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Photo licensing returns in a new form…

December 16, 2016, 12:00 AM

You may recall back in October, I announced that I had removed Pixels.com as a photo licensing service, and that an in-house replacement would arrive in the relatively near future.  Well, the future is now:

The Schumin Web Photo Licensing

This is The Schumin Web Photo Licensing, codenamed “Finch” (after another JMU web server) during development, which does the same as what Pixels did, i.e. licensing content from The Schumin Web for third-party usage.  However, unlike Pixels, this site is completely in-house.

So why did I take licensing in-house rather than leaving it as an outsourced service?  Licensing information.  When I licensed an image through Pixels, I was only informed that I had made a sale, and what image was licensed.  I didn’t know who had licensed it – just that it had been licensed.  That fouled other processes that I use for image licensing that require that I know all of the places where my images have been licensed.  The new system, being operated entirely in-house using Photo Video Store Script, captures all of that information so that I can maximize my revenues.  It’s also allowed me to lower the prices slightly, because there’s no middleman involved.  I’m still making the same amount, but there’s no one else making commissions on it.  Seems like a win-win to me.

Meanwhile, I’ll be the first to admit: the site, as it currently stands, looks ugly.  That’s because it’s wearing one of the default themes that comes with the software, which I hacked up a little bit in order to put my branding on it.  The site works beautifully, but just looks ugly.  Recall that I did something similar when I converted the main site to WordPress.  In that case, the site was completely rebuilt under the hood, but it was wearing a theme that copied the design that the site had been using for about seven years at that point.  I was both slightly pleased and a little bit offended when a then-coworker commented that he couldn’t figure out what I was doing and why I was doing it, because the site looked the same.  That meant that despite the massive changes to the underlying structure, it still looked and felt like Schumin Web.  That was a goal of that project, to ensure that it still looked and felt like Schumin Web when I was done, so I was pleased to have met that goal.  I didn’t want to convert the site to a CMS if it meant that Schumin Web would be mangled up to fit in it.  WordPress fits like a glove.  However, I was admittedly a bit annoyed to have my work pooh-poohed, because it did take me a year to do.  Then about three months after the launch of Schumin Web under WordPress, I launched a brand new theme, which gave the site a brand new look, which it still sports today.

All that said, I’m launching with the default theme, and then once the site is in production for a while, I’ll put a new theme in place that makes it feel a bit more like Schumin Web ought to look.  [Update: This happened March 18, 2017.]

This whole launching of a new service, though, reminds me of another byproduct of the Schumin Web conversion from 2012: I consider it a factor in my departure from the Wikipedia project later that year.  I had significantly decreased my involvement on Wikipedia while I was working on Schumin Web.  Then when the conversion was finished, I came back to Wikipedia, but it wasn’t the same anymore.  I had grown during that period, and Wikipedia was still the same toxic environment that it always was.  Coming back, there was a certain feeling of I’m too old for this nonsense, and not surprisingly, I ended my involvement entirely not long after.

It’s also funny how history repeats itself.  This new site is essentially Almond Street revived.  Recall that Almond Street was an earlier attempt to run a photo licensing site, but a number of things made it clear that the time was not yet right for it, and thus the concept was ultimately abandoned.  However, unlike Almond Street, which was entirely designed and built in-house, this site is an off-the-shelf solution, built by someone else, and comes with its own tech support forums.  I see no need to reinvent the wheel when I can get a product that works right out of the box without much effort on my part.  Let me do the creating, and let other people do the programming.  Additionally, note the branding difference between now and then.  Almond Street was created as a separate brand for photo licensing because I didn’t think that Schumin Web was “good enough” of a brand to use to market photography.  Almond Street was promoted on Schumin Web, but not vice versa.  Nowadays, with the passage of time, Schumin Web is much more established and a much stronger brand, plus much of my in-house licensing inquiries are from people who originally found the photos on Schumin Web.  Thus it only makes sense to make it a direct offshoot of the main site.  The catalog, meanwhile, is almost entirely different, as I now consider most photo work from the Almond Street era to be subpar – the work of a much younger man.  I no longer have the Almond Street catalog (lost to the ages, I suppose), but if I were to guess how much overlap there is between the two, I’d say maybe one or two photos, tops.

So all in all, there you go.  Enjoy the new service.