Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Why Limiting Free Users to 1,000 Photos on Flickr is a Smart Move

Tim O'Reilly

Yesterday Flickr made their first big restructuring announcement since recently being purchased by SmugMug. Beginning next year on January 8th, Flickr will limit free accounts to 1,000 photos. The previously offered free 1 terabyte of storage goes away. At the same time Flickr is returning their paid pro account to unlimited storage which had been their original offer before capping new Pro accounts at 1 terabyte back in 2013. If you were Pro before 2013 you were considered “old school” Pro and kept your unlimited storage, but new accounts were limited. Now all Pro accounts are back to being unlimited.

In 1973 the artists Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman broadcast a short video titled “Television Delivers People”. In that video a simple assertion was made: the product of television. commercial television. is the audience. Television delivers people to an advertiser. Since then, various influential individuals from Tim O’Reilly to Steve Wozniak to Apple CEO Tim Cook have all repeated the mantra: “if you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer, you’re the product being sold.”

To put things more simply, there are two viable business models on the internet today to deliver service. There is a paid subscription model and there is a “free” model where business sell your data and make money on advertising everything from Butterfinger candy bars on Instagram to “brain force” pills via Alex Jones.

Personally I prefer to pay for an ad-free online experience which is one of the reasons why I’ve enjoyed Flickr so much where I’ve had an opportunity to pay annually since I joined the service back in 2003. Flickr delivers a clean user interface, full high res photos, a compelling app for my iPhone, unlimited storage, kick ass organizational tools, a social community to engage with, search tools, stats, and much more.

At $50/year (well technically $49.99 but I like to round up) I think Flickr delivers tremendous value. I have spent thousands of hours of my life on the site — thousands of ad-free hours not just for me, but for any of my friends or even strangers who happen to land on my photo page too. I am more than happy to pay this every year and will continue to do so until I die most likely. Hopefully I will figure out a way to even continue paying after I die as my personal life goal is to publish 1,000,000 photos before I die and then let that archive of work stand in all perpetuity after I am gone.

So obviously Flickr works for me, but what about all those people who don’t/haven’t paid and just want to use the service for “free.”

I believe that one of the reasons why Flickr was sold by Oath (who had purchased Yahoo’s content businesses) to Smugmug was because Oath realized that a hybrid subscription/free service doesn’t really work. It’s the same reason why Facebook is so resistant to offering a paid ad-free option to customers.

Oath is basically an advertising company and when you are advertising at people you need to be able to advertise to your most profitable customers to make the service work. When you give your most profitable customers (i.e. the ones with money) the option to pay to opt out of ads they do and will. What you are left with is a bunch of accounts by heavy users who are either poor Americans or more likely poor overseas accounts or very light users who can put up with ads but won’t see very many because they are only on your site 2 minutes a week. Whatever the case, you are basically providing a terabyte of enterprise storage, bandwidth, support, etc., to customers who cannot economically be supported by advertising.

In order for Flickr to survive it has to be a long-term profitable business. SmugMug knows a thing or two about how to do this as their primary model for over a decade has been entirely subscription based. As someone who wants to be able to host my photos on Flickr for the 50 remaining years I likely have left on this planet (and even after my death) in order to publish 1,000,000 photos, it’s important to me that Flickr has a long-term viable business model. This means that strongly encouraging free users (who are not currently paying their way) to migrate to paid Pro is important.

I do think it is important for Flickr to offer a free account in order to give people an opportunity to try out the service to see if it is for them. 1,000 photos gives you plenty of opportunity to do just that. It gives you hundreds, even thousands, of hours to explore and enjoy the service without paying — but if you are a heavy user of the site and are using over 1,000 photos of space, at some point you ought to pay.

By the way, Flickr’s original deal when I started with them was that they would only show your most recent 100 photos if you were a free account and the Pro account cost $60 (or $59.99) per year. So you might say the current account that gives you 10x that or 1,000 is 10x more generous than the original Flickr from way back.

Besides the obvious business model reasons why this is a smart decision for Flickr and their users, there are other important reasons this makes Flickr better as well. One of the things I noticed after Flickr began offering 1 terabyte for free to users was that many users simply began using Flickr as a backup site for all of their photos. Instead of sharing their best photos with a community, they simply dumped everything on their hard drive to Flickr and left and went away. These photos were then indexed for search and populated the service littering it with low quality content (screengrabs, 1,000 bad photos in a row of fireworks, 3,000 poorly composed photos in a row of somebody’s sister’s wedding, etc.). By focusing Flickr’s vision on photo sharing and community rather than simply another online photo backup dump this makes the visual experience better for those of us who are actually there to share photos and engage with each other.

Also, if people are willing to pay for something they tend to put more effort into it. If you are paying for something and perceive it’s value you’ll care more, contribute more and be a part of something. These are the accounts that I value on Flickr the most.

Yesterday morning I had an opportunity to talk to Don MacAskill (SmugMug/Flickr CEO) about this most recent decision that Flickr is making on the phone. Don is someone who cares deeply about Flickr and its community. How many CEOs do you know that spend an entire day interacting with users in an online forum about a big change like this?

I truly believe that yesterday’s decision not only paves the way to make Flickr viable for many years ahead, but that it paves the way for Don and his team to continue to spend money growing and building out the site for the community that is there and loves the service so much.

There are still so many great things that can be done with Flickr going forward. Groups need work. Search needs work. Community needs work. The app needs work. All of these things do cost money though and by getting rid of the massive storage/bandwidth demands of 1 terabyte free accounts and gaining more paid subscribers, this will allow Flickr to do this important work to continue making Flickr the best photo sharing site on the internet for all of us who are a part of the Flickr community and love the site so much.

I do understand that people don’t always want to pay for things, but I think that the right people will pay for Flickr because it provides them tremendous value. I pay for my Adobe Lightroom subscription. I pay for my Netflix account. I pay for these things because they provide me value. This is also why I pay for Flickr and will continue doing so many years into the future.

Unfortunately as we have seen with services like Friendfeed (purchased by Facebook) or even Google+ (in the process of being killed by Google) social networks oftentimes get shut down. It is very important to me that Flickr remains profitable for the long-term so that I can count on it being there many, many years from now. I think yesterday’s decision helps make Flickr more economically viable and sustainable many years into the future.

You can find me on Flickr here.

[disclosure, I know people and have friends that work at both Flickr and SmugMug]

Viva Las Vegas with Keith Urban at the Cosmopolitan, iPhone Style

This past weekend I shot my first iPhone only concert ever — Keith Urban at The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas with Brett Eldredge and Jerrod Neimann.

I was there with my wife mrsth for our 18th wedding anniversary. We’re both big Keith Urban and country music fans, so when I saw he was playing at the swanky Cosmopolitan (which is absolutely the best place to stay in Vegas these days), I booked us a room there for the weekend and we celebrated 18 years in style.

A great show was made even better thanks to Jessica Northey who put us in touch with Keith’s management (thank you so much Rachel!) who were able to arrange a special meet and greet ahead of the show. There’s nothing like impressing your woman on her special day!

I’ve shot a lot of live music over the years and always with a DSLR, but this time I went sans DSLR and shot only with my iPhone. You can check out what I was able to get with only an iPhone only here. iPhone shooting in low light can be tricky. I felt like I got some good shots though.

At Coachella earlier this year my friend Sam Levin gave me an olloclip. That really came in handy for this show. If you like shooting concert photography with your iPhone, you absolutely *HAVE* to get one of these. It’s basically a telephoto lens for your iPhone and makes a huge difference in terms of getting closer than you could otherwise.

Most shows I see I’m pretty much focused 100% on just shooting the show — so much that I don’t even really have the best time. This show though it was much more laid back without my DSLR and just hanging out as a normal fan with an iPhone. One of these days I would love to shoot Keith Urban with a DSLR, but the Vegas show was perfect just like it was with the iPhone.

And about that show — WOW! if you haven’t seen Keith Urban play live yet you really should. In fact he’s in the Bay Area Saturday night in Mountain View if you want to check him out for yourself. He puts on a really rocking show digging deep into his repertoire with so many of his greatest hits. Keith has a ton of energy and he and his whole band really put on a super fun and kick ass live show — that man can play guitar!

Both Brett Eldredge and Jerrod Niemann are great opening acts. My wife especially enjoyed the fact that in Vegas Brett played a bit of Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon, which was coincidently the first song that we danced to at our wedding 18 years ago.

Keith’s got other dates coming up in Oregon and Washington if you live there. You can check out the remaining dates of his Raise ‘Em Up tour here.

You can check out all of my live music concert photography here.

On William Eggleston Meeting Henri Cartier-Bresson

William Eggleston: You know, I had a meeting with him [Henri Cartier-Bresson], one in particular, it was at this party in Lyon. Big event, you know. I was seated with him and a couple of women. You’ll never guess what he said to me.

Drew Barrymore: What?

William Eggleston: “William, color is bullshit.” End of conversation. Not another word. And I didn’t say anything back. What can one say? I mean, I felt like saying I’ve wasted a lot of time. As this happened, I’ll tell you, I noticed across the room this really beautiful young lady, who turned out to be crazy. So I just got up, left the table, introduced myself, and I spent the rest of the evening talking to her, and she never told me color was bullshit.

Source.

Snapsation Launched Today at LeWeb

Are you a photographer looking to make money?

Congratulations to my good pal Chris Chabot on the launch of his new photography services internet site today at LeWeb, Snapsation. Snapsation is an innovative new site that matches photographers and clients looking to hire photographers.

If you are a professional photographer or just an amateur looking to buy a few new lenses, either way you will want to check out this new place to market you and your work. You can find me there at http://snapsation.com/thomashawk

How I Will Publish One Million Photographs Before I Die

Waiting for the Mother Ship -- Death Valley, CA

My friend Chris Guillebeau sent me an email this morning about my uploads to Flickr. One of the things I love about Chris is that like me he is a big dreamer/achiever. For those of you who don’t know him, you should get to know him. He’s a huge motivation and someone who can help you achieve great things as well. Chris wrote up a really nice interview on my photography a few years back.

One of the things that Chris wanted to do was to visit every country in the world by April 7, 2013. For this goal he is using the United Nations list of 193 member states. You know what? He’s visited 192/193 so far. WOW! His Brief Guide to World Domination should be required reading for every person in the world. It should be taught to students especially.

I sincerely believe human beings are capable of so much more than they think they are. Unlocking our true potential and power comes from some very basic tools and techniques that can be learned. In 2005 I read a book that dramatically changed the way I think about my own life by Brian Tracy called Focal Point. I’d encourage you to buy this book and read it. It’s probably the most important book I’ve ever read. If you’ve got kids buy it for them and give it to them as well. It teaches you how to accomplish great things.

One of the things that I’ve decided that I want to do with my own life is to publish one million photographs before I die. When I talk about publishing a million photographs, I’m not talking about simple shutter actuations — I’ve already taken over a million frames. Anyone can push a shutter a million times. You could probably train a monkey to do this. Anyone can even publish a million meaningless photo clicks to the web — many in fact already have.

My quest is not simply quantity over quality. What I’m focused on is publishing one million *quality* photographs that I believe in and care about as personal art — photos that I can be proud of. Each photo I choose to publish is carefully selected amongst many different frames from a shoot. Each photo is individually worked with, processed, edited with software, keyworded, and frequently hand titled and geotagged (although not always, for those last two points). Occasionally I will create more than one version of a single frame, but each photo is unique and different.

Although I publish my photos to many different sites on the web, Flickr is where I’m presently maintaining my larger body of work. What a deal Flickr is — unlimited high res photos for $24.95/year. Nobody comes close to touching this. In addition to this great value, Flickr comes with great presentation tools, an awesome new iPhone app and a pretty terrific social network too.

At present I’ve published 79,783 photographs to Flickr. In addition to these published photos, I’ve got an archive of about 22,000 fully completed and finished photos in a folder ready to go to Flickr. Each day I publish about 30 more of these to the site, pretty much at random — or about 11,000/year.

Which brings me back to Chris’ email earlier this morning. Chris is working on a new book right now and for the book had asked me some questions last month about my photography. He was following up today to confirm that last year I published about 11,000 new photos to Flickr — which I’m going to confirm with him shortly after finishing this post — but in considering this, I realize that the 11,000 number for 2012 is problematic. It’s problematic because if you assume that I continue on at this pace, I will need to live 84 more years to realize my goal of 1,000,000 photos. At age 45 today, it is highly unlikely that I will live to be 129, and so at my present pace, this sets my goal up for failure if people take my publishing rate today at face value.

My goal is much more complex than simply 11,000 photos per year for the rest of my life though. I’ve thought about my lifetime goal for many, many hours and my plan to achieve it is more complicated than a simple number for 2012 might suggest.

I’ve actually worked out my lifetime achievement goal in rough form with a spreadsheet as I’ve developed my thinking. At present what I plan on doing is increasing my publishing rate of photos by 2% per year during the next 10 years. The reason why I’m publishing less photos today is primarily because I’m so focused on actually shooting the photos today. I want to spend the time in my life when I’m most physically fit shooting the most. I also think that time/age frequently add interestingness to many photos. So I’d rather capture photos here and now today than in the future.

If I increase my publishing 2% each year for the next 10 years (something I’m very confident I’d be able to do even with my current unpublished archive alone) I should have about 200,000 photos published 10 years from now.

10 years from now my last of four children, Kate, will (hopefully) be leaving us for college. With all four of my kids out of the house, I will likely spend less time on my children than I do today. So 10 years from now I will increase my publishing rate even more, about 5% per year — more time for shooting but more importantly, more time for processing. In 10 years I’ll have approximately 370,000 photos published.

20 years from now, not only will my kids (again, hopefully) be done with college, but I’ll also be able to retire from my day job at around age 65. This will then free me up 100% to focus my time and energy on photography. I plan to increase my publishing rate by 10% per year then.

After age 65 the proportional rate of time spent shooting vs. processing will likely flip flop from what I’m doing today as well. Instead of spending 80% of my time shooting and 20% of my time processing, like I do now, I’ll likely spend 20% of my time shooting and 80% of my time processing. When you’re an old man (not that 65 is old, but I’ll get older likely after that) it’s a lot easier to sit in front of a computer and process than it is to run around the country staying up 20 hours at a stretch and shooting.

If I follow this strategy, and the part between age 65 and 80 is super important, I will publish 1 million photos when I am 80. Government life expectancy tables today give me until age 83 to live, but I wanted a few years as a buffer in case I kicked the bucket early.

My biggest challenge in all of this is maintaining my unpublished archive. I want this archive to grow larger and larger and larger, even as my published work grows as well. By growing my unpublished archive larger, I ensure that greater and greater diversity will be represented in my daily publishing. This is a secondary goal of mine, to have as much diversity with what I publish as possible. 20 years from now I like the idea of a photo from 2010 being published alongside a photo from 2015 and one from 2020. I like the idea of my photos been diversified not just by time, but by location (I’ll shoot more and more locations over my lifetime), subject matter (I’ll shoot more and more different things), style (my style will evolve and change), etc.

As I pursue this lifetime goal I’m also cognizant of a powerful tailwind at my back — technology. Technology will make my goal easier and easier to achieve. Already in 2013 I’m blown away at how much faster I can process my work than two years ago. Going from hard drives to flash storage, going from USB to Thunderbolt, faster macs, better cameras, all contribute to ensuring that I will be able to keep pace in the future even as I grow my publishing rate. For the first time, this year, I’ve felt like the only thing holding me back with my processing is actually me. For the first time with the hardware and software advances, I feel like I’m working and editing my work in real time. The future is indeed bright for the future tools that will not only continue to make our images look better, but which will also help us do more faster.

One final note — this goal is intensely personal for me and me alone. I created it, I live it, I fuel it. Over the years I’ve had many who have been critical of my goal. Many don’t understand that quantity can also be quality. Many have expressed an opinion that taking so many photos somehow diminishes my work. Many people have a desire to produce less, not more. All of this is fine. Everyone can do whatever they want. This is just what *I’m* doing. I’m not saying that this is the right path for anyone other than me and me alone. I’m not making a larger statement about photography in general, or saying that people that don’t keep my path/pace are in any way less significant as artists or photographers.

While I’ve personally admired many of the most prolific artist/photographers in the world (Warhol, Eggleston, Winogrand, Friedlander, etc.), I also admire many photographers and artists who make great art in smaller but more intense doses too. Whatever YOU do is fine. Be true to yourself and follow the artist that is inside of you.

What? An Interview with Thomas Hawk! Thanks PetaPixel!

Thanks to Michael Zhang and PetaPixel for featuring an interview with me today. I’ve been a huge fan of PetaPixel for a long time now. Michael is probably doing a better job blogging photography than anyone else on the web right now and publishes great stories pretty much every single day. In this interview with Michael I talk about my own background in photography and where I think online photo sharing is headed in the next five years amongst other things.

It’s truly an honor to be featured on such a great photography blog!

Do You Even Have to Own a Camera to Be a Photographer Anymore?

Perpare

I just posted the photo up above on Flickr, Google+ and Facebook. It’s a diptych that I made with photos that I found on Google Street view. I really like the way it came out. I like the message that the random word spells out in the Wawona Tunnel in Yosemite. “Prepare.” It’s part of a longer message, Prepare to Slow I think, but in this context it means to prepare yourself for what you are about to witness immediately when you exit the valley side of the tunnel. One of the most famous and spectacular views in all the world. Of course a random photographer is photographing it — from sun up to sun down a camera is constantly on this view 365 days of the year.

In this photograph “Prepare” also has a secondary meaning of preparing for a new world of photography. A world of photography that is no longer bound by technical mastery or even a camera. A new more modern aesthetic of photography far, far away from the burning and dodging that Ansel Adams once did to perfection over hours spent in the darkroom. The new aesthetic is faux film as defined by Instagram, their new filters and mobile photography. An aesthetic where flaws are celebrated in photography. The purposeful broken Holga that lets the beautiful random light leak in. An aesthetic that has been made simpler with drag and drop technology, where algorithms quickly create your latest masterpiece.

Personally I’m excited about this new world of photography and art. I love it when artists push bounderies. Richard Prince pushed boundaries in photography and art by rephotographing Marlboro billboards and making the work his own. William Eggleston pushed boundaries by presenting fine art photography in color and exhibiting the mundane. Gregory Crewdson stopped pressing the shutter himself when he created his masterpieces, much to the chagrin of many a Nikon D800 weekend warrior. Andy Warhol had someone else sign his own work.

And what inspired me to create the dyptich above?

It’s the amazing work I’ve recently discovered by Jon Rafman. For those of you who are unfamilar with Rafman’s work, he is building a body of photography created entirely from Google Street View (exhibiting at Saatchi no less) — and these are some of the most creative and brillant photographs I’ve seen in some time (warning, prepare to spend a ton of time floating through Rafman’s images, there are many with and endless scroll).

I suppose the point of this article is to celebrate this new vision of photography where a camera isn’t even required any more. A new vision that is a great equalizer and the next step in the democracy of photography. A new vision that emphasizes the creative process over the tools and technique.

American Graffiti

American Graffiti

I went out shooting with Sly and Charli and Jay yesterday. A few things about the making of this shot.

1. Charli is a kick ass model. Thanks to Charli who so generously gives of herself to make amazing art. The only models I’ve really ever shot are the ones that I know. I’m not sure why. There’s comfort and familiarity maybe that helps pull a shot off. I’ve known Charli Blake and Sly for a while now and they are two of the nicest most generous people you’ll ever know. This could have been a cool graffiti shot, but having Charli in it really throws it over the top for me. When Charli comes out shooting with us it’s not just hoping in the car and let’s go. She spends a ton of time with makeup, the right outfits, etc. She’s as good as they get when it comes to modeling and I’m lucky to have access to such a Pro at what she dos.

2. This shot is actually a collaboration effort. And thanks to Sly Vegas for much more than just being a shooting buddy. Sly got the *coolest* new flashlights. Coast Flashlights are the F*ck***ing BEST!!! After showing me one for 15 minutes Sly wanted to know how soon one would be on my wishlist. And guess what, he’s right. This will be one of the next photo gear purchases I make.

I know what you’re thinking, $300 for a flashlight?!?!? But, yeah, $300 is an amazing deal for this flashlight. The difference between lighting Charli up with one of these flashlights and using natural light alone is like night and day. Just the right light, just the right colorcast. I’m not normally a guy who really obsesses about lighting, but after seeing what Sly could do with this thing I’m so getting one. Coast should totally sponsor Sly because he’s gonna sell alot of flashlights for them when people see what he’s doing with them.

3. Also Charli and Sly both helped me process this shot last night. Charli helped with the crop and Sly contributed with the mask to get the right exposure around the edges of the photo. We all three processed it together just before I posted it last night. After we processed it we were sitting around thinking of a title. I’m hyper focused on shooting America these days and so I was muddling around American Art, American Beauty (after the movie), and all of sudden Sly bursts out “American Graffiti” which is actually the *best* title for this shot. And a perfect description for this place we shot in Alameda yesterday.

4. We had great energy going yesterday. Four good friends, Jay, Sly, Charli and myself just had a really nice groove going. I’m not going to get into the whole bust thing earlier in the morning because some things that involve cops are probably best not blogged about, but I know I was down, and spending the rest of the day inside this magical location with good friends like these guys was the best pick me up I could have gotten. Afterwards we ate some great American Steaks at my place and I think all four of us felt like we had one of those amazing days with the camera that you never seem to get enough of.

The Plus One Collection

The Plus One Collection

Wow! I just heard from my good Pal Ivan Makarov that the Plus One Collection sold almost 100 copies in the first day of taking orders. That’s pretty impressive for a $200 limited edition book. I think the book probably got a nice boost when Google Social Chief Vic Gundotra himself posted about it and bought a book yesterday.

What is the Plus One Collection? Well 520 photographers got together on Google+ to create a collaborative book for charity (so far we’ve raised over $5,000 for Kiva). These are some of the very best photographers on the site and each submitted their best photo of 2011. A panel of 11 editors (I was one of these) using blind ratings then edited this down to 193 single page photographs (all 520 will be in the ebook but only 193 would work in the print book).

There are two editions of the book being offered for sale. A numbered limited edition 11×13 fine art book, printed on fine art paper, including tipped-in print, made to museum standards, available for only 9 more days — and another less expensive book that will follow fulfilled through Blurb after the limited edition sale. Each limited edition book also comes with a print from the book and a certificate of authenticity.

All of the work on this book was done by photographer volunteers on Google+. Ivan probably did the most work of all, but so many others in the community helped as well. Especially notable was the amazing design work on the book that photographer Andy Lee did. Ingo Meckmann designed the great website for the book.

100% of all net proceeds go to Kiva.

I’ve loved seeing this project come together as photographers from all over the world have contributed (literally only 65% of the photographers are from the US/Canada, the rest are from all over the world including Europe, Asia and as far away as Oceania!). The book shares a love for photography and fine art along with a way that we have been able to give back to the world that we all find beauty in and photograph every day. Thanks to everyone who bought a limited edition book yesterday, the price is steep but I think you’ll be proud to own a highly collectible edition of some of the best photography from 2011 while helping to support a very worthwhile cause.

My Talk on My Photography from the @Google Series

I had a great time a few weeks ago giving a talk about my photography as part of the @Google talk series down at the Mountain View Campus. During the hour long conversation I talked about my own approach to photography, how I’ve integrated it into my life, how I’m able to produce the volume of photographs I do while having a day job and family, my project to publish 1,000,000 photos before I die and my project to photograph the 100 largest American cities.

I also comment on the photo sharing space, Flickr, Google+, etc. and answer questions at the end.

Thanks so much to +Brian Rose for having me down to Google.