circumstances site goes down, leaving authors and readers in the lurch

Sterling Publishing apparently shut down the popular photography blogging site Pixiq today, only a few days after serving notice to all their bloggers, stating that the staff would no longer be required. Barnes and Nobles have a few things to celebrate this week, including a 20% hike in stock value when the rumours of Microsoft sniffing around their Nook e-book reader started seeping out on the internet.

That didn't stop Sterling Publishing (who operates the Pixiq brand) from shutting down the entire site, posting a message on the site's homepage stating that the site no longer is active.

The message reads "Thank you for visiting Sorry, this website is no longer active. For information about Pixiq books, please visit", and it appears that Pixiq just flicked off the switch, weeks before their contracts with the bloggers expired.

Er, okay then...

Farewell, Pixiq. You had a good run.

The site didn't communicate its intention of shutting up shop ahead of time, neither to its readers nor to the dozen active writers on the site.

"This is ridiculous", says one of the Pixiq bloggers. "It means I can't get my content back, even though the copyright was still mine, even though I had specific talks about that

Luckily, Photocritic staff Daniela Bowker and Haje Jan Kamps had a backup of their content, and were able to publish all the content on with a minimum amount of downtime.

None of the editorial or management staff from Pixiq could be reached for a comment as this article was published.

Kleverbeast: bringing app creation to the masses

It's relatively simple to create a website for yourself; even if you haven't got the hosting business down, head over to Tumblr and you can post photos, share your thoughts, and inflict cat videos on the rest of the world with mind-bending simplicity. The only barrier to entry is an internet connection and in the circumstances, that's not really a barrier at all.

An app on the other hand, is a far more complicated beast to create that usually has a pricetag to match, reflective of the hours of work required to put into one. New York-based Kleverbeast doesn't think it should be exclusive, either in terms of cost or ability to create one. It has, therefore, devised a series of app templates that you can customise for your needs. It aims to cater to a variety of different creatives, but when it comes to photographers, it's suggesting showcasing your portfolio and even building in monetisation options, for example print sales.

As the Kleverbeast team puts it: 'You can make apps that look like Flipboard but with prices that you'll find at H&M.'

The basic package costs $29 a month; the pro package is $199 per month and allows for multiple editions and in-app commerce. There's also an option for something entirely customised, with an accordingly entirely customised price.

Creating a Kleverbeast app is a relatively simple drag-and-drop process that can be customised with a few clicks. You might be creating an app to a template, but it's fairly easy to pull together something that looks different from anyone else.

You can check out Kleverbeast's introductory video:

The question that I keep coming back to, though, is 'Is an app the best way for a photographer to display her or his portfolio?' If I were, for example, to be perusing the market for a wedding photographer (I'm absolutely not, by the way), I wouldn't want to have to download an app for every photographer who caught my eye. I'd just want to be able to get a flavour for their work: if I liked it, I could get in touch; if I didn't, I could close a browser tab and move on. Apps are wonderful for return visitors, and therefore ideal for news sites and completing your weekly grocery shop, but are somewhat redundant for single or infrequent visits.

I'm not sure then, that $29 per month for the basic package, with an additional $250 fee if you want help to navigate the App Store approval process, is worth the expenditure. If I'm missing something obvious, though, do pipe up because I love the idea of someone being able to simply and quickly build their own app.

Your pictures; your rights, redux


In the immediate aftermath of the TwitPic photo-selling furore it became clear that there can be a great deal of confusion regarding terms and conditions (T&C), terms of service (ToS), terms of use (ToU), or any other terms that you have to agree to when you sign up to any kind of photo-sharing oojimaflip.

When it comes to ToS, the devil is most definitely in the detail, and at one of our reader’s request, I’ve put together a guide to what to look for. As ever, I have to state that I’m not a lawyer; all I have to go on here is my own experience of using photo-sharing sites and, heaven help me, previous experience of drafting ToS.

Copyright and licensing rights

The first thing to get straight is that there’s a difference between copyright and licensing rights. If you take a photo (or compose a song, or write a story… you get the picture) you own the copyright to it. That means you have the right to have that photo attributed to you and you can say how, where, and when you want it reproduced, if at all.

On very rare occasions, you can sign away your copyright to your creation – and in fact I did this quite recently when the copyright of a project that I wrote was attributed to the company for whom I completed the contract, not to me as an individual – but it’s usually in very specific circumstances.

Licensing rights, on the other hand, are what you, as the copyright holder, use to allow people to use your images (or your words or your music &c). If someone wants to publish your photo, you provide them with a licence to do so. There are a plethora of different types of licence out there, which serve different purposes, allow different things, and have different implications for you as a copyright holder. Hence the confusion.

Why you need a licence, part I

You’ve been away on holiday to Mauritius and you have a selection of the most incredible photos showing the places that you visited, the food that you ate, and the sights that you saw. You want to share them with your family, your friends, and to be honest, anyone who wants to take a look because you’re really proud of a few of them. So you sign up to the photo-sharing website SooperPix that’ll let the world at large marvel at your artistic genius.

You have to sign a licence. You own the copyright to these pictures, which means that you have to grant SooperPix the right to display them on your behalf. If you didn’t, it wouldn’t be able to host them on the website and let the world look on awestruck at your awesomeness.

The issue of course is what type of licence SooperPix asks you to sign.

Licences of Awesome

If SooperPix is actually SooperDooperPix, it’ll use a licence that’s similar to Flickr’s (who recently reconfirmed their users’ rights), or Mobypicture’s, or Focussion’s, or 500px’s, or in fact a lot of other cool photo-sharing places out there. It’ll say that you grant it a licence for the purpose of displaying them on the website. The licence might even specifically state that it won’t sell your images. Here are the examples of the licences from those four websites I mentioned:


With respect to Content you elect to post for inclusion in publicly accessible areas of Yahoo! Groups or that consists of photos or other graphics you elect to post to any other publicly accessible area of the Services, you grant Yahoo! a world-wide, royalty free and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish such Content on the Services solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting the specific Yahoo! Group to which such Content was submitted, or, in the case of photos or graphics, solely for the purpose for which such photo or graphic was submitted to the Services. This licence exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Services and shall be terminated at the time you delete such Content from the Services.

Amongst all the legalese, the key phrase here is ‘solely for the purpose for which such photo or graphic was submitted to the Services.’ You submitted the photo to share it publicly. That’s all that Flickr will do with it. (When it mentions modifying or adapting, that concerns how the image is encoded, and being able to see it in different sized versions.) It’s not going to sell on your photo.


All rights of uploaded content by our users remain the property of our users and those rights can in no means be sold or used in a commercial way by Mobypicture or affiliated third party partners without consent from the user.


Your photographs are (and should be) your own, you keep all your rights on them. By using our site, you give Focussion a license to use your work for the functioning of this site (e.g. to display the pictures to our visitors, and to enable comments on them).


By submitting photographic or graphic works to 500px at Upload page to your profile you agree that this content fully or partially may be used on 500px web-site for promotional reasons (such as photos at home page). By doing so, 500px will comply with the Canadian Copyright Act, which means your work will be properly attributed or quoted. No photographic content, emails, and other private information will be sold for any reasons by 500px.

Those last three sets of ToS are pretty clear I think.

Licences of Evil

However, if SooperPix is just a masquerade for SooperEvilPix that really wants to be able to sell your images and not let you profit from that sale, the licence will read slightly differently. It’ll probably say that you’ve granted SooperEvilPix, and maybe its devil-spawn affiliates and its unwashed friends as well, a licence to reproduce your images. There won’t be a caveat about ‘for the functioning of the site’, ‘the purposes for which you uploaded them’, or explicitly state that it won’t sell on your pictures. TwitPic’s ToS is a great example of this:

You retain all ownership rights to Content uploaded to Twitpic. However, by submitting Content to Twitpic, you hereby grant Twitpic a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and Twitpic’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels.

Yes, you keep your copyright, but you’ve lost out on your licensing rights. It, and pretty much anyone else it chooses, can sell your image to anyone it likes and take the proceeds from it. You’ll be acknowledged as the copyright holder, but you won’t see a penny for your creativity. As far as I am concerned, this takes advantage of people and their creative pursuits. It’s most uncool.

An example of a website that we all know, but perhaps don’t all love, which has a ToS that’s open to interpretation is FaceBook:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

I’m not keen on that statement, which is why I don’t have any images on my practically-never-updated and very-infrequently-visited FaceBook page. The chances of one of my images landing itself on a billboard as part of a nation-wide campaign advertising probiotic yoghurt are virtually nil, but dammit, if it does, I’d quite like to profit from it, thankyouverymuch.

Why you need a licence, part II

After reading the ToS, you signed up to SooperDooperPix and gave them the licence to show off your photos to the world. Life is great: your memories are there to relive and for your loved-ones to enjoy. Things get even better when WorldsAway Luxury Holidays spots one of your idyllic holiday sunset photos, and wants to use it to headline its campaign encouraging everyone to visit Mauritius. (Aren’t you pleased that you went before the ad campaign?) They contact you and ask if they can use the photo.

You agree to terms that lets them use your photo. What you’ve done is grant them a licence. It’s a different licence to the one you granted to SooperDooperPix. This licence can take lots of different forms (how they can use the image, for how long, those sorts of things) – and you might want to get a lawyer to take a look at it – but what you’re doing here is giving WorldsAway Luxury Holidays permission to use the photo in return for payment. If you didn’t grant them a licence they’d have to look elsewhere for a picture.

If you’d actually signed-up to SooperEvilPix, the situation would be a bit different because you’ve given SooperEvilPix a different licence. WorldsAway Luxury Holidays wouldn’t approach you for a licence to use the picture; they’d approach SooperEvilPix. You wouldn’t be involved at all. You wouldn’t agree the terms and you wouldn’t see any money out of it. Yes, you hold the copyright, but in this instance not the licensing rights.

It’s all a bit biblical, because licences beget licences, but hopefully you get the picture. (Ahem.)


The key thing here is to read ToS carefully and give away as little as possible. You want to hold on to as much authority governing your creations as you can. If you’re not sure of how the terms can be interpreted, don’t sign up to them. There are plenty of good guys out there who do want you to profit from your own creativity, so you’ll find a site that meets your needs.

Please note: all of the information and quotations here were correct when I published this. Things change, just like TwitPic’s ToS did. And I’ve not gone into Creative Commons. That’s a whole other essay and this one is epic enough.

Temporal aliasing in video

You have seen it in countless car advertisements and well-polished movies / programmes about cars: As the car is accelerating, the shiny metal alloy wheels seem to slow down, and briefly turn backwards, before becoming a big blurry mess again.

But how? How? And how come have you never seen that happen in real life before? And why does the article-writer insist on using braindead rhetorical questions instead of just getting on with the blasted article?

Anyway, this effect is known as the 'wagon wheel effect', or 'temporal aliasing'

You can see it in many different circumstances, where something rotates. Take this fantastic example:


Imagine a 3-spoked alloy wheel. The wheel is symmetrical, which is quite important. Now, imagine that you are looking at the wheel as it is fixed on a car, rolling along at high speed. You won't be able to even tell how many spokes the wheel has, as it is all a blur. If you were to take a picture of the car with a very short shutter time (1/1000 of a second usually does it), and look at the image, you can see and count the spokes, because you will have frozen the motion.

When working in film or television, you aren't actually capturing the motion, you are capturing a series of still frames. In the case of television, 29.9 frames per second (let's call it 30 fps, for the sake of simplicity). That means that if your camera happens to take a picture every time the wheel has turned a 1/3rd, 2/3 or full revolution (because the axis of symmetry is every 1/3rd of the wheel. A 4-spoked wheel would require 1/4th of a rotation etc), it would appear that the alloy wheel is standing still, while the tyre is whizzing along, pulling the car with it.

If your camera's shutter aligns perfectly with a rotation that can be devided by 1/(the number of spokes), the wheel appears to stand still. If there is an offset, it appears to turn slowly forward or backward, depending on the timing difference.


The easiest way to capture the effect on film is to accelerate slowly - that way, your car's alloys will definitely align with the camera's shutter time, and you will get the slowly-forward-to-still-to-slowly-backward motion. You could also let the car roll, so its deceleration causes the same effect.

A more advanced way to do it, is to use mathematics. You will need to find out how long the circumference of the wheel is, and how many spokes the wheel has.

If a wheel has a circumference of 2 meters (that would be normal for a regular saloon car, I believe. Corrections welcome), it will do a full revolution every 2 meters travelled. On a 3-spoked alloy, the wheel crosses the axis of symmetry every 2/3 meters. When filming with a camera that shoots 30 images per second, that means that you will want the car to be travelling 2/3 meters every 1/30 second, or a multiple thereof. In other words: at 20 meters per second, or 72 km/h (45 mph)

The formula:

Required speed = (circumference / number of spokes) / (fps)-1

Why never in Real Life™?

Actually, it is possible to see this phenomenon in real life. If you look at a car through the safety barrier (guard rail) between two directions of traffic, you might be lucky. If it is dark, and the streetlights flicker (they normally do, at either 50 Hz or 60 Hz, depending on the electrical system of the country you are in), you might also see the effect. In full daylight and with unobscured view, however, it is a theoretical impossibility.

A different example

Now that you know how it works for cars, you should also be able to explain how this awesome video works:

stunning bass-string shot from urbanscreen on Vimeo.

I'll give you a hint: The strings on a double bass vibrate somewhere in the region of  40Hz - 180Hz or so, and the camera this was shot with (the Canon 5D MarkII) shoots video at 30 fps or so...

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© Kamps Consulting Ltd. This article is licenced for use on Pixiq only. Please do not reproduce wholly or in part without a license. More info.