Monday, March 12, 2018

Thoughts on Photo File Sharing Sites

Recently, I came across a couple of stories regarding 500px that I thought interesting.

In the first, an article by photographer Michael Russell that's almost three years old, the author gives a number of reasons why he no longer uses 500px.  Not surprisingly, one of the primary reasons is the low percentage (30%) of sales photographers receive when the site licenses their images.  Every photographer is at heart an artist who wants to feel proud of his or her work, but it's difficult to feel that way when receiving compensation so low he or she might as well have been giving their work away.  

Another reason, which again goes back to a photographer's demand for respect as an artist, is the lack of professionalism in sites that lower a photographer's self-esteem by turning such sites into little more than a popularity contests where members vote on other photographers' work in return for favorable comments on their own images.  Such a practice is childish.  In his post Russell links to an excellent article by Sarah Marino that treats the problem in greater depth.

One additional reason, which I admit had never occurred to me, for staying off 500px is that it rewards of unethical wildlife photography.  The example Russell uses is that of a photographer who would take a baby bird from its nest simply to get a shot of its mother feeding it.  To me it's horrible that one would so take such liberties with wildlife simply to get a good shot.  Rather than patiently waiting for the shot to present itself naturally, these unethical photographers have no problem cheating and give no thought to the consequences for the mistreated animal.  Such photographs should not be allowed on any site.

I also recently came across another blog post by photographer Mike Martin regarding 500px that would have been humorous if it hadn't been so sad.  As 500px itself stated:
"In a rush to make our users happy over the holidays, Payouts were processed as US cents, and not US dollars (USD)."
In other words, a photographer who thought he or she had sold an image for $2,700 found out it had actually been sold for $27.  Such mistakes, whatever their cause, are inexcusable especially since 500px apparently offered no additional compensation to those affected to make up for its clumsy mistake.

But things can be just as bad even when no mistake is made.  A blog post by Taiwanese photographer Ajax Lee details his disappointment with 500px following the sale of three of his images.  Despite having set prices for the three images that totaled $1,196.00, Lee was paid only $77.90.  As usual in such cases, the problem lay in the fine print as the Contributor Agreement he had signed gave 500px total control in setting prices for his work.  Understandably upset at the discrepancy between list price and actual selling price, Lee complained to the company and received a reply that read in part:
"Being flexible with our pricing gives us leeway to entice more clients to do business with us, clients that will pay full price the next time they make a purchase, and the time after that! As a business, this is why we need full discretion over pricing and ask that our contributors trust us to manage their sales effectively."
My own experience with photo sharing sites has also been negative.  Several years ago, I joined Flickr and uploaded a number of photographs, some of which contained partial nudity.  At no time during the upload process was I directed to mark those photos as being for mature audiences.  Within an hour I recieved a nasty message from Flickr that accused me of being a "loose cannon" for not having so marked them and then threatened to cancel my membership.  Of course, I immediately canceled my membership myself.  I wanted nothing to do with a site that insulted and threatened new members who had done nothing intentionally wrong.

Others may have different thoughts and needs, but for myself I intend to stay away from file sharing sites.

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