woven baskets, Greece

Yes, you read that last bit correctly. In a world where we try to monetize the last few pixels of every IP, Vintage Stock Photos seems so love in with their own material that they just want you to use it.

And who wouldn’t love this stuff? In “Vintage People” we get fascinating shots such as a group of (unintentionally scary. Yikes!) kids in “Halloween Costumes,” and Bugs Bunny has never looked more menacing. In “Vintage Cities and Towns” we can see the two towers of the World Trade Center dominate a 70s skyline. In “Landmarks and Attractions” we are awed by the sight of Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, before Steven Spielberg had his aliens land there.

Group of children posing in their Halloween costumes, USA

It’s a wonderful, technicolor trip down memory lane.

The photos come from collections acquired by Vintage Stock Photos; who own the original transparencies for all images. Transparencies are scanned, then post processed and key worded. They archive the original scan and output a resized jpg file for distribution. They are so accommodation, that if you feel the version they’ve posted is too small or too processed, you can get in touch with them, and they may be able to rescan, resize or reprocess the image.

New York City skyline from the East River, Vintage Lower Manhattan

The images may be used in commercial projects such as websites, advertising, books, videos, and other commercial presentations. If you can give credit to the site, they certainly appreciate it, but credit is not required. You may not, however, repackage, redistribute, or claim ownership of the images.

That means you can’t resell or profit from a reprinting of our photos. This would qualify as “redistribution” and is not allowed (but they may negotiate an extended license, where appropriate).

A simple login allows you full access to download any photos on the site at no charge.

For further details, take a virtual ‘road trip’ into the surreal, the wacky and the poignant, at: