Digitizing Ansel Adams

The Ansel Adams gallery has a problem: there’s still a lot of demand for Ansel Adams photos (Steve Jobs allegedly has a bunch of originals in his house) but they can’t make any more original prints because Ansel has been dead for quite a few decades. That means his original prints are selling for tens of thousands of dollars (and in some cases even hundreds of thousands).

Which means most people won’t be able to put an Ansel Adams picture on their walls.

That’s changing because his grandson is leading an effort to digitize some of his photos and print them in an affordable format. But these are no mere cheap copies. They are virtually indistinguishable from the originals. Matthew Adams, Ansel’s grandson, says it’s hard for him to tell the difference and he’s around the originals all day long. Here I learn the process that they use to digitize the images. If you’re a photo geek you’ll appreciate this video.

During tough economic times be careful with skimping on photographys

I’m talking to companies who use photography in marketing and other materials here:

When I worked at PodTech we made a mistake: we used a photograph from a photographer who was shooting at one of our parties without his permission on a sign. It’s an easy mistake to make. You’re surfing around at Flickr, see a cool photo, and want to use it on a brochure, on a sign, on a blog, or something. It’s very easy for normal people to get confused by the licensing. Just because it has a Creative Commons logo on it does NOT mean you can use it in commercial contexts.

I’m sure that lots of you are under even more pressure now to do marketing without paying much for it. Be careful, because if you use the wrong photo off of Flickr you’ll get hit with a bill for thousands of dollars, like we were, and you might face some really nasty PR on blogs like we did.

So, what should you do instead of surfing Flickr or SmugMug? Use a stock photography agency.

“But, Scoble, aren’t those really expensive?”

Not anymore. Shutterstock’s online stock photo agency, for instance, will sell you five images for $50. What’s the advantage of using those images instead of trying to use images off of Flickr, even ones that are public domain? (All my images, for instance, are totally in the public domain — you are welcome to use them for free and without attribution. My gift to you from Fast Company magazine). There’s two advantages:

1. Every image there was checked for quality by a human being. They look at 100,000 images a week and have more than five million images in their library.
2. Every image has “all you can eat” licensing so you can use that image on your blog, on your business cards, on your marketing materials, on your signs, everywhere.

They also pay all the photographers. Some of the photographers on the site are making $10s of thousands per month, although I just was talking with Shutterstock’s president, Adam Riggs, and he told me that if you are a good photographer, with a portfolio of about 500 images, you’ll probably make around $50 to $100 a month. That isn’t a whole lot, but can help pay for equipment and other stuff and as you improve and get better images that companies need you’ll increase your pay. One difference about Shutterstock is that it is a lot easier to get images accepted into their system than on other, older, stock agency sites who usually only deal with professionals with big names.

Most people who submit to microstock sites submit to more than one. For example, Lee Torrens reports his November 2008 earnings at $615.26 per month which is his combined income from submitting to several microstock agencies.

Anyway, is it worth using images from Flickr to save $50? I don’t think so. Don’t make the same mistake we made at Podtech.

Gadget lust in times of economic troubles

Damn you Canon. Check out this post from Don MacAskill, CEO of Smugmug. It has all my photographer friends slobbering over themselves over Canon’s new $2,800 DSLR. Me too. I want one of these in the worst way.

Problem is I can’t afford one. Neither can a lot of people. I blew my gadget budget a year ago when I bought last year’s model of the same camera. My credit cards can’t take this abuse. Not while banks are getting wiped out. My friends are losing their jobs. Etc.

This is one reason why I like covering web stuff. For the most part the cool new things, like Fotonauts, a cool new photo sharing site, on the Web are free. Or pretty low cost.

But damn, look at that video. Slobber. Slobber. Slobber. Oh, sorry.

I think this is what’s wrong with our country. We get lust for new toys, or things we can’t afford, and decide to put them on our credit cards and we all get into trouble. I’m not going to do that this time. Sorry, Canon. We’ll have to earn this the old fashioned way: save, save, save.

"Demo of the year" of 2006 released by Microsoft

If you go to Google and search for “demo of the year” you’ll find my 2006 post about Microsoft’s Photosynth. It was that good. The demo is still among my favorite I’ve ever seen (and I’ve sat through thousands of demos).

A few minutes ago Microsoft released Photosynth for all of us to use.

What does Photosynth do? You take a bunch of photos of something, like the outside of your house. Shoot a bunch from different locations. It’s best to have between 20 and 300 photos, the Photosynth team tells me. Then it creates a 3D mesh of all the photos that you can “walk” through. There are several demo Photosynths on the site.

I am uploading some of my family room right now, will let you know how that works later tonight. Just wanted to let you know you can play with it too.

UPDATE: My images are now uploaded so you can see a Photosynth of my family room (can you find baby Milan?) and O’Reilly has a nice writeup on the release.

UPDATE2: There’s even more on TechMeme.

Is Microsoft trying to capture photography market?

This week Thomas Hawk (my favorite “Flickr-famous” photographer) and me will join a bunch of others on Microsoft’s campus up in Redmond, Washington, to attend a pro photography summit that Microsoft is hosting.

Why is Microsoft hosting a bunch of professional photographers?

Is it to kick off Microsoft’s Pro Photo Tools, Photosynth ( which got me, in 2006, to say it was the demo of the year), or DeepZoom? Maybe. After all, these things are really cool and photographers should flock to them in droves.

Is it because the digital photography market has finally gotten big enough to get Microsoft interested? Maybe.

But I think Microsoft has something else up its sleeve.

It knows that if Silverlight is going to have a chance against Flash it will have to get designers to give up Photoshop, or at least use other tools alongside.


Because designers now are in control of the toolset that many companies will chose. What’s the most important tool to these designers? Photoshop.

So, along comes a Microsoft salesperson trying to get Silverlight and the Microsoft toolset in the door. Things go well with the developers, because .NET code is a lot nicer than Flash stuff. The management likes the pitch too, because they probably will get a break on something else they are already buying (Office/Sharepoint/Exchange are all very popular inside most corporations). But then the team gets to the designers and they say “give up Photoshop? Over our dead bodies.” And the deal ends and the team chooses Adobe’s Flash. Adobe’s salespeople then get a call and they come over and show off Acrobat.com, which is a hit against Microsoft Office and you can see how this goes.

So, I’ll be watching this week to see what’s really behind Microsoft’s moves into photography. Is it to do something really remarkable (which Photosynth and Deep Zoom are)? Or is it to switch designers from Adobe stuff?

What do you think?

Compare cell phone to pro camera

You can’t compare a $3,000 digital SLR to a $500 cell phone from Nokia, can you? Well, look at these two photos. Which one was made with the Canon 5D with a 50mm F1.4 lens and which one was made with a Nokia N82 cell phone?

You can visit my Flickr account to see which camera made which images and you’ll see some other comparison photos and other images that I’ve made with the Nokia N82. Make sure you click on the “All Sizes” option to see the full resolution images to really compare.

Yes, if you look closely the images made with the pro SLR are nicer, but that isn’t the point. The point is that photos made with cell phones are getting to be darn good. The worst photo you’ll ever take is the one you don’t take because you didn’t have your camera with you. I don’t know about you, but only photo geeks like Thomas Hawk take their pro cameras everywhere (he shoots with a Canon 5D). I know I carry my cell phone everywhere, but only have my 5D a small percentage of the time, so I’m far more likely to get a shot of something interesting with my cell phone. Speaking of Thomas, he wrote two great posts yesterday. First is on the 10 things he learned from Ansel Adams. The second is about 12 ways to never miss a photo opportunity.

How does the N82 compare to the older N95? The camera is better and I like the phone overall better with one glaring problem: it doesn’t work with AT&T’s 3G network, so doing video on Qik on the N82 isn’t nearly as nice.

Canon 5D beach shots

Beach shot at sunset with new Nokia N82

Hanging out in Ansel Adams' tub

Now you’ve seen everything.

Today we were at Ansel Adams’ house and this is me getting a seat in the sink where he made so many of the world’s most favorite images.

I did some videos over on Qik, too, with our “professional” videos of Ansel Adams’ son and home and business coming soon to FastCompany.tv.

Frederick Johnson, who works at Adobe on the Lightroom team, blogged about our visit (we interviewed him too — it was real interesting to hear about the past and future of darkrooms all in one place).