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Google’s New Image Search Angers Photographers, Artists

google images search with ads

Could this be the future of Google Image search, where Google places ads next to the image in search results, so adding to its bottom line, but with no benefit to the photographer or copyright holder? Yes, it’s a mock-up, but not beyond the realms of possibility!

On January 23 Google announced changes to image search. Web publishers, particularly photographers and artists, are angry and disillusioned as they believe the changes are diverting traffic from their websites and encouraging image theft.

Says Google: “Based on feedback from both users and webmasters, we redesigned Google Images to provide a better search experience.” This means image results are “displayed in an inline panel so it’s faster, more beautiful, and more reliable”.

“The domain name is now clickable, and we also added a new button to visit the page the image is hosted on. This means that there are now four clickable targets to the source page instead of just two. In our tests, we’ve seen a net increase in the average click-through rate to the hosting website.”

It’s Google’s claim – “we’ve seen a net increase in the average click-through rate to the hosting website” – that’s hotly disputed by publishers, whose traffic stats are indicating the exact oppposite – a substantial drop in visitors from image search.

While there may well be more links to the hosting website, the new layout certainly doesn’t encourage searchers to click on any of them.

After you click on a thumbnail, a larger images opens within the search results against a full-width black background with the rest of the thumbnails showing above and below. To the right of the image, there’s some related text, including original image size, plus the URL of the website.

But – and more importantly – below that you can click on links to “Visit page”, “View original image”, and “Image details”. If you click on “View original image”, the full size image opens on its own in a new window, with no link to the originating page.

This means that searchers can view the full size image and copy it without ever visiting your site.

Google also makes negligible effort to dissuade visitors from copying images. After clicking on a thumbnaiI, I had to look really hard to find a tiny proviso, in nearly invisible text at the foot of the black background where the image is displayed, saying: “Image may be subject to copyright”. When viewing the full size image, there’s nothing at all about copyright.

The net result is that if the original image on your site is 1600 x 1200 pixels, the searcher can see and copy the full-size image without ever needing to visit your website.

As usual, Google claims these changes are for the benefit of users. While it may make image search quicker for a casual browser, power users who do research online say it’s slower with more clicks required, while publishers in general are furious.

Or, as one disgruntled publisher explains, “When clicking on a thumbnail, the original image is hotlinked and embedded into Google’s result page. This costs bandwidth and the user has less incentive to visit the webpage of the original creator.”

There’s already speculation on various forums that this is a first step by Google to monetize image search, possibly including ads within the search results, as in the mock-up image above.

A petition against the new image search has been launched, as has a site dedicated to the issue – see Protect Your Image

Meanwhile Mia PcPherson, on her blog On the Wing Photography, questions the legality of the new set-up, asking “Is Google’s New Image Search Violating Their Own Policies? The Law?”. Other disgruntled publishers are suggesting a class-action lawsuit could be justified.

Programmers and website publishers are working on ways to thwart Google. I’ve found one WordPress plugin that directs users to my original blog page instead of just the image on a black screen when they click on “View original”. I’ll discuss this in my next blog post.

Are you a photographer or artist? I’d love to know how you feel about Google’s new image search and whether this has had any impact on your traffic and revenue.

White Rhino, Impressionist Style

White rhino digitally painted in impressionist style
We came across this imposing white rhino in open grassland in the Kruger National Park. It had been wallowing in a waterhole and the late afternoon sun added a deep gold sheen to its still damp, mud-encrusted hide.

Ever since visiting the Jeu de Paume in Paris in the early 70s, I’ve been enthralled by the work of the French Impressionists (the work now housed in the Musee d’Órsay). Obviously, African wildlife was not one of their subjects, but for fun I opted to digitally paint the rhino image in rough “impressionist” style.

If, by any chance, this look appeals to you, please have a look at more of my impressionist digital painting attempts here:

Kruger Park Winter Photos

Kruger National Park Winter Photos The above photos are from our visit to the Kruger National Park in July this year, which is mid-winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

At this time of year the colors are predominantly warm, ranging from golden brown to ochre. This, together with the dust, often gives photos a more muted, pastel look that, certainly for many, typifies the African bush.

The animals’ natural camoflage is also more apparent, which makes sense as there’s less cover for both predators and prey than there is during summer.

For the full selection of images from this trip, please see Kruger National Park Photos, Winter 2012.

Canon EOS 5D Mk III Named Camera of the Year

The Canon EOS 5D Mk III has been named Camera of the Year for 2012 by Popular Photography Magazine.

The Canon beat out the two other finalists, the Nikon D800 and Sony Alpha 99, in what the magazine’s editors describe as “one of the toughest decisions in recent memory”. All three cameras are full-frame digital SLRs.

One of the 5D Mk III’s winning attributes was its “superb low light performance”. While the Nikon D800 with its mammoth 36.3MP sensor (compared to the Canon’s 22.3MP) wins the resolution battle hands down, its low light capabilities are less stellar, with the Pop Photography’s tests finding an ISO of 12,800 “unacceptable” on the Nikon.

Nikon shooters will point out correctly that low light is not an issue in the studio, where the Nikon performs almost on a par with medium format cameras. But choosing a winner in an open category is always difficult so it’s ultimately the all-round capabilities that count.

The Canon’s other winning attributes are listed as:

    Excellent balance in image quality
    Advanced video, including direct feed
    Control layout designed for the enthusiast
    Built for the long haul, but not too heavy
    Canon’s huge lens and accessory system.

In addition to the three finalists, the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 and Olympus OM-D EM-5 were awarded Honorable Mentions.

Rock Monitor

Rock monitor sunning itself, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana Rock Monitor (Varanus albigularis) or Leguaan sunning itself, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM; Aperture: f/5.6; Shutter speed: 1/400; ISO: 400.

Safari guide Roddy Smith, in his article Monitor Lizards – Fearsome Predators on Land and Water, writes: “Monitor lizards (or leguaans) are fascinating but neglected animals, possibly because only an enthusiast would find them attractive”.

While it’s true that monitors are not attractive in the cute or cuddly sense, they do have a quite spectacular bejewelled look on closer inspection (below):

Rock monitor close-up showing bejewelled skin

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