October 6th, 2015

500px Redesign: New Profile Pages, Discovery Features


500px pulled back the curtain on a major redesign of its profile pages, photo pages and the search experience.

A user profile page (pictured above) will no longer display square cropped thumbnails. Instead, thumbnails will retain their original aspect ratio. Profile images have been moved to the middle to make them more prominent, as has bio text.

The company also made the Follow and Share buttons more prominent.


Photo pages will now display larger photos. According to 500px, portraits will be 12 percent larger while landscape images will be 15 percent larger than before. A modal design displays images as pop-ups so that visitors can keep their place in the background. Information about the photo has been consolidated into a sidebar. All of the details, except for comments, can be collapses into a Details tab. If you frequently collapse the Details tab, 500px will remember your selection and begin to automatically collapse the tab for you.

Below an image, 500px will display the set it was a part of to help visitors find additional images. They’ve also improved how quickly images load by allowing a low-resolution version of the image to pre-load to enable those with slower connections to view something while the full resolution images finishes its journey from cyberspace to browser.

Finally, the Discover section of 500px has a new design that features full aspect ratio images that load smoothly as you scroll. Pages will scroll continuously now, too with no more pagination. The Fresh page will continue to support bulk uploads, but will only display the first three images in any bulk upload to preserve existing images on the fresh page.



September 30th, 2015

Lauren Dukoff on Production Skills and Creative Experimentation as Keys to Success


Lauren Dukoff discussing her work during an Iris Night talk at Skylight Studios.

Long before Lauren Dukoff, the subject of the cover story in PDN‘s September issue, started shooting fashion stories for Vogue Japan, she had known for her music photography and portraits. She captured intimate, often candid images for Rolling Stone and Spin, shot the art for Adele’s album 21, and in 2009 published her book Family, based on her collection of behind-the-scenes and on-the-road images of her longtime friend Devendra Barnhart and the musicians with whom he collaborated. She found herself in recording studios, dressing rooms and intimate settings with artists she looked up to. “I felt so awkward in this private space, but with my camera, it was a kind of shield and it gave me a reason to be there,” Dukoff said in a recent lecture at the Skylight Studios, part of the Iris Nights lecture series run by the Annenberg Space for Photography. (The full video of Dukoff’s talk, “A Collaborative Path,” is archived on the Annenberg website. )

While Dukoff’s quiet approach to capturing unguarded moments might seem like an odd stepping stone to directing models in couture gowns and managing large productions, she told her audience at Skylight Studios that she got valuable training and encouragement while working in the studio of Autumn De Wilde. Dukoff had long admired De Wilde’s work and was happy to take on any job available. In time, she worked her way up from babysitter to studio manager, where she helped arrange productions, and learned “the nuts and bolts” of hiring a crew and looking after shoot logistics. While some young photographers “go the assistant route,” Dukoff said, learning production “was really valuable to me because I knew I wanted to be a commercial photographer.”

De Wilde also encouraged Dukoff to believe in the work she was shooting on her own time through collaborations with friends. By pursuing it, Dukoff says, “I was starting to build a visual identity of your own.”

As PDN‘s story explains, Dukoff moved from capturing in-between moments with musicians and other artists, to creating posed portraits, and then to collaborating with fashion stylists on celebrity portraits for magazines such as L’Uomo Vogue, Lula and Vanity Fair. Along the way, she also learned to shoot commercials by collaborating with experienced film crews. Like De Wilde, she has experimented with a variety of genres, to stretch herself creatively while also expanding her clientele.

“I find that as soon as I’m comfortable I think: I better figure something else out, because there’s so much more to do, there’s so much more to learn,” she told her audience. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t stay true to your style. But don’t be afraid to try things and expand.”

Dukoff spoke at the Iris Night lecture during the run of the “Emerging” exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography (curated by the editors of PDN). Other photographers in the “Emerging” show who shared how they found their voices, established their place in the photo world and navigated the photo business include Zun Lee, Olivia Bee, Corey Arnold and Bryan Derballa. All the videos of their talks can be found online at the Annenberg website.

Related Articles
Lauren Dukoff on Collaborating with Celebrities and Couture Designers

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New Perspectives: Emerging Exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography

September 23rd, 2015

Study: Average Photojournalist Male, Self-Employed, Earning Less Than $30K

A new study released by Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in association with World Press Photo offers a conflicting view of the lives of today’s photojournalists. On the one hand, the majority of the 1,556 photographers who participated in the survey are making $40,000 or less, and are concerned that risks to safety and financial security will only increase in the coming years; on the other hand, the majority are also happy with their career choice.

The study, which addresses financial concerns, employment status, the use of image manipulation, and social media, among other topics, is based on survey responses from photographers who entered the 2015 World Press Photo Contest. Respondents came from Europe (52 percent); North America (9.2 percent); South and Central America, and the Carribean (11.5 percent); Australasia (1.2 percent); Asia, Oceana, and the Middle East (22.3 percent); and Africa (1.3 percent). Eighty-five percent of respondents were male. Read the rest of this entry »

September 23rd, 2015

Storehouse 2.0 Revamps Storytelling App Leaving Social Media Behind


Instagram isn’t the only photo app getting a facelift. Storehouse just released version 2.0, ushering in a major redesign for the storytelling-focused app.

One big change is the removal of social media features. Storehouse has purged followers, likes and timelines from its features. Instead, the app’s story creation tools have been expanded with the purpose of enabling users to privately share large batches of photos from their iPhone.

In a blog post announcing the new features, company CEO Mark Kawano wrote that the “follower model with a profile was subliminally making people decide what type of online persona they should be on Storehouse…As our community grew to over 1m active users and many of us started collecting thousands of followers, publishing stories started to feel different. This isn’t too bad if you’re just sharing a single photo, a link, or 140-characters of text, but it wasn’t ideal for Storehouse. Personally, I don’t know most of my followers and I don’t even know why they really follow me, so sharing personal stories felt awkward since I’ve never been the blogger type. I’m also far from a professional photographer so sharing public stories alongside some of the best photographers in the world felt intimidating.” (For more on how Storehouse works, see “Are Visual Storytelling Platforms Good for Photographers?” on PDNOnline; log-in required.)

With social media out of the way, Storehouse is now focused on group photo editing and private sharing. Among the new features in version 2.0 is “shake-and-edit” which sorts photos into a magazine-like design simply by jiggling your iphone. A “spaces” feature lets third parties add images to a given collection. The underlying app has been rewritten so it’s faster.

The app is also now optimized for the new Apple TV.


Here, according to Storehouse, is how the new version will work:

  • Select photos and videos from your Camera Roll (or Instagram, Flickr & Dropbox) and Storehouse will automatically generate a page you can send to your friends.
  • Send a link to each story you create by SMS, iMessage, or email.
  • Customize a layout by pulling the handles on any photo or video; rearrange your images by simply dragging them around the page.
  • Create spaces for friends and family to contribute their own photos around one theme — such as children, recipes, a wedding or vacation, or a new creative project.
  • Privately share images among parents, grandparents and close friends, with each member simply viewing, or contributing via a “space.”
  • Embed collections to a blog, or share specific stories to social media if you want to  share to a larger group.

Storehouse is available free on iTunes.

Related article:

Are Visual Storytelling Platforms Good for Photographers? (For PDN subscribers; log in required.)

September 23rd, 2015

Selfie Copyright Battle: Monkey See, Monkey Sue

©David Slater (unless a court rules otherwise)

©David Slater (unless a court rules otherwise)

An animal rights group has filed a copyright ownership claim in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of a monkey that used British photographer David Slater’s camera to shoot a selfie, according to an Agence-France Press report yesterday.

Naruto, the six-year-old macaque, grabbed Slater’s unattended camera in 2011 and took at least two selfies. The incident occurred in Indonesia. The photographs have circulated widely on the internet, and have been the subject of a previous ownership dispute.

On Tuesday, PETA filed suit on Naruto’s behalf, seeking a ruling from the court that the monkey is the “author and owner of his photograph,” the AFP report says. Slater, who has previously claimed copyright to the image, is named as the defendant in the case.

PETA asserts in its claim that U.S. copyright law doesn’t prohibit animals from owning copyright, and since Naruto took the selfie, “he owns copyright, as any human would.”

PETA filed the lawsuit as part of a strategy to establish through legal precedent that non-human animals can have property rights. PETA says that if it prevails, the case will establish for the first time that rights beyond basic survival needs are extended to a non-human animals.

The U.S. Copyright Office said last year that it would not register works produced by “nature, [non-human] animals, or plants,” suggesting that the office doesn’t consider those entities to be “authors” eligible for copyright ownership under U.S. law.

In any event, the case will be a test of the court’s willingness to hear monkey business.

Monkey Selfie Not Eligible for Copyright Registration Under New Rules
The Monkey Selfie: Who Owns Copyright to It?

September 21st, 2015

$10K Lange–Taylor Prize Goes to Michel Huneault for Project About Oil Train Disaster

Chaudière River at sunrise, February 2014. From "Post Mégantic" by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

“Chaudière River at sunrise,” February 2014. From “Post Mégantic” by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

Canadian photographer Michel Huneault has won the Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize from The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University, CDS announced today. Huneault was recognized with the $10,000 award for his project documenting the aftermath of an oil train derailment and explosion that killed 47 people in the small town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

The award, named in honor of the partnership between documentary photographer Dorothea Lange and writer Paul Taylor, supports long-term documentary work that combines images and words to tell a story.

Huneault’s project, “Post Mégantic,” relies on photographs, videos, oral histories, and installations to delve into the aftermath of the catastrophic explosion in 2013, which levelled the Lac-Mégantic town center and left one in 128 citizens dead. Huneault has spent more than two months in the town over the course of fourteen trips, and he plans to use the the Lange–Taylor Prize to continue the project.

Serge, September 2013. From "Post MÈgantic" by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

“Serge,” September 2013. From “Post MÈgantic” by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

“I’ll keep going back [to Lac-Mégantic]—hopefully to find more light and healing—but also up the train track toward North Dakota, to where this oil and darkness originated,” Huneault writes in his project statement. “Today, although Mégantic’s center remains flattened and contaminated while the criminal investigation continues, the tracks were the first thing to be rebuilt and train traffic has resumed. While no oil is transiting here, [they are] passing through other North American towns.”

Dandelion achenes, June 2014. From "Post Mégantic" by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

“Dandelion achenes,” June 2014. From “Post Mégantic” by Michel Huneault, winner of the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize.

The Center for Documentary Studies awarded an honorable mention to Alice Leora Briggs and Julián Cardona for their project about violence in Juárez, Mexico. In addition, Serge J-F. Levy received special recognition for his project about relocating from New York City to Tucson, Arizona.

Previous winners Lange-Taylor Prize winners include Antonin Kratochvil and Jan Novak; Donna DeCesare and Luis Rodriguez; Paola Ferrario and Mary Cappello; Larry Frolick and Donald Weber; Teru Kuwayama and Christian Parenti, and Jen Kinney. The prize has been awarded a total of 23 times.

Related: Video Pick: “He Doesn’t Love You Any More”
Lange-Taylor Prize of 10K Given For Photo Project On Tiny Alaska Town
A Photographic Response to an Oil Train Explosion

September 21st, 2015

Can Software Judge the Esthetic Merits of a Photograph?

Market-landing-page-desktop-mockup-bgThe past year has seen a big spike in automatic photo-tagging, with Lightroom, Flickr and EyeFi all rolling out software that scans images and applies tags based on the image’s contents. Even though auto-tagging has had its share of missteps, EyeEm has an even more ambitious agenda. Its software not only scans and tags images based on content, but passes esthetic judgement on photos as well.

EyeEm’s judgement passing algorithm, dubbed EyeVision, isn’t new, but as of today it’s seen a significant overhaul. Jackie Dove at The Next Web has a nice piece exploring EyeVision’s capabilities.

EyeEm runs a stock photo market and, like all stock photo markets, wants to surface the best images whenever a prospective customer is searching for something. The new EyeVision software update purports to do just that–it can find images by tag but also pass judgement on which photos are more esthetically pleasing than others in its archive. Photographers take note: humans are no longer the sole arbiters of taste.

According to EyeEm’s CTO Ramsi Rizk, EyeVision can detect not simply what’s in a photo, but emotions and abstract contents. As Dove explains, “EyeVision recognizes 20,000 objects (hat, shirt, man, sun), photographic concepts (rule of thirds, vanishing point, symmetry, negative space) and abstract concepts (surreal, sadness, emotional, alone, carefree, exciting, tradition) and is constantly learning.”

It’s not just software crunching numbers, but software informed by the judgement of human photographers. Rizk told Dove that the esthetic judgements “comes from hundreds of thousands of photos that have been painstakingly curated by our community by professional photographers and our team…” This one-two punch of software guided by expert human input is what EyeEm hopes will be a critical differentiator as companies like Adobe, Google and others seek to tackle the same problem.

But EyeEm’s ambitions raise an interesting question about the future of photography in a software-driven world. Can we trust algorithms to pass judgement on what constitutes a “beautiful” image or is that criteria so subjective that it doesn’t really matter who (or what) is judging?

September 17th, 2015

Artist Turns Condemned Building into a Disposable Camera

There are camera hacks and then there’s Vancouver artist Joel Nicholas Peterson’s camera hack. For a project titled Blueprints for Observation, Peterson turned a condemned building into a huge camera obscura.

Here, in Peterson’s words, is how he did it:

“I made holes through the walls peering outside from within dark rooms facing north, south, east, and west. This camera had no lenses – just apertures measuring 1/8” in diameter allowing light into the rooms. This simple design is the ancient technique and phenomenon known as the camera obscura.

“The projected images were exposed onto lithographic film then developed with an experimental darkroom process using sprayers. The developed negatives were then used to make contact prints on watercolor paper using the cyanotype process. The outcome is a near 360° cityscape of film negatives and blueprint images from the perspective of a building that no longer exists.”

The negatives were huge, measuring in at 13-feet. The entire process is documented in the short film below.

September 15th, 2015

How Maggie Steber Turned a Brutal Portfolio Review into Career Success

Maggie Steber ©TK

Maggie Steber ©Jim Virga

During our interview with photojournalist Maggie Steber, she observed that the photography business is now so challenging that you have to be a “never-say-die person” to succeed. But it was no easier for Steber when she was starting out than it is for any fledgling photographer. She explains in this excerpt from the interview how she learned to persevere through failure, and prepare for her big break.

PDN: You mentioned you had to come up with ways to think about the business so it doesn’t crush you. What were your strategies for that?
Maggie Steber: If I had a bad interview, or somebody didn’t like my work, I would go home, and I would cry, then I would look at my work and realize that I had to be better. I had to be really honest with myself. In some roundabout way, those people were trying to help me. I turned whatever negative thing I could around. You have to do whatever it takes to stay positive in this business, because it can be discouraging–and more so now because it’s so much harder.

PDN: Was there a particular incident where you got kicked in the teeth, that taught you how to handle setbacks?
MS: I was very young, I just graduated. I had saved money, and went to Paris for three months, and I was street shooting, thinking I would be the next Cartier-Bresson, which everybody thinks! Somebody decided to [revive] Look magazine [in 1979]. Eliane Laffont, who used to be in charge of Sygma, had been hired to be director of photography. They were having a portfolio review day. I was there with my silly little portfolio. I waited and waited and waited, and finally got to go in and see her, and she went through it very quickly and said, “I don’t know why you are wasting my time with this. You’re just a dilettante. What is this? There’s no story. Who do you think you are? Cartier-Bresson?” And every time I tried to say something, she wouldn’t let me finish. She just said, “You’re wasting my time, you’re wasting your own time. This is silly, thank you, goodbye.” I went home, and I cried, then I looked at my work and I thought, “This woman is exactly right. She’s absolutely right. I have these pictures, and what do they say? They didn’t really say anything about France. They don’t even say anything about me.”

PDN: And so what did you do?
MS: I thought: Why do I want to take pictures? Why am I in photography? I decided what I really wanted to do was to tell stories, so that’s what I started to do. I started really small. I found a magic shop that had a cat that did card tricks. I found a doll hospital, [owned] by this eccentric man who repaired dolls, and he had this whole relationship with these dolls. Little bitty stories. Then I started  going to Cuba on my own time and my own dime, and I did a lot of work and I was terrible. I was learning how to tell stories, how to do a long-term project.

Now, Eliane and I are dear, dear friends, and she did me one of the biggest favors anybody ever did for me.

PDN: How long did it take you to get your chops?
MS: I had a real ally in [veteran photo editor] Jimmy Colton, who gave me enormous opportunities throughout my career. He had my back. Every time I would come back [from Cuba], I would make a tray of slides, and I would go show Jimmy at Newsweek. He would give me ideas and feedback. I couldn’t get my foot in the door at TIME, at all, or if I did, I had a very bad experience. Which told me right away: Don’t go there, that’s not the place for you. That was a good lesson to know: Where do you fit in? Who’s welcoming you with open arms? It wasn’t like Newsweek was publishing my work at the time, but they were open to looking.

And then [in 1984] for the 25th anniversary of the Cuban revolution [Newsweek] sent me to Cuba with a writer—their UN bureau chief, a woman—to get an interview with Castro at the 25th anniversary [of the Cuban Revolution].  I had about 20 minutes to photograph Castro. [Newsweek] ran [the interview and pictures], and every Miami Cuban cancelled their subscription after it came out. [Castro loved it.] The next morning, a convoy of Jeeps came down the road, and who’s driving the first jeep, but Castro.

All these big journalists had ignored us, these two little girls. We got into [Castro’s] Jeep, to the great surprise of all the famous journalists. We went to a little private farm, and we walked in, there was a barbecue. Gabriel Garcia Marquez was there. Castro held court. We ate, and drank. I was taking pictures like a nut. It was remarkable. I really wish I had been a better photographer. At one point, Castro laid down in a hammock, and pretended to be asleep, even though he was smoking a cigar. He was playing with us, because he loved, loved the interview.

So I got lucky. It had nothing to do with me, it was that Jimmy Colton sent me, and we had this great opportunity presented to us. So developing relationships matter. Find at least one person who says, “I can’t use this but I see something in you.” [And then] you have to prove yourself on your own time, and your own dime.

Related articles:
PDN’s 30 Photographers on Building Support for Their Work (For subscribers; log in required.)
How to Make the Most of a Portfolio Review (For subscribers; log in required.)
Advice on Funding Your Photo Project

September 11th, 2015

Marcus Smith on Navigating the Photography Business as an African-American

Marcus Smith. ©Paul Elledge

Marcus Smith. ©Paul Elledge

Women have “made huge headway” toward equality with white men in the photo industry, photojournalist Maggie Steber says in an interview in the September issue of PDN. “Now we have to make sure minorities are making more headway.” For minorities, she explained, there’s still “a lot of benign racism.” Marcus Smith, a successful advertising photographer, told us during an interview in 2013 that he worried about race at the the start of his career. In this excerpt from that interview, he describes what he experienced, and offers advice about confronting racism–benign or otherwise–to young African-Americans aspiring to launch careers in photography.

PDN: Are there particular challenges to being an African-American commercial photographer, because of race?
Marcus Smith: Going into it, I thought there would be. I would talk to my mom about it and say, “I don’t know if this is going to work the way I think it is because so much of this industry is about networking and personal relationships. And I wonder if I’m going to be able to relate to people.” I’m a lot younger than a lot of people in the industry, and also, my background and where I come from is a lot different, too. I thought about whether I would have a level playing field. But the less I thought about it, the less of a problem it was–when I was, “OK, whatever. It is what it is. I’m going to be who I am and find the people who accept that.” And those are the people I’m looking to work with.

I had an agent tell me that I needed to have more white people in my portfolio, and I thought that was the craziest thing ever. There’s a lot of Caucasian photographers who shoot lifestyle, fashion, whatever–and they have a book full of white people. And nobody’s telling them, “Hey you need to shoot more black people or you need to shoot more Asian people or Hispanic people or whatever.”

So I was like, OK, I’m not going to listen to you [the agent] because that doesn’t make sense to me. People should be able to see what they want and see what you’re capable of, regardless of whatever race [the subjects are] in front of the lens. So I was going to keep doing what I do, and photograph what interests me, and I’m going to show people. I wanted to take what’s “lifestyle” to me and “culture” to me, and present that to people, and hopefully they see my passion for that and respond to it. And they did. It doesn’t matter to me what color my subject is.

PDN: What advice would you give to other aspiring African-American photographers who might feel daunted being in a minority in the photo industry?
MS: My advice would be to be yourself. People are a lot more alike than you think they are. And people like a lot more of the same things than you think they do. Just because you may have grown up in the inner city, or whatever, and somebody else may have grown up in the suburbs, doesn’t mean that you can’t find a common ground to stand on. It doesn’t mean you don’t possibly listen to the same music, or that you don’t both hate the San Antonio Spurs, or something like that. You never know what kind of random common thread you might find. And you could become the best of friends on the basis of that commonality. And then you have someone you could be different with. I think that’s what makes all of us so interesting: you come from this background, I come from that background. You could have these interesting dialogues [because of that].

PDN: What advice would you give those photographers who may fear overt racism in the industry?
MS: You shouldn’t have fear of that, because you would never know where it comes from. When you can’t pinpoint it, it can paralyze you if you let it become a part of your thinking. You have to have faith that people are not going to do that to you, and if they are, then those are not the kind of people you want to work with anyway. I can be a testament that most people in the industry are not like that. I’m not saying everybody [in the industry] is past [racism], but I can say a big majority of people I’ve come into contact with haven’t responded that way.

Photographer Maggie Steber on Women, Minorities, and How to Nurture Talent
PDN Video: Marcus Smith on How to Attract the Clients You Want
PDN’s 30 2014: Marcus Smith