Commoditization of pictures and faces

Imagine you are a photographer having to compete with stock photography readily available online. Chances are you often lose the battle, knowingly or unknowingly. There are many stock photos out there that fit the client’s purpose. Sometimes clients may not necessarily want unique pictures but simply images that do the job, i.e. potential or existing customers “get the picture”. Why pay and wait for organisation, models, photographer, production and so on? Stock photography is a handy alternative for clients.

Sunrise

However, the market may get saturated with pictures that do not mean much anymore to the public. Think of an online banner fatigue where people just ignore online banners (not another ad!).

So do these stock pictures actually do their job or are we fatigued by over-commoditization?

The answer probably depends on many factors. On one hand, it seems that the trend of generalisation and commoditization of things, such as tastes, works to a certain extent. Knowing that you can find a McDonald’s or Starbucks serving mostly the same food and coffee all over the world can create a weird sense of comfort. The many global outlets attest to this. A similar mechanism could be applied to the commoditization of pictures and faces featured in them.

On the other hand, if you travel to some other place in the world you will likely fondly remember trying out different foods compared to the food you know. For example, eating like the locals and visiting their establishments will tell you more about their culture than sticking to say McDonald’s. This is where generalisation and commoditization of things do not work and uniqueness in experience trumps.

Where is the line between using uniqueness or commodity?

The utilitarian viewpoint points to whether the unique or commodity “thing” fulfils its intent, which makes the answer specific and context-dependent. The upside is that both uniqueness and commodity have a place in the market.

For photographers who lose business because clients use stock photography it may seem harsh but the opportunity in my view lies in maximizing the uniqueness niche, if this fits the photographer’s aspirations. Focus on adding value, something extra, that will help your clients even more than something off the shelf. Who knows, while answering the first question above, perhaps even evidence exists that ads with stock photography are not really effective in x, y, z circumstances.

One Brazilian photographer, who is unhappy with losing work to stock photography, travelled to Denmark to meet one of the models featured in many stock photos. This encounter brings a face to the anonymous model, who we at the same may find very familiar. Mashable reports on this visit to the “most downloaded model in stock photography” but be sure to check out the YouTube video below.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you actually see the pictures that are often clear stock images? Do you think they are effective? If so, do you find this always the case of in certain circumstances?

Related articles elsewhere

Notes from the Universe

Sometimes it is nice to get little notes that remind you of great meaningful magical things in life, powers and wisdom of the “universe”, and the beauty of imagination and realisation. These are just a couple of notes from the Universe I received this week. Note that I replaced my name with “dear reader” so you can experience the message for yourself!

Abstract Colorful Universe Wallpaper - TTdesign

Abstract Colorful Universe Wallpaper - TTdesign (Photo credit: tomt6788)

Focus

When you focus upon anything at all, dear reader, it’s like a call goes out to every corner of the Universe, summoning ideas, strength, courage, insight, resources, and whatever else is needed to complete the laser beam of your concentration.

If it’s an answer you need, it will be forthcoming. If it’s a choice you have to make, your options are calculated and recalculated under each scenario. If circumstances need to be arranged then every soul on the planet is consulted. And if it’s help you need… we’re already there.

When you focus upon anything at all.

Not bad, huh?

- The Universe

Abstract Colorful Universe Wallpaper - TTdesign

Get out!

Get out, get out, get out even more, dear reader!

Because there are people you’ve yet to meet, laughs you’ve yet to share, stories you’ve yet to live, and riches you’ve yet to tap into, that will not find you under any other circumstances.

Besides, how else can I shower you with surprises?

- The Universe

» Sign up to receive notes from the Universe at www.tut.com - Thoughts become things… choose the good ones!

Adventure with Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, the movie, has recently been released in Australia. Steven Spielberg directs the movie and Peter Jackson is one of the producers. It is of course based on the famous comic books. What an adventure and simply fantastic entertainment. An uplifting timeless piece with integrity.

Tintin is a motion capture (movement) or performance capture (face, fingers, subtle expressions) film, which records actions of human actors and are then translated to animate digital character models. Sometimes images from 2D are projected into 3D. It is fascinating how this capture process works.

The movie is visually stunning. Jamie Bell, who plays Tintin, looks very different in life and you know him from the glorious lead role in Billy Elliot. Andy Serkis, master of motion capture acting, plays Captain Haddock. I enjoy watching him as Gollum and the production process in the behind-the-scenes of Lord of the Rings. The movie’s music is also beautiful.

Watch the action on a big screen and join this wonderful voyage while laughing and cheering with others. This is exactly what happened when I watched the movie in a cinema full of adults. Happy days.

» Check out the movie’s website.

Create a website yourself, power to you

Some people do it as a way to earn money, service people or meet altruistic purposes. Some people work on it in teams and some on their own. Some people do it as a hobby and have fun or have other needs met. Some people only consume its content. And there is plenty of it. It? Websites and other digital platforms. Twenty years ago, who would have thought they would have such a profound impact? That anyone can do it, not only view it? Power to you.

So how am I going to do it?

Public domain question mark

If you have decided you want to create a website, an important question comes to mind: how am I going to do it? The journey starts to search for the right way and the answer often emerges when going back and forth between questions such as: what do I want the website to look like? what is the website about? what will be on it? now and in the foreseeable future? what and who is it for? how to best serve it all up, re navigation etc.? how much time, money, effort and other resources do I want to spend on the development and ongoing maintenance of the website and its content? make or buy? public or private? where to host? secure a specific domain? if part of a portfolio of websites, positioning? branding issues, incl. professional or personal? language? traffic and search engine considerations? and so on.

There are actually quite a lot of questions to think about and issues to decide upon. Projects range from simple to complex. Yes, everyone can do it but the questions above are just a selection and answers could be tricky because of interdependencies. Based on the scope of the project, support from digital agencies, in-house departments and professionals may help get your ultimate website from idea to launch and beyond. Yes, I have experience in this “group”, and you can bring me on for help. ;-)

Project: The simple website

In this article I am talking about developing a simple website yourself and some opportunities available to you, based on my experience with this website. In the project range mentioned above, the topic is at the relatively simple end of the spectrum and doable by non-technical people (i.e. non-developers). Disclaimer: it is by no means a complete story, answering all questions, and every project is different. So any lessons or ideas here may not apply to another project. That said, sit back, relax, immerse yourself and note things that work for you.

Getting started

Image representing Tumblr as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Browsing the Internet, you may already have an idea what kind of websites you like and what kind of website you want to create. There are so many sites around, it is worthwhile to find some good examples for inspiration. When you have an idea of what you want and to get you going, have a look at free services such as Tumblr, WordPress, and Blogger in Google’s suite. These services have answered many questions for you so you can hit the ground running. The beauty of these services is that you can play around, free might I add unless you want things out of the basic box, and keep things to yourself (private) for as long as you want.

WordPress logo blue

What is the difference between the services? Some say WordPress users tend to write more and longer-form, while Tumblr is more visual and its users tend to be more about quicker snippets, photos and videos. Try using them and find out which one you enjoy most using and looking at, in the context of your needs. If you want in-depth reviews on the differences between the free services then there are many articles to help you.

Functional fun experimentation

Things to look out for are themes. They are design templates and control your site’s appearance and what you can do with it. Usually you can customise colours and include or move certain elements, such as widgets, on pages. If you are into codes changes, these services allow you to adapt themes, some for a fee, to customise even further. Note that the theme filled with your content makes the website truly unique. So imagine your content and create some. You can make a more static website with pages (Contact, About, etc.) or introduce blog elements where you regularly post things (text, video, images, etc.) and decide on their prominence. Also think about your site title and tagline if you have one. Remember to set your privacy preference as well. Very quickly your site will be shaping up.

English: A Relic of Past Experimentation This ...

Your website service provides a URL for your website on their domain, something like http://mysite.wordpress.com. You can customise this URL if you want. Do you have your own domain name or URL that you want your visitors to view? You can use your own domain while still having your site with the website service. WordPress charges a yearly fee to map your WordPress domain to your own domain. Tumblr says it is “recommended for advanced users”. To keep things simple, you may want to do this part once you have decided on the service you want to use.

The great thing about this playground is that there is plenty of room for experimentation. There is no failure if your intention is learning. Just switch theme if you don’t like it. Move things around when there is some more content and see what that does for your site. Content management is simple with these tools used by millions. If you don’t touch the code, things generally don’t break in case you wonder. And there is help everywhere: forums, tutorials, videos, articles. My experience with WordPress is quick and friendly responses from Support. So if you want it, the creative community is supporting you on your journey.

Easy, doing it

While you are experimenting and working on your site, you are actually doing it. Question answered. From there you may decide it is ready to share, get traffic and connect it with social platforms or that you prefer to do it a different way. For example, outsource elements or the complete project knowing better what you want. Important to attend to the value of learning on the way and finding out what doesn’t work for you, what does, what you don’t know, what you do.

On WordPress, to .org or .com

Something to realise is the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. WordPress is Open Source blogging software. WordPress.com is a hosting platform that uses the same WordPress software that anyone can download from WordPress.org. With WordPress.com, Automattic takes care of the hosting and managing of the software. With the freestanding WordPress software via WordPress.org, you need to install it on your own server or a third-party hosting provider. You can install themes and plugins, run ads, and edit the database. Read this article for the differences, benefits and cons in detail.

Screen shot Mirjam websiteIf going with WordPress, which of the two you decide upon depends on your requirements, technical ability, available budget and so on. A consideration that swayed me to WordPress.com for this website at the moment was that a lot is taken care of. I do not have to think about any technical things such as servers, back-ups, upgrading software, hosting, finding the right plug-ins. Quite a lot of things are actually in the “basic box”, nicely integrated, which you don’t have to think or worry about. And services are often upgraded with improved features. In turn, there are restrictions such as not being able to run your own ads and further customisation that plugins and code access allow.

Interesting to note is Automattic’s business model with paid upgrades, services, premium features, and occasionally showing ads on your website (Tumblr doesn’t do this). For example, pay a small yearly fee for using your own domain, customizing the design of the theme e.g. fonts, or using premium themes.

Feel like tapping into your creativity and make a website? If you already have, what are your experiences? Any thoughts on things raised in this article? Do you have any favourite websites that are your “perfect” example?

Related posts on this website
• Website live – all safe and sound?
• Welcome on board

Plus Google+

At the end of September, Google+ went public for everyone to use. With previous social stints such as Google Buzz, which is phasing out in 2012, Google offers another social network next to all the others available. Though still in beta but with some time to crystallise itself out, let’s take a look at Google+, what you can do with it, and share some examples and context.

Google+ is a platform that lets you share your thoughts, links, photos and so on with specific groups. It allows its users to +1 and recommend items across the web to their friends and contacts, using e.g. sharing buttons and adding visibility in Google search.

You can create groups of contacts, called “circles”, around for example colleagues, family or a running group. So you use these groups to control who you share with and whose posts you see. You don’t have the issue of agreeing to be friends with each other, like some networks, where the lines can be blurry; someone you work with may not be a friend, an old friend may not be a current friend, etc. That is, if you are the stricter type on categorisations and on who is in your digital sharing world. On the other hand, people may wonder, how far does one want to segment their world and connections?

English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...

One of the nice features in Google+ is video “hangouts” that lets you bring up to 9 people into your world via live webcam. It seems Skype, iChat, and chat roulette combined. There are lots of possibilities here for individuals and organisations. With YouTube under Google’s wings, and integration opportunities aplenty, you can also use the Share button under a YouTube video to suggest watching the video with friends in a Google+ hangout.

To start a Hangout just invite your circle(s), who will see the Hangout appear in their stream (updates), and other people. The threshold here is that you have to download yet another plugin (I think I had about 25Mb) and have to get people, including yourself, to actively join Google+. However, Drew Olanoff’s article on The Next Web reports on a fantastic example of Hangout use by musician Daria Musk. An uplifting read, you get to understand how she was able to reach 24,000 followers. Also, it allows for live shows with viewers from all over the world and co-creation as fans are helping Musk prepare her next album.

Other features include games, ability to download your content from Google+, a visualisation tool called “Ripples” that shows in-depth how resharing activity happens regarding a public post. Another feature is “Google+ Pages”. This allows organisations and publications to set up profiles or pages, with the posting and syndication of posts relating to them. Sherilynn Macale reports in another The Next Web article about this feature and, in almost brand ambassador style, is very much in favour:

The +1 is Google’s way of tracking who all is recommending and interacting with your brand across the web. Soon, all the +1s around your brand will be connected directly to your official Google+ Page, anchored to your identity and allowing you to analyze data related to those +1 clicks. With more +1 clicks in aggregate, Google will be able to take those recommendations and analytics then put your company in places that actually matter. In this manner, Google+ will extend your brand and put it in front of users across the globe.

Some context of Google+ is that Google is still the main gateway for searching things on the web but more and more things are unsearchable because they are off-limits to search engines. Massive amounts of users are in these places, such as Facebook, spending a lot of time there looking at many pages and sharing things. This means that Google loses valuable information that can be used for advertising and product improvement. Note that this debate revolves slightly on the ever-present tension between public and private information on the web. Another contextual factor is that also other search engines are catching up and social networks are increasingly performing functions of search engines, i.e. recommendations.

Surely there are some strengths here with bringing a social network like Google+ to the table. There is lots more to tell and learn about this case and its impacts but overall; social, search, stats and good integrated user-friendly features seem a powerful combination.

What do you think? Are you using Google+? What is your experience? Do you think Google+ will go beyond the project stage and scale up in the short or long-term?

Website live – all safe and sound?

For some time I have worked on this website in the background. Couple of days ago I changed the privacy settings from private to public.

Defense Meteorological Satellite Program

Would the planet stop turning? Could this enormous feat be seen from space? Would the sun and moon set and rise as per expected pattern? Would birds and all other species on this planet and beyond be affected? Would it actually influence space and time? What would happen to me, being out there in digital space? It is now confirmed, all is safe and sound.

Stepping back in time, what did working on this website involve? Mainly choosing and configuring WordPress on appearance, settings and content. This included choosing a theme, setting templates, styles, adding widgets, moving them around, naming things, writing, adding content, adjusting settings related to reading, writing, discussion, sharing, and so on. Overall, see what works and what is possible.

It is quite a process and journey; addictive, time-consuming, rewarding, a learning experience. Some posts are in the making related to this, including choosing WordPress and legal matters.

This website is a work in progress and I am very curious where it will go. Next step is to really share and connect it with the world. It is a joy and privilege to do so. Here it is. Bon voyage!

Teaching (and learning) with or without computers and digital aids?

There is a continuing debate around the use of computers and other digital aids to facilitate learning. This interesting article by Matt Richtel in the New York Times reports on a school, which has a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. The fact that this school is in Silicon Valley seems paradoxical; parents working at digital giants but sending their children to a non-digital school.

Parts of the debate highlighted in the article are as follows. Some see engagement about human contact and teaching being a human experience. Computers then inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans. Others say children nowadays need digital aids to actually engage and need computer time to compete in the world.

Is one end of the spectrum better than the other? Does one set children up for better functioning and success in the world than the other? An earlier post asserts that what children prepares for success is learning skills such as problem-solving, creativity and imagination. If that is the intent, then there are several ways to go about fulfilling that.

Going back to the article, the school used an activity like knitting to help develop such skills including maths, patterning and coördination.

» Check out my Craft project and find out what I learnt.

Order food from experienced local cooks

Another great business, which combines delivery of takeaway food prepared by local cooks and online community.

Housebites in the UK offers restaurant quality food, cooked by chefs in a local area, delivered to your door. You can browse the daily menus by a local chef and read their biographies and customer feedback. For dinner parties Housebites recommends that you order at least a day in advance if catering for large numbers. Breakfast, brunch, lunch and pre-cooked food are in the pipeline according to their website.

It is a nice concept to connect the community with great local cooks and their food, while increasing their exposure, business, and flexibility in work arrangements.

Related posts on this website
Restaurant quality takeaway

Restaurant quality takeaway

Good food, cooked fresh, delivered fast

Deliverance has 5 gleaming state-of-the-art kitchens, 48 specialized chefs, a dedicated fleet of 120 bikers who know and deliver to 78 square miles of London on time according to their website. What Deliverance serves? Delicious dishes from around the world using great ingredients, transparent on where they source it from.

What a fantastic business. I have always thought a concept like this must work in today’s world. People are pressed for time, juggling many activities in one day. Yet, they want quality food for the right price without time-consuming chores such as grocery shopping, doing the dishes and so on. As if a friend cooks a couple more servings and brings it over when you get home after a busy day.

Any more such businesses around the world? In Sydney, Australia, would be great.

Customize a can of Coke sighting

The Share a Coke campaign from Coca Cola spans both online and offline.

Via Facebook you can share a virtual Coke with friends. Create a bottle specifically for a friend, by choosing from 150 different names, and add an individual song. But if your friend’s name is not in the list of 150, then go offline and into a shopping mall near you to customize a can of Coke.

Today I witnessed a massive queue of people who wanted to create a personalized can. Yes, even when there is a limit of one per person. The person who the can is intended for must be a special someone.

» Check out the iPhone images below.

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