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Participants in this year’s IPTC Conference got to hear about the application of the IPTC metadata standard in Africa. The International Press and Telecommunications Council (IPTC) is the governing body of the World’s most widely used metadata standard because it was developed for the publishing industry around the World and has been incorporated by the likes of Adobe, Microsoft, Apple, Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad and Phase One into their systems. More recently the IPTC has been working on fields that are specific to the heritage sector and published the IPTC Extended standard which has been further updated recently.

Africa Media Online's Managing Director, David Larsen, addressing the 2016 IPTC Conference on the use of the IPTC metadata schema in Africa. The International Press and Telecommunications council sets standards for industry wide metadata schemata particularly for the news and media industries, but increasingly, for the heritage sector too.

Africa Media Online’s Managing Director, David Larsen, addressing the 2016 IPTC Conference on the use of the IPTC metadata schema in Africa. The International Press and Telecommunications council sets standards for industry wide metadata schemata particularly for the news and media industries, but increasingly, for the heritage sector too.

I had the privilege of sharing with the conference how we go about using the IPTC standard in Africa Media Online given that we are working with photographers, media organisations and heritage institutions in different parts of Africa and how we have needed to create systems, based on the standard, that allowed for flexible ways of inputting metadata, from using a spreadsheet that can be ingested into our digital asset management system separately to the images and then marrying the two within the system, to extracting metadata that is embedded in the images by photographers submitting work, to the ability to enrich metadata once the images are in the system. I also got to briefly showcase a new metadata capture back-end to our MEMAT digital asset management system that will allow not just the capture of IPTC and IPTC Extended, but also other metadata schema such as Dublin Core and Darwin Core.

Sarah Saunders presenting at the 2016 IPTC Conference. Sarah is a good friend of Africa Media Online and has taught on our Heritage Digital Campus on two occasions. At the conference she presented a new IPTC metadata panel that includes the newly updated IPTC Extension metadata fields relevant for the heritage sector. Listening to her are Dave Compton, Senior Technologist at Reuters, Michael Steidl, CEO of the IPTC and Abbie Enock, CEO of Capture.

Sarah Saunders presenting at the 2016 IPTC Conference. Sarah is a good friend of Africa Media Online and has taught on our Heritage Digital Campus on two occasions. At the conference she presented a new IPTC metadata panel that includes the newly updated IPTC Extension metadata fields relevant for the heritage sector. Listening to her are Dave Compton, Senior Technologist at Reuters, Michael Steidl, CEO of the IPTC and Abbie Enock, CEO of Capture.

An exciting development that was announced at the conference is that the IPTC is about to launch its first version of a metadata standard for video. They are not calling it a standard. Rather it is an organizer of other existing standards potentially uniting what up to now has been a fairly disparate field. They are set to launch this in a month or two along with a new metadata plugin for Adobe Photoshop Bridge that allows one to use all of the new IPTC Extended fields. This development has been overseen by a good friend of Africa Media Online, Sarah Saunders. Sarah has been an occasional trainer on our Heritage Digital Campus.

My wife, Rosanne, and I have just returned from the CEPIC Congress which was held this year in Zagreb, Croatia in May 2016. As head of Africa Media Online’s picture library that represents many collections from African photographers and African heritage institutions, Rosanne makes the trek to Europe once a year to keep in touch with our distribution partners across the World and also to keep abreast of developments in the industry. This year we decided we should both go to the Congress to get grips with the rapid changes in the industry.

Rosanne Larsen at the Africa Media Online table at the CEPIC Congress 2016 held at the Sheraton Hotel in Zagreb, Croatia. Rosanne travels to Europe most years to meet agencies from around the globe that represent the collections we represent into their markets.

Rosanne Larsen at the Africa Media Online table at the CEPIC Congress 2016 held at the Sheraton Hotel in Zagreb, Croatia. Rosanne travels to Europe most years to meet agencies from around the globe that represent Africa Media Online collections into their markets.

The picture library industry, along with other picture supply industries has come under increasing pressure as camera technology has got better and better placing the ability to produce professional quality images in the hands of amateurs. While more images are being used in the World today than ever before, the flood of amateurs entering the market has resulted in a dramatic oversupply of images pushing prices down to the point where many picture libraries and professional photographers can no longer sustain their service. This, added to the fact that the general public is uneducated about picture licensing and so a vast majority of images used, particularly on the internet, are not licensed but used illegally, has meant many leading picture libraries of the past have had to shut their doors and cease trading. So over the past couple of years the industry has been under great pressure and there has been something of a sense of doom and gloom about it.

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Much of Zagreb, on the banks of the Sava River, is modern in its architecture. But there is an old town section arranged around two hills – Kaptol, which was a monastic settlement and the nearby village on Gradec hill. Divided for many centuries there were united in the city of Zagreb in the 17th Century.

 

This year, however, it was different. There seemed to be a lot of hope around. One reason for this is that the overabundance of imagery is now no longer a help but a hinderance to finding the right image. This means that for busy picture buyers, the cost of trawling through mountains of images to find the right one is starting to outweigh the cost of paying a higher price for an image from a carefully curated picture collection. High quality picture libraries are once again finding there is a need for their work!

Another reason for hope is that the technology for finding and charging picture thieves is getting better and better. There are now a number of companies offering services to picture libraries to track down and charge infringers. Most exciting of all is new technology that allows one to put pictures on the internet without really putting the picture on the internet. In other words, the picture appears, full screen if one wants it to, but the picture isn’t actually there in any way that it can be taken and any attempt at taking it simply results in a clear message that what is being attempted is illegal. That will be a useful education tool! It also links people to where the image can be legally licensed.

Restaurants line Kozarska Street between the two hills of Kaptol and Gradec in old town Zagreb.

Restaurants line Kozarska Street between the two hills of Kaptol and Gradec in old town Zagreb.

So there is good reason we are coming away from CEPIC this year with a sense of hope, that the hard work we have put in over more than a decade and a half to bring valuable African collections to a global audience will be a viable undertaking. We have also come away with confirmation that our thinking about the industry and how to respond to changes in the industry is correct. Watch this space as we start to implement some of those changes in the following months!

 

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Understanding copyright and licensing is fundamental to the work of professional photographers, mainly because it is how we create value for ourselves and our work in the long term. Ensuring that the copyright to your work is in fact in your hands, in contractual agreements may create you an income stream in decades to come, particularly for work of enduring significance. Of course, good business practice nowadays, in the World of the internet and social media, often means it is wise, as Jesus said, to “give and you will receive”. So Creative Commons licenses become an important mechanism for you to determine the conditions under which you give. But all of that presupposes that the creative work belongs to you. You need to have ownership before you can give. And that is where copyright comes in.

I trust this article on the Shutha site is useful to you in helping you to grasp something of the history and “heart” behind copyright and why it exists: Copyright and Licensing

The international copyright symbol. In countries that are signatories to international copyright conventions, marking an image as copyrighted with this symbol is not a requirement for ensuring the image is protected by copyright law. However, marking images with the symbol in the relevant metadata field is advisable since it informs users that the image is copyrighted

The international copyright symbol. In countries that are signatories to international copyright conventions, marking an image as copyrighted with this symbol is not a requirement for ensuring the image is protected by copyright law. However, marking images with the symbol in the relevant metadata field is advisable since it informs users that the image is copyrighted

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Fascination - a universal theme in a local context. A child at uShaka Marine World in Durban, South Africa. PHOTO: David A. Larsen

Fascination – a universal theme in a local context. A child at uShaka Marine World in Durban, South Africa. PHOTO: David A. Larsen

As photographers based in Africa or other parts of the Majority World we are in a position to capture images that are unique and bring a different perspective to the stock photography market. To do that, however, it is important to understand what the market is looking for and what it will appreciate about our unique perspective. In this Shutha article we give the inside track…

What kind of stock images sell?

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As a professional photographer or photojournalist, it is critical to understand the ethics of picture taking. Those ethics differ according the genre of photography. Because photojournalism is supposed to be as authentic a reflection of reality as possible, the bar on ethics in that genre is set very high. In fashion photography, however, there is likely to be more latitude for creativity and the application of creative techniques. In essence it is important to understand the difference between photography and photo illustration…

Find out more on Shutha in the article on Ethics.

Although it is made up of a number of photographs, that would be considered photographs if presented on their own, this composite image is likely to be considered a "photo illustration" since it is illustrating something more than the simple reality of the moment. It was taken of a paddler on the Potomac River in Great Falls Park in northern Virginia near Washington DC. PHOTO: David A. Larsen

Although it is made up of a number of photographs, that would be considered photographs if presented on their own, this composite image is likely to be considered a “photo illustration” since it is illustrating something more than the simple reality of the moment. It was taken of a paddler on the Potomac River in Great Falls Park in northern Virginia near Washington DC. PHOTO: David A. Larsen

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One important income stream for photographers is stock photography. As I interact with professional photographers around Africa and in my own country, South Africa, I am often surprised at how misunderstood the stock photography market is. As a professional needing to survive in a market where there is currently a glut of photography, understanding various photo income streams is of vital importance so you can place yourself and your work appropriately in those markets. Rosanne Larsen, who founded and runs the Africa Media Online picture library, provides a succinct introduction to the world of stock photography in this Shutha article, What is Stock Photography?

This picture of the Aids Ribbon monument in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa has sold again and again because it is representative of an issue that needs to be illustrated again and again. PHOTO: David A. Larsen

This picture of the Aids Ribbon monument in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa has sold again and again because it is representative of an issue that needs to be illustrated again and again.

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You may be an award winning photographer with a great ability to tell visual stories, but if you don’t know how to handle yourself as a professional, you won’t survive as a photographer for long. This article on Shutha introduces you to the 4 essential elements needed to become a consummate professional: Competence, Community, Conduct and Communication.

Read the article on Professionalism

Durban-based photographer, Kim Thunder, runs a professional studio operation in Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Durban-based photographer, Kim Thunder, runs a professional studio operation in Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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You may or may not know that Africa Media Online hosts a Facebook group geared specifically at informing and empowering African photographers. While we do have some international photographers subscribed to the group, the resource is really there primarily to further the work and careers of African photographers.

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So if you are an African photographer (by that I mean anyone who carries an African passport), or you have an interest in and the ability to further African photography, I would like to invite you to join the group. You may be a curator of a gallery or museum, a photo editor, an educator or an academic working on African photography – you are welcome. We are strict about who joins, so if your Facebook profile does not lead us to conclude you are a professional photographer or seriously engaged in related activities, you are unlikely to crack the nod and gain entry into the group. If that is the case and you feel there is a legitimate reason you should be included, please feel free to email me on editor@africamediaonline.com and let me know you’ve attempted to join the group and why.

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If you are a photographer or are considering generating an income from photography it is worth paying a visit to Shutha.org a free online resource that we created with funding from the Dutch Postcode Lottery via World Press Photo. The site was created specifically to be an open resource for professional photographers and students of photography living and working in the Majority World.

Award-winning Kenyan photographer Boniface Mwangi in his studio in Nairobi, Kenya. While Boniface has won awards for his photojournalism, like many photographers, his bread and butter comes from work that fits more into the "retail" genre. Most financially successful photographers have learnt to understand the markets for photography and place themselves and their work well within those markets.

Award-winning Kenyan photographer Boniface Mwangi in his studio in Nairobi, Kenya. While Boniface has won awards for his photojournalism, like many photographers, his bread and butter comes from work that fits more into the “retail” genre. Most financially successful photographers have learnt to understand the markets for photography and place themselves and their work well within those markets.

A fundamental aim of the resource was to not just educate photographers about technical matters, but rather to assist photographers to understand the markets for their work, how to place themselves in those markets and how to deliver to those markets at the standard that will keep the markets asking for more. One of the first steps in understanding the markets for photography is to understand the genres of photography and the varying ethical expectations of those various genres. Below is a link to the discussion on the Shutha site that I trust will be food for thought. I divide photography into four basic genres – Creative, Editorial, Retail and Personal and look at the expectation in each to be fiction or non-fiction. It is in no way comprehensive, but I trust it will initiate some discussion and reflection: Understanding Photo Genres

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Last year I had the privilege of being a judge at the 9th CHIPP Awards in the beautiful lake side city of Hangzhou in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. The China International Press Photo Contest is closely modelled on the World Press Photo contest and certainly has the prize money to match with the equivalent of USD16,000 prize for the overall winner. It was not just the lucrative purse that caused me to come home to Africa determined to encourage as many African photojournalists as I can to enter the competition. Here are my main two reasons:

The amount of press attention that the competition gets from press all over China is significant, not just for the winners and for the judges, but primarily for getting stories across to this massive audience. CHIPP gives us as Africans a great opportunity to have Africans tell Africa's story!

The amount of press attention that the competition gets from press all over China is significant, not just for the winners and for the judges, but primarily for getting stories across to this massive audience. CHIPP gives us as Africans a great opportunity to have Africans tell Africa’s story!

Firstly, as a judge in last year’s competition I saw very few entries from Africa. That means there is a very significant open door of opportunity to bring to the competition material that is unique and different and will make the judges sit up and consider. As I said in my blog post in March 2014 immediately after the trip, “The categories I would encourage African photographers to aim for in particular are the “Arts, Culture & Entertainment News” and “Nature & Environment News” categories as the number of entries in these categories is smaller than in other categories and as Africans we can certainly perform in these categories.”

While in China I had the privilege of spending a day with DJ Clark in Beijing and captured this stereotypical image in Tiananmen Square. The trip helped me to see that China can't be reduced to such stereotypes. It is a vibrant society bursting with energy, a society well worth engaging with as Africans

While in China I had the privilege of spending a day with DJ Clark in Beijing and captured this stereotypical image in Tiananmen Square. The trip helped me to see that China can’t be reduced to such stereotypes. It is a vibrant society bursting with energy, a society well worth engaging with as Africans

While I do want African photojournalists to walk away with significant prizes in the competition, and the more the merrier, my second reason for wanting you to enter the competition is that in China it is a huge deal… it really is. So winning this competition and the messages that are carried in the images that win go far and wide in that society. Africa is very much on China’s agenda in terms of geo-politics and what China thinks about social and environmental issues is already having a significant impact on us here in Africa. So here is a very significant opportunity to speak to a new power in the World about the issues that affect us as Africans. Can you imagine the impact on Chinese society if a story about the Rhino slaughter here in Africa won first prize in China?

So I would urge you to consider submitting work to this competition, both for yourself and for the platform it gives us as Africans to have our say in a society that is mad about photography and photojournalism.

Here is more information about the contest

Download the entry form

It does not cost anything to enter and the closing date for entries is 15 February 2014.

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