How DIT’s “Iomha ’08” photo contest can hijack your rights

So, you’re all fired up and ready to enter a new photography content? Dublin Institute of Technology are holding a worthwhile photo content in the run up to Seachtain na Gaeilge this year. They are “seeking photographic entries on the theme of An Ghaeilge Bheo – Irish: The Living Language from both Ireland and abroad”. There’s a first prize of €1,500 which is not to be sniffed at!

Unfortunately if you enter, you’re giving up some of your rights as a photographer. From the rules:

14. Entrants will retain copyright in their submitted entries. However, by entering the competition all entrants grant the competition organisers a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual licence to use and publish each entry in any and all media (including print and online), for exhibition, publicity and any other purposes which the competition organisers in their sole discretion deem appropriate. DIT reserves the right to use the entries in the promotion and publicity campaign for the competition including exhibition and publishing of the images. All entries and entrants’ details will be securely stored.

What does that mean for you? Let’s say you have some beautiful shots of the West of Ireland, in an area where Irish is spoken. Like many people you’d like to make a bit of money out of your hobby. Who will buy your image? Tourists might, but competition is fierce and it’s hard to get the shelf space for your art work. What about Government bodies? Maybe one of those departments advocating the Irish language will buy it?
Good luck if you’ve entered that image in this competition. You’ve just handed DIT, Foras na Gaeilge, Oideas Gael and who knows who else the right to use your image in whatever way they like. You never know. Check the DIT Prospectus next year. Instead of paying money for a professional photographer they will have a ready made library of free photos to use, forever.

OK, before you scream, “Nutter! They wouldn’t do that!” I agree, they probably won’t, but DIT aren’t the only ones to do this. National Geographic have a Your Shot page every month where they invite photographers to submit their best images. Guess what’s buried in the tems and conditions of that contest? They’re not the only well known brand to do it.

Jim reminded me that even Facebook have some dodgy wording in their terms and conditions. How would you like that drunken picture of you singing and laughing at a bar with beer bottle in hand to appear in a Facebook advert? It could happen ..

Many photography contests have similar terms and conditions. Before submitting a photo, read the small print. Even if you never want to sell an image, it won’t be nice to discover a treasured photo used in an inappropriate way.

GIMP For Photographers: Levels

GIMP Colors Many people find using the GIMP or Photoshop a daunting prospect but in fact those packages are quite easy to use once you’ve practiced a few times. This will be the first in an occasional series to help photographers use the GIMP to post process their photos.

The Levels tool (right click on your image, select Colors, then Levels) is used to adjust the levels of the colours in your image by manipulating a histogram representing the image. In simple terms, you can make broad changes to the Red, Green, Blue and overall “Value” parts of your image.

The single most useful function of the Levels tool is the “Auto” button. Click that button and the histogram will be stretched out. Your image should look better. If the photo lacked contrast, it can suddenly become a lot “punchier”!

Here’s an example which will make things clearer.

GIMP Levels before example

This is a nice photo I took in Galway in 2005 with a Sony 717. Unfortunately, there’s a nasty yellowish sheen to the image. I probably shot this with the white balance set to cloudy. That can give a pleasing golden look to images but it’s not always welcome. The image also lacks contrast and looks under exposed. How do I fix that?

GIMP Levels

Fire up the GIMP Levels tool. Right click on the image, go to Colors, then Levels. This is the histogram for the image above. See how it’s all bunched into the middle? Now, click on the “Auto” button.

GIMP Levels after example

Wow! One click did that? The image looks so much better now! The swans actually look white and it’s brighter and shiny!

GIMP Levels

I opened the Levels tool again, just to see what effect “Auto” had on the histogram. Sure enough. It’s stretched from side to side.

Levels before and after
Before and After Auto Levels

Wasn’t that easy?

Advanced Usage
You may have noticed the eyedropper buttons next to to the Auto button. Those are “Black”, “Grey” and “White” selectors. Click on one of those, your cursor will change to a eyedropper and then click on the corresponding colour in your image. They work pretty well, but can be confused. If it all goes wrong, just click the Reset button, or CTRL-z to undo if you’ve clicked OK.

You can also manipulate the histogram manually. Just drag the sliders left and right until your image looks ok. You can change the channel with the drop down at the top of the Levels dialog. Changing individual channels does interesting “cross processing” things to an image.

External links:

  1. The Levels tool on gimp.org docs
  2. Levels Tool – white, black and grey to the rescue! – a tutorial I wrote about the levels tool back in 2004!

Want to know more? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you’d like to know and learn about the GIMP.

Sneak peak at the Canon 450D

DPReview have a hands on preview of the new Canon 450D DSLR! Specs look impressive, and as the Canon 400D is still being manufactured and sold I’m sure there’ll be some great deals on the older camera.

They also have a report listing what has changed since the Canon 400D. 12MP sensor, spot metering, 3″ LCD, auto lighting, something called highlight tone priority and more. Are you tempted yet? Must keep credit card in wallet …

Canon 450D

No, I’m not that tempted. The Canon 20D will do me for at least another year! (via Treasa)

Flickr Pro Stats

flickr stats If you have a Flick Pro account, check out the new Flickr stats. You have to activate it first but it only takes 10 minutes or so for it to generate your stats.

What surprised me was that my Pink Flowers photo was the most viewed image yesterday. It’s a nice photo but by digging into the stats I see that search engines sent 71% of the traffic. Just goes to show that you should set the title of your photos carefully!

Dealing with the spammer aftermath

delivery-status-notification.gif

Just in case you’ve come here today investigating where the spam email you received this morning came from, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Spammers used my “inphotos.org” domain name to send hundreds, if not thousands of spam messages and my poor server is receiving the brunt of dealing with the failed return messages from all over the world.

sample-spam.gif

I configured Postfix to accept up to 400 concurrent connections and they’ve been maxed out for the past several days.

$ ps auxw|grep -c smtp
401

That also means that if you sent me email over the last 2 days and I haven’t replied, send it again later. Your mail server may have timed out contacting my server. It should keep trying for 4 hours, but after that it will probably send you back an email saying the email was undeliverable. There’s not much I can do right now except ride out the storm and hope it finishes soon.

Update! The bounced emails are still flooding in. I changed the MX record for this domain and temporarily closed Postfix to outside connections so if you want to contact me, do so at donncha @ ocaoimh.ie instead, thanks!

O’Learys Camera World make me angry

OLearys Camera World Hmm. I’m seething! I’m angry! I’m pissed off! Yesterday I explained why I “reserve all rights” on my photographs. I want control over how and where they are used. I don’t want a photo of my 7 month old son to appear in an inappropriate context. There are other restrictions on usage. When I photograph people, I never get signed model release forms so those images cannot be used for commercial or marketing use. Also, as some of my images are on sale as fine art limited edition prints in a gallery in Kinsale they have a monetary value.

So, it was with some shock that I looked around O’Learys Camera World while waiting to have my lens looked at and I saw two of my images in an electronic photo frame. The two images are Clouds Move At Night and West Cork Landscape. There was also an image of St Finbarrs Cathedral which has been photographed to death and could be by anyone, and 2 images of a large manor-house I didn’t recognise.

When I pointed out the images were mine and copyrighted, that they were downloaded from my photoblog or Flickr I was told they didn’t know how the images were on the device, that they were on it when they got the frame. It seems strange to me that a wholesale distributor of photo frames who probably distributes to many parts of the country and other countries would just happen to put pictures of Cork on their frames. If they do, I need to find out who that distributor is and work out a royalty scheme. If not, how long have my images been used to sell a €99 photo frame in a prominent city centre photography shop?

I can’t remember if I received an apology, I probably did, but they turned off the frame and took out the memory card and promised to wipe it clean. Do those photo frames come with memory cards?

After that, the purpose of my visit was to have my Sigma 10-20mm lens fixed. The M/AF switch fell out, and I noticed a crack in the plastic casing near the base. It has to be sent to Sigma’s HQ in Bandon and I’ll hear from them in a few days. There was also a €50 non-refundable deposit, which will be deducted from the cost of repair.

The whole experience leaves a bad taste in my mouth.