The Frustrations of Photo Libraries

Here’s a world exclusive for you. You have no idea how lucky you are to witness this, but I’m going to share with you an image from the latest Toten Herzen photoshoot.

And if you’re wondering, yes it is watermarked, so don’t go nicking it for your own blogs, bedroom posters etc.

The Bigstock watermark has been added to make the photo look like a stock image belonging to someone else, otherwise you just get fans asking for prints and it’s too much hassle replying to them all!

Behold: Susan Bekker 2016…

Fortunately I don’t have to use photo libraries to find photos of the band members because they’re real and being their Official Biographer I can just call them up if I need images for the blog. However, finding photos for other promotional items is a nightmare. And there are numerous reasons for the nightmare.

The TotenUniverse (Malandanti, Reflections, There Will be Blood) is populated by older characters, upwards of 55 years of age. In the 21st Century most men and women in the creative industries think we all drop dead when we hit our thirtieth birthday, so try finding an ‘older woman’ and you’ll be lucky to find a woman who isn’t dressed up like a circus freak or a woman who looks like your younger sister.

Commercial photographers, if their keywords are anything to go by, seem to categorise women as follows:

woman – a young woman too old to be honestly described as a ‘girl.’

middle aged woman – a young woman wearing more than two layers of clothing.

older woman – a young woman doing something sensible like reading a book.

very old woman – you don’t know what she looks like because they’ve screwed down the coffin lid.

As if life isn’t complicated enough I also have to find photographs of people playing electric guitars. Again, commercial photographers know what a guitar is, but not how they’re played. Ninety-nine percent of models with electric guitars hold on to the bottom of them with their thumb spread across the strings. If these lunatics bothered to make the effort a simple strap would avoid this faux pas and prevent the model looking like a moron.

Throw in the word rock or metal and now the photographers go mad. Take a look at real rock guitarists playing live and you start to wonder why photographers and their models think rock guitarists stand on one leg like Nataraja with their mouths wide open. See the following comparison:

photos-guitarist-1photos-guitarist 2The photo left is keyworded ‘female rock star playing the electric guitar.’ Well, female rock stars in North Korea might look like that, but not the ones I’ve ever seen, not even in a bad acid trip. Here’s what a rock star normally looks like (albeit a male one) right.

So, if you’re looking for stock photos of older women or rock stars forget it. If you’re trying to establish a cinematic feel in your choice of images beware. 99.8% of photographers insist on their models looking at the camera and either smiling or shouting. The difficulty is finding the key words to describe the image you’re looking for.

A character such as Interpol investigator Pierre Dremba (Who Among Us…) is young, tattooed, roughly dressed, hard, chain smoking and aggressive. Any combination of those keywords eg young tattooed aggressive man throws up a Chinese man playing basketball. For the love of God!

The photographer describes him as a vampire, I’d call him an absolute ***t.

And did I mention vampires. Don’t look for vampires on a stock photo library because this is where they keep all their comedians.

Keywords sometimes bear no relation whatsoever to the photos thrown up. Search for dark hair and scroll through hundreds of blondes. Search for ‘man street night’ and expect to come across children sat on park benches or women riding bicycles on a beach.

And when you do find the right image there’s only one photo of that particular model, which means you have to superimpose their head onto a myriad of bodies to make it look like they get around a bit. Why are there millions of grinning halfwits, but only one model who is just right?

Fortunately, there are enough Susan Bekkers to last a lifetime, or at least until the fifth Toten novel is finished. Don’t we make a lovely couple?


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14 thoughts on “The Frustrations of Photo Libraries

  1. This is really interesting to know. I’ve always wondered about your artwork. I think what I admire the most is how your covers are unique, and really, a very well done piece of art. Excellent blends throughout!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know what you mean! I’ve trolled through myriads of fascinating pictures on Google images that were totally useless. And after reading grim blog posts about people getting into trouble over copyright, I’ve decided it’s too risky to snare images from the internet. I also spent a non-trivial sum of $$ getting great covers designed for my four books. But in the case of older women and people playing guitars, etc., why can’t you recruit some models from among friends and acquaintances and take the pictures yourself? For the homemade cover image for my first ebook, I got my husband and a friend to put on the right sorts of coats and hats and pose near our legislative building that was thus transformed into part of Miskatonic University. It worked for almost 4 years, when I commissioned the current images from a graphic designer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had no idea you used your husband and a friend on the covers. If I didn’t live like a hermit I might have friends and acquaintencies who could pose. I do have a friend who has an electric guitar, but all the strings are broke and she takes forever to fix things. I could get shots of her arms and hands in the correct playing position though… That’s a thought.

      As for photos of older women, I could risk approaching them when I’m in the cafe where I write. Look out for a blog post on what happens when you approach older women in writing cafes…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So true, women are either loud and crazy, business and trying to look conqueringly sexy, or bedroom fun. Not a lot of versatility. Even with our Affirmative Action and the Equal Rights Amendment – women are still sociologically viewed as nudes, tarts, moms or cold business moguls. One has to create original art.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been tearing my hair out all day trying to find that elusive picture of an older woman who isn’t sat in an old folks home surrounded by nurses or wrapping her arms round her grey haired husband examining pension plans.

      I’m gonna have to resort to Photoshop after all.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You’ve got is easy. Try finding a Jin in stock photography.

    “Yes, if I put ‘ugly older woman with one eye and a lot of dirt on her’ in that search bar, something I can use is totally going to come up, and it won’t in any way shape or form be a twenty year old blonde playfully spattered in mud.”

    Liked by 1 person

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