Manual registration approval for image libraries is counter-productive – please stop it.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been putting together seemingly endless web galleries. You know, those infernal articles that require you to click through ten pages, each with a pretty photo and a bit of writing that only just qualifies as being more than a caption. The ones we all claim to hate, but click through anyway, thus justifying their existence.
It’s not my favourite task, and it’s even harder when you have to source all of the photos. We unfortunately live in a world where publications simultaneously deem good photographs as being essential, yet are unwilling to pay for them.
In practice, this means photos have to be scrounged from tour operators and – in particular – tourist boards. Most tourist boards know this, and put together pretty extensive image libraries that feature lovely scenic shots of the destination’s main attractions.
The idea is that the media can use these images free of charge to accompany stories about said destinations. That works out very nicely for the tourist board – it boosts publicity.
The problem for the journalist/ picture researcher, however, is getting hold of these images. It is unfortunately rare to able to go to a tourist board site, see a photo you want to use and download it. Alas, there are more hurdles to go through.
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Most such image galleries involve some form of registration system. The best of these just require you to enter an email address and password, then allow you to go for your life. Others want addresses, phone numbers and details about the publication you’re working for, then send you a password to log in with.
Having to fill in the details is a pain in the backside, but not nearly as much as the manual approval processes that most tourist board image libraries insist upon. That becomes a waiting game. Often you have to wait a day to be approved, but if the person in charge of approving is away, or it’s the weekend, or it’s a national holiday, this can take days – even weeks.
This is more than just annoying – it stops the job from being done. As a general rule, people are sourcing pics close to the publishing deadline. It’s a process that usually happens after the writing is done and submitted. In some instances, it may just about be OK to wait a day or two to get the photos, but in most it is not.
This is particularly true of topical stories. If Prince William goes on holiday to Jamaica, or an Australian beach is given World Heritage status, those stories will be gone within a day. If it’s not possible to get photos of Jamaica or that Australian beach within a couple of hours, then the chance to get maximum exposure for the destination is missed.
So this isn’t just about a journalist whining over form-filling and having to be patient – it’s about needless bureaucracy damaging tourist board’s chances of promoting their destination. If it’s not possible to get the photo – and quickly – then it’s highly likely that another destination will be chosen instead.
If the aim is to maximise coverage, then manual authorisation to use images or sign up for image banks is an obstacle to that aim. The desire to know exactly what the photos are being used for is getting in the way – the priorities are in the wrong order.
By all means follow up later and ask what the photo was needed for, but the 99.5% of genuine uses are being hamstrung by a desire to stop the 0.5% of unwelcome uses. And that’s silly.
Tourist boards, therefore, need to drop the control-freakery over their image library. Any delay in getting the photos could be the difference between promotion and no promotion. And if the job is to publicise the destination, such delays are senselessly self-defeating.