Squarespace-Unplash Partnership Revisited

I recently posted about the new relationship that Squarespace has established with Unsplash, the online, free stock image company. Well, since that time, boy has the outrage exploded on the Internet! Go look at the responses to Squarespace’s announcement on Twitter, and you’ll see a lot of angry photographers chiming in. It’ll be interesting to see how Squarespace now responds, as they haven’t really yet; at least not publicly.

From a general (non-photographer) user standpoint, I can still see both sides of this. From a photographer standpoint, though, I’ve since learned about some real concerns with the Unsplash platform. One of the big concerns is that of model releases for any images involving people (or property releases if shots were taken of/on a private property) if the image is used for commercial use. Lack of proper releases could result in huge liability issues for the photographers.

For example, take the image at the top of this post, which I pulled from Unsplash. If I used this photo for commercial purposes, and the person came to me ready to sue because she hadn’t authorized such use of her image, I could just go back to the photographer and say, “Hey, where’s the model release? Cough it up, or this lawsuit is coming your way.” Any responsible, experienced, professional photographer would hopefully have such a release in pocket to provide. However, the problem is that many of the photographers providing images to Unsplash aren’t professional photographers and often don’t even know about the need for such releases, so had never secured them from their subjects in the first place. Because of that, they’re now open to being sued.

As a business owner and/or website creator, I leave it to you to decide if the use of such service is valuable. If you’re a photographer, though, I’d caution against uploading your images to this service, as it sounds like they have everything setup to pass through all liability issues back to the photographers. I invite you to watch/listen to the interview that noted commercial photographer, Zack Arias, conducted with one of Unsplash’s founders back in January, which you can find here. He goes into great detail over a lot of these concerns with the founder. It’s an interesting conversation, and definitely leaves me a little more wary of the whole thing.


The Desert-Island Album List, Vol. 1


I've been talking music a lot lately with family & friends; I think partly because I just started stepping back into vinyl recently, and also because I find I always fall into my music more when life sometimes gets a little more stressful, as it helps keep the balance. As such, for my own amusement, I've decided to come up with my own "top 10 records I'd want if stranded on a desert island" list.

Here's the catch: I'm only allowing myself one album from any individual artist/band. Otherwise it'd be too easy to fill up 70% of my list with three bands and not really think about all the varied musical artists that have had an impact on me over the years. I want to force myself to stretch and step outside the albums I play the most.

Given this limitation, it's going to take me some time to develop the full list; thus why this post was labeled "volume 1." So I'm starting with the three albums you see pictured above, in no particular order: 

  1. Sleater-Kinney's "The Woods"
  2. Tom Petty's "Wildflowers" 
  3. R.E.M.'s "Life's Rich Pageant"

Now, those who know me well might be shocked that I didn't also post Beatles, Stone's, Bowie, and Pearl Jam albums right away. Yes, those are also among my very favorite bands, and that's why they're so tricky: choosing just one album isn't easy! So some deliberation is required...

Now, back to the albums that are already chosen for today... Why these?  


The Woods, Sleater-Kinney

If you're a Sleater-Kinney fan, you get it. Released in 2005, this was presumably their last album, as they essentially broke up after this album. And man, did they go out with a bang! They went darker, deeper, and more powerful in every way on this one. They employed a new producer on this one, and he really brought out the best in them here. Corin's vocals are more powerful than ever on this album, and that's really saying something. Her voice just grabs you and shakes you this one - it's captivating and awesome. I feel like Carrie Brownstein was also finally let loose on this album, showing us what she can really do with that guitar. Her work on this album is epic.  Janet Weiss, their drummer, is just awesome as always. I feel like she's one of the few drummers in rock that you really notice - you'd definitely notice if they tried replacing her with anyone else.

Lyrically, the album is easily their best, IMO. They put some work in on this one, and it shows. This is an album that makes you think, makes you feel. When they reunited and released their new album, "No Cities to Love", in 2015, it rocked, of course, but couldnt quite live up the level of "The Woods".

If I allowed myself a second pick from this band, it'd be their 1997 release, "Dig Me Out". That album is such a perfect marriage of punk and pop, light-hearted and yet rocking and lyrically strong at the same time. You hear influences of old-school punk, modern alt-rock, and the Go-Go's all at the same time.


Wildflowers, Tom Petty

Overall, I won't be ranking albums on this list - with the exception of this one. This album I have no problem calling my favorite album by anyone, ever. Released in 1994, I picked this up when I was a junior in college, and it immediately spoke to me more than any previous album of his had, and I was already a HUGE Tom Petty fan. As I've gotten older, it's only spoken to me even more, as I think Tom's storytelling style tends to hit on a lot of themes that speak to us as we get more into mid-life; and this one does that in spades.

Also, I think the last three tracks of this album provide the best multi-track closing to any album ever. Any one of those three songs is beautiful and strong on their own, but played in succession, they're pure magic.  The last track, "Wake Up Time", is my favorite song in his catalog, and still tugs at the heartstrings every time.


Life's Rich Pageant, R.E.M.

It's hard for me to articulate why this album speaks to me the way it does, but it just does. R.E.M. has been one of my favorite bands ever since I became old enough to start developing my own taste in music; I started with "Document", which was the popular album at the time (and the one that finally really broke them into the mainstream), and kept moving on with them from there. 

As I got more into adulthood, I found this was the album I kept coming back to when I just wanted to feel "free", if that makes sense. As such, this has become one of my favorite road trip albums over the years. In fact, my kids now just expect they're going to hear this one a couple times when we go on long road trips. :) 

So there's my initial three for the list. Stay tuned for more to come...

Squarespace Integrates Use of Unsplash Images

(not my image)

(not my image)

We Squarespace users got an email from them this week, letting us know about their new feature of integrating the use of free Unsplash images within their service. For those of you that aren’t current customers, here’s their online article describing the new feature.

This is an an interesting and potentially very useful new feature. For those not familiar with Unsplash, as I wasn’t before being notified of this new integration, they’re a stock image service like Getty or iStock (which is now also owned by Getty), except that their images are totally free to use for both non-commercial and commercial use. The only real exception to free use that I can see after reading through their FAQ and terms is that you can’t turn around try to offer your own stock photo service by offering photos you got from their site. Other than that, use away, including any modifications you see fit.

For photographers such as myself, this feature probably won’t be used much, as we typically tend to use our own images. However, for anyone else building a site that isn’t a photographer and can’t afford to pay for professional photography, this is a very powerful new feature, as these people now have access to a ton of imagery to bolster the visual impact of their site without breaking the bank. Look at the image I posted at the top of this blog post, which I grabbed from this Unsplash integration - pretty cool, powerful image, and I got this from barely scrolling down the first main page that pops up when I clicked on the search pane in Squarespace’s add-image tool. If I were writing a blog post about mountaineering or simply looking for a decent header image for my outdoor-based website, this would be a very cool image to be able to use for free.

Now, as a photographer, many of my fellow photographers might suggest that I should be upset by this, that it’s devaluing our work, making it harder for us to get paid. I totally get that. On the other hand, as a technologist, I can see the immense value in this, as this would be a VERY handy asset to have in place when building a website for a potential client, as the sky’s the limit when it comes to free imagery they can use for their site. I could build them a site and charge them a lower fee because I only have to charge them for my time and output, and not extra for my or anyone else’s photography that costs some real $$. At any rate, any photographer who has a problem with this model would have to take it up with Unsplash and the photographers who supply them, as Squarespace is just providing a free service to its users that’s made available to them.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. As a photographer, how do you feel about such services? Valuable exposure and a chance to share your work with the world, or cheap manipulation that devalues your work? For the rest of you, what value do you find in such a service?

Also, for the photographer crowd, here’s an article about a photographer who unleashed his photo archive onto Unleashed, detailing how it lead to more work for him. Take from it what you will.

IM in the Workplace: Tool of Productivity or Tool of Distraction?

Instant Messaging… When it first entered the online universe all those years ago, back in the early days of AOL and whatnot, it was hailed as the best thing ever. Indeed, it provided a great new way to have spontaneous, real-time conversations with friends and family across the country and even across the globe. The early IM tools would pave the way for later messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and even basic texting on cellphones. These are great tools for personal communications.

Somewhere along the line, though, the earlier modes of IM got updated and re-marketed to businesses as productivity tools in apps such as Lync, Skype, Jabber, etc. They were given new functionality such as desktop sharing, video conferencing, Exchange Server integration, etc. No more dealing with the “huge” delays of email; now you can get that coworker’s attention instantly!!

Instantly… No matter what that coworker is doing, no matter who else they might be talking to or working on, you can immediately grab their attention away to focus on YOU.

Honestly, I see both sides of this coin. At my workplace we use Skype (formerly Lync), and it is incredibly useful for collaborating with remote coworkers (and in today’s increasingly spread out and remote workforce, that ability is very important), conducting meetings, etc. I personally work with people in the Midwest, the Southwest, and the Southeast, and it really enables true collaboration.

All that said, there’s a flip side to that coin, which I alluded to in the paragraph before last: no matter what you’re doing, you can be interrupted by whomever wants your attention right now. Your concentration can be broken at any time just like that. Yes, most (if not all) of these modern messaging tools have a “do not disturb” option you can employ, but many companies frown on very much use of this, as they want you available. I find this can be very annoying! When you’re in the middle of coding a routine or writing a report, the last thing you need is someone breaking in, saying, “Ryan, I need this RIGHT NOW! Drop everything!!” Think back 10 years when they might have to rely on email instead, and perhaps you didn’t get to their request for an hour… Did our companies crumble? No! So why do we insist on this new paradigm in today’s workplace; why are we willing to pull our workers out of their most productive states? Is that really beneficial?

Now, I have to admit to being guilty of being on the flip side of that myself. Of course, I’ve also been plenty guilty of IM’ing someone to deal with a problem RIGHT NOW. It’s easy to slip into that space when it becomes the corporate culture. So what’s the solution? Maybe there isn’t one and I just need to vent… ;-) Or, perhaps we need to reserve these tools for what I consider their highest, best use: collaborative meetings. They’re definitely invaluable for that, so giving them up entirely would be foolish. Perhaps companies need to discourage the willy-nilly interruptions they’re often used for, though.

What are your thoughts? Do you use these tools in your workplace? If so, how are they used and what do you like/dislike about them?


Building a skill set...

Just a real quick note - here's a fairly timely post from the New York Times, given my recent post about career diversification. Even when staying focused on a single career, it can be important to develop many seemingly disparate skills in order to make that career as successful as possible, whether working for yourself or for "the man."  Some good insight here.

Enjoy the read. 

Cheers,  R