Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Why I Left Pixsy

What is Pixsy?

Pixsy (www.pixsy.com) provides a service for photographers by scanning the web for a photographers’ images. If a match is found it is reported to the photographer who can then take a few actions, including filing a case for payment. If a case is filed and a settlement received, Pixsy retains 50% of the settlement and the photographer gets the other 50%. They provide both a free and a premium service.

This post was updated on 16 April 2021 - see "UPDATED" below for details.

My Experience

I joined Pixsy sometime in 2015 with a free membership account. I did not have a lot of images but did have some issues with unauthorized usage in the past. The idea of having a service scan the web looking for my images was quite attractive; it was certainly more reliable than accidently coming across things. I submitted my first case in January 2016, the first of fourteen (14), but it did not get far. While researching the case it was determined the image was purchased from an affiliate of a stock agency the image was uploaded to – it was legitimately licensed, but I was never told.

Most of the other cases were “rejected” for various reasons, most of which were that the guilty party was in a country not supported by Pixsy. There were two (2) successful attempts at compensation (2016 and 2017), as well as two (2) cases that were dropped due to their inability to open a dialogue with the offending party. The first discontinued case was referred to a law firm to pursue the case in Federal court, it was I who decided to drop it at that point because of the uncertainty of the outcome; if I lost, I could be held liable for the defendant’s legal costs.

The last case was against a local radio station that used one of my images to illustrate an article on their website – the image was used as the header image. Pixsy discontinued this case after four (4) months.

Why I Left

I left in December 2018 because the quality of service had been slipping, the searches were sloppy, and their case acceptance criteria made it very difficult to get them to work on your behalf. In February 2019 I was contacted by Pixsy with an offer to upgrade my account – for free – and was assured the services had improved. The free upgrade was enough to give them another opportunity. The searches were being run more frequently and the accuracy had improved, they were also more transparent with their criteria for accepting cases.

Despite the improvements, I still felt that the service was not living up to expectations or its earlier performance. When I first started with Pixsy I was getting a lot of “hits” on my images but not all were actionable. That is okay because at least I knew the search function was working – it was finding my work. The past year has proven to be frustrating due to the very low number of times my work has been found, in addition to a far lower rate of case acceptance. The case alluded to at the end of the last section was the last straw.

The Final Case

I submitted a case in November 2020 - I happen to have seen the article before the incident appeared in a search on Pixsy. The first license fee request to the image user was emailed on 24 November 2020, followed by six (6) more emails before discontinuing the case on 31 March 2021. The “paper trail” on the website only showed two attempts and I had to send inquiries to get status updates – one of which stated that phone calls had been made in addition to emails sent. When I received notice, they were dropping the case I requested all the pertinent information so that I could pursue the case on my own. I did this with the other case that had been dropped.

The only thing I received was a graphic showing the image being used on the website. That is it! I asked again for ALL the information – the full paper trail of who, what, when, how, and contents of the correspondence. I asked three (3) times before getting another graphic showing the dates and a small description of emails that we sent. Nothing about phone calls, no contents of the email, nothing. There was, however, one description where I could see the name of the person contacted – I could not know, however, if they had been contacted each time or if attempts went to others in the organization.

I tried one last time, this time stating that I was going to delete my account if I did not receive the requested information by noon today. Miraculously, I received an email at 11:59 AM! The email explained that they had already given me all of the information that I requested but they could not provide me with the contents of the emails – just that “they included a fee request, an overview of the infringement, an explanation of who Pixsy is, that we are authorized to work on your behalf, and details on how to settle the matter which includes the payment of the license and the removal of the image.”

Now, at no time did I demand a removal of the image – I do not know where that came from, but it was not authorized by me. The fact of the matter is – if they pay the licensing fee, I am more than happy to have them continue to use the image. I know the fee that they told me they were requesting but I have no confirmation whatsoever that it is, indeed, what they requested or if they in any way offered to “work with them” on an equitable solution.

I am now fighting this battle on my own with very little knowledge of the preceding events. I could learn a lot from seeing what work had been done before – how forceful is the language, do they present timelines, were others copied on subsequent emails, was the spectre of a lawyer and lawsuit raised, etc…. I will have to learn on my own and, hopefully, not trip over my own feet in the process.

In Closing

I am now looking for another service and would love to have you leave some of your experiences in the comments below. If you are happy with a service – please let me know. Equally important, let me know if you tried a service and were unhappy.

UPDATE!

The case has been resolved! I sent an email and within two (2) days we worked out an equitable resolution. I believe Pixsy sent the request to the wrong person inside the organization and never properly followed up. My recommendation for anyone going thru this on their own - write an email, send a follow-up after a week. If you get no response, you can send a third email to the person but also send the same via "Certified Mail" and get a return receipt so you have proof of delivery. You then want to work your way up the "food chain" with subsequenct correspondence, if necessary. The key is to persevere and don't get discouraged - you work hard and deserve ample compensation for your work.

If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!



Monday, March 29, 2021

Long Exposure Photography

Long Exposures

A snapshot steals life that it cannot return. A long exposure creates a form that never existed. - Dieter Appelt⁠

I have gotten into the habit of accompanying my Instagram posts with a qoute that in some way relates to the image. I was looking for an appropriate one for this first image and instantly knew it was perfect. Long exposure photography is something that I enjoy but don't often practice. One of the things that is so attractive to me is the essence of the quote - I am creating something the never existed, something not visible to the naked eye. It is nonrepresentational but not necessarily abstract.

When you say "long exposure photography" people have a wide range of interpretations - some say anything slower than about 1/15th or 1/20th of a second while others may think something slower than a full second. I tend to think of anything slower than 1/2 of a second but I have no hard and fast rules. If I am shooting a sunrise at the beach and the sun is in the image, I work on the faster end of the spectrum because I the sun is moving quickly and I don't want it to be just a blog in the sky. If I am isolating some waves crashing on rocks or flowing on the beach, I will work with a slower shutter.

The most important piece of equipment for long exposure photography is, of course, a good, solid tripod. I have seen claims that some of today's cameras can be effectively handheld to as long as two (2) seconds using image stabilization but I am leary. As a landscape photographer you probably already use a tripod for most of your work so this shouldn't be an issue. I would argue that, equally important, is a good imagination. The ability to visualize the end result is something you will develop over time but every image will always be a surprise.

I use long exposures for different reasons; showing motion, smoothing water, and creating mood to name just a few. Each of the images presented here show one of these reasons. A long exposure can introduce a calming effect to a scene, like the Manasquan Reservoir image, and it can be used to create tension or mystery, like the black & white image at the start of this piece. In the latter case the viewer expects to see water but instead is greated by something more like smoke.

So comes the end of another blog - I hope you enjoyed the images and, maybe, I inspired you to go out and try your hand at long exposures. They are a lot of fun and there is no right or wrong way anymore than there is a right or wrong subject. Shooting at night and capturing light trails from cars can be a lot of fun, as can creating your own light trails with a flashlight, laser pointer or sparkler**.

Note: The two images captioned "Spring Lake" were made on the same day, within about a thirty (30) minute timeframe. They are two (2) different areas of the beach but the wave heights and frequency were about the same. You can see how dramatic the difference in exposure time can be.

** Note: Sparklers generate a lot of heat and throw sparks in the air than can start fires if they land on something flammable. They should be used with caution and only under adult supervision.

If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!


    Technical information:
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i (crop sensor - 1.6 factor)
  • Lenses: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Tripod: MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic
  • ISO 100
  • All focal lengths are as-recorded - the full-frame equivalent in parenthesis.
  • Shutter tripped with wired shutter release.

For Sale

Waves - Long Exposure #1 is for sale on Saatchi Art. It is available in a 20x20 Limited Edition - follow the link for more information.


Monday, March 15, 2021

Instagram and Me - A Rocky Relationship

Ah, Instagram

I have been on Instagram (you can find me here - @valencia32photo) for a few years now and have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with it. I love sharing my work and receiving feedback, but I also find myself comparing my work, along with number of followers, likes, comments, etc.…., with others and becoming disappointed. Why did Jimmy (obviously not his real name 😉) get two thousand likes and I only received ten? He has how many followers? My work is ten times better and I do not have anywhere near that many! This is despite telling myself that it does not matter, I am not competing against Jimmy – I am competing against myself; challenging myself to get better each time.

My Instagram Feed

I am primarily a landscape photographer, but you can find a little bit of everything in my feed – nature, flowers, wildlife, macro, still life, you name it. The only thing you will not see a lot of is portraiture – maybe an occasional self-portrait or an environmental portrait of someone but that is about the extent. It just is not a genre that has ever excited me. My portrait work is mostly private and restricted to family and friends.

I try to publish new work on a regular basis but since the pandemic hit in March 2020 things have been a bit hit-or-miss. I do not get out nearly as often as I used to but try to make the most of any time that I do have. This past year has seen me embark on a “Backyard Boredom” project that I documented in my Instagram feed – follow #JoeValencia_BackyardDiscoveries and #BackyardBoredom to follow along. The #BackyardBoredom hashtag is also being used by others so you can follow their adventures, too.

My Followers

I do not have a lot of followers – there are 436 as-of this writing – but the core is very faithful, been with me for a long time and very supportive. I started March 2020 with 325 followers, steadily increasing each week. I am happy to see a 30% increase but still puzzled by the low number. I do know that in the last year I have (almost) always started each caption with a quotation appropriate to the image, along with a paragraph or so about the image – what, where, why, how, etc.… - and tried using the most efficient hashtags.

Who I Follow

There was a time when I followed a lot of people with the hope of getting a reciprocal follow. There were a lot of accounts showing up in my feed that I just did not enjoy; I decided to only follow accounts I was truly interested in and to constantly update the list. There are 533 accounts that I now follow, and I usually end up adding one or two a week, on average. These accounts make up a wide variety of genres of photography, but they are not all photographers; over the years I have followed painters, sketch artists, sculptors, celebrities, and “normal” people posting photos of their friends and families. I follow accounts for a variety of reasons, too. I like to be entertained and I also like to see what other creatives are doing – not so that I can copy them but to draw inspiration.

My Featured Work

You may be aware of “Feature” accounts on Instagram – they, typically, do not produce original material but rather feature the work of others that fit their focus of their account. If you want to get a chance at being featured, you use their hashtag – they monitor the images and choose the ones they deem worthy. This is a great way to get your work in front of people who might normally never see it. All the images used to illustrate this post were featured at one time; clicking on the image will take you to it. I have also had features in #SimplyNJShots, #NJspots, #NJinBloom, #NJShooterz, #NewJerseyHikes, and #SignatureShots; some have featured my work more than once. If I have forgotten any, I apologize for the oversight. It is exciting to see your work deemed worthy of a feature and to read the comments that follow. If you are interested in trying to get your work featured, you can try these accounts or search on Google – “Instagram macro photography feature accounts”, for instance.

Hashtags

I have already touched upon hashtags a little bit, along with some that I frequently use. Choosing the “right” hashtags is a tricky thing and I have no idea if I am doing it right. You want to use popular hashtags because that is what people are using to find things, but you do not want to use extremely popular ones because you end up being a drop in the ocean, making it difficult for you to be found. I usually include any equipment manufacturers involved in the image - #TeamCanon and #MadeWithMeFOTO being two of the most common. I also have made up hashtags for people who want to follow me, specifically – like #JoeValencia_Photography, #JoeValencia_BackyardDiscoveries, and #JoeValencia_Macro. I have a worksheet in Excel with 100’s of hashtags, many grouped into categories, so I can copy-and-paste the ones I need for an image.

Here is a list of New Jersey hashtags that I frequently use - #BeautifulNJ, #CentralJerseyExists, #GardenState, #GetOutStayOut, #HikeNJ, #HikeVibes, #JerseyCollective, #Just_NewJersey, #KeepItWild, #NewJersey, #NewJerseyHikes, #NewJerseyHikes_, #NewJerseyHiking, #JerseysBestCreators, #NewJerseyIsntBoring, #NewJerseyOutdoors, #NewJerseyPhotographer, #nj, #NJDotCom, #NJInBloom, #NJIsBeautiful, #NJRadiant, #NJOutdoors, #njPhotographer, #njShooterz, #NJspots, #NJSunriseSunset, #NJSunset, #OnlyInNewJersey, #OptOutside, #ScenicNJ, #VisitNJ, #WildNJ, #Allaire, #AllaireStatePark, #SharkRiverPark, #SharkRiverParkNJ, #HowellNJ, #WallNJ, #NeptuneNJ, #ManalapanNJ, #ManasquanReservoir

In Conclusion

Instagram is a great way to share your creative work, family photos and short videos and, if you manage your expectations, a lot of fun to use. I hope you enjoyed this post and hope you will take some time to check out my Instagram account – follow me if you like what you see!

Until next time – stay safe, be healthy and enjoy life!

If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!



Friday, March 5, 2021

A New Photography Location - Ocean County Edition

Bay Head

Twilight Lake

I had the day off yesterday and spent the day with my wife - we had an errand to run in the morning but the rest of the day we were free to do whatever we pleased. We had a nice lunch at the New Monmouth Diner in Middletown before heading to one of our favorite places - DeMarco's Catering & Gourmet Deli in Aberdeen Township. Do not try their assorted cheese bread! It is hard enough for me to get a loaf or two when I go, I don't want everyone buying it. 😀

It was a chilly, windy, but nice, day so we took the long way home along Ocean Avenue. We stopped at Mt Mitchill Park on the way to pay our respects at the Monmouth County 9/11 Memorial and take in a stunning view of Sandy Hook and New York City. We drove down along Ocean Avenue all the way thru Spring Lake before heading for home via Maclearie Park. During the leisurely drive, my wife noted more than once how nice the day was and the cloud cover might make for a lovely sunset. I haven't been out with my camera much lately, despite her encouragement, and so I gave it some consideration. Now, while I believe her intentions were truly selfless, I can't help but think she was also thinking about having the house to herself for a while. 😉 🤣

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to get out and make a go at sunset. The question was, where do I go? I do not know about you but after a while I get tired of going to the same places and coming away with images like everyone else. I know that every sunset is different but…. I also like to challenge myself with new locations and trying to come up with great compositions.

When we got home, I opened Google Maps, zoomed out and started looking for bodies of water I was unfamiliar with. I got down to Bay Head before I found some promise; it was then time to change to “street view” and have a look around. It was not long before I decided that was my location; I was standing at the edge of the water within 45 minutes.

Leaving the house with a specific location and composition in mind takes a bit of pressure off; I could take my time, fine-tune the composition, then sit back and enjoy the show. When I got to the lake reality smacked me in the face, not hard but enough to get my attention. The 3D reality of the location did not match up with the 2D image presented to me earlier, making me struggle to try to make it work. Ultimately, I was not happy with the situation, deciding it was never going to work. That turned out to be the good news.

The one complaint I have (if you can call it a complaint) is that our beaches are somewhat boring – we have an occasional pier or jetty but that is about it. We do not have the cliffs, sea stacks and large rocks that the Oregon coast has, for instance. That is one of the reasons I was drawn to this final composition – the rocks were catching the golden light from the setting sun, I had some nice leading lines and, the topper for me, the footprints in the foreground. After setting up I took a few test shots and then sat waiting for the real show to begin.

As the sun dropped in the sky, I got more excited about the color falling on the rocks; I was just waiting for the few clouds in the sky to catch some light and the sky to explode in color. This is one of the images I captured during my wait – thirty (30) seconds later, the entirely of the rocky landscape was in shadow. A few little clouds moved in and the sky was beginning to pick up some color, but the magic was gone. That is how fleeting life’s moments can be.

It was time to pack up and head home – my sunset shoot ended before the sun set. I was going to try to find a new place on the way home, but the sun was dropping quickly, and I was quite ready to go home, warm up and have some of the cheese bread for dinner.

If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!


    Technical information:
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i (crop sensor - 1.6 factor)
  • Lenses: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Tripod: MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic
  • ISO 100
  • All focal lengths are as-recorded - the full-frame equivalent in parenthesis.
  • Focus was manual, exposure was set at aperture-priority with exposure compensation at -1/3 stop.
  • Shutter tripped with wired shutter release.