THE PRINT SHOP

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We have now done a full inventory of all Limited Edition prints and have updated the PRINT SHOP.  I have 7 Mad Hatter (now only 4)  and 3 Skull Mask prints of Ville left – that were set aside for an exhibition – which have now become available.   That is it for both print runs.  Once they are gone, they are gone!  I have added a beautiful shot of Cristina from Lacuna Coil from the Holborn Studios shoot where we really did smash an 8ft piece of toughened glass.  It is 20″x16″  and printed on the most incredibly vibrant 260g Satan paper.  This is a new material for me which I am using on a few select images which suit the style.  I have used the same material for a portrait I shot of the late Sir Christopher Lee which again is just breath taking!  Sir Chris and Cristina are both strictly Limited Editions of only 50 20″x16″.

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I also have Ozzy,  Avenged Sevenfold, Slash, Ghost, Slipknot, Greenday and a few Foo Fighter editions that have all been worked on so they are stand alone pieces of art to hang on your wall.

 

PHOTO COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2015foo-fighters-smoke-FB

These aren’t just regular photo prints! What I am trying to do is bridge the gap between photography and fine art by only using select images that will work well on display and using materials similar to that of a screen print or etching.

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The process from original image to final artwork is time consuming and often difficult.  Each image is test printed adjusted and test printed again by a professional print house in West Sussex (http://kangarooz.co.uk) under my supervision until I am totally happy with the final artworks.  Once approved the Limited Edition is printed, numbered, signed and stored in a temperature controlled environment until sold.  The prices in the PRINT SHOP vary on size, paper used (either satin or GICLEE 100% Cotton, Acid free) and the quantity remaining in the Limited Edition.  Each print is wrapped in protective paper -with its certificate of authenticity and sent recorded, signed for delivery(worldwide) in a heavy duty protective postage tube.  All UK orders P&P are free and international orders are charged a flat rate.

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I will be producing a Metallica edition with James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett in the coming months.  I have also been experimenting with hand made photographic paper and the results are stunning – each print is totally unique.  The process is very time consuming and difficult using real silvers to sensitise the paper and real gold to tone the prints.  I will try a few more tests over the coming weeks and display them here first before making a decision on whether to produce a very small print run.

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SLIPKNOT – NINE (TEST PRINT ABOVE – COMING SOON!)

Thanks to everyone who has purchased a print.  I really hope you love them as much as I do. If you have been thinking about buying some art and have space on your wall for something truly unique and different then I hope you consider investing in one of my prints.

Thanks and I’ll be back with more updates soon!

visit the PRINT SHOP

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The Professional Photographer Vs The iPhone

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‘Just shoot it on your iPhone!’  has to be the most common quote of every marketing department throughout the land right now.

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‘BLOODY iPHONES!!!’  is the No.1 thread of discussion in every Professional Photography Forum online!

I actually don’t hate the iPhone and its built-in camera, I love it!  It is sensational to have the ability to record any moment at any time anywhere.  No one forgets to bring a camera and the convenience to post on social media as it happens is a phenomenon. Many times I have made the judgment call not to take my bulky SLR out with me and opted to cover a personal moment using just my phone.

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Professionally I would have to have a gun to my head to do the same on an actual paying job and that is exactly the point of this article.

If you said to a Professional Photographer 15 years ago that one day there will be a piece of kit no bigger than your hand, wide angle f1.8 and telephoto f2.8 lenses (that can take pin sharp images if used right), 4000×3000 image resolution and the ability built-in to upload images anywhere in the world, you would of had a waiting list of pro’s putting their names down screaming to have this technology! Did I say it can also make phone calls! If you fast forward to 2017, no professional photographer will go near one on an actual paying job!  Crazy really considering our bulky, expensive, but superb camera equipment can’t do half the things the iPhone can.

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So what is the problem with the iPhone? The real bone of contention I have is one that has existed ever since modern camera photography began and is increased tenfold by camera marketing departments.  Just because a camera is of exceptional quality, that doesn’t necessary guarantee you will take great pictures!  That part is done by the operator and some are better than others.  Even professional cameras produce poor results if operated by someone with little understanding of photography and that is the problem we have right now.  A massive amount of professional social media image content is being created and fed by camera phones operated by completely unskilled people.  Just to repeat in case you missed my point.  Professional social media content being created by unskilled amateurs.  There wouldn’t be an argument here if the images were all good, but sadly the majority are mediocre to poor.

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The iPhone is a brilliant point and shoot. There is nothing wrong with it at all.  The camera is fully automatic and has been brilliantly designed to work in most environments.  Some photos are better than others and that is just the way of the world.  Some people have a flair for image making and some don’t.  But also the iPhone has limitations as does every point and shoot camera.  This is why professionals use cameras which can be controlled and used accordingly to a given situation.  A skilled image maker understands those limitations and adapts to its short comings.  I know I said the iPhone is exceptional, it is! But the quality isn’t that great if you compare it to a professionally shot image.  The iPhone is exceptional because of its convenience in modern society.

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Major companies and business’ are increasingly using the power of social media as a tool to communicate with their ‘followers’(customers).  The quickest and most simple method to create content is to do this via their phone.  It appeals to the voyeuristic and the sense of ‘being there’ helps an audience connect.  An image posted of an event ‘as it happens’ suggests a less calculated approach to marketing therefore more trustworthy and ‘real’ than a carefully constructed campaign.  If done well it works!

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Because it is ‘only the internet’ very little budget, skill or forethought is being allocated to creating good content. Why get a Professional when anyone can do it?  If you have a global reach of millions then surely it is worth making your output as impressive as your company?  Not taint the brand with poorly shot images taken on a phone.

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‘Come on, it ain’t rocket science’ I once overheard, as a marketing employee held a camera high above his head to shoot an event on his iPhone.  The picture published on-line shortly after was terrible and showed a bald head in the foreground of the frame. The background was totally bleached out.  It was hard to tell what the event was but because it was on the official feed the viewer already knew what it was thus making it vaguely acceptable.  That image was shared tens of times and liked by over 600 people.  So in theory that was successful marketing.  It has to be, it was shared and liked and went viral all over the world.

If you now analyse how that same moment could of been captured by an experienced image maker (I won’t say Professional Photographer) using a camera phone, then that measurement of success is put into perspective.

An experienced photographer would look at everything happening, calculate what the marketing department was trying to illustrate and produce an image fit for purpose.  That shot would be taken from a carefully considered position including all relevant content, well composed with the timing precisely right. All this whilst making allowances for the limitations of the technology.

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Alternatively they would probably have suggested a phone isn’t the ideal tool and insisted on using professional camera equipment which has the ability to capture the moment perfectly.  If the event has colour and excitement a professional can illustrate that, persuading the viewer to connect with that business or product.  The viewer has an urge to tell the world ‘WOW! CHECK THIS OUT!’.  The image is shared on the internet in thousands and creates a viral buzz whilst upholding that brands high standards.

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Going back to my previous article ‘The Photographer Vs The Internet’  I asked the question why an image has more value in print than used on-line? The exact same question can be directed at marketing departments.  Why are thousands spent creating a companies branding but so little is spent when used on the front line of it’s global audience of millions on social media?  Advertising no longer has to be tailored for an exact demographic or targeted to certain audiences.  A captive audience have already made a connection by following or liking a post online, allowing content to be delivered direct. Communication with an audience was once a calculated process with a precise strategy but that is no longer necessary. The message doesn’t have to be displayed on a bill board on a customers particular route to work or on the back page of their favourite magazine.  Promotion can now be done with a single click from a phone to potentially millions of customers. It is an impressive amount of power -  that is being abused.

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Obviously a £5000 camera with a £2000 piece of glass is going to produce a better image than a phone but isn’t it overkill?  That may have been the case at the turn of this century but these days the quality of our devices are able to display to a much higher definition than ever before.

Nikon & Canon have also got to get their act together fast. They have to build into their cameras a direct connection to the iPhone as standard.  I don’t want expensive additional bolt-ons but a blue tooth connection (I would settle for a lead) direct to my phone so within seconds of shooting I have the ability to upload to social media as easily as the iPhone can.  Just a simple paid for App that automatically does a quick RAW edit into a medium size JPEG ready for distribution.  Simple.

If this doesn’t happen and happen soon more and more jobs and commissions will be lost. Come on Nikon/Canon throw us a rope!

But the client doesn’t want the extra admin of having to deal with commissioning a pro! Why should they wait for the photographer to download, edit and upload when it could just be done on their iPhone? In our minds it is obvious. The quality will be exceptional and the editing will ensure the images uploaded will be sensational.  Guaranteed viral power!

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Us professionals know that but a large proportion of businesses simply don’t get it and refuse to accept it.  You could argue that a post online is not necessary always trying to sell you something and it is just a snap to keep a global audience informed. This is very true but it is still the ‘shop window’ and without care it can look a disaster.

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An experienced professional photographer approaches image capture with a totally different set of skills that are mostly performed sub-concisely – regardless of the camera in his or her hands.  Light, composition and timing are calculated in the split second before the button is touched.  To a professional it just comes naturally, from working day in and day out taking thousands and thousands of photographs.  Absorbing knowledge which is processed neurally to be recalled automatically when a situation presents itself.  We also appreciate a shoot for social media isn’t the same as a Corporate brochure or a front cover.

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So if you ask me what I think of the iPhone I will tell you, I love it!   But what I think of its pictures depends on who is operating it.

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PROGRESS – FILM Vs DIGITAL

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Above: Foo Fighters recording ‘In Your Honor’ on analogue tape. 606 Studio, LA 2005. Shot on Kodak E100VS film (Photo by JOHN McMURTRIE).

I have a flight case at home that is full of old camera gear.  Nikon F90X’s, F100’s, various old lenses, Metz & Nikon Speedlights all sit tangled amongst old flash leads, filters and photographic items that I thought were necessary once but are no longer relevant. The case hasn’t been opened in probably 5 years. I also have darkroom trays and boxes of old film taking up space in my office. The film fridge which was originally a beer fridge is now a beer fridge again so progress has brought some good things. I just discovered that the Contax T3 sitting on my desk as a paperweight is one of the most sort after vintage 35mm cameras fetching upwards of £1200 – I was going to give it away!

It is incredible how quickly the world of film was replaced.  All these artefacts of an era now gone litter my house like the fossilised remains of Pompeii.  I distinctly remember the conversations when digital photography first appeared that it could never replace film.  Never?  Within 4 years it decimated the industry.  Tore its head off and spat down its neck!  Sounds harsh but believe me when it happened it was uglier than that!  150 years of progress since Fox Talbot discovered Salted paper mixed with Silver Nitrates would leave a latent image and the entire photographic industry as we knew it was washed away virtually overnight.

John at the colour printer. Leatherhead.

 

Above: My first job in a Photographic Processing lab, 1990 (photo by Stephen Judkins).

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a luddite. This isn’t the romantic babbling of someone longing for the past.  I am hopelessly in love with digital photography.  I embraced it way before digital cameras were a viable option.  I had several film scanners and celebrated the idea of scanning, editing and delivering from your desktop.  The quality today is exceptional.  The detail, resolution and overall satisfaction I have from photography makes me happier than I ever was when shooting film.  But progress has its disadvantages too.

cristina scabbia/lacuna coil PHOTO by JOHN McMURTRIE

Back in 1998 I could see digital was the future.  I was the Photographic Advisor at Nikon UK when the D1 was launched.  A camera so ergonomically designed you would have never guessed it was digital – especially if you compared it to the periscope pig of a beast Kodak had developed.  At first digital photography was for the Newspaper press core.  They didn’t need phenomenal shadow detail or massive resolution.  They needed convenience, speed and reasonable quality to hit the front pages fast.  The D1 delivered on all of this and was a game changer.  Within days you had press photographers fighting for parking space outside Nikon UK demanding to see this new tool of wonder.  Once the camera was passed into their hands they would wander outside into the daylight like new messiahs reborn on the Richmond Rd.  Their world as they knew it had just changed for the better.  They no longer had to carry bags of film and processing kits in the boot of their cars.  No more hair drying wet film and squeezing it into scanners for transmission.  No more missing deadlines and not getting paid. Shoot download, upload. Job done!  Deadlines could be met within minutes of a picture being taken.  The Canon press core universally ditched their kit and jumped into bed with Nikon like their previous marriages meant nothing to them. Until Canon caught up and tempted them all back to their ex-wives.

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It was fun to watch at the time but for me that is all I did, watched. I had tested the camera before it’s launch and it really wasn’t that good.  It was terrible above 800 ISO and the resolution was way too low for magazine work.  I was shooting for Metal Hammer, Total Guitar, Classic Rock, Q magazine and NME at the time and most of my portrait work was shot on a Mamiya RZ 67.  These were mostly glossy magazines publishing at 300 dpi and their standards were much higher.

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It wasn’t until 2006 when the D2x was launched I reluctantly became a ‘digital photographer and packed my 35mm Nikon F90X Pro and F100 cameras away in a flight case for safe keeping.  I was forced into this decision because the month before I had shot a front cover and spent over £600 on film, process and printing which was un-recoupable on expenses.  The magazine refused to pay the costs and informed me that everyone was shooting digital now.  Everyone?  Well nearly everyone.  But digital still wasn’t that great, it wasn’t better than film.  Kodak and Fuji were producing the most beautiful transparency films in 35mm and 120 formats.  Kodak VS (Vivid Saturation) was my portrait film of choice.  Under expose by one stop and push process it a stop and you had colours and blacks that were like no other.

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But suddenly I was forced to start shooting digitally.  At first I approached each job in the same way I would with a film camera, except I was £100 richer by not having to pay for film or process.  I hated the way highlights blew out on digital (I still do).  With film the graduation is smoother and the effect is altogether more pleasant. Exposure control was widely different in the Nikon D2x than film.  Different colours had mad effects on the metering and exposure -  especially in concerts.  My portrait lighting kit no longer lit to satisfaction, it just looked odd.  Film used to love the way my flash danced onto its surface.  Digital just looked harsh and brash like I no longer had any technique.  The social aspect associated with the film process also disappeared.  I dated my now wife at the time in all the bars around Fulham and Chelsea whilst waiting for film to be cooked at the many labs in the area.  My elation at looking at my results on the lightbox was probably exaggerated by the amount of alcohol consumed but I miss those days more than anything else.  What I don’t miss is the thousands I used to spend.  On an average year I would spend over £10,000 on film, process and an unverified amount on Oysters and drink in Bibendum’s off the Kings Rd.  Nipping out to check on a clip test and continuing the boozing until the ‘work’ was complete.

I now sit in an office at home and ‘process’ my RAW files with enthusiasm but with so many distractions it takes longer than it would to process several rolls of film.  The romance in my marriage and in the photographic process isn’t what it was thanks to the evolution of digital.  The processing labs in Fulham are mostly gone now but Bibendum’s is still there and so is my lovely wife thankfully!

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The Photographer Vs The Internet

COPYRIGHT BLOG 1

ME: I don’t want to be a dick but could you please stop using my image on your website?

THE INTERNET: Why?

ME: Because it is my image and not yours to use!

THE INTERNET: But it is on the internet!

ME: It is supposed to be exclusive for a client who paid me to shoot it.

THE INTERNET: I’ll give you a credit!

ME: I don’t want a credit.  I want you to stop using my image!

THE INTERNET: Or what?

ME: Or I will inform my legal representatives who work on a percentage fee and are extremely aggressive once I give them permission to pursue action against an infringer. So pretty please with sprinkles on the top, stop using my  f’king image.

THE INTERNET: But I found it on the internet.

ME: As I said, I don’t want to be a dick – just stop using my image!

48hrs later!

THE INTERNET: HEY!!!  Why have I got a solicitor letter charging me $1600 for copyright Infringement?

ME:  Because you were a dick and didn’t stop using my image.

THE INTERNET: But that’s not fair!

ME: I know, it sucks!

So this is what it has come to!  Legal action against anyone infringing my copyright.  It sucks! I have a friend who makes more money from suing people than actually working as a professional photographer, but that isn’t me!  Well not yet anyway!

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Recently I discovered one of my images being used illegally on over 200 websites.  129 of the websites were commercial businesses relying on advertising for revenue.  I was never that bothered by the internet but lately I have become more and more concerned at the amount of illegal usage and how it is starting to effect the industry.

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above: Just a few of the offending commercial sites using one of my images.

Someone using your image for profit undermines the company that commissioned you to shoot it in the first place. If someone is permitted to just grab an image off a google search (in this case the image was lifted straight from teamrock.com) and use it, then why would anyone pay a music photographer ever again? Why would they when they can get it for free?  If that is allowed to happen then Professional Photography for me is no longer a viable career.  As I said, I don’t want to be a dick but if a commercial company use my image without permission then they will be pursued for compensation. For the sake of this industry I have to start enforcing some control or it’s game over!  Obviously professional photography will still exist, you can’t google search your own wedding pictures or corporate headshots.  I am talking about Music Photography in my case.

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It is now easier than ever to monitor illegal use.  The company that host my website constantly image search every single photograph on my website looking for copyright infringement and alert me every few days of sightings.  Once alerted I can either dismiss a sighting or activate proceedings against them with a simple click.  The majority of illegal sightings are just fans of music or photography and they do not concern me.  But a commercial website that has pay per click advertising will be pursued for payment.

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How has it come to this?  Why is the internet not protecting photographers image rights?  The social networks have played a big part in undermining photographers by stripping away the encoded Metadata that identifies the owner of an image.  Facebook completely remove all data within the image.  Why?  Because it ensures that there is no come back of ownership rights when an image is used on their platform.  It protects them from any legal blame as the authors identity is removed as soon as it is uploaded.  Facebook have also made it as difficult as possible to report copyright infringement.  That said I enjoy using social media for networking and displaying my work despite of its shortcomings.

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Social media isn’t the problem though.  It is the lack of value and the irrelevance of the owner of an image that is the issue.  Those seeds were sown by the picture agencies when the internet was just starting to blossom.

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We used to make a secondary income from syndication, where a reputable photo agency would shotgun physical copies of images to publications throughout the world.  The agency would take a cut of 40% of any sales but it was usually profitable because they would sell the images for magazine front covers/features in territories that we had little contacts.  On a monthly basis earnings were as much as £1000 or as little as £100 from selling on the images from previous magazine commissions.  Not bad when you have already been paid once for doing the work 3 months earlier. As the internet began to develop more and more sales were to websites instead of the lucrative physical publications.  The earnings from syndication rapidly decreased because the internet wasn’t given any value by the publishers or by the picture agencies.  All of a sudden the photo agency had most of their work done for them which probably helped as their revenue had declined drastically.  No longer did they have to make physical copies of images and courier them all over the world – I knew several photo agencies that employed their own motorbike couriers.  The images were put online and clients could download at their leisure.  Because this whole process was simplified the photo agency saved a massive amount of expense.  People were let go.  You no longer needed to run and maintain an E6 transparency process, you didn’t need couriers and you didn’t need the huge amount of staff that were required to organise the distribution and selling of images.  The news photographers no longer had to process in the middle of the night and deliver as soon as humanly possible.

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The photographers were given secure log-in information and could upload seconds after an event had finished.  The entire operation was simplified and made faster, easier and cleaner.  In theory the photo agency was given a golden ticket to control the market place.  They had the contacts, the technology, the infrastructure and most importantly the images. But instead, the revenue being made by the agencies crashed like a bad day in the stock exchange.  Why?  Because the agencies didn’t know how to deal with the internet.  Pricing was always negotiated on how and where an image was to be used.  What was the territory, readership, was it a full page, half page, a small insert etc?  A front cover of a book was priced more than a single small image being used for a review on page 20 of a newspaper.  Each image sale was priced accordingly.  The internet was the unknown entity.  The photo agencies at first saw the internet as a new secondary market which was an opportunity to get extra revenue.  If an image was sold to a magazine for £80 for a live review, then an extra £14 was made for publishing it on the magazines website.  £14 isn’t a lot of money but it was on top of earnings they were getting anyway so it was seen as a bonus.  But it didn’t take long for the magazine to realise if they only published the review online they could save £80 and only pay the £14 for usage online.  The magazine or newspaper would generate huge amounts of internet traffic to their site and promote the physical copy and only have to pay a minimal fee for a good picture. This should have been the moment when the photo agencies said STOP!

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Some of the agencies tried to negotiate but the majority decided that quantity sales would make up for the loss of revenue and left the pricing for web use unchanged.  It didn’t help that one famous photo agency began to buy up all the smaller agencies and monopolised the market.  For as little as £6, a publication could now get access to an image from an event that had just taken place.  This meant the photographer who took the pictures would be earning less than £3 for shooting that event.  Did I forget to mention that the 60/40% split of earnings had tipped the other way to 60% to the agency and only 40% for the photographer.  The internet had gone from being just an extra bit of earnings to the main operator.  It was no longer just a weird portal with a bit of content, it was now the main event with millions visiting individual sites on a daily basis.  That photograph that you earn’t £3 for was now also being shared by millions of users on social networks.  Once an image ‘goes viral’ there is no turning back.  You can’t whine at the operator of a social platform.  They can’t control what their users do and the photographer gets nothing in compensation.  If the agencies had put more value and control over the distribution of images then they would have kept some value to the images.  Instead the biggest agency put their entire network available for free for non-commercial use.  Thus undermining any commercial sites willingness to pay.  Why would they pay if everyone else can use for free!?

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I got out of the syndication market around 2006.  I could see what was happening and I gambled that it would be safer to hold on to my images as a valued commodity .  It is much easier and more profitable to deal with a publisher or company direct than go through an agency. I keep control on where my images are used and avoid embarrassing my clients by images turning up on tea towels and illegal merchandise.  I also produce occasional Limited Edition prints of stand out images.

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I recently was asked to supply an image for a well known Guitar manufacturer.  I spent several hours picture editing and re-touching a suitable image and was told it was for a global marketing campaign.  I quoted a reasonable amount for the company to use the image and that is when the fun started!  Their marketing director pointed out that they were using the image for an online campaign first and the printed advertisement  would be in guitar magazines ‘at some point’ later that year.  Because they would only be publishing online first, they hoped a credit would suffice instead of payment for now.   A credit? I won’t do the usual rant about a credit won’t pay for cameras, mortgages etc, but it is safe to say a credit isn’t compensation for putting a valuable image out on the internet on the promise of payment at a later stage.  I politely declined the offer of a credit and stuck to my guns on the initial quote stating my reasons why.  An advert in a UK guitar mag will be seen by approximately 10,000 people, an advert published online will be seen worldwide by their 5 million Facebook followers and one million followers on Twitter!  Not to mention the viral aspect to the advert being shared and retweeted online.  So what is the thought process to an image having more value in print than online?  The value of anything is only what someone is prepared to pay for it?  A poor quality photograph has less value than a good one.  There is a reason us Professionals are still in work.  If you see an image and say ‘WOW!’ then the photographer has done his job.  Equally if an image makes you cry, laugh, get mad or moves you in some way then that image has value.  To put little or no value on an image just because it is ‘only’ on the internet is nonsense!

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Thankfully the print editions of our newspapers and magazines are still surviving and some are even thriving.  The New York Post recently concluded that exclusive content is key to success in the physical paper and the online editions.  Good photography and great writing is what keeps readers and generates more traffic. That content will not exist unless us photographers protect the images we take and protect our employees faith in commissioning this new content.

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Above L-R: John McMurtrie, M.Shadows & Ozzy. Photo by Charlie Beezer – used with permission.

So I hate to be a dick, but if you are a commercial website and are using one of my images without permission, I will be in touch very soon!

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Grohl Ghost Limited Edition print now available

Dave Grohl and Papa Emeritus III from Ghost.  Shot in Oslo 10th June 2015.  I only have 3  prints available in 2015. Prints available numbered No. 12 of 50, 13 of 50 and 14 of 50. PHOTO COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2015

24″ x 20″ Limited Edition of Only 50 – £125 (free P&P)

Professionally Printed on 330g Heavy-weight GICLEE Fine Art Paper(100% Cotton, Acid free), Personally signed and numbered with certificate of authenticity.

Each print is wrapped in protective paper and securely shipped in a thick protective tube. EVERY order is dispatched First Class Recorded delivery. Free postage within the UK and only £14 for the rest of the world via Air Mail signed for postage.

Usually dispatches within 2 days.

Get it now!

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