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About six months ago, I signed up for ImageBrief at the Explorer level. After submitting over 125 photos for over 30 briefs without any success, I want know if anyone has actually sold one of their photos through ImageBrief?

If you’re not familiar with ImageBrief, they allow ad agencies, publishing companies and brands to post a brief requesting an image. Photographers are able to respond to the brief by submitting images through the website, and depending on their level of enrollment, they keep 70-100% of the payment for the image. That amount is much better than the typical stock agency.

Premier members can also post their images for sale and submit themselves for jobs. And they get to keep everything they earn. It sounds great, but like all good sites, there is a lot of stiff competition. On a slow day, maybe 3 to 5 briefs are added. Some days, as many as 20 are added. Many briefs cover popular subjects and get hundreds of images submitted. But what actually happens with all those images?

With all the briefs to which I’ve submitted images, I’ve only seen four actually get awarded. Even with all the images I’ve submitted, I’ve never even been shortlisted once. I follow all the briefs to which I submit, and most just fade away into oblivion without so much as a status update to tell me what became of the image request. After a few months, some eventually are closed without any image selected. So it begs the question, has anyone ever actually sold an image through this service? At what membership level did this occur?

I get emails frequently trying to entice me to upgrade from my free membership, where I get to keep 70% of the awarded amount of the briefs, to a premier member, who gets to keep 100% of the awarded brief. Of course, they try to tell you that these premier members get job offers and are making money, but a half-dozen testimonials doesn’t convince me that this actually works for the little guy, like me. And at $60 per month or $500 per year, it’s an expensive investment without any guaranteed return. However, if I actually got awarded and paid for an image, I wouldn’t be as hesitant to upgrade.

Are you out on ImageBrief? What has your experience been? Do you think it’s worth your time and money?

Oh, and by the way, here’s my ImageBrief profile.

Did you know that there’s a stolen photography equipment registry? Apparently, it happens often enough that there’s a list of stolen cameras and other gear. So I’m not being overly cautious when I tell you that it happens all the time and you need to be vigilant. I’ll simply tell you what works for me. While some of these suggestions may sound like I’m being paranoid, I’ll just say that in 27 years of taking pictures, I do what’s on this list and have never had any equipment stolen. If only I could apply these easy suggestions to other things I own. (or used to own)

  • Keep your equipment with you at all times. – If you follow just this one suggestion, you don’t have the worry about most of the others. It only takes a second for your equipment to sprout legs and walk away. Just keeping it in your sight is not good enough. Anytime you are doing location shooting, keep your equipment on your body. Always put lenses and accessories back in your bag. If you must leave your camera momentarily (to stage the shoot or move props) have an assistant watch it closely.
  • Never put equipment in checked luggage – This should go without saying, but you simply won’t see it again. I’m not saying that baggage handlers are dishonest, but I certainly don’t want to give them the opportunity. All they need to do is x-ray your bag, keep it from getting on the airplane, and they can rummage through it at their leisure. Keep your equipment with you as carry-on baggage. If you have too much for carry-on, consider using Fedex or UPS with insurance to deliver it to your destination.

Read More »

When I’m shooting for a client locally, I’m not really concerned with the same things as when I’m traveling and taking photos along the way. These are different situations and they call for different equipment. When looking for travel cameras and photo gear, here’s what I consider important:

Quality is paramount

There’s not much point in taking photos if they’re not the best quality available today. Photo quality isn’t determined by the resolution or the camera processor, but by the glass that you shoot through. Good quality lenses make better photos, so I stick with well-respected German or Japanese brands. I explain this in much more detail at Choosing photo equipment.

Resolution is important

Medium format equipment these days can produce 50 megapixel images. Most digital SLRs are between 24 and 36 megapixels now. Even point and shoot cameras can capture 18 megapixels or more. Even though I just said in the previous paragraph that resolution does equate to quality, it is important, because a higher resolution image allows more flexibility for cropping and manipulation. So if that art director doesn’t want all that foreground that you’ve included in the shot, they can simply crop the photo and not sacrifice too much resolution to get only what they need. A low resolution image can’t be cropped much without some pixelation occurring. For what I’m doing, 20 megapixels is the minimum. Read More »

Curious camels

Capturing images in extreme conditions

Taking pictures in the Middle East can be a challenge. The sand and heat are just a couple of the things you’ll probably worry about. Even without a sandstorm, the sand seems to get everywhere and into everything. Left unchecked, it will eventually cause problems with your camera gear. And even without film to worry about, the heat will take its toll on you and your equipment. Here are a some things to consider and some tips to make your picture-taking more enjoyable.

Sand

It gets everywhere and it can’t be avoided. The best thing to do to avoid getting it into all those inaccessible places in your camera is to keep your camera in a zipped bag, pouch or pocket when you’re not using it. Avoid using your camera in sandstorms or windy conditions. If you can’t keep the sand off your gear, be sure to bring a squeeze bulb blower to help remove the sand and dust. Canned compressed air works well, but it tends to be bulky, heavy and forbidden in your carry-on. Be sure to thoroughly remove any sand or dust from both your camera and your bags and cases before changing lens, batteries or memory cards.

Wraparound sunglasses will keep the sand out of your eyes. I don’t recommend wearing contact lenses in the desert because the chance of getting dust in your eyes is almost guaranteed. High-top shoes or boots will help keep out the sand as you’re walking around shifting dunes. Read More »

i-t2P437x-SPhotography as a business is tough. Everyone has a camera nowadays and everyone thinks they’re a pro photographer just because they have a fancy new SLR. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who still believe a pro can do a better job or simply want to be in the action and not behind the camera. As a business that still means you have to find these people. Sometime last year, I joined a service called Thumbtack. If you aren’t familiar with the service, here’s a basic rundown on what they do.

As a customer seeking a professional, you answer questions about your personal projects. They send the customer requests to qualified professionals who respond if they are available and interested. As a professional, they promise to provide these leads to you, for which you pay to submit a quote. They claim that many pros who use it have doubled or even tripled the size of their business. In reality, it’s not quite that simple, nor effective, and here’s why.

To submit a quote, you have to purchase credits. Credits cost about $1.50/credit. Depending on the quote, it will cost between 2 and 9 credits. The more profitable the job being quoted, the more the quote will cost. Sounds great so far, right? Well, here’s where one of the first problems comes up. Read More »

In My Camera Bag

  • Nikon D300 Camera with MB-D10
  • Nikon D300 Camera (second body)
  • AF-S Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED
  • AF-S Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED
  • AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D
  • AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
  • MF Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 Macro
  • AF-S VR-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED
  • Nikon AF-I Teleconverter TC-20E 2X
  • Kenko Ext. Tube 12
  • Nikon SB-800 Flash
  • Macsense Geomet’r GNC-35 GPS receiver

Camera Support

  • Gitzo G1220 MkII Tripod
  • Arca Swiss B-1 MonoBall Head w/RRS flip-lock QR
  • Gitzo G026 Tripod
  • Kirk BH-3 Ball Head
  • Gitzo G1566 Monopod with Kirk QRC2
  • Nodal Ninja NN3 Panoramic Head
  • Kirk Camera Plates and L-brackets

I often get asked for advice about which camera to buy. I don’t try to sell people on Nikon just because I own one. I have Nikon cameras because I own a lot of Nikon lenses. I could just as easily have a Canon system if I had started out with one. Nowadays, there are so many options for digital cameras that it’s easy to get confused. Megapixels, sensor size, aspect ratios, mirrorless and crop factors are just a few of the terms thrown around in the camera stores and media.

I believe it’s important to have access to a large system of accessories. I certainly wouldn’t buy a lesser known system such as Ricoh, Pentax, Olympus or Sigma. That’s because there isn’t much support for those systems in the way of aftermarket accesories. The one thing that I find most important in choosing a system is the glass—the lenses. No matter how good the resolution or size of the sensor or quality of the image processor, without good glass, your pictures will lack in quality. Some of the best glass is German, with Japanese a close second, but you won’t get that level of quality in a $200 point and shoot. For quality lenses, plan on easily spending over $600 for a single lens and well over $1,500 if you want a really good high-speed lens. Great glass comes from German makers such as, Leica, Zeiss and Schneider. You’ll find these lenses paired with cameras from Panasonic, Sony and Samsung, respectively. Good glass comes from Nikon, Canon and Fuji, which they use on their own brand of cameras. Read More »

Paradise does have its dark side and I’m afraid I discovered much of it in the last few days. Seems like everyone here is out to get the tourist’s money one way or another. Don’t get me wrong. Not everyone is bad and I have run into many very nice people whose heart is in the right place.

I drove from Kuta to Ubud on Tuesday. I guess I wrote about my driving adventure in an earlier post and I’ll just say that the driving is getting much easier. I don’t think I’ll complain as much about Seattle traffic after driving here. Anyway, yesterday I go back to my hotel in Ubud and the guy at the front desk asks me if I could pay him that evening since I was planning on leaving early. I go get my credit card and he tells me he doesn’t take them. I tell him that the man working the previous evening told me they did accept credit cards. I ended up having to pay in cash, but it pissed me off so much that I packed up and moved to another hotel. I told him that what he did wasn’t right because I probably wouldn’t have stayed there if I had to use cash. Being on a budget I thought I’d splurge just a little and get a $20 room instead of the usual $7 room but only if I could put in on the plastic. Read More »

Well, since my last update I decided to take the plunge and get really daring. I rented a car. Now that may not sound like that big of a deal but if you’ve never driven on the opposite side of the road before in a right-hand drive car, it is truly a risky thing. More on that later…just how did I decide to do this?

I took a business class flight from Yogyakarta to Bali. It was only $10 more than economy and it meant I got to be pampered a little. Big leather seats, friendlier service and better food. Short flight so it didn’t last long. Anyway, while in the executive lounge waiting to leave Yogya, I met an Australian, Michael, who is in the import/export business and was flying to Bali to buy some handicrafts. Interestingly, he also wrote many of the arts and crafts sections in many travel guides. He wrote that section in the Lonely Planet guide to Bali.

Michael and I talked about politics, the Middle East and other controversial subjects. As we were landing, he said he had a friend picking him up at the airport and offered me a lift into town. His friend, Made, owns a ceramic and furniture export business in Legian–a very friendly Indonesian man with a great sense of humor. Anyway Michael said I should rent a car. At first I disagreed and thought I would just rent a motorbike, but as it started raining more and more, I decided it would be easier and more comfortable in a car. Michael didn’t feel it would be a problem, but then again they drive on the left side in Australia also. Read More »

indo23

A lot has happened in one short day. If you have read my previous emails, you probably remember me describing how crazy the moped riders are around here. Well, I now have lots of first hand experience. My new friend, Bowo, the cook at the restaurant, owns a moped (125cc) and has been taking me around the town on the back of his bike to see the sights. Actually, once you are on the bike and weaving in and out of traffic, it doesn’t seem so bad. Going along at 80km/h feels great after all the heat. I question the value of the cheap little plastic helmets that everyone wears for protection. It’s a false sense of security since I’m sure they wouldn’t do much in an accident except maybe hold all the pieces of your head together. Read More »

I left last night from Don’s house on a mini-van to Yogyakarta. This is a small Mitsubishi van converted to seat 8 passengers with reclining seats and heavy-duty AC—a little more comfortable than an airplane but not by much. I actually slept through the dead of the night and got probably 3 hours of real sleep. It’s kind of hard to get a good night sleep when the driver is going down narrow two-lane roads at 110km/hr weaving in and out of mopeds, cars and huge tour buses and missing oncoming traffic by mere centimeters. This is not luck but skill to accomplish this without any mishaps. Along the way I actually saw two accidents. Both involving vans, one similar to the one I was riding in. Apparently, they ran off the road during one of the downpours in the middle of the night. No serious injuries. Arrived in Yogya about 12 hours later, a little haggard, a lot tired.

This is where the real adventures begin. Just like in Bangkok, I don’t know the language and although the Indonesian language is easy to learn, it is difficult to pick it up overnight. I now must get around on my own without the aid of Don as my interpreter and guide. I was a little apprehensive at first but it doesn’t really appear to be a big problem. More people in Yogya speak English since it seems to be more of a tourist destination. Still, it hasn’t been much of a problem. I just smile a lot, bow my head and say, terimah kasih (thank you) a lot. Seems to have worked so far. Read More »

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