CROWD PHOTOS: Are crowd sourced pictures a golden bullet?

It’s temptingly lazy but wrong to think residents pictures can fill the hole left by dwindling budgets.

A couple of things have made me think.

First, basking in the afterglow of a successful project a debate started.

We’ve worked with residents to turn an empty shop window in Walsall town centre into an information point brightened up by shots from the Walsall Flickr group.

It’s a brilliantly simple idea that came from Flickr photographer Lee Jordan. I’ve written about it here and you can read Lee’s blog on it too.

Lee and others were fine about having their work used and showcased.

In response to my venturing a repeat in a different scheme one Flickr member on Twitter wrote:

“Local council have just requested use of some of my pics on Flickr for a printed guide, for a credit and linkback. I declined. Any thoughts? On one hand it may be good publicity, on the other it devalues photography. What do others think…?”
After an online debate I deliberately stepped back from, other residents talked about the benefits of photo sharing. The member changed heart and threw his hat into the ring.

Thirdly, blogger Pete Ashton invited his council to ‘f*** you’ (literally) after they once again asked to use pictures for free. This came after a shot of his which he got £50 for was used without his knowledge for a major national cultural campaign that wasn’t fully explained when he was first approached.

Fourthly, when I post an image to Flickr these days I always add a liberal creative commons image so they can be re-used as long as there is a credit and a link. I’m forever using and linking to cc images on this blog so it seems churlish not to share. So long as you are not a commercial enterprise. You can read more about creative commons here.

So, there are four views. For my money each if those are just as valid.

Why FOUR answers and they’re all right?

Because everyone’s approach is deeply personal. That’s why.

There’s no such thing as one size fits all.

Are crowd sources images a cure all for cut budgets?

No.

Don’t think that Flickr is a sweet shop full of free images that’ll solve your slashed photographic budget.

Don’t think you can wander along to Google images, right click, save and Bob’s your Uncle. Don’t ever do that.

There’s still a place for commissioned freelance photography for marketing and press shots. Not least because photographic staff on newspapers are being laid off.

There’s a place for stock photography websites such as istock.

There’s a place for searching The Commons on Flickr where scores of museums and institutions have added millions of images that can be re-used by anyone. NASA, The Smithsonian and the US Library of Congress stand out.

There’s a place too – if residents are agreeable – for their images to be used by local government. Just so long they are not taken for granted and the shots are treated with the same reverence as a very delicate vase or a signed first edition you’re borrowing for a while.

That’s why I’m not desperately keen on the approach that some councils have of creating a Flickr group where by adding you allow automatic re-use. It just doesn’t feel right.

If there’s an image a resident had taken ask nicely, explain what it’ll be used for stick to the agreement and don’t be offended if the answer is ‘no’ and if there is some cash in the budget for payment try very hard to.

Everyone benefits that way.

Creative commons credits

Gun http://www.flickr.com/photos/m4tik/6243269249/

Smiling Sky http://www.flickr.com/photos/frank_wuestefeld/4272333063/


SOCIAL PHOTO: 11 groovy ways Flickr can be used by local government

There’s four billion reasons why Flickr is brilliant.

Four billion? That’s the number of images uploaded to it over the past five years.

Best bit? You don’t have to be David Bailey to get something out of it. You could be Bill Bailey.

What is Flickr? It’s a photo sharing website. You join as an individual. You upload pictures. You can add them to groups. You can comment on pictures too.

There are tens of thousands of groups on a bewildering range of subjects. Football? Check. Walking? Buses? Cricket scoreboards?  Clouds? They all have dedicated groups. There’s even one for Gregg’s shop fronts, believe it or not.

There are also geographical Flickr groups based on areas like the Black Country, Walsall or London.

Why bother with Flickr? Because a picture says 1,000 words. Besides, it’s a brilliant way to capture, celebrate and collaborate.

It’s a cinderella social media platform without a Stephen Fry to champion it. But there is a growing and exciting number of uses for it.

So what are the barriers for people to use it?

Like any platform, there are obstacles. None are insummountable.

There’s the usual cultural issues for an organisation using web 2.0. People can talk to you. You can talk back. You may have blocking issues too.

There may also be concern over images. Surely there’s room for dodgy pictures? Actually, not really. The Flickr community is a hugely civilised place. Your first uploads get checked over before they are seen. People comment constructively.

Isn’t it just for good photographers? No. Amateurs thrive here. Snap away.

How about copyright? Copyright is with the photographer. Even if you’ve commissioned it. Don’t upload someone else’s shots without their permission.

Eleven uses of Flickr in local government

1. Be a dissemenator – Stock photography – Newcastle  use it as a way of allowing stock photography to be disseminated. With photographers’ permission. Like Calderdale Council’s countryside team.

2. Be a campaigner – Create a Flickr group for a campaignWillenhall, Aldridge and Darlaston  in Bloom, for example.

3. Be a way to open-up museums – Create a Flickr group for a museum exhibition. Look at Walsall Museums.

4. Be an enabler – Set-up a Flickr meet. It’s a brilliant way to connect and collaborate.  Here’s my blog on this event from  a council perspective and from a Flickr photographer’s perspective from the excellent Steph Jennings and also Lee Jordan.

Here’s some shots from the Walsall Council House Flickr meet (see left) which saw the Flickr group invited into the Council House.

5. Be a Flickr Twitterer – Link to pictures via Twitter. Pictures are always more popular than straight forward links. They brighten up your stream.

6. Be a marketeer – Use Flickr pics for marketing. Leaflets can be brightened up with Flickr shots – with permission.

7. Be a Flickr webbie – Use Flickr on the council website. Like BCCDIY or Lichfield District Council, Brighton & Hove Council or the Walsall Council header.

8. Be a civic pride builder – Create a Flickr group for an area, like Sandwell Council did.

9. Be a picture tart – Post council Flickr pictures to different groups. Shot of the town hall? Put it in the Town Hall Flickr group.

10. Be a stock photography user – the Creative Commons is a licence that allows the use of shots with certain conditions. There is a category that allows for not for profit use, for example.

11. Be a digital divide bridger favourite walks or a way to celebrate heritage is an excellent way to encourage people to log on.

There’s eleven. That’s for starters…

Steph Jennings from the Walsall Flickr group and the Lighthouse Media Centre in Wolverhampton made some excellent points at Hyperlocal Govcamp West Midlands on how Walsall Council used images on their website.

This YouTube clip helps explain it:

This blog is based on a session at localgovcamp Yorkshire and Humberside in York (#lgcyh) which also had input from @janetedavis, @allyhook and @barnsley55.

Much kudos to the Walsall Flickr group and to the inspirational @essitam and @reelgonekid.

Creative commons: Smiling blonde girl Pink Sherbert Photography.

Flickr screenshot from the Walsall Flickr group pool.

Other pics by Dan Slee.